School has been in swing for a few weeks now. If you are not aware, I am an elementary teacher, and twice a week after school, I am the sensei of an Anime Class in our district after-school program. Teaching and seeing the lit-up expression of learning in the eyes of my student’s faces fills my heart. So, when I can share my passions to not only connect them but educate them, my soul at peace.
I have had the honor of sharing a few anime films with my younger kiddos and some teachers and they were all amazed at the storytelling, breathtaking animation, and captivating worlds. 😉 See; I know what I’m doing. Media is such a powerful tool and with it, our world is smaller in some ways, and access to other beautiful cultures is stronger and easier. Yet, like a famous Disney ride, we all laugh and shed tears, hope, and fear. Those things can be seen and expressed to all despite language barriers.
What animes or anime films do I suggest OR have I used in lessons? Find out here and a few reasons why you should use them in your classroom too. Or, if you are a parent, watch with your kids. ^_^ And as a warning; all the food will look delicious! ^_^
Top Animes/Anime Movies Teachers Should Watch:
Kotaro Lives Alone-
- This show became one of my favorites this year easy. It’s ONLY ON NETFLIX, 10 episodes, and will absolutely melt your heart, break it, patch it up with laughter, then crush you again. The story follows Kotaro, a very mature and proper-speaking five-year-old who moves into an apartment complex on his own and his adventures with his adult neighbors who take care of him from a distance. All the characters are dynamic but well-rounded, and Kotaro connects them with his spirit, even if he doesn’t mean to.
- But, the big question is of course: how can a five-year-old live alone and why? Well, that is where you need to prepare for tears as you slowly learn about what Kotaro had to go through at home, being in a foster home, and how he handled trauma in his young life. It is done so well; you feel deeply for Kotaro and it does hit on realism (despite the crazy colors of the animation,) but as water is trying to escape your eyes, there is a sense of hope. I would adopt Kotaro in a heartbeat and I think this show is an excellent way to show kids the trials some children have to go through if they do not have a stable, ‘normal,’ homelife. And it is very entertaining! This show is well-done in every way.
- It started as a manga and also has a 10-episode live-action T.V. show drama. The images and clips I’ve seen for it look brilliant! Definitely going to watch it one day.
School Babysitters Club-
- OOOH! This anime was made for me. It follows six precious kids (five young toddlers and one infant) in a daycare at a high school (all their parents are teachers) and the high school boys and people who take care of them. Let the kawaii, adorable adventures ensue! This show will give you cavities with how sweet it is and tickle your sides from the humor that comes with youth.
- However, don’t let all the fluff fool you; there is some good substance in this show and I cried during the first episode. Our main fellas are Ryūichi, 15, and Kotaro, almost 3, brothers who recently lost both their parents in a plane crash. At a mass visitation for all the families of the deceased, the chairwoman (who lost her son and daughter-in-law in the crash) of a school saw Ryūichi holding Kotaro, both of them merely staring and not crying. Going to talk to them and learning they have nowhere to go, she offers her lavish home to them as long as he gets good grades and helps out for free at the school’s daycare. The love these two siblings have for each other is too pure and makes you grateful for your family, even through the adorable, silly antics.
- Why are all the sad, little boys in anime named Kotaro is on my mind. Good grief! Kotaro translates to ‘tiger’ and Ryūichi a form of “dragon,” a fun fact for you.
- There are 14 episodes of the anime so far. I watched them on Crunchyroll. Sadly, it is only in Japanese right now (I WANT IT DUBBED SO BAD!) The manga is also still ongoing and currently has 22 volumes. Plus the ending theme gets stuck in my head all the time! BABY DANCE!
- “9th-grade students are assigned by the government to kill their powerful, weird, and mutant teacher within a year while other assassins help or try to hinder them.”
- Yep. That sums up this show! LOL!
- You’re probably thinking, “Whoa! Slow your roll, Morgan! Why would you want students to watch a show about trying to end their sensei?! Trust me; this show is everything a phenomenal show is. Action-packed, entertaining, fantastic characters (and there are 28 students ALONE,) top-notch acting, engaging world-building, some of the sickest music I have ever bopped to, and a very likable main character despite everyone classifying them as ‘evil.’
- But, it’s the rapport between Kuro-sensei and his class that made my teacher’s heart melt or break. Even though he looks odd and can be a dangerous weapon, this teacher adores his students. He always keeps their best interests at heart and makes custom curriculum for all of them. His words of wisdom speak deeply to all who hear. His lesson plans are so creative (granted, in anime, there are no limits, lol!) Yet, in spite of this odd situation where these children are being trained to be assassins, it is clear they care very much for their teacher, so as the time of reckoning draws near, emotions get high. Those last few episodes are an intense wave to your emotional system! Plus, some hard topics are embedded into this fantastical show and in ways that touch you: death, blurred morals, the pressure from parents, emotional abuse, revenge, opening your heart, and more.
- This anime skyrocketed to one of my favorites! It has two seasons, an OVA series, two live-action movies, an anime film, and of course, the manga. My hubby said the anime followed the manga exceptionally!
- One word: ANIMATION!
- The animation of this Netflix anime is too stunning for words! It follows the story of what happens to a girl, Violet, who was raised since childhood to be strictly a weapon, after the war she fought in ends. Her Major who was her charge and the only one who cared for her as a person asked his friend to care for her after the war, but Violet has no social skills and has some parts of her body due to her last combat, replaced with metal. Now, she works at the mailroom her Major’s friend oversees, wanting to be an Automemories Doll, those who type letters for people. But, it’s more than words on a page. Violet learns by meeting those on her assignments the power words have for expressions and feelings, the heart and sorrow on a page she helps compose. While this is going on, Violet is trying to recall what happened to The Major, elements of her past are after her, and one question she cannot figure out circles in her mind: “What is Love?”
- It’s powerful. It’s moving. It’s action-packed, but often in the most quaint manner that puts you in a trance. You really go through the story with Violet at every step; it captures you hook, line, and sinker. For students, it shows the horror of the wars, the power of words, and the different ways love is in the world. And, yes, you WILL CRY. HARD! Derrick and I both do!
- It is a 13-episode Netflix anime with an OVA and a movie.
Romeo X Juliet-
- We all know the story of William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, one of the most well-known love stories ever told. But, the play is only 90-120 minutes. How would you like it to be a full 600-minute-long story with rich characters, breathtaking backdrops, a romance deep, pure, and warm in essence, and fun nods to The Bard’s other classic works (AND, PLOT TWIST, WILLIAM IS A CHARACTER IN THIS ANIME ITSELF! HOW META!?) This is perfect for your next ELA unit! Of course, it adds many elements due to the extended length, yet this makes it wonderful. Romeo and Juliet’s rapport blooms in front of your eyes. The feud is explained cleverly. Juliet is a strong heroine followed by her people, but also a sweet girl in love. Romeo is a compassionate soul, but with the resolve of an innocent legend. The key components that make the play are there, but it is a true arch, the rest of the tale I believed was missing. The animation steals my breath every time and will make you want to jump in.
- Plus, the opening song is “You Raise Me Up,” by Celtic Women, sung in Japanese, the studio being granted permission to use it! How incredible is that?!
- I actually have shown this to a middle school summer writing camp and these ladies, who never watched anime, inhaled it, binging it on their own in a week! Some of the sentiments above are there. This is a fantastic way to not only give a fresh perspective on “Romeo and Juliet,” but to also pull those leery of Mr. Shakespeare into his world.
- It is a 24-episode anime series on Funimation (English dubbed.)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0-
- Natural disasters are scary, no matter how prepared we are. Imagine being miles away, at a mall, you 12 and your little brother 5, and a massive earthquake hits the mighty city of Tokyo. Nothing can prepare you for that. “Tokyo Magnitude 8.0” was made for this purpose. This story is about these two lost siblings and a kind-hearted woman who stays with them as they all struggle to get back home to their own town.
- This show, being only 11 episodes, does not sugar coat anything (they have a warning in front of each episode to protect everyone’s mental health.) Aftershocks, destruction, loss of resources, sickness, injury, savage behaviors that come from hard times, fear, the kindness of strangers, family bonding, triggers, and more are all there. You yearn to reach through the screen and help them, praying they find their loved ones safely. This is a realistic anime that teaches and tells us no one is safe from being hit by a natural disaster, yet there is a sense of hope during all this sorrow and tragedy. The trio is so well-rounded and feels they are your friends. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and some of the twists?! Oh, man! And the ending! Phew… I feel the pang right now merely thinking about it!
- I binged watched this the first time I watched it and my high school students were glued to it. It is a great show about life. It is dubbed in English by Sentai.
Grave of the Fireflies (movie-)
- OKAY! If I HAD to pick ONLY ONE of these wonderful animes or anime films for educational purposes, THIS WOULD BE IT! And this is the one even some non-anime fans teachers and adults I have talked to have heard of for how impact and heart-wrenching it is!
- “Grave of the Fireflies” is from Studio Ghibli and was part of a double-feature showing originally with the famous “My Neighbor Totoro.” Talk about two polar opposite auras! “Grave of the Fireflies” takes place in Japan during World War II, following two children, the brother 14, and the sister 4. Their father is off fighting in the navy. After going to a bomb shelter once more, this time an attack occurs, and their mother is brutally killed. The children live with relatives for a while, but when things don’t work out and the financial struggles affect the nation get tense, the loving siblings decide to go live on their own in a cave. Yet, this proves to not be easy.
- This is another work where nothing is sugar-coated, but instead of hope still shining, you feel it painfully declining down your body like a wedge, a wreck you can’t look away from. The fact that many children suffered through what our protagonists do will drown you in sadness and makes you think for ages to come. Many people can only watch this film once, but it is a must-see to help you understand the human condition and the damage of the war on all, no matter the country. I believe this would be such a beneficial movie when studying World War II since Japan was our enemy in this war, but it shows we are all living beings.
- You can get this on DVD (English dubbed) on many retailers and I THINK it’s on HBO Max.
Silent Voice (movie-)
- This film! It fills me, as a teacher and someone who was bullied when I was younger, with rage and heartache. I think EVERY CLASSROOM should watch this to show the damage bullying and disabilities cause.
- Our protagonist, Shoyo, is the class clown of their intermediate class, always getting into silly trouble with his teachers and his loving mom, but everyone likes his antics. One day, a new girl, Shoko, comes into their class and she is deaf. She tries hard to make friends, but our boy gets annoyed with her for their names being similar and has the pressure of being the attention seeker in the class. Yet, the bullying of Shoko goes too far with him yanking her hearing aides out, throwing her notebook in the pond, smacking her around, and more. Her class also dislikes her because Shoko needs help with notes, their class has to alter their choir contest arrangement, and the school pressures the students to learn sign language. However, when Shogo gets the class in trouble, all his ‘friends and fans’ isolate and bully him the way he did Shoko, changing him.
- Then we flash-forward to high school and Shoyo, who refuses to interact with people now outside his family, has one goal: to apologize properly to Shoko, who he hasn’t seen in years. Yet, their reunion opens up more opportunities for both of them, good and bad.
- This movie tackles all the stages of bullying, for the one being bullied and the bully themselves and how it messes with their psyche. Isolation, emotional pain, mental doubt, depression, anxiety, and perspective shifts. Plus, the added hardship of being deaf hits hard. Bullying is such a critical problem for our youth and teens and this highlights the power of it and those around it. I recommend EVERY adult watch this with their child(ren) or teacher to show their class.
- It is a movie (English dub.) I saw it on Netflix. The manga, which is 7 volumes, is excellent too and really expands on some elements of the story a 100-minute film didn’t have time for.
Spirited Away (movie-)
- This reasoning is simple: this Japanese animated film is an AMERICAN ACADEMY AWARD WINNER!
- Need I say more?! It’s the most staple Studio Ghibli film and has a little bit of everything: enchantment, gorgeous animation, fun characters, a timeless story of family, bravery, discovering yourself, and compassion, true love in the most mystical ways, and A DRAGON SPIRIT! There is a reason this movie is so iconic and beloved after 20 years and that even the United States saw it as the masterpiece it is. The story? You’ll have to watch Chirio’s tale to find out.
- Any movie buff needs to watch this for its legendary status alone. The fact it is incredible is a huge plus!
- You can get it (English dub) online and I believe it is on HBO Max too.
Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan-
- OKAY! As a note: this one I might not show to your students UNLESS maybe you are teaching college students who want to be teachers, lol! This show features Uramichi, who is a gym teacher in a kid’s TV show, his goal is to teach life lessons to these preschool/kindergarteners. OH, MAN! This show is great showing the secret thoughts, darkness, and stress in a comedic way people who have to work with children feel behind their peppy voices and big smiles! HA! Uramichi can be cruel in his inner monologue, but you also feel for him when he gets schooled by a child or has demanding hours from his directors, long hours, or is forced to do something embarrassing in order to get paid, his dreams dashed! It is nice to see a show also focusing on main characters who are in their early 30s. Their quirks are entertaining to watch and over the top. This show is so relatable it hurts! Teachers and parents will understand Uramichi’s struggles! FIGHT, Oniisan!
- You can find this show on Funimation/Crunchyroll (dubbed) or purchase it on Amazon.
Other Amazing Films to Try:
- This touching anime movie is a must for parents, especially single ones. The main character is a mother doing her best to raise her two unique children (they are half-wolf for her husband was a werewolf) after her true love, their father, is suddenly killed. Yes, the supernatural elements add to the hardships of them growing up, but despite this, it is a grounded, relatable story of how as a parent, you worry to protect your children, but as they grow, you have to let them make their own decisions, decide their own paths, even if it doesn’t work or breaks your heart to let them go. How the kids mature and change from adorable kids to teens is mind-blowing and real. This touching story is worth a watch and a way to connect to your kids growing into their own people.
The Boy and The Beast-
- Another one about parenthood, yet this time adopted. It also involves supernatural creatures/monsters, lol! A little boy runs away and ends up in the world of monsters, taken in as the apprentice of the toughest warrior in the land, a humanoid, massive bear. The two argue like cats and dogs, but as they train together and the years go by, they evolve into a father-son rapport. Yet, when this tough bear accepts he has a ‘son,’ the high school-aged young man goes back to the human world to visit and after meeting his biological father and a kind-hearted girl, thinks he wants to live with his own kind once more. The magic and fantastical components are more apparent in this movie, but it’s still a heart-warming tale of how parents and families come in all forms and shows the struggles of growing up, for the parents and children.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas-
- A roller-coaster film of an unexpected friendship between a peppy high school girl and an isolated high school boy form, her opening up his world. The catch? They met in a hospital, where she declares she is dying of pancreatic cancer. Seeing how this fine young woman still is cheerful, despite her illness, and declares to get our No Name protagonist out of his shell is endearing and heartbreaking. There are plenty of tender and fun high school adventure antics that blend beautifully with the growth and hardships of the characters. This one is a grand watch to show how fleeting life is and dealing with illness in young people.
- The name may be odd, but bring tissues! This is the FIRST thing I showed our Otaku Anime Girls Group and they were all hugging and clinging to plushies by the end, lol! The ending is one of the greatest shockers I have ever seen! My brother was screaming, lol!
Tiger, Fish, and Josee-
- My most recent anime film watch and it was worth the wait. Another one that is about disability and illness. Our main character saves a girl in a wheelchair when she is pushed down a hill. Her grandmother, to thank him, offers him a job to be the young woman, Josee’s, caretaker. He needs the money badly to save up for going to college in Spain. They butt heads, her making his existence miserable, but as the story progresses, so does their understanding and lack of their current ailments and situations. There are some good plot twists entertainment-wise, but it is a stunning story of disabilities, the power of dreams, understanding, confidence, the healing power of art, new experiences, and life alterations and how we can handle them.
- This one is an odd pick and I would recommend it for 16+ due to some drinking, smoking, and gun violence, but the story is gripping. It stars three homeless people on Christmas Eve night who find a baby in the trash and their escapades to return her home while having no experiences or resources. All of them have a past and reason for being homeless, pulling at your heartstrings. Seeing how they are treated as well for being homeless is an eye-opener. They are people, just like we all are. And our trio is for sure a dysfunctional family and their personalities are so fresh and cooky, but you’re rooting for them the whole time!
She and Her Cat: Everything Flows-
- This 30-minute short is darling and turned me into a puddle of awwws and tears! As a cat mom, this spoke to me, but anyone who has bonded with a pet needs to watch this. From the perspective of a cat, we see him growing up with his owner and the love they have for each other. Yes, you will need tissues for this one, but hearing their pure, unbreakable relationship from the cat’s voice and his wishes at the end opens up your mind. Pets are part of your family; cherish them. This special confirms it.
Be educated through culture; we are all beautiful souls! Stay geeky!
Educator of young minds by day, super nerdy savior of justice, and cute things by night, Morgan Straughan Comnick has a love for turning the normal into something special without losing its essence. Morgan draws from real-life experiences and her ongoing imagination to spark her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys doing goofy voices, traveling to new worlds by turning pages, humming child-like songs, and forcing people to smile with her “bubbliness.” It is Morgan’s mission in life to spread the amazement of otaku/Japanese culture to the world and to stop bullying; she knows everyone shines brightly.
For more information about Morgan and her works, check out her website, which also has links to all her social medias: http://morganscomnick.com