The Anime Pulse #1 – Tropes… Tropes Everywhere

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Hello everyone and welcome to the first edition of The Anime Pulse here on The Outer Haven! I figured that I would do a bit of an introduction column here as well as give you guys a little bit of insight on the typical tropes you would see in Anime.

First off, just who in the heck am I and why am I conversing with you through the power of the internet? Well, thankfully, the answer to those questions are rather simplistic in nature! My name is J.J. Piedra and I am a big fan of anime or, as I like to call it, an anime enthusiast. I love the Japanese style of storytelling that comes with anime and even though some of their cultural jokes and references go over my head, I do enjoy a lot of the stylistic writing that goes into some of their shows. Plus, watching how they incorporate their own culture into these shows, teaches me some things about Japan and a lot of that has been very interesting!

In addition to all of that, watching Anime has inspired me to learn Japanese. I don’t want to learn it just to watch anime in its raw form, but I do want to visit Japan one day and it would be nice to know enough of the language to the point where I can carry out conversations with people over there. Since I love anime so much, I decided to throw my name into the hat for a position here at The Outer Haven when I heard that they were looking for an Anime Reviewer / Contributor. I was fortunate enough to get the position and each week I will be bringing you anime reviews, opinion columns, and news stories from the worlds of both anime and manga!

So before I get into the actual topic of this column, I did want to take a moment to publicly thank Clinton Bowman for recommending me to The Outer Haven as well as say thank you to Keith Mitchell for the opportunity to write for you all!

With the introductions out of the way, I figured I’d make my first column on something that always makes me grin whenever I watch an anime and that is the high amount of tropes that we usually see pertaining to the show and/or its characters. While mostly occurring in shonen anime, it seems that you can’t really get through a single show these days without seeing the same continuous events play out over and over and over again. If you’re a veteran to anime, I’m sure you are well versed in the tropes I will be citing as examples, but if you’re new to anime, I think you’ll come to enjoy anime a bit more when you take the time to look for these tropes.

The Classroom

I’m starting off with this one because The Classroom is a very popular setting in shonen anime (well, high schools in general). While having a setting in high school helps to appeal to a certain demographic, there are often scenarios used over and over again within the classroom setting that we see repeated far too often.

X-1 or X-A: This is almost always the classroom in which we will find our characters in. X refers to the grade level and 1 or A being the first class. Sometimes shows will mix is up and have a Class C or even a Class F (in the case of Baka to Test to Shokanjuu), but for the most part, it’s always Class A or Class 1. Most, if not all, of the main characters are typically placed in this class. It’s always the rowdiest and most out of control class in that particular grade as well.

Seating Arrangement: Almost always, the main character will be seated by the window, second seat from the back. Some shows will break away from this and place the main character elsewhere, but a vast majority of the time, this will be the main’s seat. While a lot of shows are actually placing the other main characters elsewhere, still you can find the main character’s best friend seated behind him and their love interest seated to the main character’s right.

The Cultural Fair: While the Cultural Fair in and of itself is a trope because a lot of high school anime usually use this setting as a story arc, it also falls into the classroom because the classroom that contains the main characters ends up being the class that plans out the cultural fair or even spearheads the entire creation of it.

Fanservice Episodes

Fanservice episodes are very popular in anime and most anime will have at least one episode where the characters break away from the main story in order to show some skin. While anime is a mostly a male-dominated demographic, shows will often include the boys in swim trunks to help appeal to the female demographic as well. Here are some popular spots in which you will get to see this trope in action:

The Pool Episode: The swimming pool at school has opened just in time for summer and you will either see an episode of the characters going to the pool for a day of fun or they will be participating in activities as part of a gym class.

The Hot Springs: Also known as The Onsen Episode. The entire class takes a trip or the characters spontaneously decide that they are going to the hot springs. When this happens, count on the guys trying to take a sneak peek at the girls while they are all conveniently taking a bath together.

The Beach Episode: The beach episode has a couple of varieties. The class either takes a trip to the beach, the main characters suddenly decide to go to the beach, or a friend invites the main characters to their summer house, which is conveniently located on a beach. While there, expect at least one of the female characters to lose their top in the water, one of the guys to get thrown into the ocean, have a male character fawn over a female character’s figure in a bathing suit, or have a male character get a nosebleed from seeing said female characters in a bathing suit. Also expect copious amounts of beach balls, inflatable toys, and the occasional flat-chested character too embarrassed to reveal themselves.

The Cultural Festival Episode(s): I know I mentioned this above, but typically when a cultural festival is presented, we either wind up with a cosplay café or a maid café for the female characters which often leads to more fawning and nose bleeds from the male characters.

Character Traits

Often times, just by looking at an anime character’s eyes, hairstyle, or even hair color can determine what kind of character they will be. Here are a few examples:

The Energetic Character: This belongs to female characters more than males. Typically they will have big, full eyes and bright, short hair varying in colors of pink, purple, lime green, or blonde. They will always be the ones who will try and brighten up everyone’s day, offer the usual words of encouragement, head up school projects, and are the ones most likely to join the fun after school clubs such as the baseball club or basketball club.

The Serious Disciplined Character: The eyes on this character are often narrow with a mean glare. They usually sport dark hair such as black, hunter green, deep violet, or red. They will often be in the archery club, fencing club, or kendo club at school. They are always highly skilled with a sword and always talk about discipline, order, and having to do excessive amounts of training. They also seem to know every secret sword technique ever invented and how their family has a deep history that cannot be sullied for any reason. If they’re not highly skilled swordsmen, then they’re usually the Class President, Student Council President, or a key member of the Student Council. Sometimes they’re also the head of a club, but that role can also be mixed with the Energetic Character as well.

The Tsundere: While there are many different “-dere” characters, the Tsundere is usually the most popular. It’s that character that is always cold towards you, but has a sweet spot inside that shines from time to time, even to the point where they turn into a completely lovable character at the end. Shana from Shakugan no Shana seems to be the most popular tsundere. Taiga from Toradora, Kurisu Makise from Steins;Gate, or even Sasami Sasasegawa from Little Busters are all examples of characters that are considered tsundere.

The Bully: Always with squinty narrow eyes, ridiculous hair that is typically black or brown in color and always overuses the words/sounds “teme” “tch” “che” and “oye”. Speaks in a gruff tone, always asks what the problem is in a sarcastic way, makes general threats and more often than not, is subject to embarrassment.

The Child Soldier: Found in pretty much every single shonen anime where battles take place… the main character is hardly ever 21 years old or older. I challenge you to find me a shonen anime where that isn’t the case. Our heroes usually range in the 14-18 age bracket in an attempt to cash in on an age demographic and move a bunch of merchandise.

The Spineless Hero: This one is growing more and more in popularity with each passing season. The main character has no confidence, is afraid to fight, doesn’t want to get mixed up in things, etc. etc. and the support characters typically pull them through. Tatsumi (Akame ga Kill), Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul), and Haru (Accel World) are some pretty good examples of this being used recently. I suppose audiences find it appealing for a character to be helpless only to watch them grow and succeed at becoming a hero. I guess it’s to teach the lesson that you can do anything if you put your mind to it and while that lesson is valid and everything, anime is just getting oversaturated with it as of late.

There are others such as the class pervert, the creepy stalker, the loner, the annoying best friend, the self-centered bishounen/bishoujo, the oblivious guy at the center of the harem, etc. There’s a lot, but the aforementioned are the typical ones that you’ll find in most of the shonen animes out there.

The Love Interest

This could have gotten placed under character traits, but this happens so often I think it’s deserving of its own category. If this is indicative of real life in Japan, I often wonder how people ever get married or have kids over there because it seems as if even though two characters love each other; they never want to admit it to each other (or sometimes themselves) and will sometimes act unnecessarily mean to the other person to try and distance themselves away from them. And, on the off chance, that they DO end up confessing to each other or do something that indirectly confesses their love, they are usually called an idiot (baka) by the female character.

Also, in most situations, trying to profess love to each other typically causes the characters to end up in comedic, and often, embarrassing situations. Some of these situations can just be downright creepy and almost stalker-like. When they do get together, it’s usually after a traumatic experience, a stressful situation, or at night when there are fireworks going off. If you’re looking for straight-forward love stories in a Japanese anime, then you will be met with disappointment and frustration. If there is one thing anime characters love to do.. it’s to frustrate you and make you yell out “Oh my God.. just tell her you love her already!”

Where Are the Parents?

An anime character having parents is almost always a rarity in shows. Either the main character, sub-main character, or support character’s parents are both dead or only one of them is alive. If they are alive, sometimes they’re not even around and have enough money to pay for an apartment so that character can live on their own. Don’t believe me?

Naruto (Naruto): No Parents
Ichigo (Bleach): Only father alive
Goku (Dragonball): No Parents
Tohru (Fruits Basket): No Parents
Ryuuji (Toradora): Only mom alive
Tatsumi (Akame ga Kill): No parents
Mikasa (Attack on Titan): No Parents
Eren Jaeger (Attack on Titan): Both parents alive! Oh wait, one died Eren ate the other
Natsu (Fairy Tail): Only father alive… and he’s a dragon

And so on and so on…

Always Hungry

One of the biggest tropes from shonen anime is the fact that the main character is ALWAYS hungry and/or can just never stop eating. Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece) has an affinity for meat, Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto) loves Ramen, L (Death Note) can’t stop eating sweets (how is he not diabetic!?), Allen Walker (D.Gray-man) just eats excessive amounts of food, etc. Heck.. even Chouji (Naruto) turned his appetite into his jutsu technique.

Also, there are an abundance of characters who as just obsessed with getting hammered all the time as well. General Cross (D.Gray-man), Karula (Utawarerumono), Morgan (Tears to Tiara), Yasuko (Toradora), and Gustave (Ixion Saga DT) are some nice examples of characters who are rarely seen without any alcohol in them. You can expect to see an occasional lush here or there as it adds a bit of a mixture to the character lineup. It’s something not used all the time, but it is frequent enough to notice it.

I should also make a quick mention of another trope. If a character is late for school, they’ll usually be seen running to school with a piece of toast in their mouths! They sure do like their toast.

Boobs. Boobs Everywhere!

Female characters will, often times, be very well endowed in the upper regions of the human anatomy. In some cases (Tsunade from Naruto), one must wonder how they don’t suffer from back pain most of their lives. While in most typical shonen animes, the boob region is usually drawn attention to in the fanservice episodes, more and more shows are starting to realize that outside of these fanservice episodes, girls are developing more and more “natural physics engines” for their magnificent mammary monstrosities.

We’ll now see them jiggle when running, when bending over, when sitting down, when drawing a weapon, when falling from great heights… even dodging bullets matrix style (Thank you for that Highschool of the Dead). While they are enticing to look at, jiggling isn’t the only thing they are being used for the trope world!

First off, the accidental groping. How often have we seen a main character reach for something blindly, in the dark, or just innocently and accidentally getting a handful of boob? This, of course, is followed by the subsequent embarrassed face and harsh slap before turning and running away screaming “iie” at the top of their lungs.

Secondly, the boob fall. We’ve all seen the main character trip (accidentally or on purpose) and fall right into the chest of either a girl standing up or a girl that’s been knocked to the ground. If the girl is knocked down, most often she’s dazed or unconscious. She will always wake up at the perfect moment when our main character is just one step shy of a motorboat causing the beatings (and the laughs) to begin.

We could go on forever, but I believe I touched upon all of the major anime tropes out there. I know for a fact that I am missing a lot, but I believe that there are just way too many for the scope of this column. How many of these have you recognized in shows I haven’t mentioned in this article? Are there any tropes that I didn’t mention that you feel deserves a bit of spotlight? What are some shows you like that actually don’t adhere to any of the major tropes? Do you think anime would be better if they shied away from tropes all together and tried to be more original?

Those are just some questions I challenge you with this week. If you feel like answering them or if you feel like sending in thoughts about this column or anything anime-related in general, feel more than free to do so by sending them JoshPiedra@theouterhaven.net and I will include your questions/comments in a future column!

Hope you enjoyed the first column and I also would like to point you to a couple of reviews I’ve done so far, namely Toradora and Steins;Gate as they will be the first of many that I plan on doing!

If you feel so inclined to follow me on social media, you can do so on Twitter @JoshuaJPiedra

Until next time..

Ja ne!

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.