Back in 2009 when I started watching Anime, I started to notice a noticeable trend in Anime these days, It seems that most of these shows take place in a high school setting and usually star a young male or female character. While I think demographics play a big role in this, but there are cultural and other reasons why they do so. (Image Source)
In the United States, high school tends to be loose for the fact that not everyone goes to college and that the education quality is becoming poor. This is why we don’t see much shows based on a high school setting on TV in the West (excluding educational shows). However, one of the reasons why most Anime take place in a high school setting is simple: Asian countries place a lot of importance on education. In Japan, society expects you to behave in a certain way and get some type of professional career. In a sense, there is not a lot of freedom since society upholds a certain expectation. Otherwise, he/she may be labeled as a “delinquent” by society if one cause trouble or cut too many classes.
However, while the high school setting is a tiring one, many tend not to notice it that much since it sits in the background, meaning we mostly see them doing after school activities or things outside of school. They do things such as club activities and even other crazy things such as solving mysteries or practicing to become the best idol unit. In a way, this setting is used to bring in the viewers since everyone experiences it. Regardless of the culture, high school is what we tend to remember as it can relate to our past experience. For me, Tari Tari and K-ON is very relatable as I used to play the piano since I was 4 and Clarinet in concert band. Besides the latter, it takes a lot of effort to create and perform good sounding music.
On the other hand, I feel that demographics is also the reason why we usually see younger characters opposed to older ones. It’s because we can relate to teenage characters since they haven’t established what they want to do in his/her life and they might hold an idealistic view of the world. Because of this, it’s a lot easier to develop them since the author/writer have the freedom. After he/she matures, it’s a lot easier to relate to them as we seen the struggles they face throughout the story.
At the same time, it’s a bit harder to relate to an adult character since they have a varying degree of experiences compared to someone younger. Also, some themes require an older character in order for the story to work. However, they are necessary since not all stories will work with a younger character since he/she needs to be a certain age or reach maturity, although for other stories, its possible in shows like Fate/zero. For instance, if you made Yuuta a teenage character in Papa Kiki, it wouldn’t work since he wouldn’t be mature enough and for the fact that all of them might be spitted up since he is too young despite the resistance. Not only that, how would he provide to the girls while becoming a good father since he would be too young to work?
In the post Yumeka made regarding character’s ages, besides the fact that not all adult characters are replaceable, she also mentions that it’s also hard to replace teenagers with adults as they would already matured to understand the struggles he/she faces. In a sense, I agree since the story would have a less of an impact since they would have a more realistic view. For instance, what if you make the characters in Madoka adults in the same example she used? Perhaps the story wouldn’t change much, but at the same time, Madoka wouldn’t feel the same despair as she would otherwise because she would have a solid worldview. Because of that, it might not be as emotional.
Overall, regardless of the setting, the thing that makes Anime unique is how the authors/writers develop the characters to the point that they become mature. Even so, there are some cases where an adult character is a better fit for more complex and deeper stories. Either way, I don’t think that age should be an issue as both have their uses depending on the type of story. What is more important to me is how they develop throughout the show and what kind of emotional impact they make.
As for the setting, I think this should be less of a problem for the fact that majority of the scenes take place outside of school. Not only that, there are still a good number of shows that don’t take place at school such as Hyperdimension Neptunia the Animation, Dog Days, Gargantia, Fate/zero, Ikoku Meiro no Croisèe, you name it. Not only that, the school setting can be used in a way to make a show exciting to watch. Regardless of the setting, while it’s obvious that studios will tend to target an audience that usually watch Anime, but it should never be the a disadvantage as deeper shows starring adult characters are still being made.
What are your feelings about the school setting and young characters being so prominent? Do you think this is a good or a bad thing?
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