When you think of anime for kids, it’s easy to get stuck on the mass-produced craziness of shows like Pokemon, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh– you know: cheap storylines, a billion episodes, and hundreds of dollars worth of collectible crap.
But that’s not all there is to anime. Like many Western animated films and shows, they can have strong narratives, beautiful art, and important lessons. Here are some kid-friendly animes that Mom and Dad won’t hate having to sit through over and over again.
Studio Ghibli: Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Studio Ghibli has produced many amazing anime films over the past few decades that have even become popular in the US. They are exquisitely drawn and animated, and their story lines can be appreciated by both kids and parents alike. One of their most iconic characters, Totoro, even appeared in Toy Story III.
Most if not all of Studio Ghibli’s films are available in English dubs with star studded casts (like Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Amy Poheler, and others). Younger kids will like Ponyo, which is about a goldfish who dreams of becoming a human girl,
or My Neighbor Totoro, about two young girls who befriend a local forest guardian spirit.
Meanwhile, older viewers might identify more with Howl’s Moving Castle (adapted from a fantastic novel of the same name by Dianna Wynne Jones) or The Secret World of Arrietty (which is also adapted from a famous novel– The Borrowers by Mary Norton). Kids of all ages will enjoy Spirited Away, a tale reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or Pinocchio where a young girl must save her parents from being trapped in an Old Japan spirit world, or Kiki’s Delivery Service, about a young witch who uses her powers to set up a delivery service in a small town.
All of Studio Ghibli’s films can be found on Amazon and a few can even be found streaming on Netflix.
Squid Girl: A squid comes up from the ocean, turns into a little girl, and attempts to take over the world. She ends up working at a beach-side ramen shop where the workers exploit her by making squid ink soup (which is totally a real thing).
Adorable, right? Squid Girl is available to watch for free in HD on crunchyroll.com or you can stream it on any streaming device by signing up for a 30-day free trial account.
Uninhabited Planet Survive: Orphan Luna and her friends are stranded on a supposedly uninhabited planet during a school field trip. Complete with their robotic cat mascot, the team must rely on themselves to find a way home in this 52 episode series.
This one is a little more difficult to find online and as far as I can tell, it has not been licensed or dubbed yet for American audiences. You can stream a subtitled version online on Anime here.
Folktales From Japan: Taking Japanese folktales such as The Man Who Bought a Dream and The Rolling Rice Ball, each episode in this series tells three separate folktales from Japan. Pretty simple and really stinkin’ cute.
Folktales from Japan can be found on Crunchyroll and Netflix.