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The Confucian Elder or Powerful Guru? Portrayals of Elderly within Japanese Anime


by Kelsey Derrick


Professionals in human services fields have begun studying the effects of ageism on aging populations, particularly in developed countries. It is speculated that many peoples’ attitudes towards the elderly could be influenced by the cultural values often presented within television and movies. In particular, Asian societies who typically practice filial piety from Confucian values could be an exception to modern ageism around the globe. Since the 1980’s, Japanese animation has swept the world in popularity due to its unique drawing style, storylines and range of characters. With the timely emergence of anime and ageism in popular culture, the goal of this paper is to discover how older adults are portrayed within anime. 

About the Author

The original basis behind this content analysis was to discover ways in which elderly characters are portrayed in Japanese anime in a general sense. After reviewing the literature and beginning to view the anime within this study, the clear Confucian ideology and history behind these Asian cultures (as seen in the anime) added a philosophical aspect to understanding how Japan may view older adults today. Thus, an analysis of Japanese anime and its underlying meanings within culture would be incomplete without discussing and implementing factors of historically prominent Confucian theology. As a senior psychology major and sociology minor, Kelsey developed the idea for this research while taking Dr. Smith’s Sociology of Aging and the Elderly course (Fall 2016). Mental health and elder care advocacy are two fields in which she would like to make a difference someday, as she aims to work in mental health services post-graduation. In the future, Kelsey hopes to continue exploring sociological research in graduate research and use these skills to enhance her occupational expertise as a professional.

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