junjou-romantica

“Age Gap” anime & manga

It’s funny how watching something you like can quickly lead you down the path to finding other shows just like it. This was the case for me with lots of different genres of anime and mangas that I’ve really come to enjoy. For example, sports anime wasn’t something I had really considered liking until I watched “Kuroko no Basuke”. Prior to that I would always look at the tags for sports animes and think “nahhh…” But what a colossal shame it would have been if I hadn’t actually bothered to check it out. To think of what my anime experience would be without the likes of “Kuroko no Basuke”, “Free”, “One Outs”, “Giant Killing” etc. makes me rather sad actually. The same happened with the yaoi genre.. I read the synopsis of “Sekaiichi Hatsukoi” and was initially like “huh? the person the main character went out with in high school was a guy? really?” and I left it at that.. What a fail! My curiousity got the better of me though and instead of going for something like “Junjou Romantica” or “Sekaiichi Hatsukoi” which makes yaoi palatable for a general audience, I dove headfirst with “Okane ga Nai” as the first anime/OVAs that I watched in the yaoi genre (incidentally, there’s an age gap here too). My eyes nearly fell out of my head initially, but beyond that, I began to appreciate that there was more to it that just the guy x guy vibe. With this in mind, I went back to “Sekaiichi Hatsukoi”, gave it a chance and checked it out. After that, the rest is history.. I fell in love with the genre and haven’t looked back since.



Now, those are pretty standard genres I’ve given as examples. but these days I find myself drawn to a bit of an obscure “genre” if you want to call it that.. “Age Gap” anime and manga. I’ve given it that name since I see that a lot of people use this as a tag when referring to manga/anime where the romance is between people with vastly different ages, whether it be a younger girl with an older man, vice versa or a younger guy with an older man (think: Miyagi of Junjou Romantica). In all honesty, I think I’ve always been drawn to these kinds of animes but it’s only recently that I have recognised it as one of the genres that I have a deep liking for. I know I’m not alone here, because why else would such manga/anime exist if there wasn’t anyone who enjoyed this? It might sound odd to some, but this kind of topic is usually handled with a lot of care by those creating it so as not to make it perverse. When there is such an age gap, where one party is more mature than the other, the owness usually lies with the maturer of the two to be the responsible party. They usually endure a lot of conflict as a result of their age and the consequences of being with someone much younger are always taken into consideration - a realistic approach to the situation. The other strong emphasis with these types of stories is that the focus between these couples is more on romance/feelings/caring/protecting/supporting each other than it is about getting down to business, so to speak. The love that the characters share doesn’t always have to be expressed in a physical way and that’s another thing that makes it appealing. Sometimes, the “love/romance” aspect is just hinted at in the background but it’s enough to make us feel that we want those characters to be together.



WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

In the interest of full disclosure and protection of the eyes of those who have not watched the shows I’m about to talk about, please note that there are some spoilers ahead about “My Wife is a High School Girl”, “Speed Grapher”, “Angel Heart”, “Skip Beat”, “Glass Mask” and “Ristorante Paradiso” among others.

I did say that it was only recently that I realised that this actually a genre that I enjoy and it’s the anime “Glass Mask” (the 2005 remake) that made me see it. 51 episodes of watching Maya and Hayami grow closer together was bound to make me swoon and the more I watched, the more I realised that this is the kind of thing I love.. Hayami and Maya have an age gap of 11 years between them and they meet when she’s only 14 and in middle school (making him 25 at the time). Even so, as a consequence of their jobs they get to know each other and maintain a kind of working relationship over the years where Hayami gets to watch Maya grow up and Maya comes to understand more about the adult Hayami. Their history becomes rather complicated and the as time goes on, he becomes more attached to her. She is the only one that treats him so normally - whether it be sharing a biscuit together or having a fight/war of words, which slowly makes him realise that he does indeed have feelings for her. As such, he struggles with the idea of being so much older than her and is even more frightened by the idea of being rejected by her. She is someone that he never wants to lose and would even be willing to remain in her life anonymously, so long as he can be around/in contact with her somehow. So you see, it’s not about him just wanting to get in her pants.. It goes beyond that because of his consideration of the consequences and the things that he does for her, without her even knowing it.



One of the first shows I watched that addressed this topic has to be “My Wife is a High School Girl”. To be honest, I watched it because I had to see what it was about - the title sounded a bit insane so I gave it a go. Again - turned out to be rather sweet and in fact, it’s the girl who wanted to “be with” her husband, but out of respect for her father he’s avoided doing that at all costs until she’s 18. Sure, it’s probably unrealistic to think that he would be able to hold out, but look, the show was made for the public so of course it would have to be this way. In any case, it had its moments - like when she fakes being sick, he sees her in the hallway, drops all his books and insists on carrying her on his back to the infirmary - like any good husband would do. Like I said -it was rather sweet.. He looks like a bit of a nerd (although beyond the glasses he’s actually rather cute) but he’s a good husband (despite having to keep it a secret) and is protective of and loyal to his wife.



“Speed Grapher” was another one and probably one of my favourites.. Tatsumi (33) and Kagura (15).. From the moment he sees her, he’s spellbound and after finding out about her circumstances, he makes it his mission to save her. He rescues her time and again from those that wish to use her for their own purposes and over time, she comes to develop feelings for him and him for her. As is usually the case, he looks after her more like a guardian but you can tell that it slowly evolves into something more than that as they spend more time together. They never cross the line but they do acknowledge their feelings for each other as Tatsumi pleads with Kagura to live on.. If not for her sake, then at least for his.. The best pay off is the ending, where we fast-forward five years from the events that brought the two of them together. Kagura has moved around a lot after that and eventually comes back to Tokyo to be with Tatsumi. And even though he’s now blind, he knows that she’s there the moment she returns to him. It was super satisfying as an ending and it made you feel alright to want them to be together because she’s now 20 and he’s 38.. Still a fair age difference, but at least now she’s an adult and they’re both still in love.



“Genji Monogatari” follows the exploits of Genji - a man hailed as one of the greatest lovers.. Although he initially falls for a girl that’s a little bit older than him (and his father’s wife), he manages to distract himself rather well with a whole host of girls.. But I wouldn’t have included this in the line up if there wasn’t a little something extra that made this one memorable for me. And that is the last few episodes. Although he was with plenty of women and have quite a few lovers, a young girl is brought to his residence and she ends up living there. She initially sees him as an older brother kind of figure but as she grows and becomes more aware of herself, she develops feelings for him and only wishes for his happiness. Just before Genji is to leave his place for a while (a few years perhaps?), she lets him know of her feelings for him and he is flattered and returns her sentiment. It’s then that he proclaims her to be his bride and they spend the one evening together - just talking and being in each others’ presence. From what I understand, she waits for him to return and is the one he is with at the end. I could be wrong though because I haven’t read the books and the anime is quite open ended. Although she wasn’t such a major character, you could see that way she felt about him and he always took good care of her and treated her well and as someone precious to him. That’s why it was rather nice to see that she got the man that she had always wanted and that he had no issue with being with her either. Then again, this was waaaay back in the day when getting married at 14 to men who were old enough to be your grandfather was no problem.



“Skip Beat” is similar to “Glass Mask” in some ways - a young girl trying to make it into show business and changing the life of a man that she gets to meet through her profession. The concept is slightly different because the only reason that Kyouko gets into acting is because of her wanting revenge on her ex-boyfriend. And even though she doesn’t initially get along with Tsuruga Ren - the major star from her agency (and her ex’s main rival), she eventually comes to respect him for his talent.. He initially doesn’t like her either because he hates her reasons for wanting to become an actress. Even though they are initially at odds, they slowly come to know and understand more about each other and it’s also revealed that they actually met when they were kids.. She doesn’t realise that this is the same boy that gave her comfort when she was a little girl. As time goes along, situations and circumstances put the two of them together and the once apathetic Ren finally starts to care about someone. The anime didn’t quite hit the mark with the pay-off (probably because they thought that there would be 2nd season or maybe in an effort to make you read the manga to get to the pay-off) but seeing how their relationship changes and how he becomes affected by her being around him was really touching. You realise how lonely he actually is and she comes into his life and changes that.



In fact, a lot of the animes/mangas that focus on age gaps seem to use that concept - the loner old guy whose life regains excitement and changes thanks to a younger girl coming into the picture. In my opinion, it’s their youth that actually plays into this. If this same concept is applied to two adults, it seems like a normal romance story, but the thing is that adults don’t have the same direct nature and purity of emotion that teenagers do. And this is the difference. These loner dudes are usually quite content to be loners and to maintain their sense of normalcy and other adults would usually respect that and so things would continue as normal. But when you have the introduction of a younger character, that straightforward nature pushes these loner types out of their comfort zones and shakes things up. That’s why it works. The don’t treat their potential partners as business associates or colleagues because they haven’t acquired that skill set yet and so these loners get treated like normal people, no matter what rank they may hold..

Actually, thinking about it now, even a show like “Brothers Conflict” has some age gap going on.. Masaomi is 31 when he meets the 16/17 year old Ema.. And a lot of the brothers are way older than she is.. Doesn’t stop us from wanting to see them vying for her affection now does it? Lol.. And “Bonjour Sweet Love Patisserie” has Sayuri sharing special bonding moments with her teachers, seeing them as people rather than just instructors.


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“Angel Heart” fell a bit out of the norm in terms of the romance thing because although it initially seemed like the main girl was going to fall in love with Ryo Saeba, it became a situation where they became more like father and daughter. She is 15 and he is in his 40s so it makes sense in that respect, but even though you know that the idea is that he is her guardian, there is undoubtedly a secret part of you that kind of wishes that they would actually be together in some way. The age gap is huge, but nevermind.. Love can overcome it in an anime right? Lol.. Even though there wasn’t any romance, the connection and bond between Ryo and Xiang-Ying is something special and I don’t think there is anyone but him that can get through to her and help her get back to being a regular girl, rather than an assassin. Ryo, having a similar background and getting involved in fights etc. is the best person for her and seeing how close they become is rather heart warming.



“Ristorante Paradiso” is definitely an in-your-face age gap anime seeing as the main character, Nicoletta, not only hangs out with waaaaay older men (in their 50s) but also falls in love with one of them. Although the age gap is a bit too extreme for me - I prefer protective men versus overly knowledgeable men - it was actually rather sweet and instead of finding it creepy, you find yourself routing for Nicoletta to be with Claudio. They meet and she falls for him but his complicated history makes being with him a challenge for Nicoletta and she has to take her time to try and get him to see her as more than just a worker in the restaurant. That said, he’s her confidant and the person she always turns to and even when he thinks he should be putting distance between them because he knows how she feels but isn’t sure that he can return her feelings, he finds that he can’t bring himself to be so cruel and goes back to being by her side. She exercises her patience but it surely pays off, which was rather nice to see..



“Junjou Romantica”  is by one of my fave mangakas, Shinjiku Nakamura, and she has been known to use age differences (along with height differences) as one of the defining features in her stories. The most obvious one is the age difference between Shinobu (a high school student) and Miyagi (a literary professor) who also happens to be his ex-brother-in-law.. The storyline falls under the “Terrorist” subplot and is about how this young guy convinces his ex-brother-in-law that they are fated to be together. They go through a lot of ups and downs where Miyagi tests Shinobu to see if he’s being serious about this and they constantly fight and argue but at the end of it all, Miyagi eventually gives into his “fate” by being with Shinobu. He deals not only with being with someone younger, but also agonises about the fact that he’s loving someone new (a huge issue for him) and that it also happens to be a guy. The main characters, Misaki and Akihiko also have a big age difference between them (10 years) and most of the men that go after Misaki, e.g. Ijuuin and Haruhiko also have a similar age gap.. However, unlike Miyagi and Shinobu, Misaki doesn’t pay too much attention to the age gap but worries more about the fact that he may cause trouble for Akihiko (because they’re in a relationship - everyone close to Akihiko knows that he’s gay but they don’t want that information to become public) and he worries because he needs to figure out his life at this stage.. And in “Sekaiichi Hatsukoi” the biggest age gap there is about 9-10 years between Kisa and Yukina - something that Kisa tends to agonise about a lot.. even though he’s so baby-faced that he actually looks younger than Yukina.


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Sticking with yaoi, another one of my faves is “You’re My Loveprize in Viewfinder” and the age difference between Asami and Takaba is 12 years. It shows in the most spectacular fashion in their attitudes, the company they keep, they way they dress and just the way they live their lives in general. Where Takaba is carefree, freelance, casual and hangs out with friends, Asami is serious, has numerous businesses, always dresses smartly in a suits and has very few, if any, friends. But in spite of all the glaring differences, they are naturally drawn to each other - a case of opposites attract perhaps? Asami sees Takaba as naive and reckless, and Takaba sees Asami as controlling and condescending, but each respects the other. Asami loves the fire and fierceness that accompanies youth in Takaba and Takaba thinks that the things Asami has achieved is amazing and wants to be on his level someday. This difference in life experience is something that plays more of Takaba’s mind than Asami’s - which is somewhat different from the norm - having the younger party worry about the age difference. Whereas Asami doesn’t care what anyone thinks - such is his level of power that he answers to no one.



Apart from anime, there is also the world of manga that awaits in terms of the age gap genre.. Just the other day I came across a manga called “Kore Wa Koi No Hanashi” and although the age difference is astounding (21 years between them), it’s actually been handled rather well. The difference makes him more of a guardian to her initially but there is potential brewing in the background. The initial volumes that I’ve read thus far are more about how this girl changes this man’s life just by being there.. Her presence introduces something new to him and for the first time, someone seems to be showing him genuine care. The developments are sweet and there are enough characters around so that it doesn’t become a complete creep-fest and there’s actually a fair amount of humour involved too. That’s why I say that even though age gaps could be considered creepy from a face-value point of view, the way that these stories are portrayed lends itself to being more sweet than anything.



Other mangas which I’ve only heard about that fall in this category (which I’ve sourced from doing some investigation - I haven’t actually read these yet) include: Hotaru no Hikari, Eden no Hana, Sugar Family, Hana no Namae, Ingènuo, Mademoiselle Butterfly, Love So Life, Hakuji, Antique Romance, Veins, Wagahai wa Yome de Aru, Toriko - Aigan Shoujo and Hana to Akuma. So if you’re looking for something to read that falls in this vein, then checking these out might be a good idea. I know I’m going to.

To be honest, the whole idea of younger girl, older guy probably screams “daddy complex” but I don’t see much of a problem with that.. After all, this is what anime and manga is - something we watch or read for our enjoyment. No one can tell you what to feel about it and whether or not it’s your thing is completely up to you, as an individual. I’m sure some people will probably think “lollicon” when they hear the words “age gap” and that’s entirely up to them. But for me, the age gap genre is about how love & just caring for someone can always transcend age. Changing someone’s like doesn’t come with an age requirement and watching how these unlikely pairings change each other for the better over time is always so satisfying to watch. There are always moments of doubt and frustration with these stories, but the wait is always worth it.. To get that happy ending and see the triumph of the couples who believe in each other and the good of having that person around.. Sure, it’s idealistic to think that way, but hey.. that’s why we love manga and anime right? :D


Update: Part 2 is out here!

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