6 Anime to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer
By Terra Necessary, PCC Instructor
Summer vacation makes it easy to sprawl out, throw on an anime, and let the day melt away. Binge-watching is an anime fan’s favorite pastime, and in the summer of COVID-19 there’s lots of great content to check up on. That doesn’t mean you need to check your brain at the door.
Anime is a vast medium with plenty of educational content mixed into some of the most popular shows, just waiting to be explored. Here are six anime series that are more educational than you might realize!
Cells at Work… for the biologist in us
This charming anime is a crash course in biology. Viewers follow Red Blood Cell, a bubbly redheaded delivery girl, as she bumbles her way around the city that is the human body.
With top-notch animation and engaging characters, this show is a good way to introduce anime nerds to biology or help them brush up on the mechanics of the human body. The analogy of a city holds together surprisingly well and shows how different parts of our body work together.
Cells at Work is a fun, family-friendly anime and a great companion for a budding biologist.
Naruto… for the ninja-powered storyteller
This fantastical ninja anime has been a classic since its release. That’s due in no small part to its vast and clever uses of Japanese mythology.
While lots of anime lean into folklore and myth (Dragon Ball Z to Mushi-shi for instance), Naruto does so in a way that is particularly accessible and cleverly woven into the story. The nine-tailed, shape-shifting golden kitsune possessing Naruto and giving him his unique powers (and blond hair) is just one of the characters inspired by Japanese mythology in this action-packed anime.
Also, don’t forget to stay active! Naruto is a great way to add some themed activity into the day and move that body! Plugging “Naruto Workout” into Google brings up many fitness plans from beginners to advanced workouts centered around Ninjutsu. Remember to always talk with a doctor about any new exercise regimen.
Sailor Moon… for the astronomer
This may seem silly, especially given that Sailor Pluto hasn’t been excommunicated yet, but the world is full of people whose love of science and astronomy was sparked by Sailor Moon.
While far from scientifically accurate, this anime’s mix of science and mythology is attention-grabbing and addictive. And with a recent reboot, it’s the perfect time to get hooked on this classic magical girl anime.
The science may be shaky— and the geology-inspired villain names may get a little…creative from their Latin roots — the show can spark interest in science and mythology.
Spice & Wolf… for the business savvy
Wolf girls, romance, historical fantasy and…economics? Spice & Wolf is set in a typical, pseudo-European fantasy world, but its introduction to business and economics is far from fantastical.
Lawrence is a traveling merchant who wants to own his own shop selling – you guessed it – spice. He meets a harvest wolf deity in the form of a cute girl (it is an anime, after all) who convinces him to take her along.
Basic economic concepts are highlighted as the pair travels and adventures together, While the series is laid out simply, the ideas in its story are strong. Spice & Wolf is a great way to dip your toe into the subject.
Hikaru no Go… for the historical gamer
Sports and game – based anime are a classic of the genre, but none of them are quite as unique and beautifully shown as Hikaru no Go. The series focuses on Go, one of the oldest and most mentally challenging games on Earth, comparable to Chess.
Hikaru no Go follows the story of Hikaru, a young boy who ends up possessed by an ancient go player (a strangely common trope in anime) from the Heian period. The audience learns about Go and its history along with Hikaru, all while he takes on the national, then international championships.
You can find a new anime AND a new hobby in this series!
Grave of the Fireflies… for remembrance
This one is heavy. It’s also an amazing and beautiful witnessing to the reality of war — and a good introduction to the weight of history.
Grave of the Fireflies is about two children who survive a bombing in Kobe, Japan…only to find out that the bombing is not the worst of the war.
Heartbreaking and gentle at the same time, Grave of the Fireflies is a poignant anime that will help anyone understand the way history affects the people living through it. Be sure to have the Kleenex ready and be prepared for some deep conversation afterwards.
Get Started Watching!
All these anime have something educational about them, but they are far from the only ones! Like most pop culture, many lessons can be picked out of them, from academic to social/emotional growth. While western animation is working to catch up, anime from Japan can cover a diverse range of subject matter (and age-rating!).
For more resources on Manga and Anime, check out Pop Culture Classroom’s latest Reading Club Guides for titles like My Hero Academia, Komi Can’t Communicate, and more coming soon. https://classroom.popcultureclassroom.org/resources/graphic-novel-teaching-guides/