I’ve been pondering this question for quite some time now. Why are there so many anime that feature main characters leaving home and living on their own at the ripe old age of around 13?! I’m not an expert on Japanese child development, but I know that when I was 13 I certainly wasn’t prepared to take care of myself or live out in the great big world on my own. Though I was considered very “grown up” at 12/13 years old compared to my friends because I knew how to keep a house clean, be responsible, and some basic cooking; that’s not nearly enough skills to survive out in the world. Not to mention that in a lot of these anime, the character isn’t just living somewhere away from their parents (like in a school dorm or something) but is actually traveling and working a job of some kind too. And that also begs the question, why aren’t these kids going to school? They couldn’t already be done with school at that age could they?! What about university or even high school? Did they really just skip that?
Though I couldn’t find many answers on the internets, from what I could glean, Japan is an unusually safe country with a very low violent crime rate and because of this Japanese tend to allow their children a great deal of independence. It’s not unheard of for high school students or even middle school students to live on their own away from family to go to their preferred school. Of course this still doesn’t explain why these anime characters don’t seem to go to school at all, but I’m guessing the rest of the anime trope could be the result of artistic license? If you would like to meet some of these uniquely independent youngsters, here’s some anime that will have you pondering what their parents were thinking too!
Yeah, he had his little monster friends to keep him company, but was Ash really ready to live on his own? Though Ash quickly made some human friends and was soon traveling about the Pokemon world in a group, when Ash’s mom sent him out into the great big world to go “Catch’em All” he was completely alone. And for anyone that is familiar with the Pokemon franchise, it’s first main character wasn’t exactly the sharpest crayon in the box. Likewise, Ash wasn’t particularly responsible either. After all, the whole reason he ended up with Pikachu was because Ash had over slept and all the good pokemon were already taken by kids that were more punctual. Considering this, why did his mom think it was okay for Ash to live all by himself?
Kiki Delivery Service
Not just making their little girl find a new home for herself, but expect her to fly there too! Hmm, if you think about it, the witching world in Kiki’s Delivery Service is pretty harsh. All those poor little witch girls are just kind of thrown out into the world, and it’s sink or swim time for them! Granted, Kiki did find herself a nice little town by the sea where she met nice people that were willing to help her, but that isn’t always the case. As Kiki was traveling to find her new home she passed an older girl that had just completed her year of training alone. And this girl seem to be coming from a place that looked an awful lot like Paris. Paris! That is a huge city with a significant amount of crime. It appeared that the older girl seemed to survive okay, but she was just as likely to have a very unhappy ending. She could have been robbed, or swindled, or exploited by a nefarious employer! Isn’t it a little too extreme to expect 13 year old girls to deal with getting a job, finding some place to live, avoiding crime that tends to target females, and flying on a broom?
In the anime HunterXHunter, a hunter is a licensed adventurer that finds treasure, rare monsters, and can even track people. To be allowed to work in this dangerous field, each hunter must pass the licensing exam which is also very dangerous, but that’s exactly what Gon plans to do. Gon, now middle school aged, grew up in the care of his aunt on whale island knowing almost nothing about his parents, until one day he found out that his father was a hunter, and might still be alive! Learning this, Gon makes it his mission to also become a hunter and track down his dad!
His guardians seriously let their middle schooler join a death match?! Out of all the anime in this post HunterXHunter is probably the most extreme. Not only did the main character Gon Fleecss leave home at an early age to go live on his own, he also joined the Hunter examination. Though the Hunter exam includes a variety of challenges including a marathon running test and a puzzle filled maze like tower test, it also includes a battle royal and one-on-one duels. And yes, people die! Where I live, parents worry about letting their high school aged students join American football teams, because their child ,though older, could still get really injured. In the world of HunterXHunter no one sees a problem with letting middle schoolers join a competition where people die?!
6 thoughts on “Leaving Home at 13! Why is This a Thing In Anime?”
There is something special about the age of 13.
Many primitive cultures considered it the age of adulthood. It was the very beginning of puberty in the past when our diets weren’t so rich. Right around 13 is when coming-of-age ceremonies were had, like going on “walkabout” among Australian natives or a kind of ritual circumcision in some African tribes. There were South American tribes where you stuck your hand in a glove full of bullet ants.
In the old days, among the “peoples of the book,” 13 was the age of accountability. You can see remains of it today in the Bat and Bar Mitzvah.
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Oo, that’s a good point, I didn’t consider that. I wonder if there is some kind of tradition in Japan about coming of age at 13? Looks like I have more researching to do!
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There are a number of factors behind it, I imagine. Not only are coming of age stories very prevalent, but there’s how the current age of consent on Japan is 12, for instance, instead of 18, as it is in America. It’s an aspect of their culture that hasn’t changed in a long while, whilst the entire notion of puberty – being between child and adult instead of just one or the other – is a fairly new and Western concept. Japanese children are expected to be more responsible from an early age, in a multitude of ways: they help clean their schools, they choose high schools like we choose colleges, and so on. I saw a video showing a nine-year-old boy walking a six-year-old boy to the bathroom.
Responsibility can fall on very young shoulders, including when literal teenagers have led armies into battle, in centuries past. Even our repugnance of child soldiers is new and unique, as twelve-year-olds have served as pages, squires, foot soldiers, and sailors. Not to mention factory workers, like in Victorian England. They weren’t always voluntary, either. It was not uncommon for boys to be taken straight off the street and pressed into service. That’s just how it was. No one was given any slack, even hanging children for stealing bread, or apprenticing boys out to start making their way in the world when they turn twelve, or marrying girls off so they could start having babies within a year of their first menstrual cycle.
Basically, once you were in the slightest bit “adult,” you might be a very young one, but you were expected to make your way like one. That’s for most of human history, in all cultures and nations. It can be a bit jarring for us to think of now, but that kind of history leaves a lasting imprint, even centuries later.
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Hmm, right, that’s so true. Though we like to think that child labor and giving younger people hard or even dangerous work/live styles is a thing of the distant past, that tradition can still shape cultures today. It really is kind of jarring to think that just a little more than a hundred years ago, it was totally normal for people way younger than 16 to leave school, get a job, and work to support their family and younger siblings.
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I think the authors are doing this on purpose because they believe children/teens are fed up with their parents in real life and they don’t want to read/watch parents being parents in manga/anime too. Especially since most of them turn to fiction as a form of escapism. I think it’s a funny trope. 😆
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Yes! Though I certainly wasn’t ready to live on my own at 13, I definitely remember loving reading about and watching characters that did at that age. And it’s it at that age that people really start thinking that their parents are sooo uncool and boring. I clearly remember thinking at that age that only little kids liked hanging out with their parents.
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