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Compulsory School Age

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If a character's physical age is reverted to school age, they will have to go to school again, even if they're Really 700 Years Old or have an IQ of 250. Either nobody must know, or they're some kind of high school spy, or there's just no explanation whatsoever except that kids have to go to school.

Also, aliens or inhuman beings that look like teenagers will go to school in the appropriate year for their apparent age, usually to maintain a cover story. Nobody ever takes or needs remedial classes, nobody skips years, and nobody drops out.

This probably plays into certain insecurities ("back in school" is quite a frequent nightmare from empiric evidence). It may also have to do with children who are visibly not in school being seen by Moral Guardians as a "bad example". Apparently it hasn't crossed their minds to make up a story about being home-schooled. Probably because if you believe everything you see on TV, Homeschooled Kids are weird, socially-inept freaks.

This is, however, justified in many countries where homeschooling is not an allowed form of compulsory education. As a result, if a person needs to maintain that masquerade, they need to go to school. In some cases, parents in these countries will be served with a court order because they tried homeschooling their kids, and cases where such kids were taken away Elian Gonzalez-style is not unheard of. Many countries also ban grade skipping in general (and even in countries that do allow it, some parents will refuse to let their child skip a grade due to fears that it will ruin their social life), often resulting in Teen Genius attending schools with average students.

May be used to set up a Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World premise.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in ×××HOLiC with Watanuki. Doumeki tries telling him he can't just stay in the shop, he has to go to school. Actually, no because he made an agreement to run the shop and live without aging until Yuuko returns, and he can't leave until that happens.
  • Astro Boy:
    • Astro is sent to grade school with human children of his apparent age despite being a robot with a super-advanced AI. Sometimes this is explicitly said to be for the purpose of socialization, sometimes not.
    • Subverted with Astro's robot "parents", who are also sent to school in a lower grade because they're actually younger than him.
  • Averted in the manga Black Jack with Black Jack's assistant/adopted daughter Pinoko, who is technically eighteen, but has the body of a girl no older than five or six. In the chapter "Pinoko's Challenge", her attempts to get into high school (she suffers nasty psychosomatic illness from the stress of entrance exams) and kindergarten (she gets kicked out after throwing a violent tantrum) both end in disaster.
  • Bleach:
    • Bleach has many of the shinigami show up at Ichigo's high school to check up on him, much to his horror. Their bizarre physical appearances (notably Ikkaku, who's bald and carries a bokken around with him because he can't have a regular katana), combined with their school uniforms, causes everyone to automatically assume that they're delinquents.
    • Earlier in the series, Rukia starts attending Ichigo's school after he takes her shinigami powers. It's somewhat justified though, as A) she's living in his closet and can't exactly hide in there all day, and B) she needs to keep an eye on him and instruct him how to fight hollows. She isn't mistaken for a delinquent, though, because she follows the dress code (except for once wearing her winter uniform after everyone else changed), Is intent on hiding her secret identity (going so far as to comically threatening Ichigo with a note written on her hand) and actually looks like a teenage girl. It helps that she's relatively short and flat-chested.
  • Burst Angel has Meg and Jo infiltrating a boarding school looking for Body Horrors.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, Eriol is several centuries old because he is a reincarnation of Clow Reed. However, he stopped his aging process, so he still has the body of a boy about 11 years old, and enters Tomoeda Elementary as a new transfer student. Justified, as he needs to get close to Sakura and co.
  • Case Closed:
    • Shin'ichi Kudo is already a teenager. Then he gets turned into a little kid and ends up having to go back to elementary school. Justified by him needing to hide from the Black Organization that turned him that way in the first place by giving a poison intended to kill him.
    • This is also the case for Ai Haibara, 18 years old, and the developer of the aforementioned Fountain of Youth.
  • Code Geass:
    • Played straight with Suzaku, who, despite being in the military, is ordered by Princess Euphemia to go to school at the same time.
    • In the Alternate Continuity manga spinoff, Euphemia goes to the same school as everyone else, despite being the Viceroy of the nation in which they all live.
    • Suzaku also suggests to Euphemia she could join the school as well. When she has a few seconds left to live.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's: Averted in the first Sound Stage, where Hayate asks Vita if she would like to go to school, but Vita says she's not interested.
    • Downplayed with Lutecia in ViVid Life when she's caught sneaking around St. Hilde Academy while wearing a middle school uniform and claims to be a transfer student in order to save face. She actually is middle school age, but she ends up being placed in the same class as Einhart (who is 2 years her junior).
  • Variation: In Magical DoReMi, Dokkan has two-year-old Hana-chan undergo a Plot-Relevant Age-Up. Off to the sixth grade for her! (Justified in that it was what she wanted in the first place — to be with her moms.)
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid:
    • Played with regarding Kanna. She is a dragon, but besides taking the form of an elementary school-age girl, it's also said that she's a child by dragon standards. So she goes to school both to get a better grasp of the human world and because she wants friends.
    • Subverted regarding Ilulu, who is the dragon equivalent of 16 and therefore old enough that school would be optional for her. Saikawa briefly wonders why she doesn't go to school, and she shows brief interest in going to elementary school with Kanna (not understanding the concept of grade levels), but she never actually enrolls.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, Zeheart Gallette, a teenaged Vagan spy, enrolls in high school during the second arc. Memory of Eden explains why in greater detail: he missed his chance at extraction by Vagan, and wouldn't have another chance for close to a year. He entered school both because it is something a person of his age would be expected to do, and because he needed something to occupy so much time with.
  • Exaggerated and Played for Laughs in My Monster Secret, with Student Council President Shirogane Karen having to attend high school for more than 20 years despite being at least 100 years old. Akane, the principal, decided it because she didn't have to pay Karen for her help if she was a student. Nobody seems to notice this, except when Karen gives the addresses for both the graduating senior class and the incipient senior class, one after the other.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Evangeline is an immortal vampire who was turned when she was ten. When she was defeated by the main character's father, he cursed her to live at a school as a form of Ironic Hell. The original plan was for her to be released at the time of her first graduation, but, well...
      Nagi: Oh, Eva! You're still cursed? Didn't I come and undo—
      Eva: Shut up, you idiot. I know you forgot.
    • Chachamaru, who a) is a robot; and b) is only about two and a half years old; but attends school anyway. Of course, she was built in the first place to be Evangeline's servant at school.
    • Sayo, a ghost who can barely wander to the nearby convenience store because she's bound to the school. Eventually, Evangeline and Asakura give her a doll to possess that allows her to leave the campus.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Asuka claims to have already completed her college education, but still attends school with Shinji and Rei. Judging by how effortlessly she helps Shinji with some of his homework, she may not be lying about this. When Shinji questions how she can possibly be getting bad grades, she replies that she is still a beginner at kanji reading, so she can't actually read most of the questions on their tests.
  • In ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister!, when Mahiro is reduced from a 20-something NEET guy to a middle-school age girl, Mihari makes her enroll in a local middle school. This is, however, justified. When Mahiro was at an arcade in the middle of a school day, she was busted by a truant officer, and neither sibling wants a repeat of that incident.
  • In Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, both the titular angels and their demonic rivals are old enough to get multiple jobs, engage in lots of casual sex and star in movies and public events without adult authorization. And yet, all of them attended and briefly ruled the Daten City High School during different episodes. At least until they destroyed it during a confrontation.
  • Ami Mizuno of Sailor Moon has the highest test scores in the country, yet she not only attends the same grade as students her age, she spends most of her time out of class in cram school. What in the world she would actually learn from it or which high school's entrance exam she couldn't already pass is anyone's guess.
  • In Space Pirate Mito, the titular character is an alien who is Really Twelve Thousand Years Old, but looks like a third grader. While spying on her half-human son in high school, she's caught by a teacher and sent to elementary school, and she continues to attend, as seen in later episodes.
  • In the Tenchi Muyo! manga, Sasami ends up entering grade school partway through the initial 12-volume run. It's Justified in that, despite being the Trope Namer for Really 700 Years Old, she's still physically and mentally 9. It's also used to show off extra plots that don't involve smacking aliens around. It should be noted, though, that this trope isn't in play in any of the alien-based Tenchi anime.
  • Waiting in the Summer: After a teenaged Human Alien crashes on Earth, what's the first thing she does? Enrolls in High School, of course. Though pretending to be a foreign exchange student does provide Ichika with a useful cover, an excuse for her odd behavior, and ready access to the boy she likes.
  • Elsie from The World God Only Knows goes to school with Keima despite being a demon girl who's over 100 years old.

    Comic Books 
  • Justified and subverted in The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, whose titular hero chooses to remain in junior high, because he's calculated that the socialization he receives there reduces the probability of being driven wholly insane by his constantly-increasing intellect from "Nearly Inevitable" down to "Merely Very Probable".
  • The Bunty strip "My School Chum, Mum" was about a woman who used an anti-aging cream that worked too well, and had to attend school as the "cousin" of her daughter.
  • Happens in an issue of Hack/Slash, where Miss America On Phlebotinum Gone Horribly Wrong joins a boarding school with a secret Les Yay club looking for human blood to keep her body young and beautiful.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) attempted to enforce this once, though it was quietly forgotten after the Time Skip and hasn't been brought up since.
  • Superboy was removed from the accelerated growth chamber he was grown in at the apparent age of 16. He had to take a test to see if he needed education or could just rely on his implanted knowledge and then skipped it to save Hawaii from the Silicon Dragons. High school it is. Then a few incidents convince the people involved that public schooling and superheroes without secret identities don't mix, so he starts getting home-schooled. When he later gets a proper secret identity, he starts attending high school, but it's never mentioned whether he get a G.E.D or the like in the time between.
  • Both Raven and Miss Martian from Teen Titans wound up in high school at one point. In both cases, it was a deliberate decision on their part: Raven wanted a taste of the "normal" teenage life she never got to experience, and Miss Martian wanted to learn how to fit in with humanity better.

  • Blossom in The Utonium Trials is annoyed that this applies to her. She's chronologically four, physically five, and is in elementary. Yet, she's more intellectually advanced than most adults. Being stuck in third grade when it's far below her intellect level (to the point where she fact checks her textbooks herself) is insulting to her.

  • Alex Rider, because it wouldn't be good if people found out he was a super-secret spy.
  • Justified in Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju: vampire schoolgirl Nezumi is over a thousand years old, but she doesn't retain knowledge for more than a few decades, so periodically she re-enrolls at Drearcliff Grange to learn it all over again.
  • Despite being a supergenius (and an evil one at that), Artemis Fowl's parents insist he attend St. Bartleby's something-or-other. He didn't go to school in the first book when his mother was completely insane. Later on, he was made to go back, which makes sense from his parent's point of view as they probably want him to be normal (his mother even forced him to wear a T-shirt). He still found it annoying.
  • A Certain Magical Index has this mixed. Touma and Tsuchimikado both still attend school despite all their adventures, but many teenaged or child characters do not due to various circumstances, such as Index, Accelerator, or ITEM's members. One scene in New Testament has Yoshikawa and Accelerator discussing enrolling Last Order in school (to which she strongly objects) in order to give her a somewhat more normal life.
  • In The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, Daniel tries to avoid this by using his powers to create clones of his parents to tell people he is homeschooled, but he does go to school eventually for a short time.
  • Mexican light novel La Formula del Doctor Funes has the titular doctor developing a serum that causes him to return to being around 12 years old (though his plan was to become around 20). He takes the chance to go to the same school as the story's protagonist, who he had recently befriended. Later on, he has a discussion with the school's biology teacher and tricks her into taking the same formula (injected into an apple). The teacher is turned into a girl around 6 years old and starts going to elementary school again.
  • Starts out justified in Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey. The villain Grand Theft Me'd her daughter, who was already in public school. Then the justification falls apart when she thinks about how previously she'd been able to claim her current body was being educated at home by private tutors — homeschooling is legal in Oklahoma.
  • In Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! not only have Nyarko, Cuuko, and Hasta already graduated from Space College by the time they show up on Earth (and have regular jobs as Space Police), they're also Lovecraftian Cosmic Horrors of uncertain agenote  — but since their human forms are teenagers, they go to high school along with Mahiro.
  • The One Who Eats Monsters: Ryn is a monster who is older than time, but she looks sixteen so the adults make her go to school. She skips on a constant basis, is eventually expelled for saving a bully's life, and at that point, she is past the compulsory age so she doesn't bother finding a new school.
  • In The Saga of Darren Shan, Darren re-enters the human world after 6 years living in Vampire Mountain and ruling as an all-powerful Vampire Prince, and is surprised when a school inspector turns up at the door of his hotel room. Darren is 28 years old, but he looks 16, and the bad guys have gotten him enrolled in school. So between trying to hunt them down and stop them from murdering innocent civilians, he has to go out and buy a uniform and books, and then try to catch up on pre-calculus and modern history, not to mention dealing with bullies — and his first girlfriend from when he was actually 12, who's now his English teacher.
  • Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, Emmett, and Edward from The Twilight Saga all go to school, though Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper eventually graduate. Over the years, however, all of them have done this repeatedly—a few of them even went to college and medical school, multiple times. This is supposedly necessary because the younger they claim to be at the beginning, the longer they can live in one place without arousing suspicion because they don't age. Plus, it just looks weird to have a couple move in with their 5 barely-adult kids. But if the kids are still minors? Not odd at all. Of course, the constant lies regarding sunny days and "field trips" make it seem like it would be easier to say they were being homeschooled.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 21 Jump Street, the cops are still adult age, but they look like high schoolers, so they have to go to high school to fight crime that happens in/around high school.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun's Tommy is Really 700 Years Old, but he got the teenage body, so he has to go to High School. In fact, he was specifically put into a teenage body to go to High School. (He was awfully ticked about that, though.) In fact, in an early (perhaps the first) episode, he explicitly states that he's older than Dick and wonders why he has to be the adolescent.
  • Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because she took on the guise of a schoolgirl to approach Cordelia and got stuck in it.
  • Jack's teenage clone from Stargate SG-1 chooses to go to school, prompting an exchange like this:
    Original Jack: Are you sure you want to do this?
    Teen Clone Jack: [looks back at a pair of cheerleaders] Yeah, I'm sure.
  • Referenced in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Rascals", where people turn into kids:
    Troi: You could return to the Academy. Take another degree. Brush up on your Latin.
    Picard: And be Wesley Crusher's roommate?
  • Cameron attends school during the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, although this was justified by her need to be close to John as much as possible.
  • Lampshaded in Young Dracula, where the Count has no intention of sending his children to school until a social worker comes by to insist. By Series Three and post-Time Skip, the Count has come around to seeing the advantages of sending his children to school. He insists that Ingrid attends school so that he doesn't have to see her all day... despite her being twenty by this time.

    Video Games 
  • Kira Daidouji PhD from Arcana Heart is obliged to attend elementary school upon her return to Japan due to being 12. It places a crimp in her plans for World Domination as well.
  • Eve from Parasite Eve 2. Clone of Aya, looks like an 11-year-old but is possibly younger, in the good ending ends up going to school for children of her apparent age. Not that she learned much from her former caretakers besides how to control genetically-engineered monsters and stand perfectly still in the wake of poison gas.
  • Aigis from Persona 3 goes to the same high school as the rest of the main cast (minus grade-schooler Ken) despite being a Robot Girl created for the sole purpose of fighting Shadows. Wearing the long-sleeved winter outfit year-round is enough to pass for human, apparently. It is, admittedly, partly her own idea, as it allows her to be near the protagonist at all times. And given her below-average test scores, she may well benefit from her attendance.
  • In The Sims 2, if your Sim's age is reduced, either by cheating or legitimate means, to the point that they regress back to the "teenager" life stage, they'll have to go back to school—even if they were gainfully employed as an adult.

    Visual Novels 
  • CLANNAD: Teen Genius Kotomi Ichinose still attends high school despite having long since proven there's nothing more any of the teachers there could possibly teach her. For a given value of "attends" anyway, as she doesn't actually go to class, instead spending all her time in the school library studying up on much more advanced subjects.

  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Grace's first day in high school provides an aversion. She's having a hard time due to her genius-level intelligence and lack of real-world knowledge, and it has been suggested that she be put in a remedial class.
    • Ellen has to go through the high school right after living through it with her Alternate Self in the Second Life. Though history and some of biology are not the same.
  • Subverted in Sluggy Freelance "Torg Potter" stories, in which full-grown twenty-something Torg gets dragged to a school that awfully resembles Hogwarts. He isn't turned into a child and promptly finds himself able to do whatever the hell he wants due to being both larger and more experienced than all the students. His greatest foe winds up being the devious headmaster.
  • Sissy in Umlaut House 2 is 16, but is a brilliant (if unstable) science prodigy. Just before finishing her doctorate, she becomes a Mad Scientist and has to be stopped by the protagonists (one of whom happens to be her mentor/grad adviser). Her father decides that she's spent too much time away from others her own age and enrolls her in high school to get her better acclimated to mainstream society (it doesn't work).

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Academy has a few students who were originally well beyond high school or even college age: Sara Waite was once a best-selling author and Caitlin used to be an instructor at the school and a former Marine. In both of those cases, part of the in-world justification is the need for a safe hiding place (it seems that the word 'safe' has a different meaning in this world...) where their apparent age wouldn't be a problem. However, this same logic applies to Samantha Everhart, except that she appears to be over school age, so she became a member of the Security force instead; why Carmilla and Eldritch needed to be students instead of, say, instructors, was always a bit shaky, especially in Sara's case (she's perfectly capable of taking on an adult form). Added justification does come from the need to master their new abilities (and hormones), however.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Jimmy is most obviously a scientific genius, with an IQ well over 300, and still goes to school to learn about things he most likely already knows. In one episode, he is offered a college scholarship (and later a teaching job) but goes back to fifth grade at the end because he would rather be with his friends than with his intellectual equals.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Carrie is a 327-year old ghost, but she is still attending middle school for unknown reasons.
  • Justified in Invader Zim: Zim is posing as a human child due to his height, and attends skool in order to learn about the filthy, disgusting species he is planning to conquer. Word of God says that he's actually "older than any human alive."
  • Averted with Wade in Kim Possible; it's mentioned that he's already finished high school and college in a few months thanks to his genius intellect.
  • Occurs in an episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee when Juniper's grandmother Jasmine experiences Fountain of Youth syndrome. Note that this wasn't Jasmine's idea as much as she's enjoying her youth again, it was her son and Juniper's father that enrolled her at June's school since he was told she was a visiting relative from Hong Kong. Jasmine is not thrilled at this, especially when June's friend Roger falls for her and she has to deal with some rather racist assumptions from a student that she knows karate because she's Asian (she does know karate as well as over twenty forms of combat, it's the principle of the matter).
  • Despite being a super-genius Child Prodigy, 4-year old Lisa from The Loud House goes to a normal kindergarten. This is despite previously being noted that she has a PhD already.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot:
    • Inverted in "I Was a Pre-School Dropout", where Jenny, despite being mentally and physically a teenager who happens to be made of metal, is assigned to a class matching her chronological age and has to survive a day in kindergarten. She gets to go back to high school when her 'mother' tells them "she was designed as a teenager"—the same thing Jenny said earlier, but without a diagram like Nora.
    • Sheldon is a Gadgeteer Genius almost as capable of Jenny's creator, but he's still in the same grade as a normal boy his age. He'd probably want to avoid graduating earlier because it would give him less time to spend with Jenny, but that doesn't explain why he was still in high school before they met. This is taken even further in the episode "Good Old Sheldon", where Sheldon spent 75 years wandering space while one day passed on Earth, was physically reduced to infancy, and spent another fifteen years in space to bring him back to his original physical age, yet still attends school afterward like nothing happened.
    • Played with when Misty moves to Earth: she starts attending school, but only to hang out with Jenny. She ends up expelled from Jenny's high school and doesn't bother to attend any other one.
  • Young Justice has Halo and Forager enroll in Happy Harbor High School, despite their being a human/Mother Box hybrid and a bug-eyed space alien, respectively.