Despite not really having a surplus of them due to the country’s declining birthrate, Japan doesn’t exactly handle its children with kid gloves. Just take a look at Demon Slayer, which in any other country would be aimed at 16-year-olds minimum, because there are more flying limbs than a morgue explosion. But in Japan, it’s rated for 12-year-olds, as the country believes that children can handle a little kid-unfriendly material from time to time. And nowhere is this clearer than with the following five weird Japanese cartoon characters aimed at kids.

5 Weird Japanese Cartoon Characters Aimed at Kids

©Troll/Poplar ©2022 / “Oshiri Tantei”

1. Butt Detective: Exactly What It Says on the Tin and Much More

Butt Detective (or Oshiri Tantei in Japanese) is exactly that: a detective with a butt for a face. So, you can fault the series for a lot of things but never for false advertising. The name actually downplays the insane nature of the Butt Detective books in which the titular detective incapacitates his enemies with his farts. Which, again, come out of his butt face. Obviously. This is when said face is not full of the detective’s favorite sweet potato desserts, known for giving people gas. Please ration your confusion carefully as we haven’t even gotten yet to how his archenemy is a master thief with a poop-shaped hat.

Butt Detective understands that kids find poop and farts funny, so it incorporates them into all of the plots. But it does so as tastefully as possible to get kids interested in detective stories where the endgame fart attacks are just the cherry on top. It’s a difficult tightrope act but the end result is one of the most popular kids’ anime in Japan right now. It is toilet humor but because it’s Japan, it’s smart toilet humor.

On top of that, Butt Detective also puts a lot of work into each book or anime episode to entertain its children audience with puzzles, mazes, or looking for differences between two pictures.

2. Nekozakana: A Cat Wearing Its “Friend” Like a Flesh Suit

Starting its life as a 1982 book by Yuichi Watanabe that eventually grew into a long-running series and a 2016 anime adaptation, Nekozakana literally means Cat-Fish. And that’s exactly what the titular character looks like: a cat wearing a fish costume. That allows it to breathe and move underwater and have all sorts of fun oceanic adventures. How cute. Except that it’s actually a Cronenbergian horror story because the cat’s “costume” is in reality a live fish that he tried to eat, but which turned the tables on the feline and swallowed it instead.

The cat, however, didn’t go gentle into that good night. It thrashed from inside his would-be dinner, deforming the fish’s body until it stretched around its limbs to form a “fish” that could walk on land crossed with a “cat” that could live underwater: the Cat-Fish. After fighting off a shark together, the two decided to stay like this because they made “a good team,” which is a weird euphemism for an unholy union that probably got Satan to finally stop drinking.

3. Higepiyo: Pure Divorced Middle-Aged Man Energy

Higepiyo’s name comes from the Japanese words “hige” (facial hair) and “piyo” (chirp), and that’s exactly what you get. A little yellow chick with a goatee who’s also possibly depressed and definitely an alcoholic on account of no one wanting to buy him as a pet due to his gruff appearance. However, a young boy named Hiroshi sees something in the animal and adopts the chick embodying every stereotype of a divorced, depressed, middle-aged man, from the way he lounges around to his gloomy demeanor and a penchant for sake. In the end, though, Higepiyo finds a new purpose in life. He decides to “make a man” out of his owner while also giving kids everywhere an overtly honest lesson in what happens to people (and fowl) after a lifetime of disappointment and failure.


4. Anpanman: Fights Evil and Feeds the Hungry with His Confusing Anatomy

On air since 1988, the children’s anime Anpanman has managed to amass a massive cast of characters over the years. In 2009, it actually broke the Guinness World Record for the highest number of characters (1,768) in an animated franchise. But it’s the titular one that we should be focusing on. Anpanman is a superpowered hero with an anpan (red bean paste sweet roll) for a head. In itself, this is a fun, innocent idea. At least until Anpanman starts ripping off parts of his face and feeding them to people.

Since Anpanman’s head is bread, this technically shouldn’t be weird. But it is, because it’s anthropomorphic bread, with eyes and a mouth. And there’s no scenario on Earth where your food looking at and talking to you isn’t nightmare material. Weirder still, whenever Anpanman becomes weakened, he can recharge by having the baker Uncle Jam bake him a new anpan head. He switches it out with the old one, adding some haunting philosophical questions about the nature of sentience to Anpanman’s bread body mutilations.

5. Detective Conan: Openly Bloody and Secretly Tragic

Conan Edogawa, the titular character of Detective Conan (also known as Case Closed), seems like a very straightforward character: a precocious child detective who helps the police solve crimes. As anime goes, it’s honestly an underwhelming concept. Yet the show has remained extremely popular since 1996, possibly for two reasons. For one, it’s very violent. The first episode of Detective Conan actually features a gruesome decapitation scene that’s part of a murder-suicide plot. Then there is Conan’s secretly terrifying side.

See, Conan Edogawa isn’t really a child. I mean, he is, but he’s actually 16. The reason why he looks like a 10-year-old is because his nemesis, the villainous Black Organization, tried to kill him with an experimental poison that instead turned him into a kid. So, while Conan has to deal with murderers and thieves, he also has to deal with being a teenager trapped in a preteen’s body. And if the anime ever tackled those issues honestly, it would basically be a horror show. So let’s stop asking questions here.

Top and feature image credit: © Troll/Poplar, Oshiri Tantei Shiriarty movie 2022