The duality of sempai (senior) and kohai (junior) is omnipresent in Japanese society: at all levels of education, and in sports clubs, businesses, and informal or social organizations, and is an essential element of Japanese seniority-based status relationships, similar to the way that family and other relationships are decided based on age, in which even twins may be divided into elder and younger siblings. The relationship between a sempai and a kohai is traditionally that of mutual respect, and the kohai is obligated to defer and look up to them, while the sempai is obligated to look out for, and protect, the kohai. Needless to say, romance fits this relationship like a glove. Extremely common in Yaoi, Yuri, and shoujo manga in general. Subtrope of Sempai/Kohai. See also Mentor Ship, Teacher/Student Romance.
Examples:Anime and Manga
- Maria-sama ga Miteru runs on this trope, as the Soeur system is essentially an extension of the traditional Sempai/Kohai relationship. Though nothing happens on-screen, the bonds between souers are almost always romance laden.
- In SHUFFLE!, Asa is Rin and Kaede's sempai, but tells Rin to stop calling her "Asa-sempai" when they start dating.
- Rather frustrating to fans of the ship is the example from Skip Beat!!. Kyouko and Ren, lead girl and lead guy respectively, have a sempai/kouhai relationship as Ren has been in show business longer than Kyouko has. It's also a romance series with the biggest Anchored Ships you've seen in a shoujo in a long time.
- Subverted in Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, where Kuroneko and Kyousuke are in a romantic relationship for a while, and she becomes his kohai after she transfers to his school, but the two events are unrelated.
- Souchi's sempai to Morinaga's kouhai in the university in The Tyrant Falls in Love.
- Shirou and Sakura in the Heavens Feel route of Fate/stay night. Sakura does not stop calling Shirou "sempai" even after they begin their relationship.
- Kanbaru Suruga refers to both Araragi and Senjougahara as sempais and is explicitly romantically interested in the latter while not minding the former.
- Averted with Sengoku Nadeko, who is technically in a kohai position to Araragi but does not refer to him as anything but "big brother Koyomi" (even though they are not related), adding a Brother–Sister Incest subtext instead.
- Tamaki and Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club, though the sempai/kohai dynamic goes away once they start dating (not that it stops Haruhi from referring to Tamaki as such).
- In Miracle Girls, Tomo has a crush on her senpai Kurashige.
- Maya Ibuki in from Neon Genesis Evangelion refers to calls Ritsuko as "sempai". It's heavily implied that Maya has unrequited affections for Ritsuko.
- My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: Hachiman Hikigaya is a Second Year Protagonist. Then in the middle of the series (volume 6 in the light novel and second season of the anime), appears Iroha Isshiki from First Year that went to Service Club to get a problem solved. Since then, she hangs with Hachiman calling him "senpai". But later in the series is known that the only person she says "senpai" is Hachiman, mostly like a Ship Tease for him (and actually she's considerated as an actual contender for Hachiman's heart apart of Yui and Yukino).
- Shiki's Filk Song rap "Senpai" references this trope.
- Senpai Club is an anime parody fanime about an Ordinary High-School Student named Tsukimi who bumps into a boy while Late for School. The boy she bumped into is Hero-senpai, her Love Interest who is also the leader of the titular "senpai club".
- The Tokimeki Memorial series, being a High School romance Dating Sim series, obviously loves this trope. Every flagship game of the series (save for Tokimeki Memorial 3) had a Kohai as a winnable Love Interest, and several side games introduced other non-winnable Kohai. However, winnable sempai weren't introduced until late in the series, the first one appearing in Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side 2.
- The Pokémon trainer class "Teammates" (formerly "Sr. and Jr.") is known as "Sempai and Kohai" in Japan. More than a few duos have heavy laden Homoerotic Subtext.
- Yandere Simulator is the tale of a Yandere killing off rivals in order to win the attention of her senpai. He has a name, but a ridiculously generic onenote , and for the most part is referred to only as "senpai" both in- and out-of-universe.
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