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A story featuring an adolescent making the mental leap from child to adult. In real life, this happens over the course of several years. Literature and some television are media that have the space to show the story at a slow pace. But for a movie, things have to be compressed to several months at the most, so expect some really accelerated character development. Tends to happen to a character anywhere from 13 to 20 years of age.

Usually includes some combination of the following:

An increasingly popular comedy subversion is the Delayed Coming of Age Story, in which the person has remained mentally a child his entire life and only finally experiences these things sometime between his late 20s and mid-40s.

Mainstream film coming-of-age stories tend toward Dramedy. Independent film or novel stories lean toward drama, sometimes jumping headlong into Wangst.

The word bildungsroman ("educational novel") or bildungsgeschichte ("educational story") are sometimes used to describe these kinds of stories.

See also Age Progression Song.

Examples of Coming of Age Story include:

Standard Implementation

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Film

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • Smallville embodies this concept. Not just to Clark but to the characters around him aswell
  • Doctor Who really seems to embody this trope. Most of the companions go through a coming of age brought about by their travels with the Doctor.
    • And the Doctor himself, to some degree. Each incarnation brings new facets to his personality, which almost always includes certain character flaws that he gradually overcomes.
  • HBO's Rome contains a few examples. Brutus goes from a half drunk socialite controlled by the whims of fate and his manipulative mother to a self possessed stoic cutting the straps from his armor as he walks alone against an entire platoon. Octavian meanwhile goes from a geeky wimp at the start of the series to a very, very, creepy Magnificent Bastard in the close.
  • Sugar Rush (TV)
  • An episode of Malcolm in the Middle revolved around Malcolm trying to help his classmate Dabney get into a paintball match despite the resistance of Dabney's overbearing mom. Once Dabney unleashes years of repressed aggression, his mom comes around to try to drag him off.

Dabney: I'm not your little boy anymore. I'm your little man!

  • Troy has one in the Community episode "Mixology Certification". Over the course of the night his idolization of Jeff and Britta is replaced with the realization they can be just as ignorant as he is at times. Jeff even explicitly tells him he is a man now.
  • Boy Meets World was one long one.
  • Friends could be considered an atypical one. Rather than focusing on kids growing into young adults, it focuses on young adults growing into their 30s and settling down with families.
  • Red Dwarf had one in the episode 'Holoship'. Rimmer seems to realize that he doesn't want to be an officer. He wants someone who will love him. Hence why he's not super-excited when he becomes one, and he immediately gives it up when he realizes the woman he loves can't be with him.

Tabletop Games

  • In the central mechanic of Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, the Sell-Out, protagonist characters are given the option to permanently grow up (changing a Conviction from Sold to Free) to win a conflict. The series ends when the first protagonist has sold out her last Conviction.

Theatre

  • The musical A Chorus Line crams sixteen coming-of-age stories into the montage "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love".
  • 13 is the literal version of this since it is about the main character's Bar Mitzvah. Of course he is forced to grow up and figure out who his real friends are when he moves to a new town and tries to have the biggest party ever.
  • Vanities follows three women from high school in 1963 to college in 1968, and adulthood in 1974, and the musical version adds a fourth act set in the 1980's.

Video Games

  • All three of Fate/stay night's routes. The first two leave his future developments open. The last route, Heaven's Feel, is basically one possible conclusion.
  • Mega Man Star Force seems to be one of these, as the main character (Geo) starts out by shutting out the world in the first game, then grows up through the second game, so that by the third he is able to step up and take charge of the gang when Luna Platz has been datafied.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Link starts out as a mere orphan, but he eventually becomes well trained in the art of the sword and obtains the great status of the Hero of Time.
  • In Mass Effect 2 this is essentially Grunt's loyalty mission.
  • Both the A and B routes of Blaze Union, which deal with Gulcasa and Aegina respectively. The A route goes over more of the traditional story elements covered by this trope, whereas Aegina's path deals more with coming to terms with grief and the truth and finding one's place in the world.
  • Some Pokémon games play as this. A meek kid from a town in the middle of nowhere becomes powerful and confident, growing more mature over their journey and becoming a battle protégé. The first installment in the series even refers to the protagonists journey as this.

Western Animation

  • Gargoyles has a rather subtle story arc featuring Brooklyn changing from a wild-hearted hipster into an effective second-in-command and a brilliant strategist, yet a romantically frustrated character. The episode Kingdom highlights this.
  • The Character Development of Sokka, Katara, but especially Aang and Zuko of Avatar: The Last Airbender involves a lot of this.
  • The main themes of the Toy Story trilogy revolve around growing up, moving on, and that nothing lasts forever. Andy goes from being a carefree young boy to a young man heading off to college, and his toys realizing, and eventually facing the fact that Andy will inevitably outgrow them.

"How long will it last Woody? Do you really think Andy is going to take you to college? Or on his honeymoon? Andy's growing up...and there's nothing you can do about it."

  • South Park has been toying with these in later seasons. "You're Getting Old" and "Assburgers" plays this mostly straight for Stan. Then three episodes later "1%" flips this trope around in its handling of Cartman.
  • The main arc of Danny Phantom is Danny's growth from an average, awkward and naive kid who just want to fit in with the popular crowd to a much more heroic and down-to-earth (in a manner of speaking) young man.

Examples of Late Bloomer Subversions

Anime and Manga

Film

Literature

  • Adrian Mole, who basically went through an extended 20-year adolescence from age 13 to his mid-30s.
  • Flowers for Algernon, arguably.
  • Isabel Spellman from Spellman Files.
  • The Mysteries of Pittsburgh for Art.
  • Cerberon features the coming of age of the eponymous unicorn. While already an adult at around twenty years old, he learns through the course of the novel what it takes to be a real unicorn and not just a pretty, well-educated horse with a pointy thing on his head.

Live-Action TV

  • The Winner
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one enormous coming-of-age story (only, you know, with monsters and superpowers) for Buffy, Willow and Xander, and the run of the series is structured to follow specific stages of adolescence.

Theatre

  • Avenue Q. Princeton is a college grad, but he's still not ready for real adult life.