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My 10 year old niece loves watching cartoons, and she has a Netflix kids account for her with all parental controls. But while I was browsing my account, she took notice of the Madoka Magica cover and became quite curious and interested.

Logically for her (and many people who see it for the first time) it shouldn't be a problem because it's a colorful anime with magical girls with cute designs.

How do I explain to her that this one is not like the others in a way that makes sense?

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    i think this question would be more suited for Parenting Stack Exchange but then i don't know how many parents there know of Madoka and how the cute cover designs betray some of the themes and scenes in it. i can't even suggest teaching her about ratings because Australia's ratings board rated Atelier Rorona Plus R18+ when the previous version of the same game was rated PG as such ratings borads might not always be correct and i don't know what Madoka is rated where you are – Memor-X Mar 30 '17 at 12:43
  • @Memor-X I posted this here because i think the chance of a parent having a similar experience here is higher. Should I move to Parenting Stack Exchange and provide more information about the show itself? – Ítalo Lessa Mar 30 '17 at 13:03
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    Here's a relevant vid which you should see yourself first and then you might get an idea how to handle this situation (minutes 5 through 22 are what you need). – Hakase Mar 30 '17 at 13:21
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    Have you considered just letting her watch it? It's dark, but I don't remember it being overly violent or sexual. Maybe explain beforehand that it's a dark, sad show where a lot of bad things happen to the characters, but leave open the option to still watch it if she's curious. I showed my younger sister Full Metal Alchemist when she was 10, and she ended up finding the dark moments, like the Shou Tucker episodes, compelling and different. – Torisuda Mar 30 '17 at 13:33
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    She'll be fine. We may find the show dark because it deconstructs conventions that we're used to, but I doubt that a 10yo would be aware enough of them to really get the deconstruction element. She may have a(n) (un)natural disdain for white cats afterwards though. – Suman Roy Mar 31 '17 at 12:43
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Perhaps by letting them know that in Japan, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a late night anime, not a children's anime?

Children's anime in Japan is an anime that caters to audience from baby up to middle schooler. Examples are Pretty Cure series (and most of magical girl anime), Doraemon, Hello Kitty, and Pokèmon. The screening times are either morning (weekend) or evening, where children are on their free time (not school time).

Late night anime, on the other hand, tends to cater to audience from teenage to young adult, usually with more serious & in-depth plot, and even violence and sexual topic. Other examples are Cowboy Bebop, Rozen Maiden, and Attack on Titan. The screening time may start as early as 10pm, up to 2am, the time which children should have been sleeping.


For your 10-year-old niece case... I think I can agree with other answers: let her watch it with parental guidance (though I wish their parents should have known about this anime first), then let her judge the anime by herself.


P.S. Sailor Moon series is also listed as children's anime, and I could argue with myself that the series sometimes also has dark and adult-oriented theme that can only be understood by older viewers, so...

Most of the info was taken from Japanese Wikipedia, not its English counterpart, since it's more descriptive.

  • Main problem: In another countries, cartoon are only for children. The children itself doesn't understand a cartoon who they cannot see. Also, as a source: Shin chan in Japan is night anime, I don't remember if it's R18 or a bit lower but not for kids. But for example, on Spain, it's censored and placed for kids (on kids TV time). – Sakura Kinomoto Nov 16 '17 at 12:03
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I'll break this response up into two parts:

  • What you should say to your niece, and
  • Why you should or shouldn't let her watch the show.

Do forgive me for plastering the word "cartoon" here; my gut feeling tells me that this is the animation age ghetto which Anime just loves to be pigeonholed into.


Not all cartoons are meant for children. There are some which are meant for a more mature audience, like teenagers or adults. In this specific show, the characters deal with harsher and more serious topics than you've ever watched in a normal show; this is something that I'm not sure you'd be able to handle at your age.

It's not only important to look at the cover of the show to give you a rough idea of what it's about, but also its age rating. The rating says it's 13+ because of the things it discusses: violence, horror, and a lot of psychological ramifications of being a magical girl.

Even after what I've said, if you're still interested in seeing it, let your parents watch a few episodes first. Make sure they give you the OK before you watch it.

Just so you understand, this isn't the same type of cartoon you're accustomed to watching, and you may have a lot of concerns, confusions, or fears from watching it. If you want to talk about it or ask questions, I'd be happy to answer them for you.


So, should you let your niece watch it?

Well, it isn't your call. It's her parents' call.

In the response above, I ensured that the responsibility of making that judgment call was given to her parents and not you, since you don't want to be on the hook for introducing your niece to something she might not have permission to see. That said, so long as said permission is obtained, there's no further objection on that front.

In my opinion, she might actually like the show. She's at an age at which a deconstruction of a work she's familiar with may give her a new perspective on the genre as a whole, which could serve to mature her and frame her opinion on anime and manga altogether in a way that isn't terribly one-dimensional. You also have to balance this with the possibility that she never trusts a label that has colorful pictures and magical girls on it ever again.

It's important that you treat this as a recommendation you'd be making to a friend. It's just that the "friend" you're recommending this to would be your niece's parents. The niece has to understand that this isn't something you can simply cosign on and say it's okay to watch, and the parents have to understand what it is they'd be getting their daughter into.

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You know your niece better than I do, but as I said in my comment, if I were you, I would consider letting her watch it.

Madoka is a dark and tragic story, but I don't believe the violence is too much for a ten-year-old. The most brutal scenes are shot in a way that you understand what's happening without needing excessive gore. There's no sexual content; the only possible sticking point is the lesbian subtext in Homura's relationship with Madoka, but it's subtle enough that she probably won't notice it, and if she does notice it, it could be a good chance to have a talk with her about same-sex relationships.

I'm recommending this because I think she might actually enjoy Madoka, though maybe not for the reasons she thinks right now. These kind of anime seem to be a good bridge between simpler, more formulaic stories for children and more ambiguous, sophisticated material for adults, because they deal with mature themes but still do so from a young person's perspective. They're spiced up with reality without being wedded to it, and from that they attain a kind of truth that speaks to older children and teenagers. I first got into anime beyond Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z when I was eleven, and it was because I watched Evangelion, which is a very dark show, and was entranced by how it subverted expected tropes about heroes, villains, and piloting giant robots. I showed my younger sister the 2003 Full Metal Alchemist when she was about ten, and the quite dark Shou Tucker storyline from early in the series made such an impression on her that she mentioned it to me again years later.

I would sit her down beforehand and explain that Madoka is different from Pretty Cure (Glitter Force? Is that what Netflix is calling it?) and whatever other magical girl shows she might have seen, and she might not like it. Explain that it's a dark, sad show where lots of bad things happen to characters we like and there is no happy ending. Once you've explained, ask her if she still wants to watch it. If she does, I would let her.

Because it is so different and so shocking, she might want to talk about it. Take her questions seriously and do your best to answer them in a way she can understand. This could become a very good opportunity to talk about all sorts of mature topics. The difference between violence in movies and in reality, for one, since Madoka derives part of its shock value from how it treats fantasy battles between girls with magic powers and weird alien creatures, which in other magical girl shows are trivial or even fun, as serious warfare that can leave the girls scared witless, traumatized, or dead. Or there's the parallels between the magical girls and child soldiers forced to fight in real wars. There's the resemblance of Homura's mental state to PTSD. There's Kyouko's being a homeless runaway who steals food to live. There's the presumptuous imperialistic meddling of the Incubators, who've decided for us that we'd rather they kill off our children to keep their society going so that we can find them when we develop warp drive and go off into space. Of course, it's better to wait and see what questions she has about the show, rather than try to turn the viewing into a film studies class, but these are all things you could mention if they come up.

If she gets scared or bored and decides that she doesn't want to watch it anymore, don't judge or say "I told you so"; just leave it alone. Better to let her find out for herself instead of trying to stop her; forbidding her will probably just make her more curious.

  • Pretty Cure = Glitter Force on Netflix!? my god what are they doing! – Memor-X Mar 31 '17 at 3:49
  • @Memor-X Yeah, they did a 4-Kidz on it. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glitter_Force. I haven't checked it out yet so I don't know if the dub is okay or not, but that title, geez. – Torisuda Mar 31 '17 at 3:50
  • I'd be surprised if a kid ever inferred sexual/romantic undertones to this. That's an imposition of an adult perspective which can't imagine two young girls (or two anythings, really) being fiercely protective of each other without sex/romance involved. I expect less warped/younger viewers would simply view it as a powerful friendship. It's a common theme. I expect many children would think it a cool idea that a group of friends would fight and alter reality to save each other and the world, purely because it's cool. That was what got this story's ball rolling, after all. – zibadawa timmy Mar 31 '17 at 5:57
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    @zibadawatimmy I agree, at least until you get to Rebellion (and even then it's ambiguous). – Torisuda Mar 31 '17 at 13:48
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I did a bit of an experiment and watched this show with my 7 year old daughter. I knew what was coming so I could explain it all as it came. I let her know ahead of time it’s a sad story and it’s dark. She still wanted to watch it.

Overall the experience was pretty positive even though episode 12 scared her a little (and I don’t blame her). She and I talked about what was going on beyond the surface of the show kinda like a literature class dissects a work but simple so she could understand. She came up with some of her own logic and opinions that was just wonderful.

What I love about Madoka and Evangelion (which I saw going in blind as a 14 year old) is the shows are so deep that you can really get those cognitive juices flowing and get people to think. So part of the enjoyment watching it was not only talking about it but seeing her actively think critically about it. Things overall seemed fine.

However, months later she had an outburst where she admitted it scared her. A solid few months have passed since that outburst and now she told me he doesn’t like the show. I’m not regretful showing her this show at her age despite the delayed negative responses. Had I known about it in advance I might have picked a lighter show to dig in deep, but then again it’s deep because of how it explores the darker places it goes. I didn’t know there was going to be an issue (and really it isn’t one) until months after we finished it.

Ultimately let her parents decide, but if they’re okay with it I’d recommend watching the entire show so they can explain and talk about it deeper than just the story. There’s a lot of stuff to talk about and that’s where the enrichment this modern classic of anime comes from in my opinion.

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