School and Anime: A Popular Media Trope

If you are a fan of watching anime, you may have noticed that many of them take place in a school setting. While there are also many western movies and cartoons that also take place in the same circumstances, there is an overwhelming amount of them when it comes to anime. Not only do many anime revolve around school life, but the protagonists of almost every modern anime are noticeably within the age of someone who is in high school, which is 14-17 years old. 

So, Why Are There So Many Anime Shows Set in High School?

There are many theories as to why this is. Though none of them are definitive, a combination of these reasons is probably why the High School Anime trope is extremely popular in Japan. Here are a few reasons.

Producers Want to Capture a Wide Demographic

This is the number one and probably most obvious answer yet. In Japan, there are 5 demographic groups. There’s the kodomo bracket, which caters to kids aged 3-9 years old, followed by the shounen (male)/shoujo (female) group, which ranges from ages 10 to 18 years old. Next is josei (female) and seinen (male) categories, which deal with those who are 19 to 40 years old.

Each of these demographics has their own preferences, and differ from the opposite sex even if they’re within the same age bracket. Shounen would prefer watching Naruto, while shoujo would opt for something like Sailor Moon instead. Anime that are meant for kids (usually of the educational theme) get early morning spots, because kids are still at home, or aren’t at school yet. Shows meant for kids who are of middle school age show during prime time because that’s when they’re home from school.

You may find this surprising, but anime that have high school themes in them are usually directed at the senior male or seinen demographic, because it is their biggest and richest demographic, and possibly because of the element of nostalgia that they feel when watching these types of shows. These shows usually air later at night in Japan. While shows aimed at shonen and shoujo usually have older characters to look up to, those aimed at seinen (and sometimes, josei) have an element of making viewers reminisce on the good old days in the academy, when they didn’t have to work for their money, and their problems were as futile as the characters on screen. 

Japan is Obsessed with Youth

Japan is also completely enamored by the fleeting variable of luscious youth. This has always been a Japanese quirk, so much so that even the Japanese have a name for their entertainment that has to do with youth, and it is called “Seishun”, or “青春” when written in kanji. If you were to research further into what those kanji inscriptions represent, you’ll see that they represent spring, and green, which indicates healthy, young, life.

This is also definitely tied to Japanese “kawaii” (cute) culture, where people make an effort to look cute, and adorn themselves with icons, wardrobes (casually wearing what look like high school uniforms), ideologies, and mannerisms (high voices when talking, making the v sign when photographed) that are deemed “kawaii”. 

It Makes For An Easy Story to Develop

Because high school is a time where a character has a relatable reason to interact with a lot of people, it makes for a perfect breeding ground for anything to happen, and where writers can easily band together with a group that, by “fate”, so happen to face an adventure together. It also makes it easy to create romantic and/or sexual tension between characters because they have to spend time with each other in school every day. To top it all off, it sex (and romance) sells. 

Budding Romance in School: Another Anime Cliché

A story of a school romance in anime has all the factors needed to make a hit; relatability, nostalgia, love, and sex. When something sells well, you’re bound to have a lot of it in the market, in different varieties. This is also true for anime. It is known that there are around 15 tropes in the scene of anime romance, and this applies to settings in schools as well.

A List of Anime Regarding Romantic Tropes in School 

  • First is Childhood Friend Romance; the trope where the protagonist can’t take his/her eyes off his/her childhood friend. An anime with this example is Love Hina. 
  • One trope exists where some of the plots revolve around the problems a tsundere (a character who is aloof/distant and is unable to show her true feelings) undergoes for being so emotionally walled off from everyone. Toradora! has one character in its plot named Taiga Aisaka that takes on a growth arc here, where she admits she does have emotions. 
  • Next is the trope where the main character is rejected by his/her love interest but does not stop trying to go after him or her even if he/she has been denied so many times. This is clear in the anime Kaichoi Wa Maid-Sama, where Misaki is constantly hassled by Takumi. 
  • The classic love triangle trope is also often present in romantic school-themed anime. One person loves another, but that person loves another as well. This happens in the anime Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. 
  • Who could forget the trope where someone falls ill and falls in love with the person taking care of them – and vice versa? This happens in many anime shows, one of them being Ouran High School Host Club.
  • Lastly, exists the trope where there is a hyper focus on romantic relationships among teenagers only – which is the entire genre of romantic school anime. You heard it – the entire genre is a trope in itself. 

If you’re looking for anime to watch that revolve around this general cliché, some of the highly recommended options are the following: Ore Monogatari (My Love Story!!), Bakemonogatari, Toradora, Golden Time, Clannad, and Nodame Cantabile.



Westerners Wonder: Are Anime Shows and Movies About School True to Life?

Because of how schools are portrayed in the media, many people who watch anime but have never been to Japan think that that’s how life must really be like in Japan’s school setting. However, just as cartoons are mostly based on fantasy, that is not always the case. Then again, there are some similarities as well.  

Instead of going on crazy adventures or having the time to hang out, many Japanese students are so busy with their tight schedules that include tests and homework that whatever free time they get, they use for sleep. They don’t live alone, as much Japanese anime depict them to, rather they live with their parents. To get to school, students walk, bike, or take transportation, but rarely ever their own cars. Something as simple as reading a book while walking or chewing bubble gum can lead to the student being reprimanded for lack of courtesy – that’s how strict they can get.

Some anime shows display students hanging out in the roof of schools, but that’s just a made-up scenario that does not happen. They do, however, wear school uniforms all the time, and a school that allows you to pick your own clothes is rare. Health is important in Japan, so instantly cooked meals and snacks such as ramen are not allowed, so students end up bringing home-cooked food for lunch. Japanese students do take club seriously, and sometimes even pick which school to go to, according to the clubs that school offers – that is, if they pass the entrance exam. 

Club Activities, School, and Japanese Anime: Understanding Bukatsu

After classes, Japanese students get to go to a club, which is something they pick for themselves and is a crucial part of their high school life. This club is called “Bukatsu”. It is often mandatory for most schools and encourages the students to partake in something they enjoy doing and get to meet like-minded people along the way.

Many anime series take the Japanese bukatsu practice, weaving it into the stories of the high school students they depict. There’s K-On!, which is kind of like a Japanese anime version of the show Glee, where girls come together to form a light music club. Another one is Haikyuu!!, which revolves around a boy in middle school named Shouyou Hinata and his volleyball bukatsu.

Why Do Characters Wear A Uniform To School When it Comes to Japanese Anime?

Uniforms have been part of Japan’s educational culture from as early as the Edo period. Once a more consistent schooling system was formed during the later years of the Meiji restoration, wearing uniforms and following tradition became mandatory. At that time, the military was an important force in Japanese politics, so it became a symbol of something to look up to. Thus, uniforms portrayed what Japan wanted their students to come out as; disciplined, ready, and professional.

The kinds of uniforms people wore adapted throughout time, as women initially wore kimonos, but moved on to wear suits that looked like the uniforms of the British Royal Navy. Thus, the sailor suit was born. From the sailor suit, uniforms would evolve even more, with schools trying for their apparel to be donned comfortably (this would mean shorter and lighter uniforms for hotter seasons) and to distinguish their designs from other schools. 

Anime and the Uniform Fetish

Once the second world war occurred, the uniform fetish spread. No one can really tell where, how, or why the sexualization of uniforms began. Students nowadays still do wear uniforms, and anime shows about school are simply replicating what is going on in real life. Anime that portray women scantily-clad in uniforms are only subscribing to a pre-existing fetish that originated from the 50’s.

What Would an Anime School Girl Wear? Ideas For Your Next Costume

Uniform designs vary tremendously, depending on the kind of anime you’re watching. In most anime, you’ll see the girl wearing the sailor uniform, blooms, or pleated/plaid skirts matched with a long-sleeved shirt, some with blazers, like in Toradora. Men usually wear blazers (often lightly colored, like baby blue) with pants and leather shoes. More serious shows like Vampire Knight feature men with more dark, rigid, and almost militaristic uniforms. You can these costume ideas come to life in cosplay.

On a side note, students must remove their shoes when they enter a classroom, and wear slippers, which keeps dust from shoes used outside at bay. Note that Japanese students must clean the rooms themselves, as there are no janitors. 

The Best Japanese Anime TV Series That Deal with School Motifs

There are hundreds of anime tv series out there that deal with school themes – the trick is knowing which are the best ones to watch. The supposedly most popular tv series of this type is Toradora or Tiger X Dragon. It has a rating of 8.47 on myanimelist. It aired during autumn of the year 2008 on TV Tokyo. The show is about two students, Taiga and Ryuuji, who become “allies” with each other when they realize that they make a good team when it comes to winning the affection of their own crushes. 

Names of Schools from Popular Anime

If you were to pick which school you could go to that was featured in an anime show, what would it be? Many people think about this question seriously, as some of these schools seem quite fun. Here is a list of names of schools found in different anime shows. 

  • From K-On!: Sakuragaoka Girls’ High School
  • From Hyouka: Kamiyama School 
  • From Haikyuu!: Karasuno High School
  • From Slam Dunk: Shohoku High School
  • From Kill la Kill: Honnouji Academy
  • From Toradora: Ohashi High School

School Days: The Anime Television Series

Called “Sukuru Deizu”, and written as “スクールデイズ”, School Days is a piece known as a visual novel, which later developed into a video game, manga, audio drama, anime television series, and original video animation. While it proved to be an immensely popular video game due to the crowd’s love for its graphic scenes, its anime version only got a rating of 6.09. The show deals with a trio of students, namely Makoto Itou, who starts to like the beautiful Kotonoha Katsura and is later helped by his classmate Sekai Saionji.

Tropes are all over the media, and if you have a keen eye, you can spot them. Just because they’re often used doesn’t mean they’re tacky – go ahead and watch that favorite anime of yours.