Looking for some quality anime to enjoy with your younger relatives? We’ve got you covered with this 13-and-under starter kit.
Questions about our selection process? Check out the Intro page for details.
Hi Adults! Before you get started, please read this:
- To help you find titles appropriate to a range of ages, we’ve divided our list into two groups: “All Viewers (5 and up)” and “Middle Grade Viewers (10 and up).” Each series has its own specific suggested age range, too.
- While the staff has done our best to account for average maturity levels and typical concerns (violence, sex, horror elements, etc.), ultimately we know that every kid is different. Our suggested age ranges may not match what’s best for your household. As such, we always recommend screening a title first and watching it along with the kids, so you can be there to field questions or press stop if needed.
- These titles are by no means only for kids. We know, because we’re adults and we still love them! That said, if you’re looking for titles for teens, we’ve provided Suggested Age Ranges on our general and queer rep recommendations lists as well. Check those out for more ideas!
What’s It About? Sakura Kinomoto always thought she was an ordinary 10-year-old, but that changes when she opens up a mysterious book in her basement and finds a set of magic cards. When she accidentally summons a whirlwind, the cards all blow away! Keroberos, a cute stuffed animal who calls himself the Guardian of the Clow, tells her she must find and capture the Clow cards she scattered before they cause chaos throughout her city!
Why We Recommend It: Cardcaptor Sakura, outside of perhaps Sailor Moon, is one of the most fondly remembered magical girl series of the ’90s. It’s not just nostalgia, either—the show holds up delightfully well and is a joy to watch for people of any age.
Most important, however, is Sakura’s arc as a heroine. She really is just an ordinary preteen in a lot of ways, and the idea of being responsible for taming magical beings intimidates her. She gets scared, she doubts herself, she even fails sometimes… but in the end, she always rises to the occasion. Despite her decidedly feminine accoutrements, her powers and arc are surprisingly gender-neutral, making her a solid role model for kids of any gender.
But wait! There’s more! Cardcaptor Sakura is also absolutely stacked with queer representation. Sakura’s best friend Tomoyo has a crush on her, her love interest Syaoran is bisexual, her older brother Touya and his best friend steadily march toward a relationship… the list goes on. It’s all warmly written and on equal terms with any hetero relationship, because the writers firmly believe that love is love.
Content Warnings: CLAMP, the creators of the original manga, tend to take “love is love” to an extreme degree. While that can work out great for lots of visible queer representation that’s rare in children’s series, it can also lead to some relationships that are unworkable and even abusive in real life—including several student-teacher relationships. The anime fortunately tones down the one between an adult and an elementary school student, but the subtext is still there.
Suggested Age Range: 7 and up. Sakura does spend some time in peril.
Little Witch Academia
What’s It About? Atsuko “Akko” Kagari decided to become a witch after being inspired by a magic show as a young child. She looks up to the performer, Shiny Chariot, and enrolls at the magic school Luna Nova, despite having no other magical background. There, she befriends her roommates, Lotte and Sucy, and declares that the top student, Diana, is her rival. One problem: Akko is really bad at magic!
Why We Recommend It: It seems like almost every children’s anime comes with some sort of caveat for recommendation, mostly amounting to different cultural standards for what’s appropriate for different ages. Little Witch Academia is totally free of even those minor barriers.
The first half of the show is largely episodic, focusing on the misadventures of Akko, Sucy, and Lotte, as well as the other colorful personalities that populate Luna Nova. The second half builds into a more cohesive plot as the focus turns to Akko’s relationship with her teacher Ursula and magic’s slow weakening in the face of technology. By the end, all of the elements come together for a satisfying, heartwarming, thrillingly animated conclusion.
Through it all, the series remains centered on its diverse female cast and their relationships with each other, whether that’s as friends, mentors, or rivals, and everyone is given distinct quirks and layers. Soft-spoken and mature Lotte ends up being a total nerd for a Twilight-esque book series; a journey into Sucy’s mind illustrates the potential worlds that exist inside teenage girls; the list goes on. Energetic and inspiring, Little Witch Academia is an entertaining romp for kids and adults alike.
Content Warnings: Things can get pretty scary, even if they always work out in the end. There are also some fat “jokes” about Jasminka, a chubby witch who is eating every time she’s on screen.
Suggested Age Range: 7 and up
What’s It About?
The inspirational story of a queer crime family known as “Team Rocket” Based on the best-selling video games about catching and battling with fantastical animals, this long-running series follows 10-year-old Ash Ketchum, his Pokemon partner Pikachu, and their many companions as they make new friends, pursue their dreams, and explore an expansive world where humans and Pokemon work, play, and fight side-by-side.
Why We Recommend It: Pokemon has been a gateway anime for two generations now, and for good reason. Bouncing merrily between road-trip adventure show, sports series, goofball comedy, fantastical slice-of-life, and even dipping its toes into the idol and superhero genres, there’s something for just about everyone in this sincere, bright, oftentimes gleefully weird franchise.
More specifically for a feminist-minded audience, Pokemon treats its female characters incredibly well, giving them distinct personalities, goals, and story arcs that are just as compelling (if not more so) than the male protagonist’s. Barring a few hiccups, feminine-coded interests are treated with as much respect as masculine-coded ones; boys and girls alike regularly subvert gender norms; and the story consistently lauds compassion and teamwork as far more important than simply being the very best (like no one ever was).
If you’re not sure where to begin, the standalone film Pokemon: The Power of Us is a great entry point. For the TV show itself, you can start from the beginning (Season 1 holds up surprisingly well), or jump in with Sun & Moon. The kids will fall in love with the Pokemon. You’ll fall in love with Team Rocket. Everyone wins!
Content Warnings: While Pokemon is by-and-large an easy watch, any show that’s been running for over two decades is going to have a few blemishes. Early seasons sometimes stumble into casual sexism; the original dub’s flamboyant portrayal of James was downright inspirational for a lot of queer kids in the early ‘00s but may not play well for a contemporary audience; Advanced Generation features a catty gay stereotype (albeit a likable one); and the series periodically struggles with heteronormativity and fat “jokes.” It’s low-key and uncommon, but be ready to talk to your kids about it when it crops up.
Oh and uh… go ahead and skip “The Bicker the Better” entirely. You’ll be very glad you did.
Suggested Age Range: 5 and up. It can get a little scary at times, but otherwise it’s very family-friendly.
Sailor Moon (1990s)
What’s It About? After meeting a talking cat, junior high school student Usagi Tsukino gains the power to transform into the magical girl Sailor Moon! With the help of her fellow sailor guardians, she fights for love and justice and defends the world from the forces of evil.
Why We Recommend It: Despite coming out over 25 years ago, the original Sailor Moon anime is cheerfully progressive, which allows (most of) its stories to work remarkably well for a modern audience. The series presents a wide variety of sympathetic, flawed, heroic female characters (none of whom entirely fit traditional ideas of femininity) and celebrates them for their unique strengths and interests.
Better still, it lets those girls fight with both masc- and femme-coded “weapons,” sometimes defeating enemies by punching them in the face, other times saving them through communication and empathy. It also features canonical queer and gender-fluid characters in a by-and-large positive light (and gives many of them happy endings, too!). It’s not always perfect, but overall Sailor Moon‘s messages of love and acceptance still resonate—and outshine many newer series, in fact.
Content Warnings: Magical violence, death, and a bit of sexual innuendo, though it’ll likely go over kids’ heads. Beyond that, the series has a poor track record with body-shaming and can struggle depicting healthy romances (characters sometimes fight over boys, refuse to communicate, or ignore consent). The series usually nudges its characters away from this behavior and towards healthier expressions of love, but it’s worth being aware of.
Suggested Age Range: 8 and up
FILM: Kiki’s Delivery Service
What’s It About? On her 13th birthday, young witch Kiki leaves home to spend a year on her own in the city. Once there, she makes new friends, but also finds that her flying brings her less joy when she makes a job of it.
Why We Recommend It: Kiki’s emotional conflict about turning her passion into her career feels more relevant than ever with the rise of YouTube culture and the success it’s brought to many kids and teens, but that’s far from the only thing that makes this movie special. Resonant for children and adults, it spins a fantasy about striking out on one’s own into a world that’s fun and exciting and the scariest thing is a popular girl being a little bit mean. At the same time, though, it doesn’t shy away from the melancholy of homesickness.
Kiki’s lowest points look an awful lot like depression, and there are plenty of young viewers who can benefit from seeing her grapple with that as much as older ones. Even when dealing with heavy topics, though, the movie never strays far from its sense of wonder and the conviction that its heroine will save the day and be all right in the end.
Also, there’s a talking cat. And really, who doesn’t want their own talking cat?
Content Warnings: Mild peril; depictions of depression.
Suggested Age Range: 7 and up
Middle Grade Viewers
What’s It About? In the near future, everyday life is experienced through augmented reality glasses. Daikoku City is a particular center for it, with the entire town overlaid with a virtual reality infrastructure. Twelve-year-old Yuuko Okonogi, nicknamed Yasako, moves to the city and is swiftly drawn into the Hackers Club, a group of kids who turn the city into their own VR playground and battle zone. But there’s another new girl in town: Yuuko Amasawa, and she’s not here to play games.
Why We Recommend It: Imagine this: an adolescent cast that looks and acts like real 12-year-olds instead of fantasized moe versions of preteens. A multi-generational, gender-balanced cast where the girls are allowed to carry the plot rather than being shoved out of the spotlight to let the boys take center stage. A thoughtful show that has a multi-faceted and complex relationship with technology, rather than grumbling about “kids these days” or desperately trying to sell you the latest gadget.
Den-noh Coil offers all these things and so much more. Although the series was made before the smartphone era, it accurately predicts how omnipresent technology would affect how children experience the world. It’s funny, unique, and smartly written in a way that young audiences will be able to connect to that few anime are.
Content Warnings: The characters have a “battle of the sexes” dynamic which, while realistic, isn’t exactly aspirational. It also has discussions of death, the afterlife, and urban legends that may upset more sensitive children.
Suggested Age Range: 11 and up, but it’s going to really depend on the kid. The accurate representation of early adolescence and children’s relationships with technology will likely draw in some kids, but the relatively slow pace will bore others.
Magic Knight Rayearth
What’s It About? Middle school students Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu were total strangers until they were summoned to the mysterious world of Cephiro, where possibility is determined not by the laws of physics but by the strengths of people’s hearts. The three are recruited to become the Magic Knights and awaken the Mashin to save Princess Emeraude, the Pillar of this world, from the clutches of High Priest Zagato.
Why We Recommend It: Rayearth came to English-speaking audiences on the heels of Sailor Moon, when manga and anime publishers were just waking up to the idea that shoujo might have an audience here. It was a sensible pick, too—CLAMP’s lush art brought to life a fantastic world of adventure for a varied and fun, largely female cast. With its slightly didactic episodes and speeches about the power of belief and friendship, it was a great pick for an older children’s series.
But what truly set it apart was the distinctly anime edge that American children’s media tended to shy away from. The first half of Rayearth, under all the bright colors and silly humor, was working up not to a victorious conclusion but “baby’s first tragedy.” The second half turned into an emotionally complex but still child-friendly study on survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and even colonialism.
This isn’t to say Rayearth is all-out depressing or nihilistic—far from it! But it’s a series interested in challenging audience expectations about traditional hero’s journeys, and with this comes nuanced characters, unexpected plot twists, and sometimes a melancholy undertone. It’s an SF epic for kids that doesn’t talk down to its audience, making it a great entry point for middle-grade viewers.
Content Warnings: Depictions of death, survivor’s guilt, and mental illness.
Suggested Age Range: 10 and up
MY love STORY!!
What’s It About? Hulking but kindhearted Gouda Takeo falls head-over-heels for Yamato Rinko (and she for him), but, convinced she only has eyes for his handsome best friend, he vows to help her find happiness with the guy she “really” likes.
Why We Recommend It: Adorable, funny, deceptively smart, and as warm-hearted as its three protagonists, My Love Story quickly set the bar for teen rom-coms and then proceeded to break its own records. This is a “how to” for healthy relationships: a story about communication, kindness, and self-worth that’s willing to dig into difficult emotions but always meets its challenges with sympathy and optimism.
Despite some early missteps, My Love Story finds its identity in its second half and builds to a sequence of wonderful (and sometimes powerful) story arcs, exploring different kinds of love as well as its characters’ personal goals and insecurities. It culminates in a sweet, satisfying finale that nevertheless leaves the door open for additional stories. The good news is, if you’re hooked and hungry for more, the manga is complete and available in English!
Content Warnings: Some of the stories deal with victim-blaming and body-shaming, but it’s a light touch, and handled with restraint and sympathy. There’s also some stereotypical shallow teen girls here and there, an adult antagonist with a crush on a minor, and one uncomfortable “joke” where a guy forces a kiss on his friend as “practice.” This mostly disappears as the series progresses, though.
Suggested Age Range: 11 and up… But please note that if you pick up the manga too, it does eventually dip into conversations about sex. It’s handled exceedingly well, with a strong focus on partnership and consent, but it’s up to you how soon you want to introduce kids to those conversations.
What’s It About? Once upon a time, a small bird named Duck fell in love with a prince and was granted the ability to become a girl. She joins the prince at his prestigious ballet academy but soon learns her role is more complex than she thought, as she also has the power to transform into the legendary heroine, Princess Tutu. She’s tasked with saving the prince from his tragic fate… but who’s really in control of their destinies?
Why We Recommend It: Few are those who make it to the end of Princess Tutu without crying some joyous tears, including grown adults. Sometimes affectionately known as “baby’s first Utena,” Tutu is a wonderful introduction to concepts like meta-narrative, allusions to fairy tales and ballet, and visual symbolism. For anyone looking to begin introducing younger viewers to media literacy, there’s a wealth of conversation topics here.
Duck is a fantastic protagonist, and the series goes out of its way to reject the idea that female characters are meant to compete with one another over a love interest. Not only that, it also dives into heady topics like the value of emotions such as sadness and anger, and the difference between the selfish desire to be loved versus the courage it takes to love someone else—all without losing its sense of goofy optimism or its sincerity. While things might get dark, there’s always a happy ending for those willing to fight for it.
Content Warnings: The second half might get scary for younger kids; there are several instances of stabbing, most fantastical and one late in the show with blood; abusive relationships are depicted and challenged, as is parental abuse; secondary character death; nudity (cartoonish and nonsexual); there is a running joke wherein the girls’ ballet teacher (an anthropomorphic cat) repeatedly threatens to marry his students for misbehaving.
Suggested Age Range: 10 and up
FILM: Spirited Away
What’s It About? When Chihiro’s family accidentally wanders into the spirit realm, Chihiro must seek employment at a mystical bathhouse so she can stay safe and rescue her parents. As she works side-by-side with a variety of spirits, she uncovers the mysteries of the bathhouse’s most powerful figures, including the crafty owner Yubaba and her right-hand boy, Haku.
Why We Recommend It: Saying “it won an Oscar,” isn’t always a mark of quality, but in this case it’s well-deserved. Beautifully and expressively animated, bursting with imagination, and building to an earnest and heartfelt conclusion, Spirited Away is a triumph of visual storytelling; a charming, graceful coming-of-age story with just the right amount of spooky weirdness for a middle-grade audience.
Chihiro’s journey is subtly told and well-defined, using a number of escalating challenges to depict her growth from skittish and selfish to confident and compassionate. The story strikes a delicate balance between independence and empathy—between the importance of sticking up for yourself while also listening to others and doing your best to help those in need. It delights, frightens, and inspires in equal measures. An absolute gem of a film.
Content Warnings: Mild violence and magical horror; the animal transformations and grotesque yokai designs may be too scary for some kids.
Suggested Age Range: 10 and up