Anime, and my recent parenting fail

I am an anime-lover.  It all started in the ’90’s when I read a story about this big new cultural phenomenon that everybody interesting would be talking about.  They promised cartoons for adults.  I couldn’t wait.  I watched Akira and my mind was totally blown.  So many years have gone by and my former love affair with traditional media has gone by the wayside, but I still dearly love anime.  Oh, I knew that becoming a mom would effect my TV viewing habits.  Out with The Tudors and Dexter (still love ’em though).  One of these days I’ll have to give up watching The Venture Brothers.  Oh, well, at least I can still watch InuYasha!  Mike has been watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and really enjoying it.  Whenever I’d walk in on it, I’d watch along and get sucked in and quiz him about all the details I’d missed by not starting at the beginning.  One day, after I asked him a few too many questions, he told me I just needed to go and watch the series from the beginning already.  Great idea, I think.  Liam is somewhat interested in anime himself and sometimes watches it with us, so it’s much easier to take care of him and watch something in a cartoon format than it is to do just about anything else that I enjoy.  The central characters in Fullmetal Alchemist are children, so he seems to pay more attention to that show than to others we watch.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a really sad, grim story line.  The Elric brothers are orphans who try to use alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead.  They failed in that endeavor and the older brother lost an arm and a leg and his younger brother lost his whole body (he is now a soul in an empty suit of armor).  There is a lot of talk of a genocidal war that took place a few years prior to the storyline, you get the picture.  It’s dark, but I’m pretty sure my 1.5 year old can’t understand all that yet.  And I was really bothered by the way childhood is depicted in children’s movies when I was a child.  I actually want him to be exposed to a story of children being sad and suffering.  There may be no redemption at the end of it all.  And Mike and I aren’t as concerned as my mother would think we should be about the action violence that our son sees.  We shield him from gory stuff and things that are disturbing or frightening to adults.  Well, we did until this past week.  And then I sat, with my son watching on my lap, the saddest episode of anime I have ever seen.  It wasn’t bloody and there was really no warning of what was coming.  And when it came, I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t think about whether it was appropriate to continue to allow Liam to watch.  I didn’t think anything amiss until I went to bed that night and realized I was disturbed by what we’d seen.

Yup, I let my kid watch a show about a father who turned his little daughter into a chimera (he crossed her with their sheepdog) and the rage and sadness the Elric brothers feel upon discovering his evil deed.  Once the child was turned into a chimera, she could not be turned back into a little girl.  The boys grieve for her and then another character, who is killing alchemists, goes to kill the girl’s father. When he finds the girl in this state, he slays her as well in an act of mercy.  I was obviously not using my parenting smarts.

I discussed this some with Mike over the weekend.  He’s actually seen the entire series and he just has a different perspective from me about what is OK and not for kids to watch.  For all I know, Liam had watched this already with Daddy.  I give my son a lot of credit, but I do actually think that he’s a little too young for tales of children being harmed by their parents.

And I plan to be more careful in the future.  But what frustrates me about this is that I am willing to give up watching almost everything that is inappropriate for little eyes and ears, but come on, these are cartoons we’re talking about.  I’m aware that they are geared towards teenagers and adults, but, well, I need to be able to watch something besides Spongebob and The Wonder Pets.  These stories don’t involve any sexual immorality (or any sexuality at all that I’ve seen), and the good guys are good, moral people who want to make things right in the world.  I’m having a hard time accepting the fact that at least some episodes are still inappropriate for my child to watch.  Mike says he feels that the thing to do here is to be aware of what’s on the screen and find other things for little man to do when something comes up that seems inappropriate.  I don’t know how well I can do that, but I will try and in the future I will pay more attention to the content of what I’m watching (apart from the sight of blood).

What do you think?  How do you handle these dilemmas?  Are there any anime lovers who would like to chime in?  I actually don’t mind that the series shows death, but I’m not so excited about their depiction of a child suffering and then being killed.

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