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School bullying has always been an element in manga, but why? Is it because school bullying is common in Japan, or some other reason? If it indeed has something to do with the common bullying in real life, who is more likely to be bullied in school? How does this fact affect the related manga?

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Bullying is a persistent problem in Japan. It has its own term called "ijime". The Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has been tracking reported cases of ijime since 1985. Although it has gradually altered its definition along the way, it has always said bullying will be considered as such no matter if it occurs at, or outside of, the school. The definition goes sometimes like this:

Ijime is an act by a student, or students, toward another student that inflicts some physical or psychological consequence causing the receiving child mental or physical suffering.

Over the years, cases of bullying is on the rise, mostly in elementary school (more statistics in reference):

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Hence, we find bullying a common theme in manga and anime. Anime/Manga focusing on high school life/romance sometimes contains scenes of bullying. An anime whose primary focus was bullying was A Silent Voice. This anime film examined the impact of bullying from the perspectives of the bullied and the bully with an uplifting message. A big part of what makes A Silent Voice stand out as a film is that it examines bullying in a rather unconventional way. It does a lot more than set a former bully on a path toward redemption by reconciling with his former classmate; it also looks at some of the reasons bullying happens in the first place and how that impacts others who are caught in the crossfire. The film also scrutinizes the school system's failure to protect vulnerable children and prevent bullying. This film was also primary subject on the study "Framing School Violence and Bullying in Young Adult Manga". You can find the details in the reference.

Reference

  1. Bullying in Japan

  2. A Silent Voice

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    It's hilarious to say "it has its own term called [japanese word]". Of course, [virtually] every language has a word for bullying, and "ijime" by no means refers to school bullying in particular. Both the verb and the noun have a far more general meaning and have been around for quite some time. However, yes, of course, the word is commonly used in relation to bullying in schools. It's just rather uncanny to put it as having its own term, as if that is somehow a confirmation of the seriousness of the issue, despite all other major languages also having a special term for bullying, logically.
    – natiiix
    Jul 11 at 6:28
  • @natiiix, I understand the sentiment, but actually there is no good translation of “bullying” into German. That does of course not mean that it does not exist here.
    – Carsten S
    Jul 11 at 8:08
  • @CarstenS What do you call it then? Well, either way, that kind of confirms my point that the existence of a term, or lack thereof, do not necessarily correlate with the seriousness of an issue. For instance, the Czech language, as well as other Slavic languages, has several different words that you could potentially use when talking about bullying, bullies or the bullied, and so does Japanese to some extent (it is an incredibly flexible language, so you can always create a handful of easily understood terms that mean something), but "ijime" is a rather general harassment using one's power.
    – natiiix
    Jul 11 at 8:45
  • @natiiix, I googled a bit, and nowadays the term “Mobbing” seems to be used often. Of course, there are also older, but less specific terms. (I would almost have said “more German” terms, but then the verb “tyrannisieren” is not that German either ;) )
    – Carsten S
    Jul 11 at 8:57
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    @CarstenS "Ijime" is also a rather harmless word.
    – Ocean
    Jul 12 at 22:06
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The entire industry is a bit incestuous. It is less common for modern manga to actually reflect reality and more common for manga to reflect other manga.

Bullying might or might not be an actual issue, but the real reason it keeps popping up in manga is because there are plenty of manga thematizing bullying.

It is very rare to find a manga about something that you cannot also find in many previous manga.

Take another common but more modern issue like kids spending too much money on gacha and getting in serious trouble. There aren't many older manga with this as a theme and thus there aren't many newer manga with this as a theme either.

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  • Regarding "its rare to find a manga about something that hasn't been done before". Isn't that just generally true about all media? Given how long manga, TV, etc. have been around its inevitable most things that can be done, have been done. Just because a manga is doing something that's been done before doesn't mean it can't add new spin (Kaguya-sama is a classic will-they-won't-they romcom but it has topical inclusions like Discord and Vtubers) or a manga tackling a new thing uses tried and tested tropes (a Gacha game manga borrowing heavily from old gambling manga)
    – Gatchwar
    Jul 14 at 21:02
  • The anime and manga industry being incestuous doesn't prevent them from putting a new spin on things. It prevents them from reflecting reality. Bullying being a theme is because it was a theme before, not because there is an endemic of bullying going on in Japan.
    – Ocean
    Jul 15 at 18:07

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