****Ed. I originally had envisioned this as a sort of comic “How to be an ageing Otaku guide” but it all came down to, do whatever you want, you’re an adult! Then I started singing “I threw it on the ground” on the bus and people looked at me weird. Point is, there’s no age range to enjoying storytelling or art. it’s the people who think that way that are being silly, in my opinion. Instead, I look at changing viewer age demogrphic.****
It’s true that the average age of the anime fan is still on the low side. We expect people who enjoy the medium to be somewhere between their teens and mid-twenties. It’s also the most common demographic for Bloggers it seems (although that may just be that people with full-time jobs don’t have as much time to blog). But there’s also a growing, or at least ageing, group of anime fans that are increasingly visible and vocal.
A lot of anime bloggers are in school but not all, which was honestly unexpected to me. Last con I went to had a huge amount of adults in full cosplay without a kid in sight. Even some retirement-age folks decked out in armour. Awesome isn’t it! I thought it was.
Also, there’s cosplay everywhere. It’s like the second we found an excuse to make costume-wearing for adults socially acceptable, people went nuts! People of all ages.
This is not how it’s always been. I clearly remember (not that long ago even) when people past twenty didn’t really talk much about enjoying anime. It was a little taboo and often a joke. A sort of stereotype reserved for those weirdos who got stuck in arrested development way too early and could only muster the emotional maturity to enjoy entertainment meant for children. Unlike the sophistication of reality tv! Hmmm, that was catty, wasn’t it? Seems I have a chip on my shoulder about this. Who knew!
But things are different now! A nerd revolution has made anime fans of all walks of life come out of the closet and embrace their many passions openly. Obviously, this is going to have a huge impact on both perceptions and the industry itself! Right?!? right…
I’ve tried to get an accurate portrait of the current state of anime, or rather audience reaction to anime, on several occasions. Who am I kidding, I tried to Google statistics a couple of times but never really got past the third page of results. It’s not the most reliable information and it’s always presented in a vague way. Honestly, it was like I was trying to find the revenue streams of organized crime syndicates..! Wait a minute… conspiracy theory guys! (Kidding, anime isn’t illegal. Most of the time.)
This said, Japanese box office and national ratings I found seem to indicate that most of the anime watched on the islands themselves is aimed at small children. As in very small. Between 7 and 11 or thereabouts. I have to add a pretty big disclaimer here all the numbers I found deal with singular shows or movies. As in the biggest box-office is for movies aimed at children and the biggest ratings are for shows for kids. I couldn’t find any composites for movies and shows aimed at older audiences. It’s entirely possible that adults are in fact watching just as much anime as children (although a little doubtful) but they are all watching different shows so no singular title rates that high.
However, do you know who’s great at releasing numbers? All kinds of detailed numbers. Streaming platforms. They need investors so the more numbers, the better! From those, I’ve gathered that the picture isn’t all that different on an international level. The age range goes up a few years. However, the overwhelming popularity winners all seem to be Shonen both aimed at and starring teenagers. And the little anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered supports that. People all seem to be about the big fighting shonen. Heck, I am as well….
But this is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Are anime studios releasing Shonen because that’s what the audience is watching or is the audience watching shonen because that’s what studios are releasing? That’s a very tough question and one I don’t know the answer to.
On the one hand, natural market pressure would make me think that if the makeup of anime fans is changing, anime will just naturally follow suit. Then again, a lot of anime watchers are so grateful to finally have access to localized series that they will gladly watch whatever’s available and enjoy it. It may take a long time before international audiences can afford to get picky enough to make a visible impact on the medium. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I even want them to.
You see, people are usually very surprised that I enjoy anime, for about 5 seconds. I am often asked why someone with a bit of an outsider complex such as myself would seek out entertainment in which I have no representation. I have no clue where they are getting that though, I thoroughly believe I look exactly like a kawaii anime character…shhhh… don’t burst my bubble…
I won’t lie, I would enjoy seeing more shows with leading characters who are professional adult women. It’s definitely one of the reasons I enjoyed the Recovery of an MMO junkie. Great representation in that show. But I also do manage to see myself in a great variety of characters. Just because they don’t share my exact circumstances doesn’t mean we have nothing in common.
In short, no it’s not weird for me to enjoy entertainment that can also amuse much younger fans. And although I am always for more diversity (it’s fun!) I am in no particular hurry for anime to become an exact mirror of its fanbase. That would be way too many tsunderes!