X
Thanks for reaching out We will be in touch shortly

Your Kids Are Watching Better TV Than You Are

/ / Leave a comment

There is no denying that the world of animation has opened up its doors to adult audiences in recent years. Outside of anime and its multitudes of adult-focused movies and series, we have seen a slew of shows like Rick and Morty, Futurama, Archer, and even Agretsuko which have catered to the older audience with humor, satire, and themes that children would not appreciate. In fact, we at ECG even wrote about animation for adults in the past, which I encourage you to read, and I plan to expand upon in the future myself eventually.

Retsuko, the main character from Aggretsuko (a Japanese anime musical comedy), sits at a desk working on a laptop.

However, today I want to talk a little about what your kids are watching that you really should be watching too. War, treachery, back-stabbing, racism, monsters, mutilation, torture, chaos, secret affairs… you’d think all these themes are consistent with the shows we adults watch like Game of Thrones, but in reality, this is what your kids are already watching, and it’s wonderful!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that they shouldn’t be watching these things, au contraire! These shows are wonderful ways to introduce very advanced deep and intense topics to kids without scaring them, and you may even find they teach valuable lessons and are really fun to watch as adults.

The list I’ve compiled is big, like too big. In fact, I am going to have to split this up into multiple posts. And to be honest I haven’t even had the chance to watch all of these myself. So I am going to start with the TOP 10 recent shows I specifically have seen and I feel do the best job of conveying mature themes and entertaining plots both you and your kids will love.

I know this is not a complete list, and if there are any shows you want me to consider for future posts, please add them in the comments and I’ll take a look.

What’s this, you don’t have kids? Even better! You’ll find these stand up on their own, no children needed. I plan to write several follow up blogs which will tackle such topics as “kid shows you won’t pull your hair out watching with your kids”, and “shows you watched as a kid that still hold up today”.

David Hixon's list of the Top 10 animated kids' shows.

That being said, let the list commence. Also, if you want to watch these without any spoilers, just read the list of names below. Don’t pass the spoiler warning, I repeat, don’t pass the spoiler warning. But I promise, no big spoilers, only minor ones at best. I want you to all watch these so you should be safe reading the whole list.

Porsche GT3 spoiler

Ye Be Warned!

Steven Universe

Characters from Steven Universe, an American animated television series, running and jumping during a sidescroll.

The Cyrstal Gems from Steven Universe.

I figured I’d start this list off with one of the most obvious choices out there. Steven Universe is a doozy of a show. In short, it’s about a boy who grows up in the care of 3 alien women, called Gems. These ladies are part of an Earth Defense force called The Crystal Gems. They have special powers, like shape-shifting, which make them rather powerful.

His dad runs a local car wash, and his mother was a Crystal Gem herself, their former leader, who imbued Steven with some of her magical abilities, thus making Steven a half-human half-gem, the only one of his kind.

What makes this show so great?

This show has everything. It’s a Slice of Life story combined with Action, Adventure, and Mystery. There is a huge cast of characters, most of whom are complex and have their own stories and agendas and development, and sometimes with secrets to be explored.

What really sold me on this was the concept of Fusions, introduced in episode 12 of the first season. Essentially, 2 gems can fuse into one larger gem. The result is spectacular, from “Giant Women” to Prema-fusions. This show has catchy songs, intense battles, emotional turmoil, comedy, and so much more. And it gets really epic.

Steven Universe with cat fingers

Steven Universe with cat fingers.

Why should adults watch this?

If you think Fusions sound a little like innuendo, there is a reason for that. It is very much a joining of two people, and it becomes a major theme of the show. I first realized this was worthy of my attention by the time I got to episode 6, Cat Fingers, where Steven loses control of his powers and turns into a Ghibli-esque monster.

By the end of the first season, major secrets have already been revealed while more questions arise about Steven’s mother and the war she waged thousands of years ago.

This show is a MUST see. If the first episode or so seem slow, just give it a chance. Each episode is short, only 12 minutes, so catching up with the story should be easy.

The Amazing World of Gumball

The main characters from The Amazing World of Gumball

The many characters from “The Amazing World of Gumball”.

While Steven Universe is serious and epic and emotional, Gumball is the opposite, silly and funny and madcap. The humor of this show is often topical and involves everything from politics to video games. There isn’t so much a plot as a cast of characters. You have Gumball, a blue cat kid, his little bunny sister Anais, his adopted fish brother Darwin, his idiot dad Richard (who can out-stupid Homer Simpson any day), and his responsible mom Nicole. Along with his friends and classmates, the show follows the misadventures of Gumball’s family.

What makes this show so great?

To start, the animation is perhaps one of the most unique concepts around. Virtually every character is animated using different techniques. You have the traditional hand-drawn characters, stop-motion characters, 3D animated characters, cut-out paper characters, even a character that is a person’s head upside-down with googly eyes on her chin. The whimsy of the characters and their designs are great, but the humor is spectacular.

A character from The Amazing World of Gumball going Super Saiyan.

Gumball going Super Saiyan.

Why should adults watch this?

The humor is spot on. There are episodes where they make fun of the election, episodes where they explore the ridiculous nature of old-school Final Fantasy style video games, even an episode where Gumball goes all “Social Justice Warrior” on someone at school.

One of my favorite episodes was when the creators of Gumball directly address a rip-off show from China that they found copied their show to a T. They aren’t afraid to take the humor places you don’t expect, and address real-world events in a humorous way children don’t understand.

This is a show you have to see, but you can see completely out of order.

Gravity Falls

Disney’s Gravity Falls American animated series

Disney’s Gravity Falls American animated series

Disney’s Gravity Falls was a lot of fun. Essentially it is about a brother and sister, Dipper and Mabel, spending the summer with their Great Uncle (“Gruncle”) Stan in his cabin turned oddity shop in the woods, the “Mystery Shack.” Soos and Wendy, employees at the shack, get caught up in the events that unfold. Over the course of the summer, mysterious things start to happen, including a book that reveals the secrets of the forest, which lead to a hidden author and an evil plot.

What makes this show so great?

You really never know what this show is going to give you. The characters are great, but the unusual events really sell the show. It was clever and strange and very well structured. In fact, the entire story has been completed, with the creator, Alex Hirsch, refusing to make new seasons for the sake of making more, although a graphic novel continuation is planned. There are real-world puzzles you can solve that give hints at events and characters and future episodes, and reveal secrets you might not even really know existed in the show.

Gravity Falls pyramid and symbols

Bill Cypher and the various symbols of Gravity Falls.

Why should adults watch this?

This show has a nostalgia element to it that adults will love, and is full of quirky unusual events that you are always caught by surprise on where it will take you. It is just a really smart show worthy of your attention. Bill is perhaps one of the greatest villains around, actually capable of completing his goals. The story was very impressive, along with the visuals. Sometimes I wonder if there aren’t still secrets in this show no one’s figured out yet.

Star vs. The Forces of Evil

The full cast of Star vs. the Forces of Evil (season 2)

The full cast of Star vs. the Forces of Evil (season 2)

This show is heavy on plot, although it takes a little to get to the real meat of it. The story follows a magical princess, Star Butterfly, who hails from another dimension called Mewni. Star Butterfly receives a powerful magical wand, but unintentionally ends up setting her castle on fire with it. And so, the princess gets shipped off to live as a foreign exchange student with Marco Diaz’s family on Earth so she can continue training in magic without destroying her kingdom. Teen drama happens, along with evil plots by villains like Ludo.

What makes this show so great?

Get to the second season. Things start to get dark. By the third, this show can rival the darkest plots out there. Without revealing too much, the magical girl theme of this show takes a side-seat to the twisted machinations of the shows villains. As silly as Ludo is, Toffee and Meteora are seriously mean. Kingdoms are lost, betrayal is revealed, drama is high. The story mixes humor and silliness with seriously dark themes like torture and racism.

Villians from Star vs. The Forces of Evil

The Magic Council from Star vs The Forces of Evil

Why should adults watch this?

It is really hard to go into how great this show gets without revealing major plot elements and spoiling it. Villains and heroes alike are betrayed. The heroes turn out to be less heroic than you think, and the villains less evil. By the time you get into the third season, everything you thought was safe and fun has turned out to be dangerous and harmful. The events that happen on Mewni in the third season are more serious than anything before. You think Game of Thrones is intense? How about discovering your entire life, even your lineage, is a lie perpetrated by the people you trusted the most? Maybe it isn’t as intense, but it can surprise you. Oh, and it’s hilarious. Mind you, Ponyhead is annoying AF!

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Main characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Main characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender

This one might be a little old today, but it still holds up. It is a fantastic adventure that takes place in a world where some people have the ability to manipulate fire, water, earth, or air with telekinetic powers. Only one person at any given time, the Avatar, can control all 4 elements. The last Avatar was a child named Aang, who disappeared a hundred years ago when the nation of Firebenders attacked and destroyed the air tribes and took over the earthbenders. Now, Aang is discovered by two members of the water tribe, waterbender Katara and her brother Sokka, in the arctic in a trance, still a child. They join forces with others to take on the fire nation, already in control of the world.

You may have heard of this title as a movie called The Last Airbender, well forget that ever existed. It was awful and doesn’t live up to the majesty of the original show. Please, watch the show, give it a chance, the movie never happened.

What makes this show so great?

The animation is spectacular. The characters have to perform martial arts moves to control the elements, and each element requires a different style of movement. The story itself keeps you engaged, and dives deep into the intriguing world where some benders have discovered ways of using their abilities in original and amazing ways, including earth benders learning to bend metal. This really was one of the best shows on tv, period.

Aang's avatar state in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Aang's avatar state in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Why should adults watch this?

Because it is awesome! Remember when I said some benders learn to use their abilities in amazing ways? Some of them get really dark, such as Bloodbenders. Not only that, but the characters go through a hell of a lot, having to fight an uphill battle and learn and grow their own skills and abilities while fighting off assassins, warriors, and technology rarely seen before. The action is amazing with the bending powers and the high quality animation.

The Legend of Korra

Main characters in The Legend of Korra

Main characters in The Legend of Korra

This show is a direct continuation of Avatar, following the adventures of the next Avatar, Korra. In short, technology has advanced quickly but people are still reeling from the hundred years of fire nation rule. Korra is the new Avatar, but she is forced to face the reconstruction of the air tribe while dealing with the politics of a new multi-bender nation, Republic City. When terrorist organizations gain the ability to permanently take away the powers of benders, in an attempt to create true equality, Korra is forced to deal with her fears while teaming up with her mentor, the only airbender teacher in the world Tenzin, and her friends, pro-benders (a sport designed for a team of benders) Bolin and Mako, to tackle the new threat while dealing with the consequences of the last series.

What makes this show so great?

I’ll be straight with you, Korra is great, but the original Avatar is better. However, I think Korra is definitely worth watching. The animation is possible even better than in Avatar, and the bending powers are amazing. To make this more intense, the spirit world, an important element of the original show, takes center stage here, forcing Korra to deal with not only human problems like politics and terrorists, but spiritual, something Aang neglected more than he should have.

The Legend of Korra arena battle

A Pro-Bender tournament in The Legend of Korra

Why should adults watch this?

Like it’s predecessor, Korra turned out to be an amazing show full of action and intrigue. The characters are older now, so teen drama becomes an element, but they don’t lean heavily on it, since there is so much going on. Korra has to deal with more adult issues, including love, identity crisis, racism, terrorist groups, and making peace with yourself.

Voltron: Legendary Defender

Voltron: Legendary Defender epic pose

Voltron: Legendary Defender

If you liked the original Voltron from the 80’s, this new one will leave you with a feeling of nostalgia while introducing you to a whole story. In short, the story is about an ancient alien war that virtually wiped out a race called the Alteans. While searching for the legendary weapon, Vontron, the evil Galra Empire, led by Lord Zarkon, discovers a part of it, the Blue Lion, hidden on Earth. Now a group of human space pilots, Shiro, Keith, Lance, Hunk, and Pidge, get caught up in the war, becoming the pilots for the intergalactic weapon and discovering the last surviving members of the Altean race, Princess Allura and Coran, who’s race built the weapon.

What makes this show so great?

This is an action-centric story, but the characters end up becoming the secret ingredient that really makes this a fun remake. In fact, I would say this is better than the original. The animation, plot, and writing is superb, and it is clear they have a larger plot outlined for the entire show. The animation is amazing, and the space battles are really visually impressive.

The full cast of Voltron: Legendary Defender

The full cast of Voltron: Legendary Defender

Why should adults watch this?

Besides the nostalgia of the show, you’ll find the plot to take twists and turns that might be confusing for a younger audience. No longer does Voltron rush into battle, only to draw its signature sword and end the fight in one swing. Now a war is raging, people are dying, and Voltron has to lead a group of freedom fighters to take back what is theirs. It does the original show justice and then some.

Over the Garden Wall

Main characters from Over the Garden Wall

Main characters from Over the Garden Wall

This is a beautiful, short, simplistic show with a unique feel and sense of style to it. The story follows two brothers, Wirt and Greg, who get lost in the woods but don’t remember anything. They get help from a talking bird, Beatrice, and a series of characters, to try to find their way out of the forest while avoiding the dreaded “Beast” that lurks in the woods.

What makes this show so great?

The style and story are great! And the story is dark and mysterious, with the ever-lurking presence of the evil Beast tormenting the characters. The oldest brother has to deal with his laid-back younger brother who seems to take nothing seriously, while keeping them both safe.

Skeleton from Over the Garden Wall

Skeleton from Over the Garden Wall

Why should adults watch this?

Ok, I’m going to be honest here, this charming show will completely blow your mind by the end. The reveal takes you for a turn, and you will be talking about it for weeks. This might not be as epic as Steven Universe, or as dark as Star vs. The Forces of Evil, but it is charming and nostalgic and wonderful.

Tangled: The Series

Rapunzel from Tangled: The Series

Rapunzel from Tangled: The Series

Remember Tangled? The Disney movie about Rapunzel? I know, it’s hard to remember anything before the wonder/atrocity of Frozen, but Disney’s film just before that was Tangled. And If I'm being honest, I think it was amazing and one of Disney’s overall best films. If you liked that movie, consider watching the TV series. Essentially it picks up right after the events of the movie but before she marries Flynn/Eugene (as seen in the short film Tangled Ever After). Except for this time, it focuses on the magic that gave her her amazing hair.

What makes this show so great?

The style of this show is amazing! It is so refreshing to see something in 2D with a style that doesn’t look like your typical anime or cartoon. They even got the original cast, and added a whole new set of characters that work well with the story. Speaking of, the story is very entertaining.

When Rapunzel’s father forbids her from leaving the castle, for fear of losing her again, she rebels against him and sneaks out at night. While out, she finds the place where the magical golden flower was plucked, now covered in mysterious dark stone thorns. Somehow, her presence agitates the magic there, and her hair returns, this time indestructible instead of healing. The thorns start chasing her, jutting from the ground, and are unbreakable like her new hair. As she deals with her family, her relationship with Eugene, and her desire to be herself while fitting into the role of a princess, she also has to face the looming threat of these thorns approaching her kingdom and threatening their lives.

Rapunzel and Cassandra stare at the miracle flower that once saved Rapunzel’s mother.

Rapunzel and Cassandra in Tangled: Before Ever After discover the miracle flower that once saved Rapunzel’s mother.

Why should adults watch this?

The compelling and twist-taking narrative hooked me from the start. They do an amazing job with the production, and the style is enjoyable. But the way they address elements of the original story and bring in the complex interactions of a teenage Rapunzel in her new life really makes this a great show. Don’t be too taken aback by the “girly” exterior of the show either, it has some dark and serious elements, and the visuals are actually very good and not at all childish or “girly”.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Not that there's anything wrong with “girly.” That’s right men, My Little Pony really is a great show. The story follows a studious magician-in-training Twilight Sparkle, whose wise mentor, Princess Celestia, sends her to a town called Ponyville to learn how to get along with other ponies. There, she meets a cast of characters including Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Applejack, and they go on adventures together. Pretty simple.

What makes this show so great?

So the names throw you off, right? Well, the interactions of these characters are actually really fun! Plus, the the animation style is very fresh and cartoony, with lots of exaggeration. Oh, and it focuses on some pretty serious things, like ostracising, pent-up rage, self-control, etc. Meanwhile, they have to fight off characters like Nightmare Moon, Discord (my favorite character), and Queen Chrysalis. In all, the stories are very humorous, and the characters well rounded while remaining true to their roles.

Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Why should adults watch this?

For one, did you know Doctor Who is in this? Well, they call him Doctor Whooves. And then there’s Weird Al, aka Cheese Sandwich. And “Q” of Star Trek lore himself, John de Lancie, as Discord, which is pretty much the same character. There are a ton of topical and nerdy references that kids just won’t get, and they love to play with it. Weird stuff happens in this show, discord being one of them. These well-developed characters deal with a lot of personal issues. And the fact that most of these villains aren’t bad for the sake of being bad is refreshing too. In fact, in later seasons, one of the more challenging antagonists ends up studying under Twilight Sparkle to learn how to be a better person… er… pony.

So there you have it! 10 shows I feel are worthy of your attention. I know this turned out to be a long post, but again, there are so many more I never even got to! Like Adventure Time, and Phineas and Ferb, and Duck Tails and…well, I’ll have to go over those in another post on another day. But for now, you’ve got your homework, so stop being productive and start watching cartoons!

Avatar

Leave a comment

2018 DEMO REEL

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING?

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG!

GET THE CONVERSATION STARTED!