I have a crush that I met in one of my classes. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re texting and hanging out, but nothing has really happened yet. I don’t want to be too cliche, but I’m kind of a jock and she is kind of a geek, but we have the same major and we have many of the same interests, for the most part. The big difference is anime. I’m not really into cartoons, but she is crazy about it. Not that I’m intimidated by it, but I want to learn more about her interests so that we have something to talk about, and so that I can understand her and what she likes. Where do you recommend I start?
Your instincts are commendable: the fact that you recognize something she cares about, and actively want to learn more about those interests, speaks to your maturity as a person. It takes a very long time for some people to learn that the people they want to date have different interests than they do, as anybody who’s been on the dreadful “here are all my strong feeling about a niche topic” date can attest. However, don’t commit the old mistake of acting like you are totally into something that you don’t know very much about. A prospective partner will immediately see through that. People like dates who are authentic, and the best thing you can be with her is true to yourself. So, how do you strike the right balance between informed and eager to learn more?
First, search for a few anime shows and find a few that look appealing to you. A lot of people are familiar with anime aimed at younger audiences, like Pokémon, but there’s tons of material aimed specifically at adults, and that will turn your notions about the type of storytelling “cartoons” are capable of upside down. You can look up the best anime on Hulu, or go to your library and check out a few DVDs. Either way, you’re looking for a broad introduction to Japanese animation, and that should include films as well as TV shows.
Good places to start include films by Studio Ghibli and Satoshi Kon, and TV shows like Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Avatar: The Last Airbender (though, in all fairness, Avatar is an American television show that is very popular with anime-philes). These movies and shows often have strong fantasy or sci-fi elements, and certainly one reason people like Japanese animation is for the escapism, but the story and characters behind them are also richly-drawn and deeply complex. Key to appreciating great anime is watching as if all the characters, and the world that you are seeing, are real. You don’t have to take it seriously, and there are many animes that are irreverent and even silly (an example would be One Piece, a show about a young pirate whose body has the properties of rubber). Rather, you have to approach the animated show like you would a non-animated show, paying just as much attention, and remembering that the questions asked of you might be just as complex and thoughtful.
All that said, you have set yourself up with the perfect opportunity for her to show off some of the things that she loves. Once you have discovered a few animes that you like, you can always say to her, “you know, I’ve seen a few episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and I really liked it. Can you show me some other shows like that?” This gives her the chance to be the knowledgeable one and take the lead, and it gives you the chance to show you have an interest in her and what she loves, and it gives both of you another excuse to hang out.