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School Clubs Are Serious Business

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"The ones who take it seriously are fine. But the ones who don't? The ones who joined solely so they could play around with their buddies and goof off? There's a special place in hell for guys like that."
Yu Ishigami, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War

Students get involved with extracurricular activities for all sorts of reasons. They let you network with other people who happen to share similar interests and hobbies, they let you use school resources for fun, and they look great on a college transcript/résumé. While there are obviously some exceptions, like performance clubs with recitals and organized sports, pretty much all non-sports-related extracurricular activities are just afterschool activities pursued casually by their members.

That's not the case with these clubs, though. In the more benevolent cases the club is simply treated as a full-fledged social institution, with stereotypes about its members and strict rules about its conduct. A powerful enough club is a political force in the school, potentially wielding power on par with the Absurdly Powerful Student Council. In the worst cases the club may actually be a cult engaged in nefarious deeds, and those who quit may have to be...silenced.

Often, particular clubs will represent a microcosm of real-world organisations;

Note that these tropes can be different types of "serious business". It can be very exaggerated, like clubs determining all of your relationships in high school, or completely bogus, like harboring a plan to stop an apocalyptic prophecy. A Japanese School Club may overlap with this trope.

Subtrope of Serious Business.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Absurdly Powerful Student Council President Milly is able to get every club on campus looking for Arthur by promising them increased funding, in addition to the kiss with a council member. At the end of the episode, Lelouch asks Milly to let the Japanese Suzaku join the student council by mentioning that students must be part of a club.
  • Genshiken: The people who decide which clubs are official are cracking down on those that don't do anything, because there are so many clubs that even the Genshiken's remote space is coveted.
  • Girls und Panzer: Tankery —tank battles— is a real club, and there is even a national as well as international league for it! It's also serious in the more mundane sense: win the tournament to prevent the school from being closed down. Other clubs include ninjutsu and magic.
  • K-On!: Invoked in the manga, when Nodoka discovers Yui isn't in a club so late in the semester. Nodoka ponders, "So this is how a NEET begins", causing Yui to freak out.
  • A few episodes of Kamigami no Asobi revolve around getting the gods to join clubs. Loki and Thor pick the Going Home club, and apparently that's good enough.
  • Kill la Kill takes this to extremes. Student Council President Satsuki Kiryuin uses school clubs to control the masses by offering them social mobility. Since she's effectively running a fascist state inside Honnouji Academy, she also turns the student clubs against each other whenever she thinks they're becoming too complacent.
  • Parodied in Kyō Kara Ore Wa!!: Mitsuhashi is a member of the Gardening Club, but he never shows up. And the one time he's tricked in showing up, the president (who wanted him around due the bullying the club experienced from members of a sport club) makes him an ecologist... Who promptly takes over, forces the club to leave weed in place, and beats into submission the sport club.
  • Magic User's Club: Even though they actually are quite active, the magic users have to share meeting space with a different club, which causes some conflict.
  • The Ouran High School Host Club consists of some of the richest and most popular boys in the school, and they have the headmaster's ear and influence over seemingly every facet of school life. Fortunately they use this power almost exclusively to stroke their own egos.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, the protagonists are all members of the newspaper club (Tsukune originally decided on joining the swim team instead, but that left Outer Moka heartbroken because, well, vampires and water...), which spends much of its time investigating other clubs. The newspaper club has a rivalry with the Public Safety Commission (another club), with effective control of the school at stake. There's another club in the anime that consists of three lovesick losers who engage in such activities as creating a harmless Stalker Shrine.
  • Parodied in Sgt. Frog. Fuyuki starts the paranormal club, but only has one other member in it (and she only joined because she had a crush on Fuyuki). The school newspaper also discovers the aliens' existence, but nobody believes them because they're a school newspaper (and because Fuyuki managed to confiscate their evidence).
  • Invoked and lampshaded in Twinkle Saber Nova, where students can get away with literally anything (like trying to take over the school, or demolishing half of it in battles involving Powered Armor), as long as it's a club activity. And to make it a club activity, they only need three members to register their "club".

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Five Weapons, since the weapons clubs are pretty much the classes in the School of Five Weapons. However, they are clubs in the sense that even though most students pick one club and stick to it, students are free to join multiple clubs to decide which one they like best.

    Fan Works 
  • At Disney High, being on the High-School Dance committee is taken very seriously, particularly as one doubles as a fundraiser: the senior quad is slated to be torn down and replaced with a parking lot, and Pocahontas and Tiana aim to raise enough money to prevent its destruction.
  • Downplayed in Fate/Reach Out: Not wanting any of his students to suffer the stigmata of lacking extra-curricular credits, Mr. Kondo advises Yukiko, Rise and Chie to each find and enroll in a Japanese School Club. It's more of a nominal obligation than anything else; however, all three find them to be a nice respite from fighting their way through the TV World.
  • Raise Yourselves Up (We're Done) focuses on Marinette and Chloé starting a World Travellers' Club at Collège Françoise Dupont as a way of counteracting the way Miss Bustier banned them from being able to attend their class' annual school trip. Much is made of the way that they take their fundraising efforts much more seriously than Bustier and the rest of her students do.
  • School Days (ISS600) recasts the Five Nights at Freddy's crew as elementary and middle-school students. The Animatronics, Nightguards and Honoraries all treat their respective clubs as incredibly serious commitments, while The Neutrals regard their zealotry as evidence of their insanity.
  • Un Nouveau Contes de Fées: Olympe Collège is an elite all-girls Boarding School where several of the students have dedicated their entire lives to honing and perfecting their passions. This translates to them taking their extracurriculars very seriously, seeing their clubs as another way of shining a spotlight on their skills.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Breakfast Club, Claire and Andy take some time to look down on Bender for not participating in any school activities after he sarcastically suggests joining various clubsnote  to better fit in. Brian tries to chime with his club memberships, but Claire similarly talks down about them since they're academic clubs, which "aren't the same as other kinds of clubs".

  • Bodacious Space Pirates: The Yacht club contains an inexplicably high number of exceptional people, as well as being a club which flies spaceships. On different club trips, they have operated two of the Original Seven pirate ships in battle. Their members have included the heiress to the most powerful corporation in existence, an expert cracker, a pirate captain, and two princesses, and the club possesses both a disarmed warship and a latest-generation stealth shuttle.
  • Parodied and Deconstructed at the beginning of Gamers! (2015). Protagonist Keita, an avid gamer, is invited to join the newly-formed Gaming Club by its president, Karen. When he gets there, he finds they're all hardcore competitive gamers who've won dozens of tournaments, and who work him to the point of exhaustion in an effort to gauge his skill level. The story looks like it's going to be a typical School Club Story... except Keita turns the club down as he feels it's too serious. Another boy joins at the same time Keita refuses... because he's lost his memory and can only remember that he likes block puzzles, so for him, it really is serious business.
  • The Great Greene Heist: Both the heroes and villains of the books care greatly about preserving the statuses of their own clubs, while Keith the bad guy is eager to force his rival clubs to disband. Tech Club president Megan Feldman dumps her boyfriend Stewart the moment she finds out that he took a bribe to help let Keith, a "sworn enemy of the Tech Club," run for student council president when he would have been ineligible otherwise.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Haruhi initially doesn't take school clubs very seriously, as she joins every single club at school and immediately quits since she finds them all boring. Wanting to have a more interesting life, she decides to start her own club in order to find aliens, time travelers, sliders and espers...and actually meets them (not that she knows). The rest of the series is about her taking the club quite seriously while the other members try to play along with her.
    • The computer club aren't as bad, but being next door to Haruhi seems to have rubbed off on them, judging from how they challenge the SOS Brigade to a game they made and take it very seriously in "The Day of Sagittarius".
  • In the Young Adult novel The Lottery, by Beth Goobie, a High-School club known to the staff as 'The Celts' but to the student body as 'Shadow' arrange a lottery to select a 'victim' for each year, who is ostracised by the entire school body for the rest of the year, and who has to do the 'Shadows'' bidding. They manage to prevent the students protesting by a mixture of offered prestige in joining shadow, and the threat of becoming the next victim or being humiliated if they speak out.
  • This trope could practically be an alternate title for Ninth House.
  • In Reconstructing Amelia, student clubs are actually banned by administration but thank to support from influent parents, they are able to function with impunity, doing brutal hazings and grievous tasks. After the truth about Amelia's death is revealed, the direction actually enforces its ban on clubs.
  • In the teen novel The V Club, a wealthy woman leaves money that would provide a full scholarship to one lucky high school student, on the condition that this student be "pure", which everyone interprets as "must be a virgin". (It should be noted that neither the deceased woman herself nor her attorney specified exactly what she meant by "pure;" everyone just assumed she meant virginal.) The students who are vying for the scholarship join a club (and losing one's virginity means being kicked out), and take a pledge to abstain from sex. Not everyone competing for the scholarship actually is a virgin, however.

    Live-Action Television 
  • In one Blue Bloods a sinister college club develops the ceremony of ritually "hunting" female students as if they were trophies. One member actually volunteers to rape his girlfriend on the grounds that he would be more "humane" then the other boys. It never seems to have occurred to him to warn his girlfriend or go to the cops until the cops actually caught him. His school club was just too important.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy tries and fails to join the cheerleaders. Someone else is so intent on joining the team that she's trying to kill people to get on, and so does Dawn, though there was a different spell in there.
  • In Community, Greendale Community College is full of these, ranging from the debate team and the glee club to the Model United Nations. All of them turn their pet interests up. The study group itself qualifies, despite being informal; it has a waiting list for membership and the Dean treats them as a school power faction.
  • The glee club in Glee is VERY unpopular, and anybody in it are social outcasts, a plot point in the series. They also occasionally start spontaneously singing in hallways, drawing the school's attention. By contrast, the glee club at the boys' school Kurt transfers to are revered celebrities.

    Video Games 
  • School clubs give gameplay benefits in Disgaea 3.
  • Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery added three clubs to participate in in August of 2020. In practice, they function as another rewards system, as leveling up your club membership(s) earns you various tiers of unlocks.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, school clubs are an important part of the tradition of Thors Military Academy. The members of your playable party are all members of a school club, except for the main protagonist, Rean Schwarzer. Although he doesn't join any one particular club, he often spends his time helping the student council and is also unofficially a member of the fishing club. In Cold Steel III, the school clubs are ended at Thors Military Academy as part of its move away from being Mildly Military. However, Rean is now an instructor of the newly established Thors Branch Campus, which does have school clubs, personally funded by the principal, who felt that they were too strong a part of the legacy of Thors to get rid of. She makes it a requirement for the students to either join one or be placed on the student council.
  • In Persona 3 and Persona 4, joining clubs can start several social links, and the characters involved in the Social Links can be altered depending on which club you join.
  • Which club you join in Yandere Simulator has an actual gameplay effect, giving various buffs, allowing you to boost your own reputation (the Cooking Club through handing out snacks, and the Light Music club through playing in their band), and making you look non-suspicious in certain circumstances (i.e. you can carry around sporting equipment in the Sports Club without looking suspicious, and wearing an art smock will make students assume that the blood on your clothing is red paint). They're also Permanently Missable Content, as you won't be able to come back to a club you've left, and killing too many members will make a club shut down.
    • In-universe, how much they're seen as serious business varies. The Absurdly Powerful Student Council is entirely serious, but the Photography Club is explicitly stated to not actually do much photography; they mostly just hang around the clubroom chatting. Unless people start showing up dead; then they start investigating.

    Visual Novels 
  • School clubs are an extremely important part of the Tokimeki Memorial series. Most of the winnable girls being members of specific clubs, joining their respective clubs is the only way to get some of their special Events and CGs. Also, School clubs give you powerful special attacks for battles; perfoming well in the club during the School Festival and, in the case of sports clubs, winning matches and Inter-High tournaments net you big Relationship Values towards the girls; and becoming the Club Master of the Science Club allows you to unlock the Shooters mini-games.

    Western Animation 
  • Fillmore! runs on this trope, along with Absurdly Powerful Student Council. The Safety Patrol has the power to arrest and punish students on their own, what else needs to be said?
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy had an episode where Billy, Mandy and Irwin joined some clubs during their school's "School Club Recruitment Day" (Irwin joined the Macramé Club, Billy joined the Junior CIA Club and Mandy joined the Secret Snake Club). The members of Mandy's club believed in a snake-god that they thought would eat all the "cool kids" at their school while Billy, who quickly became a top agent for the CIA, discover that Irwin's Macramé Club was being used as a criminal School Club Front).
  • Pops up occasionally in later seasons of South Park (although as a rule, it's more often the adults who get carried away by Serious Business).
    • In one episode the boys' school news broadcast gets into a ratings war with Craig's Lowest Common Denominator "dogs in hats" clip show.
    • In another, Cartman hijacks his morning announcements slot to run a smear campaign against student body president Wendy and get himself elected in her place, only to find out it isn't anything like the Absurdly Powerful Student Council he thought it was.