Within The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki, Professor of Rhetoric & Vice President for Strategic Planning at J. F. Oberlin University in Tokyo, Hiroaki Hatayama, writes a chapter about the characteristic appeal of anime to American children despite its Japanese themes and culture.

Hatayama admits that he was confused by the American fad over anime  At the time, he was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina and he states, “Given my own sense of cultural disorientation when I moved to the United States, I could well imagine how hard it would be to make Japanese anime accessible to American viewers, not just because of the language differences but also because of the often unexpressed but still present Japanese values inherent in these works.”

Hatayama has since had many conversations with American fans of anime, many of them students of his Japanese language and culture courses.  It turns out that the reason that many Americans prefer anime is that anime deals with themes that are not often covered in American comics and cartoons, it uses sophisticated graphics, and portrays different patterns of conversation and behavior.  In comparing anime to American animation movies, this article places anime on a higher level than the Americanized cartoon.  American children’s movies tend to be very predictable and often have stereotypical characters as their focus (according to many American viewers of anime).

Do not take this information the wrong way; I absolutely love Disney movies.  I grew up watching movies like Aladdin and The Lion King so I am not advising you to convert your child to a 100% strictly an anime viewing capacity, but I am saying that considering throwing an anime film or two into the mix when your son or daughter begs for some TV time is probably not a bad idea.  It can provide alternative characters and storylines if nothing else.  Perhaps your child will fall in love with the style, perhaps he or she will not.  It can do no harm to try and expose your child to culture at a young age in a way that he or she will accept as entertainment.

Before you go pulling anime off of the shelves and popping it into the DVD player, you should know that many American parents believe that Japanese anime is harmful to children because some forms contain a lot of violence and sexually oriented materials and they attempt to prohibit anime from their children.  While this may be the case for some forms of anime, not all anime portrays these two aspects.  Think of it as the difference between allowing your child to watch The Simpsons versus The Disney Channel.  There are different components tied into anime depending on the age of the viewer and that is why we are reviewing many films on our blog, to let you know which ones are good and which ones should be avoided for your child.

** BETH **