Recently, we touched on the benefits of using anime and cartoons as a method of integrating martial arts into your child’s life. While there are many good reasons for your child to learn martial arts (see the article for more details), we realized that a sport might not be the main reason you’re interested in anime for your child. We figured there were plenty of you out there who wanted to introduce anime to your child simply because you also are interested in anime, but might not be sure how to go about it, or which anime are appropriate choices. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Since many anime programs contain mature themes, I’ll be breaking this topic into age-appropriate categories for easier digestion.
First off, congratulations on being one of the parents who is genuinely interested in introducing anime to your child. Because of you, your kids will likely receive a much more interesting and structured introduction to the world of anime, and they’ll be better off for it. I personally had no structure, and randomly stumbled upon anime in my early teens, while watching late night television. I eventually got into it more as my interest and tastes progressed, but had I been shown the ropes by more practiced hands, I have little doubt I’d have enjoyed the experience much more. That’s where you come in. You’re in the unique position to choose exactly which anime your kids get to watch, and when, so you can create your own timeline of sorts that allows them to experience different shows at the right pace for your family.
To start, gauge your child’s interests with which anime you think will meet their needs. Each person is different, so the best way to do this is to make direct comparisons between the shows they currently watch, and anime which contain similar themes. For example, if your kid is currently into material like Twilight, then an anime like Clannad would be an easier segue into the genre than say, Bleach would. Bleach is all about action and fighting, so it might disinterest a viewer who was into emotional depth, and turn them off of anime as a whole.
Once you’ve got an accurate idea of which types of shows your child might be interested in, it’s time to start compiling. There are a number of lists on the internet that will tell you which anime are the most popular and the most interesting. Usually they are grouped by their ratings, so you’ll be able to see which anime stack up against each other, and what other people who have watched these series are saying about the shows. Using these lists, create your own shortlist of which shows seem appealing to you, and that you think your kids might enjoy. Then do some research on those shows. Do they contain too much violence for your kids? Are the themes present in the anime at too mature a level for their age? If you think either of these might be the case, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Check out video clips of the show (or trailers) to make sure the anime is appropriate for your family.
Here is a list to get you started of (potentially) age-appropriate anime for the younger crowd. These anime are more light-hearted, fun, and contain less mature themes and/or violence than the average show.
Naruto takes the classic story of an outcast boy who becomes a hero, and adds ninjas to the equation. The title character, Naruto, grows alongside his friends as he strives to become the strongest ninja of all time. Naruto is incredibly popular, fast-paced and fun. There’s some fighting involved, but it is done in a more light-hearted, cartoony style. Naruto is made to appeal to younger audiences of battle anime.
Odds are you’re familiar with Pokemon, but perhaps not the fact that it’s a long-running anime series as well as a game. The anime follows Ash Ketchum and his Pokemon Pikachu at first, but over the years, the show has covered much more ground than just the two of them having adventures together. The series teaches about love and respect, but there are Pokemon battles, among friends and rivals.
When her parents take a wrong turn on their way home, Chihiro is transported to an entirely new world, where she meets many strange and interesting creatures. Along her journey to return home, Chihiro meets a mysterious boy named Haku, who tries to help her escape this world before sunset. Spirited Away is one of the best anime available to introduce to kids; the story is heart-warming and enjoyable for everyone.
Of course there are many more series than the few listed here; these are just meant to get your feet wet. However, your kid might not be interested in the more light-hearted material. Perhaps he or she is a bit older, a bit more mature, or you’re more comfortable introducing your child to an anime with a bit more heft to it. There are plenty of anime out there that have fantastic and engrossing stories, but require the use of more mature themes in order to properly tell them. Some of the best plots in all of fiction are present in the mature anime shows, so you may find that you’re as hooked as they are after watching them. These anime are sometimes more graphic, but usually feature excellent plot, and make fantastic introductions to the genre.
An incredible story about two brothers who practice the mysterious art of alchemy, Fullmetal Alchemist is a moving story of life, loss, and brotherhood. Edward and Alphonse Elric are compelling and believable characters, and if your child is mature enough to handle some violence and heavy themes about humanity, Fullmetal Alchemist will impress and entertain them.
An unassuming student named Lelouche is suddenly given the power to control others by a mysterious green haired-girl. Seeing injustice in the world around him, Lelouche sets out to overthrow the powers that be, in the name of what is right. Code Geass contains major themes of deception, lies, and contains some fighting and violence, but the story is worth it, if your child is mature enough to understand it.
Mad Scientist Rintaro Okabe realizes that he may have discovered the secret to time travel. Okabe and his ragtag group of friends set out to change some harrowing events of the past by sending messages back in time to their phones. As with most time travel, something goes wrong, and Okabe affects more than he can handle. Some light violence and mature themes throughout; less than most mature shows.
Once you’re finished watching a show, or periodically between episodes, it’s often a good idea to take stock of how your child is enjoying the show. It’s also a great time to observe how they are handling the maturity level of the show. They will likely ask you questions as the show you chose progresses, so this is your chance to explain some of the actions that are going on, or to elaborate on the themes that show up while they watch. As your children get older, or if they seem to be handling the maturity level of the show with no issues, perhaps it’s time to consider watching one of the more mature shows. Every child is different, so each case will have to be handled and considered differently.
The most important thing to remember is that watching anime should be about having fun, and enjoying an excellent (and possibly brand new) medium with your child. The world of anime is an exciting and fantastic one that rivals the best forms of entertainment, and your child should be fine enjoying it, as long as you approach it with an open mind, a sense of maturity, and some structure. Keep an open dialogue with your family, then sit back and enjoy some of the best that television has to offer. Some of these stories are worth it.