This was brought up as a comment on twitter, but was also something I’d been thinking about. Books rated All Ages aren’t necessarily meant for All Ages to read. This really hit me as I was reading ChocoMimi, an all ages title in the Viz Kids line. While there is nothing objectionable, or violent in the the title, it definitely wasn’t something I would chose to read as a 40-year-old. On the flip side, Project X: Challengers: Seven Eleven is also rated all ages, for not having any objectionable material or violence, but wasn’t something anyone under the age of 20 would really care about reading.
In both cases the age rating is accurate in the context of sexual content, violence and blood, but not in audience interest. There are titles that can be for all ages in context and content. Dinosaur Hour is a perfect example of a title that both adults and kids can find entertaining. But titles like Happy Happy Clover, and Big Adventures of Majoko are definitely aimed at a younger audience rather than an all ages audience. They can be read by everyone, but not everyone will want to read them. Titles like these might be better served with a different rating, such as Y7, which is designated for children 7 and up. Y7 is used on TV for shows that are intended for children of that age group. Movie ratings, which is where TV took their ratings systme from, doesn’t have a young ages rating. But, if you go into a retail store like Best Buy, the movies will be divided up between a children’s section with cartoons and shows for children specifically, and the Family Movies, which are for general audiences, content that both adults and children can enjoy.
Books in general don’t have an age rating. Here in the US, we prefer to break up by genre, and just separate out the kids books completely, with the kids section broken up by reading ability rather than by specific ages. Manga’s age ratings are new to books, and while some ratings, like Teen, Older Teen and Mature are well accepted (13+, 16+ and 18+ respectively), the all ages rating isn’t. It’s more of a catchall for anything under 13 AND general audiences. Personally, I think this could end up as a disservice to manga.
With titles like I Am A Turtle, Yotsuba&! and Chi’s Sweet Home coming out, making the All Ages rating more relevant than just a designation for kids books becomes important. Chi’s Sweet Home has the potential to be a BIG hit with kids, adults and cat lovers alike! But if it gets buried in the kid’s section of the bookstore, who’s gonna find it? Getting general audience titles that everyone can enjoy may be another key needed to make manga more than just a niche genre.