As this article will be covering different characters who went through epic changes throughout their designated anime, some mild spoilers may be included! Please be forewarned!
Is it just me, or does it seem like most anime characters never seem to age? I mean, just look at Ash Ketchum from Pokémon. He has been freaking ten years old since 1997! Man, these characters are lucky. Never aging sounds pretty great. I mean, being an adult really sucks, doesn’t it? When it comes to anime, it is usually either a case of eternal youth, or the anime only shows you a portion of the character’s life (most of the time, it is their teen years.) If you think about it, it really is quite a shame. Think about how much more interesting anime would be if we actually got to witness the characters grow and develop, both physically, and mentally. Despite the classic example of Ash Ketchum (who never ages), there are a few anime characters out there who can sympathize with the growing pains of becoming an adult. Let’s take a look at anime characters who have gone from baby, to a child, to an adult throughout their respective anime series.
Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto
Let’s start this list with everybody’s favourite knuckle-headed ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, from Naruto and Naruto: Shippuuden. Wow, where do I begin. Naruto is your typical mainstream anime. Although, one thing that sets it apart from shows like Pokémon is the fact that we get to watch the characters mature, both physically and mentally. From the start of the series, Naruto was a young, immature boy, around the age of 12. Currently, in Shippuuden, he is a young man, around the age of 17. Plus, we received a few scenes with him as an infant. As of now, we have witnessed a tremendous growth of character. Naruto can actually be taken seriously now? What!? Not to mention that a new Naruto movie, Boruto: Naruto the Movie, was just released, exploring the relationship between Naruto and his son Boruto. Wow. Although the character development in this show is far from perfect, it is interesting that we get to see the characters age and grow wiser.
Sakura Haruno from Naruto
Another character from the Naruto franchise worth mentioning is Sakura Haruno. When we first started Naruto, Sakura was a whiney, hot-headed, physically incapable, Sasuke-obsessed 12-year-old brat. Could you imagine if Sakura stayed that way? It would probably make people watching the show want to scream at their television, every time she came on screen. Luckily, that isn’t what happened. Throughout the series, Sakura grew up, in more ways than one. At the current age of 17-18, Sakura is a kind, mature, skilled fighter who has learned to respect others, and to control her feelings towards Sasuke. Thank God. She also had a role as a young adult in Boruto: Naruto the Movie. Now, if I were to only mention Naruto characters on this list, the article title would be something like ‘Growing Pains in Naruto: Baby to Child to Adult.’ So, let me just end off by saying that most Naruto characters aged/matured throughout the series. Sakura and Naruto are just the most important, and the most notable for this list.
Nagisa Furukawa from Clannad
Nagisa from Clannad and Clannad: After Story is a perfect example of a growing/maturing anime character. In fact, Clannad and almost all of its characters are a perfect example. Clannad has been praised for being one of the most touching, heartwarming (and somewhat relatable) anime series out there. It is one of the few shows that explores the rare anime concept that ‘life goes on after high school.’ One of the main reasons that it is so highly praised, is because the characters go through typical anime high school experiences, but they also experience life afterwards. They grow up, get married, have children. They learn to live life as adults. Despite all of Nagisa’s illnesses, she lives life to the fullest. She learns to cope with all of her hardships. Okay, okay, maybe her physical appearance doesn’t change that much… But her growth as a character in terms of maturity (not to mention her relationship with Tomoya) is what makes her such an amazing character. Same pros go out to rest of the cast of Clannad.
Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Clannad and Clannad: After Story are two of the rawest, heart-wrenching, and relatable anime series out there. We get to watch the characters truly grow up, in all meanings of the term. They learn about the hardships of life, and how to find happiness in the small things. They go from your typical anime school girls and boys, to realistic, mature adults. Just like Nagisa, the growth of Tomoya’s character is fascinating. One of the high points of the entire series is watching how his new friends, and especially his relationship with Nagisa were able to change him. He becomes more mature as the series progresses.
Gokuu from Dragonball Z
Gokuu from Dragonball, as well as its smash it sequel, Dragonball Z, and the newest addition, Dragon Ball Super, is a perfect example of an aging anime character. I mean, come on. We’ve basically seen every moment of this guy’s life from birth, childhood, teenage years, all the way to adulthood! Gokuu is a character that many of us have spent hours with during our childhood. We all know that Gokuu is awesome! Right? Look at all of the obstacles/enemies that he has been able to surpass. Not only has he grown into a strong warrior, but he has also grown into a strong person. With a wife, son, and several close comrades, the life of Gokuu and all of his wacky adventures are some of the best nostalgia anime fans can get. From baby to child to adult... to God?
Simon from Gurren Lagann
Okay, this guy has been 14, 21, and 41. All in the same anime! Gurren Lagann is an amazing anime series, with great characters. One of the main reasons why this show is so fun to watch is because of the character progression. As you can clearly see, there are quite a few time skips. During which, we get to witness the characters grow and develop, both mentally, and physically. Especially Simon. I mean, geez.
Yoko Littner from Gurren Lagann
Just like Simon, Yoko from Gurren Lagann gets the chance to grow from a pre-teen, into a young adult. Yoko’s character is quite controversial. Fans are quite torn about her actions and personality in the series. It is up to you to decide if her character development was a pro or con. No matter what side you’re on, it is a fact that we got to witness Yoko grow and shift as a character.
Hikaru Shindou from Hikaru no Go is a character that starts off the anime at the tender age of 12, and ends at the still tender age of 15. This guy’s age in the series does not change as much as some characters on this list. But their development is what’s important, and this character has plenty of it. We watch him grow from a whiney, hot-headed child, into a more mature and collected teenager. Viewers of the show also notice quite a huge change in Hikaru’s appearance as well.
You know, the one thing about romance/drama anime series that we just can’t avoid is that we usually end up rooting for the main character to confess their feelings to their crush! We always want to see the two characters end up together and reach their happy ending. In this anime, Itazura na kiss, Kotoko Aihara is working as hard as she can to be with her true love. The anime explores her life between the ages of 17 and 26. During these years, we watch some of her life in high school, but mainly university. During this time, we watch her character, grow, mature, and make important life decisions, like picking a career she can be passionate about. She does all kinds of awesome stuff, and at the same time, she might just be able to win the affections of her crush? Wow ladies, we have some things to learn from Kotoko.
Naoki Irie from Itazura na Kiss
Just like Kotoko, form the same anime, Naoki is a character who we get to watch grow between the ages of 17 to 26. Kotoko has a humongous crush on Naoki, and she does everything within her power to get close to him. Naoki seems perfect. He is a straight A student, great cook and awesome tennis player! What girl wouldn’t have a crush on this guy? His real flaw is that he comes off as cold-hearted. Sigh. There is always one fatal flaw… However, throughout the anime, we watch him grow and become a stronger, more light-hearted character. We also watch as the unlikely relationship between Naoki and Kotoko evolves. If you’re looking for an anime that explores a few of life’s hurdles, and has awesome romance at the same time, you should definitely check out Itazura na Kiss.
It really is interesting isn’t it? Anime series where we get to watch the characters grow from immature children, into raw and relatable adults. We get to see how they make decisions, how they choose to act, and how their relationships with other people go. It really is a shame that there are not more of these kinds of anime. As lovable and iconic as they may be, it would be nice if characters didn’t always stay the same hot headed, irresponsible 17-year-old kids throughout the entire series (cough, cough, Natsu Dragneel, cough!) Again, as lovable as these characters are, it would be nice to see some more frequent development.