School Rumble and its reflections of Japanese society

At first glance, School Rumble might seem like a rather unlikely choice of anime that is used to analyze the Japanese society. However beyond its silliness and unlikely parodies, there are actually many intricate details that reflect the Japanese society, especially the aspect of schooling teenagers.

The anime starts off with the concept of “Suki”, and the main protagonist Tsukamoto Tenma deciding that she would declare her love towards the seemingly dull and dim-witted Karasuma Ooji. Although a large part of the plot actually revolves around incidents about declaration of love of mustering the courage to declare one’s love, the high school setting of the anime allows us to spot out distinct characteristics.

From the start of the anime, we know that Tenma-chan has other good friends that stick with her as the story goes on. But we can actually see that part of the relationship between them is based on exchanging information. This is common in Japanese society as peers often exchange information about the latest fashion trends or gadgets. They also turn to each other in times when they need to seek help, and in this case, it is often about love woes.

The senpai-kohai relationship is also thoroughly reflected in this anime. In some instances, the senpai would seem “unreachable” and “distant” while is other cases, some sempai would try all means to develop a relationship beyond the normal circumstances.

Another interesting observation that is seen is that in the anime, many of the outings invariably end up being with group outings. Often the number of guys and girls will be balanced out and that they get paired up in completing certain tasks. This is actually similar to gou-kon in the adult world where an equal number of men and women meet up and get to know each other, in hopes of hitting it off.

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We can also see the importance of teamwork and how it is stressed in the anime through the Sports Day event. The Japanese society is thought to be a group-oriented one but we can actually see that in certain times, there might be strong rivalry between different groups; and in the case of the Sports Day, competition exists between the different classes. We are also shown the importance being teamwork in the form of a pyramid foundation such that if one person leaves his position, the whole team will fail.

Other school activities are also shown which reflect the daily lives of the students in Japan. Examples include staying back after school to clean up the classrooms or other assigned areas. This is to instill the sense of responsibility and also build rapport amongst the peers.

Apart from such characteristics, we see other traits that are common to many other anime also. An observation made is that in such shojo anime, it is not unusual for the whole story to move along without any mention of parents or family. Normally there would be another sibling instead and that they would look out for each other instead. Even though it is common for teenagers to move out of the house, especially if they are studying faraway from home, this normally occurs in tertiary level only. But in School Rumble and Midori No Hibi, the main characters are always high school students that live on their own. Perhaps such a setting would allow greater story development, but it seems weird that in School Rumble, the only one scene that mentions the presence of any parent is that of Sawachika Eri whose father makes a fleeting “appearance”.

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Thus despite the seemingly nonsensical storyline, School Rumble actually manages to portray the lives of high school students vividly, albeit in a much more exaggerated manner for comedy effects. However, the behaviour of the students can actually be contrasted with that of other cultures to make comparisons. Other intricate details also reveal the norms of Japanese culture, for example the practise of giving gifts as greeting is shown in the scene where the new school nurse gives out “welcome cookies”. Overall, through watching School Rumble, one can actually get to know more about the Japanese culture and society by observing the details. This anime is recommended for those who want a good laugh yet at the same time pick up some knowledge about the Japanese society.

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About the author

Nadia Petrova

I'm running this blog because I love Japanese culture, especially the art of geisha. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of becoming a geisha myself. In my spare time, I enjoy watching good anime and reading some manga.

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