Whether it’s with your child, cousin, or sibling, the question of the appropriateness of watching anime with children is not uncommon among fans of anime. As fans, we are always eager to share the joy that we feel when watching anime. Children can be particularly receptive to anime because of their open minds. But in a lot of cases, it is felt that showing anime to children is inappropriate because of the often mature or intimidating elements of anime. Of course, this is different from anime to anime and can't be used as a blanket statement; some anime are perfectly appropriate for children. Although Western cartoons may be viewed as more appropriate for children due to their simpler, more colourful art styles and straightforward concepts, there are a number of strengths that anime has over cartoons.
Cartoons can teach life lessons, but the life lessons taught in anime are often far more compelling. Such examples of life lessons from cartoons include Spongebob Squarepants, which teaches you to do what makes you happy, and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, which teaches you to find humour no matter where you find yourself. Although they are good lessons, there isn't much lasting substance to them: they lack personal impact and emotional depth, unlike in anime. There are many anime that achieve this; we are looking at anime for children specifically, so here are three key examples for younger audiences: Ansatsu Kyoushitsu, Haikyuu!!, and Plastic Memories.
Everyone has their own talent.
Young people often have trouble finding their place in the world, unable to find what makes them who they are and feeling inferior to others who appear to be better than them. However, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu takes that thought process and shows how everyone is unique and interesting in their own way. The E-Class, the main setting of the series, is the amalgamation of Kunugigaoka Junior High School's supposedly "worst" students, which leaves the impression that they have no useful skills or talents (which the students themselves believe). However, over the course of the series, Koro-sensei shows each and every student that they are special in their own way and that they each have something they are good at — suggesting to each audience member that they themselves have their own talent, even if they haven't found it yet.
It's not about you, it's about the team.
In life, it's important to cooperate and collaborate with others, whether it be in academics, social interaction, or sports. By nature, people often prefer to work alone and take care of things themselves, as Tobio does in Haikyuu!! he believes that he can carry the team himself and that it should revolve around him. However, when he is introduced to Hinata and the rest of the Karasuno team, he comes to learn the importance of working together. In order to achieve victory, he has to put aside his lack of faith in his team members and learn to trust them. It isn't easy to believe that others will do what you need them to do, but it is a necessary life skill to know for all kinds of real situations. In learning this lesson early, children can gain social skills at a young age that will stay with them for the rest of their life.
Make the most of the time you have left.
Although the last two examples only explore the premises of their respective series, this example involves spoilers about the ending. If you don't wish for this to be spoiled, I recommend skipping to the next section.
As humans, we are mortal creatures with only a short amount of time to truly live; we don't have long to do what we want to do. Isla, as a Giftia whose maximum lifespan is 81,920 hours, has even less time than we do (672,000 hours on average) and from the beginning of the series she only has 2000 hours remaining before she is to be disabled. This causes her to retreat from fully enjoying her remaining time, but when she meets and spends time with Tsukasa as his partner at Terminal Service One, he convinces her to make the most of the time she has left. Spending her final days with Tsukasa fulfilled Isla before she was shut down, showing that we shouldn't be scared of our mortality, but should embrace it and make the most of the time we have remaining.
These are just a few of the many important and essential lessons that children should know for later in life. In comparison to life lessons in cartoons, anime offers a greater depth of usefulness and long-term benefit with what it demonstrates and teaches. Although there are many lessons that can be learned from specific anime, there is a genre that encompasses both important lessons and appropriateness for children: the shounen genre.
The Power of Shounen
Although the term shounen as a genre can be used quite broadly and encompasses anime ranging from Shingeki no Kyojin to Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, most fans of anime understand what is meant by a "shounen anime." Such popular anime include One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Dragon Ball, Pokemon, and many more. Many anime fans and even non-anime fans attribute these series to being a major and memorable part of their childhood growing up, and they are often gateways for new watchers of anime. Shounen anime are great to show to children who haven't watched anime before, as they are simple to follow and are often packed full of goofy fun. Although shounen anime is full of action and adventure, it teaches important morals for growing children. Shounen anime inspires people to fight for what is right and what is precious to them: family, friends, or a lifelong dream; such as Luffy's fight to become the pirate king, Naruto defying odds to become the next Hokage, or Goku's stride to become the strongest fighter to protect his friends. Not only do shounen anime inspire children to protect and achieve, they demonstrate the importance of hard work. But most importantly, they teach you to live true to yourself and never give up. Growing up with those morals to heart, while still having fun, is one of the many true beauties of shounen anime.
Anime can teach children important morals, but it can also teach actual knowledge as well.
Educational, But Also Fun
Anime achieves a level of educational content that doesn't come across as intimidating while managing to balance a level of entertainment as well. One such anime is the Hetalia franchise. Although Hetalia can be considered a more mature comedy since it is more easily understood by adults who know about the historical context, there is a wealth of educational knowledge underneath that can be easily grasped even by younger audiences. Using the effective power of stereotypes and comedy in adjusted real life situations, the audience comes to understand important events in history and those involved and how they related to each other.
One such example is in episode 12 of Hetalia Axis Powers when the anthropomorphization of France asks Britain to marry him, which Britain frantically refuses despite France's desperate begging. This skit was representative of the Franco-British Union concept that arose throughout the 20th century. We learn of the history behind France's attempt to merge with England, but it is shown in a comedic fashion as a marriage proposal, making it memorable as entertainment and a learning experience for adults and children alike. Educational knowledge within anime can be more subtle, but achieve the same effect. For example, the celestial spirit characters in Fairy Tail can help a younger audience learn the names and personifications of the Zodiac and other constellations; the same concept goes for the personifications of the seven deadly sins in Fullmetal Alchemist. Through the presentation of knowledge in a visual and unique manner, children can learn important ideas from anime while still having fun.
The narrator put it perfectly in the English dubbed version of episode 9 of Hetalia World Series, "Okay, fact time so you don't have to lie to your parents when you say anime is kick-ass educational."
Not all anime is suitable for kids, just as not all cartoons, TV shows, or movies are, but there are plenty of anime that are perfectly suitable. Shounen anime and other anime made for younger audiences are perfect for giving a child an adventure that will stay with them for years to come. If you are thinking about showing anime to your kids or someone else's, don't just leave them to it, enjoy it along with them – help them to understand it and learn while they watch.