Because you’re a PERVERT! A HENTAI! A BAKEMONE!!
Well, from the anecdotal evidence I could find online and my own conversations with exchange students AND from reading into the structure and expectations for academia in Japan, it is a safe determination that the high school experience is exceptionally difficult and stressful. Academia, entrance exams, as well as clubs and social pressure of finding one’s own voice and where they belong… there is a lot of complex growth in high school and where we start building that independence, and this is across all countries and cultures. High school is where many begin to “come of age”. This is what makes high school settings in anime a kind of nostalgic coping. While it may have been rigorous and treacherous and arduous at the time, through the rose tinted glasses of anime in conjunction with our own memories and triumphs, these once trying times come to have much smoother edges and are recalled with the warmth of nostalgia that can only come from reflecting on the halcyon days of our youth. Seeing characters enjoy club and clean up class and muddle through awkward romances helps romanticize these otherwise mundane or stressful times and make them more palatable.
It is also a great demographic to target from a marketing stand point. Growth in high school is a universal concept that anyone who has experienced it can relate to, and people enjoy relating to things. Whether the focal point be in how much high school can suck or how exciting all the new experiences can be, or a combination of the two, it is a time frame in life that everyone can draw from. It really is one of the best least common denominators.
High school as a back drop for an anime creates both numerous and fantastic opportunities for drama and social commentary. There are so many firsts in high school. Could be first crushes, first loves, first fist fight, first sport, first boyfriend/ girlfriend, first kiss, first sexual experience, first job, first tragedy(old parents or grand parents getting sick or family pet would be getting pretty old by then), first club, first independence, first academic competition, first anxieties of being an adult, THE LIST GOES ON AND ON!
Point being, that atmosphere draws our attention through either morbid curiosity or through being warm and relatable. We can compare our own experiences and vicariously live through a character who has done it differently or did what we WISH we would have done… it can even be kind of cathartic in that way. It is this magical time where we are in our prime, living our most healthy, most intellectually keen, most energetic, most hopeful and most optimistic days of our lives(like sand through an hour glass). The whole WORLD is in front of us and we are primed to grab it by the horns and take it on and this creates pivotal and interesting moments in our lives and subsequently the lives of the characters we watch in our anime.
That is why high school back drops are so prolific in anime. It is an important time and can serve as a catalyst for character growth and awkward, often hilarious, situations that draw our attention without ever feeling too… contrived. The over the top reactions are perhaps more acceptable in high school than adult hood.
It’s all about that brief period in our lives, teetering on that awkward transitionary boundary of adult hood, on the precipice, where we must make our descent into the unknown and decide on who we want to be and what we want to do with the precious and brief time we have here on this planet…
And school outfits are just awesome! I said it! Okay?! I admit it! There is nothing like conformity and homogeny to inspire independence and individuality!…. wait a second…
Until next time!