Originally I wrote this post in response to a question I’d been asked regarding kids’ anime. I was asked of my top picks for the season which anime I’d recommend for kids, which kind of stumped me because to be perfectly frank I wouldn’t recommend any of the anime I watch these days for kids.
(Keep in mind, this post is not becoming a tirade against people who think anime is for kids or an extended rant– I’m simply explaining why I found it hard to answer this question.)
That isn’t to say there aren’t great kids anime out there, but I’m not a child and I don’t watch things that are particularly kid friendly. The other reason I wouldn’t make a recommendation for a child is I don’t actually know what the parent of said child deems appropriate for their child.
For instance, are they okay with stylised violence or do they want something that resolves issues through discussion? Is it okay if girls have visible curvature or do you consider that unnecessary in a children’s show? What about themes? Drugs, mind control, hypnosis, death, life, relationships, good, evil, magic? Which do you find appropriate? And how would I know?
I can’t answer those questions for someone else. And I am not a good judge of what is and isn’t appropriate for the simple reason that my own viewing as a child was never particularly censored by my parents. That isn’t to say they ignored what I watched, but it is more that they would tell me what was in something and warn me if they thought it would scare me, but they allowed me to decide what I would watch.
Of course, they certainly steered me around things that would probably have crossed too many lines, but from a reasonably young age I became a massive fantasy and B-Grade horror fan.
Magic and spells and characters who faced death and monsters and incredibly fake blood filled the screen and I learned to love predictable and dependable narratives where good would ultimately triumph and villains would lose for the simple reason that they were villains. The fact that sometimes losing meant being thrown from a cliff and bursting into little pieces (Tremors) or getting struck by lightning and being completely destroyed (Willow) didn’t really concern me as a child and still doesn’t today because of course that’s what happens in stories.
And that was the clear line. What happens in movies and television was not reflective of reality. “It isn’t scary, it’s just TV.” “It’s a movie, so everything will be fine.” That was the message I got over and over again. A lot of what I watched wasn’t exactly kid friendly but nor was it particularly scarring (with the possible exception of ‘It’ – the original).
So when faced with the what anime is appropriate for kids to watch question, I kind of shrug. It entirely depends on the parent and how they frame the viewing experience and what the child has been exposed to previously.
My stance on censorship is entirely prosaic. All media should be clearly labelled with what it is and what it isn’t. Ratings aren’t overly helpful. Did that get a high rating because of foul language or because someone is going to get torn in half and blood is going to drip across the screen? There’s a real difference in which one I’ll sit through.
I have the DVD of Jormungand and it is restricted MA15+ in Australia with the helpful note that it contains strong animated violence. Yet I would argue that it is totally appropriate for teenagers because while it has strong violence the themes and questions it raises about arms dealers and child soldiers are an excellent discussion point. I’m certain others disagree with that view and that’s fine. That’s why labels are helpful.
What even makes something kids anime to begin with?
I’ve mentioned before that my earliest anime included Astro Boy and Sailor Moon, both seen as reasonably acceptable kids viewing. However, looking back, Sailor Moon gets pretty dark. She kills her enemies. Reduces them to dust. The scouts and Sailor Moon are in constant peril. Serena’s boyfriend is kidnapped, brainwashed and set against her. Ultimately she is forced to all but kill him (which effectively wipes out any memories he has of her) in order to save him. That’s a harsh line up covered in pastel colours and pretty sparkly moon wands.
Then there are parents who protest their kids engaging with Harry Potter because of the magic theme. How many anime, particularly kid friendly anime, involves magic as a central plot point? Card Captor Sakura and Shugo Chara, both anime I would probably recommend for younger audiences, are heavily steeped in magic.
And Shonen anime is full of violence. Stylised and sanitized at times, but extreme violence nonetheless. Yet people would argue that a lot of those stories are kids anime. Most of it makes Wile E Coyote’s antics in Road Runner look pretty tame and let’s be honest, anything involving dynamite is pretty dangerous.
For parents with kids watching anime, the best thing you can do is look the anime up yourself and view the online images. Is that appropriate for your child to be watching? And that is a decision only you can make because you know what you want your child to view and what you would prefer they didn’t.
Now, censorship is always a prickly issue so I’m certain there are some big opinions out there. Please have at it below but remember to respect the views of others.
Also, list the anime you think should be labelled as kids anime and why because I’m sure plenty of people out there would love the recommendation.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
23 thoughts on “Why Ask Me To Recommend Kids Anime?”
That’s a fair call. I never watched that one but a lot of anime fans I know did enjoy that.
Don’t know why this suddenly came back up in my feed but, well…
Zoids, Medabots, and Monster Rancher were all pretty good kids’ anime when I was a kid. 🙂
Re-edited and reposted. I am slowly updating posts from the old editor and rewriting bits and pieces in amongst new content.
Just show them Legend Of The Overfiend and tell them it doesn’t get any worse than that! 😉 😛
An interesting strategy. I can almost guarantee they will never ask for another recommendation.
So this is an interesting question. I actually went through a closely related experience just last week – one of my friends at work runs a book club for 8-12 yos, and she asked me if I had any recommendations because they were interested in reading a manga at a future meeting. Now you think of manga for kids you immediately think of the classics, right? But then you actually stop and think about the contents. Dragonball? Has nudity and blatant sex jokes. Sailor Moon? In addition to the issues you mentioned with the anime that also carry over to the manga it also contains nudity. Cardcaptor Sakura? Mostly fine except for the small matter of a fourth grade girl having a romantic relationship with her freaking teacher. Which ironically could actually make a good topic for a book club discussion with kids on why this is NOT ok, but that’s really the sort of talk a parent should be having with their kids instead. One Piece? I think the older kids could handle that, but it’s probably a bit too intense to give to most 8 year olds. Same with Naruto (and I’d never even consider Bleach or Death Note for that age range). The other problem was that a lot of kid-friendly manga has gone out of print over the years, at least in the US, while the teen-oriented manga sticks around forever. Most of the lists of kid-friendly manga I found people recommending on the internet at least half their suggestions were out of print, especially if their list was more than a few years old.
Ultimately the list of recommendations I gave her (based on what’s currently in print and actually available at our local library) was for six titles: Shugo Chara, Haikyu, Witch Hat Atelier, Fox & Little Tanuki, Yuzu the Pet Vet, and Astro Boy, with the suggestion that they each be allowed to pick their own to read from that list. I also gave her some secondary suggestions for some popular “franchise” manga like Pokemon, Splatoon, and Yokai Watch as backups, but I felt like those offered the best mix of all-ages accessibility and having enough depth to actually give her group something to talk about (as opposed to something like Chi’s Sweet Home that’s perfectly fine for kids but wouldn’t inspire much of a conversation). Obviously only three of those six manga have anime adaptations as of right now (Shugo Chara, Haikyu, and Astro Boy), but all three of those are definitely among the list of shows I’d consider generally fine for kids to watch, based on what I’ve seen of them. There are others I would have felt comfortable recommending like Hikaru no Go and Angelic Layer, but those were either out of print or we don’t have them in our library anymore.
Now one other kids anime I have to plug because I personally loved it was Kaitou Joker (or just JOKER as it’s called on Crunchyroll). It’s definitely made for kids, but it’s a lot of fun to watch and I never felt like it was talking down to me as an adult viewer either. That was adapted from a kids manga that was only released in Japan, but I’m given to understand that the anime was a fairly loose adaptation, with the plot diverging significantly from the manga.
It is such a difficult question to answer and every parent is going to have their own list of what is okay and what isn’t. I more or less point people to various online databases and tell them to look at the titles themselves to decide what might be okay because it is just such a mine field.
Answering that question is a tough one for me. I wasn’t allowed to watch any anime as a child, pokemon especially because my parents saw the card game and believed watching would lead to playing, which would lead to dungeons and dragons and the eventual practice of witchcraft. Conclusion, anime was of the devil and nothing good could come of it.
That being said there are some great anime I’ve seen that I would let my own kids watch, specifically Fancy Lala and probably creamy mami. Now, both of these contain magic, but it’s the type of unexplained magic that happens in fairy tales. Magic would be an issue for me when it comes to my own kids someday, but only certain types. Magic that falls in this simple one or two things that you can look at your children and say it’s not real is ok. The type of magic you see in Harry potter goes a step further and I’ve seen peers persue witchcraft and wiccan practices because of it. The 90’s Scooby doo animated movies also cross my line of you want a different example.
Anyway, yeah it’s a tough question to answer except for yourself regarding your own children.
Great topic. Very thought-provoking. I would also like to add that the label “appropriate for kids” can slightly differ across different cultures. I was born and spent my childhood in my mother country, the Philippines. Of course we have censorship, but I have observed that they don’t censor blood and violence, even sex, in anime. That’s why I was very surprised when I moved to Canada and watched some North American anime releases and—my g—there were A LOT of censorships that they’re so different from the original. I guess the issue of localization should also be discussed here, but anyway, my take on this matter is very liberal. As a child, my parents let me watch anime that I know some parents especially here in North America would never let their children watch. I like to think that I was very lucky to have parents who let me watch virtually all anime except the hentai ones…ahaha. I guess, this really shaped me as an anime fan and exposed me to anime across different genres. Great post. Keep it up, Karandi!
Cultural appropriateness is also something to consider. Which kind of brings it back to the individual parents having to build some familiarity with anime if they are concerned about what they let their kids watch.
It varies from person to person, so I can only go on what I watched with my daughters here. That list would be:
Mew Mew Power
Digimon (we watched all, but Tamers was everyone’s favourite, which made me happy)
Samurai Pizza Cats
Recommending anything for kids can be tricky. As an uncle, I have to think about that quite a bit more than I used to, not least because anything I share with my nieces and nephews is scrutinized by my sisters as well.
Totally in agreement, both with your difficultly in answering the question and for your overall explanation. As I’m currently devouring sports anime left right and centre, I’d say that was a safe bet for kids without the shows themselves being inherently ‘childish’.
Sailor Moon kills people? Holy crap….
My favorite child anime is probably Pokemon. I mean, I’ve grown up with it, I’ve been there since the generation started, and really it’s just a nostalgic weakness I have… I’d like to say the same about Digimon because I also grew up with it, but it was introduced slightly later I believe? Also, maybe because the games were inferior to the Pokemon games, I didn’t feel a stronger attachment to the franchise I had when compared to Pokemon.
Other anime I didn’t exactly grow up with but I knew of was probably Card Captor Sakura.
Well, she turns them into moon dust in the 90’s version. I’m pretty sure other than more sparkles its a fairly similar effect to what happens to most vampires when they get hit by sunlight.
Looking back at the anime you watched as a kid is always an awkward experience. For the longest i fell for the whole Shadow Realm thing on the 4Kids version of YuGiOh. It wasn’t until I read the manga that I realized people actually died in that show.
But, if you want some good children friendly anime, I suggest Samurai Pizza Cats, Fighting Foodons, Sonic X and Gundam Build Fighters.
I remember Samurai Pizza Cats (or rather I remember the theme song and very little about the show). That was before I even realised it was anime. Thanks for the comment.
No prob. I didn’t find out what anime was until I was in middle school, and by then I had watched like 7 series religiously, lol