When You Are Outside the Target Audience

By Gregory Vendramini

Feeling out of place? You may be! Know the pros and cons of being outside the target audience.

It’s funny how the little things we experience as kids shape us into who we are. We have already discussed this a few weeks ago here at Yatta-Tachi, and today I’d like to talk about what happens when you’re not the target audience of something you enjoy, and how that affects you.

 

This guy looks a bit older than the average 10 year old kid...
This guy looks a bit older than the average 10 year old kid…

Wait, what is a target audience?

When we say “target audience” we are referring to the intended audience for any kind of product. This concept can be applied to pretty much everything that is sold in the world, from books, to merchandise, and of course, anime and manga. For example, let’s take two of the most popular franchises ever made: Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball. While Sailor Moon was clearly aimed at young female readers, Dragon Ball included elements that would appeal more to teenage male fans. This demographic of the people that compose the major part of the fanbase is the intended target audience. Manga and anime, in particular, refer to these cases in particular as shoujo and shounen (i.e.: manga specifically aimed at girls or boys, respectively).

Believe It!
Perhaps on the most famous shonen manga ever made, Naruto is read all over the world by people of all ages and genders.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that only 12 year old girls watch Sailor Moon. The themes, art-style, narrative, and plot, are suited for them, but a 30 year old man might enjoy it as well. It happened to me before, and I’m sure it happened to you at least once in your life. If you have ever been questioned why were you watching a boys show if you’re a girl (or vice-versa), or if your parents complain about “those kid’s show you like”, welcome: you’re outside the target audience!

Is it bad?

Pfft, of course not. Everyone enjoys something without being the target audience. Disney and Pixar movies, for instance, are made for children but millions of parents enjoy them. And don’t even get me started on superhero films. Plus, the target audience is always changing: maybe you were part of it before, but have grown up, and that doesn’t mean you have to stop liking it!

That being said, however, you should know that being outside a target audience really has a few downsides. To me, one of the worst parts is not being suitable to buy some merchandise. When a certain series is targeted at 12 year old girls, well…most of the things they release are aimed at 12 year old girls too. And last time I checked, I didn’t use glitter, makeup, things with butterflies motifs or school-sized backpacks. You may have noticed the problem isn’t actually with ‘girly’ stuff or the color pink, but that I won’t really benefit from said merchandise the way a 12 year old will.

Obviously aimed at lumberjacks.
That backpack can’t hold half of what I need it to.

That is, of course, only part of the problem. As The Otaku Journalist reminded us this week, “it’s only been eight years since an Iowa man was jailed for doujinshi possession.” Being below the recommended age is never advised, as it means you’re probably not mature enough to understand and enjoy the material, but being older can bring you a lot more problems than just that. Someone much older watching a kids show may come across as creepy or as a stalker, and while you may not care at all if people laugh at you for buying toys of your favorite anime, you may run into a few problems if you’re spotted during events or conventions surrounded by 8 year old kids. After all, it may really be a dangerous thing: parents don’t know about your tastes or your backstory. All they see is someone much older than their children showing interest in a topic not suit for them, which is a common tactic used by sexual predators and kidnappers to approach and befriend their victims.

 

Shoujo stories, usually focused on romance, aim to get read mainly by young girls.
Shoujo stories, usually focused on romance, aim to get read mainly by young girls.

So, is it good?

Short answer? Maybe. While there is no scientific research on the subject (I think), appreciating a different kind of material can greatly improve your creativity. Writers are often told to read everything they can, and avoid being stuck in a genre. In a similar way, someone who enjoys manga of different topics and for different kinds of people are broadening their horizons and seeing things in ways they’ve never seen before. Reading a romance story may not be your thing, but it will surely help if you’re trying to write one yourself. If you want to better understand what kids like or dislike, watching their favorite series is a great start.

Just like in music, incorporating aspects from one genre into another is key to creating new and exciting content, and this constant mixing of genres and techniques can only be done by people who are way out of the “target audience” of what they want to create.

 

There's not enough room to practice kicks there, man.
A Dragon Ball enthusiast who is clearly not part of the target audience for shonen manga, but is enjoying it anyway.

“Boys and girls”

I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been teased by my friends because I liked Cardcaptor Sakura or other shows not aimed to me. Be it by age difference or “traditional” gender values, people can be quite cruel and vocal about what you -not them; you–  like. Look, I wish I had the power to solve all of this by writing about anime in my pajamas, but I think I’m far from that -and I’m not even wearing pajamas anyway- so we’re just going to avoid the “respect what other people like” advice. If some folks don’t get it by now, I doubt they’ll get it reading this.

Instead, we could start spreading the idea that people are allowed to enjoy things targeted at the opposite sex and that doesn’t make them less of a person. The only reason Sailor Moon was targeted to girls was that it’s aesthetics were appealing to young females. There is no solid reason why people of the opposite sex can’t enjoy it. Everyone is capable of appreciating it the same way you and I do, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Just remember that by being outside the target audience, you will probably not be happy about the directions the show may take. All those grown ups begging for Pokémon to be “darker and edgier” fail to understand that the core idea of Pokémon is that it is meant to be for kids to enjoy. Sometimes, the creators of the material actually acknowledge the switch on it’s demographics, but don’t count on that.

Not being part of the target audience may feel bad sometimes. You’re left out of cool merch, events, and even the show itself will do things you don’t agree with. Besides, get ready to have to explain to your friends and family that you are not “retarded”, “gay”, or “immature” for showing interest in things commonly associated with another gender or age. Enjoy the different perspective and the switch of tone and narrative on those stories, and make the best of the experience.

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Gregory Vendramini

Translator, author, and piñata enthusiast. Greg currently writes about anime, videogames, and pop culture while working on his next books, "A Long Halloween Night" and "The Fifth Archangel". He avoids social media a little, but is very open to exchanging ideas through emails or comments. Or in person, if somehow you find his house in the woods and get past the cat guards.

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  1. Clamp has always play with this idea. Chobits, despite it’s flowy and very “feminine” art style, is geared towards the shonen demographic. So was X due to its action-packed scenes. Though, X also attracted female audience because of the art style and many tropes that are supposedly geared towards shoujo.

    I am glad you brought MLP up because that is one great example of a community and franchise that appeal to a vast audience. No, I am not one of them, but I can appreciate the passion and how much effort the whole community put in as a whole.

    I too agree that Pokemon should always be all-age appropriate. There was a similar happening with a fan-made G1 Power Rangers short. It touted darker and more violent story. Of course, it was quickly taken down. Tommy Oliver, the original Green Ranger remarked that PR should stay kids friendly. I agree. As much as I want to see more gritty Super Sentai stories, it should be a separate thing that is inspired by the franchise. Not a direct Violenrenjaa series.

    Perhaps, most importantly, taking part in these counter-cultures is always daunting.

  2. Clamp was great at doing this. Some of my favorite series ever are Cardcaptor Sakura and xxxHolic, which are supposed to be aimed at girls. I think some series are so good that people don’t even stop to think if they are for boys or girls. Pokémon games are a good example.

    I’m not a huge fan of Tommy Oliver, but he’s damn right. Power Rangers RPM was already ‘mature’ enough without being a violent mess. The fan film was well made and all, but it’s not PR.

    The Pokémon manga, on the other hand, is the perfect balance. Not because it’s not ‘childish’, but because the anime series is dull and repetitive.