This blog post was inspired by a good friend of mine. She recently asked me for show suggestions when her teen daughter was interested in watching anime. Naturally I was super excited to help out because I am a HUGE fan of anime and all things Japanese culture.
Without going into too much detail I will just say that I have read more manga and watched more anime than most of the moms you talk to on a daily basis. I am also part of a semi retired competitive cosplay group. 😂
…Oh don’t worry there is picture proof for you right here…
My son has also entered into our little cosplay family as Naruto Uzumaki from the Naruto series.
Okay now that I have fully revealed how much of an anime geek I am, lets move into the meat and potatoes of the blog post. We’ll start with the basics!
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What is Anime?
Who doesn’t love a good old definition to start the party?
- a style of Japanese film and television animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children.
I think the biggest thing that parents need to know about anime and its print counterpart (manga), is that just because it’s a cartoon does not mean that it’s age appropriate for kids.
Social media has made the world a much smaller place over the past decade and more people are discovering Japanese anime. This has given way for major companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon to throw in their hats and create network original anime series. It has opened anime up to a whole new audience and generation worldwide.
The following categories are the most common for the age range we’re talking about (approx 10-16yo):
Shoujo manga (comic) and anime is geared toward girls. That doesn’t mean that it’s only for girls. It’s just the name for the genre, and it tends to have story lines that focus on emotional content and romantic relationships.
Shoujo Art Style
Shoujo art is pretty and aesthetically pleasing, thus serving it’s main fan base of girls. The mangaka artist will focus on details and there is emphasis on faces, hair, and texture throughout the scenery and characters. Everything feels balanced and delicate in nature.
Shoujo’s Representation of Gender
Girls in Shoujo manga and anime are most often illustrated as petite with very pretty hair and the signature large eyes. They usually have a slender frame and don’t usually have curves or large chests. Fashion plays a large part in the art as well. This same model applies to boys that are illustrated in the Shoujo style.
These boys are swoon worthy and drawn beautifully. Shoujo boys are tall with broad shoulders, handsome, and have more delicate features- which makes them quite dreamy. The focus of the boys is similar to the Shoujo female, which is all about their face. This is done to evoke and convey emotions of the romantic story lines.
Shounen manga (comic) and anime is geared toward boys. Once again, that doesn’t mean that it is only for boys. The shounen genre focuses on themes that are often appealing to boys (action, adventure). I personally love this genre and have watched and read just as much shounen as Shoujo. In this anime you will usually see a story focused on a male protagonist that sets off on an adventure to save or protect something while making friends throughout the story.
Shounen Art Style
The art style and animation in a shounen series is sharper with more exaggeration and movement. Plot and action are a big focus in a shounen anime. The mangaka (artist) will use bold lines to create an extreme emotion. A great example of this is shown below in the art of manga artist Tite Kubo and his series- Bleach.
Shounen Representation of Gender
Just like the action and movement in the artwork of the shounen genre, we will also find exaggeration in the male and female characters. Shounen boys have all the muscles…not joking.
Abs and biceps are no strangers to the mangaka artists of most popular shounen anime shows over the years. Characters like Natsu in Fairytail, Ichigo in Bleach, and Goku from Dragonball Z all have exaggerated muscular physiques. These boys often have a heart of gold and will protect their friends at any cost. Tragic main character back stories are common and have you rooting for their victory throughout the series. The faces of the Shounen boys and girls usually don’t have a ton of detail either.
Shounen girls can be spotted from a mile away. If you know anything about anime you know what I’m talking about…them boobs.
Shounen girls are not proportionally correct either. Most girls have unnaturally large chests and very curvy figures. Once again this is meant to appeal to the target audience of these shows, teenage boys. Lucy from popular series Fairytail is a classic example of a shounen girl.
We will see a range of female personalities in this genre. While the shounen girl is more sexy in appearance you will get a personalty range from helpless “damsel” to an intimidating “femme fatale” character. I do love that in many shounen anime the female characters are at least as strong if not stronger than the male characters. Examples of these ladies are Faye Valentine (Cowboy Bebop), Erza Scarlett (Fairytail), Yoruichi (Bleach), Asuna (Sword Art Online).
Death and Loss
Death and loss are common themes in anime. Depending on the show these themes can be violent and graphic or very emotional. Not all anime have happy endings. In western culture we love to see the good guy win and most of our animated shows follow that format. That is not the case with Japanese anime. It is you decision as a parent if you feel the show is depicting loss in a way that helps your child understand loss and grieving, or not.
Lots of action or “battle anime” can be graphically violent depending on the rating of the show. Long running battle anime shows like Bleach and Attack on Titan deal with blood and gore a little differently. Bleach has lots of blood and fighting, but it is animated in a way that isn’t very gore-y. However Attack on Titan has lots of graphic gore in the fighting scenes and it may not be appropriate for your young teen.
Japanese anime culture is more relaxed about suggestive content and nudity. This may be found a little bit in shows that are rated PG. Curvy female bodies with large chests are fairly common in anime and don’t necessarily mean the show will be inappropriate for your child.
Shonen-Ai & Shoujo-Ai
Also known as Yaoi and Yuri. These sub genres focus on same sex couples, but aren’t always overtly sexual in nature. Like in Shoujo and Shounen anime there is a range of sexual content from PG to X rated. Pay extra attention with these sub categories though because some manga is rated 18 and up for depictions of sexual intercourse. Always look at ratings and watch a few episodes of a show with your child if you are unsure of the content.
“Fan Service” or “Service Cut” are visuals or dialogue that are added into an anime or manga for no other reason than to please the fans. It can be as innocent as playful banter or accidental hugging between the main characters, to up skirts and cleavage shots. The addition of fan service is usually meant to be funny in nature. You will most likely be able to tell in the first few minutes if it will be a fan service filled anime. Examples of some more innocent fan service can be seen below.
Some of my favorite family friendly anime:
- Fruits Basket (Disclaimer: There is a decent amount of fan service in this anime)
- Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona)
- Snow White with the Red Hair ( Akagami no Shirayukihime )
- Studio Ghibli Movies– (Sprited Away/ Howls Moving Castle/ Totoro/ Princess Mononoke/ The Cat Returns/ Kiki’s Delivery Service/ Nausicaa.)
Check out the resources below for some great family friendly anime reviews and lists.
Some good posts on family friendly anime can be found here:
Stay Resilient 💕 Mika