304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
While you may think of anime as just fancy, adult cartoons, there are actually plenty of reasons anime is great for kids. Aside from being just plain fun, anime imparts many lessons other kids’ shows remain incapable of addressing. So what are the reasons parents should let kids watch anime, other than just giving themselves some peace and quiet? Firstly, a a cultural export from Japan, anime introduces kids to many parts of Asian society, and historical anime provide a history lesson without cracking open a textbook. Thanks to its complexity and depth, anime can also teach critical thinking, along with imparting advice on heavier subject matters like relationships and mortality.
All of these lessons can be amplified when combined with discussion, a reason why parents should watch anime with their children instead of just parking them in front of the computer by themselves. Many lessons parents can teach children from anime apply even to their own lives, making this a family activity that benefits, and entertains, everybody involved.
Forming and maintaining friendships is a vital part of growing up, and anime friendships can help foster such growth. Watching anime easily acts as a social activity – there’s nothing like binge-watching your favorite show with a group of friends. That said, kids can learn much about friendship by watching anime on their own. In Fairy Tail, the protagonist’s friendship keeps them fighting their enemies even when all seems lost. In Anohana, a tight-knit group of friends is torn apart by tragedy when Menma, a member of the group, dies in an accident. The show deals with each member’s struggle to grieve their loss, and the ultimate reconciliation of their friendships. These shows, among many others, depict characters being there for each other during hard times, enjoying each other’s company during good times, and working through conflict as necessary – which is exactly what you have to do in the real world.
If you think nothing creative comes from watching anime, you may need to anime-inspo of your own. While possible to passively absorb it, anime, like most media, sticks with kids long after the screen turns off. If a kid enjoys a show, they find some way to express that love, whether it’s drawing pictures and comics, writing fanfiction, or dressing up like their favorite characters. Not only can kids do this on their own, but there’s also a thriving community of other fans who they can share their work with. Writing a story about yourself adventuring in the world of Pokémon is cool, but when you put those stories online for other people to read and experience, you inadvertently workshop your own writing. Anime not only encourages creative expression, it also encourages creative improvement.
Perseverance, or the ability to stick to a task until it’s finished, is a critical skill for accomplishing just about anything in life. Plenty of anime center around characters trying to accomplish goals and navigating around certain obstacles to achieve said goals. Whether trying to convince an irresponsible god to reunite your soul with your body like in Noragami, or trying to get into My Hero Academia’s UA High, anime characters constantly chase difficult goals and putting in the hard work to achieve them. Since series typically follow a linear storyline, anime shows a character’s own development more so than shows like Dora the Explorer where each episode stands alone with little-to-no changes.
Furthermore, the sheer act of following anime storylines teaches children patience and perseverance. While many shows come in bite-sized packages of 12 episodes, others balloon into the hundreds. Bleach, for example, is 366 episodes long. 366 episodes. That’s a lot of watching, but it’s not a waste of time. Though some of those episodes are filler, if you get through the whole thing, you train yourself to endure things that maybe aren’t so pleasant for the payoff of a seriously awesome story. If you can’t do that, you’re not going to be able to read Anna Karenina, a fantastic book with a lot of boring bits.
Learning to fail gracefully remains a universal struggle of growing up, and anime characters make great teachers on this subject. As often as anime characters succeed at their goals, they also fail. But most importantly, they never give up – they pull back, come up with a new strategy, and try again. In Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Kikuhiko goes from novice to expert at rakugo (a form of Japanese storytelling) through a combination of practice and soul-searching. In Shirobako, protagonist Shizuka takes forever to land a voice acting gig – but her constant failure keeps the series engaging.
Anime also shows the consequences of too much success. In One Punch Man, the main character, Saitama, defeats enemies with a single punch, and as such constantly finds himself bored. In Yuri!!! on ICE, JJ Leroy becomes so accustomed to success at professional figure skating that when he stumbles, he panics. Mistakes never come easily to anybody, especially kids, but anime teaches you accept them with poise and resolution.
As a human, you have the ability to determine the fate of the earth’s environment. In the case of anime, one character can determine the fate of an entire environment, for better or worse. From classic films like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke to more recent shows like Mushishi and Silver Spoon, plenty of anime movies and series drive home the value of conservation in a way that still compels young minds to listen.
While most kids’ shows keep it light on critical thinking, a great deal of anime rely heavily on strategy and logical thought. Two good examples of this are Death Note and No Game No Life, series that are better enjoyed by teenagers rather than young children. In Death Note, viewers watch two strategic geniuses, L and Light, try and outsmart each other in a mind-bending battle of wits. In No Game No Life, partners Sora and Shiro play strategic games with incredible skill, and clue the audience in as to how they’re doing it. Both titles, in addition to honing a child’s critical thinking skills, also introduce children to forms of entertainment more complex than just the usual problem/solution formula that most mediums tend to follow.
If you have a daughter, you may worry about making sure she’s exposed to empowering media with good female role models. While of course you can totally show her Wonder Woman, plenty of awesome anime ladies make just as good of role models. Sailor Moon and her fellow Sailor Scouts stand out, regular teenage girls who just happen to be charged with saving the world. There’s Michiko Malandro of Michiko to Hatchin, a flawed but fascinating woman who plows through life on a motorcycle alongside her principled, dedicated daughter, Hana. Meanwhile, Wandering Son portrays a young trans girl with the strength and courage to own her identity, while Steins;Gate, follows a brilliant woman scientist who wrote a groundbreaking paper on time travel. No matter what kind of female role model you’re looking for, anime’s got you covered.
Kids aren’t naturally empathetic, and it takes practice and exposure to build that skill. So what makes anime a prime tool to build empathy? Unless your child is a Japanese person living in Japan, watching anime automatically requires them to try and understand a person from a different culture than their own. Depending on the series, kids not only learn aspects about Japanese culture, they also realize these characters experience the same struggles and feelings as they do. This applies to more than just cultural differences – anime asks you to feel empathy for everyone from teenagers with emotional regulation issues in My Little Monster to ghouls who eat human flesh in Tokyo Ghoul.
Anime acts as an excellent gateway to learn about Japanese culture. Whether depicting Japanese culinary delights or cultural traditions like karuta in Chihayafuru, anime can provide a window into Japanese culture easily consumable for children. Some anime titles even offer views into Japan’s history, ranging from the samurai (Rurouni Kenshin) to WWII (Grave of the Fireflies).
Keep in mind anime is not the be-all end-all of Japanese culture, and plenty of tropes actually cause misconception. For example, anime often depicts teenagers living alone, an unlikely situation for most Japanese adolescents. Still, these discrepancies are a great way to teach kids another lesson – you can’t judge a culture solely by the media it produces.