You probably know the type. They’ve got As on their report cards, but it’s not enough. They have to have a perfect 4.0 and heaven save anyone who gets in their way. Heck, you might even be one of them, though in your heart you deny it while idly flipping through some vocabulary cards clipped to your backpack.
Straight A students seem over the top and excessive to many these days. I would know. I’m one of those crazy students. I would often forgo parties and other activities just to have extra study time before a test. Even so, it seems like Japan has far more of an obsession with this stereotype than we do. If you think culture might have something to do with it, give yourself a gold star, my friend, because you’d be right.
In Japan, how well you do at something is not always just on you. It reflects on all your groups, especially on your family. And if that wasn’t enough, going above and beyond in school is sometimes the only way one can move on to higher learning. Universities in Japan are extremely competitive and the entrance exams are so difficult that not everyone passes the first time. And those tests are not given year-round either. Cram classes are peppered throughout Japan to give added assistance to preparing for these entrance exams, with students aiming to get in the first try so they can avoid the embarrassment and hardship of having to wait and study for another full year before getting another chance.
As eccentric as it seems in anime (all things in media are extreme to some extent), grades are very much a big deal in Japan. And although it seems comedic in these shows, the stress it can cause is still serious and is a big contributor to Japan’s high depression and suicide rate.