If I had to go on record and choose only one thing that made Makoto such a great character, it’d probably be the fact that she manages to so perfectly balance on that line between being a rough-and-tumble tough girl, all the while maintaining a delicate side to her.
And Makoto’s school uniform, worn defiantly in the face of her teachers and fellow classmates without even a hint of shame, is a perfect example of Makoto’s self-assuredness and determination. She doesn’t have time for stupid little rules, but when it comes to helping her friends, she’ll be the first one there at your side.
So in honor of Makoto’s school uniform, today we’re going to talk about just exactly how she got away with this act of defiance, and whether it’s just an anime myth, or if there’s some real world truth behind it.
Grab your lunch boxes, we’re going on a field trip!
Anyone who is either something of a Japanophile1 or a long-term anime fan is probably aware of the importance of the sailor uniform. The school uniforms worn by young Japanese students becomes such an important part of their identity that you can’t help but read into it and wonder what Makoto’s refusal to change says about her own sense of self.
Realistically speaking, it’s probably simply a matter of Ms. Takeuchi getting tired of drawing everyone in exactly the same clothes and wanting to make Makoto stand out a bit. But seeing as that I’ve never been one to jump on the easy answer and would rather over-analyze everything, we’ll just rule that out here.
As for in-universe explanations, which I prefer, the most obvious one is that Makoto is just a rebellious young girl and doesn’t feel like following stupid rules. That’s entirely possible, especially when you consider that we see her likely buying beer in the manga. When she’s first scolded by her teacher in the manga for wearing the wrong school uniform, he also complains that her hair is permed (though Makoto insists that it’s natural).2 So she doesn’t seem to be a fan of rules in any case.
Another possibility is that Makoto wasn’t lying and that, in fact, the uniforms available to students at Azabu-Juban Junior High really were too small for her.
I have a hard time believing this answer though, for two reasons:
- Makoto’s previous school obviously had uniforms available in her size, and baggy ones at that
- Azabu-Juban High School has no problem outfitting her, and there’s not that much height difference between a third-year junior high student and a first-year high school student
Also, in terms of height, Haruka is a fair bit taller than Makoto and Michiru is around the same height. So that means either Haruka and Michiru suffered the same fate in their previous schools, or Makoto’s height simply isn’t a factor.
Lastly, and the one that I find most likely, is that Makoto simply couldn’t afford to buy a new school uniform. Sure, she lives in an apartment on her own, but she is an orphan with no clear family around to support her. Unlike big-insurance-cash-out Mamoru, it doesn’t seem like Makoto has a lot of money to throw around.
And throw around she’d have to do, if she wanted to buy a new school uniform after transferring to Azabu-Juban Junior High.
Japanese school uniforms, you see, are incredibly expensive. Of course it depends on the school you’re attending, but a single public school uniform set (skirt and sailor-style top) will run you on average 31,000 yen (approx. $295 USD).34 Note that students typically need both a winter and a summer uniform — though thankfully summer uniforms tend to be a little cheaper.
And let’s not even go into how much uniforms for private schools like Rei’s TA Gakuin or Mugen Gakuen cost.
So it’s entirely possible that Makoto’s choice to stick with her old school uniform was, at least partially, financially motivated — which I’m pretty sure we can all agree isn’t exactly something you’d just open up and admit to people.
Now that we have all that background out of the way, we can finally tackle our original question of: why the heck was Makoto allowed to wear her old uniform, anyway?
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty case-by-case issue and it’s not like Azabu-Juban Junior High is a real school that we can just look up to find their specific rules, but there are quite a few anecdotal stories online where schools will let transfer students continue to wear their old uniforms.5
Especially in cases when a student transfers into a new school in the latter half of the second year or in their third year (meaning they won’t actually get much use out of a new uniform anyway), the school may let them continue to wear the uniform from their previous school.
Other schools will make arrangements through a PTA to donate uniforms from older students that already graduated to transfer students to help them out. I suppose Makoto could be referring to a donated uniform when she said it was “too small.”
So basically, it’s entirely possible that the principal of Azabu-Juban Junior High could have made a judgement call and decided to allow Makoto to continue to wear her old uniform, especially in light of the fact that she likely doesn’t have a lot of money to throw around anyway.
The world of Japanese school uniforms is actually pretty fascinating once you start digging deeper into the topic, especially with modern movements to offer school uniforms while still not making them compulsory, or the recent news of a public school in Tokyo opting to let students choose which uniform (skirt, pants, blazers, etc.) they wish to wear, in order to create a more LGBT-friendly environment.6
With all that out of the way, what do you think Makoto’s reason was for keeping her own school uniform? Nothing more than an art choice on Ms. Takeuchi’s part? Or maybe Makoto just couldn’t give up on her old flame,
Freddie sempai. Let me know what you think!
- Which I think would include me? I mean, I even went to university to study Japanese culture… ↩
- See Act 5 of the manga ↩
- See School Uniform Prices Rising ↩
- Using the JPY to USD rate as of March 23, 2018 of 105 yen to $1 USD ↩
- See here, here, and here for a few stories ↩
- See Public School Keeps LGBT in Mind for School Uniforms (Setagaya) ↩