***I’m still on vacation so this is another repost of one of my older posts – It’s one that I’ve always liked and not many people have seen it so I do hope you enjoy it. I should be back tomorrow***

Welcome to another instalment of Irina defends things that don’t need defending. I find myself frequently commenting on the benefits of stereotypes. I understand that lack of novelty is a common complaint and that calling a show/character/premise “cliché” is an easy criticism to lob at a show we don’t have much to say about. It’s a kind of lazy way to say we think something’s boring without actually having to explain ourselves. I know, I use it all the time. Seriously, like almost every single review. But as the old saying goes “clichés are clichés for a reason”, that is so hackneyed…sorry.

The ol nosebleed’s fallen a bit out of style lately

Traditional tools

Stereotypes are a useful and powerful tool in any storyteller’s arsenal (next time we’ll talk about mixed metaphors – it’ll be fun!). By using a character or situation that is instantly recognizable to the majority of the audience, the narrative is then freed up for something else. The time used to really develop or explain said stereotype can now be used to add another interesting layer to a character or throw a few unexpected twists into the story or even flesh out the setting. Since every single narrative is finite and therefore limited, authors must careful choose what to give time and attention to. Clichés allow them to quickly settle some elements in order to concentrate on others.

Image result for anime cliches
the fiery redhead – is it a cliché if it’s true?

Comfortable commonplace

Familiar elements and settings help orient a viewer or reader in an otherwise alien world. When we have something identifiable to latch onto we can much more quickly get into the proper mindset. We don’t spend as much time trying to figure out what’s going on, how to react or feel about what we’re seeing. We get the impression of being on solid ground. This becomes even more important in stories that are very surreal or unusual. A few mundane and well-established elements become absolutely necessary to give us a chance to wrap our minds around the weird. And I love weird but if one is not careful, it slips into nonsense.

ninja nonsense
speaking of nonsense

Scary surprises 

Tell me, how would you feel if you went into surgery and your doctor said, let’s try something new today? Or maybe if the engineer designing your new high-rise wanted to reinvent the concept of urban construction. Even if we pick a more artistic trade such as cooking, chefs test out new recipes before serving them to paying customers. That’s because straying from the established path always has an element of risk. Unfortunately, no studio can afford to put together a season of a show just to see if it works, so chasing after novelty means using audiences as guinea pigs.

Image result for my hero academia principal
Being a guinea pig is not always fun

Determined desires

And to develop on the previous point, sometimes you are pleasantly surprised but sometimes you want something specific. If you’ve been longing for a romantic comedy or an action shounen, you most likely feel like experiencing at least some of the tropes of the genre. I know you’re open minded and happy to discover a new take on a classic, but it still has to qualify as that classic in some way. If shows are endlessly and constantly changing or “revolutionizing” everything, how is one supposed to figure out what they want to watch. In fact, how can you even figure out what you actually like. I would find it exhausting if my partner was a new person every morning. I would be ok if they looked like a new person every morning as long as they were the same on the inside through. That was romantic, right? Not at all like I want a harem.

Image result for anime transformation
on the other hand some transformations are necessary

Tried & true

But of course, the most obvious reason why clichés are a good thing is that they’ve been honed to perfection. By using established stereotypes, story tellers have a wealth of past examples to base themselves on. They can glean what’s likely to work best in their scenario, benefit from the mistakes of their predecessors, gather all the information they need to create the best possible iteration of a trope. After all, no one gets it right the first time. How’s that for a platitude?

In the end cliché, stereotypical and standard are really just another way of saying classic, traditional and efficient. And if you just think I have a soft spot for repeating patterns because I get to drink to them, you are probably right!

Who is this moderation I am supposed to be drinking with?

Suggested drink: Classic Martini

  • Every time a twintail is also tsundere – have a drink
  • Every time someone walks with their arms behind their head – have a drink
  • Every time a character has animal ears for cute – try and figure out if it actually is cute
  • Every time there’s a beach/ hot springs episode – fan yourself
  • Every time you see an aloof dark haired girl – have a drink
  • Every time a character visibly blushes – smile
  • Every time we’re introduced to a nutty professor/ mad scientist – have a drink
  • Every time someone gives a thumbs up – have a drink
  • Every time a character narrates their thoughts/actions – have a drink
  • Every time a character eats unreasonable amounts of food – have a snack
  • Every time an attack is shouted out – have a drink
  • Every time a main character is unattractive – down your drink
Image result for anime hot springs cliché
Two clichés in one

18 thoughts

  1. Hmm… since it is Valentine’s Day, I do have a question about a common trope in anime.
    There are often highschool animes where the guys have girls chasing them around, trying to give the candy, etc. Meanwhile, the guys are barely ever interested in girls… unless if they are supposed to be a pervert (like Pervy Sage, or the dog in Fruits Basket)

    Is this actually based on gender stereotypes in Japan, or is this merely a well-used comedic trope? Are girls expected to be the pursuer?
    I had assumed it was a trope, but then I read that girls always give guys chocolate for Valentine’s Day, never the other way around. Most of the guys I know would prefer something like a bento box, and almost every girl that I know loves chocolate… so I don’t understand…. Maybe I am just reading too much into this.

    1. From everything I know, women are not suppose to be the pursuer and it’s still a bit taboo for a girl to take any sort of romantic initiative. I’m pretty sure it’s just for comedic/fantasy effect in anime. Of course I,m sure there are some great Japanese ladies who chase around guys but it’s not the norm…yet…

  2. Tropes and cliches and stereotypes are like Legoes. You can stuck ’em together and make any structure you want. It can be boring or beautiful or just a chaotic mess.

    What is important is thinking about whether they are harmful (or just culturally offensive) in themselves. Nobody wants to make another Jar-Jar Binks. A lot of people found that one to be a serious lapse in judgement.

    OTOH, in Japan they might not have a clue about why it is so offensive.

    1. Then again the world has become smaller. It’s easy to find out why it’s offensive if you look. You just gotta think of looking

  3. I’m all for new things and ideas being tried, but I must admit, I’ve never understood people complaining about more familiar stuff popping up. I absolutely agree with what you’re saying as to why taking the standard route is fine. For me, it comes down to quality. A well-executed but familiar story tops a poor-but-new one for enjoyment.

  4. There are things I agree with like using familiarity to ground the viewer’s attention. I think that’s great for more minor stuff. Saber from Fate is a good example. She’s inspired by and literally takes genderbent form of King Arthur and even if it isn’t obvious at first glance you clearly get that vibe from her color palette and knightly attire. In that case, it’s a neutral-positive because you aren’t really limiting your creativity and you’re giving the audience leverage. I’d even say it’s the very reason her design is so iconic. But I feel like you take it a step too far in that it seems like you’d be okay with downright recycled designs (correct me if i’m wrong). Like, for example, any character with black hair bowlcut with lightly-colored eyes (whom I always refer to as Kirito). Overall, I like to call it “familiarity” because it’s supposed to feel familiar; a vague sense of comfort.

    Some of these metaphors you’re giving out also just don’t stick. Like, watching something a little bit different than the norm is not the same as waking up to a completely different person in your bed. You’re never gonna call 911 just because an anime didn’t quite appeal to you.

    Tropes are… Fine. They just shouldn’t define whole genres. Like, how many romcoms have the main girl and the MC end up together during its run? To make it easier, how many of them have them end up together at the end? How many of the MCs are dense? How many of the girls are ‘dere’ archetypes? How many romcoms are set in school? etc. etc.

    Again, tropes/cliches really aren’t bad on their own because there’s still so many different ways you can spin it/build on it and even if it’s the same ol’ thing over again you’re obviously not gonna be completely turned off because a side character had a nosebleed that one time. That said, when cliches are whole concepts, character personalities, story (or lack thereof), setting and designs; with all this stuff built up it becomes a lot more… Tiring to see.

    The whole “Tried & True” section I also just don’t agree with. It feels like it’s being told in a very objective POV..? Writing is a skill like any other that has techniques you have to hone, I get that.

    But we aren’t talking about techniques here necessarily. We’re talking about concepts. You can come up with an idea and flesh it out later, sure! You can learn from predecessors but that doesn’t make it “right” or “wrong”, really. You’re merely taking what you personally liked, what succeeded and what failed into account. I know this isn’t what you mean but my point is: You don’t get it right the first time around but, equally so, you don’t get it wrong either.

    I also don’t agree that trying something different is necessarily a risk. Risks are just planned mistakes that come as a result of forgetting to plan in the first place. In recent years I feel like anything that tried to achieve something different generally succeeded. Made in Abyss, Dr. Stone, Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, Carole & Tuesday, Sarazanmai (I think it did well enough?), Mob Psycho, Dororo, The Promised Neverland, Beastars and Land of the Lustrous

    Speaking of Land of the Lustrous that was one, i’m sure you know, that even if it was very unique; I personally was not a fan of. A lot liked it; specifically citing how good it looked. I thought it look very bad and was animated poorly. It had the same exact issues CGI anime always has but it was harder for the audience to notice because it conveniently suited the style and design of the source material. And then the same studio released Beastars not 2 years later with clear corrections on how they animate and texture. I attribute this to Studio Orange planning excellently in advance. They came into the game wanting to do certain things with 3D that no other studio was really capable of. Unfortunately, they sucked! But they picked up on this fairly quickly. They turn their weaknesses into strengths by being selective on what to adapt to buy time to correct those weaknesses and suddenly they’re the premiere studio for CG animation. I know a lot of ppl won’t care as much as I do but it fuckin’ amazes me how humans are capable of doing stuff like that through concise planning.

      1. In a way you’re not wrong it’s just such a thin layer that requires knowledge of contextualized variables to properly discuss but yeah there is definitely technique.

        1. I see you’re like Hemingway in your view of crafting fiction. I think very talented people tend to be that way. I’m not very talented which is probably why I instictively gravitate towards someone like Bulgakov’s philosophy. (Not that Bulgakov wasn’t a genius but you know what I mean)

          1. Idk bout all that. But I’m not much of a bookworm, that said, I do have huge respect for the medium as it is essentially the oldest form of entertainment. I’ll probably look into Hemingway’s novels and history.

  5. I agree with what you’re saying and I also think that part of the appeal of fiction is not just seeing new ideas or new story elements, but seeing the same tropes that have been done before in new and interesting ways. When I think of some of my favorite anime series like Evangelion, Madoka Magica, and Hunter x Hunter, there’s not actually a lot they’ve done that is uniquely original. What makes them unique is how they took tropes that are common in mecha, magical girl, and shonen anime respectively and twist them to make a deeper and more thoughtful story. It’s not necessarily bad that a story uses common tropes or cliches, as long as it uses them in an original or interesting way.

Leave me a comment and make my day!