Ask John: Why Do Older Otaku Watch Kids’ Anime?
You have mentioned in a previous “Ask John” that older fans tend to gravitate towards moé. As an older anime fan I am definitely attracted to moé anime, but as I get older I also seem to be regressing towards children’s anime. I still enjoy anime targeted towards my age range such as Morbito or Graveyard of the Fireflies. However anime that I thought I was too old for have become more appealing to me such as Pocket Monsters and Powerpuff Girls Z. Like moe is this a symptom of becoming older or is it just me?
I don’t know exactly how common an increased appreciation for children’s anime becomes with age, but I can confirm that it’s not an isolated characteristic. For contextual reference, I’m now 40 years-old. I began watching Japanese language anime in 1986, or thereabouts. In my early years as a devoted anime fan, I largely avoided overt children’s anime because I was more interested in shows of greater narrative complexity and more adult-oriented content. Particularly early in my time as an otaku, I also avoided children’s anime because I didn’t want to feel like I was watching “children’s shows”; I wanted to watch provocative, artistic “Japanese animation.” However, especially over the past fifteen years I’ve found myself becoming more interested in the entire breadth of modern anime, which has led me to watch far more children’s anime than I ever did during the 1980s. I can proudly say now that I’ve watched 19 out of the 20 Crayon Shin-chan movies. I own Japanese DVD volumes of the Popolocrois Monogatari & Marshmallow Tsushin children’s anime series. I’ve tremendously enjoyed children’s shows including Fushigi Boushi no Futago Hime, Kochu Ouja Mushiking, Anymal Tantei Kiruminzoo, and Animal Yokocho. And I’ve eagerly sampled a variety of children’s anime ranging from vintage 60’s titles like Rainbow Sentai Robin, Goku no Daiboken, and Boken Gabotenjima to golden era anime including Bikkuriman, Chikkun Takkun, Hai! Step Jun, Bosco Adventure, Anmitsu Hime, and Doteraman, to contemporary shows such as Hime Chen! Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri, Penguin no Mondai, Pabu & Mojie, and Zumomo to Nupepe. Naturally, along the way I’ve also sampled most of the perennial hits including Pocket Monster, Yu-Gi-Oh, Doraemon, Anpanman, Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, Nintama Rantaro, and Ojarumaru.
Rather than call an increasing interest in children’s anime “regressing,” I’d call it expanding one’s interest and familiarity with Japanese animation. In our early days as otaku, we naturally gravitate toward the shows and genres which most prominently address our tastes and interests. Young fans are also predisposed to being self-conscious about their personal identity, which is partially formed by their tastes and interests. Adults, though, have a solidified self-image and thus tend to feel less embarrassment about venturing outside of self-prescribed boundaries. Experienced anime viewers also naturally begin to feel some degree of familiarity and even boredom with cliche anime genres and tropes, leading veteran fans to begin sampling a wider variety of anime. Finally, in the same way that iyashi-kei anime tend to appeal to older viewers as a means of stress relief, older anime viewers may begin to appreciate the relative simplicity, gentleness, and charm of children’s anime that aren’t quite so frenetically paced or as provocative as typical teen-oriented otaku anime. In fact, because children’s anime have a typically larger audience than niche-market otaku anime, children’s anime actually frequently exhibit releatively high quality animation with better frame rates and more fluid animation than lower budget late-night shows for hardcore fans. Countless children’s anime really do have interesting characteristics, like the lovely character designs and fluid animation of 1998’s Popolocrois Monogatari and 2005’s Kochu Ouja Mushiking: Mori no Tami no Densetsu, the weird story and highly creative art design of 2009’s Anymal Tantei Kiruminzoo, or the unexpectedly bizarre humor of shows including 2005’s Animal Yokocho and the most recent few Jewelpet series. The excellent technical quality of children’s anime is even more pronounced in countless feature films. Although they have a simplified character design, the Crayon Shin-chan motion pictures consistently feature exceptional animation quality. The 1995 film Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt features wonderful art design and excellent animation quality. The 2004 Paaman: Tako de Pon! Ashi wa Pon! movie has more fluid animation than most anime features targeted at hardcore otaku.
Otaku absolutely should not be ashamed or embarrassed about watching children’s anime. Hayao Miyazaki is possibly the world’s most respected living animator, and he makes children’s films. All children’s anime is created by adults, so why shouldn’t it also be watched by adults? Viewers that gravitate toward adult or otaku-oriented anime have every right to watch what they like and absolutely should watch what they enjoy. But in my experience, older viewers and veteran otaku that remain interested in the art form do tend to gradually develop a wider interest in a larger variety of anime styles and genres, including vintage anime, moé, and even children’s anime. This broadening interest is symptomatic of an expanding interest in the full scope and variety of anime, and a receptiveness to the unique characteristics and charms present in children’s anime that aren’t always present in otaku-oriented anime.