Comics/Graphic Novels

Class is in Session: 9 Manga Set at School

Patricia Thang

Senior Contributor

Patricia Thang is an educator located in Los Angeles. Though a native Angeleno through and through, her heart also belongs to Tokyo, where much of her family is from. Besides books, she is an enthusiastic devourer of many things, including podcasts, television, and J-pop. She realizes there’s not enough time in the world to consume all of that content, but she’s trying anyway. Other endeavors to which she has dedicated herself include cuddling her dogs until they’re annoyed and taste-testing every vegan ice cream she can find. Twitter: @aintnopthang

Yen Press

SOTUS is an educational system in which upperclassmen impose “trials” upon underclassmen. Arthit, leader of the engineering seniors, plans to put his new juniors through a harsh training regimen to earn the symbol of their major—the gear. However, a first-year named Kongpob causes new headaches for Arthit when he declares he’ll snatch the gear from him: “I’ll make you my wife!”

While I’m sure many of us wouldn’t necessarily say that we miss our school days (I certainly don’t), the fact does remain that school settings always remain pretty popular in all kinds of media, even for adult audiences. And manga are no exception — probably a good two-thirds of the titles I can name off the top of my head are manga set at school. I, for one, do love school settings. They’re still a great source of nostalgia, plus allow me to have an all different experience of that time through various characters.

When readers think of school manga, it’s likely that they will be thinking of the school life sub-genre, a more specific version of slice-of-life that takes place at school. And while this is definitely a big category with tons of great titles, manga set at school can run a much wider gamut of genres. Schools are a great, ubiquitous background for almost any kind of story. So I’ve put together this sampling of different types of manga set at school — from the more typical romance and comedy series, to science fiction and horror as well, you’re sure to find something to pique your interests!

Manga Set at School

My Love Mix-Up! by Wataru Hinekure and Aruko cover

My Love Mix-Up! by Wataru Hinekure and Aruko

If you’re a regular visitor of our manga content, it’ll probably come as no surprise that I’ve found yet another opportunity to recommend My Love Mix-Up!, the high school BL series of my heart. Aoki and Ida, two boys who sit by each other in class, start to fall for each other after a misunderstanding brings them closer together. The series not only follows the two as they come to terms with their feelings and develop their relationship, but also as they navigate the other ins and outs of high school.

Blue Period by Tsubasa Yamaguchi cover

Blue Period by Tsubasa Yamaguchi

From the outside, Yatora Yaguchi looks like he has it all — he excels academically and is popular! But on the inside, Yatora struggles with feeling unfulfilled and empty. Until one fateful day, when he wanders into the art room at school. A painting he sees there awakens passion in him, and Yatora is suddenly inspired to pursue art school, despite having no prior experience. He dives headfirst into the art world and quickly learns both how tough and how wonderful it can be to chase a dream.

Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu cover

Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu

A large subset of the manga set at school are sports manga, following teams as they strive to become champions. Chihayafuru is one such sports manga, but highlights a sport less familiar to western audiences. Chihaya is a high schooler who becomes interested in karuta, a traditional competitive Japanese card game, after befriending a skilled karuta player. She is inspired to start a karuta club at her own school, and the series follows Chihaya and her friends in their endeavor to become a top-class team.

Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa cover

Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa

For a peek into a less conventional school setting, Silver Spoon is an excellent choice to try out! City boy Yuugo Hachiken moves away from home to attend a rural agricultural high school in order to escape his strict family after failing the entrance exam for his high school of choice. Though he originally assumes agricultural school will be a piece of cake, he soon finds out that it has plenty of challenges of its own. Over the course of his time at the school, Yuugo grows into a compassionate young man and develops a deeper understanding of the career path his new friends have chosen.

My Neighbor Seki by Takuma Morishige cover

My Neighbor Seki by Takuma Morishige

Rumi Yokoi tries to pay attention in her classes each day, but is constantly distracted by Toshinari Seki, the classmate who sits next to her. Seki is always playing some sort of game at his desk, sometimes requiring large, elaborate set ups. Rumi often tries to stop Seki and make him pay attention to class, but to no avail. Somehow, Seki never gets caught by his teachers, while Rumi is the one who sometimes gets scolded when she’s trying to redirect Seki. This quirky slice-of-life manga is a quick and easy read, perfect for when you need a bite-sized chuckle.

Rainbow Days by Minami Mizuno cover

Rainbow Days by Minami Mizuno

The first English-language volume of Rainbow Days just released in December, so if you’re looking for a newer series to follow along with, this might be the pick for you! Natsuki is a hopeless romantic who has been crushing on Anna, a girl from another class at school. With the support of his three best friends, Natsuki tries to approach Anna and express his feelings. In addition to the romance aspect, this manga is also a great story of male friendship.

Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui cover

Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui

Now, to step away from the more realistic school life type stories, this modern classic is a wild ride of science fiction comedy. An octopus-like supernatural being destroys 70% of the moon, and claims that Earth will be next. However, the creature offers an opportunity to save Earth from this fate. He becomes the homeroom teacher for a junior high class, teaching them both their normal curriculum as well as the art of assassination. The government has offered a cash reward to whoever in the class is able to kill the creature, and therefore save the planet, before the year is up.

The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu cover

The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu

School isn’t all about trying to get good grades and hanging with your classmates, as demonstrated by this classic horror manga from the ’70s. One day, a massive earthquake hits Japan, and in the aftermath, an entire elementary school has vanished into thin air. Meanwhile, the students and teachers are still trapped in the school, which has been transported to a post-apocalyptic wasteland. There, they encounter all kinds of horrific threats and must fight for survival while trying to figure out if and how they can set things right.

BEASTARS by Paru Itagaki cover

BEASTARS by Paru Itagaki

For my last pick, another one of my go-to titles! Welcome to Cherryton Academy, an elite boarding school attended by both herbivores and carnivores who study and do club activities side by side in harmony. But a wrench is thrown in that relative peace when a student is murdered and eaten in the middle of the night, presumably by one of his carnivorous classmates. Legoshi, a gray wolf who was in the drama club with the victim, attempts to investigate the incident and ends up uncovering a whole dark side to the society he lives in.

For even more fabulous titles, check out our further recommendations for two different types of manga set at school: high school romances and dark academia!