Gateway shows for me were Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing, Iria (on the old Sci-Fi). Breakthrough anime for me that really got me into the medium were Read or Die TV and InuYasha in 2004. The following year I watched shows like Blood+, Mai Hime and Shakugan no Shana (one of all time favorite franchise now). These shows left me wanting more and more. AIR was the first anime that made me really feel emotion, which was a huge thing to me due to autism.
I'm a huge Kyoani, KEY, and P.A. Works fanboy
edit: 2019 after Fairy gone, less so a P.A. Works fanboy...
From 2004 until 2013 I only ever used Animenewsnetwork to track my anime. No one ever told me about myanimelist. It would've made my life easier because I had also been using facebook to track rewatches and exact times. My current animelist is VERY incomplete. ANN has me at almost 1000 series. MAL should be over 1600 based on how things are separated here. It will be a very long process to transfer it all over. Until then, feel free to ask me personally if I've seen a certan show that is not listed.
My ratings are based on MAL's own labels. My Mean Score is so "high" because I usually drop anime that I feel like would end up being a 6 or below. And of course, these are all my own tastes and opinions. I have various reasons for boosting an anime's score or lowering an anime's score. So while some people may think an anime is 10/10 for example, if I found it to be extremely predictable or felt like it tried too hard, I'll probably lower it to an 8 or 9. I tend to drop anything 6 or lower (usually). "Average" and "Fine" are basically the same thing so it's odd that MAL uses both. I don't want to watch "Average" quality anime. I want to watch "Good" anime or better. That's why my "Mean Score" is above 7.0 and why I drop things that I feel deserve a 6 or lower.
(10) Masterpiece - Shows/Movies that were powerful enough to emotionally touch me in some way, had a purpose, and I could not find any real flaw in (9) Great - Shows/Moves that were powerful enough to emotionally touch me in some way, had a purpose, but had some minor issues (8) Very Good - Shows/Movies that were enjoyable but not too special in any way (7) Good - Shows/Movies that were at the minimum standard that I feel is worth the time spent watching. My real "Average". (6) Fine - Shows/Movies that were not awful but not worth the time invested. (5) Average - Shows/Movies that while are "Average" overall, are well below the standard that I find makes them worth the time it takes to watch. (4) Bad (3) Very Bad (2) Horrible (1) Unwatchable