By Brianna Harkins from Fort Worth, Texas
I can’t get enough of wholesome, feel-good animated shows and movies. And neither can my Millennial and Gen Z pals. We grew up on Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids, 4K!DS TV, Warner Bros, Boomerang, and probably a few others. I didn’t stop watching “kids’ shows” after I graduated into adolescence, and I thought I was the only one—and, for a while, I was. But the older I’ve gotten (I’ll be 27 later this Spring), the more I’m seeing young adults return to their nostalgic roots, rewatching the cartoons they grew up on and discovering new ones that, while still being wholesome and inviting, have moments of deep, thought-provoking and dark themes. The lighter side of the shows capture our attention, and the darker side keeps it, making the show feel age-appropriate even though it’s presented as a children’s show. I want to share with you some of my favorite safety blanket shows that, while wholesome, are not devoid of genuine thought and feeling; some even with a dash of darkness.
Where to watch: Netflix
“Fearless and free-spirited Hilda finds new friends, adventures and magical creatures when she leaves her home in the enchanted forest and journeys to the city.”
The show Hilda follows the adventures of a young girl with the same name who just moved from living in the forest with her mom and pet deerfox, to the town of Trolberg. She makes friends with the timid, bug-magnet, David, and brilliant fellow Sparrow Scout Frida. The three go on adventures ranging from good fun to entirely dangerous. They encounter stone trolls, librarian witches, paperwork loving elves, haunting teenage Marras, and much more. Hilda longs for peace among all species and works tirelessly with her friends to achieve it. The show reveals the real struggles friends face, mother-daughter tension, equality, magic, prejudice, loss, love, and the joys and fears that come with adventure. Hilda has two seasons and one movie taking place after the events of season two.
Where to watch: Netflix
“Frustrated with her thankless office job Retsuko, the Red Panda, copes with her daily struggles by belting out death metal karaoke after work.”
Aggretsuko follows the life of Retsuko who struggles with her overly-demanding accounting job with an impossible boss who calls her “Calendar” (“Short-Timer” in the Japanese Dub) “’cause [her] days are numbered.” Retsuko expels her anger and frustration by singing death metal at a local karaoke club. Her karaoke persona is the opposite of her real-life self who is timid and anxious, sometimes prone to bouts of depression. Aggretsuko shows the difficulty balancing work, social, home, and love lives. The struggles Retsuko faces, from societal pressure to searching for yourself, are extremely relatable and prompts the audience to live vicariously through her. If you are frustrated with any part of your life and want a companion who gets you, Aggretsuko is the show for you. Liking death metal is definitely a plus!
Show: Carole & Tuesday
Where to watch: Netflix
“Small town girl Tuesday takes the midnight train to Alba City, leaving home for her dreams. There, she sees city girl, Carole, singing on a bridge.”
Carole and Tuesday is an incredibly heavy show to unpack, but I will try my best. The show takes place on high-tech, futuristic Mars where Tuesday runs away from her wealthy political family to become a musician. Carole is a refugee from Earth, orphaned when she was little. The pair hit it off immediately and Carole lets Tuesday live with her. Together, they form a duet and play whenever and wherever they can. But that’s just the beginning. The show not only follows the two of them but also follows many complex characters, none of them one-dimensional. Carole & Tueday has many themes: feminism, balancing talent and drive, LGBTQIA+, fame, broken homes, stalking and assault, life and death, rich and poor, perfection, mental health, hard-work… The list goes on. I think I cried every episode, and I think you will too. In addition to incredible writing and character development, the music and vocals are phenomenal. Do yourself a favor and watch this truly inspirational show ASAP!
Show: Silver Spoon
Where to watch: Funimation or Crunchyroll (It was on Netflix, but is no longer.)
“Surrounded by new classmates, farm animals, and Mother Nature, Yuugo Hachiken must overcome the challenges ahead of him at Ezono.”
Silver Spoon is one of my all time favorite slice-of-life anime shows. Even though it has emotional depth, it is easy to watch. It’s perfect if you just need a break from the hustle and bustle of life. City boy Hachiken felt his life was at a dead end due to the intense amount of pressure his parents and competitive prep schools put him under. He decides to move to Yezo Agricultural High School to study in the Department of Dairy Science. Hachiken joins the equestrian club where he meets his crush, Mikage. Throughout the show, Hachiken learns respect for animals and the amount of effort it takes by so many people to provide food for everyone. He also learns hard-work, leadership, the importance of different kinds of intelligence, friendship, different family dynamics, and managing one’s destiny. I love this sweet, heart-warming show and I hope you do too!