Tuesday Terminology is a weekly segment to enlighten the masses with words, phrases, and ideals usually tacked on to today’s anime/manga scene.
This week’s topic: Seat of the Gods – a.k.a. The Main Character’s Seat in the Classroom Setting
Not necessarily a term, but more a concept that is often seen in the school setting within anime and manga. Simply labeled as MC’s (Main Character’s) Seat, the internet-coined term that has always stuck with me has always been Seat of the Gods. You see it a lot in anime in manga.
Next to the window, second from the back. That is the primary seat the main character in most series usually sit when it comes to the middle/high school setting. There are actual reasons as to why this spot is the most optimal placement for a character.
If you look at the placement of the seat, it is far away from where the teacher stands. Adding in the blocking of other students in front of the MC, it is easy for them to take certain actions that would go unnoticed, like dozing off during class.. And when the teacher does notice such things, the MC is often called out on it for comedic effect.
The MC in most series usually use the view from the window to daydream while looking outside. Scenes that involve the MC doing this tend to involve him/her talking to themselves in their head, contemplating events that will happen or have happened. By focusing their mind to the outside they dislocate themselves, and the viewers, from the classroom environment. This allows the viewers to focus only on the MC and their thoughts. Often times a shot of the MC from outside the window can be inferred that the character is trapped or caged from the bigger world. The physical barrier of the wall and window acts as a metaphor for the MC’s actual feelings.
From the window, it is also easier to notice events transpiring outside as well. Watching a fight break out, seeing a lone student on the rooftop of the building across, watching the town from a higher horizon point. Observing the same things as the MC is another way for the viewers to be able to connect with them.
But the view isn’t only out the window, otherwise any window seat would be fine. In Figure A (above), you’ll also notice that five seats surround that “special seat.”
Usually, to the immediate front or right of the MC’s seat, a close friend will be seated. Even if drawn by lots, somehow close friends end up seated near each other. This enables events such as passing notes to each other, whispered conversations, and notebook-written conversations. Having the side characters among these seats enables easy to set-up scenes for before, during, and after class, because the MC does not have to go far to interact with another person.
New/transfer students are likely to be filled into the seats left unfilled, meaning the rear seats are unoccupied. This allows the MC direct contact with new students. A scene that often happens is: after the new student (most often a girl) introduces herself at the front of the class, she’ll would be placed at an empty seat that happens to be directly behind or very near the MC’s seat. When she reaches the proximity of the MC, dialogue occurs, this sparks conversation among the circle of classmates in the MC’s immediate area, or the MC and transfer student realize they met each other before, etc etc. You get the idea.
In Figure B, I’ve highlighted the range at which the MC can see without completely turning around. From an animation standpoint, this seat gives the optimal amount of range for Point-of-View camera shots. The MC can see a vast majority of the classroom from this spot.
In Figure C (below), I’ve pin-pointed some commonly used camera spots that focus on the MC’s seat. Depending on the camera angle and scene, animators can bypass having to draw the entire classroom and/or students, making it easier on them.
In certain circumstances where you want the entire class to focus on the MC, a camera angle from far away that shows the classroom can be used. Because of the seat placement, the focus of all the classmates go directly to one place, singling out the MC completely with nothing to fall back upon.
The opposite can be considered by bypassing the situation of having to draw more than needed. It is a must when it comes to animating. Having the MC’s seat back there works very well considering we are rarely going to see the back of their head. We will 75% of the time be facing the front of the MC and their compatriots. Considering the seat placement, this leaves the spot of the person sitting directly behind and those sitting next to him/her as the only ones needed to be drawn.
This doesn’t completely cover the concept as to why the Main Character of a series is almost always seated at that specific spot. But from a storytelling standpoint, that seat is special. It truly is the Seat of the Gods.