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SMAC! Web Magazine

LOST (and FOUND) in TRANSLATION #013 – “TENKOUSEI”

The 転校生 (tenkousei) or “transfer student” is an archetypal character in school manga.

Need to introduce a mysterious female character with a shady past and no current connections? Just make her a transfer student! After introducing herself to the class, she’ll immediately sit at the (conveniently) open desk next to the protagonist and strike up a conversation with him. Extra points if she bumped into him earlier that morning and accidentally flashed her panties…

LFT_013 Tenkousei

転 Ten (transfer)
校 Kou (school)
生 Sei (student)

Sometimes, they’ll also be 帰国子女 (kikokushijo) or “returnee” students, who have just returned to Japan after living overseas for several years. In this case, they’ll show off their English skills (though they never seem to be able to find a seiyuu with a decent English accent…) and may have some special skill associated with the country they stayed in. (For example, if they lived in America, they might be a brilliant basketball player etc.)

帰 Ki (return)
国 Koku (country)
子女 Shijo (sons & daughters)

Do I even need to mention that all this is highly romanticized? In games and anime, the “arrival of a transfer student” has kind of been made into a “school life event”, much like the culture festival or marathon day. I makes one wonder how common transfer students really are in Japan!

There are certainly families who move around a lot for the sake of work. These families called 転勤族 (tenkinzoku). Every couple of years (or less), the company tells them to pack their backs and move to another branch. On the bright side, they get to see the world (or at the very least, the rest of Japan) but each time they move, their environment and personal relationships are reset.

転 Ten (transfer)
勤 Kin (work)
族 Zoku (tribe/group)

Any child born into such a family will get to play the tenkousei role several times throughout their childhood. Saying goodbye to all their old friends and trying to make new ones is pretty rough though, and depending on the kid’s personality, this lifestyle can be a blessing or a curse.

I think that almost everyone wishes for a clean slate at one point or another. To start over, or to go somewhere distant and have an adventure. Other people wish that a mysterious stranger would suddenly descend into their lives, breaking the pattern of monotony. Story-wise, the tenkousei plays to both of those fantasies! But like any good trope, if used too often, the readers stop taking it seriously!

Have you ever transferred to another school? Is it a big deal in your country? What was your experience like?
Let me know in the comments!

 

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Penmaru