Anime Collection Development & Programming: Part 2 – Language Selection, Ratings, and Helpful Resources

Choosing anime to order or use in programming can be tricky. A vast majority of anime is in Japanese (or all of it depending on how strictly you want to follow the definition). Sometimes you will have to make the decision on dubbed and subtitled. It’s easy to think, “Well they will all want to hear it in English so I’ll get the dubbed version”, but this is not always the case. The teen librarian at another branch recently had a program where they started with the dubbed version but decided they’d rather do the subtitles. Many of the more hardcore fans prefer the subtitles. I’ve found the younger audiences and more casual viewers prefer the dubbed version.

Another part of anime that can cause problems is ratings. The Japanese have a more liberal view of what can be shown on TV than we tend to have here. Because of this and because their movies are coming over without being vetted by our rating systems, much of what you are going to be buying isn’t rated. Being unrated is not quite the same thing we’ve come to expect from our “unrated” films. I remember as a teen being excited about the unrated version of Blade because it meant Wesley Snipes would be chopping up a lot more bad guys in ways they weren’t allowed to put in theater. With the anime, it just means it has not been rated by the MPAA. It could be the most innocent show about a middle school baseball team and still be unrated. With anime though, it could also be about a middle school baseball team and be not-so-innocent. You never really know without researching, because there isn’t always that nice box that says, “Contains violence and some profanity” when you order it.

If you need help picking materials to order or for programming there are some great resources out there, many of which are free. The Internet Movie Database ( has long been a reference librarian’s best friend for movie questions. One feature you might not have noticed is their “Parent’s Guide”. Not all movies have this option on IMDB, but it is a great tool for the ones that do. It is a guide where users rate how much violence, profanity, sex & nudity, and drug use is in a title. People who submit also have the option to explain why the ratings are the way they are.

The Anime Cafe ( has a lot of good resources on it, but the best part is probably the “Parent’s Guide”. Like IMDB, it is not an official rating, but they categorize hundreds of anime films as family friendly, parental guidance suggested, or mature.

Amazon’s bestseller and new release lists are probably your best bet for finding the new and popular titles, but the Anime News Network ( is a site run by fans that can help you take a deeper look into the genre.

If you are willing to dish out a small amount of money, the subscription to the magazine Otaku USA can be had for $19.95 per year. It is the Rolling Stone of anime and has plenty of reviews and articles on the topic.

The final resource I would recommend is your coworkers. When I got this gig, I didn’t know anything outside of the Miyazaki movies. I was fortunate that two of the clerks were huge anime fans who still give me ideas on what to order and what the teens will like in the programs. In fact they are how I learned about some of the resources I just mentioned. One of them even put together a 2 hour playlist of J-pop (Japanese pop music) and K-pop (Korean) for my Halloween party!

Jonathan Davis is the assistant branch manager and teen librarian at a large Indiana public library system (Lake County Public Library). He has ordered anime DVDs for 10 branches for nearly two years and has been running a successful teen anime club for most of this time. He received his MLS at Indiana University.

These articles are written in conjunction with a seminar on anime collection development and programming that were certified by the Indiana State Library that he presented in conjunction with his fellow teen librarian at Lake County Public Library, Jennifer Billingsley. This seminar will be presented again at the Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference in Indianapolis this November.

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  1. I was one of those purists who only watched subtitled anime as a teenager, but in presenting programming, I tend toward dubs just because there’s always somebody in the group who, for whatever reason, can’t read fast enough to keep up with the subtitles. It’s an issue of inclusivity for me.

  2. Great post! I had no idea about IMDb’s Parent Guide!

    I also really like Their ratings are pretty accurate regarding the content. It’s also a good place to see reviews, learn what’s currently popular, and get recommended watch-alikes.


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