I was a fairly early bloomer to anime, I think. I guess I'm not really sure what the metric is for evaluating that kind of thing. I know that at 12-13 I was into anime before my friends at the time. Part of that was due to Studio Ghibli.
Around that age, my parents and I rented Princess Mononoke from our local video store. They rented it for me because I was young and it was a cartoon. That kind of kickstarted my anime experience.
From there, I moved on. I was a huge fan of Toonami in those days, and that Toonami had some pretty solid anime programs on. Among those programs was The Big O. This was my intorduction to giant robot fighting.
The Big O was the name of a colossal armored titan, a relic of the past in this fairly dystopian city. Big O was the coolest thing to my 12 year old mind. A giant robot engaging in crazy stakes combat with equally towering foes! Being piloted by a debonair man named Roger Smith.
I don't remember all of the show (it's been some time) but I do remember that Smith was basically a hybrid of James Bond and Batman. He fought crime, though not liek a vigilante. He also had a butler and slicked-back hair and a fancy black car. He summoned Big O with his watch. He was gentlemanly in his garb and thought guns were beneath him.
He also cared very passionately for helping people, as long as they could remain civil. He was also inherently mistrustful of the big coroporate overlords in his city. Smith was a badass, with a badass robot to boot.
I've watched a whole bunch of animes in my life, and I'll keep watching a bunch more before I kick the bucket. But I wouldn't really know anything about this world and the coolest parts of it were it not for The Big O.
It was this anime, and Toonami in general, that put me onto shows like Dragon Ball Z and Inuyasha and Tenchi Muyo. It showed me epic adventures. It made me think a little more critically about my environment and other things before I even knew how to think critically about things.
So for all that and more, The Big O is one of my all-time favorite animes.