Now, like shonen manga, there's only one story that really works for shojo manga!! ... The heroine screams "I'm late! I'm late!" while running out of her house (because she's clumsy)!! There are no alternatives to this beginning!! Another important detail: she has to be chewing on a piece of toast!!
— Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga
A common device for a series opening or Establishing Character Moment
. Things begin in a frantic rush which usually results in taking short cuts, such as eating breakfast on the run. The classic image is of someone running down the street with a slice of toast hanging out of their mouth, dragging their backpack with one hand while trying to put on their jacket or sweater one-handed with the other, bumping into important people
in a manner that gets the plot started.
Basically, they're never
on time for school. While some are Heavy Sleepers
, it would appear that they may have simply set their alarm clocks so as to give them insufficient time to get to class.
, this is associated with the shoujo
(girl's) genre, where the original intent was to establish the protagonist as cute but clumsy
, or give her a minor flaw. Overused to the point of becoming a Discredited Trope
; current Japanese "How to Become a Shoujo Manga-ka" books specifically advise against
using this trope, and more recent manga even lampshade how much of a cliche it is.
It's also Truth in Television
, as any teenager/parent/college student will tell you.
Compare Easing Into The Adventure
, Good Morning, Crono
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Anime & Manga
- Usagi from Sailor Moon was running to school when she saw a bunch of kids teasing Luna. She saves the cat and soon is told that she's Sailor Moon by her...
- It's not just the first episode, either—Usagi being late is a Running Gag.
- Lan from Megaman NT Warrior (Fortunately he has a sentient program to nag him awake.)
- He's also ridiculously prone to this in the Megaman Battle Network games. Expect it to happen at least twice in each game. Often though, it's not school, but a tournament or somesuch.
- Ranma and Akane are Late for School several times in the first season of Ranma ½, starting with the second episode.
- Possibly the only Invoked example, Kanako runs out the door with toast in her mouth in Maria†Holic in order to meet her true love.
- During his Alternate Universe experience in the last episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji and Asuka quite literally run into Rei, who is running wildly with a piece of toast in her mouth, trying not to be Late for School.
- In Project A-Ko, A-ko wakes up late every single day, and must run at supersonic speeds to school, dragging C-ko behind her, and leaving a trail of shattered windows. She only stops treating B-ko as an Unknown Rival when finds out not even getting up early to avoid her ambushes before school works.
- Sana in Kodomo no Omocha frequently oversleeps but hyperspeeds through her entire morning routine so she's never quite late.
- Cardcaptor Sakura isn't technically late for school in the first episode, but she has her reasons for leaving early; it isn't until the second episode we see her running behind schedule.
- In the first episode of Mahou Sensei Negima!, Kagurazaka Asuna is running late on the way to class and bumps into the title character.
- The same scene before Asuna shows that the whole freaking school are late for their classes.
- Happens a lot in the manga. Setsuna lampshades it at least once, when she notes that Asuna ends up sprinting to class even though she isn't late.
- Kurusegawa Himeko wakes up late and has to hurry to get to school on time in the first episode of Kannazuki no Miko.
- Subverted in Puni Puni Poemi: the titular character wakes up at 4AM and arrives at school very early, second only to Futaba-chan, who was there waiting for her.
- Ash Ketchum wakes late on his first day as a Pokémon trainer, and gets "stuck" with Pikachu as a result.
- Two of the main characters in Manabi Straight meet this way. The threat of their tardiness results in one breaking out her Hoverboard that was apparently stolen from the Back to the Future set, and they practically have the same music playing.
- In Strawberry Panic, Nagisa runs in to the Etoile while taking a short cut to get to school because she was late on her first day. This show likes to be thorough with its use of tropes.
- Nayuki in Kanon became the track team captain because her sleeping habits trained her to run quickly to school.
- Ahiru of Princess Tutu wakes up in the first episode, hears the bell, and runs to school, convinced she's late. Turns out she's woken up early, and this bell was for a different class.
- Ichigo of Tokyo Mew Mew seems to have to run everywhere she goes, from school to work to dates and everything in between. Even with her catgirl powers, she never arrives normally, always panting and flopping over with a second to spare.
- In Azumanga Daioh, Yukari-sensei's immature and irresponsible nature is suggested when she is Late For School in the very first scene. She then compounds this by flying into a rage, stealing a helpful student's bicycle (when he stops to fix hers, no less), and reporting to the wrong homeroom.
- Tomo, of course, is even later. "Yukari's here already?"
- In the anniversary manga chapters, one section opens with Osaka leaving for school and one of her parents asking off-screen if she will be late. Osaka is definitely Not a Morning Person.
- Mira from Papa To Kiss In The Dark is late for school in the very beginning of the series. The reason? He was having sex with his father. What else.
- A variation in You're Under Arrest!: Natsumi is frequently late for work, enough to become a running gag, especially when she makes up more and more outlandish excuses.
- Parodied in a high school Bizarro Episode in the Excel Saga manga, when the unusually Genre Savvy Excel states that the surest way to bump into someone important is to run to school with a piece of toast in your mouth. Naturally, it backfires, and she is hit by a car.
- This was actually the point of a scene—Ryoko plays a little joke on Sasami so she can see this in the Tenchi Muyo! manga.
- Mika in Doki Doki School Hours often has to be driven to school by her father to avoid being late - which is a bit embarrassing since she's actually a teacher.
- Nozomi in Yes! Pretty Cure 5, on multiple occasions (including in the opening credits). Seems to be related to her nonexistent attention span.
- Subverted with Nozomu in Kanokon acting out the trope despite not actually being late. She continues to go through the whole New Transfer Student routine shortly after, despite becoming a new student in the previous episode.
- The first episode of Magical Project S starts out with this.
- Himeno Awayuki from Prétear is Late for School at the beginning of the series, and attemps to take a shortcut. Depending on which adaptation you are following, she either wanders close to Leafenia and meets Shin, or has a rather violent encounter with Hayate; in both cases, this eventually leads to her being recruited as the titular Magical Girl.
- Happens in the Distant Finale of Code Geass with Kallen Kouzuki (who spent the whole show fighting The Empire as a part of La Résistance) hurriedly saying goodbye to her mother and running to school with a piece of toast between her teeth. It serves to show how peaceful the world has become after Lelouch's sacrifice.
- Makoto does this in the beginning of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
- Haru is late for school at the beginning of The Cat Returns, but the Call to Adventure doesn't show up until she's on her way home.
- Similarly subverted in Whisper of the Heart: When Shizuku is late for school, she comes upon a boy who had previously confessed an unreciprocated crush on her. The big, athletic boy easily leaves the petite girl behind, in effect returning her rejection.
- Ichiko does it◊ in a flashback in Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru.
- Miyukichan In Wonderland. Miyuki is late to school at the beginning of the story, which leads to her passing a skateboarding bunny girl and then falling down a hole in the sidewalk. After her reluctant adventures, she wakes up, looks at the clock, finds out she's late, grabs a piece of toast, passes a skateboarding bunny girl... it's ENDLESS.
- In the massive CLAMP crossover Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, there's an alternate Miyuki in almost every world the gang goes to before Tokyo.
- The Hellsing episode that is a flashback to Sir Integra's childhood starts with her being late to go be instructed by her grandfather.
- During her examination for First Class, Urd dons a blazer and plaid skirt and demands a slice of toast, saying, "A schoolgirl can't run down the street without toast in her mouth!" Skuld comments, "I think you're watching too much anime."
- Lampshaded in Durarara!!. Mikado is telling his friend Kida about rescuing a girl, and Kida responds by noting how much that is an anime cliche, and then cites a list of anime cliches, including this one: "This could only make more sense if you were also Late for School...Oh! And if she was also a New Transfer Student. Also if she turned out to be a queen and your childhood friend! That would be awesome. Are you getting how I'm being sarcastic here?"
- Deliberately avoided in the beginning of the Black★Rock Shooter OVA. Mato wakes up on time, enjoys her toast at the table (with her mother making comments on her being early), and because she's early going to school, encounters Yomi who has a limousine take her. (And is likely always early or on time.)
- Parodied in episode 4 of the TV series: Mato's mother tells her that it's rude to go around in public with a piece of toast in one's mouth, to which she replies something like "I always wanted to try doing this". Then her younger brother says he also wants to try it, and does. As would be realistically expected of holding a piece of toast in one's mouth while running, Mato has issues holding it in her mouth, and it eventually breaks.
- Yui does this in the beginning of the first episode of K-On. It's then subverted when she realizes that she's actually one hour early. She proceeds to do the same thing in the first episode of the second season as well, although that time it isn't shown, as the episode begins with her sitting in the club room with a piece of bread, waiting for the others to arrive.
- Discussed in Seitokai Yakuindomo. When Takatoshi is late, Kotomi points out that he shouldn't run to school with a piece of bread in his mouth, since only girls are supposed to do that. A day or two later, she realizes that she's late herself and proceeds to run off with an entire baguette in her mouth.
- Played for knowing laughs in a Fullmetal Alchemist omake later made into an OVA depicting Izumi Curtis having a Meet Cute with her future husband, and meeting him when she was running late for school (alchemical training). At the time, she is lugging a bear on her shoulder that she just defeated in combat.
- In Softenni, Asuna and Elizabeth does this, only the latter with an entire loaf of bread.
- Is one of the main plot points of My Heavenly Hockey Club. Hana is such a Heavy Sleeper that she studied as hard as she possibly could so she could go to the prestigious school 200 meters down the street from her house and sleep as long as possible. She still manages to be late and "runs" (actually, sleepwalks) to school with bread in her mouth, and is subsequently hit by the car driving the male lead to school.
- In Super Dreadnought Girl 4946, Isaac Montana does this intentionally, complete while trying to eat a slice of bread to get Makoto Tobita's attention with a Crash into Hello. This didn't work as Tobita easily dodges. Growing up learning about Japanese from Anime she came to believe this was something of a male fantasy. Ironically Tobita's friend Jinguuji chews him out for dodging it, as he did wish something like that happened to him.
- Daisuke in D.N.Angel.
- Parodied in Daily Lives of High School Boys. At the beginning of the first episode, Tadakuni runs out of his home with a piece of toast in his mouth, late for school. He's joined by his friend, Yoshitake, who is also late for school... and eating leftover curry while running. Their mutual friend Hidenori then shows up, chastising Yoshitake, saying that obviously he should be eating bread... while slurping noodles.
- Further played with in a High School Boys and Consequences, where Mitsuo is walking down the street, a girl comes running around the corner with toast in her mouth yelling she's late for school... However, Mitsuo bends down to tie his shoelaces, and ends up missing her.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX opens with Judai/Jaden late for his entrance exam to get into Duel Academy. He crashes into Yugi, who gives him Winged Kuriboh.
- In a later episode, Jaden's already late for class (he sleeps through his alarm clock), so he decides to stop and help a woman push her van to the school. That woman runs the card shop and later gives Jaden a special pack of cards as thanks for helping her.
- Parodied to absurdity in the Touhou 4-koma 200 Yojana in a Flash. The masters behind the scenes go to great lengths to have Youmu and Sakuya have a faithful encounter, only they have no toast and Youmu always eats up the substitute bread before they can meet.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka runs off to school with toast in her mouth in the first episode, and runs into her friends Sayaka and Hitomi along the way. All, of course, to help trick you into thinking this is a typical Magical Girl show.
- Lyrical Nanoha has immortalized this trope in a figurine.
- Parodied to hell and back in Sket Dance. Roman's shoujo manga almost always starts with this, and always lampshaded by other characters. This being Roman, however, things will get weirder and weirder. In one of the chapters, she has the heroine doing this...while riding a flying Humongous Mecha.
- Common with several Archie Comic characters.
- This is the plot-important beginning of Big Fat Liar.
- As mentioned, Marty McFly in Back to the Future showed both his slacker side by being late to school and his "coolness" by navigating by skateboard.
- In the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Buffy starts to be late for school often when she starts being the Slayer.
- Gorillas In The Mist starts with Fossey being late for Louis Leakey's lecture, but not because she slept in.
Live Action TV
- Played straight (by Cookie, who is Late for School in the "normal" manner) and subverted (by Ned and Moze) in Neds Declassified "Guide to: The Bus".
- The original title sequence to Grange Hill starts with a girl missing the bus to school.
- Jimmy Boyd's song "Wake Up 7:30, Wash Your Ears They're Dirty, Eat Your Eggs and Oatmeal Rush to School Blues"
- Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's music video for CANDY CANDY plays this straight, toast-in-mouth and all.
- Steve Martin's song "Late for School".
- In the beginning of episode 2 of Egoraptor's Girlchan In Paradise, a direct parody of most anime tropes, Kenstar is "late for the end of school." Taking the parody one step further, Kenstar leaves with toast in his mouth. While it's still in the toaster.
- While more of a parody than the real thing, it has become a meme to put something in one's mouth, and have a picture taken while running, captioning it "I'm late for X school", where X is related to the object in their mouth. This, of course, started with "I'm late for Anime school" with the object being toast.