Finding Kid-Friendly Anime

Anime (also known as Japanese animation) is one of the largest growing markets for children. It includes movies, television shows, and manga (comic books). With the huge influx into the United States of anime books, DVDs, video games, and toys, this genre is now considered mainstream and can be found just about everywhere. Anime, however, is not like most cartoons for kids, and care has to be taken when allowing them to view it.

Anime tends to depict violence, death, and even some nudity.

One example of how different Japanese culture is from ours is their discussion of death, which is common at all age levels. Japanese animation does not shy away from having characters die, sometimes in very unpleasant ways, in material created for kids. And there is less compunction to have children’s stories end happily.

Violence is more acceptable in the Japanese culture, as manifest in its respect for martial arts and the military. The violence portrayed in anime can be quite graphic, even in material created for kids, and may be unexpected. A comedy might suddenly become violent in one scene and then revert to being tame and funny. In Kiki's Delivery Service, for example, Kiki is attacked by crows while trying to rescue a package she needs to deliver. She is not injured but she is knocked off her broom and gets lost.

There is also less concern about sexual content and partial or complete nudity in anime for children. In Naruto, the main character has the ability to transform into a naked woman (whose body is covered by her hair), and uses that ability to distract teachers and opponents.

Some publishers of graphic novels, movies and television series alter the original Japanese content to make it more appropriate for the American market. At the end of a Sailor Moon episode, two of the scouts die in the Japanese version, but in the American version the scouts are trapped and then rescued. Another show features a toddler boy who likes to run around naked, but in the American version shorts are added digitally so he is covered up.

How to Tell if Anime is Appropriate for Kids

Some anime is created specifically for children while others have more complex stories and themes appropriate for older teens and adults, and still others are hardcore stories with graphic violence and sexual content only for adults.

Telling which is which is not always as easy as it should be. Frequently the covers will have a drawing of a cute female character, and the few screenshots from the show and description on the back cover will not help. Those who sell anime may not be aware of the actual content of their merchandise, and may place it with other cartoon videos or comic books, regardless of the rating, because they're animated. For example, Hamtaro, a series about hamsters and their owners that is perfect for younger kids, could be found next to Perfect Blue, a psychological suspense thriller geared to older viewers.

Here are some tips on age-appropriate anime:

  • Anime seen on the Cartoon Network (or other channels that show children's cartoons) before 9pm is probably safe for most children younger than 13. If it is on after 9pm, then you know it isn't appropriate for children younger than 13.
  • Before you let your child watch any anime or read any manga, watch or read it yourself first. Even if it is on the safe list below, it still may not fit your personal criteria for what is appropriate for your children.
  • Do not rely on your local video or bookstore to know what anime is appropriate for children.
  • Pay close attention to the ratings and why the movie/show received its rating.
  • If you rent or buy a movie from the children's section and it wasn't appropriate, go back and let the store manager know. This will help others be more educated and possibly prevent some other child from seeing something she shouldn't.

Popular Anime for Kids

Here is a list of some popular anime that is safe for children. These titles are rated G, PG or PG-13:

  • Ah! My Goddess!
  • Avatar: The Last Air Bender
  • Card Captors
  • Castle in the Sky
  • Catnapped
  • Digimon
  • Dog of Flanders
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Full Metal Alchemist
  • Gakkou No Kaidan/School Ghost Stories
  • Hamtaro
  • Kiki's Delivery Service
  • Kimagure Orange Road
  • Kimba the White Lion
  • Macross
  • Magic Knights Rayearth
  • Medabots
  • Mobile Suit Gundam
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
  • Naruto
  • Pokemon
  • Record of Lodoss War
  • Sailor Moon
  • Spirited Away
  • Tenchi Muyo
  • Yoroiden Samurai Troopers
  • Yu-Gi-Oh (GX, Duel Monsters, Capsule Monsters)