Child soldiers are real and it’s always been a tragic reality. Like many aspects of real life, child soldiers are depicted in anime and manga. Depending on the series, the fact that their are children in war may be presented as tragic or its so common that it doesn’t matter. In some series characters look like children but technically aren’t (by age). Generally, anime child soldiers are tragic victims of circumstance or really talented for their age. My top 5 are:
5. FullMetal Alchemist
The State Military in FullMetal Alchemist doesn’t often permit child soldiers. Edward Elric became a member of the military at the age of twelve. With the aid of Colonel Mustang, Edward is able to gain a place among the military. During the Ishvalan War some child soldiers were used. Colonel Mustang was traumatized after having to kill a boy that attempted to kill him.
The Gundam series uses too many child soldiers to count. There’s 16 year old, Amuro Ray, all the main pilots in Gundam Wing were 15 at the series start. Setsuna F. Seiei from Gundam 00 was 16. He was forced to kill his own parents and watch fellow child soldiers die. Usso Eving in Victory Gundam was the youngest at 13. Well you get the point.
3. Dragon Ball Z
Gohan was forced to fight Raditz at the age of 4. When Vegeta and Nappa arrived to destroy the Earth he and the other Z fighters were prepared to die. Gohan was 5. Later, Gohan saved the world from Cell (and was the most powerful being on Earth) at age 11. Freiza enslaved Vegeta when he was 5, Goku was sent to concur Earth as an infant. Goten and Trunks battle Majin Buu as 7 and 8 year olds.
Basically every ninja in Naruto was a child soldier at some point. It’s normal for the average ninja to graduate the academy at twelve. From there they join a four man team that engage in missions. While many early missions aren’t life threatening, there’s always a chance. Some exceptional ninja begin earlier. Kakashi graduated at age 5, became Chunin at 6, and became a Jonin at 13. Itachi graduated at 7, Chunin at 10, became a member of the ANBU at 11. At the age of 13 he was ordered to kill his clan, including his parents. Gaara was turned into a Jinchūriki to become a child soldier. Finally, when the Fourth Shinobi War begins most of the Konoha 12 were under 17 years old.
1. Attack on Titan
With the incredibly high mortality rate and three years of training, soldiers are allowed to enlists as twelve year olds. When the main characters Eren, Armin, and Misaka begin fighting their about 16. In the Marley Warrior Program, children as young as 5 are enlisted. They are promised full citizenship and better living conditions. Some are chosen to become one of the Nine Titans.