Fledgling Otaku is wondering what to watch next. I thought it might be useful to list animes I’ve seen that are suitable for youngsters, sorted by my estimate of the minimum appropriate age. Those that are available only as fansubs are marked (FS).
My Neighbor Totoro
Early grade school:
Sugar, a Tiny Snow Fairy
Galaxy Angel Z/A
Mama Is a Fourth-Grader (FS)
Peter Pan no Bouken (FS)
Older grade school:
All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OVA
Castle in the Sky
The Castle of Cagliostro
Hikaru no Go
Keroro Gunsou (FS)
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Junior high school:
Jubei-Chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch*
Magical Project S
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (FS)**
Shinigami no Ballad (FS)
Whisper of the Heart
These are my best guesses at age-appropriateness.*** I don’t have kids of my own (though I do have plenty of nephews and nieces to whom I send books and anime).
Additional possibilities include Rose of Versailles (FS), for older kids, and Twin Spica (FS), of which I’ve only seen the opening episodes so far. Kaiketsu Zorori (FS) and Ribon no Kishi (FS) are likely to be good entertainment for youngsters, but only the first episode of each is available. I also want to take another look at Mahou Shoujo Tai (FS); I was ambivalent about it, but Pixy Misa likes it, and it does have a strangely familiar ending theme.
Rozen Maiden (FS) has been recommended for kids. Nope. Although most of the characters are dolls about fifteen inches tall, it’s not a children’s story at all. I also wouldn’t show Azumanga Daioh to youngsters. Kimura grosses out adults; I certainly wouldn’t want to subject any children to him. I wish I could recommend World of Narue, but there are too many panty shots.
Howl’s Moving Castle isn’t on the list because it’s a disaster. Sugar Sugar Rune and numerous other shows I’ve sampled aren’t there because they’re tedious junk. (Keroro Gunsou is fun junk.)
There’s a lot I haven’t seen, and undoubtedly there’s much else worth recommending. Don’t hesitate to suggest other titles. If there is sufficient interest, I may put together a web site for child-friendly anime.
Post script: Yes, I did mean the first Nuku Nuku OVA. Thank you, Ubu, for catching that.
*Marketed in America as Jubei-chan, the Ninja Girl, but that’s wrong. Jubei isn’t ninja trash.
**Yes, really. It’s every bit as ridiculous as you would expect live-action Sailor Moon to be, but even so, what I’ve seen is surprisingly engaging.
***It’s unpredictable what kids will like. fledgling otaku’s four-year-old enjoyed Someday’s Dreamers, which doesn’t strike me as a pre-schooler’s show at all. My five-year-old nephew discovered Serial Experiments Lain among his father’s DVDs and was fascinated by it. That’s definitely not a children’s show.
All of Binchou-tan has been fansubbed now. The eleventh episode is mostly pure fun as Bin prepares for winter and enjoys the first snowfall with her friends. The last is partly a recap and is very bittersweet. For a while I was afraid that the writers were going to doublecross me and impose a sad ending, but I needn’t have worried. Bin’s friends come through for her.
I really hope this series is licensed soon. As entertainment for the very young, I would rate only Sugar and Totoro higher. The production is of high quality throughout, and the music and art are lush. Binchou-tan is not dialogue-driven and it is possible to follow much of the story without understanding what the characters say, but a good dub would be nice for kids who haven’t yet learned to read.
Fledgling Otaku recommends Bottle Fairies as a series well-suited for small children. I’ll have to check it out. (I made the mistake of reading the spoilers in Steven’s comments (20060224). Martin Gardner somewhere says that the Oz and Alice in Wonderland books are perfectly fine for children but should be kept away from adults undergoing psychoanalysis. Bottle Fairies may be in the same class.)
Pixy Misa enjoys Tweeny Witches. I may give the series a second chance. He also mentions Galaxy Angel, which sounds absurd enough to be worth watching.
More kid stuff
My post below on anime for kids focused on material that thus far is available only as fansubs. Here’s a quick survey of other titles I’ve watched that are both suitable for youngsters and more than tolerable for their parents, and that are commercially available in the USA.
Sugar, a Tiny Snow Fairy — the gold standard in young chldren’s entertainment. (Robert has the six-disc set on sale for $55; if you have small children, this is the deal of the century. (Try saying “six-disc set” fast ten times.))
I expect you all have heard of My Neighbor Totoro.
Grade school and older:
Angelic Layer — now available as an inexpensive “thin-pak.”
Cardcaptor Sakura — the gold standard in grade-school children’s entertainment. It’s sub-only, so it will have to wait until your kids know how to read (by all accounts, the English-dubbed version, Cardcaptors, is an abomination).
Someday’s Dreamers — It’s not obviously a children’s show, but Fledgling Otaku‘s four-year-old enjoyed it, as did a visiting pre-teen last year.
Potentially Kamichu!, though I have word that it’s a bit hard for younger ones to follow. I’ll see how the dub is when the Geneon disc arrives later this week.
You all have heard of Spirited Away, right? And Kiki’s Delivery Service?
… and I need to leave for work. I’ll add a few more notes this evening. [Later: well, maybe not tonight.]
I have no kids of my own, and that’s not likely to change. However, I do have a number of nieces and nephews, to whom I occasionally send books. Recently I’ve also been sending anime. I am informed that Sugar, a Tiny Snow Fairy was well-received. Christmas presents this year will probably include Angelic Layer (Margaret, if you’re reading this, don’t tell Meg). As I investigate fansubs, I keep an eye out for titles that might be suitable for youngsters. Here are notes on some I’ve looked at.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Binchou-tan utterly fascinates my five-year-old nephew even though he can’t understand a word of it. It’s one of the very few series that I would like to see dubbed: although it’s kawaii enough to paralyze viewers of any age, the show is particularly suitable for the very young, most of whom haven’t yet learned to read. The fansubbers are up to episode eight, by the way. This most recent episode is initially melancholy as we are shown just how lonely Bin can feel, but by the end she’s acquired another friend.
The main character of Kaiketsu Zorori is a fox and a scoundrel. In the first episode he plots to win the hand of a princess with the aid of a pair of young boars and a mechanical dragon. Things don’t quite go according to plan: the trickster is foiled, the princess is reunited with her prince, and Zorori escapes to plot mischief again. If the first episode is representative, this is a fun show, suitable for all ages, and I don’t understand why only the first episode (of 52) has been subtitled.
Sheila and Eva
In Mahou Shoujo Tai, aka Magical Girl Team Alice or Tweeny Witches, Alice literally falls from this world into one that runs on magic. It’s a grim place, run by witches who capture and cage the magical creatures which are the source of the witches’ power. Alice, who believes that magic is for making people happy, is quickly captured, but she escapes, freeing all the “sprites” in the process. Sheila and Eva, the apprentice witches who were supposed to guard Alice, are ordered to recapture all the creatures (which, despite their name, are bizarre and ugly rather than cute); until they do, they are condemned to never grow up. Eva is friendly and easy-going, but Sheila (voiced by the versatile Houko Kuwashima) is humorless and strictly by-the-rules, and she resents Alice’s interference.
I’ve seen six of the forty nine-minute episodes of Mahou Shoujo Tai, and I have no idea who the intended audience is. Although the principal characters are girls who do magic, their world is no fun at all. Alice may be good-hearted, but her relentless cheerfulness makes her seem soft-headed. Chilly, unsympathetic Sheila is the only character who is at all appealing. Possibly older children looking for a sterner universe than Hogwarts might find Mahou Shoujo Tai interesting, but I can’t recommend it.
Flying a broom, skateboard-style
At the beginning of the first episode of Mama Is a 4th Grader, a toddler from the future disappears from her home during an electrical storm. She reappears in the present in Natsumi’s living room during an oddly similar electrical storm. Natsumi’s parents have just left for England, and Natsumi is supposed to follow them the next day. Natsumi’s flaky aunt Izumi turns up shortly thereafter; she’s not good with kids and is freaked out by the playful toddler.
There are fifty more episodes to this 1992 series, so presumeably Natsumi stays in Japan and Izumi renders haphazard assistance in caring for the mystery child. Only four episodes have been subtitled, though, and the last time I checked there were no seeds for any of them listed at animesuki. It’s a shame; if the first episode is representative, Mama Is a 4th Grader would be a good show for youngsters and tolerable for adults.
Peter Pan no Bouken is from 1989. The first half of the 41-episode series is supposed to be based closely on J.M. Barrie’s play and novel. (I was Wendy’s age when I last read the novel, and I don’t remember it well enough to judge how faithful the anime is.) So far, one episode has been subtitled, and it looks like it might be worth following. I was relieved to see that Peter wears boy clothes, not green tights.
Koboshi, Shia and Misha disguised as waitresses
Pita Ten is based on a manga by Koge Donbo, who was one of the creators of Sugar, a Tiny Snow Fairy. Although the character designs are similar to those of Saga, Sugar and their friends, the two shows have little in common beyond excessive cuteness. Kotaro is an elementary school student who has lost his mother. One day Misha, an apprentice angel, moves into the apartment next door to the one Kotaro shares with his father. She’s frighteningly affectionate, energetic and clueless, and subjects poor Kotaro to flying glomps. She is subsequently joined by the the quiet and shy apprentice demon Shia, who can’t get the hang of being evil. Other characters include Kotaro’s best friend Ten and their classmate Koboshi, who has cat ears.
There are 26 episodes, but I gave up after seven. It’s noisy and silly, and it gets tiresome. Skip this one and watch Sugar again instead.
Melting the kawaii meter
Binchou-tan may be intended for tired men, but it’s also suitable for youngsters. I recently burned the first five episodes to DVD for nephews and nieces. My sister reports that her five-year-old is fascinated by it, even though he can’t read the subtitles. He recently brought her a harmonica and asked her to tie it on his head like Binchou’s stick of charcoal. As long as he doesn’t ask for a pink obi, I guess it’s okay.
Addendum: There are some more screen captures below the fold.
From the opening animation (which is not at all sad): Bin surrounded by the other girls in the series, most of whom are named for various forms of charcoal.
Chiku-tan, on the stilts she invented, and Bin, using a leaf as an umbrella.
Kunugi-tan, the rich little girl who also wears charcoal on her head.
Chiku and Bin, after the rain.
Ren-tan, who lives at the Buddhist shrine.
Talk about cute overload. Binchou-tan is a young girl who lives by herself in a small house in the countryside. She wears a piece of charcoal (“binchotan”) on her head. Her size is variable. Sometimes she is normal little-girl height; other times she is small enough to ride on a duck or sit in a shoe. So far, three of the twelve or thirteen twelve-minute episodes have been subtitled. The first is an account of a typical day in her life. There’s virtually no dialogue, just a little narration by Kikuko Inoue. (Inoue is a specialist in weepy roles, but one can hope that for once her tear ducts will remain dry.) In the second, Binchou-tan goes to town to find a job; in the third, she finds a friend, celebrates her birthday and catches the interest of a wealthy little girl who also wears charcoal on her head.
If the remaining episodes are like the first three, then when (and if) it’s released as a competently-dubbed region 1 DVD, I’ll purchase a copy or two of the series for my youngest nephews and nieces. I probably won’t get a copy for myself, though. Although it’s terrifyingly kawaii, there is little to interest adults who aren’t obsessed with cuteness.