It’s funny how anime characters tend to follow certain established patterns, like the classic dojikko clumsy girl, or the always-popular tsundere, who kicks your butt one moment then shyly hands you chocolate the next. Another common anime character meme is kikoku shijo, a word which means “returned child” refering to a Japanese who’s spent several years living abroad. In the currently running anime Baka to Test to Shokanju (“Idiots, Tests, and Summoned Beasts”), the character of Minami Shimada plays this role — although she’s quite smart, she was put in class F with all the other stupid kids because growing up in Germany left her unable to read kanji properly. Although kikoku shijo might be a fun way to add a fresh dimension to a character, in reality life can be quite difficult for Japanese who spend several years overseas then return to Japan. Not only do they have trouble keeping up in Japanese schools, they may have difficulties fitting in with Japan’s harmonious society, potentially rendering them “KY,” a Japanese slang word which means kuuki yomenai or “can’t read the air,” e.g. they aren’t in tune with various unspoken social signals all around them. On the other hand, there are some advantages to growing up outside Japan: they get to learn foreign languages perfectly, and when it comes to getting into university, there are special slots prepared for them.
There are quite a few “returned children” characters in anime.