Short of the whole world of shonen action, few genres are as deeply emedded in the DNA of modern anime as the teen melodrama. Most western anime fans seem to find the medium at times in their lives where these stories are directlys peaking to some part of their everyday experiences and concerns. In other words, these stories are about them.
For those of us aged out of that demographic, that appeal doesn't last forever. Many search for anime targeted toward older audiences and many end up losing interest losing interest in anime entirely, forevering pinning it down to one period of their lives. While growing in a new direction is entirely normal and healthy, we ought not convince ourselves that it's the only option when we start to drift from our old favorites. I, like many others, found myself losing my connection to this world that I love. I'd just like to document a couple changes in my thinking which helped me find a new love for teen melodrama and anime as a whole.
Most of us are constantly throwing our past selves under the bus, describing and framing past phases and attitudes as the foolish mistakes of naive youth. We do this to assert and defend our own growth, defining ourselves against us in the past in order to explain where we've landed. This may make us feel good in the short term, but it's unfair to ourselves and to others in the places we once were. We forget about the priorities we once had or pressures pushing on us in one direction or the other. As we become further removed from that period of our lives, the context fades. The feelings fade. When we reach the point where our memory has dried to some loose thoughts and events on a broad scale, we're hardly better judges of ourselves than strangers. Especially with the countless anxieties teenagers have to grapple with, that context is everything.
I mention this when talking about anime because teen melodrama is supremely suited to helping acquaint ourselves with who we used to be. Take advantage of this. Watch Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and remind yourself of that pressure to get started in life, the feeling of seeing those overachievers in high school making creative and professional progress that you couldn't compare to. Remind yourself of coming to terms with that feeling of inferiority and how it may have influenced your thinking about everything else. Do the same with Hyouka and self-imposed emotional distance or damn near any club show and the universe-warping change in priorities that hits when the end of school is in sight and you have to learn to live as the end looms over you.
It's wonderful when art meets you where you're at, but don't ignore its power for helping you empathize with people in entirely different places than you. Your younger self included.
Good storytelling can often be "adult" regardless of the target audience. These anime may be about teenagers and for teenagers, but they typically aren't by teenagers. They're by much older motivated creatives who actively choose and fight to take a path in life that no one pushed them down and with countless social, personal, and economic roadblocks trying to stop them. It's only natural that these people, when choosing to write anime and such about the time in their lives where they started that journey that they'd have some meaty thoughts which resonate more with non-teen audiences who are similarly looking back at being that age. Look for these things. Really engage with the material rather than passively absorbing it, and I swear you'll find things that can still speak to you wherever you're at in life.
While this has been a process I've been going through for a while, I put pen to paper due to my current revisiting of Toradora! I'm struck with how boldly Ami operates as a stand-in for adult responses to teen romances they might see as drawn-out and shallow. Ami is wise and cuts through the bullshit of young romance, yet that sense of mature superiority to those younger or newer to things like love deprives her of the passion and genuine feeling that those around her are experiencing. It's a bit meta, honestly. Learn from Ami that there's much to be learned even from a short-lived school-age romance.
Also this is the whole point of Space Patrol Luluco. Watch that please.