Have you ever tried an anime by watching the first episode, got bored with it and moved on? Only to come back to it later, perhaps on the recommendation of a friend and find that it is indeed awesome? All fans have fallen prey to this one time or another. It is difficult to build the plot, set the scenes, and all the while make a first episode in which hooks the viewers. Some great animes fail spectacularly at getting a deep enough hook in their viewers within the first episode. Through careful sampling and deliberation, it has been deduced that in order to fully get a taste of an anime's watchability or lack thereof, one must watch it until at least episode six of the series.
Sometimes things will speed up in quickly within the first couple of episodes, where intriguing mysteries can be introduced or entertaining battles can happen. However, most viewers have found that in most anime, no matter the length of the series, that episode six is the pinnacle of sampling what is to come.
In episode six, the main problem is introduced and the hero must find a way to solve it, or in the case of Clannad and likeminded animes the male must solve his harems' problems. In this sixth episode, the hero begins his quest or maybe they have already started and the hero is gaining the trust and loyalty of their first companion. In the sixth episode, the villain is introduced. Perhaps the villain is a character already introduced, but they are just beginning to show a dark, cruel, and plotting side they have not yet shown the world. If it is an anime of a romantic persuasion, then the sixth anime should be right when the viewer realizes that someone is in love with some and the other person may not even realize it. Such is the case with the sixth episode of ToraDora, Taiga walks in on a compromising situation between Ami and Ryuuji and you can see her feelings written all over her face, tsundere or no. It is where you can get an accurate taste of the plot and whether or not it has pulled you in. By the end of that episode if you are not intrigued enough to watch more, you mind as well drop that show like a hot potato.
This holds particularly true with twelve episode long series because you are halfway through already, and it is either commit or get off the pot. However, even in a series as long as Naruto or One Piece, it is where in both they are in the midst of heading off to or well into one of the first big battles of the series. Of course, in a series as long as both of those, this rule can be tricky. With long drawn out series, the creators are left a lot of room to make changes over the following billion episodes. For example, Naruto fans dwindled off of the original anime because of filler, but they reintroduced the series as Naruto Shipuuden where everything was more fluid and freshly animated. Fans of the original flocked back and the large scale flashy battle scenes attracted new viewers, even if they hadn't seen the original series or read the manga. Another example is from a normal length series, 24 episodes, like Berserk. In the Berserk anime, episode six is where Zodd the Immortal appears, giving his foreboding message of impending doom. By then you'd already seen some good fighting, but this is the first loss since Gutts joined the Hawks. It sets a nice scene of intrigue and draws you in and foreshadows later plot twists.
This zen rule, if you will, is important for people to remember if they like to keep current on the new anime seasons. It does not matter if you are some kind of anime reviewer or just a fan, it is still a good practice before you give up on it. A prime example of Eureka Seven, when it first premiered in the spring 2005 anime season, I watched one episode and thought it was utterly boring and I hated the main character with the soul of my being. I neglected it until 2010, when I had had enough of my fanboy friend and his ranting and watched it. Turns out the plot was really quite good, but it did little to improve my opinion of Renton. However, that still does not change that it was a quality show.
With the zen of the sixth episode, anime fans can keep themselves from falling into the trap of elitism. One definition of anime elitism is watching one episode, dropping it, then hating it and bad mouthing it for years. While there are several different categories of elitism in the anime fan community, that kind is by the far the worse. Everyone is guilty of it at some point. For some reason, more than any other genre of media aside from politics, anime fans are the post prone to being elitist. It is the cause of some of the fiercest arguments among fans and why we just cannot be friends, as a community.
Sometimes the badge of elitism is worn proudly, but if you do wear it loud and proud, practice the zen. At least get a decent flavor for the show before your feelings are officially decided. Think of anime like a fine wine, in order to experience the full palate of flavors, you have to swish it in your mouth for a long while before you decide to swallow it or spit it out.
Whatever the reason you are sampling a new show, whether it had a description that drew you in, the show is new to the world, or if you are taking a recommendation from a friend. Remember to give an anime a solid chance before you pass it up. There are a lot of great stories out there, you never know when you are going to find that show that renews your energy and makes you giddy with happiness.