The Phantom Menace isn't a coming of age story like, say, Big, focusing on a single character's transition from youth to adulthood. We don't see a young Anakin Skywalker wish upon a Sith lord to become a full-fledged Darth Vader—all while befriending Emperor Palpatine over a rendition of "Chopsticks."
Anakin's story is a part of the whole, while the film's focus expands to be a coming of age for the entire Star Wars universe. Obi-Wan, Padmé, and Anakin—all characters who will be major players in the saga—begin as youths, and the story thrusts them toward their purposes and fates. We also experience beginnings of the saga itself, witnessing how the innocence of the Old Republic will eventually give rise to the terror of the Empire.
Questions About Coming of Age
Do you think The Phantom Menace's story also tells Qui-Gon's coming-of-age story? Why or why not?
Given the coming of age theme, why do you suppose the first film of the prequels is The Phantom Menace? What purpose does the film serve, and why do you think the story doesn't start with, say, Anakin being trained by Obi-Wan?
Do any characters other than Padmé and Obi-Wan come of age during the course of the story? Who, and how can you tell? If not, then why not?
Chew on This
Part of coming of age in the Star Wars universe means accepting the goals and conflicts of the past as your own. We see this in Obi-Wan, who must assume Qui-Gon's quest of training Anakin.
Although Anakin's coming of age story begins in The Phantom Menace, it takes until Return of the Jedi to complete.