The coming of age story is defined as a narrative that follows a young person through their transition from childhood to maturity, whether the setting of it involves fighting dragons or maths homework. Either way, the protagonist/s have a pivotal moment on their journey and a lesson they learn that propels their character development and essentially says something profound about the adult world that they’re now more in tune with. Everyone was a kid and a teenager at some point, so it’s kind of a universal theme.
A lot of anime is aimed at young people, which explains why there are so many school uniforms fluttering around since the high school experience is the one most relatable to the target audience (and also they’ve kind of elevated to pop culture cult-interest status, but that’s another story). With adolescents involved and being sought out as an audience, the medium is full of stories about the trials and tribulations of growing up. I wondered, as one does, if the conventions were the same as one would find in the Western YA fiction market.
A note before we begin a somewhat lengthy, ponderous and example-filled post: I make an effort not to generalise when talking about anime since it’s a medium rather than a genre, with the same range of content between high fantasy and slice-of-life sitcoms that Americans and Europeans find in their live-action TV. However, for the purposes of this article I do note that a lot of the same cultural conventions remain the same throughout anime series, understandably enough—a lot of them have a similar sense of humour and values and will be affected by the climate that they were made in and the audience they’re made for. And in this case, whether hard-hitting or escapist, that is the teenager. Continue reading