Outgrowing anime. It’s a strange, sad reality that may strike some of us. It’s hard to believe that the refuge we found as children may one day become unrelatable for us as adults. While some may see this as a natural progression of “maturing”, I am one to disagree. There is no reason that anyone would outgrow a particular medium of storytelling. It’s not like one day you wake up, five o’clock shadow prominent, bagged eyes with the weight of your unfulfilled potential keeping you down, going “boy I sure do hate music now that I’m old, withered and looking upon our fair mother creator as she prepares to take my soul back into her warm bosom”. Or you might. Who knows, dude?
But, really, when you say, “I’m outgrowing anime,” what you are probably meaning is, “I can no longer relate to the characters anymore.” And I believe it is this lack of relatability that causes most of us to feel like anime isn’t for us anymore.
The biggest alienating aspect of anime to someone getting older would undoubtedly have to be the setting, in most cases, high school. As a teenager, high school setting anime were my absolute favorite. There was such an appealability of a small sandbox environment where individuals who may have otherwise not hung out, being forced together to achieve some common goal and grow through that unknowable period of life we call adolescents. As a young person, I could relate. Baka and Test, Air Gear, Clannad, Angel Beats, Soul Eater, the list of excellent school setting anime goes on and on.
And while some of the ideas presented may feel like foreign fantasy, i.e.: learning to reap souls, getting into ridiculous roller skate battles and not being failed by your education system, there was indeed a natural relatability underlying each of them. The general consensus of all of these shows is basically, growing up is hard but having some decent friends makes it easier. And because of this, a teenager can seemingly watch an endless slew of these shows. Characters and worlds that give us the strength we need to make it to adulthood. But then we do.
As an adult, I simply can no longer engage with the school settings of anime. Now that I’ve undergone the trials and tribulations of growing up (if you can call this ethereal body, I currently inhabit an adult) I cant relate. 7 years ago, I would have been all over something like My Hero Academia or Your Lie In April. But now, I can’t get into it. High school is just behind me. Not in any dramatic, “I’ll never go back,” sort of way, but more of a, “I did it, it’s done, and I’d rather not engage with the past too much”.
So, you must ask, is this the end for me, as an anime consumer? And the answer is, maybe not. In a previous article, I mentioned the beauty of Golden Boy, an anime that follows a 25-year-old who forsakes conventional society in favor of one in pursuit of knowledge, experiences, and delectable toilets. Now at the ripe old age of 24, I find a true resonance with Golden Boy that I didn’t have as a teenager, (I’m not exactly looking for stank nasty toilets, but I guess a lot can change in a year). I see its protagonist Kintaro just wanting to make the most out of his life and break away from the rigid structure he thought he would follow.
It has a similar feel to Get Backers, an anime about two 20 somethings taking on odd supernatural work to avoid getting real jobs. In your early-mid-twenties, for me at least, the name of the game is realizing what you actually want to do. And this is a period that doesn’t really come in high school, or college even.
Once you’ve lived, once you’ve seen what does and doesn’t mesh for you, then you will be ready to pursue happiness. And luckily there are some great anime out there with that feeling. Are they few and far between? You bet. But struggling to find happiness is the most adult thing you can do.