What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

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TrES-2b
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What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby TrES-2b » Sat Jul 29, 2017 5:42 am

This is an honest question I have been wondering for a while... what is the appeal of Japanese high school anime to western audiences? Japanese school anime are obviously targeted at... well... actual Japanese high school students as it deals with things like club activities and responsibilities done in the set-up of actual Japanese high schools. Many anime will idealize aspects of the school/characters, perhaps to glorify some aspects, make it a student's "dream school"/self-insert/wish fulfillment/whatever or promote ideal behavior ((the "top of the class" is a really common character trope)).

That being said... Japanese school is a very different place from the schools we have in western countries and the whole set-up, lifestyle, behavior of the students and idealism is always too difficult for me to relate to so I end up losing interest kind of fast. For me, I hated school and the ideal view of school always portrayed in anime is a bit grating. It's often portrayed as some wonderful time in the lives of the characters, an adventure of some sort where everything was fun, humor or romance is often a theme, so much PASSION for school-related events and clubs... I just can't figure out how this can be even remotely realistic enough to digest as a western viewer. The most I related to school in anime was probably Owari no Seraph where the main character was sent to school as punishment, and then maybe the school in Akira //laughs//

If your only answer is "well, it's just your taste", I'm not really interested in your posts. I was just wanting to know if there were deeper reasons that school anime might appeal to a westerner as a general setting theme. Is there something you can relate to in anime from this genre? Is it an ideal you wish you had in your own school life that makes you return to watching more school-based anime? Or is it just for the cute girls/boys doing cute things and I'm totally overthinking this? :P

I get the appeal of other genres to an extent, even stuff I'm not into, but school genre leaves me kinda stumped, at least for viewers who aren't Japanese and never went through the Japanese school experience themselves. School anime are really popular even among western fans, though.

What say you?

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Re: What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby Neko » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:58 am

Yes, you are totally overthinking this :)

These programs are aimed at a younger demographic, so the characters are young. And in an earthbound setting, school is the natural choice.

As far as everyone being so gung-ho, 20 shows about 16 year olds slugging through Trig, English Kanji, exams... now that really WOULD be boring, so the school and club settings are used to tell stories only peripherally about school. The popularity in the West might well not be about the setting, but the characters and stories within the setting. The fact that it may NOT be particularly realistic is where the appeal lies.
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Re: What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby BlueSpark » Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:35 am

Neko wrote:These programs are aimed at a younger demographic, so the characters are young. And in an earthbound setting, school is the natural choice.
I second this. There isn't anything that particularly draws me to anime series with a school setting - it just so happens that many drama, romance and comedy shows (which are my favorite genres) use this setting. And I have nothing against it.

The main factor is the young age of the characters. They still have to figure things out, and the 'trials' they go through, even if on a comparatively small scale, are usually rather intriguing to me. I prefer the innocent, but insecure and sometimes volatile romance of teenagers to seeing adult couples with more mature relationships in anime. It just feels more exciting.

I'd also like to mention that I never found school to be a horrible place to be, and I greatly enjoyed my final 2-3 years to the point where I'd say those might have been the best times of my life. That's because I managed to connect with quite a lot of my peers despite being a natural introvert; nowadays, there aren't even half as many people with whom I regularly talk as back then.
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Re: What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby thegenkiguy » Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:04 am

I'm of the mind that if an anime is good, it doesn't really matter where it's set. Hence why I can watch many "isekia" setting anime, school setting anime, etc. and still enjoy them.

While many of the anime I have watched used the school setting in some way, shape, or form, I always thought they did a great job of making the focus of the anime the characters or the plot surrounding that school, instead of the school activities themselves. Of course, some have incorporated things like club activities, sports, class trips, but those are usually just backdrops or tools for the main focus of the story.

I've never seen a show that's all about school and school life and trying to sell foreigners or even Japanese people on the idealized version of Japanese school-life. But even if there was a show about that (i'm sure there is), I'd still watch it as long as it's executed in a way that's enjoyable to watch.

As the others have mentioned, you see school a lot, because a lot of anime MC's are, guess what?, school-aged kids/teens. And guess who is the demographic of, not just school anime, but anime in general? Japanese people. Specifically, those of school age. While there are creators that have tried (and are still trying) to create anime with a global appeal, or anime for adults, anime has always been created by Japanese people, for Japanese kids/teens. Which is why there are so many anime set in Japan, and why so many use Japanese schools as a primary location. It's only natural that you see a lot of that school culture influence parts of an anime's narrative.

But really, It's not so much that foreigners enjoy school anime. People just enjoy anime, and some (or a lot) of those happen to take place partly/mostly in a school. At least, that's how I feel.

If you feel you can't relate, because your past-experiences of school has painted schooling in a negative light, in such a way where you couldn't possibly picture school being as great as it is depicted in a lot of anime, pushing you away from certain shows...Then I don't know what to say except that sucks xP
Last edited by thegenkiguy on Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby Neko » Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:17 am

thegenkiguy wrote:
If you feel you can't relate, because your past-experiences of school has painted schooling in a negative light, in such a way where you couldn't possibly picture school being as great as depicted in a lot of anime, pushing you away from certain shows...Then I don't know what to say except that sucks xP


I can't help but wonder if some people (in the East and the West) who had a bad time in school, might see a high school romance, or fun club show as a kind of wish-fulfillment escapism. They may have had a horrible time, but are able to inhabit a somewhat romanticized school setting with its characters and imagine a happy and fulfilling school career. K-On comes to mind.
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Re: What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby thegenkiguy » Sat Jul 29, 2017 2:58 pm

Neko wrote:I can't help but wonder if some people (in the East and the West) who had a bad time in school, might see a high school romance, or fun club show as a kind of wish-fulfillment escapism. They may have had a horrible time, but are able to inhabit a somewhat romanticized school setting with its characters and imagine a happy and fulfilling school career. K-On comes to mind.


Yup. I'm sure there are people that get enjoyment out of these type of anime specifically for that reason. And then, of course, there are people that turn to anime (and other things) in general as a form of escapism. In that case, seeing the happy school culture present in some anime is simply a bonus ^^

Like a lot of things, this is really a matter of personality, personal experience, and taste.

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Re: What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby Scribblenog » Sun Aug 20, 2017 11:06 am

I just happened to pass by this post and thought I'd add my opinion. As a westerner I find I absolutely adore school/club based shows. Analyzing that I think there's really two things about the genre that really appeal to me.
The first is the setting makes a good short-hand for certain expectations, namely that the characters involved will be younger and not yet set into their personality, drives and desires. It is a time of experimentation and growth. People have the opportunity to drastically reinvent themselves on a nearly daily basis. A high school debut can be a big deal. Try as they might to hide in their comfort zone, there will be a transfer student/yankee/chunni/cute classmate right there to pull them out of it and push them to re-evaluate.
Which leads us to...
Secondly, the school setting forces our characters into a range of social situations they might otherwise avoid entirely. Outside of school they can associate with their chosen few but within the school bounds they are pushed to interact with any number of folks from the class beauty to the weird guy that always smells of cheese and pork rinds. They are divided, regrouped and realigned every year. While they may have a couple buddies they've been in class with since kindergarten they are constantly being exposed to people they may never have spoken to before.
I think part of the appeal of the specifically Japanese school genre is the emphasis of clubs and sports. It adds another layer of unplanned social interaction. Two kids join a club, likely for similar reasons but they may be nothing alike. Yay friction and drama.
As for focusing in on the more "positive" aspects of school life: well, from my hazy recollection of now distant school days I can easily recall a few folks were like that. They enjoyed every second of their school experience and for them it was an adventure. They ran the bake sales for new school equipment, knew everyone by name and were adored by the faculty.
While a number of anime do seem to focus on such attitudes, there are also quite a few that do focus on characters who are not enjoying their school lives to the fullest, downright hate school, or my personal favorite, just don't care and would rather be left alone until they are dragged unceremoniously into plot.

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Re: What is the appeal of school anime to westerners?

Postby khouji » Mon Oct 16, 2017 8:03 pm

Not only Westerners like anime, even kids from Europe like anime especially romantic ones.