Let’s say you’re looking for a job, and someone offers you a position as the vice president of human resources in a global logistics services company. That’s a pretty plum position, and most of us would jump at the chance.
However, offer a nine-year-old kid the same job, and he’s likely to turn it down and say he’d rather be an ice cream salesman instead. The point is kids don’t always have the most concrete handle on what professions entail, so if you ask them what they want to do for a living someday, you might not get the most sensible answers. This was definitely the case when a number of elementary school boys in Japan recently said that when they grow up, they want to become anime characters.
Dai Ichi Life Insurance Company annually surveys elementary school-age children on what their dream job is. In the most recent poll, soccer player took the top spot on the boys list, as it has for three years running. Traditional choices of scientist and police officer tied for second place, followed by sports again with baseball player at number four.
You’d probably get similar responses from boys in just about any country. However, researchers were surprised that the fifth most common response was “anime character.”
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Somewhat concerned by the seeming lack of any sort of logic behind this response, researchers asked some of the boys to clarify their answer. For example, what kind of anime character did the want to become?
“I want to be like Conan,” said one fourth grader, referring not to the barbarian warlord portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the title character of long-running manga and anime Great Detective Conan.
As the title implies, Conan is a crime-solving genius. We’re not exactly sure why this boy didn’t answer that policeman was his dream job, but the fact remains that what’s attracting him to the character is the useful set of skills he employs in a role that helps society. The distinction between “I want to be a detective” and “I want to be Conan” is something that the boy will no doubt come to grasp when he’s a little older, and still long before he has to commit to a career path.
Some answers were a bit farther removed from reality, though.
“I want to become a Pokémon Master,” announced another child. Technically, the massively popular Pokémon franchise started off as a video game, and then spread to anime later, but when you’re dealing with someone whose goal is to become a fictional character, you really shouldn’t try to put too fine a point on his statements.
“I’ve played all the Pokémon games. They’re so fun! I wish there was a way I could have a real Pikachu,” the child continued, referring to the series’ yellow-hued, adorable yet lightning bolt spouting mascot.
The tike went on to explain that he’d spent his summer vacation watching the newest Pokémon movie and reading Pokémon reference books, all in an effort to memorize the attributes of its 700-plus creatures in order to give himself an edge in the games’ battles.
Apparently word of the boy’s ambitions reached his cram school teacher. In a splendid use of educational psychology, the instructor hit upon a way to redirect the child’s energies into something more productive, instead of just squashing his dreams then and there.
“My teacher told me that if I want to create real Pokémon, I’ll need to study science,” the boy told researchers, “so I’m working really hard in that subject now! In the future, I’m going to use DNA, or something, to make real Pokémon!”
And just like that, the boy went from being someone just interested in video games to someone interested in video games and the burgeoning field of biotechnology. Or video games and twisting nature’s forms into frightening new abominations.
But, you know, horizons broadened, either way.