The Subtle Art of Anime Recommendations

It’s tiring to watch the way some Anitwitterers run around recommending the same show, perhaps, for example, their favorite long-running shounen, to every single person they come across. There are many techniques to recommending anime, and I think I’ve practiced most of them. There’s the strategy of constantly preaching the merits of a show and inevitably becoming depressed when nobody pays attention to those tweets. There’s the option of directly harassing somebody to watch a show until they block you. And, of course, my personal favorite, blackmail. Guilting then into it is another play I frequently employ.

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On my way to recommend Cardcaptor Sakura to you.

I’ll touch more on the technique of how you recommend a show later. The most important dimension of the art of anime recommendations is what you recommend. In performing the art of recommending an anime, the anime you recommend should not be predetermined, though you can have anime that you are certain you won’t recommend. To recommend an anime is to serve not yourself, but the person that will receive the recommendation.

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To gracefully perform the art of recommending an anime, you must try to divorce yourself as much as possible from the process. Think not of the anime you’ve seen as an assortment of shows that you’ve seen arranged in a manner that denotes how much you enjoyed each, but simply of a catalogue of the shows that you are able to recommend. There is no self that extends through time. The ‘you’ of this moment is different from the ‘you’ of the last and different from the you that consumed those anime. Recommending an anime is an act of selflessness, so you must truly believe, while you are performing, that there is no self. This is asking a lot. I’ve not yet met a performer of this sacred art that has performed it without flaw, but I believe that is for the best, because I believe that the flaws of a performance make the performance all the more interesting.


If a selfish anime recommendation is a recommendation of an anime you love for the sake of either having more people to discuss the anime with or for the greater glorification of that anime, then a selfless anime recommendation is one that is entirely tailored to suit the one to whom you are recommending. Unless one has attained enlightenment, I believe it’s impossible to perform an entirely selfless anime recommendation. It will always land on a spectrum.

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Me depressed when you end up hating Ladies Vs Butlers

In order to recommend an anime to someone in good faith, you must know that person intimately, it is not enough to simply have access to that person’s MAL/Anilist/Kitsu. You can’t simply base a recommendation based on every show the person has rated that you’ve seen. A show that you use as the foundation for a recommendation must fill a few criteria. First, both you and the recipient need to have seen the show. Secondly, you must have an understanding of what specifically about those shows the person liked, how much they liked them and why. Likewise, you must also understand what about those shows the person disliked, how much they disliked them and why.


This last point is crucial. You must especially have a clear gauge of the recipients tolerance for problematic content. Many folks will have clear policies about automatic drops with regards to specific genres of problematic content. For example, on their own, a person might never watch fanservice heavy anime with uncensored breasts, regardless of whether or not they actively cheer for when uncensored breasts are shown when watching such a show in a groupwatch.  Be careful, because if you strike out with recommendations too many times, your career as an anime recommendation artist will be over before you can say, “Nakaimo was anime of the decade.”

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tfw you watch the anime I recommended.

It is important to understand the different types of problematic content and the nuances between the different ways problematic content is presented, because folks will have different levels of tolerance for those different types. For example, I can’t stand High School DxD, but I love To Love-Ru. One difference in similar problematic content between those shows is that Issei from DxD gropes female characters on purpose and has a stupid fucking mullet, whereas Rito from To Love-Ru only ever does it on accident. While both are tiring for me, I tolerate it in To Love-Ru, but actively hate it in DxD. However, I think many people are probably unable to tolerate either in equal measure because the purpose in both shows is to titillate the audience and both are non-consensual. Okay, I should probably be in this camp. On the other end of the spectrum, where the idea of problematic content is considered a conspiracy by SJWs to ruin anime, there are folks who get tired of To Love-Ru’s accidental gropings and Rito’s overall lack of sex drive and love DxD specifically because they appreciate the fact that Issei owns perversion and doesn’t let things like consent get between him and groping or exploding the clothes off of female characters.

While we’re talking about it, pleeeeeeease watch To Love-Ru?

Once you have an understanding of the specific elements in each anime that both you and the recommendation recipient have seen that the recipient likes and dislikes, you can begin to construct your recommendation. The first and most obvious step is to narrow down the field of potential recommendations. You don’t want to simply eliminate every anime that features one element comparable to an element they disliked from another show because it would narrow the field too much. You should still eliminate every anime that has an element that is prominent in the show and comparable to one of the elements in another anime that they disliked with a passion. This is why it’s important to understand not only what elements the recipient dislikes about a certain anime you both have seen, but also how much they disliked them. Any shows that share at least five elements comparable to elements that they had more minor complaints with in other anime should also be eliminated from consideration for recommendation unless the anime in question also has a considerable number of elements comparable to elements that the recipient found favorable in other anime.

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Me rewarding you for watching Gargantia.

Now that you’ve narrowed down the field, you want to pivot to finding anime with elements that are comparable to elements the recipient found compelling in other anime. Identify each anime that features an element similar to an element the recipient found exceptionally compelling in another anime and set these aside in a group. Next, you want to separate this group. You should sort the anime that feature two or more of these exceptionally compelling elements into a group designated ‘First Class’ and those that only feature one into a group designated ‘Business Class.’ From the remaining anime in the field, select those that that feature a few elements comparable to elements they found moderately compelling in other anime and sort them into a final group designated ‘Economy.’

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Me writing this post in the car on the way to New Jersey

How do these classes come into play? Well, First Class is where you pull from for the anime you are expressly pushing them to watch, your primary recommendation. You will never draw your primary recommendation from Business Class. If you witness somebody else pushing the person to watch an anime that’s in Business Class or above, you should collaborate with them in their recommendation. If the recipient asks you if any anime in Economy or above would be worth watching, you tell them yes.

Me blowdrying your hair.

Narrowing down your primary recommendation from among the First Class selection is the final step in this grueling process. You shouldn’t prioritize any anime that you think a mutual friend of yourself and the recipient will also recommend to them. You should raise in priority the anime that tackle the elements comparable to elements the recipient found exceptionally compelling in other anime in the manner most different from the styles and contexts to which the recipient is most accustomed. One goal of the Anime recommendation artist should always be to expand the horizons of the recipient. The objective and selfless selection, the selection only the bodhisattvas will be able to make, is the show with the most elements similar to elements they found compelling in other anime. However, most cannot achieve that and it is at this point in the process that the self of the artist factors in. At this point, it’s different for every artist. In my case, I typically recommend the show with the staff that I believe deserves more attention and appreciation or the show I’ve seen discussed the least in our circle of friends. This is where the basics end and where your define your style of anime recommendations.

Raising our child after I finally get you to watch Clannad.

Now comes the methods of anime recommendation. The key is to be persistent, but not annoying. You shouldn’t often preface a conversation with the recipient with the recommendation, but rather work the recommendation in organically if an opportunity arises. Playing AMQ is a great example. Say that I want to recommend an anime to, for example, just using a random name, Noel Gallagher. I’d play AMQ with Noel Gallagher along with other folks, and whenever the anime I want to recommend comes up, I would say something like, “OI, NOEL, I RECKON YOU’D RIGHT FANCY REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA, MATE.”

I’mma keep it real with you fam, y’gotta watch Flip Flappers.

Dealing with rejection is a part of the artistic process. Best case scenario, they watch it and don’t like and/or drop it. You must interview the recipient to gauge your mistakes. If a show that they ended up not liking made it all the way to first class you need to reassess your whole operation. My only advice would be to read this again (and like, share and subscribe). If they don’t even watch it, which is what will happen most times, I don’t know what to tell you mate. There’s nothing that can ease the soul-crushing depression caused by the rejection of someone not watching an anime you recommended, unless their reason is something like they’re too busy which is totally understandable. Otherwise, sorry mate, that fucking sucks. Maybe try not to identify so heavily with an anime that the rejection of your recommendation of it feels like a rejection of you personally. As a matter of fact, the whole process outlined above is designed to spare you from that.

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tfw you reject my anime recommendation.

In conclusion, don’t be the person that recommends the same show, which they only just watched for the first time, to everybody they know and never even acknowledged the person that recommended the show to them in the first place. Hope you enjoyed this wonderful exploration of anime recommendation theory.

Me to myself tomorrow when I find out people actually read this.

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