Waiting for...

As I've mentioned before, I wasn't exactly the most outgoing or interesting person in the class back in high school (equivalent). I didn't stand out at all, and I didn't really make much effort to do so. This wasn't to say that I was completely apathetic of my lack of presence, since I wanted to be Unique and Known and Popular, but I think that made me even more normal, since every teenager, sooner or later and for varying periods of time, wanted the same. In any case, I think I was already aware, back then, of how futile it would be to try to stand out in a positive way, to have an Interesting School Life.

Maybe if I had chosen a different seat, though, the fates would have aligned and I'd have discovered a secret book hidden in the deepest recesses of the library (gods knew I spent more than enough time in there; the librarian specifically informed me that over the course of a year, I borrowed over eight hundred books, albeit some of them repeats) with easy-to-understand step-by-step instructions on how to WIELD ZE POWAH OF MAGIC or something. How To Fire Eye-Beams For Dummies, maybe.

Research into various school days anime seems to show an intriguing correlation between seating position in class and the probability of Main Character status. Now, note that it appears to only increase the probability, rather than turn it into a certainty, and it seems to affect only Main Character status, rather than Side Character. It helps if you're seated near the Main Character in order to achieve Significant Side Character rank, if only due to increased proximity, but this is not always a given.

So, which is the best seat to choose if one wishes to have a greater chance at an Interesting School Life?

From the a.f.k. fansub.

Kyon (from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) has it right; the second seat from behind beside the windows appears to be the anime favourite in terms of Main Character Sits Here. In fact, the effect expands to the four seats at the back of the class nearest the window, as illustrated in Card Captor Sakura.

Sakura and Tomoyo wonder about Syaoran.

Sakura has the Important seat, and Tomoyo has the seat to her right. Syaoran sits behind her, and Meiling beside Syaoran. This, mind you, is dependent entirely upon Sakura's position; the other characters rise in importance to the story because of proximity and the effects that proximity has on the plot. Tomoyo becomes important because if she hadn't been sitting where she was, Sakura wouldn't have met her. Syaoran is important anyway, and putting him in the seat behind Sakura allows for further interaction useful for the plot. (This also applies to Eriol, later.) And Meiling sits where she does because she insists on being next to Syaoran. If Syaoran and Meiling had sat anywhere else, they would still be as important to the story, but Tomoyo would not have been as major, since she would not have built up that friendship with Sakura.

Such is the effect of seating position on character importance.

Too bad Shion's not the main character.

Mizuho (from Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru) occupies what I like to call the Tomoyo position: the seat to the right of the second seat from the back nearest the windows, the lower left of the Big Four. Shion occupies the Sakura position, and I've always thought it a bit of a pity that she didn't really get a lot of screen time in the anime. But hey, at least she's named and is significant enough to have multiple appearances and some focus in the early episodes.

Staring out the window.

Mei (from Manabi Straight is in the Syaoran position, and despite her efforts to be unnoticed and alone, evidently the magic of the seating position has changed her plans.

The Class of Haruhi.

Now, Kyon is an interesting case. It can be said that he's important to the plot because of his proximity to Haruhi (and the fact that she can bug him any time by poking him in the back during class), and, from another point of view, Haruhi is important to the plot because of her proximity to him. Kyon would have had a completely normal school life if he hadn't met and consistently associated with Haruhi, and the amount of Haruhi screentime in the anime is entirely dependent on how close she is to Kyon. It's like a Character Proximity Feedback Loop, forever feeding on itself.

And this isn't even his original seat, so it might require further study into this phenomenon. Also, in the novels, apparently the class switches seats now and again (Haruhi always ends up sitting behind Kyon), so this complicates matters further.

Strange lighting.

Another Tomokazu Sugita role, Rin from Shuffle, gets the Sakura seat, and is rather more clear-cut in terms of character importance, being the main character. I wonder if it's a coincidence that the Tomoyo seat is taken up by the Male Best Friend Midoriba. (At least, I think it is. Maybe Midoriba's just sitting there for fun.) Rin also demonstrates, several times, the appeal of a window seat: staring out of the window.

Seems familiar...

And rounding out the Tomokazu Sugita roles, Yuuichi from Kanon (KyoAni 2006 version) has the Sakura seat, and the other seats in the Big Four are also occupied by important characters: Nayuki in the Tomoyo seat, Jun in the Syaoran seat, and Kaori in the Meiling seat. In addition, Yuuichi's view out of the window is perfect for seeing Shiori's schoolyard walks.

Side character only, sorry.

Now, there are obviously exceptions to this. Hazumu in Kashimashi does not sit anywhere near the window, and neither do Yuuji or Shana in Shakugan no Shana. And, as the screenshot shows, Chie in Mai HiME is sitting in the important Sakura position, but she's a Side Character at most, and all the glory goes to Mai, who sits in front of her. Everyone else around her don't even get speaking lines.

Therefore, it can be hypothesized that the Sakura position (or Kyon position, if you prefer) can increase the significance of a character, but is not exactly an automatic success to have one's name in the end credits. And it may be argued that it only increases the Main Character possibility for the character, and Side Character status may be completely unaffected by this. In other words, it's all or nothing.

Finally, it must be noted that if one wishes to be Interesting, then one should hopefully be able to handle Interesting. Otherwise, the results may not be what one intends.

One of the more touching pictures I've seen.

10 Responses to “The secret of seating arrangements”
  1. jello says:

    It makes me wonder how other places and other countries arrange classroom seating. Pretty much every school I went to had some sort of Alphabetical arrangement be it front-to-back or left-to-right. Basically so it was easier for the teacher to take roll. They could just look up and down, see who wasn't there and mark accordingly.

  2. Kellis says:

    @jello: Back in Singapore, most of the time (in my classes, at least) it was pick-your-own. We just grabbed whatever seats we wanted at the beginning of the year, and then we stuck with it for the most part. Occasionally there would be some (very minor) shuffling, mostly if the teacher wanted to keep an eye on someone or other, but I've not personally had to vacate a seat I chose.

    I usually chose the second seat from the front nearest the doors, and it was amazing how much I could get away with, since I appeared to be outside the teacher's normal field of view. Then again, it could be because of that lack of presence thing.

  3. chicho says:

    Pretty interesting theory, I had wondered myself if there was in fact some sort of correlation between seat position and plot importance of the character…

    but you forgot to mention one manga/anime that goes deep into the sitting arrangements: Negima!

  4. Kellis says:

    @chicho: Well, I left out Negima because every character in the class was significant, in one way or another.

    Also, I don't have a good source for it. I'm still trying to figure out manga-scan legalities, and I don't have the first series on fansub (before it got licenced), and the current 2006 series don't really use the usual desks-and-chairs.

  5. Seleria says:

    Very interesting… In addition to the animes mentioned above, Pita Ten and School Rumble also adhere to your theorem. In both animes, the Sakura seat is occupied by Kotaru (Pita Ten) and Tenma (School Rumble), both of whom are main characters. Other important characters occupy the other Big Four seats.

    I wonder what the appeal is in seating by the window? Personally, for the most part of my schooling I seated away from the window to avoid the heat.

  6. xau says:

    Anime and manga school classrooms are arranged differently than the high school classrooms that I have been in. Most of the manga and anime I have come in contact with have a similar classroom arrangement, with each student in their individual seat and small desk, arranged in a rectangular array. In addition, there are typically windows on one side of the classroom.

    My own observation has been that some plotlines involve the main characters 'daydreaming', getting 'distracted', 'fooling around' at one point or another during classtime. These events are typically crucial to character development, and are only possible if they sit far away from the sensei.

  7. ThirteenSugars says:

    This article gave me tha laughs I need for the day. ^^ It actually made me wonder howcome I've never seen a main anime character be seated in front of a row before. I'm trying to think but I can't remember any.

    Anyway, I've probably experienced all sorts of seating arrangements in the high schools I've been in. I personally loved the one where we can sit anywhere we want to everyday. It's so fun! Cause then when you're early, you get to grab the seat nearest to your crush and know that some girls are plotting to kill you after class because they're so jealous of you. :) lol

    Although, I really didn't have to do that cause the guy I had a crush on is my notetaker in the class. ^^

  8. TheBigN says:

    "I wonder what the appeal is in seating by the window? Personally, for the most part of my schooling I seated away from the window to avoid the heat."

    Obviously when you're bored, it's something to look at and see if anything more interesting is going on. Maybe it's easier/less annoying for someone to draw the seat near the window compared to rows of rows of seats. And wow chair conspiracy.

  9. Weave says:

    What is that last pic from?

  10. Crisis_vyper says:

    Interesting indeed, being an otaku for 7 years now and I never noticed the seating arrangements. You have eyes for inanimate anime object details. :)

    I sat near the main four almost all my high school life, but unfortunately nothing much happened at all. :'(

    Man now I wish I was an anime character of some kind…..:P