One of the striking features of coming of age animes is their ability to grasp the attention of audiences for extended amounts of time. The stories are enthralling, captivating and resonate with the beliefs of the audience more than any other entertainment medium. Surely, animes had been around for a while now, expanding their genres to multiple levels. Genres like Shonen and Seinen are well-known by many anime fans. However, certain anime shows are tagged under the type – “Coming of Age”. This is a particularly odd genre, especially because of the fact that this genre is a little underrated in other entertainment modes, though, in animes, it is very popular. Anime shows that fall under this genre are mostly watched by high school students, though it can also be captivating for mature audiences too.
Brief overview of coming of age animes
So what is the general idea behind a coming of age animes?
Coming of age stories typically describe the “growth” of a particular character, from childhood to adulthood, who is mostly the protagonist of the series. Growth in this sense does not just mean physical maturity or time-lapse. Growth is considered from all perspectives – physical, mental, emotional and environmental. However, for these stories, the main focus is not on growth, but on the “factors” that influence the growth of the protagonist. These factors include – people, the ones with which the protagonist interacts throughout the story, the environment around him/her and the unexpected situations that the protagonist has to deal with. All these factors cluster up together and are thrown into the life of the main character, and the real “focus” is on the “decisions” and “actions” that the protagonist takes to deal with them.
But, can Coming of Age be considered as a genre?
Practically, it is impossible to “tag” a certain anime as a coming of age type. In fact, coming of age itself is not a genre, rather it is a concept imbibed deep within every type of story. A romance anime can also be a coming of age anime. The meaning always lies somewhere in the story, so superficial analysis cannot decide whether an anime is a coming of age or not.
Is Coming of Age = Shonen?
This can be a good debatable topic, though I personally think that these two are different from each other as per their core meanings. The reason is that “Shonen” represents goals, whereas coming of age represents “Growth”. For example – One Punch Man is a shonen anime. The protagonist and world setting – both are completely fictional and non-resonating with the real world. Any kind of “growth” or development of such a story/character is just superficial and a part of 100% creative storytelling. This is the reason why Shonen is not entirely Coming of Age, though certain Shonen animes can have coming of age elements, provided they are realistic.
Haikyuu, on the other hand, is a volleyball-based sports shonen anime that is always considered a coming of age anime because it finds itself in the green area of “realism” as we see the character development of characters. They“actually “grow” to maturity from all perspectives, similar to real life.
What is the prime focus of Coming of Age animes?
The highest point for these animes is failures and setbacks – key elements that change the overall story from all directions. Failures have the biggest impact on characters, forcing them to change in order to either fight back or surrender. They also have a long-lasting impact and memories for the protagonist. Nevertheless, the lowest points in life teach us the most valuable lessons, making them the most crucial and complex part to be included in a story. If not executed properly, they can destroy the whole purpose of the anime.
Impact on Viewers
Animes tell a story in much more depth than any other movie/tv show. Because of this, they tend to stand out, adding a lot of impact on the viewer’s mind. We watch typical movies, shows and operas for short term entertainment and pleasure. But on the other hand, animes are vivid, transparent and “attached” to real life, in a way that “triggers” the super-conscious side of our minds, allowing us to think and put our brains in action. No doubt that some amazing animes tend to complexify the beauty and uncertainty of life. Relatability is one of the prime factors that make animes unique.
Similarly, animes that fall into the coming of age domain allows viewers to get a feel and understanding of a person’s life, other than their own. It’s a fact that introspection gives fluidity to our emotions and decisions, though single-minded thinking is not enough to achieve the best results. Coming of age animes tend to show the happy as well as the bitter sides of many characters. People have different ways of growing up, and we should understand the fact that this should be respected. Boundaries and limitations may be trivial for one, on the other hand, for others, it may seem like an asteroid falling on earth. We never know the true gist of the situation until we understand it from everyone’s point of view.