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Ah, love. It’s a many-splendored thing. So many of us spend much of our time daydreaming about finding the perfect lover and lifemate that it can blind us to the rest of what life has to offer. But it’s also an integral part of growing up.

We’ve all been there–confused kids growing up wondering what love feels like, how to behave while in a relationship, what it really means to love and care for your partner, and, well, growing up as a whole. That’s what 12-sai conveys so perfectly despite all its imperfections. The show has received its second anime series, and it’s a whirlwind of emotion, awkwardness, and the drama that can only come from a host of younger characters.

12-sai, or “Age 12,” follows main character and sixth-grader Hanabi and her best friend Yui. Hanabi isn’t interested in boys or relationships at the start of the show, but as the anime dictates, that changes fast. Hanabi ends up with the male lead Yuuto Takao, and while this is a bunch of 12-year-olds we’re talking about, they take themselves and their surroundings as seriously as you’d think.

Yuuto and Hanabi’s relationship is born with an accidental kiss on a rooftop between the two after they catch a glimpse of their teacher kissing her boyfriend in her home. If it sounds ridiculous, it’s because most of these “life-changing” events when it comes to adolescence often are. It was a huge deal to sit together and kiss on the bus when I went on field trips as a 13 or 14-year-old and now young couples are doing things that would have been unheard of when I was a kid.

That’s part of why I can appreciate 12-sai so much: because it distills the idea of being boyfriend and girlfriend into a much less risque business and more about love, crushes, innocent kisses, and expressions of emotion. It’s refreshing to see, especially when there are characters like Cocoa Hamana, who would be considered a “bad” type of girl in a more adult series like Peach Girl, since she’s all about Yuuto and becoming his girlfriend, or Marin Ogura, who always has the “best” advice when it comes to love.

There’s far too much of a focus in the real world on growing up quickly, falling in love and getting married, and everything that comes with it–and it shines through in so many series aimed at younger viewers. While 12-sai tends to veer off into that territory from time to time, it’s content to let its characters navigate adolescence bookended by the magic of romance and the curiosity that comes with it. These kids are barely middle schoolers, you know.

The second season of the show really entangles its characters in additional drama, and while each episode is only about 14 minutes long, it’s still a complex narrative with plenty of twists and turns, though scaled down to a younger crowd. This would be a series I’d recommend for younger anime fans going through many of the same complex and confusing feelings that come along with that long, stoic march into adulthood, though I know some adults who could learn from it as well. 

If you’re looking for another series to add to your already overflowing bucket of fall shows, really consider 12-sai and its relatively low entry fee (the first season can be enjoyed in a couple of hours or so) as well as the innocence, childlike wonder, and confusing issues that come with growing up. Then go read the manga, because that’s probably what I’m going to go do too. 

Top Image Credit: YouTube

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