When people think of animations, they tend to think of children’s classics like Disney princesses, Looney Tunes, and Cartoon Network, though there is a growing attentiveness towards animated television aimed at an adult audience. However, adult TV shows don’t just deliver crude jokes and mature themes. They also often have complex storylines that tug at the heartstrings and offer a unique perspective on several serious issues like mental health, relationships, and morality. I wanted to share some of my favourite adult cartoons and why I think they’re the best, so you can hopefully discover your new favourite show.
Big Mouth (2017-Present): Remember what I said about adult animated shows being known for delivering crude jokes? Netflix’s Big Mouth takes that to the next level. Centering around a group of middle school kids going through the trials and tribulations of puberty, Big Mouth is not afraid of making its audience uncomfortable, and for me that’s where part of the show’s charm comes from. The media has a bad habit of presenting adolescence as a beautiful period of blooming in someone’s life, but this show takes a more realistic approach by highlighting the awkward, messy, confusing, and sometimes straight-up gross experiences people have as they navigate puberty. It also touches upon mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, explores a diverse range of sexualites, and explores the theme of peer pressure.
My standout episodes of Big Mouth:
Season 1 Episode 2: “Everybody Bleeds”
Season 2 Episode 10: “The Department of Puberty”
Season 4 Episode 1: “The New Me”
Bob’s Burgers (2011-Present): This is probably my favourite show of all time, animated and beyond. Bob’s Burgers follows the financially struggling Belcher family as they run a small burger restaurant, and of course, get caught up in a bunch of shenanigans. Not only is the show absolutely hilarious, from the brashly outgoing mother Linda to the boy-obsessed eldest daughter Tina, it’s also refreshingly wholesome. Bob’s Burgers proves that good humour doesn’t have to be mean-spirited or offensive in any way, but rather, can come from a place of silly wit that doesn’t exclude anyone. The Belchers are a family that genuinely love each other, often making sacrifices for the happiness of those they care about. It’s a show that will tickle your funny bone and warm your heart all at the same time.
My standout episodes of Bob’s Burgers:
Season 1 Episode 6: “Shesh! Cab, Bob?”
Season 3 Episode 12: “Broadcast Wagstaff School News”
Season 5 Episode 6: “Father of the Bob”
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008): While I’m well aware that this show is not technically an adult animation, it is so widely enjoyed by an older audience that I decided to include it. Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a world where people can control one of the four elements: water, earth, fire, or air. Every generation, someone is born with the power to manipulate all four elements, and this person is known as the Avatar. They typically use their immense power to keep peace and harmony in the world, and in the case of this show, fight against the evil fire empire. The character development in this show is phenomenal, and the animation style is engaging and mesmerizing. For a show originally aimed at children, it covers a lot of heavy topics like genocide, colonialism, and abuse, and it handles these serious topics with dignity.
My standout episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender:
Season 1 Episode 18: “The Waterbending Master”
Season 2 Episode 15: “Tales of Ba Sing Se”
Season 3 Episode 21: “Sozin’s Comet (Part 4): Avatar Aang”
BoJack Horseman (2014-2020): Nobody ever thought a show about a talking, alcoholic horse would be so heartbreaking, but somehow BoJack Horseman pulled it off. The show follows our protagonist BoJack, a washed-up 90s sitcom star, as he struggles with addiction, mental illness, and relationships. What makes this show so unique is how they made the main character so deeply flawed, with little to no redeeming qualities, and yet somehow you still find yourself rooting for him. It defies all the expectations we normally have for our protagonists and forces the audience to challenge what we deem as likeable or moral. While all the other shows on this list are impactful in their own ways, BoJack Horseman has genuinely changed my perspective on life in such a profound way.
My standout episodes of BoJack Horseman:
Season 4 Episode 6: “Stupid Piece of Sh*t”
Season 4 Episode 11: “Time’s Arrow”
Season 6 Episode 15: “The View from Halfway Down”