Animé is growing on me. Slowly. So slowly. My kids took to animé due to the influence of friends who lived deep in the world of Miyazaki, Full Metal Alchemist, and Sergeant Frog. If the whole idea of this genre isn’t appealing, I’d like to invite you to take another look. As a homeschooler, I have found some value in animé. Here are a few things you can expect:
- Animé is a varied, breathtaking, and evolving art form. One master worth getting to know is Hayao Miyazaki. This Japanese artist has created many animé that make many All Time Best Animé lists. His mix of drawn storyboards and computer animation are simply stunning. Watch a blade of grass move in the breeze in The Wind Rises. You won’t regret it. For the uninitiated, start with My Neighbor Tortoro. It is a slow moving slice of life complete with magical beings. Your kids will learn that a movie doesn’t need loud sound effects and explosions in order to be good. For your older teens, the Madoka Magica series will be unlike anything they’ve experienced before. This series uses the Japanese art style called Superflat. Superflat is typified by flatness in a three-dimensional space where artists call into question the influence of consumerism and media. If you don’t feel like getting fancy, just take time to notice how the colors and backgrounds enhance the story.
- Animé gives us a glimpse into history and culture. I loved watching the movie Steamboy which takes place in an alternative nineteenth century Europe. The impact of technology on our lives (we all struggle with this topic today, don’t we?) is explored in a Steampunk-style setting. For other cultural and historical movies, try Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises (pre-WWII Japan), and Spirited Away (Japanese spiritual traditions). Even comparing a Japanese version of The Little Mermaid by Disney to a Japanese rendition (Ponyo) will give you a glimpse into a different culture. There is so much to notice in animé.
- Animés tell some gripping stories. We have enjoyed the story arcs and complex characters in shows such as Sands of Destruction, Death Note, and Fruits Basket, to name a few. Not all animé is appropriate for young audiences, of course; some include violence, language, and mature themes. Check with your favorite media review source (I like Common Sense Media) to learn more.
I wanted you to have a short list of shows so you could dip your toes into the animé waters without drowning. I have to end with this graphic, though, which will help you choose the next animé once you become hooked. I may get there in a few more years. As I said, I move slowly.