How to Find Anime That's OK for Children

Parents can check age ratings or watch a few with their kids

Pokemon XY
The Pokemon Company

If your kids are talking about cosplay—dressing up as fictional characters—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, but you might wonder if anime is appropriate for them.

Not all anime is. However, anime is the Japanese equivalent of cartoons, so if your kids are catching their favorite anime shows on stations such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, chances are they're probably fine. Unlike American cartoons, however, anime has a wide following, with series and films made for audiences of all ages, including some marked "mature audiences only." 

Much Anime Is Appropriate

Not all anime shows are full of nudity and violence. Much anime is appropriate no matter what age your children are. To be sure they're seeing only the stuff you want them to see, watch a few episodes with them. Most of what's on during the daytime and early evening hours has been edited with younger ones in mind, omitting sexually explicit and graphically violent content.

Some good ones include "Case Closed," "Avatar: The Last Airbender," "Pokemon," "Cardcaptor Sakura," "Tenchi Muyo!," "Yu-Gi-Oh!" and the films of Studio Ghibli such as "Spirited Away." For older kids—say, 12 and up—"Naruto," "Fullmetal Alchemist," "Dragon Ball Z," and "Yu Yu Hakusho" are fine.

Anime shows have age ratings like movies and DVDs, so it's easy to pick appropriate shows. Keep in mind that cultural differences between America and Japan appear in anime—namely, sexual content and the occasional death of a "good guy."

Anime Reflects Cultural Differences

Not all animes have happy endings. Some characters die and some bad guys win. Japanese culture doesn't shy away from death, but depictions of death can help children understand loss. Make sure the shows your children watch don't involve graphic violence or have ratings too mature for them.

One popular anime genre is action and adventure, which often falls into the category "battle anime." This features a considerable amount of fighting—usually with martial arts—and the characters can end up bloody and bruised. They usually recover but check the plot synopsis if your child's getting into a long-running battle anime.

Also, the Japanese are more relaxed about nudity and suggestive content, which you might see in shows with PG ratings. Many female characters have exaggerated features and wear semi-sexy outfits, depending on the rating, but a girl in a short sailor outfit doesn't make the series suggestive. "Sailor Moon" is a kid-friendly anime show and the main characters wear sailor suits because that's their school uniform.

Many Have Moral Lessons

The majority of anime shows, especially those created for kids, tend to have underlying moral lessons about issues such as bullying, feeling isolated, and believing in yourself. Anime gives your child the opportunity to see the world from a different culture's perspective. Many adults growing up in the 1990s were raised on shows such as "Pokemon" and "Yu-Gi-Oh!" that taught lessons about friendship, honesty, loyalty, trust, and dealing with adversity.