As I look back to the animés I enjoyed as a kid, I realized there were a lot of themes I missed. Little me looked no further than plotline and appearances. I was unknowingly “escaping reality” and putting myself in the shoes of characters I wanted to be. With that being said, I wanted to reexplore six animes I watched religiously as a kid and discussed what made them appeal to me and possibly thousands of others.
Inuyasha talks about a high-school girl, Kagome, getting transported to the Sengoku era after falling into a well at her family shrine. Soon, she meets a dog-demon, Inuyasha, and gets attacked by a demon, wanting the magical Shikon jewel embodied inside her. Kagome accidentally shatters the jewel which ends up dispersed across Japan. Now, she and Inuyasha travel together to piece the jewel together before it ends up in the hands of a half-spider demon, Naraku.
In elementary, my friends and I made websites of our favourite characters: Sango, Kagome, and Kikyo. I vaguely remember something along the lines of ‘Kagome’s Shrine.’ Anyway, though I have no memory how or why I got into Inuyasha, I believe it was for the following two reasons.
Mythological and folk tale origins. I came across an insightful post on The Artifice that discusses this topic in detail. If my memory serves me right, Inuyasha was the first animé that unknowingly introduced me to eastern folklore and mythology. And I was captivated by it. It was cool to see how an ordinary high school girl could fall into a world like that, a world where I would have loved to escape to.
Kagome. We all have those characters that we relate to–physically or emotionally–that we root for. For me, it was Kagome. She was the ideal girl that little me wanted to become. And the fact that the story technically revolved around her was the attention I wanted when I was a kid. When a friend “took” her as her favourite character, little me wasn’t too happy.
As much I adored Inuyasha, I never finished the animé even to this day. Though my obsession and love of it clearly faded, I may revisit it just for the antagonists, the ones my younger self pushed to the sidelines.
Koshikawa Miki’s parents are getting divorced to swap partners with another couple they met in Hawaii. Over dinner, Miki meets Yuu, the son of the other couple. Little-by-little Miki becomes more accepting of this strange, new arrangement and even ends up falling in love with Yuu.
I loved Marmalade Boy so much that I created an e-mail address using the female protagonist’s name, Miki. This was my first romance animé. When a live adaptation came out not too long ago, I was hit with nostalgia but still didn’t watch it. The concept of “falling in love with your step-sibling” doesn’t appeal to me anymore, I guess.
The entire plot revolves around Miki and Yuu’s relationship and also has many sub-plots, arcs that focus on their relationships with other people. I loved a good romance, hence why I was so attracted to this. The exaggerated dramatic-ness also received significant brownie points.
From a good-looking male lead and a stereotypical female protagonist, little me loved every bit of it. However, what drew me in the most was the romantic relationship taboo.
From the beginning, the parents’ relationships are already questionable. Randomly swapping partners and all living in the same house? Hm. Interesting. Now that I think about it, it’s odd they were so amicable towards each other.
Miki and Yuu end up together and even make plans to marry after college. I’ll also add in that they have a half-sibling, Koshikawa Hajime, the son of Yuu’s mother and Miki’s father. What a complicated family tree.
Miki’s best friend, Meiko, leaves her hometown at 17 to marry her high-school teacher and study literature. The central relationships in this animé are not widely accepted in a society which made it more interesting to watch. While there were “normal relationships,” it was presented more like a side dish.
Would I ever revisit this one? No. Some things are better left in the past.
Kodomo no Omocha (Kodocha)
Kurata Sana is an energetic child actor and enrolls in a typical elementary school. Upon entering her classroom, she realizes its led by an aloof, troublemaker, Akito Hayama. They have opposing ideas but eventually, start to help each other and their classmates and friends.
There wasn’t any hidden reason why I loved this. It was hilarious and a delicate balance of comedy and seriousness.
Though stereotypical, I loved how Sana’s upbeat personality complemented Akito’s deadpan, indifferent characteristics. It was also one of the rare few that portrayed great themes such as different forms of love and loss.
Sana’s manager, Sagami Rei, was homeless before being brought home by Sana. He had hit rock bottom after being dumped by his girlfriend, dropping out of college, and dealing with his parents’ death. While Sana often referred to Rei as her boyfriend and was devastated when he couldn’t be, she now looks up to him as a surrogate father.
Rei also sees Sana as his own child. Despite presented with an opportunity to unite with his ex-girlfriend (who dumped him to focus on her acting career), Rei turns her down and can’t be with her until Sana grows up.
Romantic and familial love aside, I’m also a fan of how the anime portrayed Sana and Fuuka’s relationship. The girls became fast friends after meeting in the washroom; their personalities are also almost identical, though Fuuka is more serious than Sana.
Their relationship became rocky after Fuuka began dating Akito, but there was no cat-fights or much passive-aggressiveness. In the end, Sana helps Fuuka by reuniting her with a past flame, and Fuuka cheers for and supports Akito and Sana’s relationship. According to the Kodocha fandom, Sana and Fuuka co-host a radio talk show together to help people who needed someone to talk to.
Akito’s family is estranged. His mother died while giving birth to him in which his sister blames him for. As such, his sister mistreated him often. Akito believed that his sister and his father hated him and took the blame for his mother’s death. Eventually, he shut out his family.
Of course, with Sana’s “interference,” Akito’s family becomes more accepting of him. In a manga one-shot where Akito and Sana are married, Akito demands a divorce when he discovers Sana is pregnant and wants the baby. This clearly reflects how badly his mother’s death impacted him. However, he reconciles with Sana after getting much-needed encouragement, and they have a baby girl named Sari.
I might revisit this one day, just to get a good laugh again at their crazy shenanigans.
Who hasn’t at least heard of Sailor Moon nowadays? It’s a classic. But my magical-girl days were cut short when my dad didn’t let me watch it when he realized Serena’s constant need for help from the handsome Tuxedo Mask.
Middle school student, Usagi Tsukino (Serena in the dub), befriends a talking, black cat named Luna who gives her a magical broach that grants her powers to save the Earth from the forces of evil.
For little me, it was easy to relate to Serena. She’s lazy and is interested in anything but studying. And now you’re telling little me that she suddenly gets magical powers and can fight evil? Yes, please.
While my magical-girl days were cut short, I wasn’t upset for very long. The only aspect that little me loved was the fun, colourful transformation. And that was quickly replaced by Card Captor Sakura later on.
Despite not having watched Sailor Moon for years, I’ve seen many discussions and debates online about themes and comparisons between new and old versions. One particular post I like regarding topics is this one on The Artifice, which I agree that Sailor Moon is an exploration of female power and healthy female relationships.
A group of females banding together to accomplish a single goal. When seeing Sailor Moon that way, it’s pretty empowering. Also, by incorporating LGBT female heroes sends a positive message to the community.
There could be an entire series of posts surrounding Sailor Moon alone, and I believe that it’ll continue to last the ages, one that will appeal to new and old audiences.
Full Moon Wo Sagashite
The number of songs from this animé I had on my mp3 at the time was crazy. My friends and I would have karaoke sessions on the songs alone. I didn’t get into Full Moon myself; if I remember correctly, it was introduced to me by a friend, and I fell into the rabbit hole.
Kouyama Mitsuki is twelve years old and dreams of becoming a singer to fulfill a promise to her first love. But she is diagnosed with sarcoma, a curable throat tumour that could ruin her vocal cords if she proceeds with the operation. Mitsuki meets two Shinigami, Takuto and Meroko, who tells her she only has a year to live. Mitsuki makes a wager with them.
So many feels then, and so many feels now. The art is fantastic, manga and animé. And there are many great posts discussing themes of life, love, death, and hope on The Artifice.
Another theme the anime addresses is the desire the move forward. At the time, little me wasn’t aware of this. I loved the art and had wallpapers of all the characters.
I still love the animé and believe Full Moon is a shoujo that appeals to all ages.
Gakuen Alice is like a combination of fantasy and Kodocha; even the characters are similar in personality and appearances. Sakura Mikan is happy-go-lucky and is identical to Sana; their hairstyles are also both pigtails. Hyuuga Natsume, the male protagonist and Mikan’s future love interest has a cool, calm, and collected personality similar to Akito.
Sakura Mikan literally follows her best friend, Imai Hotaru, to a prestigious school in Tokyo. There, she discovers that students at Alice Academy have an “Alice,” an ability unique to an individual. Little does Mikan know that she also has an Alice and enrolls in the academy.
I’ve never finished the manga and only watched the animé. The manga obviously tackles more than the animé such as revealing the evil actions and the truth behind the academy. In the animé, it ends with Mikan and Natsume understanding more of each other, and Hotaru transferring schools again.
The entire theme of the series focuses on friendship. Yes, there’s romance and mentor-student relationship, but it boils down to the importance of friendship. After doing a quick search of the manga ending, I find it ironic that it comes full circle. I won’t spoil it for those who are interested in reading the series, but I agree with the vast majority that there’s a lot of unanswered questions.
Little me loved this because of the premise. Having an “Alice” would be amazing since it’s technically “unique to an individual.” While there are students with enduring powers such as fire, illusions, and telekinesis. Others are different than what you usually see: the ability to control shadows, invention making, cloning, ghost summoning, and farts. Yes, the power of farts. Who wouldn’t want to have a skill like that?
The animé is quite lighthearted compared to the manga. Of course, this is mainly due to how short it is. So, if you’re looking for a fast, fun animé to binge for the weekend. I highly recommend Gakuen Alice. This is one of the few that I’m definitely going to revisit due to how fun it is.
It’s been so long since I wrote a long post. The inspiration for this came from reading so many great articles on The Artifice on thought-provoking topics. I highly recommend you give some of them a read. There’s something for everyone.
These were many others that I didn’t mention: Naruto, Card Captor Sakura, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! to name a few. Let me know what animés you were into as a child.