After spending enough time consuming a specific medium of entertainment, you will inevitably get to the point where one of the things you consume mean a lot to you. Whether it be movies, games, books, or television shows, sooner or later one will stand out in such a way that you almost cling to it on an emotional level. Recalling moments from that thing gives you goosebumps, embrace it despite all it’s flaws, love it for everything it got right, and want to show it to as many people as you can whether or not they care because this thing is special.
I’ve expressed in the past my feelings towards a show that is very special to me before, Little Witch Academia, and it was a show I couldn’t stop bringing up for a good few months. I wrote an entire editorial about how much this specific show meant to me while trying to avoid spoilers to the best of my ability. In the past I’ve also mentioned that the show Non Non Biyori means a lot to me, and while I could take a similar opportunity to talk about why Non Non Biyori is so extremely special to me, I thought I’d do something more interesting and talk about why I think shows with a child-like innocence are so much more meaningful than arguably more enjoyable shows.
So first things first, what shows have child-like innocence? While I could easily just say any show with a western rating of G or PG, I feel like that would exclude a few productions that fall under the PG13 banner. To keep things simple, a show with child-like innocence are shows that completely avoid lewd jokes altogether, focus on seemingly childish (as in child-like, not immature) goals as their main conflicts, and keep an overall light mood throughout the entire show; bonus points of the main characters are also younger than high school age. For example, Little Witch Academia completely avoids any suggestive jokes, the main conflict is about the main character becoming just like her idol, and the show has an overall message of never stop believing in yourself so I think it’s safe to say the entire production has a rather light mood. Therefor, for our purposes, that would mean Little Witch Academia has child-like innocence.
To me, productions that fall under this umbrella have a high chance of meaning a lot to any given individual. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons anything becomes meaningful to us is because it was relatable in a unique way compared to other things. So, what happens when a show presents a childish subject matter in an initially heartwarming format then suddenly relates to not only the struggles of everyday life as a kid, but the struggles of everyday life as someone outside of the target audience? If you ask me, that way of relating to your audience is more meaningful than any other way you could relate to them.
A show that can lull you into a sense of comfort and then present something that seems written almost exactly for you is a lot easier to exist when the initial act of lulling you into comfort is easier. Well written shows don’t only appeal to their target audience and I feel like well written children shows, or shows with child-like innocence, are why we get productions like Little Witch Academia, Non Non Biyori, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Studio Ghibli’s films just to name a few. During and after watching each of the aforementioned productions, there’s always this child-like joy inside of me that makes me happy that I just experienced what I experienced. Not every show that does this to me is meaningful to me as Little Witch Academia and Non Non Biyori, but sometimes that childish joy is exactly what something needs to become special.
For example, there’s a distinct difference between something like Kimi no Na wa. and Little Witch Academia. While both mean a lot to me, the former of the two had to undoubtedly work a lot harder to create something that would touch me in the way that it did. It had to carefully balance my suspension of disbelief with explanation, it had to craft important and meaningful character development in a fraction of the time the latter of the aforementioned had, and it had to create a cast and setting fitting for the much more difficult to convey overall mood and message the film was trying to go for. On the other hand, Little Witch Academia could turn it’s main character into a mouse and I wouldn’t question it for even half a second, had a 25 episode run (meaning that even at only 20 minutes per episode, it had roughly 400 more minutes of run time than Kimi no Na wa.), and could hand over any creative and childishly fitting setting and cast to convey it’s message.
This isn’t to downplay what Little Witch Academia achieved in my eyes, as it’s writing was beyond just “Enough to get the point across”, but I still have no doubt in my mind that it didn’t have to be as carefully crafted as Kimi no Na wa. did as a more mature production. Had things to the same degree been off in both Kimi no Na wa. and Little Witch Academia, I feel the former would suffer a million times more, due to the advantage that the latter has of being a kid’s show and getting a general pass on silly mistakes. Because of that pass, and that willingness to accept mistakes as mistakes when it comes to kid’s shows, I feel like these shows with child-like innocence have a greater chance of meaning a lot to people in general.
Another reason I feel that childish shows have an advantage is because of that overall light mood. It’s a lot easier to to gather a general message and let the sudden serious moments be more meaningful when the show in general is a lot more lighthearted. When Little Witch Academia shifts its mood from happy and cheery to serious and inspiring, there’s this clear sharp contrast between the moods of the scenes and it not only makes what it’s doing obvious but also easier to grasp a hold of. Meanwhile, when a production like Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica goes from hopeless to extra hopeless, the mood isn’t instantly understandable and the minutia of the moment is something that takes an extra moment of thought to interpret.
With how these productions are special out of the way, what’s interesting to me is my feelings towards Madoka Magica and Non Non Biyori. Without a doubt, between the two shows, Non Non Biyori means more to me. Having watched it in a bad period of my life and the relaxing lives of little girls living in the Japanese countryside somehow being exactly what I needed at the time, the show was pretty easily cemented itself as a production that holds a special place in my heart. However, at the same time I’d say that Madoka Magica is a more enjoyable production. It has twists and turns, lows and even lower lows, a dark plot that’s dreadfully addicting to watch, and because of that is the anime I’ve rewatched the most number of times.
If ever given the option between watching Madoka Magica again and Non Non Biyori again, nine out of ten times I’m pretty likely to pick the former just as something I like a lot more. With that said, then why is Non Non Biyori so much more meaningful to me? Madoka Magica has some pretty deep themes and an ending that kind of highlights the importance of helping others at least a little bit, and you’d think with how many times I’ve rewatched it, it’d mean something special to me. Sure, while it is one of the shows I consider liking too much to fairly judge for all of it’s flaws, it didn’t help pull me out of a dark time in my life, it didn’t make me feel warm and happy inside when I needed it most, and it didn’t put tears of joy in my eyes. Instead, Madoka Magica made me feel like garbage and anxiously watch episode after episode wondering how in the world falling down a flight of stares could be any more painful — that’s what it was supposed to do.
I’d argue that often times, more mature shows with a focus on darker subject matter are more enjoyable — at the very least they are for me. Yet, as I watch Cardcaptor Sakura there’s that childish joy that rings inside of me at the end of every episode, I think it’s a lot easier to say that a production like Cardcaptor Sakura means more to me even if I’d be enjoying the experience more by some arbitrary value more if I was in the mood for and watching Madoka Magica. Madoka Magica doesn’t have that child-like innocence, as the entire premise according to some people is it throws away the possible charm it could get from that, and it doesn’t fill me with childish joy at the end of the day, so even if I could rewatch it another 20 times and still love it, it will never mean as much to me as some of the more innocent productions I’ve experienced to date.
I don’t know if I like this post but gosh darn it I’ve worked on it long enough already. Thank you so much for reading this week’s editorial! If you have a thought to add, I’d love to hear it (even if you disagree) if you leave it in the comments below. Additionally, if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not writing for this blog, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I am very tired so I’m going to sleep now! See you all next week!