Image © KyoAni
“Crap, I'm late for school!”
If there's one situation that gets anime/manga fans riled up, it's that fateful moment when a high school student is running late for school and physically collides with a classmate of the opposite sex that might end up being more than just a classmate. Recently, the “I'm late for school” trope was voted as one of the top anime situations that never really happen in real life. What makes the trope even wackier is that the character in a hurry usually has a piece of toasted bread in his/her mouth. Does that indicate that toast is the anime “Breakfast of Champions”? Let's take a look at what makes toast one of the most popular fast foods in history and why Japan is fascinated with a piece of slightly burnt bread.
The concept of toast started with the Romans in ancient times as they decided to put bread out in front of dry heat to preserve it. The Romans would also sometimes use the bread they toasted to put in their wine in order to balance out the acidity. It wasn't until the Victorian era when toast really took off as bread became tastier and people were coming up with all kinds of toppings to put on it. With regards to how toast became prevalent in the “late for school” trope in the first place, it's somewhat unclear what really started it. What we do know for certain is that it tends to be overused a lot and fans continue to get a laugh out of characters being late to school/work with various goodies in their mouths.
Image © Toei Animation
So why is toast the most popular item in the trope? Yes, it's extremely delicious when paired with tasty toppings, but there has to be more to it than that. Perhaps it's because of the significance of one's memories with regards to being around family in the mornings. Think about it. Your mother wakes you up and makes you breakfast. She takes the time to make sure that it's warm and ready for you by the time you get to the dining room. Your mother would also wish you well for the day. There's a love aspect to all this and that's something that the Japanese (because of their emphasis on family values) can relate to. You also have to consider the fact that the Japanese are always fascinated with Western culture to a huge degree.
Maybe it's not just toast, but the impact of bread itself is what Japanese anime/manga creators could have been considering. Some anthropologists believe that growing cereals and grains (which led to the creation of bread) was one of the reasons why humans formed communities back in the earliest parts of human history. If it weren't for agriculture, we wouldn't be civilized human beings in the first place. Do the quirky minds of Japan believe that bread is the true formation of social bonds? After all, schools are places that are filled with multiple communities all meshing in one big pot.
Image © Dogakobo
As much as some fans voice their displeasure of this cliche, students with toast in their mouths will continue to run rampant because you really can't go wrong with a food as old as time. Bread is a worldwide staple in many people's diets. Also, the smell of it can make you a better human being!
When in doubt, toast it out!
Tony Yao has been an avid fan of Japanese pop culture since junior high school. He blogs about the psychological aspects of anime/manga/video games at Manga Therapy. In his spare time, he enjoys exercising, watching sports, hanging out with friends, eating, a lot of sleeping, and obsessing over his favorite anime/manga series, Gintama.comments powered by Disqus