Why Do Anime Students Always Sit In The Same Seat?

by Justin Sevakis,

Darrel asked:

Why are anime characters always sitting in the same exact spot in classrooms? Is it because it is easier to draw them isolated?

Ah yes, that seat in the back next to the window. That is THE hot-spot in a surprising number of school anime, isn't it?

Every Japanese high school has assigned seats, which are designated at the start of the school year. And unlike Western high schools, kids pretty much spend ALL DAY in those seats. Teachers are the ones who go from classroom to classroom teaching the same subject to different classes. But the kids stay put. In fact, they often even eat lunch in there.

It's a long day of sitting still. And just like classrooms anywhere else, there are three things about your seat that can drastically change your experience. The first is who your seat neighbors are. Having a friend nearby can be a godsend -- for small favors (legitimate and otherwise), and just for general sanity. Someone to exchange worried glances with whenever a pop quiz is announced.

The second is where you're sitting. The front row's proximity to the teacher makes it nearly impossible to do anything other than pay attention (or at least look like you are). The further back you get, the more goofing off can be done. Sleeping can be left undetected, if done properly. Talking is less likely to be noticed. Mischief in your textbook (a magazine, for example) can be enjoyed discreetly.

The third is proximity to the window.

And so, that sweet spot, last or second-to-last, next to the window, is the place for anime protagonists. From there, they can solemnly gaze out at the world, where the real action is. They can scheme. They can sulk. They can get lost in their thoughts. They can have their own inner monologue, be a loner, or have limited, focused interaction with if need be.

It's become a cliché in anime spanning decades. Project A-Ko spoofed this placement over 30 years ago by putting C-ko, the most easily distracted, least disciplined student there, which meant she was constantly getting in trouble. But despite being a cliché, that hasn't stopped many manga artists and anime writers. It's simply too convenient a spot for storytelling. But the middle of the back row has also become a hot spot for weird hyjinx.

Ultimately, with so many hours of anime taking place in classrooms, storytellers don't have THAT much room to navigate such a common and simple setting. Either a seat assignment lends itself to advancing the story, or it doesn't. And if you're a writer that's just trying to make their deadline, chances are you're going to opt for the storytelling shortcut.

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    Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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