If you’ve been around the anime block a few times (or the manga one), you might have noticed a strange trend. High school. It seems it’s the be all, end all for anime. The ultimate time and setting for anything from a comedy piece to robot wrecking mayhem. But why high school? Why just that age group?
One reason many US fans come up with is that anime fans themselves are in high school. However, this ignores the fact that anime comes from Japan and their anime fanbase is a bit… different. Most fans in Japan are a tad older, college age and up. So, again, why high school?
One possibility is nostalgia. How many times in high school did we wish for the simplicity of elementary school? Or in college, wish for the lighter homework loads of high school? Many people look back at a younger era of their lives, usually the era they just left, wishing to go back. Setting a show in that time provides fans the ability to revisit these “simpler times” (even though they really weren’t as simple as we often remember them).
Another possible reason is the importance of the high school years. During the teen years, people often find they learn the most. Largely they must learn about themselves. What are their own goals? Dreams? Hopes? Values? Not the ones given to them by their parents, but theirs alone. In their teen years, children begin to transform into the adults they chose to be, making those years perhaps the most important ones.
There is yet another possibility. Familiarity. It’s a trick writers often use to pull readers into a world. Yet while familiarity can attach to a reader, it still needs to be interesting enough to keep them. For example, everyone can remember a time when they were waiting to meet up with someone. That’s familiar. But how about the feeling of time slowing down? The panic that begins to rise with the realization that maybe this place wasn’t the right meet up place. Maybe you misunderstood the information. You whip out your cell phone and find the last text message. No, you’re right. This is the place. So where are they?
Everyone has likely gone through that experience or something similar. But taking the time to slow down and describe those feelings makes it vivid, real and, if you squeeze in some witty metaphors in there, you can also give it a unique flavor that makes it stand out. Of course, many shows have lost this angle and make the high school setting nothing but a bland background. Something that might have had a more strategic meaning, but lost it somewhere on the way. Still, every now and again a show will capture the more realistic aspects of the crowded and noisy hallways, old metal chairs and cracked ceiling so many people looked up at during the dreary hours of high school mathematics.
These are all, of course, only a few reasons why high school is such a common theme. There are also the less attractive reasons, like an excuse for frivolous fanservice, drama and general hijinks. But what do you guys think? Why is high school such a popular setting? Is there a reason? Or do you think that whatever reason might have existed is lost and now it’s just some weird tradition?