For years, I’ve heard complaints from parents about Japanese animation. They say it’s not something they feel children should watch. There’s way too much violence, nudity, sex, and magic. I have difficulty arguing with that–I’ve seen several titles that I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable letting a child watch.
One thing that has to be understood is Japan’s culture. The reason so much anime has offensive material is that the Japanese realize that violence, sex, whatever–it’s all part of life. (harsh, but true) They feel that children must be prepared for life’s positives and negatives. I can’t argue with that logic.
However, you can find kid-friendly anime. I’ve narrowed 20 titles that I think would be great.
A few caveats:
1. Every anime distributor uses a rating system, often similar to what you see used for movies and TV.
2. I have decided to divide my list in half. Numbers 20-11 are those I feel are fine for ages 10 and up (some for ages 13 and up); while 10-1 are fine for all ages.
3. You don’t have to agree with my list. Some of these may still seem inappropriate. I urge you–watch them yourself first! Then decide.
20. Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek (CPM)–This is a game of hide and seek, except you’re not hiding from other kids, you’re hiding from monsters! They find you, you disappear! (insert evil laugh)
Why this is good: Believe it or not, kids love to be scared. Disney cartoons have lots of scary moments–I remember how frightening Maleficent was in Sleeping Beauty. The Secret of NIMH, Star Wars, Gremlins, Ghostbusters–we let our kids watch those too, and they’re filled with scares. (Gremlins is downright scary when you’re a little kid!) Besides, if kids didn’t enjoy being scared, do you think R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books would be good sellers?
19. Case Closed (aka Detective Conan) (FUNimation) –Jimmy is the smartest kid in town. So smart, that when the local police have a crime that they turn to him. (kinda makes you wonder how smart they are, huh?) One day he spies on some criminals, they kidnap him and force him to drink a potion that turns him into a little kid.
Why This is Good:
which also had pretty much the same premise. The best part? You can actually solve the mystery along with Jimmy if you pay attention!
18. Last Exile. (FUNimation)Already reviewed here.
17. Big O (Bandai) Already reviewed here.
16. Naruto/Naruto Shippuden (Viz) This is the story of Naruto Uzemaki, who wants nothing less than to be the Hokage, the leader of his village. Sure, he’s a bit of a rascal, but aren’t all children. I think lots of kids can relate to the characters in this story. And if the story is too violent, they can always watch the version that airs on Disney XD.
15. Heroman (streams on Crunchy Roll) Already reviewed here.
14. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Media Blasters)–This is the story of Balsa, a woman who has killed eight people. Now, she is a bodyguard who wishes to repent of those deaths. In this story, she protects a boy who has a water spirit growing inside him.
Why This is Good: This is a beautiful story. Balsa is like a surrogate mother. I really feel children will enjoy the beautiful imagery in this title.
13. Erin (aka Kemono no Souja Erin–Beast Player Erin) (also streams on Crunchy Roll)–Erin is a girl who wishes to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a woman who cares for magical beasts. This is her coming of age story as she learns all she needs to know and grows into a mature woman.
Why This is Good: I really feel children will identify with Erin. This is almost like a Miyazaki movie, and it’s made by the same people who made Moribito.
12. Princess Tutu (AEsir Holdings)–This is the story of Duck, a duck who longs to be human and bring happiness to a boy imprisoned by evil.
Why This is Good: This is like a fairy tale gone horribly wrong, and is a joy for children. I once recommended it to a mother and her children loved it.
11. Dragonball/Dragonball Z/Dragonball Z Kai (FUNimation) Goku is a boy from another planet who joins in the search for 7 magical balls. If he finds all 7, he can summon the magical dragon Shen Long, who will grant only one wish. Dragonball is Goku’s story, while Dragonball Z is about his kid, Gohan. There’s also Dragonball GT, but we Dragonball fans don’t talk about that much because it’s not as good as the others. For a shorter, less filler-happy version, watch Dragonball Z Kai.
10.Steamboy (Columbia)–A boy helps his grandfather, an inventor who uses steam.
Why This is Good: Katsuhiro Otomo is considered one of anime’s best directors and creators. However, this is really the only kid-friendly story he’s done. It’s action-packed, and even with the bad science, I feel kids will love it.
9. Speed Racer (Lions Gate. Also streams on Crunchy Roll) Speed is a race car driver who drives the Mach 5, an experimental race car with all kinds of gadgets. This was also made into a movie, and unlike most movies based on cartoons, it’s actually good!
Why This is Good: Today’s kids had Dragonball, and older anime fans had Speed Racer. Guess what? It still holds up!
8. Castle in the Sky (Buena Vista/Disney)–Sheeta is a girl with a magical pendant who meets a boy named Patzu who will do anything to protect her.
Why This is Good: This is one of Miyazaki’s earliest movies. It has lots of action and it’s non-stop.
4. Pokemon (4Kids)–Ash Ketchum wants to be the best Pokemon Trainer in the world.
Why This is Good: Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t this a 30-minute marketing franchise, like Transformers, He-man and those other cartoons from the 80’s? Yes, but it’s also well-written.
3. Digimon (all versions) This is similar to Pokemon, but it actually precedes Pokemon.
Why This is Good: Everything I said about Pokemon can be repeated here. You can find this series on both Crunchy Roll and Crackle. I placed it higher because all my friends who are more serious about the series than I am have told me it’s better than Pokemon.
2. Hikaru No Go (Viz) Hikaru is a boy who finds a magical Go board possessed by a ghost named Sai, who still wishes to master the “divine move”.
Why This is Good: I am currently watching this title, and I have yet to see much objectionable material. Plus, who knows? Maybe it will get your kids interested in the actual game!
1. My Neighbor Totoro (Buena Vista/Disney) A family discovers that their new home is inhabited by gentle cat-like spirits called Totoro (as well as “soot gremlins”).
Why This is Good: This is by far the safest, kid-friendly anime title I can think of. Every parent who has let their children watch it has come away pleased. It is a charming story for all ages.