From “A Playthrough of a Certain Dude’s VRMMO Life” to “Full Metal Panic!”, Analyzing the Growing Popularity of ‘Old Dude Moe’ in Light Novels


In the world of light novels, ‘old dudes’ are making a remarkable impact. Shiina Howahowa’s “A Playthrough of a Certain Dude’s VRMMO Life” (published by Alphapolis) has started airing as a TV anime this October. Kishiba Kiraku’s “A Rookie Old Man Adventurer, Trained to Death by the Strongest Party, Becomes Invincible” (HJ Novels) is set for a TV anime adaptation in 2024. There are also teams of old dudes dominating in other worlds, and legendary mercenaries who once saved the world are now family men, still showing their invincibility. What makes these ‘old dudes’ capable of being such strong characters?

The story takes place in the VR game “One More Free Life Online.” 38-year-old Daichi Tanaka accesses the game at its launch, adopting the name Earth and embarking on his adventure. In “A Playthrough of a Certain Dude’s VRMMO Life,” Earth chooses modest skills like “cooking,” “archery,” and “kicking,” starting off with the humble activity of solo rabbit hunting.

However, when he cooks the rabbit into steak, he becomes popular among other players who desire his cooking. During a new event, he is unable to contract with a fairy as intended but instead is granted a skill to be adored by fairies. Eventually, he is even forcibly fitted with a ring on his left ring finger by the Fairy Queen, who has taken a liking to him.

Lacking the stamina for all-night gaming sessions and having to attend work, this ‘old dude’ finds it difficult to dive into the game as deeply as a student might. Nevertheless, as he gains prominence in the game world he started for leisure, it becomes evident that there is a way to win with the mental resilience and discernment unique to ‘old dudes’.

It makes you want to take a step back and reevaluate the world. That’s what “A Playthrough of a Certain Dude’s VRMMO Life” offers, appealing to readers across generations.

Being an ‘old dude’ doesn’t mean you have to give up, nor is it a reason to do so. This sentiment is echoed in “A Rookie Old Man Adventurer, Trained to Death by the Strongest Party, Becomes Invincible.” Rick, a long-serving receptionist at a guild, turns 30 and decides to pursue his dream of becoming an adventurer. He undergoes intense training with an S-rank adventurer’s party he meets.

After about two years of extreme training, Rick, now a nominal F-class adventurer, showcases incredible power during an E-class promotion exam. Despite thinking he hasn’t become much stronger, the gap between his unassuming appearance and his ability to dent hard armor and shatter indestructible punching bags is laughable.

Rick’s strength comes from an inherent skill that awakens only after he resolves to risk his life against a dragon. It conveys the importance of never losing hope and mustering courage, even as an ‘old dude’.

Set for a TV anime adaptation in 2024, Bunkorori’s “Sasaki and P-chan” (MF Bunko J) tells the story of corporate slave Sasaki, who buys a parakeet for comfort from a pet shop. The bird, actually a sage reincarnated from another world, takes Sasaki to that world to amass wealth through trade and teaches him magic to tackle supernatural phenomena in the real world. The story of an unremarkable middle-aged man making the most of his newfound luck and achieving success is satisfying.

‘Old dudes’ have knowledge and experience that younger people don’t. They have the guts not to be easily shaken. By using these as their weapons, they can show a different kind of success from the younger generation. Watching them in action motivates the same ‘old dude’ generation with a sense of “I can still do it,” while the younger generation discovers new ways of doing things. The popularity of light novels with ‘old dude’ protagonists may stem from these reader needs.

From “A Playthrough of a Certain Dude’s VRMMO Life” to “Full Metal Panic!”, Exploring the Surge in ‘Old Dude Moe’ Light Novel Popularity

There are indeed light novels that genuinely impress the younger generation with the exploits of ‘old dudes’. One such example is “Hiroshi Tanahashi and Takami Kidani’s Isekai Tag Team Unrivaled!!!” (Seikaisha FICTIONS), written in two volumes by Tsuda Samayou. As the title suggests, it features Hiroshi Tanahashi, a wrestler with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and Takami Kidani, the founder of Bushiroad who spearheaded projects like “BanG Dream!”.

In this novel, the two get involved in a traffic accident and find themselves transported to another world. Without any cheat abilities upon their transfer, Tanahashi uses his honed wrestler’s physique to defeat orcs, subjugate dragons, and build a legend of invincibility. Kidani, meanwhile, uses his experience in idol production and economic knowledge to amass wealth and uncover conspiracies. The success of these two in the real world proves that they can also be triumphant in another world. This storyline satisfies the ‘old dude’ generation and serves as a life guide for the youth, teaching them lessons from an older perspective.

There are also works that stir the heart with the undiminished coolness of becoming an ‘old dude’. The story of the Onodera family, who moved into a detached house in Omiya, Saitama, is one such example. They are a family of four: a mother, a daughter, a son, and a father. When their neighbor, Ichiro Tanaka, takes photos of the food served, the father ominously warns, “If you had taken strange photos, I would have had to kill you.”

This incident leads Tanaka to suspect he’s stumbled upon a dangerous family. A few days later, when armed forces attack the Onoderas’ home, the family calmly retrieves firearms and repels the attack. As they move away, the daughter reveals to Tanaka that their real surname is “Sagara.” Fans will recognize this as Sousuke Sagara from Shoji Gatoh’s wildly popular series “Full Metal Panic!”, who fought against forces trying to alter the world and is now married to Kaname Chidori, with two children.

“Full Metal Panic! Family,” which started in the September 2023 issue of “Dragon Magazine,” continues the story in the November issue, moving to a condominium in Toyosu. There, like before, they effortlessly fend off attacks from armed groups seeking the fame of defeating the legendary mercenary.

Though not a fight for the fate of humanity, Sousuke Sagara’s battles for his precious family, even as an ‘old dude’, remain strong and cool. Whether effortlessly taking down robbers at the family restaurant where he works, showing his unchanged skills, or acting out of sync with societal norms, Sagara’s character remains consistent. The family saga of protecting his wife Kaname, daughter Natsumi, and son Anto, and whether it escalates to facing formidable foes, will likely add another layer to the rising popularity of ‘old dude moe’ in light novels.

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