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Japanese college students share four ways anime high school is different from real high school

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By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Compared to other forms of media, Japanese animation has always had a penchant for teenage protagonists, and the rising popularity of slice-of-life-genre anime means that every TV season in Japan has multiple shows depicting characters in an ostensibly ordinary high school setting. But as we’ve seen in the past, anime and reality can sometimes be very different things, and that’s true for anime and real-world high schools as well.

Internet portal My Navi Gakusei no Madoguchi recently polled 114 anime fans who’re currently in college, meaning they’ve all had a complete Japanese high school experience. Researchers asked the survey participants what scenarios they often see in high school anime that don’t really happen with actual high school students, and the following four responses were the stand-outs.

1. High school students who live by themselves

Whether because their parents died, remarried, or moved overseas for work, many anime protagonists have their own private residence, which helps to facilitate regular clandestine visits from flirtatious members of the opposite sex. But in reality, you’re about as unlikely to find a high school student with his or her own apartment in Japan as you are in the U.S. or any other developed Western country. “Unless it’s in a boarding school dormitory, I’ve never seen or heard of an actual high school student living on their own,” said one respondent.

2. The student council wields incredible power

While youth is idolized in Japanese society, authority almost always rests with those with greater experience (and thus age). That goes double for high school administration, as the students are gearing up for their college entrance exams, which are eminently important in a country where employers place a great value on the prestige of the school where an applicant obtained his or her higher education.

So really, the situation presented by many anime, in which the student council has the ability to make significant decisions regarding school rules and operations, is pretty ridiculous. “I was a member of the student council,” recalled one survey participant, “and we didn’t have much actual authority.”

3. Rooftop escapades

Setting a story in a school is a double-edged sword for anime creators. On the one hand, having all your characters in the same place makes it easy for whatever characters you want in a scene to bump into one another or quickly assemble. But on the other hand, it also makes it impossible to give your characters much privacy for solitary reflection, intimate conversations, or other such impactful story beats.

So the go-to solution is to set such scenes on the roof. This even gives you the bonus benefit of using the color and conditions of the sky and surrounding scenery to highlight whatever emotion you want to convey, pairing flittering cherry blossoms for wistful romanticism or gathering storm clouds for impending troubles.

However, one thing a rooftop scene doesn’t provide is added realism. “You often see anime characters run up to the roof when they’re upset about something, but in my school we weren’t allowed up there,” replied one participant.

But hey, teens break the rules all the time, right? Sure, but a rebellious streak isn’t going to help when “the schools lock the doors to the roof,” as another respondent matter-of-factly explained.

4. The school is filled with handsome guys and beautiful girls

“There just aren’t that many good-looking people in a real high school,” pointed out one survey participant. If you were judging only from anime character designs, you might think that Japanese high schools were filled with individuals with perfectly styled hair, flawless skin, and professional athlete or model-caliber physiques.

The truth, though, is that in Japanese high schools you’ll see acne, gangly limbs, lingering baby fat, messy hair hastily combed after oversleeping, and all the other awkward aspects of the human landscape to be observed in a group of teens whose bodies are still finishing the awkward transition from childhood to adulthood.

Of course, while that visual awkwardness is a more or less universal part of the process of growing up, it’s not necessarily a pleasant one. Working in a medium in which the creators have complete visual control, it’s not hard to see why anime artists would want to smooth out some of the rough edges of adolescence, helping foster an atmosphere of coolness for viewers who’re currently teens themselves, and providing a bit of happy nostalgia for older viewers. Pretty much the same thing can be said about everything else on this list, as each serves to raise the dramatic stakes and/or give the characters more immediate control over their own fates, which makes for a more satisfying narrative, if not necessarily a more realistic one.

Source: My Navi Gakusei no Madoguchi via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Five anime/manga series praised by Japanese fans for their realistic human relationships【Survey】 -- Do Japanese men like it when real women speak in anime-style voices? Survey investigates -- What’s more important in making a great anime, characters or story? Japanese fans sound off

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3 Comments
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Chance of being transported to a different world with amazing powers is 0%

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Well that's completely shattered all my illusions.

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I wonder what the sample size is and how diverse the informants are because there ARE cases where kids live by themselves! It could be that they are sent fare from home to high school and the dorms are filled or the school HAS NO dorms so the parents rent them a place. There are also times that the parents work a lot in a different town or even overseas for long stretches of time or the student comes from a single parent home where again, the parent works a lot or far away. I had a student who was in that very situation.

As for the rooftop and other "off-limit" places, kids are very resourceful. Even when I was a kid in the US, we found underground tunnels underneath our high school that were no longer used! There is really no security at Japanese high schools so it is rather easy to get a hold of keys or even befriend the janitors (one junior high school where I taught, the janitors let some students smoke in certain areas in order to befriend them to keep them out of REAL trouble)!

As for a "good-looks" are concerned, that is completely subjective, but sex happens a lot at schools, even between students and teachers!

Finally, with regards to student power, students in Japanese schools do indeed have much more autonomy than in many other places (like the US). A eader or a pair (boy and girl) of leaders are selected and groomed by the homeroom teacher to be in charge of their class. This starts from elementary school (even preschool). Much of the time, students are left to their own devices (not preschool, of course) while teachers spend a lot of time in preparation (or sleeping) in the teacher's room! Even after school clubs and activities are mostly run by student leaders, although a teacher is usually assigned to them, but rarely shows up in a lot of cases. So they are pretty much self-sufficient and therefore sometimes make their own rules, or at least follow how they were taught by their sempai (upper classmen) before them.

So, of course you are not going to see monsters or magic happing at the school, but the reason that these anime are so popular is because they are relatable to so many people, That is not to say that ALL Japanese have the same experiences and do all the things that are in the anime, but that is exactly the point that this article is missing! It seems that only a few select people were asked and they got these answers, but if they had cast a wider net, they would have run into people who would say that while perhaps exaggerated, many of these things do indeed occur in high school!

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