As a Vietnamese Australian kid, I was surrounded by a lot of peers who were huge fans of anime and self-proclaimed ‘otakus’. Whilst other peers of mine rave about Crunchy Roll and continually binge-watch their favourite series, I’m personally not familiar with the genre. I’ve traveled to Japan multiple times and have seen a multitude of stores dedicated to anime and manga, yet, I’ve never had a strong appetite for watching anime. When introduced to Hi Score Girl, I was keen to know what fascinated so many of my peers about anime and the insight it would give on everyday life in Japan. How would I find it and in what ways did it help me further understand elements of Japanese culture?

When beginning the series, I was extremely overwhelmed with the information being hurled at me at a quick speed. Having never watched anime before, and being unfamiliar with gaming references, I was extremely confused, however, was still extremely engaged with the visuals of the series. 

One of the key things that jumped out at me was that there was a strong focus on non-verbal communication to display emotions, which was seen through the exaggerated facial expressions of the characters. Within the western television shows I usually watch, expressions are most usually communicated verbally through language and tone. According to Kincaid, these exaggerated expressions were developed for the black and white manga format which is less reliant on words to convey context (Kincaid, 2013). Additionally, communication in wider Japanese culture is also extremely reliant on context and is far less verbose than in western cultures, particularly in personal and professional settings (Evason, 2016). 

Japanese School Life
With a fair chunk of the series being set at an elementary school, I was introduced to the Japanese school environment. One of the first things that I had noticed was that every student had a particular bag style when going to school. Personally, when looking at schools in Australia or American schools in movies, students generally carry around whatever schoolbag they like. After further research, I discovered that the bag is called a Randoseru and it has a symbolic and emotional value for young Japanese people as it represents the start of a new phase in life.

Hi Score Girl Screenshot – (Netflix, 2019)

Another thing that came to my attention was that everyone at school presented Ono with gifts and fruit on her last day at school. I found this practice similar to what is done in Vietnamese cultures where employers usually give a gift (usually fruits or sweets) to their employees on their last day or vice versa. According to Pringle, it is commonplace for students or employees to give a small gift to someone who is leaving to show gratitude and appreciation (Pringle, 2017). 

Hi Score Girl Screenshot – (Netflix, 2019)

My understanding and familiarity of ‘school life’ within media have always stemmed from my exposure to the western coming of age movies. For example, the perception of school like ‘a jungle’ in movies such as Mean Girls or Diary of a Wimpy Kid always comes to mind when thinking about school life. Additionally, my own personal primary school experiences didn’t involve much responsibility and only required me to engage in the classroom. Alternatively, Score Girl showcases the norms of Japanese school life, such as students being given the responsibility to lock up the school. The series effectively demonstrated the high level of responsibility that Japanese schools give their students as the Japanese believe that students learn how to keep their community clean, by cleaning at school (Goodanimelife, 2018). 

These insights about Japanese school life provide a better understanding of the context behind the actions seen in Hi Score Girl and introduce outsiders to common practices in these settings.

Gender Stereotypes/Roles/Expectations
The series also introduces a range of gender stereotypes that are evident within character interactions. When we are introduced to Ono as the top-scoring arcade player, she is dumped with a heaping load of criticism from her male counterparts, with comments such as “This is not a place where someone like you belongs”. Despite the criticism and crude comments, we never hear her speak within the first few episodes and she only expresses her emotions through physical contact and body language.

Hi Score Girl Screenshot – (Netflix, 2019)

The behaviour demonstrated by Ono reflects the expectation of women in Japanese society, where women are generally expected to be calm, sweet, and innocent (Kincaid, 2013). Although this is juxtaposed in the series by Ono’s wicked skills at video games such as Street Fighter, her behaviour is still overall submissive and silent. Generally, in Japan, traits associated with individualism like assertiveness, independence, and self-reliance are poorly regarded compared to conformity, affection, and politeness (Belarmino & Roberts, 2019). 

Hi Score Girl Screenshot – (Netflix, 2019)

Ultimately, being introduced to Hi Score Girl has allowed me to foster my understanding of anime and some elements of Japanese culture and norms. The viewing of Hi Score Girl and further research has allowed me further unpack Japanese social norms and attitudes. In particular, its showcasing of Japanese elementary school life and insight into gender stereotypes helps us outsiders navigate the ways that Japanese communities communicate and interact.

Last Edit: 10:40pm 04/09/2020 (Edited: Added some links, linked photos and checked grammar)


Belarmino, B & Roberts, M 2019, ‘Japanese Gender Role Expectations and Attitudes: A Qualitative Analysis of Gender Inequality’, Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, pp 272-288.

Ellis, C, Adams, T, Bochner, A 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum, Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1.

Evason, N 2016, ‘Japanese culture’, SBS Australia, accessed 27 August 2020,<>.

Goodanimelife, 2018, ‘Anime vs Reality in Japanese School Life compared by a Japanese Person Studying for 16 years’, Learn Japanese With Anime, 29 April, accessed 27 August 2020, <>.

Jasper, G 2018, ‘Street Fighter: Timeline and Story explained’, Den of Geek, 30 July, accessed 27 August 2020, <>.

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Netflix, 2019, Round 1, Hi Score Girl, screenshot, viewed 27 August 2020, <>.

Netflix, 2019, Round 2, Hi Score Girl, screenshot, viewed 27 August 2020, <>.

Nippon, I 2018, ‘Why do Japanese children use a Randoseru rather than a normal backpack?’, Ikidane Nippon, 22 April, accessed 27 August 2020, <,a%20new%20phase%20in%20life.>.

Pringle, P 2017, ‘Gifts, Favors and OBligations in Japanese Business Culture’, Japan Intercultural Consulting, accessed 27 August 2020, <>.

TheArtist, 2018, ‘Otaku Subculture History’, David Charles Fox, 10 December, accessed 27 August 2020, <>.

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