The world is an unfair place sometimes…like when a new show comes up in the simulcasting schedule and it turns out it’s for kids (younger than the shonen and shoujo demographics – i.e. the kodomomuke genre). That’s pretty much a surefire way to ensure a show is niche when it comes to the English-speaking anime community.
One of the great things about anime is that there are shows for everyone, including kids. However, when it comes to the general opinion of kids’ shows on the simulcast schedule in the English-speaking world, not many – and sometimes no – people care about them.
The reason why is because the anime community often consists of people older than 12 – people who’d only care about the anime of their youth for nostalgic reasons. Most of the anime schedule the English-speaking community is aware of consists of late-night anime and, traditionally, trying to appeal to all ages is either done in those late-night slots or popular primetime slots (with safe properties like Shonen Jump battle shonen). However, with the internet involved, this becomes less of an excuse – you can tune into whatever, wherever, assuming you have the right set of circumstances to let you watch in the first place.
So why bother with kids’ anime? Here are some reasons:
Kids’ shows tend to be long runners, so if you like them, you don’t have to worry about them running out as much as you would for a one cour show.
It’s more likely that a kids’ show will be 50 or so episodes, or even longer if the franchise can be milked that much. The annual PreCure tends to span about a year and Gegege no Kitaro is 50 episodes, while Classicaloid is 2 seasons of 25 episodes to total 50.
However, if you don’t want to commit for that long, there are shorter options available. Merc Storia is 12 episodes and Brave Beats is 22, for instance.
Sometimes kids’ shows are wackier than adults’ shows.
Sure, anime is weird in general (according to its general reputation), but you really haven’t seen nothing yet if you think the limit of kids’ anime is stuff trying to aim at adults as well. It’s the show aimed exclusively at kids that show you the real potential of what the borders of anime can be like, much like how certain Western cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants are nigh-incomprehensible to a working adult who’s lost touch with their inner child. I mean, the reason I stopped watching Heybot! is cited to be a “stupid booger fight” on my anime list – I kid you not.
Even kids’ shows have laudable morals about the world we live in.
Whether it’s morals about embracing difference in all its forms like in Classicaloid or solving problems in a non-confrontational manner like in Merc Storia, kids’ anime is still anime and it has something to say.
Specifically, Classicaloid not only embraces different musical genres as you might expect of it (Vocaloid-inspired Chopin piece, anyone?), but as an example, it also has a romance episode inspired by Swan Lake, involving not only the standard guy x girl ships, but girl x girl and guy x guy as well.
In Merc Storia‘s case, Yuu heals monsters using magic, yes, but also through talking to those involved and seeing what the scenario is like – it’s refreshing when placed in contrast to the usual fare for young boys, which often involves using some form of conflict to resolve problems.
Technicality: Depending on how you look at Merc Storia (it’s based on an RPG phone game so it might not be for kids, but its anime hews especially close to the spirit of the Pokemon anime), it could be shonen or kodomomuke, but for the sake of this post, we’re going to look at it as being part of the latter category.
Sometimes your favourite voice actors appear in places you don’t expect.
If you’re a seiyuu fan and you want to watch as many shows with your favourite in them, then you will more likely than not encounter a kids’ show sooner or later. Even a newer voice actor can snag a bit role in a long-running kids’ show and it’ll stand out on their resume – in fact, because it’s aimed at a younger audience, it’s likely the parents will be able to listen to the seiyuu at work as well.
Just as an example, in Merc Storia episode 3 (the first episode of a two episode arc), a character appears near the end – specifically a bishonen character who, for plot reasons, appeared in the dark so it was hard to tell that the character was a dude. I didn’t recognise who this character was voiced by, so after listening to his voice and thinking it was Yuichiro Umehara (which, if you’ve been following along for a while now, you’ll know is my favourite voice actor), I skipped to the ending credits and…
…this character was voiced by Junichi Suwabe.
Well, so much for getting my hopes up…
Sometimes you just need a callback to childhood.
The appeal of childhood shows, and possibly anime in general, for some is the ability to make one feel like life is a lot simpler than it really is for those of us that aren’t part of the intended demographic. Even if you look at current iterations of your favourite childhood franchise/s and shake your head at them because you can’t recognise what made them awesome to you in the first place, it’s nice to keep an open mind when it comes to kids’ shows. Or maybe you just haven’t found the right kids’ show for you yet…
At first I just wanted to write a piece about Merc Storia, but as I was writing, I expanded its scope to include the entire anime demographic known as kodomomuke. Sure, sometimes watching a show which is made for someone much younger than you means the humour can come off as immature or just plain annoying, but if anything, the fact you’re older than the intended audience means you can bring a different perspective to the work.
Sidenote to finish: In a similar vein, I seem to remember a certain fiction writing tip which said “if you had a choice between writing a younger or an older character than yourself, you should take the former choice”. That way, you have actually been that age and then you can write what you know.
So, did I convince anyone to watch some anime they might not have tackled otherwise?