From that tiny elongated chain of islands across the Pacific comes the onslaught of new ideas and entertaining cultural displays. Japan has been showering us with their massive animation industry for a while now, every year finding more and more of a foothold in the foreign markets that eat it up so ravenously. The growth of the industry even in Japan was unprecedented, but here in the states it’s almost impossible to keep up with. So, what do you do when you’re first getting into anime and wanting to learn a little more about what’s out there and what’s best to watch. Which genre will you like? Which shows are the least violent? The most violent? The weirdest? There’s something for everyone in this business, but you have to know where to start because the wrong episodes of that weird sado-masochistic samurai love story will probably throw you off the scent of anything good for a while, if not spoil the entire art form.
The gag genre is something we’re more comfortable with in the states. It’s more or less a mindless comedy which focuses first and foremost on the gags with which it is comprised than with the plot, characters, or development. Think family guy with Japanese humour. These tend to be fairly weird, and in love with the pop culture reference (…Family Guy?).
Azumanga Daioh – Conceived as a series of short cartoon strips similar to what we see in our Sunday papers (though actually funny), Azumanga is the story of group of junior high school girls and their teachers and their oddball, over the top antics. There’s no story here, just a whole bunch of characters doing really goofy things. There’s the over achiever, the super genius little kid, the quiet but popular girl, the talkers – all the stereotypes are present but they’re blown up as big as they can be for the sake of how incredibly funny they are.
In an age where every other cartoon geared toward preschoolers is filled with burping, belching, and name calling, behaviour no parent wants their child to imitate, it’s nice to know there are still a few wholesome cartoons parents can feel good about letting their child watch. Every parent knows that they should not allow their child to watch excessive amounts of television, yet most parents are guilty of letting their child view the occasional cartoon in order to get things done around the house, have a telephone conversation, or just have a moment of peace and quiet. Preschoolers are a very inquisitive group of children. They are absorbing everything they can at this age. It is the job of parents and caregivers to make sure that preschoolers are not allowed to watch cartoons that are teaching them inappropriate things. Parents can be sure the following 5 cartoons are wholesome, fun, and fairly educational.
The Backyardigans– The Backyardigans is an entertaining group of 5 neighbour children who have exciting imaginary adventures in their backyards, such as surfing the perfect wave, swinging through the jungle on vines, and being secret agents. There is lots of singing and dancing on these cartoons. The songs are fun, and catchy. I use the term children very loosely since the characters include Uniqua, a pink spotted ladybug, Tasha, a yellow hippo, Tyrone an orange moose, Pablo a blue penguin, and Austin, a purple kangaroo. Each character has unique characteristics that make them appealing to children. This is a fabulous, wholesome cartoon for the preschool set, and adults find the Backyardigans entertaining as well.