Regarding School Life Theme

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MaiMai
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#16 Post by MaiMai » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:24 pm

Has anyone ever watched the YouTube series "The Most Popular Girls in School?" Somehow it takes all those banal American high school tropes and still makes it funny and engaging to watch. The stop-motion animation with Barbie dolls and the great voice acting probably helps (and the nsfw swearing). And the fact that the theme is all the popular people being downright terrible to one another is pretty funny too (and it's hilariously quotable.)

I can't say I'm tired of the concept of "school life" itself, but I am tired of seeing it as the only idea people come up with. Needless to say, I give most things a shot and I don't blame people for seeing that as the safe choice to start with as a story.

I find that the school life stories that actually catch and keep my interest tend to have a certain theme. Hiromu Arakwa's current manga, Silver Spoon, is wildly popular in Japan right now and it's a slice-of-life centered around an agricultural high school. A recent newcomer, Shokugeki no Soma, is a shounen series about a hardcore culinary arts school. The former, is very successful in terms of characters full of life and personality, but it also balances it out by acknowledging its setting; the kids are there to learn about farming and agriculture and about what and who they want to be in life. The latter, is still in its early stages, but it promises hot-blooded cooking matches a la Iron Chef (and some fanservice because it kind of takes food porn almost/not quite seriously.)

Zylinder wrote:LWR pretty much hit the nail on the head. I'll add another opinion: I'm burned out on Young Adult anything, and have been since I was halfway through high school. It's not even just school life. It's the entire concept of teenagers/YAs yapping about X Liking Y and Z being so hot look at those abs hahaha look outcast girl. I can't even stand to look at the covers of YA novels.
Weird, I still love reading YA books, probably because I'm a weird masochist who while reading such things make fun of those tropes at the same time.
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#17 Post by Rinrinnya » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:54 pm

It's not 'overused'. High school romance visual novels are basically their own genre, so it'd be silly to say a school theme is overused in a high school romance. That's like saying 'fantasy worlds are so overused in fantasy stories'. People who don't like school themes just don't like the genre.

I like the school setting a lot. .w. It's just a good setting for the kinds of stories visual novelists in that genre write. <3
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#18 Post by Lachez » Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:00 am

1. I wouldn't say it is and I bet a lot of people would disagree, but there are reasons why some people really do enjoy this theme such as the characters. In basically anything(movies,books,shows,games) the characters matter much more than the setting, and it's the setting that sets the ground. The theme might be a bit overused and I've played games, read mangas, and watched shows that when coming across a school life theme I am a bit reluctant but will fall in love with the characters.

2. I do feel like unless the setting has a big impact on the protagonist, it's nothing more than a setting where a lot of the events take place and creates all these instances for the protagonist to interact with the other characters, having an effect on their life. So there can be many variations of it.

3. Personally, I love it. It really hits home from my own experience in high school even though it is in an a different culture than what i grew up with. A lot of the more touching, less comedy based ones really connect with me with some of the struggles i had. That's why i was so inspired to create my own school days type VN, but i'm just using the school as the main setting where the protagonist creates bonds with the other people in it. A lot of it is also about their own personal life struggles throughout school and it changes their attitudes involving their school life.

It's a theme/setting a lot of stories use, but I think it's the experience of their lives that really draw people in, not the theme too much itself.

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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#19 Post by Zootower » Mon Jun 24, 2013 5:31 pm

I'd be more inclined to think of the "High School Slice-of-Life" as less of a theme and more of a setting. That may seem like quibbling over words -- but many quality VNs set primarily inside a high school deal with themes outside of the general, cliched High School experience. Or are able to deconstruct and develop a new twist on the tropes that come with the setting. Is the setting used frequently? Of course.

Is it such where there aren't people blazing new trails with it? Of course not. Art if anything, is endlessly adaptable.

Small variations on the norm can sometimes drastically change the tone, mood, and themes of a piece. I see the High School as a great template. In the same way that, say, war is a great template. Or any other number of "settings" that are particularly fecund arenas to explore the human condition.

Say what you want about Katawa Shoujo, but it actually functions as an interesting critique on the setting. It's Lynchian without being completely absurd. The small variable of a school full of cripples can totally shift the tone of the piece at the right times. It toys with your expectations, and in some cases (but not all), is able to ram them through a literary and visual meat-grinder. To do this, I feel like it sort of relies on the tried-and-true cliches of the setting to actually achieve some of its real drama.

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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#20 Post by lemonscent » Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:56 pm

MaiMai wrote:Has anyone ever watched the YouTube series "The Most Popular Girls in School?" Somehow it takes all those banal American high school tropes and still makes it funny and engaging to watch. The stop-motion animation with Barbie dolls and the great voice acting probably helps (and the nsfw swearing). And the fact that the theme is all the popular people being downright terrible to one another is pretty funny too (and it's hilariously quotable.)

I can't say I'm tired of the concept of "school life" itself, but I am tired of seeing it as the only idea people come up with. Needless to say, I give most things a shot and I don't blame people for seeing that as the safe choice to start with as a story.

I find that the school life stories that actually catch and keep my interest tend to have a certain theme. Hiromu Arakwa's current manga, Silver Spoon, is wildly popular in Japan right now and it's a slice-of-life centered around an agricultural high school. A recent newcomer, Shokugeki no Soma, is a shounen series about a hardcore culinary arts school. The former, is very successful in terms of characters full of life and personality, but it also balances it out by acknowledging its setting; the kids are there to learn about farming and agriculture and about what and who they want to be in life. The latter, is still in its early stages, but it promises hot-blooded cooking matches a la Iron Chef (and some fanservice because it kind of takes food porn almost/not quite seriously.)

Zylinder wrote:LWR pretty much hit the nail on the head. I'll add another opinion: I'm burned out on Young Adult anything, and have been since I was halfway through high school. It's not even just school life. It's the entire concept of teenagers/YAs yapping about X Liking Y and Z being so hot look at those abs hahaha look outcast girl. I can't even stand to look at the covers of YA novels.
Weird, I still love reading YA books, probably because I'm a weird masochist who while reading such things make fun of those tropes at the same time.
This is such a late response, but I just watched the first episode of the Barbie thing. And it. Was. Golden. LOL.
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#21 Post by SHiNKiROU » Tue Jul 16, 2013 3:58 pm

I'm aware of this problem and what I'm doing is to change the education system (not Japanese, not American, but something completely new) and let the characters talk about their educational life (math problems, standardized tests to write). I also assume that the school is not a place for wacky adventures and the characters fly to other places to see aliens and enter tournaments.
All the romance happens in the school garden and dorm rooms after 3PM.

So the twists are focusing on education (beyond the cliches like being bad at math and bad mouthing the math subject) and making sure there are adventures outside of the school.

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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#22 Post by ZeroExistence009 » Tue Jul 30, 2013 3:31 am

I think school life theme can be considered as a common theme rather than overused theme.

After graduation themed story is hard to write and it needs complexity to catch the interest of the readers. The only events that you can make in an 20+ years old protagonist are work, home and work.

It requires a lot of twist to make a effective after graduation themed story to make it interesting. And I think those theme strongly depends on slice of life story.

And I think that there are lot of school life themed story is because it is easy to make a story and make interesting events. It's easy to establish romance since encounters can be easily be attained.

School life is so common that it can be called overused.
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#23 Post by Ran08 » Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:36 am

That's pretty hard to answer. :)

1. It doesn't feel overused to me, but yes, it is really common. Especially schools set in Japan. Some people dislike that, because they say it's too overused and there's no more originality to it, but I think it all depends on the person.

2. I agree with inhalance. Haha. A school themed VN, for me, is a VN set in a school, and where most, if not all, of the events revolve around that school and its students.

3. I personally love it! It's one of my favorite genres of VNs. For example, my own VN project is set in a school. So typical, right? Hahaha. It's because I, myself, am in highschool right now and it's something I can relate to and have fun reading and playing. And writing. It's something that I know. :)) And my story is set in Japan because that country has seasons and events my own country doesn't have. Philippines doesn't have Hanami festivals or Winters or Springs. Haha. I get to visit a whole new world when I play school themed games, in the eyes of a student like me. :))

Like, I love Playful Kiss so much because I can relate to the characters. I know how they feel, because I'm a student like them. That's exactly like VNs such as Heartstring Bugs or Katawa Shoujo or Re;Alistair. I love them because I can relate their lives to my life. I'm not saying I like school life VNs over the other genres, but I like them as they are. :))

Besides, I think most writers of school theme VNs here are either students themselves, or they miss school life. Or maybe they just like it. Either way, that's one of the first ideas that come to the mind of some beginner VN writers I think. That includes me. ^^
In the end though, it doesn't matter much. If I love it, I'll play it. And make a review to tell others about its awesomeness too. Hahaha. :))

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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#24 Post by MarineScripter » Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:19 am

I consider it 'overused' if it isn't done well, and 'common', if it is. School life is popular with those in school. Occasionally, those who already graduated will like it because it reminds them of the past. Those who haven't gotten there yet will like it because it holds a key to the future.
There are getting to be less and less settings that are not used very often, so as long as the setting is established correctly and made interesting, I'm fine with it.
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#25 Post by gekiganwing » Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:26 pm

ZeroExistence009 wrote:School life is so common that it can be called overused.
Want to vary it up? Think about new angles and different approaches. It's certainly not necessary to make the main character an average teenager in a somewhat unrealistic school. Consider the following "what if" scenarios:

* Younger main character: she is just a kid, but has to deal with complex family problems. The MC's life at school might be just as difficult but in a different way. Or perhaps school is an oasis in comparison.
* Teacher MC: as the story opens, the man realizes that he's been a poor role model. It's the story of a teacher who decides to act like an adult and deal with more responsibilities.
* Older MC: the woman is just a school janitor, but ends up providing advice to a student one day. Eventually, she becomes an unofficial guidance counselor. Is this what she wants to do? Is she prepared to give advice?
* The main character is a delinquent or a bully. But as the story unfolds, we find out why he got this way.
* The MC is a star athlete, and a hero to her hometown. But she's just a normal, fallible person, and just as vulnerable to injuries and temptations as anyone else.
* Strive for realism. You don't need to go for all-out bleakness. The freeware game One Week portrays the life of a teenage girl just before prom... but it's a story with average-looking people in a remarkably mundane world. It doesn't have many happy endings.

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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#26 Post by Semienigma » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:27 pm

Like many have said, it does seem a bit over used since there so much of it. But I think its still fun because really, its one of those places other than work that you get to have social interaction. And I personally love school uniforms no matter out...um...outrageous. I mean where else can everyone wear such outfits that doesn't look stupid? ahem...

As for what school theme means, to me its basically anything that takes place at a school, has to do with school events or has people of highschool age doing anything really...with the exception of summer vacations or break stories. and have school uniforms.

Lastly I personally really like High school stores, vn or otherwise. They are something just about anyone can do, yes, but still they can be really fun. Its that time in one's life when they are old enough to know what they want to do but not old enough that they have to worry bout bills, rent and kids...sometimes.
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#27 Post by Elmiwisa » Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:26 pm

I think the best thing about this theme is that, you get to meet a bunch of different people, personally.
Some might say that it invoke a sense of familiarity considering a lot of player might be in school, but I think it is not the case, since every other thing about school are usually fudged for the purpose of the story/game anyway, even down to very basic thing like academic calendar. Every other aspects of the school theme could have been handled better by a different theme:
-Obligation: unrealistic portrayal using school theme can go anywhere between the character never shown being bothered by school work, to using school work as a convenience excuse for a variety of plot event. None of these require the school theme of course, a work/club/trailer park could handle these better.
-Authority: unrealistic portrayal using school theme can involve having ultimate authority to sort everything out, to having the student body run the whole school. Obviously, a business/police theme are better for this purpose.
-Variety: most often seen in dating sims, this is an excuse to give a whole bunch of different activities to improve stats, and meet different people in each class. It is also very unrealistic, since you usually do not get to choose which class to come to every day, nor do jumping between class is an effective way to learn multiple subject. This could be easily handled if we just make the MC being an adult to join a bunch of different clubs instead, since clubs do not have fixed syllabuses, the variety are greater (since people can have a lot of different occupation), and many clubs let you come whenever you wanted to.
-Social circle: this is a funny thing. Lots of game have a very funny zigzag portrayal of this. Usually there will be be social circle among the NPC, except that the MC is rarely affected and can be friend with everyone. This could be handled much more realistically if the MC is playing a role like a reporter for example, but I suppose that might be why reporter job is popular on TV.

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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#28 Post by arachni42 » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:07 am

ZeroExistence009 wrote:The only events that you can make in an 20+ years old protagonist are work, home and work.
What?? You could say the same thing for a teenager -- the only events are school, home, and school. Except that school life stories usually seem to ignore things like schoolwork and homework (because that wouldn't be much fun). The reason that school themes are so popular is probably because of the age of the target audience and a preference for what is familiar to them; it's certainly not for lack of possibilities for an adult. As far as I'm concerned, adults have way more freedom than teenagers. They have more choices about what they do, where they work and what hours, where they go, who they're with, etc.

In any case, no reason for a 20+ protagonist to focus on the work part of work; it can just as easily focus on social events (at work... or at home, on the street, at a club, wherever). There are interest groups, dates, night life, pretty much anything you can think of. You can also have an "office life" story. Or you could take the sitcom approach where a bunch of 20-somethings live in an upscale apartment, but work is hardly ever mentioned but they always seem to have plenty of money anyway. I mean, they basically worry about bills as much as characters in school life stories worry about grades... which is not much. ;)

Personally, I find that the school life theme can get tiresome because it is so widespread... yet, some of my favorite stories are in that setting. It is definitely not because of any reminder of my own high school life, which I never, ever would want to go back to. It is just based on whether the story is a well-written story with characters that I care about.
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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#29 Post by SHiNKiROU » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:56 pm

Here is a Chinese rage comic that shows cliches (Tropes Are Bugs?) in Chinese school novels:
http://i.imgur.com/cEnm9Az.jpg

Notice how they do and don't apply to how school life is portrayed in Japan and North America.

1. ??? (don't understand)
2. The chef is always fat
3. The homeroom teacher always wear glasses
4. The ones sitting beside the main character are always the main character's enemies
5. Three archetypes: the academic nerd, son/daughter of rich family, and the one who always spreads rumors
6. The academic nerd always gets top grades and the main character always get bad grades
7. The academic nerd is the teacher's pet, and the main character is always hated by the teacher
8. Parents almost never show up (mom: 1, dad: 0)
9. We (the readers?) don't know the names of other students in the class (the image implies that everyone have no clue about their future careers)
10. They only take Language Arts, Math and English

The last point bothers me. I like math, and in most fiction about schools, the math class is always "Get a 100% or fail it". There is no middle ground. The blackboard is inaccurate, with nonsense formulas above their grade level. (Google "Blackboards in Porn". It's a work-safe site.) Also, the "My math is taught by a PE teacher" thing on the Chinese internet.

Also, there aren't any school rooftops and powerful student councils in Chinese schools?

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Re: Regarding School Life Theme

#30 Post by TwilightOfTheSoul » Sun Aug 04, 2013 3:45 pm

I agree that it is an ideal setting for creating scenarios involving diverse casts of people. At no other point in your life are you going to have the the flexibility to create and destroy relationships on a whim than while you are in school. It is also a period of emotional development where (for a cliche exmple) a girl can suddenly become a woman and the guy she has hung out with her entire life as friends suddenly becomes something more without her even realizing it.

I have an attraction to school settings because its the only way I can experience what that would have been like. The innocence of youth and young romance in particular are lost on me since that was a point in my life when every day was a struggle to not stand out or set off a spark that would bring more bruises and shattered bones. It is just another fantasy to someone like me. That said, I do want something horrendous and soul-crushing from time-to-time as well, so it is always good to have some variety.

If you take the example of Fate/Stay Night, you can also use the school as a setting to basically construct the cast and then get it out of the way. It seems like there will be a lot of focus on school-life at first, but depending on the arc you are playing, the school becomes laregly irrelevant at some point in the story. A lot of valuable character development takes place there, but that is it.

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