Intro: I’m No Longer in High School
I have something to admit in my very first article, I am a weeb. I know, very shocking I’m sure. This is important to this article though, trust me. I’m also an avid podcast listener. One such podcast that I listen to is The Trash Taste Podcast, an anime podcast that isn’t really about anime. While listening to an episode one of the hosts, Connor Colquhoun A.K.A CDawgVA brought up the question of why are so many characters school-aged children. Since then I’ve been pondering the question to myself whenever I watch some anime or read a manga that features school-aged children but ultimately has nothing to do with school. The obvious and immediate answer that I came up with is because most anime and manga are shounen or shoujo; they're marketed toward the middle and high school age group. Most shonen anime will thus take place with middle and high school-aged children because they’re both relatable and make for easy self-inserts for the core audience. This is a compelling answer, but only on the surface. The more and more manga that one consumes the more that faults can be seen in this argument, not just because the core age group can still be a minority of readers but also because sometimes the content can be well, downright questionable.
According to a 2019 study released by Shueisha, a Massive Japanese publishing company that owns both Weekly Shonen Jump (by far the largest shonen magazine) and VIZ Media (a massive licenser of manga and anime), “27.4% of readers [of Shonen Jump] are 25 years old or older, 25.8% are 19-24 years old, 17.6% are 16-18 years old, 16.4% are 13-15 years old, 9.6% are 10-12 years old, and 3.2% are nine years old or younger.” If we were to then, from this data, extrapolate what percent of readers were not in the intended middle to high schooler age range (13 - 18) the answer would be 66%. This is an extremely high number of people who don’t fall within the shounen intended audience age group. To put that into perspective Shonen Jump in 2018 had an average circulation of 1,740,00 meaning that, using the previous 66%, 1,148,400 of those issues were bought and read by someone who was either younger than 13 or older than 18. Now at the moment, these are all just numbers and you know who cares if these people don’t fall within the core audience age range I mean look at Shonen Jump's big hitters like Naruto, Bleach, Demon Slayer, One Piece, Hunter X Hunter, Jujutsu Kaisen, etc they’re all able to be enjoyed by the family. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean they’re all appropriate for these age groups. Also, and I can not stress this enough, sexualization of underage characters does happen. Which leads directly to my next point.
These are all shonen
Twin Star Exorcists
I’ve been hardened from being an anime fan, but I still see things that make me very uncomfortable involving these underage characters. Recently I’ve been reading a manga called Twin Star Exorcists about two FOURTEEN-year-old characters who are prophesied to get married and give birth to the Miko, a being capable of ridding the world of impurities, just think of them as monsters. This means that both the male and female lead of the story are fourteen and in middle school. Now does the story ever take place in school and require it as a setting? No. This brings me back to my main argument, why are they in school? Honestly, I assume it just has to be so that it can be more relatable to this presumed core audience of middle and high schoolers. This is where the problem comes in though, they are supposed to conceive this prophesied child. The adults in the series though don’t find it rational to wait until they’re older so they try to speed along the process. One such method is that they’re both living alone in a house together that only has one bed. In classic horn dog style, they end up walking in on each other… naked. If that didn’t make you feel enough like a pedophile the reader gets to indulge in this as well given that the scenes are censored through steam or the like. Another time the female lead, Benio, is for some reason wearing bike shorts and bent over, ya know right in the center of the panel. The thing is I’ve already settled that there’s no reason for these characters to be so young. It doesn’t play into the story, it doesn’t play into the setting, and it sure as hell doesn’t make the manga better.
This next one is a surprise to me in the sense that I didn’t know that it was published in Weekly Shonen Jump. Honestly, I don’t know how to introduce this manga other than if you know you know. To LOVE-RU is a manga focused on our main character, Rito Yuki (15 years old) who is a high school student and also an intergalactic harem king. The first chapter starts when an alien princess, who looks exactly like a high school girl (how fortunate), drops in on our main character taking a bath. Not only are they both naked but this manga also isn’t censored above the belt. Oh yeah, the alien princess is also 15 because you know, definitely not creepy. If this isn’t enough for you not only are all the characters underaged but his full-blood elementary schooler, 11-year-old sister is also a part of this thing. She somehow loses all shame towards her brother and asks him to wash her body including her and I fucking quote “Special Place.” It’s moments like these that I look back and wonder how I read this shit. I admit it I read this in freshman year I think and oh boy I enjoyed it as the horny 15-year old I was. Now does the manga use them being underage for any real reason? No. It’s literally just baiting because high school girls are more attractive (to pedophiles) I guess. Oh my dear readers but don’t worry the manga wouldn’t be complete without a girl who looks 12, gets into many sexual situations with the main character of which the reader of course gets to see it all, but don’t worry because she’s *puts on glasses* “24,000 kurosu years old.” Yeah, I’m sure the authorities will accept that one “no-no officer you have to understand she’s actually older than you I swear her race just physically ages slower”. I need to move on before I pop a blood vessel.
Before the pitchforks come out I want to simply state that this is here due to the 12.8% of Weekly Shonen Jump readers who are between the ages of 12 to fetus (I guess). Chainsaw Man is an absolutely fantastic manga about Denji, a high school student who fuses with his chainsaw demon dog. The manga is gory, brutal, and dark, most certainly not something appropriate for the ages of 0 to even 13 to 14 I’d say. Many characters die brutally throughout the series and the author and artist don’t shy away from showing brutality. So then why is the main character a 16-year-old high schooler? There’s no real reason for this. Any plot point that was set up using the school could’ve been done through any number of other methods. The plot wouldn’t have been impacted at all if Denji was just some guy in his early twenties. As for relatability, I don’t think that any high school student can relate to being killed by mafiosos turned demons, and then having to fuse with your chainsaw demon dog to survive. So that takes out relatability so what about projecting yourself onto the main character. Well, let’s just say I hope nobody wishes to be in a position where all their friends are dying in front of them and the woman you like is obsessive and actively working to kill them. So if it’s not for relatability or self projecting then why make him a high schooler?
Rapid Fire Synopsis (Yes, these are all still shounen)
Medaka Box: Well endowed high school student council president grants the wishes of other students by fighting and befriending equally well endowed high schoolers.
Shokugeki no Soma/Food wars: High school freshman cooks food that is so good that he causes people to have visual orgasms when they eat it. Note: people include students, businesswomen, muscular men, and children
Domestic na Kanojo/Domestic Girlfriend: High schooler has sex with a girl because she asks him to. Then it turns out she’s his new stepsister and his other stepsister is his teacher who he has a crush on.
Highschool of the Dead: Well endowed high school girls fight zombies and for some reason, all I remember is the scene of a bullet going between the girl’s stuff crust-style breasts.
Mahou Sensei Negima!: 10-year-old magician starts teaching middle school and for some reason, all the girls are in love with him.
Dandadan: High school boy who’s into aliens and the like runs into a girl who believes in yokai. Somehow he becomes part yokai and loses his penis, when they finally get it back they find out that now his balls are missing. I kid you not every plot point so far has been trying to get a high schooler's genitals back.
High School DxD: The main character, who is a high school boy, wishes to become the harem king. He then dies and becomes a demon fulfilling his wish unintentionally. Note: They’re all in high school and yes there is copious amounts of nudity.
What’s My Point
Honestly, even though I'm not so sure, I think I just wanted to share a strange topic and write about it. I’m passionate about anime and manga and so I wanted to try and understand it more, but it has led me to realize how questionable its practices are. Why make the characters underage when you know erotic things will happen? Why not set the age of your core audience higher when you know the contents are mature? Are they actually catering to pedophiles? These questions and more are what I set out to answer. I don’t see the point of trying to make the main characters and side characters fit into the audience's age range when you could just make them a few years older. So I conclude by stating: Why are they in school?
*All anime poster images are taken from their IMDb pages
*Article cover image from Chris Kincaid's article Anime and High School