Coming of Age Story

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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.

Coming of Age Stories usually include 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 terms 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

  • The entire subplot of Dragonball Z is essentially Gohan growing up with adventures similar to Goku's, his father, albeit far more violent. Like its predecessor, Dragon Ball, the series ends when Gohan is married and has a family of his own.
  • Candy Candy shouws the growing up of the titular Candy from abandoned orphan to a competent professional woman in her late teens/early twenties.
  • ef - A Fairy Tale of the Two
  • Naruto Shippuden shows the title character's growth from the least talented and least loved ninja in his village to a fully recognized prodigy who has saved thousands of people and faced down some of the worst criminals the world has to offer.
    • Also (to an extent) Sasuke, who has matured from being the Rival to being homicidally crazy.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross and its sequels, Macross 7 and Macross Frontier, with Hikaru Ichijo being the first in the franchise to fit this trope. He starts off not wanting anything to do with the military, but the death of Roy Fokker forces him to mature and become a great pilot.
    • Then again, before Hikaru there was Amuro Ray of Mobile Suit Gundam and probably the best of the earliest examples in mecha anime. Amuro got slapped very often by Bright Noa and this helped shape him into a man. Even Bright explicitly tells him that a good smacking would force him to become one.
  • FLCL, (at least insofar as it is a story and not simply an experience). All of the crazy shit that's happening is all symbolism for the confusion of puberty. Baseball, kissing, rock and roll, it's all there!
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion sounds like it ought to be the same, but is a subversion: It's about most of the people failing to come of age and suffering for it. Really, Shinji learns almost nothing until the very end of The Movie. And by then it's way too late.
    • Curiously enough, the lack of maturity can actually be traced back three generations BEFORE Shinji himself. If SEELE could give their story, I bet some of them might even reveal that they're actually Shinji's Grandfather or something considering how immature they actually were for a bunch of Old Men.
      • Surprise: that's actually canon. Yui had familial connections in SEELE, hence why Gendo originally became interested in her.
    • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, also made by Studio Gainax, plays this straight.
  • If you boil all the Unwanted Harem bits and leave only the core of the plot, you can see that Mahou Sensei Negima is basically a story of Negi growing from good-natured and smart but somewhat clumsy and socially awkward kid, into a great hero and a true successor to his legendary father. Only with magic and kung-fu. It's also a literal coming-of-age story, as his constant use of Evangeline's Year Inside, Hour Outside resort has presumably aged him up by at least a year.
  • Narutaru. Shiina copes with loss and tragedy and learns a great deal about friendship, love, and the complexities of people and the world. Then she and her partner/ShadowArchetype, Mamiko, wipe out all of mankind together.
  • Sky Girls, combined with Humongous Mecha and Fanservice, and Character Development, which arguably elevated its Fan Service-vehicle OVA into a solid series.
  • Now and Then, Here and There[context?]
  • Piano[context?]
  • Mokke, where ghosts are being used to illustrate lessons about life. It's actually rather well done.
  • Binbou Shimai Monogatari[context?]
  • The main premise of Hidamari Sketch, if not particularly clear to some, is on Yuno's wanting to be mature. It is kind of lampshaded when she was overjoyed on any suggestions that she has matured whatever a small bit.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist. Lampshaded so many times by so many characters you'd think they're paid for it.
  • Windy Tales[context?]
  • Hitohira[context?]
  • Diamond Daydreams[context?]
  • Twin Spica, where the heroine has to grow up while going into an academy geared to form astronauts
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn, when it boils down to it. It's really mostly about Tsuna being shaped and trained by Reborn into becoming a real man fit for being the 10th Generation Vongola boss.
  • Ashita no Nadja, yet another story of "young orphan maturing once released in the world"
  • Eureka Seven showed the maturation of several characters, even beside the protagonist Renton.
  • Chrono Crusade seems to be a coming-of-age story for Rosette, particularly in the manga. It might be one for Chrono as well, although he'd be a "late bloomer" example as he's Really Seven Hundred Years Old.
  • Aoi Hana
  • Most Studio Ghibli movies, including Spirited Away (Chihiro's character development from being spoiled and complaining to being a person caring and supportive) and The Cat Returns.
  • Onani Master Kurosawa. In every sense of the word.
  • Real heartbreakingly deals with teenagers forced to grow up because of the disabilities that they've suddenly had to accept in order to deal with the world around them.
  • Full Moon wo Sagashite also deals with the protagonist, Mitsuki, having to grow up while dealing with the fact that she doesn't have much time to live.
  • Fushigi Yuugi is a coming-of-age story, among other things, for just about all the good guys—yeah, especially Miaka. Bonus points because, while it takes somewhere between a few weeks to a few months for them to finish their journey in the book, it's only two days in the real world.
  • To some extent, Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid might count as a coming-of-age story for Sousuke. During the season, he got separated from Kaname which pissed him off royally. By the last episode, he even goes so far as to verbally insult a GENERAL to get his will through. Mardukas and Kalinin both comment on it afterward (although it's clear why he did it); it was also the first instance where he properly socialised with Tessa (so much so that she was gawking at him in shock).
  • Cross Game[context?]
  • Arguably a main point in NieA 7, at least for Mayuko.
  • Uta Kata does this in a Magical Girl context.
  • Nanaka 6/17 plays with this, as it begins with the titular character apparently being more "mature" (read "stiff and serious") than her similarly-aged schoolmates until an accident reverts her to her six-years old personality, forcing everyone around to finally step up in their growing and questioning the real meaning of maturity.
  • Sakende Yaruze is basically a Coming of Age Story for Nakaya that runs parallel to a Children Raise You story for his father Shino.
  • Gun X Sword is a coming of age story for Wendy. It's not the main plot, but it's a pretty important subplot.
  • Tamayura[context?]
  • Almost all of the World Masterpiece Theater series are Coming of Age-stories, but it's played the straightest in Anne of Green Gables, where Anne visually gets older as the story progresses.
  • Galaxy Express 999 is sometimes described as being a sci-fi bildungsroman.
  • Megazone 23, at least the first part. It contains elements of most of the examples from the top of this page and ends on a decidely negative note.
  • Wandering Son has this, but the anime and manga portray it in a different way. The anime seems to be more so about kids learning to be comfortable with their bodies and growing up, apparently changing the protagonists from Transsexualism to simple Wholesome Crossdresser's. The manga isn't nearly as obvious as the anime, but it's still apparent. The manga began in late elementary, and currently the protagonists are in early high school.
  • Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, where a mega earthquake and the ensuing chaos force a couple of siblings a very quick maturing.
  • Once you look past the Fan Service, many of Masakazu Katsura's works turn out to be this. It's specially obvious in Video Girl Ai an I''s:
    • Video Girl Ai: both Youta and the titular Ai endure this, most notoriously with Ai as she is also in the route to Become a Real Girl. In fact, the role of the Video Girls is to inspire the men who rent their tapes to mature, something shown more clearly in the spin-off Video Girl Len.
    • I''s is all about the I trio of Ichitaka, Iori and Itsuki road to maturity though dealing with their personal issues and their wavering relationship.
  • Aside from the Unwanted Harem elements, Rosario + Vampire is this for Tsukune. He starts of as a directionless Ordinary High School Student, but gradually becomes a more mature and confident individual, and dedicates himself to promoting peaceful relations between humans and monsters.
  • In Ciguatera the main character matures greatly by the end of the story
  • Eyeshield 21 boils down to the main character growing out of his wimpy kid mold and becoming a man (Albeit, a rather wimpy man).

Comic Books



Live-Action TV

  • Smallville embodies this concept, not just for Clark, but for the characters around him as well.
  • 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)[context?]
  • 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.[context?]
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • The mainline Pokémon games use this plotline: 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 protagonist's 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.

Multiple Media

  • The BTS Universe, but most explicitly in the novels, the webcomic, and the video game parts of the franchise. While many of the characters have this as backstory, all of them truly begin their actual 'coming of age' after the return and reformation of the group. Unfortunately, they are unknowingly trapped in a Groundhog Peggy Sue loop invoked by one of them, and every time they fail (or worse, every time their friend feels he failed the rest), time reverts, erasing every development they acquired. By the end of the second novel, when the loop finally breaks, their development finally sticks, and they seem to already have become more mature or are in the road to being so.

Examples of Late Bloomer Subversions

Anime and Manga



Live-Action TV

  • The Winner[context?]
  • 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.


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