Sometimes during interviews questions about features of Japanese animation can be asked. At such times, roughly estimation, you can hear about “There are many works about the adolescence”. Unstable identity romantic, or distance with other people. It is not just subject, they reflected on the characters’ words and actions, make the audience worry, raising harassment and drugs issues. It can be said that it is one of the characteristics of Japanese animation that such works are produced in various ways targeting teenagers and adults.
Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at Netflix’s original animated series “Big Mouth” has a big impact. “Big Mouth” is an American comedy anime. The main characters are middle school students (7th grade at the start) living in the suburbs of Westchester County in New York City. This work directly focuses on “physical changes and accompanying mental changes” during “adolescence”. Streaming began in 2017, and season 4 has just been released.
The story is developing around two boys, Nick Birch and Andrew Gloverman, with various classmates involved. It is also interesting that as the series progresses, substitute stereotypical characters develop deepness.
In episode 1, “Ejaculation”, Nick, who hasn’t reach spermarche and has no pubic hair, quarrels with his friend Andrew because of that. Andrew sees various “side dishes” and immediatly wants to masturbate. Even when he is staying at Nick’s house. In addition, Andrew is addicted to Internet pornography in episode 10 “The Pornscape” and is unable to return from there.
In episode 2, “Everybody Bleeds,” one of the main characters, Jesse Glaser starts to menstruate while visiting the Statue of Liberty on an excursion. Unprepared, Jesse gets stuck in the bathroom. When she went to the summer camp in Season 4 Episode 2 “The Hugest Period Ever”, her menstruations starts beforethe game in the lake, and she had a lot of trouble.
In this way, “Big Mouth” delivers the theme of “changes in the body” and “changes in the mind” very straightforwardly. There are many scenes where you can feel secondhand embarrassment. In addition, the visual itself is quite direct, and when dealing with female masturbation, the female genitals become characters and give lectures on how to masturbate to the characters. It can be said that this area is aggressive content because it is a streaming series.
Then, the romance between characters is developing further, and the worries of racial identity and the difficulty of parent-child relationships are taken up, along with episodes of consideration about LGBT. As a kind of imaginary friend, a character called Hormone Monster, which embodies the desires of the main characters, is also appear.
The point of this work is that it is basically drawn as a stylish comedy while having these elements. Probably, because it is a cartoon-style comedy, it handles various themes such listed in a flexible manner. Japanese animation is good at expressing realism, and even the same subjects may feel heavier and tenser. Watching “Big Mouth” reminds us that the “adolescence” that Japanese animation is showing, is not the only “adolescence”.
There is another Netflix original anime series “Twelve Forever”. Unlike “Big Mouse”, this work does not describe physical changes in a realistic way, but it shows various conflicts that arise in the minds of preteen children as they enter puberty.
The main character is the imaginative girl Reggie Abbott. She can use her self-made key to travel to her “Endless Island” in another world. “Endless Island” is a kind of neverland, where Reggie’s mysterious friends (such as her old toys) live. Reggie is looking forward to spending time with her friends Todd and Esther on “Endless Island”, forgetting about her reality.
Episode 1, “Birthday Forever,” starts with her 12th birthday. But the gifts sent by her mother are all girlish clothes, women’s razors, deodorant supplies, and brushes. Reggie, who wanted a toy, is very disappointed with all of it. In addition, her mother tries to sell old Reggie toys at a garage sale. Reggie, who had returned the toys that were about to be sold, headed to Endless Island to hide them.
As you can see from the introduction of episode 1, this work focuses on the story about the desire to “be a child” and the reality of “becoming an adult is inevitable” in the background. And as the series progresses, it depicts how the distance created between Reggie, who wants to be a child, and Todd and Esther is increasing.
Episode 21 “Dance Forever” depicts a dance festival which is held at school. Todd will dance with Nguyen, who he met by chance doing the same hobby. Esther, who is curious about Todd’s love story, will dance cheek-to-cheek with the boy he met at the dance festival. But Reggie isn’t interested in love and cheek-to-cheek is too much for her. She also negotiates with her music teacher to play a pacier song.
Eventually, Reggie tries to return to Esther and Todd. But Todd rejects her and ends up in a fight with Reggie. Esther, who was taken to her Reggie, is also dissatisfied with her behavior. The danger of thinking “I want to be like myself” leads to “Refusing to grow up” and is very tingling.
But there is a moment when Reggie falls in love? In fact, the encounter is depicted in episodes 17 and 18 “Locked Out Forever Part 1 / Part 2”. Reggie is interested in her classmate Connelly, who is making an independent film at her school. Connelly and Reggie have something in common: they tell stories using imagination. But Reggie doesn’t really understand why she cares about Connelly. The reason why Reggie suddenly returned to the dance festival was that she was upset when Connelly appeared at the venue.
Petosky, one of the series’ executive producers, described Reggie as a queer character who “compensates for her sexuality.” In other words, Connelly is a character who would hold the key to the process of becoming an adult while keeping Reggie “like her”. However, this work ended only in Season 1, and unfortunately, it is unknown what happened with Reggie after. How has the relationship between Reggie and “Endless Island” changed?
If you check Netflix’s various anime series, you can see that there are various “high-target anime (cartoons)” overseas. Among them, “Big Mouth” and “Twelve Forever” focuses on “adolescence”, which is often the theme for Japanese animation, with a completely different approach, and you can experience the variety of animation. At the same time, I think it is proof that “there are still areas that Japanese animation has not touched.”