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10 Anime That Give Justice to the Process of Growing Up

Written by: Nicole Castro

Published on: January 10, 2022 at 12:00 PHT (GMT+8)

Today (Jan. 10, 2022) is Coming of Age Day in Japan! It's a day when Japanese people celebrate their entry into the life phase of adulthood.

But as everyone knows very well, adulthood is no walk in the park. And growing into an adult (both physically and mentally) is an even tougher job. It's an incredibly long process of trial and error. Enter: coming-of-age anime!

These kinds of anime often focus on high school or university students who introspect on who they are and what they want to be. There's a lot of drama, angst, anxiety, but also transformation.

Without further ado, here are 10 anime that delve into the growing pains and victories as we make our way from adolescence to adulthood.

1. Great Teacher Onizuka (1999-2000)

GTO first aired in June 1999, but when you have an anime this great it lives on (and stays strong!) all the way to 2022. Eikichi Onizuka is an ex-biker gang leader who pursues his own unconventional path as a high school teacher. But it looks like he was destined for this role after all, since the students of Class 3-4 are delinquents themselves.

The Highlights of This Show: This anime is memorable for the depth and honesty it gives to depicting the lives of students who fall outside of the ideal high school student trope. Many of the Class 3-4 students are victims of bullying and sexual harassment and are therefore treated as losers and outcasts. This series even delves into the seriousness of suicide, and how having a great support system (like The Great Teacher Onizuka) can make a big difference in turning your life around at this crucial life phase.

2. Super Gals! Kotobuki Ran (2001-2002)

Super Gals! Kotobuki Ran misleads you into thinking it's just another cutesy shoujo anime, but it's surprisingly introspective and fleshes out the main cast very well. Ran Kotobuki dreams of becoming the epitome of a trendy, young Shibuya girl...which would've been okay if she didn't belong to a strict family of cops. And so begins the intricate story of Ran doing her best to remain true to herself while enjoying life as teenage girls do!

The Highlights of This Show: This show pays great respect to the struggles of teenage girls, especially in terms of love, appearances, and maintaining friendships at this delicate life stage. Ran's best friends Miyu and Aya have extensive plot development as well, so watching them with Ran always feels like joining a girls' sleepover with the most in-depth conversations.

3. Ouran High School Host Club (2006)

For all the shoujo high school life anime out there, Ouran is indisputably one of the most successful ones for being way ahead of its time. It is one of the first anime series to feature an unconventional female protagonist in the form of Haruhi. Haruhi is not interested in love or maintaining appearances when she enters Ouran. She's there to get her good grades and support her single-parent father. But she finds herself in an unexpected reverse harem situation when she joins the host club.

The Highlights of This Show: Aside from the crazy humor care of Tamaki and the other hosts, fans love Ouran for how Haruhi becomes an oddly perfect fit in this circle of friendship. And more importantly, the way she and Tamaki fall in love is gorgeously, awkwardly organic and doesn't rely on showy displays of charm typical of their host club work.

4. Kimi ni Todoke (2009-2011)

Kimi ni Todoke is another example of a shoujo anime that defies the usual tropes. Like Ouran, Kimi ni Todoke features an unconventional protagonist in the form of Sawako, a shy, socially awkward girl who struggles to make friends due to her uncanny resemblance to Sadako from The Ring.

The Highlights of This Show: In an era of anime full of toughie tsunderes and their male partners who were either too normal or too unusual with their backstories, Kimi ni Todoke was refreshing for how natural and normal Sawako and her love interest Kazehaya were. They are two, kind people who start out as friends and get to know each other gradually in a truly realistic way.

5. Assassination Classroom (2015-2016)

Assassination Classroom is another great anime featuring a great teacher who changes his outcast students' lives. Sure, GTO has done that kind of premise before, but Assassination Classroom takes the unconventional methods a little higher on the crazy scale. Koro-sensei is a monster who teaches Class 3-E how to assassinate him while getting top grades and pursuing their own dreams outside of their school's oppressive "survival of the fittest" system.

The Highlights of This Show: Once you get past the crazy plot, you'll find yourself falling in love with Koro-sensei and his bond with Class 3-E. And if you relate to the elitist school system that places too much emphasis on achieving good grades, you'll find yourself loved and accepted by Koro-sensei unconditionally.

6. Sakamoto Desu Ga (2016)

Sakamoto Desu Ga is that feel-good show when you're not in the mood for complex plot and just want maximum entertainment. Enjoy Sakamoto being downright weird, crazy, smart, and cool, all at the same time. It makes for unforgettable high school memories.

The Highlights of This Show: This show succeeds in not taking itself seriously while still delivering the heartfelt message that having fun is the most important thing in high school. You'll be surprised by how Sakamoto wi