“As a Christian, should I allow my child to watch anime?”
This is a question I see more and more in Christian-based parenting groups.
Replies are often “absolutely not,” but when you dig deeper, those replying have no idea what anime is or have never watched anime for themselves to investigate the programs.
I also see some of the parents saying, “I would never let my child watch XYZ.” But be careful, parents. Being overly strict will invite rebellion.
Grieving parents post all the time asking for advice because they raised their children with the strictest code of conduct and under a canopy that screened out all potential harms only to find their precious child revolting against them.
Instead of creating a long list of do’s and don’ts for your children, teach your children to think about what they believe and to compare that to what they put into their minds.
PAUSE… this isn’t to say that you let your child have freedom to watch anything and everything. You still have to do your research.
That’s why I am diving deep into the world of anime to help Christian parents understand if anime is appropriate for their children.
What Is Anime?
Anime refers to a style of animation that originated in Japan and has become popular worldwide.
The term “anime” is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the English word “animation.” Anime encompasses a wide range of animated works, including television series, films, and web series.
What sets anime apart from other forms of animation is its distinctive visual style and storytelling techniques.
Anime often features colorful and expressive character designs, exaggerated facial expressions, vibrant backgrounds, and fluid motion.
While Anime has transitioned over the last several years, it is typically represented by hand or digitally drawn stories for film.
The characters often have large, expressive eyes that reflect emotion by the use of asterisks or other symbols. (Similar artwork appearing in a comic book or graphic novel is called “Manga.”)
Anime incorporates various artistic styles, ranging from realistic to highly stylized and fantastical.
With brightly drawn characters, a parent might think anime is just another word for “cartoons.” Bark explains anime this way: “…all anime shows are cartoons, but not all cartoons are anime.” [Source]
Anime covers a diverse range of genres, including action, adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, romance, science fiction, and more.
Catering to audiences of different age groups, from children and teenagers to adults, Anime can explore complex narratives, tackle mature themes, and offer unique perspectives on various aspects of human experience.
Anime’s popularity has grown significantly worldwide, and it has influenced other forms of media and entertainment, with anime-inspired elements appearing in video games, comics, and even live-action films.
It’s worth noting that while anime is primarily associated with Japanese animation, animated works from other countries may also be referred to as anime-style or anime-influenced, as long as they adopt similar visual and storytelling characteristics.
What is the Difference Between Japanese Anime and American Animation?
As mentioned, the artistic styling of anime can be very different from the familiar cartoons in America. But what exactly are the other differences?
- Storytelling and Themes:
- Japanese Anime: Anime covers a vast array of genres and themes, including complex narratives, emotional depth, and exploration of philosophical and cultural concepts. It often delves into mature and thought-provoking subjects.
- American Animation: American animation has traditionally been associated with lighter and more family-oriented content. While there are exceptions, it often emphasizes humor, adventure, and entertainment suitable for a broad audience.
- Target Audience:
- Japanese Anime: Anime caters to a wide range of audiences, including children, teenagers, and adults. It includes genres and themes for various age groups, such as shonen (targeted at young boys), shojo (targeted at young girls), seinen (targeted at adult men), and josei (targeted at adult women). Hentai contains explicit sexual content.
- American Animation: American animation has historically been geared toward children and families, although there has been a growing trend of animated content aimed at older audiences in recent years.
- Animation Techniques:
- Japanese Anime: Anime often combines traditional hand-drawn animation with modern techniques, including computer-generated imagery (CGI). It may employ detailed backgrounds, dynamic camera angles, and creative visual effects.
- American Animation: American animation has also adopted CGI and other modern techniques, but it may rely more heavily on computer-generated animation, particularly in television shows.
- Cultural Influences:
- Japanese Anime: Anime is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, and it often reflects Japanese societal norms, traditions, and values. It may incorporate elements of Japanese folklore, history, and daily life.
- American Animation: American animation reflects Western cultural influences and values, and it may draw inspiration from Western literature, folklore, and societal trends.
It’s important to note that both Japanese anime and American animation have evolved over time, and there can be overlap and exceptions within these general distinctions.
Additionally, the boundaries between the two have become more fluid as animation styles and themes continue to diversify and cross-cultural influences occur.
Is Anime Appropriate for Children? What About Teens?
Anime, like any form of media, can vary widely in terms of its appropriateness for children.
While there are many anime series that are specifically created for children and are age-appropriate, there are also numerous anime shows and movies that are intended for older audiences and may contain content that is not suitable for children.
Parents and guardians should exercise caution and consider the age and maturity of their children when selecting anime for them to watch.
Things to consider when selecting anime
It’s important to research and understand the content of a specific anime series before allowing children to watch it.
This includes considering factors such as violence, sexual content, language, and themes that may not be suitable for younger viewers.
- The time of day anime airs is often an indicator of whether or not the anime is age appropriate.
- Anime often contains an explicit sexuality of characters in both costume and personality.
- Anime also includes differences in what are acceptable uses of language, nudity, and violence.
- The characters in anime are much more complex than the average American cartoon.
- Anime characters often struggle with tragic backstories and deep moral decisions rooted in the tragedies they have experienced.
- The relatability of these characters and their struggles with mental health, feelings of isolation, and social anxiety are often what appeal to children and teens who find connection with these same issues.
- Plot points in anime are often more mature than American animation targeting younger children. For instance, storylines can be focused on morality issues such as human and political corruption.
However, many of these same themes and areas of concern can be found in adult-focused animation such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, King of the Hill, and American Dad.
Kid-friendly anime selections
There are anime series that are specifically targeted at children and adhere to appropriate content standards. These shows often have positive messages, educational elements, and age-appropriate storytelling.
Some examples of child-friendly anime include “Pokémon,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Doraemon,” and “Sailor Moon” (although it does contain some mature themes in later seasons).
Can Christians Watch Anime?
Yes, Christians can watch anime, depending on their personal beliefs and convictions.
Whether or not a Christian can watch anime or engage in any form of entertainment is ultimately a personal decision.
Anime is a diverse medium with a wide range of genres and themes, and it’s important for Christians, like anyone else, to exercise discernment and make informed choices about what they consume.
Some anime may contain themes or content that Christians find objectionable, such as excessive violence, sexual content, or the promotion of values that contradict Christian teachings. In such cases, an individual Christian may choose to avoid watching those particular anime.
However, there are also many anime series that explore complex narratives, moral dilemmas, and human experiences in a thought-provoking and artistic way. These can provide entertainment and inspiration without conflicting with Christian beliefs.
Some anime even incorporate Christian themes, symbolism, or values, such as the exploration of good and evil, redemption, sacrifice, or the importance of friendship and love.
Ultimately, it’s up to individual Christians to discern whether an anime aligns with their personal values and beliefs. It’s important to approach entertainment with wisdom and discernment, considering the content and its potential impact on one’s faith and worldview.
How Should a Christian Parent Respond to Anime?
So what should you do when your child expresses an interest in anime?
Do your research.
If your child asks to watch a particular anime series, say, “Let me do some research first, and I will let you know.” If your child is old enough, do the research together.
Pray over the request and ask for God to give you discernment. While we cannot know the results of our decisions, God already does.
Sit down and google the name of the anime, reading about the different episodes. Also, watch an episode for yourself.
If you still have questions, read reviews from Christian-based websites. (Please note that reviews can vary greatly between different websites. I recommend reading from at least two different places before allowing their perspective to shape your decision.) Just head to the search bar
Plugged In by Focus on the Family – One of the most encompassing review websites available for Christians, Plugged In includes reviews for movies, Youtube shows, video games, and more. They also have a podcast for reviewing current entertainment media.
Common Sense Media – Similar to Plugged In, Common Sense Media is a one stop shop for researching all types of entertainment media from games to movies to books. This website is very community focused and encourages reviews in the comments.
Movie Guide – Written from a fundamentalist perspective with a focus primarily on movies, Movie Guide does include reviews for anime featured in programming found on major streaming services even if the anime was never shown in theaters.
Kids in Mind – While not extremely comprehensive, Kids in Mind does include some information on the most popular anime. If your child is asking about an older or less popular series, you might not find it here.
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Watch the anime with with your child.
Parents should consider watching anime together with their children, as this allows for discussions and guidance regarding any questions or concerns that may arise from the content.
- Keep comments to yourself as you watch.
- After it’s over, ask open ended questions. “What was your favorite part? What part did you like the least? What do you think about the character’s decision to______?”
- Then, bring the Bible into the conversation. Compare what was in the show to God’s truth but not in a preachy way.
- If at all possible, phrase everything as a question. “What does the Bible say about what the character did?” Research the Bible together.
Decide “not now” or “not ever”
Since the targeted age for anime can vary greatly, you might want to tell your child, “Not now. We can watch this together when you are older.”
Of course, upon researching your child’s interests, some anime will be a “not ever” due to the content. For these, use Philippians 4:8 or Galatians 5:22-23 as a reference.
Tell your child, “I have prayed about the anime show you mentioned and I researched to see if it fits what God says we should focus on in Philippians 4:8. These are the areas where it fails…”
“Should my child or teen watch anime?”
Ultimately, it is completely your decision on whether or not your Christian-raised child or teen should watch anime.
Seek God’s guidance through prayer. Research the requested show. Watch a show together (if the research seems appropriate.) Discuss the program with your child, comparing what you saw to what the Bible says.
By equipping your children with the skill to analyze what they see and discern differences from God’s instructions, you are preparing them for the future, fostering their ability to think analytically when choosing entertainment media.