Anime has exploded in popularity and quality in recent years, with 2018 being possibly the best year in anime history, at least in terms of the sheer number of quality shows. We all remember, however, growing up with anime in the '90s, when there was an abundance of shows about kids going on adventures. Well, anime has grown a little since then, and many of the shows that star children have more diversity and cleverness about them. That’s not to say a few classics aren’t worth talking about, though. Some of these shows are great for kids, and others, while admittedly being about them, may not necessarily be for them, so best keep that in mind.
10 The Promised Neverland
One of the first big anime of 2019 is also already one of the best at delivering dynamic child protagonists that you really, really care about. Emma, Norman, and Ray are three eleven-year-olds who have grown up in a strange orphanage with an enigmatic matron whom they and all the other, younger, children refer to as ‘Mom’. When their perfect world comes crashing down at the end of episode 1, a plan must be put into action to guarantee their own survival and that of the younger, more innocent, children whom they have vowed to care for and protect. These three children are dynamic individuals with distinct personalities, complex behavior, and big hearts. You will love and care for them every step of the way.
An absolute classic that’s still airing to this day. A cultural phenomenon bigger than The Beatles (who themselves claimed to be bigger than Jesus), Pokémon is arguably the biggest thing to ever happen to global culture, and the adventures of Ash and friends have touched the hearts and minds of more people than we could fathom. For that reason alone – as if you needed a bigger one – the Pokémon anime cannot be ignored. More than nostalgia and cultural impact, however, Pokémon is a slickly-produced anime with fantastic voice acting in both Japanese and English, unforgettable music, an exhilarating adventure, and themes that resonate with every child in every country on Earth.
8 Made In Abyss
The big anime hit of 2017, based on an equally-celebrated manga series, Made in Abyss is a series which plays out a lot like a video game, with a focus on adventure, combat, survival, and exploration from the perspective of an adorable young girl, Riko, and her robot friend, Reg. Riko has decided to make her way down into the massive crater, at the edge of which sits her hometown. With Reg and his Inspector Gadget limbs, weapons, and gizmos to aid her, Riko comes up against almost unbeatable odds time after time. The relationship between these two characters is heart-warming and demonstrates the volition and stubbornness of children who are willing to persevere and have a stronger resilience than we often give them credit for. Season 2 can’t come soon enough.
This stunning piece of art, penned by the legendary anime writer Mari Okada, is a glorious accomplishment (and one of this writer’s favorite anime of all time). Telling the story of Menma, a girl who died tragically early, returned as a ghost only visible to her childhood friend Jintan. Her goal, in returning, is to reunite the reclusive Jintan with his and Menma’s other childhood friends. The story here flits between childhood memories and Menma’s current mission. The show’s characters are some of the most subtly complex you’re likely to see, especially for child protagonists, anywhere in the world of anime, and the ending absolutely will make you cry. Oh, and the OP is stellar in both direction and song.
6 A Place Further Than The Universe
The favorite anime of 2018 for so many fans, A Place Further than the Universe is an important show. The journey of four high school girls from Tokyo, who have so far lived typical lives, and decide to answer the call of adventure by heading to Antarctica. For one girl, this is a personal journey; for the others it is a reason to accomplish something special, something unique, before they feel as though they have wasted their youth. This anime is a plea to everyone who watches it that they should make the effort to do something unforgettable with their time on Earth. It’s a cheesy message of seizing the day, but that message has never ever been better executed than in this anime of four schoolgirls on a larger-than-life adventure. This show is a treasure.
5 Dragon Ball
Another classic, Dragon Ball did so much for anime in so many ways. This clever anime adaptation of the classic Chinese Ming dynasty novel Journey to the West tells the story of Goku, a young boy with a big heart and unbeatable strength, on a journey with friends to collect the legendary dragon balls. The journey itself is full of spectacular martial arts fights, overpowered energy explosions, and wacky misadventures.
A perfect show for kids and adults alike that does a wonderful job of appealing to Eastern and Western audiences equally. For fans of the even more popular sequel Dragon Ball Z it’s super fun to see how the adventures of Goku got started.
4 Fruits Basket
This fan-favorite shojo anime, and its manga source material, were massively popular years back, and soon we’ll be treated to an entirely new reboot which promises to actually end the series properly. Fruits Basket stars Toru Honda, a delightfully bright-eyed girl who lost her mother but refuses to wallow, instead aiming to be the best girl she can be. Soon, however, she is caught up in the family drama of the actual animals of the Chinese zodiac and delightful, ridiculous chaos ensues on an episodic basis. This show is charm heaped upon charm and deals with some surprisingly dark and traumatic themes. While the original is still absolutely worth watching, all eyes and high hopes are on the remake. Watch this space.
3 My Hero Academia
The biggest anime in the world right now is also arguably one of the best. This doesn’t always happen, of course; sometimes a show’s popularity is baffling. But MHA deserves all the praise it gets. What at first seems like a goofy but fun premise of a high school where gifted and superpowered youths learn to become heroes turns out to be an extraordinarily well-written, dynamically directed, deep and moving series.
The fight scenes are some of the best in anime, none of the episodes feel like wasted time (an unfortunate shounen trope), and the kids are people you really honestly care about. Froppy and Bakugo are the best girl and boy in shounen battle anime history, and every episode is an absolute delight.
2 Mob Psycho 100
The slightly less popular little brother of One Punch Man, delivered with the same wit and wisdom of their writer, One, but here telling the story of wildly overpowered psychic schoolboy Mob. Poor Mob only wishes to be normal, to fit in, to be attractive and popular, and all the other things found in ‘90s American high school sitcoms. Instead, he’s a socially awkward boy incapable of smiling or having fun and is cursed/gifted with overwhelming psychic powers. The philosophy of this show has kind of been seen before but never done better than this one, and its comedy lands as often as that of its big brother show (which you should also watch).
1 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Consistently voted the greatest anime series of all time on multiple fan-sites, FMA:B is the pinnacle of manga-to-anime adaptations, with luscious direction and animation, perfect character design, expert pacing, a heart-wrenching story, and two of the greatest protagonists in anime history. The Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, are young alchemists who lost their mother and, upon attempting to bring her back, lost all of Al’s body and half of Ed’s. Now, Al’s soul is fused to a huge suit of armor and Ed has some badass robot limbs. Their journey is one of those rare appropriate uses of the word epic, and their relationship is one-of-a-kind. If you watch one anime show in your life, let it be this one.