The Good, Bad, Confusing and more with Anime Crushes

For many anime fans, having a ‘crush’ on a character is a pretty common occurrence, especially in those hormonal pre-teen into teen years. Some of us have better taste then others – my first anime crush was homicidal maniac era Gaara. I fell very much into the ‘I could change him, he wouldn’t hurt me’ mentality. Being 13 back in the mid-2010’s was a thing, and I readily admit it was cringe. Ultimately it shaped me into who I am today. I still think Gaara is a cool character, but can acknowledge my crush was a bit misguided.

With that first crush, I was also incredibly lucky that Gaara, unlike a lot of anime characters, grew older. While he might have been thirteen years old when the series started – he grew up and aged from the original run into Shippuden, and even into Boruto. According to his wiki page, he’s like… thirty-two/thirty-three canonically as of writing. Which is pretty reassuring since he’s still older then me.

I can’t say I have the same assured nature with other anime crushes of mine. I’ve noticed at least in my corners of the internet there’s been a larger discussion at play talking about fictional crushes and ‘aging out of them’. Some of the conversation has been surprisingly well articulated. As you can imagine with the internet though most of it hasn’t. Picking through all these comments, arguments and formulating my own thoughts and feelings has been enlightening for me. So, let’s talk about it.

What really got me thinking and reevaluating my thoughts was not Gaara, actually but Fujishiro Seiji from Whistle!. Whistle! starring a mostly male cast, and being set firmly in junior high school. The age of junior high school students being on average between 12-14 years old in Japan, with characters aging and having birthdays in the series. It’s worth noting there was a time-skip in the final chapter launching the majority of the cast into college/early 20’s. This all being fodder for the fact that realistically that doesn’t really matter since the majority of the series, Seiji is about thirteen, maybe fourteen years old.

Which for jr. high schooler Rise was just fine since we were the same age. And because I want to gush just a little – Seiji was, in my opinion, the most physically attractive character, as well as having one of the best personalities in the series. Yes, he has a beauty mark on an already pretty face so yeah I had a crush on him. He was kinda a himbo before the word came about too. He didn’t care about girls, school or much else he just wanted to play soccer. What was best about Seiji is while he was handsome and competitive – he never got too arrogant like other players. He would jump at the chance to play soccer, regardless of the skill of the other players, he just played. And I thought was a pretty cool trait of his, since it allowed to him to blend in withy nearly every group of players to some degree. It was the first time I’d seen a character like him so I was charmed.

I have to say that overall, as a pre-teen/teenager that I didn’t think too hard about the ages of any particular characters. I more grouped them based on life events. In fact most of the time, I regularly forgot that Whistle! was about middle schoolers and assumed that they were high schoolers since I was. Mostly due to me assuming the cast was ageing with me, rather then existing within the pages of their manga, and partly because Whistle! tended to have them act a bit older then expected. I was a bit whimsical as a teen, but figured as long as it didn’t feel weird it wasn’t weird.

I mean, I never put any weight in my ‘crush’ on Seiji, Gaara, Hazama Kuro (Black Jack), etc. I was a pretty imaginative kid, and I remember specifically in an addition of Anime Insider (RIP) another teen girl asking if her crush on Gaara was ‘wrong’ or not. While the editor made sure to reassure the girl that it was perfectly fine provided she wasn’t ignoring her real life relationships with other boys or girls in favor of him, it was a little odd it was Gaara of all characters. It was a really articulated take for the time and I took to that a lot myself.

I wrote some bad self-insert fanfiction with these characters, mostly explored how I’d want to be seen in their universes. And yes, one or two sappy pre-teen end it with a kiss type of stuff – I was thirteen and all my romance came from TV, anime and manga. I drew some fanart from time to time. But I also had plenty of real relationships and crushes on real people. And that seemed plenty healthy to me.

Fast forward a decade or so later and there was a post on tumblr that got my attention. Unfortunately I can’t find it, otherwise I’d link it. If someone reading this happens to know the post actually, link it down below it would be much appreciated. The long story short is the OP had a younger (minor) brother who had a Dakimakura (body pillow) of a minor character. When the brother was officially older then the minor character, he threw out of the body pillow saying something along the lines of “It’s not legal anymore” or something. And the OP more or less applauded their brother for being a good otaku who wasn’t creepy and weird, and why couldn’t other (mostly) dudes do the same?

Of course, we have to take into consideration that OP could be making shit up for tumblr clout. That’s happened more then once in fandom tumblr. I also didn’t appreciate how it went from being a wholesome ‘look at my younger siblings growing up’, to a ‘you’re all fucken weirdos if you own merchandise of minor characters’. I didn’t read the comments, and/or I don’t remember them so I can’t say what the consensus was about this incident.

I mean, I do agree for better or worst that owning a body pillow of a minor character as an adult is weird. Let’s be honest, body pillows with anime covers regardless of the age of the character, have all sorts of connotations that usually aren’t positive. However that then leads to a discussion of what kinds of merchandise of minor characters is socially acceptable to own as an adult. What is the difference between owning a body pillow verses a plushie? A plushie and a figure?

If you buy these items as the same age as these minor characters, by what age is it no longer acceptable to own them? The minute you’re older then the character, or after you reach the age of adulthood in your country? You probably spent a good chunk of change on those pieces of merchandise, so how do you dispose of them? Sell them online, or you must throw them out because other adult fans might buy them for nefarious purposes?

All these ideas rolled around in my head because there is no clear or concise answer to any of these questions. At a certain point and in certain circumstances, we all reach our ick factor. There’s that collective energy of ‘that’s a deviation from being socially acceptable even for an otaku’ – but that factor varies so wildly from fan to fan. Not to mention the gendered bias.

I see a ton of female generally heterosexual fans, gushing about their crushes from childhood, those characters being children or not – with very little push back. Hell, I see women older then me crushing on characters that are the same age as some of their kids with no push back. I’m not calling an fandom or person out with that by the way; like what you like. Just know that if you say obvious stuff like ‘this character is the same age as my CHILD’ – that’s weird.

Because, if we flip the script the reaction would not be the same. If we saw male generally heterosexual fans doing the same, I guarantee that someone would be throwing metaphorical hands in the comments. Throwing in a minor girl character, and I’d guarantee that the hypothetical fan would be crucified in the comments.

Which got me thinking about my collection pieces and if anything I owned would be considered… “problematic” the way a body pillow of a minor character has been seen in the past. I don’t own a lot of merch to start. I try to be conservative in spending and curate verse accumulate. Key word being try, but then I saw them. My very large collection of Whistle! can badges, keychains, and acrylic standees of again… a majority of jr. high school aged boys.

Well fuck.

Where is the line for this sort of thing? Is it weird to own acrylic standees, or is weird to acknowledge that aside from one all of them are in the jr. high school age characters?

I think there is something to be said here. A few things actually. The first is no, I’m not getting rid of my precious Whistle! standees just because they’re minor characters, and I’m an adult. I spent way too long crying myself to sleep (no joke), that Whistle! would never have any merch ever and even if it did I would never own it. The fact I own as much as I do, and that these characters that shaped my pre-teen/teen years is something I couldn’t ever fathom. I’m pretty sure thirteen year old Rise would be sobbing at the fact we have a pocket sized Seiji of our own.

Two, I do think there is some merit to the idea of ‘aging out’ of certain relationship dynamics we have with fictional characters. Most of us read media where we can see ourselves in the characters, and it’s perfectly normal that maybe we develop a one-sided crush on them. As stated before, so long as it doesn’t interfere with with your real life and real relationships. The idea of being young forever is appealing, but all of us inevitably grow up and move forward from that anime crush.

Some people chose to ‘leave’ those fandoms entirely since it feels like a natural departure point for them. I totally respect that and have done the same for many fandoms. Others, myself included, have our relationship dynamic change. Seiji use to be a big anime crush, but now he’s just mostly a fond memory of my younger years. Also I now re-labeled him my anime son. Like I’d 100% adopt the kid on the spot if he were real and needed a mom.

Three, there is a conversation to be had about the merchandising of minor characters or characters that appear like minors. There’s also a conversation that while correlation does not equal causation, there are circumstances where I’m inclined to think otherwise. Same with the gendered bias I mentioned earlier. I strongly dismiss the narrative of ‘it’s just a character in a fictional story, lines on paper’, in relation to this. Then again, I’m not nearly well researched enough, nor articulate enough to have that conversation at the moment.

I wish I had a bit of a stronger ending to this particular blog post. I didn’t expect it to go where it has when initially writing it. Therefore, it’s probably a bit less well-worded then I’d like. That gives me reason to come back to this somewhere down the line when I’ve better developed my thoughts and maybe done some proper research. For now that’s what I got, and hopefully you guys got something out of it. If not at least it’s off my chest for the moment.

If you’ll excuse me, I have some standees to re-arrange for the millionth time. See you next post!



  1. Interesting…. I don’t think I’ve ever had a real crush on fictional characters. There have been those I kinda fancied, but not enough to go out of my way to eg. buy merc for them. Annnd to be fair, my teen years are so far back in time, that internet wasn’t even a half formed thought then. 😆 Buying “stuff” wasn’t easy, especially if you had to order from another country.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is certainly an outlier in my experiance. I also get that it’s really hard to invest in a character when you can’t buy the ‘stuff’ easily!


      • Oh, I know. I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to things like this. My “crushes” tend to be for whole tv-shows, rather than any characters in them. There are shows that I’ve really, really loved and I still feel warm and fuzzy whenever I think of them. The few mercs I’ve actually bought, have been show based and that happened much later in my adult life… enabled by the good ole inernet too. That said, I just remembered that I am a “card carrying Crumpeteer”, ha. Though that was just a bit of fun, not really a legitimate crush. Most of us Horatians (fans of the Horatio Hornblower tv-series) had our faves and I just happened pick Archie. 😁 Well, he was a total sweetie.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think that’s even better in a way, loving a whole show verses just one character within it. It really means that all/most characters are exceptional. And bless the internet for enabling us to be bigger fans then we were before it lol.

        And that’s really sweet about the Horatio Hornblower and Archie fans! I don’t know much about it but having an inside joke that that is the sign of a good fandom!


  2. Wow, this was a really interesting post! It certainly has me thinking about my merch collection! And the subject does get a little confusing if you’ve been a fan since you were young. This is introspective stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad it comes off as introspective – I honestly had no idea how it’d come off until it posted! So that’s a win in my book.


  3. Well, this was pretty interesting. I did have some characters that I really really liked above others. I wouldn’t call them crushes, but they were just really really compelling in my opinion; although most of them were the bad guys 😂. I wonder what that says about me (and yes, Gaara was among them)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad it was interesting! Was very worried it would be boring lol.

      It’s really interesting that you put it that way. There’s such a fine line (at least in my experiance anyway) between characters I thought were intriguing and characters I had a crush on. And bad guys are always more interesting then the good guys, so no worries lol.

      And yes~ Another person of good taste with being a fan of Gaara!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess so. I’ve met people who feel exactly the same way. They don’t see the difference between them being intrigued and having a crush on the said character.

        P.s I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like Gaara lol

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think I do fall into that box too. But I’m getting a bit better about distinguishing the two as of late.

        P.S. I have and they’re usually Sasuke fans instead lmao

        Liked by 1 person

      • It was a very long time ago, but yeah a couple Sasuke fans were not Gaara fans. I don’t remember the details but they do (did) exist!

        Liked by 1 person

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