The Ordinary High-School Student protagonist is Late for School. They don't have time to sit and eat a full meal so they grab a piece of toast, put some butter or jelly on top, and run to school. While on their way to school, they accidentally bump into someone (often a sempai) and make a mess of their shirt. After much fumbling and apologizing, the protagonist arrives at class... Typically late.
This sort of introduction scene is known as the way to start an anime.
Bread is a relatively new addition to the Japanese diet. As a result, in the early 1900s it, or more specifically toasted bread, was seen as a symbol food (similar to City People Eat Sushi). Even after bread had became a mainstream staple of Japanese cuisine, people took note of how quick and easy toast was to make and decided to run with the implications. Thus the infamous "running to school with toast in your mouth" Establishing Character Moment intro was born.
Rarely is the protagonist ever seen actually eating the bread. Maybe the bread was knocked out of their mouth during a Crash-Into Hello, or maybe we're just meant to assume she ate the bread off-screen.
This trope first appeared in 1970s Shoujo series. It eventually became so popular that it began appearing in Shonen, Seinen, Josei, and Kodomo works as well. This joke quickly became a Dead Horse Trope as a result of its popularity. Many guides on how to write an anime-inspired story even specifically note not to use this trope due to it being so incredibly overdone. As a result, most modern examples either lampshade, parody, or invoke the trope.
- Black Butler begins the Weston College arc with Ciel running for the school gate and the obligatory toast-in-mouth. It's so out of place that the manga even lampshades how strange the arc began, but that it's still the same series.
- Shojo mangaka Koyume invokes this in the second episode of Comic Girls. She's not late, but she plays this trope just because she Thinks Like a Romance Novel.
- Hajiotsu has Hinozaki refer to this trope by saying that he was late for school that morning and did the entire toast-in-mouth routine. But is sad that he didn't have any Crash Into Hellos. Kai even lampshades this by wondering if that would even work.
- In an Invoked example, Kanako runs out the door with toast in her mouth in Maria†Holic in order to meet her true love.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- 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.
- Also happens in the Iron Maiden the 2nd game.
- The toast is spoofed in the Petit Eva yonkoma manga, where one of the Reis has whole loaves of bread labelled "breakfast", "lunch" and "dinner".
- Pokémon: This joke finally makes an appearance in the 90th episode of XY (nearly 20 years into the series), as the whole gang (with Tierno and Shauna) wakes up almost late for the Tripokalon/Performance. The gang leaves in a hurry from the Pokémon Center, with Serena and her Pokémon rushing, Clemont carrying Bonnie, who is still in her jammies (and his hair all messed up, presumably his alarm clock blowing up), on his back, Tierno and Shauna running with the latter fixing her hair, and finally Ash running with his eyes still groggy and the classic toast in his mouth, all with Pikachu tucked on his back.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ah! My Goddess: 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?"
- Black★Rock Shooter:
- Deliberately avoided in the beginning of the 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.
- Seitokai Yakuindomo:
- This is discussed. 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.
- Also mentioned in the ending theme ("Aoi Haru" by angela), which has a part that approximately translates to: "With toast, at a street corner, crash! I fall in lovenote / I'm watching too much anime, aren't I?"
- In the opening credits for the second season, Takatoshi is introduced while playing it completely straight.
- 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.
- Daily Lives of High School Boys:
- Parodied. 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.
- The gag is repeated at the end of the final episode, only this time Yoshitake is eating fondue and Hidenori is eating Brazilian barbecue.
- 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.
- 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. One fan parody even jokingly pointed out that Madoka eats the toast, noting that "We are going to be one subversive show!"
- 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.
- Happens to Sosuke and Kaname all the time in Full Metal Panic!; it even gets lampshaded in the comedy spin-off manga Full Metal Panic! Overload, where when Kaname realizes she's late for school she pulls a piece of toast out of her bag and puts it in her mouth before she starts running. The toast even gets a little label that reads "Over-sleeping emergency kit item" (the official English translation makes it more explicit, saying "Don't be late for school without it").
- In World Conquest Zvezda Plot, Itsuka goes undercover as a student at Asuta's school, and plays up the cliche by showing up to school late complete with toast in mouth. However, she's still carrying her katana and wearing her skull-and-bones Eyepatch of Power, making her acting completely incongruous with her image.
- When the boys from Kimi to Boku are making a manga for a club project, they decide on a fantasy adventure. When Chizuru draws a page they're surprised to see the genre completely changed and the protagonist is now a school boy. In the first panel he is late for school with toast in his mouth. One of the characters sarcastically states that running with bread in your mouth seems pretty adventurous.
- Parodied in Cat Planet Cuties: When Antonia transfers to Kio's school, she (and her two bodyguard maids) arrive with pieces of toast in their mouths because she'd seen the trope in so many manga she assumed it was a Japanese custom for transfer students on their first day of school.
- Daily Life with Monster Girl: Centorea once considered invoking this trope when she first meet into Kurusu after crashing into him.
- In Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, Miyuki is constantly Late for School after oversleeping and having multiple Erotic Dreams about other women. A running gag is her with a piece of toast in her mouth. This gets a Continuity Nod in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles.
- In Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura has done this a time or two.
- Played With in Uma Musume Pretty Derby. The horse-girl main character runs to school with a carrot in her teeth instead.
- Completely Subverted in Mahou Shoujo Ore. While late to school, the main character runs off, with a full plate of pancakes covered in whipped cream, fruit, and syrup!
- Played for Laughs in the first chapter of Shuukan Shounen Hachi, where among other goofy-looking students, the protagonists see a decolorized girl enacting the cliché when they get to the manga school.
- Spoofed in the first episode of Pop Team Epic, the first segment of which (after the fake-out opening) is a parody of Your Name.
- 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.
- Soul Eater: Troubled Souls: In the beginning of Chapter 2, Maka and Soul are running their asses off to make sure they aren't late for Stein's class. Probably in acknowledgement of the particular meaning of this trope, Maka has a piece of toast in her mouth. The funny thing is Black Star runs them over once they get to school.
- In grand anime fashion, this is how Yandere Simulator begins, with Yandere-chan meeting her Senpai this way. To complete the cliche, you can even have her with a piece of toast in her mouth, or if you want to get ridiculous, the entire toaster. In game this trope has effects: if she stays up late reading manga or decides to torture a student before school, she shows up one hour late and misses any scripted events that happened. If she's specifically late to class, she loses out on study points necessary to improve her stats, with more points lost the later she is to class.
- In Undertale, one of Alphys's "human history" books shows a robot rushing off to school, with the obligatory piece of toast in its mouth.
- There's an android game called Toast Girl fully embracing this trope.
- Yakuza 0: One sidequest has Majima pretending to be a girl's boyfriend, and one option has them lying and claiming they met when she had a piece of toast in her mouth and they had a Crash-Into Hello. The girl's father immediately points out how this sounds exactly like an anime cliche.
- Fortune Summoners: One day at school, Marina says:
This morning I was running late, so I tried running to school with my toast in my mouth.
- 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.
- In the animated short film, Welcome to Hell, the character Jonathan is seen running for the bus with toast in his mouth, while the main character, Sock, tells him, "You're late".
- Senpai Club is a parody of shoujo anime so of course this trope shows up. Tsumiki ends up late on her first day of high school, runs to school with toast in her mouth, and bumps into a senpai.
- Happens in Acedemy Sugoi Seiun to Sakura-nyan, complete with... something... in her mouth that is probably meant to be toast.
- On Tumblr this caused the "Late for [x] (School)" meme where people and characters would be depicted parodying this trope. 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.
- In Pixiv community, the scenario where a character holds a bread in their mouth whenever they are in a hurry is denoted as "パンを咥える" note or パン食い通学 note .