In real life, the latest addition to a school might get a few questions before class resumes as normal. In fiction, transfer students can put a plot in motion. Would Tina Belcher have gone bad without a new girl at school? Sometimes, they drive a feature length story. What would Heathers, Mean Girls, The Craft or any other teen movie be without the student who disrupts the norm? Other times, new kids have breathed new life into ongoing young adult series, like The Babysitter’s Club or Sweet Valley High.
Transfer students are common enough to earn their own TV Trope entry, and anime is no exception to the phenomenon. Whether you’re watching the dramatic saga of magical girls or a light-hearted slice-of-life comedy, transfer students are as much a part of these school-centric stories as uniforms and extracurricular clubs.
With the back-to-school season upon us, let’s take a look at some of the great transfer students of anime. These are students whose arrival sparked a new mystery to unravel. Some became heroes. Some hold secrets that are crucial to the story. A few will bring fun and excitement to a group of new friends. Others heighten the drama. All will remind you that it’s not a teen anime unless there’s a transfer student.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya plays on genre conventions that exist in anime, which is why it was the main inspiration for the list. In the series, high school student Haruhi Suzumiya is totally bored and wishing for the kind of characters that make fiction exciting, like an alien or maybe a “mysterious transfer student.” The catch is that Haruhi’s wishes frequently manifest in her life, whether or not she’s aware of it. Itsuki Koizumi is the transfer student, and Haruhi is convinced that he is, in fact, mysterious, as he shows up after the start of the school year.
Indeed, Koizumi, as he is often called, is no ordinary new kid at school. He is part of the mystery that surrounds Haruhi’s life and bits of the puzzle are revealed in subsequent episodes throughout that first season. Like Haruhi and the rest of her pals, Koizumi is a goof on stereotypical anime characters, but, at the same time, he’s there to drive the plot of the series.
If you never saw The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and you’re an anime fan, I suggest you check it out. If you’re not into anime, there are a lot of jokes that won’t make sense, so keep moving and come back to it after your anime addiction takes hold.
Part drama, part high school rom-com, Kotoura-san is about a girl whose psychic ability has destroyed her young life. Thanks to her ability to read minds, Haruka Kotoura has discovered her friends’ crushes and learned of her parents’ extramarital affairs. Everyone, her parents included, has turned their backs on her. Now out on her own, Haruka transfers schools and meets a boy who thinks her power is pretty cool, even if he does need to watch the lusty longings for his new friend. Soon, Haruka Kotoura meets up with others in an ESP club. She makes new friends, and new enemies.
Of all the transfer students on this list, Haruka is probably the most endearing. She’s a kind person who has experienced a lot of loss in her life because of a special ability that few others understand. Her new life is far from perfect, but, after transferring to a new school, she does find a little hopefulness.
If you’re the sort of person who longs to have psychic powers, watch this to remind yourself that you are better off without the ability to read minds. If you’re the sort of person who gets paranoid that people know what you’re thinking and you’ll end up in embarrassing trouble, maybe avoid Kotoura-san.
Kinmoza! is an endearing slice-of-life anime about teenagers and cultural differences. When she was 10, Shinobu Omiya lived with a family in the U.K. and befriended a young girl named Alice Cartelet. Now, as high school starts, Alice has moved to Japan and transferred into Shinobu’s school. Shortly thereafter, Alice’s friend Karen Kujo, who has a Japanese father but struggles with the language, joins them.
This is a smartly written anime that delves into a lot of interesting cross-cultural issues. Shinobu is fascinated with foreigners, particularly the British. Meanwhile, Alice and Karen are trying to adapt to life not just in a new school, but in a new country where they aren’t native speakers of the common language. There are a lot of jokes about language in here and the anime is in Japanese and English, so you’ll want to pay close attention when you watch it. If you ever wondered what Japanese teens think of bonsai trees, and other things commonly associated with the country, watch this.
I tried watching Kill la Kill when it was all the rage, but turned it off because I thought the plot was an idiotic attempt to cram as many T&A shots in an episode as possible. However, one of my friends said I should give it a second chance and, since she has good taste, I went back to it.
I’m still not sure I like Kill la Kill, but I like transfer student Ryuko Matoi because she appears to share my sentiments that this plot – which has something to do with magical uniforms and an evil student body president – is totally stupid. Some characters refer to Matoi as a “bitch” and other gendered insults, but it’s just because she doesn’t doesn’t have time for their bull crap, just like she doesn’t have time for those underboob shots. Ryuko didn’t transfer to be everybody’s new best friend. She’s there for vengeance. I wish her luck.
When Rukia Kuchiki turns up as a transfer student, she already knows one classmate. This is because Rukia’s not actually a high school kid; She’s a soul reaper, or shinigami, who inadvertently lost most of her powers after an encounter with 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki. Now Rukia, an old and formerly powerful fighter, must pose as a high school student.
Bleach ran for hundreds of episodes over a period of several years. Eventually, its cast swelled so large that it become more difficult to keep up with what was happening in the show. Watch the early episodes to flashback to a simpler time when you could follow the plot of Bleach without going back to reference a bunch of previous episodes.
Clumsy teen-turned-superhero Usagi Tsukino was already deep into her adventures at Sailor Moon when she had her first encounter with Makoto Kino. A tall and physically strong girl, Makoto jumps in to defend Usagi against the very large men who are giving her problems. At school, there’s a rumor that Makoto transferred after being expelled from her last school for fighting.
Kids at school seem to avoid Makoto and even Ami says that magical cat Luna has concerns about the girl, but Usagi likes her immediately, perhaps more so when she finds outs that Makoto is a good cook too. It doesn’t take long for Makoto to reveal herself as Sailor Jupiter, becoming the fourth member of what’s known in the Sailor Moon universe as the Inner Senshi.
I’ve been told that Sailor Moon fans have the sailor senshi that remind them of themselves. Ultimately, I’m probably more of an Usagi/Sailor Moon on account of being horribly clumsy, but Makoto’s plight as the tall kid in middle school hits close to home too. Let’s just say that being a teenager sucks for almost everyone. Too bad the rest of us don’t get to turn into superheroes.
It wasn’t so long ago that anime fans were freaking out over Puella Magi Madoka Magica, otherwise known simply as Madoka. The 12-episode series and subsequent films take on a popular subject – magical girls – and gives it a nightmarish quality. Madoka isn’t so much about teen girls saving the world as it’s about what happens when well-intentioned kids get in way over their heads.
In this anime, Homura Akemi falls into the role of transfer student. Her first appearance in lead character Madoka’s class is unnerving as the pink-haired title character had seen this girl in a dream before they met. Then there’s her personality. Homura says little when asked to introduce herself and comes off as immediately unfriendly. With certain characters, she’s downright antagonistic. However, there’s a reason for Homura’s perceived bad attitude. Indeed, her story is one of the tragedies inside an series filled those. She suffers a fate that is worth than death and, try as she might, she can’t change it.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a heavy anime. Like Serial Experiments Lain, Elfen Lied and a host of others that came before it, this one will keep you up at night thinking about how the themes in this totally messed-up fictional world relate to our also disastrous real one.
Father and son daredevils Genma and Ranma Saotome land in a pool of trouble when they fall into cursed waters. Genma now turns into a panda when he is hit with cold water. Ranma, on the other hand, morphs into a girl. They can revert to normal with a douse of hot water, but the time spent in their alternate forms lead to lots of awkward moments, particularly for teenage Ranma. Those increase when Ranma ends up at a new high school.
Ranma meets his first high school enemy, Tatewaki Kuno, before class starts. Just as their first battle begins, rain falls and Ranma turns into a girl. The relationship becomes more bizarre when, during another fight, Ranma once again takes on the female form and his overconfident idiot of a nemesis takes a liking to curvy, red-head girl Ranma. Now Ranma can relate to his family friend/fianc?e Akane Tendo, a beauty who literally fights off the boys every morning, while his classmate remains clueless.
Ranma and Akane are the two students that every nerd would want to befriend. I certainly wish they had been my friends in the days when I needed an army – against the kids who thought my difficult-to-pronounce last name and big nose were totally hysterical.
Previously by Liz Ohanesian