Since a large part of the anime audience still takes part in school life or is visiting college, it is only natural to choose a setting the audience can identify with, be it elementary, middle, or high school. For the older viewers a college setting with more mature real-life problems is appropriate. And since clubs take up so much time in the lives of students, these are obviously also important.
School Life — Subcategories
Even though school clubs in Japan are not mandatory, there is some pressure from the social grid (e.g. fellow students, teachers) to participate in some kind of after-school activity, be it in sports or arts. Colleges also have clubs.
As a comedy element in anime, some students have joined too many clubs, and are thus constantly stressed out. There is also the element of social commentary, making it clear that you have to join a club, if you want to be part of the class. Since self-founded clubs need at least 3 members, the desperate search and advertising for new members can be cause for hilarity in anime.
Since college/university students are typically at least eighteen years old, with stories covering mature everyday life topics, you will find the college setting quite often in seinen and josei anime.
Topics that can now be covered — as compared to High School settings — are higher education (i.e. coping with higher intellectual stress), the more adult party life (i.e. alcohol, smoking, sex), the issues of daily life vs. studying — especially when having to work to pay for bills, and finally the possible friction between those in and out of college.
Every school has them, but not all anime with school setting make delinquents a central topic. There are several versions of these delinquents, though some are grounded on a misunderstanding:
- The student with a really bad image and attitude, based on his real criminal actions outside of the school (e.g. he is a member of a biker gang), and is even feared by teachers.
- The primitive "class bully" that pushes around ("clobbers") his classmates for no apparent reason, possibly extorting lunch money.
- The student with a sinister complexion or "evil eye", but is actually a "good" student (unfoundedly feared character).
- The rebellious student, who does not care for studying, but is otherwise docile. Called a "delinquent" as a joke.
The primary education (compulsory in Japan) covers the first six grades. The students are typically six to twelve years old.
The small size and energetic / playful attics of the young students make the comedic appeal and cuteness of super deformed "older" characters superfluous. Hilarity ensues when seemingly innocent children comment on the worlds troubles in a sarcastic adult way. Huge potential for heart-warming anime!
- Example: Crayon Shin-chan
The upper-secondary education (not compulsory in Japan) covers the grades ten, eleven, and twelve. The students are typically fifteen to eighteen years old.
Anime centre on High School settings predominately: Plot/story-wise the coming of age is of interest — the students are almost adults (their bodies have matured, see ecchi anime) with more earnest, real-life problems.
Also referred to as junior high school (or lower-secondary education; compulsory in Japan) covers the grades seven, eight, and nine. The students are typically twelve to fifteen years old.
Anime with school setting centre on Middle School students when younger, possibly more naive and 'innocent' (less worldly wise) characters are required.