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High School Animes: A Window Into Paradise?

I largely spent my last two days off watching two new seasons of Hayate The Combat Butler: season 3, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and season 4, "Cuties!" as well as the disappointingly-short movie, "Heaven Is A Place On Earth."   I made no progress on anything of particular importance, and yet, if there were another 24 episodes, I would happily waste another two days doing the same.
This is because I absolutely love this series and the balance it strikes between innocence, romance, and comedy.

It's quite innocent in that the characters are not particularly anxious to get into each others pants, there's just a whole lot of young crushes going on, and (humorously) the object of the harem's affection (Hayate himself) is as innocent as they get: an honest, hard-working, and instinctively considerate boy who does not really understand love much, and (rightfully) considers himself too much a bad luck charm to get involved with anyone.  The main relationship of the anime, between Hayate and his 13-year-old milady, Nagi, is a one-sided crush where Hayate really considers Nagi in a completely Platonic manner (though he is eternally grateful to her for saving him from being sold off to gangsters and allowing him to pay back his debt as her butler).

To put it in context with the rest of anime, while there are the occasional evocative scenes in Hayate The Combat Butler, it's not nearly as explicit as a lot of popular alternatives.  For example, Omamori Himari, To Love-ru and Good Luck Nimomiya-kun have frequent up-skirt panty shots and sexual situations that punch out an inch away from being downright pornographic.  Hayate The Combat Butler draws the line at verbal references to panties being visible and occasional glimpse of thigh, while keeping the characters quite innocent and flustered by romantic situations.  While many manga/anime franchises have come to bank on gratuitous fanservice, Hayate No Gotoku tends to be very tongue-in-cheek about it, as though to say, "Oh, you were expecting fanservice, weren't you?  Sure, here's what fanservice looks like... this is silly, isn't it?"
Occasionally, the manga has a racier scene than you would see on the television show
but, even then, it draws the line at a tasteful presentation with not a nipple exposed.
Actually, Hayate The Combat Butler is a romantic comedy with an emphasis on the situational comedy.  Much of the comedy is in cleverly reflecting of parody popular anime tropes - in fact, Hayate The Combat Butler actually subverts itself as both a "combat anime" and "harem anime" by deliberately not quite being either.  Most of the comedy is in wacky scenarios that are steeped just enough in reality to not be completely off-the-wall; the usual staple of sitcoms.  The romantic situations are more of a much-appreciated seasoning that add a potential for more comedic situations while simultaneously introducing a light soap-opera appeal.

Of course, like any good anime, there is a cast of characters the viewers come to really like.  Hayate himself is quite a likable down-on-his-luck yet remarkable boy.  Each of the girls have a reasonably unique background, personality, and good angle to their reasons for liking Hayate, and don't be surprised if you come to root for them.  Perhaps the strangest character is a tiger that has learned to speak Japanese, but he's increasingly harder to find as the series wears on.

Just watching the new episodes part of season 2 on Crunchyroll, I really enjoyed these two days off.  It crossed my mind to buy the entire manga collection just to support the brand and encourage them to create more, but at $5-8 a volume across 38 volumes... well, that's not exactly a minor commitment, is it?   I eventually decided to tithe a controlled fraction of my paycheck, as they really deserved my patronage for a job well done.

Funny how the movie is called, "Heaven Is A Place On Earth"...

It occurred to me afterward that there's actually some fairly complicated reasoning as to why so many animes seem to focus on high school life.  You might think it's because they're targeting a high school demographic of viewer, but that would reflect a lack of understanding of anime: high school-themed anime targets all sorts of demographics.   But I think I have an insight as to why it's such a popular theme:
  • High school life is the first time a young human being really feels truly empowered, with adequate wherewithal and parental permission to act on their own.
  • Though empowered, they're likely going to get mired down in the responsibilities of raising a family soon.  This creates a small window of true freedom.
  • This is the age in which many young people meet their first loves and are able to commit to that.
  • They have their youth, and all the good things that come with it: mostly physical.
  • They have their youth, and all the bad things that come with it: mostly a lack of wisdom, leading to catastrophic mistakes that can be played for laughs, romantic awkwardness, or for tragedy as the story requires.
  • In a way, this age is the most mysterious person is likely to encounter.  They know a bit about parenthood from interacting with their parents, but they don't know about how their parents lives were before becoming a parent, and so they're embarking on relatively new territory when they reach that point in their lives themselves.
In this way, this "high school" theme is both a window into paradise and also a remarkably versatile platform in which to tell a story! 

(Note that, when I refer to, "high school" age here, it's actually a bit fuzzier than that.  The age range of the characters can actually be considerably younger (into middle school) as well as a bit older (into college).)
Of course, if we're talking about Cromarie High School, then the
reasons behind the setting are even more difficult to explain.
I will say that watching this much high school anime in one sitting has a consequence: it presents the whole idea in such a compelling, enticing manner that it causes me some regret as to how I spent my high school years: largely nursing a computer game addiction.  There are certain things you can only do when you're that young that I never did because I never was particularly interested in socializing then, and nor am I particularly outgoing now.  I did not meet nor marry a high school sweetheart.  These high school animes almost provide surrogate teen years to me...

...almost.  You know, I doubt many peoples' lives ever work out as perfectly as they do in these high school animes.  Like most of what you see on television, they're a carefully weaved fantasy.  As far as reality is concerned, it's entirely possible keeping my head down during my teen years was a good idea!  Anime is entertainment, and one should take care not to confuse reality for fantasy.  But this is not to say one should avoid enjoying fantasy: to dream is important!


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