If I want a sure sign of how drastically things have changed in anime in the past twenty-plus years, I need look no further than something hanging immediately to my right in my study.
This is an original theatrical poster for Dagger of Kamui, and in fact there's a bit of a story behind it. At A-KON in I think 2005, I stumbled across it in the dealer room. The man selling it told me I was welcome to have it for $5 if I could tell him what anime it was from. "Dagger of Kamui," I said (the poor guy didn't even get to finish his sentence), and after green crossed his palm I took it upstairs and stuffed it into a poster tube where it joined company with the posters for Gojoe and Electric Dragon 80.000 V. A good year for loot.
What's most striking about this thing is how dated the design is — doubly so because everyone on the thing (save maybe the kunoichi, which is in itself further food for thought) looks like they aren't a day less than forty. (Closeup 1 and closeup 2 .) You'd never be able to market the film today with a poster like this. Me, I actually like this kind of retro look-and-feel; it gives the whole thing an aura of maturity and gravity, not decrepitude.
Most anime product is aimed at and features younger characters, so the exceptions stand out all the more, especially when they're done well. Ghost in the Shell, of course, has a whole roster of folks who are not only well into adulthood but aging — Batou, Aramaki — and who come off all the better for it. They've got dignity and wisdom; they're not Happosai-like caricatures. Moribito, too (I wonder if it's a coincidence that they're both Production I.G items?), although the novel a bit more so than the show — Balsa in the book is described as being a bit more weatherbeaten than the woman we see on screen.
I touched on this same issue, peripherally, when talking about the reissue of the Akira manga. Otomo's art makes his adults look like adults, where many manga simply feature kids, overgrown teenagers, and then jump immediately from that into wizened geezer-dom. It doesn't hurt to have the full spectrum represented, especially if a growing chunk of the potential readership/viewership for such material's quickly turning into the very age bracket most commonly left out.