Should My Kids Watch Anime?

How To Help Your Kids Have A Great Anime Experience

Pokemon XY
Pokemon XY. The Pokemon Company

If your kids are talking about cosplay and watching shows with names such as "Bleach," "Naruto" and "Peach Girl," you're not alone. Anime is one of the most popular forms of television entertainment for children and the craze gets stronger every day. But as a parent, you might be wondering if anime is appropriate for your kids to watch.

Well, the answer is quite simple: not all anime is for children.

However, anime is the Japanese equivalent of cartoons so if your kids are catching their favorite anime shows on stations like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, chances are they're probably fine. That said, you should be aware that not all anime is meant for young eyes to see. Unlike American cartoons, anime has a really wide following with fans ranging in ages from 6 to 96. This has brought about the creation of many series and films for audiences of all ages, including some releases marked for "mature audiences only." 

How To Tell Which Anime Is Okay for Kids 

If you're cringing at the idea of your kids watching anime right about now, take heart - not all anime shows are full of nudity and violence. Quite the contrary, there's plenty of really good anime out there that's appropriate, no matter what age your child might be.

To make sure that your kids are only seeing the stuff you want them to see, the best advice is to watch a few episodes with them — most of the stuff you'll see during the daytime and early evening hours has been edited with the younger ones in mind.

In addition, many of the American anime companies have edited the shows to make them more appropriate for American audiences, omitting sexually explicit and graphically violent content.

Some good ones to try include "Case Closed," "Avatar: The Last Air Bender," "Pokemon," "Card Captor Sakura," "Tenchi Muyo," "Yu-Gi-Oh!" and the films of Studio Ghibli like "Spirited Away." In addition, "Naruto," "Full Metal Alchemist," "Dragonball Z" and "Yu-Yu-Hakusho" are fine for the older kids, say 12 and up.

Luckily, anime shows have age ratings just like all of your movies and DVD's so it's easy to figure out what kind of show you'll be watching. Keep in mind, however, that there are some cultural differences between America and Japan that come through in anime shows — namely sexual content and the occasional death of a "good guy."

Cultural Differences

Not all animes have happy endings. In fact, sometimes characters die and sometimes the bad guy wins. Japanese culture doesn't shy away from death and this is often evident in anime shows. However, this does help children understand the context of death and loss in a tangible, friendly way. Just make sure the show your child is watching doesn't involve too much graphic violence or have a rating that's too mature for his or her age.

Similarly, the Japanese view war and violence in a different way. In fact, one of the most popular anime genres is action and adventure, many examples of which fall into the category of "battle anime." This kind of anime features a considerable amount of fighting — usually with a martial arts slant — and sometimes the characters can end up looking quite bloody and bruised. They eventually recover, usually, but you may want to check the plot synopsis if your child is getting into a long-running battle anime.

Also, unlike American culture where nudity and suggestive content automatically gets a mature rating, the Japanese are more relaxed about this subject matter and you may see some nudity or implied nudity in shows with a PG rating. You also might notice that many of the female characters in the show tend to have somewhat exaggerated features and many skip around in semi-sexy outfits. Again, much of this will depend upon the rating but just know that a girl in a short sailor outfit doesn't mean the series is suggestive. Quite the contrary, "Sailor Moon" is probably one of the best examples of a kid-friendly anime show and all the main characters wore sailor suits. Why? It was their school uniform.

The Verdict

But what about morals, values and all that good stuff? Actually, the majority of anime shows out there do tend to have an underlying "be good" message.

Not all anime is suited for children, but many of the ones — especially those created for kids — teach valuable moral lessons. In fact, you'll find that many shows deal with universal issues such as bullying, feeling isolated and the all-important believing in yourself.

The important thing to note is that anime, as opposed to American cartoons, give your child the opportunity to see the world from a different culture's perspective. Many adults now who grew up in the 1990s were raised on shows like "Pokemon" and "Yu-Gi-Oh!" which taught important lessons about friendship and honesty, loyalty and trust as well as dealing with adversity in positive ways.