Whether the whole family’s in the kitchen with everybody in charge of a specific dish, collectively avoiding that one aunty’s casserole, getting stuck at the kids’ table from ages 15-18, or the guaranteed brutal political throwdown right before dessert, Thanksgiving traditions are as unique and varied as the families they belong to. And while that’s all well and good, y’know what Thanksgiving tradition I could totally do without?
Whatever the heck is on TV during Thanksgiving. I mean there’s the huge department store parade, there’s the occasional “very special Thanksgiving episode” of currently-running shows (The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle did it best), there’s the straight-up Thanksgiving specials that are basically the opening act for Christmas specials, there’s a football game going on at some point (hey guys, two teams nowhere near you are playing, and your one uncle who’s a huge Jets fan for no reason won’t shut up), and probably the best thing on TV during Thanksgiving, the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show.
AWW WHO A GOOD FLOOF
So, in my infinite wisdom as your Cool Anime Uncle, I would like to offer a suggestion for a new Thanksgiving tradition: ANIME. You see, Thanksgiving is a time of coming together with family and friends and loved ones, and being thankful for all the great things you have in your life… like anime. There’s at least one anime out there for everybody, and I think that extends to families–no matter what type of family you have, there’s something you can gather the whole family together and get them to enjoy.
What I’m gonna do is provide a quick pitch of each show you can use to sell it to your non-anime-loving family, and an I CAN EXPLAIN rating for how often you’ll have to explain all the anime wackiness we’ve become desensitized to, like sweatdrops and fanservice and how it’s not just lonely forty-year-old men who love idols.
So let’s get started!
For the Family That Loves Literature and History: GOLDEN KAMUY
If you’re spending Thanksgiving with people who love the great stories of the past, one of the best anime to start them on is a great story of the past: Golden Kamuy takes place during the not-often-covered Russo-Japanese War of the early 20th century, featuring characters dealing with the changing times and technology as well as the huge emotional rift that happens when men have to become monsters, and aren’t completely sure they can go back to the way they were.
THE QUICK PITCH: It’s literally a Japanese Western! Set in the 1900s, a grizzled soldier teams up with an Ainu–an indigenous Japanese–girl to track down stolen gold. Along the way, they have to survive competing factions hunting for the gold and the unforgiving Hokkaido wilderness.
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: If your family makes it far enough into Golden Kamuy to where it gets legit weird, you’ve already hooked them. Otherwise, if your family’s cool with The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones‘ violence, they’ll be fine watching some poor fool get mauled by a CGI bear.
For the Musical Family: SOUND! EUPHONIUM
Can you literally start a family band? Are there at least two guitars (ukuleles count) at every meetup and reunion, maybe a saxophone? Is karaoke a regular family event, even if you’re not Filipino? With a family like this, maybe one of the safest ways to bring everybody together is through memories of band practice–this is where Sound! Euphonium comes in.
THE QUICK PITCH: Music brings people together, but it’s also made in an environment that can drive people apart. Sound! Euphonium is about a high school concert band club and the ups and downs of performance, sacrifice, and–hopefully–mending friendships. At the same time, it’s as much about the process and emotion of playing as it is about the people in the story.
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: You’re totally in the clear (even with some mild fanservice that will earn you a side-eye or two). If you have any particularly homophobic relatives, the yuri bait will fly right over their heads and they’ll talk about what wonderful friends those girls are. Some family members may (understandably) ask why/how everyone is so shiny.
For the Family That’s There for Every Game: HAIKYU!!
Maybe someone in your family plays (or played) football, or baseball, or basketball. Maybe it’s something outside that trinity, like tennis or swimming or track. Doesn’t matter what it is, really–if someone in the family competes, and the rest of the family comes out to join them, sports anime are the best way to catch their attention. Just… don’t start them on something like Kuroko’s Basketball–let’s go with Haikyu!! and its more low-key, but still hot-blooded competition.
THE QUICK PITCH: Hinata is tiny and fierce and lovable, and wants to be just like his hero, a volleyball legend called “The Little Giant.” He’s made it onto the Little Giant’s former team, but to making it to the top means working with a setter who can’t stand him. Haikyu!! is all about the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making a dream real, and all the pride you have to swallow along the way.
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: Honestly, Haikyu!! is the most safe-for-all-ages shonen series I’ve seen in a very long time. Gather the whole family ’round for this one.
For the Family That Loves Prestige TV Dramas: ERASED
ERASED seems like a tailor-made comeback for people asking why you like “those Japanese porno cartoons.” Feeling both high-stakes and very personal at the same time, ERASED has some very high highs–this is a show that’s much more about the journey than the destination. Just the simple, immediately-grabbing concept is enough to get non-anime fans to take a look.
THE QUICK PITCH: It’s a time-travel murder mystery! Satoru has always had this ability to briefly rewind time, and he uses it to anonymously help people. But he’s always been haunted by a series of murders that happened when he was little, and when tragedy strikes in the present he’s flung back into the past, in his ten-year-old body, to fix things!
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: While Satoru’s mom has definitely got it going on, ERASED feels more like a live-action production than an anime. Probably the only thing you’ll have to explain is why you insist on letting the opening run every time (because it’s a banger, that’s why).
For the Family That Bonds Over Summer Blockbusters: FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD
You just can’t escape this series, ever. Hundreds of thousands of years in the future, archaeologists will unearth CR HQ and find a room full of skeletons and “watch Fullmetal Alchemist” written on the wall in blood. There’s a reason for that, though: it’s good. It’s hard not to look at Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood, especially) and not see something that perfectly encapsulates all the stuff longtime fans love about anime while also including a great entry point for newbies. Do you have a family that gets together to watch every Marvel movie? Sit ’em down for this–the dub’s great, too!
THE QUICK PITCH: Two orphaned brothers try to resurrect their mother through alchemy (basically “scientific magic”) but it backfires–one brother literally loses an arm and a leg, the other loses his whole body and becomes just a soul trapped in a suit of armor. Now they’re traveling the world to try and restore their bodies.
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: A little fanservice here and there, but the really rough stuff hits later on with some heavy and super-dark story bits. Honestly, this entire entry is just a post-it note for me, telling me to get my family to watch it so they can understand why I always laugh at “those memes with the dog that says Edward.”
For the Down-Home Family That Loves the Rustic Aesthetic: SILVER SPOON
While we’re on the subject of Hiromu Arakawa ripping your heart out, let’s look at her less-famous, still-wonderful, still-traumaticseries about an agricultural school, Silver Spoon. So, I know people like this, and Thanksgiving with them was wonderful (deviled eggs, yo), but in case you don’t: this is for the kind of family that plays country music on the reg, that probably has up on the wall, who enjoy the outdoors life including farming, riding, hunting, and fishing. I can understand having a nerdy hobby in an active family, so I can definitely understand the uphill battle that is getting the rest of your family to give anime a chance. I think Silver Spoon is the right step forward.
THE QUICK PITCH: Hachiken just wants to get as far away from the competitive city nature (and his family) as possible, so he enrolls in an agricultural school, figuring he’ll coast by out in the country. Turns out, the people at this school have a whole different kind of fire, and he ends up learning as much about himself as he does about farming!
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: Silver Spoon is a pretty straightforward comedy with some drama. Like ERASED, it feels like a particularly energetic live-action production, so you’ll be fine.
For the Family That Bonds Over Food: SWEETNESS & LIGHTNING
I’m legitimately surprised how easy it is for arguments to break out at the dinner table. I mean, there’s food there–something that brings everyone joy–so I understand it a lot more when a family squashes the beef so they can enjoy the squash and beef (or turkey, in this case). I’m even more familiar with extending an olive branch by asking someone I was literally just fighting with if they’re hungry, so for me, food is the universal concept of peace. If you’re gonna bond with your family using anime, show them an anime about a family bonding over food.
Not Food Wars. Sorry.
THE QUICK PITCH: Kohei is a single father making the most of raising his daughter. Teaming up with one of his students, the three of them learn how to cook together, and rediscover just how good it feels to share a meal with the people you care about most.
For the Family That Watched Coco Together and Was a Sobbing Mess: MARCH COMES IN LIKE A LION
So, story time: when I watched Coco with a close friend, we were a combined, congealed wreck afterward. When we got home, we did shots of tequila while talking about the people we’d lost and got it all out of our system with a good cry. Sometimes, watching something emotional with your family members can really bring out the conversations you need to have in order to heal, and March comes in like a lion is probably one of the absolute best anime that can do that–not to mention one of the absolute best anime of the last decade.
THE QUICK PITCH: Rei is a shogi prodigy who lives on his own–he needs the space from his family. Thankfully, he’s made friends with a family of sisters who live nearby, and they fill the void in each others’ lives with love, courage, and compassion.
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: Make sure you have a box of tissues handy… just in case, y’know?
For the Family That’s Prepping for Black Friday the Second Dinner’s Done: SKULL-FACE BOOKSELLER HONDA-SAN
I’ve never had any real problems during Black Friday, even the half-dozen I worked–for the most part, Monterey Black Fridays were just the most polite riots I’ve ever participated in. No mistake, though, preparing for Black Friday is like getting ready to go to war: you figure out who’s going to which stores, which deals you’re making a beeline for, and alternatives just in case somebody gets to what you want beforehand. Retail is hell, and Black Friday is worse–and poor Honda-san gets to suffer through all of it. Yes, even Black Friday.
THE QUICK PITCH: Working in a bookstore is exciting and rewarding, but it’s also a unique brand of retail hell. Honda-san and his similarly weird-faced booksellers go through all sorts of day-to-day adventures while making sure their beloved bookstore doesn’t burn down or run out of popular titles.
I CAN EXPLAIN Rating: Let me know if you get an “oh so that’s what yaoi means” at some point. Have fun!
Alright… that should get you started well enough. One day you’re not sure if your family wants to let you show them Golden Kamuy, the next they’re gonna be binging Hunter x Hunter and asking you which Monogatari to start with.
What about you? What shows would you use to try and get your family started on anime? Sound off in the comments and share your stories!