There’s a stereotype that animation is for kids, and it’s been a burden. People use that stereotype in order to devalue animation, causing others to defend the medium by pointing to examples which aren’t made for kids. That’s all well and good, but it tacitly accepts the idea that media made for kids is less valuable than media made for teenagers and adults, and I don’t agree with that in the slightest. I love kids shows, and my recent watch of Heartcatch Precure confirmed that. I think more people should watch kids anime, and I’ll explain why, with Heartcatch as an example.
It needs to be made clear that kids shows are optimistic, but not always ultra-happy. Heartcatch is a perfect example here; multiple sympathetic characters die over the course of the show, and some of the things the show goes into are quite dark. In spite of that it’s optimistic, and it clearly values the ability of people to understand one another.
This understanding of one another is something I often find lacking in the dark, “adult” shows that people parade as example of how mature animation can be. Shows like Death Note and Phantom just come across as misanthropic and cynical to me. They don’t present reality any more than kids shows do, they simply try and look like they do by removing color from their worlds, substituting it for copious darkness.
One major reason kids shows have a lot of value, is that they’re just fun. Kids shows are made to maintain attention and get children to buy merchandise like action figures and dolls, so they need to have fun, memorable designs as well as cool moments that aren’t easily forgotten.
Heartcatch had this in spades. The magical girl outfits were great, and the action scenes were incredible. The reused transformation sequences and special attack animation looked great, making up for the need to show it every episode. The character designs were especially high quality, seeing as they were designed by Yoshihiko Umakoshi, whose striking designs also added to the beautiful Casshern Sins.
As I said earlier, kids shows often boast a better understanding of human beings than shows made for adults, and Heartcatch is a great example of this. Every monster-of-the-week episode focuses on a person who’s turned into a monster due to their own personal problems, and while the show sometimes comes across as preachy, most of the problems are real issues that people face. The show always has a happy resolution to these issues, but it does its best with them by making it clear that they key is acceptance. Kids shows often focus on this and it works well, because acceptance is ultimately what almost everyone wants, no matter their age.
Kids shows also tend to have fun and interesting characters. The characters often have clear archetypes and personalities which focus on a few key traits, but that’s common to anime as a whole, and sometime you’ll get some really great development. Cure Blossom, Cure Sunshine, and Cure Moonlight all got great development in Heartcatch, and it was a major factor in my enjoyment of the show. Blossom’s transition from a shy bookworm to a more outgoing and confident person was great, Sunshine’s embrace of her more feminine interests was powerful, and Moonlight getting over her trauma in order to fight was one of the show’s best moments.
The other main thing that kids anime has going for it is length. This could be seen as a downside, since it’s harder to watch longer shows, but ultimately it means that there’s just more of the show, and assuming you enjoy it that’s usually a good thing. Every Precure is 50 or so episodes and there’s a new Precure every year, so if you’re a fan of the series you’ll never run out. Shows like Pripara and Aikatsu also have well over 100 episodes, and that’s not even touching shows like Sazae-san and Doraemon.
Now, kids shows do have issues. They’re frequently repetitive, somewhat more simplistic on average, and they can be wildly inconsistent. There’s also the fact that not everyone is interested in bright, optimistic series. But I think that shows made for kids need to stop being put down. Many people assume they wouldn’t like them as a matter of course, but I think a lot of people would like Heartcatch if they tried it. Much like shounen and seinen, or shoujo and josei, you can’t tell if you’ll like a show just because it’s a kids show. Demographic tags are just that, and they shouldn’t dictate whether or not you’ll watch a show. Now excuse me, I need to go watch the Heartcatch movie.