Education Feature
Adult Cartoons
By Adam Wilkenfeld
CWK West Coast Bureau Chief
 

"It's become a global phenomenon."
-Matthew Hall, high school Japanese teacher-

It's in the movies, in books, on posters, on playing cards, and on the Internet … there are even plastic action figures based on characters from 'animé,' a type of Japanese cartoon. "It's become a global phenomenon. You've got kids in almost every country in the world wearing Dragonball Z T-shirts," says Matthew Hall, a high school Japanese teacher. "It's definitely not a fad because that would imply that it's going to fade away and die - I don't think that's going to happen," he says.

Hall says he uses anime as a classroom tool because it gets students excited, and sparks their interest in the language and culture of another country. During lunch, about 40 students meet in an empty classroom to talk about animé characters, plots, and the art.

"Oh yeah, I love it. I'll be sitting at stores for hours, just contemplating," says 17-year-old Michael.

"The human emotions are right there, and it's not a Bugs Bunny killing Elmer Fudd thing, either," explains 16-year-old Pamela.

But, if animé is a cartoon geared toward older teens and adults, some animé also have very adult content. Some critics wonder if it's just another way for teens to access sexually explicit and violent themes under their parents radar. "There's like sexual content. There's you know, a little bit of killing … well, there's a lot of killing," Michael admits.

But, he and other fans say anime is no different from sometimes violent or explicit movies and video games. Some are innocent, some are educational, and some revolve around violence and sex. "This is just another form of media content," says Hall. "If I'm a parent, and I'm a responsible parent, then I need to know what's going on inside my child's head. And I need to pay attention to what's coming out of my child's mouth."

 
Understanding the Animé Craze

By Mandy Rider
CWK Network, Inc.

Cartoons have always been an important part of childhood. Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck and Mighty Mouse are characters that children have watched and loved for generations. Lately, however, these cartoons are being overshadowed by a Japanese cartoon import known as animé.

Animé is everywhere. Comic books, movies, trading cards, action figures and T-shirts all focus on animé characters. Even though animé is simply a cartoon, children, teens and adults alike are in a frenzy over the Japanese characters. Hundreds of various animé characters and storylines exist, and some appear in their own television series such as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. While some characters are more popular than others, all explore elements of Japanese culture such as the martial arts and Japanese language. But are these cartoons acceptable for children of all ages?

Even though animé takes the form of a cartoon, some of the plots involve sexually explicit and violent themes. So how do you know if animé is appropriate for your child?

The first question many parents may ask is "what is animé"? According to TechTV, animé is Japanese for animation. Japan has a thriving industry for animation, including movies with complex plots and adult themes. While some drawing styles, such as the famous big-eyes look, are indicative of animé, a variety of drawing styles exist.

Animé also incorporates much of the Japanese language. If you want to understand what your child means by calling himself or herself an "otaku" or what it means when your child wants animé "manga", below you will find popular animé vocabulary provided by TechTV.com:

  • Bushi - Originally applied to soldiers in service to a shogun, it has evolved into a term that applies to all professional warriors. It's similar to the term samurai.
  • Bushido - The code of the warrior.
  • Chibi - Japanese word used to describe characters as small, little or young.
  • Hentai - While this word technically means transformation or metamorphosis, in animé it has come to mean a form of perversion. There are many shockingly adult animé movies. They are often referred to as hentai.
  • Kaiju - A kaiju is a large and threatening monster like Godzilla.
  • Katana - A katana is a curved sword that is a symbol for Japan.
  • Kawaii - Cute is an obsession in Japan. The characters in a child's animé series such as "Sailor Moon" could safely be referred to as kawaii.
  • Manga - Manga refers to comic books, not the animation seen on TV or in movies. Lots of manga, however, end up in animé form.
  • Otaku - Otaku is the Japanese equivalent of "fan boy." The term possess a slightly derogatory meaning as someone without much of a life who is obsessed with this or that animé series, but it has also been reclaimed as a badge of honor for those who love animé.
  • Ronin - Ronin are soldiers who are free of a master or leader. They are considered freelance fighters.
  • Tezuka Osamu - A hugely popular designer of manga and animé, he created AstroBoy, Kimba the White Lion and countless other characters and creations.
 
What Parents Need to Know

You may still be uncertain as to whether animé is appropriate for your child. With hundreds of different stories and cartoons, deciding which storyline is appropriate can be confusing. Titles and reviews can provide little information as to the nature of the content. To help determine whether certain animé is appropriate for your child's viewing, it may be a good idea to view the show yourself before allowing your child to watch. The Animé Café offers a rating system for animé in order to help parents determine which materials are age appropriate:

  • Suitable for Family Viewing or "G" rated - This animé is appropriate for viewers ages three years and older. Please remember that some of the creatures in the cartoons may be frightening to some children.
  • Parental Guidance Advised or "PG" - These videos contain material that some families might not judge suitable for viewing by children, especially elementary-school-aged kids.
  • Recommend for Mature Audiences or "M" - These videos are intended for mature audiences, and parents are strongly cautioned to think twice before sharing them with children.
  • For Adult Audiences Only or "X" - These programs are for adult viewing only. These videos tend to contain scenes of graphically explicit sex and are largely of a prurient nature. Parents are strongly cautioned to screen these videos.

To help you better evaluate the content and storylines of popular animé cartoons, Animé Café has rated the following animé and provided a short description of each:

  • Card Captors (Rated G) - Card Captors is a story about a girl named Sakura who lives with her father and her brother. Her mother died when she was only three years old. Sakura goes to a normal school and has normal friends. A couple of them are Madison, Rita, Niki, Chelsea and Zack. The only thing that isn't normal about her is that she has magical powers. The powers can be used to call upon the spirits of Clow Cards and can be used to turn a key into a staff. She is on a quest to capture all the Clow Cards before her two rivals Lee Showron and Meilin Rae can.
  • Digimon (Rated G) - Digital Monsters, Digimon, for short, is about eight children who have been teleported to a bizarre world where almost anything can happen, and it's called the Digital World. They meet strange creatures made from data from Earth. These small creatures called Digimon, must protect the children from hazards. They can evolve, or digivolve, into larger, more powerful creatures to defeat the evil Digimon that roam the world.
  • Dragonball Z (Rated G) - The Dragonball Z television series centers on a young father named Goku who is not from Earth. He has a son named Gohan, whose mother is from Earth. Goku is of a militant race of people called "Sayans." Goku was raised by an Earthman, who found him in a spaceship. Goku and his son have extraordinary powers. Gohan is trained how to fight but when he looks at the moon, he turns into a large monster that destroys everything in his sight. Throughout the series, these characters are trying to save the earth from evil and obtain the "Dragonballs" which summon a dragon to grant one wish. The violence in this series can be questionable at times.
As a parent, you need to evaluate what your child is watching on television as well as viewing in comic books or on the Internet. Many of these programs contain violence and sexually explicit themes. The best way to protect your child is to be a responsible parent and make yourself familiar with the latest crazes - even if it is only a cartoon.
 
Resources

The Animé Café
TechTV