So you need to check out this “anime” thing.
There’s more than one reason you’re thinking about it. Maybe you’re a teen or adult who has never watched anime but heard a lot about it. You may also want to check out this “anime” thing because your kids’ friends are into it and your kids want to watch it too.
In the latter case, there are a few things you really need to look at before you let your kids watch anime. While it looks cartoonish and child-friendly, a lot of anime have violent content or sexual content (such as partial nudity) you may not want your kids to see.
That’s where I come in to recommend good starter films and shows for all your newcomer needs! Here are the top anime I recommend for those not quite sure if they want to try it out.
Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service
Hayao Miyazaki (or, if you prefer the Japanese way to write it, Miyazaki Hayao) is one of the most internationally well-known anime creators. He is known primarily for his beautiful style and his films.
You may have heard of many of his films, such as Spirited Away – which won several awards – or Howl’s Moving Castle, based on the Diana Wynne Jones novel. He also has some very thought-provoking classics such as Princess Mononoke or Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind.
Yet even now, after I’ve seen close to every single Miyazaki movie available in America, the first thing I think of when I hear the name is Kiki’s Delivery Service, which I saw at least 10 times when I was a child.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a lighthearted story about a young witch going through magic training. Besides the elements of the supernatural, the film is very much a slice-of-life piece, evoking the air of a laid-back country community.
Another thing I really like about Kiki’s Delivery Service is that it’s so – well – clean. There are no “mature” jokes. There are no sexual references. The women are not sexualized. Miyazaki is essentially the Disney of Japanese animation, and it shows.
If you’re looking for a nice, safe introduction to anime for yourself or for your younger children, Miyazaki is the place to start, and if your children are under 13, this movie is definitely where you’ll want to begin.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Before we start to talk about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I will preface by saying that this show can be very violent and graphic at times, especially within the first few episodes, so if you’re reading this for the benefit of your children, this probably isn’t a good show to start with.
That being said, Brotherhood is an excellent starter anime if you’re the kind of viewer who wants a real plot and philosophical content. It’s even better if you go into it wondering “can this childish-looking show have any value for adults?”
While it contains a lot of somewhat juvenile humor, Brotherhood is an excellent show because it’s so thought-provoking. The central conflict revolves around two boys – Edward and Alphonse Elric – who have lost parts (or in Al’s case, all) of their bodies because they attempted to revive a dead human using alchemy.
That alone should give you at least a small indication of what’s to come if you choose to pick up this series. As mentioned before, however, Brotherhood is slightly gory and bloody, and apart from some sexual humor – primarily large-breasted women – there are also mature insinuations that, while not explicit, are a bit complicated for a younger person.
If you can handle that, though, Brotherhood may just be the show for you.
At first glance, Princess Tutu looks and sounds like a children’s show. It focuses on the title character, who is a “magical girl”/mahou shoujo type of superhero and the alter ego of Duck/Ahiru, an ordinary duck who was turned into a girl because she is in love with a prince.
In fact, if you watch only the first season, Princess Tutu is a simple good-versus-evil show. While it can be a bit scary, the first season is still appropriate for children from about age 9 or 10 as long as a parent is watching. Another plus: Princess Tutu is a ballet-dancing princess, and each episode is themed around a classical ballet. If your daughter loves ballet, this might be a good show for her.
But if you go past the first season into the second season, you’ll find the show taking a distinctly darker turn as the lines between Good and Bad blur and the rules of Ahiru’s fate start to distort. Do the characters simply allow their written endings to happen, or do they try to change the unsatisfactory written ending for themselves?
Season 2 is too complex for smaller children, though teens and college students would probably enjoy it. I’d recommend Princess Tutu mainly because it changes from a stereotypically sweet fairy tale into the sort of show that makes the viewer think harder about their own lives.
In the end, the anime you pick is your choice – it reflects your own taste in pretty much everything, since the types of anime you can find are very well-mixed and diverse. Make sure you know what’s appropriate, what offends you, and what you’re interested in, but always keep an open mind: every once in a while, there’s something that jumps out at you and won’t let you go.