The Eyes of a Child: Thoughts on Children’s Anime

Ah… youth.  

I was walking along yesterday, headphones firmly in place as I attempted to avoid the puddles that have seemingly taken over my school’s campus. My ipod clicked along quietly, switching from song to song with little sense of genre or tone. But I didn’t really mind too much, it was acting more as background noise to my commute across the campus. But then, it happened.

SLASH came on. It’s from Digimon Tamers, which I was shocked to just realize is eight years old. But its age isn’t really relevant; the effect it had on me is. Because, instantly I went from being another person drifting along to a class, and I became someone who was dying to, in the middle of the quad, whip my cellphone out of my pocket, scream, “KAAADO SLASH!”, and pretend to swipe my student ID along its edge – like so. It took a hell of a lot of willpower to resist. Or, well, resist until I got into an empty elevator… the door slid shut, and I manically started humming SLASH while pretending that I was actually a ten year old with a tiny monster in a Japanese children’s cartoon.

I suppose what I’m trying to convey is that I realized something acutely at that moment – I really, really love children’s anime. I felt like I was in on some big secret when I was walking outside with my headphones delivering that music to me; this awesome secret that these children’s shows are really fucking awesome.

Truly, most anime is made for people under the age of eighteen, and, thus, is technically made for children. Yes, I am well-aware that there are titles intended for older sets, but the vast majority is meant for the eyeballs of the eight to eighteen crowd. But it is the shows that are made for the eight to fourteen set that really light my heart afire. There’s a reason Yumeiro Patisierre is currently my most-anticipated and enjoyed show. I feel giddy as the episode loads, a sense that only increases as the silly OP music begins to play.

Quite simply, I love children’s anime.

Yes, my favorite shows are things like Revolutionary Girl Utena or Mouryou no Hako. And, yes, I’m frankly overjoyed when I’m watching a show that has adult characters as the focus. But the surest show for me is, generally, something meant for ten year olds. Even the more average ones make me extremely happy to watch, which is something I cannot say for “mature” shows.

I am a bit hard-pressed to explain precisely why it is that I love children’s shows so thoroughly. I suspect, though, that it has to do with the sense of wonder one finds so often embedded in these shows – even retread concepts feel fresh frequently because they are portrayed as something that the viewer should find exciting. This kid just found out she has magical powers! Isn’t that really cool?!?! These shows so often implicitly encourage the viewer to imagine themself in the protagonist(s’)’s shoes that it takes a pretty piss poor show to fail entirely in this regard, that is, of making it all seem new and amazing.

I’ve seen dozens of these kinds of shows, yet I still find myself often getting caught up in the proceedings, eagerly awaiting new installments. Admittedly, my age shows somewhat – I find that shows that are too intensely paint-by-the-numbers in a monster-of-the-week-style tend to leave me cold these days (which is why, sadly, Pokemon simply cannot hold my interest any more, and the first season of Digimon similarly gives me fits of yawns; I am fervently hoping that this will not prove to be the case with Sailor Moon Sailor Stars when it finally finishes downloading). Otherwise, though, bring on the kiddy shows!

Even in the anime fandom, I feel as if I’m in on a secret as well, though, as it seems like many people would prefer to look down their noses at shows intended for younger audiences. Amusingly enough, the Naruto ninjas sprinting around madly at cons look askance at the Pretty Cure cosplayers (I promise that a few of them do exist). I’m sure that there are more fans out there who likewise delight in these shows, but they remain largely quiet, perhaps understandably so. But I can’t help but feel like I’m part of this group of people who know something really cool, even to the point of verging on smug at times.

Anyway, I’d talk further, but I have to get back to Digimon Tamers. I had a snow day today, so I’ve been dedicating myself to it (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the old shows I mentioned the other day – they just take a while to download), especially in light of my re-exposure to SLASH. Dammit, I wish I had been in a children’s anime!

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8 Responses to The Eyes of a Child: Thoughts on Children’s Anime

  1. Yumeka says:

    I’m another fan who loves children’s anime. The inner child in me still lives on and finds the wish-fulfilling elements and lovable characters of these shows endlessly enjoyable. One reason I love them is because, even though they’re for children, they’re not “dumbed down” and they feature dynamic, well-developed characters in an often detailed setting. This is quite unlike American kid shows with their simple settings and characters who are strictly cartoony.

    My favorites would be One Piece, Cardcaptor Sakura, Chi’s Sweet Home, Pokemon, and the first three Digimon series.

    I get what you’re saying about Pokemon – I continue to watch the series because I’m a hopeless fan who’s been watching it for over a decade so why stop now? The games are where my main love for the franchise lies, though :3

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I have to speak a little bit in defense of the American cartoon here – while I do think most of them tend to operate purely on a ‘this is for kids, make it dumb’ level, I think we’ve seen some more sophisticated shows in recent years, perhaps most obviously Nickelodean’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. I think what I find most interesting as far as differences between American children’s cartoons and Japanese children’s anime is the fact that the children’s anime seems to operate exclusively for children – if an adult finds it entertaining, that is merely incidental. On the other hand, children’s cartoons often do have a secondary level embedded in them for the amusement of adults who are presumably watching the program with their children. This isn’t true in all cases (I can’t remember it popping up in the aforementioned Avatar), but prevails in the more ‘cartoony’ shows.

      I love the Pokemon games so much… however, I felt like they got too complicated after Gold/Silver/Crystal! I was really thrilled when they released the Fire Red and Leaf Green games because I felt it got back to the heart of the franchise’s original intent… training and catching Pokemon. I also felt that each successive Pokemon game has been less and less accessible to younger kids, which saddens me.

      Chi’s Sweet Home is so purely awesome. I also really enjoyed CardCaptor Sakura (actually the first anime I collected as it was released!). While I did like the first three seasons of Digimon, I liked Tamers the best, and have, in re-visiting it, decided it is probably the best incarnation of the franchise (Frontier was lousy, and I’ve only seen five or so episodes of Savers).

  2. For me, children’s shows mean super robots. However, robot shows have progressively been using mature themes and content so it’s hard for me to think of them as kids’ shows anymore.

    But there are times, in the middle of these shows, when the coolest thing about them is the robot doing the most awesome things… like COMBINE, or TRANSFORM, that it brings me back to how I enjoyed these shows in the first place, back at the turn of the decade 30 years ago.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I get exactly what you mean about the robots transforming, etc. Its exactly why I wanted to pretend I was helping a Digimon evolve while in the middle of the quad. And, man, when they unveil new attacks… so awesome! Especially since animation has improved so much – things like attacks, or robot transformations, or magical girl transformations, or what have you look even cooler than ever (assuming no one’s been tripping on CG too much).

      Ok, now I really want to go run around outside pretending I’m in a kids’ show…

  3. sniffits says:

    Loading up my digimon DVDs as we speak. My brother is five, so he and I have been watching the old pokemon episodes. He really gets into them, and I have to resist miming the guitar solos of the epic, totally 90’s opening theme.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Good lord, I love that song. In fact, I am fairly certain I was screaming it in front of my dorm at 3 o’clock in the morning today.

  4. Canne says:

    I don’t especially like children anime more than other group of anime but often enough, really good children anime can revive the kid inside me and I will be completely absorbed by the show.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Well, and the fact that you can speaks well of you since a lot of so-called fans won’t give a show the time of day if they see its intended for children.

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