The best kids anime made possibly only by anime
This past Saturday was Children's Day in Japan, the last day of Golden Week. While some of us might know it as the week some anime and manga take an inconvenient break, it's been a tradition in Japan for ages and has gone through some changes over time. Instead of pouting, we decided to celebrate right alongside them with some of the children that have made anime special to us!
Adélie (Space Dandy) – Most of the characters on this list are mainstays in their respective shows, but Adélie doesn't need that much time to make a huge impact. Coming from a race of mind-transferring aliens, Adélie is a surprisingly strong and independent kid, though much of that is a front put up to protect her after losing her single mother. She agrees to go with Dandy to the alien registration center on the condition that he take her on a side quest to visit an apartment she believes her grandpa lives in. Over the course of their journey they develop a heartwarming respect for each other.
Gon Freecs (Hunter x Hunter) – Hunter x Hunter's world is a harsh one, filled to the brim with villains and situations that threaten its inhabitants' lives on a daily basis. Gon doesn't see it that way though; to him, the world is full of not great dangers, but big challenges and potential friends. The story starts fairly lighthearted and fun, with Gon as the bright-eyed and big-hearted kid who just wants to explore. The tone gets darker, the stakes larger, and Gon along with them, but he never loses his optimism and remains true to himself, making him an endlessly likable character.
Haneru Tobitatsu (Tribe Cool Crew) – If there's one thing kids are known for, its their seemingly endless source of energy; Haneru expresses this perfectly, a breakdancing ball of vigor and confidence. Tribe Cool Crew's titular dancing group is diverse in a few ways, and while Haneru is the youngest among them, he is no less interesting or fun to watch. Reflecting the show's themes, Haneru doesn't use his conviction selfishly, inspiring the people around him to be their best selves, especially his shy dance partner Kanon. It's always nice to follow a genuinely good-natured and fun character like Haneru.
Hina (HINAMATSURI) – HINAMATSURI is full of good kids. Hitomi and Anzu do the best they can with the situations life has dealt them. However, it's the titular Hina that wins my heart in the end – how can you not root for the well-meaning girl with useful powers who can't help but break a vase or two every episode? She is in a time she has no familiarity with and appreciates what Nitta offers her and tries to pay him back, and though that sometimes backfires in expensive ways, it's undeniable that her intent is always admirable. Also, HINAMATSURI is both named after Hina the character and Girls' Day. You might know it from the many anime that feature a tiered display of ornamental dolls on red cloth.
Hinata Kawamoto (March comes in like a lion) – The Kawamoto family serves as one of the few sources of true positivity and light in the otherwise heavy, hazy world of March comes in like a lion. Middle-child Hina shines especially bright, inspiring our depressed protagonist Rei with a hopeful disposition. Perhaps, even, to a fault; her main arc revolves around her admirable decision to stick by her bullied friend to the point of social isolation, but she never doubts that choice, believing in doing the right thing no matter what.
Karin Kurosaki (Bleach) – Bleach has an enormous cast, including multiple important children. Between its large scale and the power escalation, it's easy to forget about some of the smaller players by the end. Ichigo's sister Karin, though, uniquely sticks out, despite never gaining powers quite on the level of even the weakest bankai. With her guardian being the goofy and irresponsible Isshin, Karin takes it upon herself to be the informal head of the house, and without her as part of the Karakura Superheroes, Ichigo's extended absences could have gone a lot worse for his hometown.
Konohamaru Sarutobi (Naruto) – The Naruto franchise has come a long way since the manga debuted in 1997, growing and changing with its fans. If any one character represents this evolution, it's Konohamaru. He started as a cheeky, overconfident brat, just like Naruto himself; however, just like us, he learned alongside the changing themes of the story, becoming more mature and competent as time went on. Nowadays he's not a kid anymore, but it's impossible to deny that the wise and charming instructor we know from Boruto has irreplaceable origins as the scrappy kid we originally knew him as.
Kota Izumi (My Hero Academia) – The characters in My Hero Academia who have problems with the hero-centric system its world is based on thus far have been exclusively villains, making it hard to sympathize with their viewpoints even if they are based in real grievances. That is, until we met Kota, an impressionable kid who lost his parents because of the very heroism his society values so highly. While he is still young, a tragedy like that makes his negative feelings toward heroes, villains, and quirks as a whole feel real and understandable, leading to the catharsis in his response to Deku's recent battle with the villain, Muscular, who killed his mom and dad. We're still early in the third season, but Kota has already earned a place in the hearts of fans everywhere.
Mayoi Hachikuji (Bakemonogatari) – This kid has been through a lot, and it shows. From her parents' early divorce to her untimely death in a simple attempt to see her mom again, Mayoi has one of the more harsh stories of the characters on this list. It almost makes sense, then, that she's also one of the snarkiest. She can play verbal ball with the older characters in the cast, outsmarting our “hero” Koyomi on a daily basis – for a snail, she's anything but slow. As the story goes on her skill with words only endears us to her more, and she winds up being the cornerstone of some of the most powerful, emotional scenes in the entire franchise to boot.
Renge Miyauchi (Non Non Biyori) – In a show filled with kids, Renge is the youngest, but the most compelling by far. Renge introduces us to the mood of the show as she walks to her bus stop, trying her best to practice her recorder along the way. She's endlessly curious, capturing the adventurous spirit in all of us as she goes through small but powerful arcs while remaining innocent. Thanks to Renge's earnestness, learning to ride a bike becomes a lesson in how far we all can go if we try hard enough, and tadpole shrimp become a metaphor for life itself. We should all aspire to Renge's inquisitive and accepting nature.
So there you have it - ten of the best kids anime has to offer. Did your favorite make the list? Sound off in the comments about the children of anime that have left the biggest impression on you!