****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.****

anime is serious work!

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!

might get uncomfortable Rini
whoa, too far

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….

couldn’t find the artist 🙁

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!

angry Rini

55 thoughts

  1. Wait until you are my age. You’ll understand what it means to be an “aging otaku”.

    I don’t see a lot of Inuyashiki on the horizon so I don’t expect my demographic to be well represented.

    1. Not yet. I usually stay very far away from romance anime as it’s just not my thing but occasionally I fall on one I enjoy

  2. Otona Joshi no Anime Time
    Otona Joshi no Anime Time
    Otona Joshi no Anime Time

    There. I’ve said it.

    There’s a niche for anime that focus on adults. Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Black Lagoon, Rurouni Kenshin, Inuyashiki. Ninja Scroll, JoJo, Berserk, Natsuki Rendezvous, et al. Sometimes there is a secondary child character somewhere but I don’t count that against them.

    I may be wrong but I’m not seeing a lot of adult focused anime in the current crop? Am I deluded or its there a market force at work here?

    I’m also bemused by the whole kodomo, shonen/shoujo, sienen/josei classification scheme. Surely studios use something more sophisticated than that? I found this definition on Google:

    “Seinen” (青年), on the other hand, refers to young men between the ages of 15-24.

    I understand that the word seinen itself means “youth”. I’m really feeling unimportant here. I guess I fell out of their universe 40 years ago.

  3. People who don’t know me expect me to be much younger than I actually am, going off of just my personality. Then they hear my voice and they think I’m much older than I actually am. Just goes to show, people can be sorely mistaken about ages. As for the topic of liking anime and stuff as one grows older, I always say, if you enjoy it, then don’t be limited by something like age. If you find yourself not enjoying it, then simply stop. It’s got nothing to do with age, it’s a matter of preference.

    Different communities have different criteria according to which something is classified as ‘childish’ or ‘for adults’. In this modern day and age, it is up to the individual whether or not they want to conform to that community expectation. At least that’s my opinion. I know I’m probably gonna end up old and alone and still reading manga and light novels on an infirmary bed as blood leaks through places I had no idea blood could leak through. That’s just me and my fanaticism though.

  4. Great post! I honestly kind of like that Anime is somehow dismissed as childish or somewhat frowned upon. I think it made the anime community the thight knit group it is. Compare an anime convention to your standard game convention, and the anime one feels like hanging out with family.. while the game one feels like an amusement park with lines and strangers.

    The otaku livestyle has a treshold you need to pass to belong.. because of the Stigma and once that is passed, you show you are actually passionate about it. Same goes for things like pokémon., but to lesser extend. By accepting it’s not for everyone we are gratefull for everyone it IS for. Cherish those fellows and I honestly would not want it any other way.
    While I would like for more anime to come out, in all honesty there is still enough in the Western world to last a lifetime so I rather have my con-family then a few extra niche series.

    1. I think I may be too introverted to ever truly enjoy cons. They end up feeling like exhausting shopping trips to me

      1. I had that at first or one the really big comic con ones. The dutch anime cons have like about 8000 ish visitors over the entire weekend. Outisde the dealer room, at the disco thing we have going on and the tastings and such there is a lot of gathering .. on the shopping floor there isnt that much.

      2. I enjoyed some of the events at the early science fiction conventions I attended. LosCon was one of them. Everything was looser back then. SF convention was just one of several things going on at the hotel. We were like an ignored stepchild.

        It didn’t matter that I didn’t “belong” in the overall crowd. Part of the intent was to deliberately stick out. Went with a few people who were as bizarre as I was and shared a room. We liked to “freak the mundanes” as we called it.

        Japanimation and old science fiction screened on 16mm, the costume ball, hanging out with an author I really liked. Fifty people in a Jacuzzi made for fifteen. Maybe a couple of panels. I never bought anything. My wife still goes to the occasional Dr. Who convention but even that has become a.big event requiring planning and much expenditure of time and money. Not much spontaneity.

  5. Great anime featuring adults in their careers are rare, which is probably why I enjoyed shows like The Great Passage, MMO Junkie, and Wotakoi as much as I did. I don’t see any reason why I can’t enjoy a whole variety of anime featuring characters from all walks of life, but it’s definitely special to see protagonists around my age.

    Side note: this whole thing has made me feel really old lol. No worries, my age will kick in and I’ll forget by tomorrow anyway….

    1. You’re the second person to say that. It really didn’t occure to me while writing it at all. Sorry

  6. Loved the post, and where do I come in. I mean I do spend most of the day/year at school but that’s because I work there, ya know teacher and all that. Second I really need to watch MMO junkie.

  7. I might be old, but I’m still cute and fluffy! (Cuter and fluffier with each passing year, I might add. . .)

  8. For me, older characters aren’t a draw in themselves, but the variety they tend to bring along with them is usually welcome. And shows like Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and just breathtakingly awesome.

    Very often anime characters feel sort of… ageless(?) to me. It’s hard to explain. With something like My Hero Academia, there’s clearly a generational difference among characters, so “ageless” isn’t exactly the right word. It’s more like “age” seems to be a less clear concept. There’s some weird sort of indeteterminacy to it. In many anime I can’t just relate anime age to real age without some conceptual translation. Not sure if that makes sense. It’s most noticable in ecchi, where underage sexualisation just doesn’t feel like it would in a life action movie. A lof of it feels like… adult roleplaying? Only, that’s not quite it either. I really don’t know how to explain. Maybe this won’t make sense to anyone but me.

  9. Kids who grew up with Sailor Moon are now all in their thirties and while anime had been around before then, Sailor Moon was one of the few female targeted anime that got aired on Australian TV. It is amazing how many girls grew up to be anime fans, or at least anime aware, because of it.

    1. Same! It’s a pretty seminal show yet it never got the same hype as DBZ or Naruto for some reason. Well, I kinda know the reason but that’s a different post

  10. I make it a point to watch any anime that has a protagonist or main cast older than the age of 21 years old. Japan likes their youth stories, but man, there’s a whole 60 years in front of that that are also really awesome!

    Wotakoi, MMO Junkie, and I Can’t Understand What My Husband is saying are some of the few anime that tackle people older than college age, and I’ve liked every single one of them.

    Fortunately, manga’s given me a lot of mature characters, so I’m just waiting for all that content to get adapted. Please, Japan.

  11. Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a great show. Nice to see an anime with adult characters I can relate to (I am almost forty). I don’t mind shows that star teenagers, but they are so common that sometimes I wish studios would spread out the age of their characters.

  12. >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.

    Very little of which makes it outside of Japan. The stuff we watch is very much in the minority.

      1. I’ve never checked, but my theory is that if an anime gets a late-afternoon or evening time slot on TV, it needs a minimum amount of popularity. MHA airs at 5:50 and took the slot from last season’s Mix. Also airing in that slot this season: Nanatsu no Taizai and Mairimashita Iruma-kun. This is also the time slot of shows like Pokemon, Youkai Watch, Detective Conan, and Doraemon.

        Anime that airs in the kiddy-slot and we can watch: Bananya (the first Bananya anime aired around 9:00 pm and wasn’t a children’s show).

        It’s fascinating to see what airs when. Sometimes shows can change slots. The first Haikyuu anime was a late-afternoon evening show, for example, but both follow up seasons ended up late-night anime.

  13. It is true that even the hippies are in their 80s now. I’m odd from the get go as for various reasons I didn’t let my freak flag fly until I was in my mid-20s and I actually didn’t start watching anime regularly until I was in my 50s! My husband has maintained for 29 years or so that I am actually a teenage boy, and he seems to be lowering my age range as we go. Google currently thinks I am about six, judging by the ads they’re giving me for “learning games”. (I think maybe this has to do with my Molang addiction) While there are occasionally “grandma” characters in anime, I don’t identify with that demographic at all. I don’t have to identify with someone in a show to enjoy it. I watch a lot of true crime stories but I’m not a serial killer either. Or a detective or forensic scientist. (Well, had life been a little different I could totally see myself as a forensic scientist – but think Abby from NCIS). So, one; I don’t really “feel” like “grandma”. Two; I don’t have to see myself in a story to enjoy it. I enjoy a good story – probably why I love the slice of life with a touch of the supernatural best. It is true that in the U.S. the population is aging. And many of us have reached the point where we don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks about us anymore -so we play D&D or MMORPG now, and watch anime, and read graphic novels and whatever else takes our fancy. We don’t identify as grandma like we remember our grandma or any version of grandma we grew up with. It does sometimes leave me, at least, feeling sort of lost. Like I have this lumpy old grandma body but I want to dress like the boys in Harajiku and watch anime and play video games all day (when I’m not watching auto racing). Mirrors are scary things I avoid. LOL. Then I go to Barnes and Noble to pick up the Pathfinder rule book and me and the 60 something lady clerk end up talking tabletop RPG for an hour…

  14. I guess the whole “nerd revolution” thing has had some positive effects, though a lit of what I like still doesn’t fly in the society I live in. No big deal, I just don’t talk about it to them.

    The character I identify most with is an adult too: Nozomu Itoshiki from SZS. I really wish I didn’t.

  15. Why do you have to go and make us all feel old?

    After the recent show, Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? I want to see a father transported to a fantasy world with his children and end up being the biggest kid there. I know I would be.

    You’re only as old as you feel!

  16. The thing people don’t take into account with regard to the “representation” thing is that it doesn’t have to be someone who *looks* like you. The character I felt resonated most strongly with me in the last couple of days is a gay single father from Cincinnati, and my favourite character of all time (because in terms of personality and neuroses I feel she’s a lot like me) is a skinny teenage divine personification of the Sega Game Gear with pink hair. I am a 38 year old fat man.

    There’s actually an interesting number of anime recently that feel like they’re aimed at an older audience, though. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was probably the best example from (relatively) recent memory, but the idea of “this anime is about sad thirtysomethings” is by no means uncommon any more.

    It’s happening in games and visual novels, too; several of the games I’ve covered in recent months have featured older casts — or at the very least, casts with “old souls”. While there’ll always be a massive market for the stuff that appeals to the kids — never underestimate the spending power of middle-class parents with demanding children — both the anime and gaming industries seem aware that audiences that grew up with them are growing older.

    1. True that you don’t need to be like a character to relate to their personalities or values. Once in a while it is nice to relate to their experiences and circumstances though. Personality wise I’m closest to characters that usually are nothing like me because I don’t fit in well with standard personality archetypes for my design. But the social pressures and circumstances I go through tend to be closer to that of characters that look like me rather than those that think like me. There’s probably something to unpack there.

    1. Sachiko is amazing.

      To be fair the non linear storyline made it so that she was still the second most important and present character in the series. It really was just as much her sotry

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