In Japan, "national anime" such as the world-famous "Doraemon" have been broadcast on TV for decades. Although they have been popular with every generation from past to present, the family structure and values of each have changed depending on the era in which the original work was created.
When I watch the anime I used to watch as a child with my own children, I often feel that the way of thinking and lifestyles are a bit old-fashioned.
In this article, I would like to summarize the changes in the image of the Japanese family based on the family anime that all Japanese people are familiar with.
- Postwar, the 1960s - "Sazae-san"
"Sazae-san" started in 1969 and is still being broadcast every Sunday evening. It is a representative work of the national anime that has continued for 54 years.
The story of a family of eight people from three households (the main character, Sazae-san, her husband Masuo, her son Tara-chan, her younger brother Katsuo, her sister Wakame, her father Namihei, and her mother Fune) unfolds in a heartwarming and unique way.
In the Showa period (1926-1989), it was common for three families to live together with the husband's grandparents, so it is normal for three families to live in one house. However, the interesting part of "Sazae-san" is that Sazae-san lives with her parents, Namihei and Fune, and her younger siblings. For this reason, the family structure in which the husband lives with his wife's parents without taking the form of a son-in-law is called the "Masuo-san situation/state," and is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.
Women in "Sazae-san" are basically housewives, and there are almost no scenes with men doing housework. Fune-san wears a kimono and kappogi (Japanese cooking stove) as her standard style. When her husband comes home, she greets him at the door and receives his luggage and suit. This anime clearly shows the values and lifestyle of the old Japanese family with the man as the mainstay of the family.
- 1970s - "Doraemon" and "Chibi Maruko-chan"
The world-famous "Doraemon" anime began airing in 1979 and is now in its 44th year, while "Chibi Maruko-chan" began in 1990 and is now in its 33rd year. "Chibi Maruko-chan," which began in the 1990s, is an anime that depicts the childhood of the author of the original manga and is set in the 1970s. The main characters are elementary school students.
"Doraemon" is a cat robot from the future. In this one-arc story Nobita is always bullied by Gian because he is not good at studying or exercising, and whenever he's in trouble, Doraemon helps him out with his secret tools. The story has been made into a feature film every year, and is so popular among children and adults alike that there is not a single Japanese person who does not know "Doraemon". It is also one of the world's most famous anime, broadcast not only in Japan but also around the world.
Nobita, the main character of "Doraemon," lives with his father, an office worker, his mother, a housewife, and Doraemon. The three of them lived together with Nobita's paternal grandmother until she passed away. The mothers of all major characters in "Doraemon" (Gian, Suneo, and Shizuka), including Nobita's family, are full-time housewives.
"Chibi Maruko-chan" is a story that uniquely depicts the heartwarming daily life of Maruko, a third grader in elementary school, and her family and friends. Maruko lives with her father, a salaryman, her mother, a housewife, her sister, a sixth grader, and her paternal grandparents in a family of six. "Chibi Maruko-chan" is inspired by the author, Momoko Sakura herself, and is a realistic depiction of life in 1970s Japan.
In the 1970s/1980s, women were gradually entering the workforce and the nuclear family was becoming more common, but the percentage of full-time housewives and those living with their husbands' parents was still high. The typical family image was that the father was a businessman and the mother was responsible for housework and childcare.
- 1990s - "Crayon Shin-chan"
"Crayon Shin-chan" is an anime that began in 1992. The main character is Shinnosuke Nohara, a mischievous and mature 5-year-old kindergartener. This is a gag manga that depicts the daily life of Shinnosuke and his kindergarten friends, as Shinnosuke's parents and other adults around him are swept up in the antics caused by the main character.
Shinnosuke has a family of four: mother, Misae, father, Hiroshi, and sister, Himawari. In this period, the nuclear family is becoming more common, and the number of two & three-family cohabitation is decreasing. Instead of living together in the family home, the goal is to build one's own home once one has a family, and the Nohara family has purchased a house in a city in Saitama Prefecture, next to Tokyo. Misae is basically a housewife, but occasionally works short-term part-time.
"In ""Crayon Shin-chan,"" the mothers of Shinnosuke's friends are basically full-time housewives. However, Shinnosuke is going to kindergarten, so I think the percentage of full-time housewives is high.
(In Japan, when both parents are working, the children attend nursery school, and those attending kindergarten are often in full-time housewife/househusband families.)
Statistics show that the percentage of dual income households in Japan was approximately 50% in 2000, and as of 2021, dual income households will account for 68.8% of all households."
- 2000s - "Pretty Cure"
The "Pretty Cure" series is not only overwhelmingly popular among young girls, but also among people of all ages. The basic concept of Pretty Cure, in which girls awaken and transform into Pretty Cure to fight enemies, remains unchanged, but each series is divided into one-year segments with new characters. The cute pictures and glamorous Pretty Cure costumes are any girls' dream, but there is also an aspect of the series where the Pretty Cure girls fight their enemies in a hand-to-hand combat.
Unlike conventional anime, the characters in "Pretty Cure" have very diverse styles, skin colors, ways of thinking, and their families come in many different forms. The family forms depicted in "Pretty Cure" are very different from the typical Japanese family, with the mother living abroad for work and the father being a househusband.
My daughter loved "Pretty Cure" when she was in kindergarten and we watched it together. I was very surprised by the diversity of the characters. At the same time, I realized that the "family form" depicted in Japan's anime has diverged from that of today.
Although Japan is said to have a low status of women compared to other developed countries, the family form is gradually changing. The number of dual income families is increasing, and the image of a family where the father is a salaried worker and the mother stays home as a housewife has become old-fashioned. In dual income families, it has become common for both spouses to share housework and childcare while working.
Men are encouraged to actively participate in housework and childcare, while childcare leave and shorter working hour programs are being introduced. This makes it easier for women to balance work with family life and pursue their careers.
In addition, as women continue to advance in society, family forms other than the nuclear family, are increasing. Diverse forms of families exist, such as families of single mothers and single fathers, same-sex couples, and families formed through cross-cultural marriages. This has broadened the concept of family and transformed society into one in which each family is respected.
However, although progress has been made in improving the status of women and promoting gender equality, stereotypes still remain about the division of roles between men, women and gender stereotypes, and the burden of childcare and housework still remains disproportionately on women.
I personally have questions about the anime style where the mother, who is always a housewife, is doing the housework and the father is drinking and watching TV.
"Sazae-san" and "Doraemon" have also changed the content of their TV broadcasts to modernize them for the current era. I think it is necessary for nowadays Japan to promote values like "Pretty Cure" that emphasize diversity in order to keep up with the changing times.
Animation that has remained timeless is worth watching and recommendable. It may be interesting to look at the story from that perspective.