Normally I’m a person that really likes anime tropes. I find them comforting and it makes me feel like I’m really watching anime when I come across them. That last sentence is nonsense. Sheesh, you would think I’m being paid by the word! I’m not. I’m not being paid at all!

Just to make it clear, I’m not saying that these tropes are always awful, there are always ways to execute a trope well. And some of them I don’t mind at all it’s just that I like them less.

As always, this is personal taste. The very fact that these are tropes is because audiences have reacted well to them over the years!

Ok enough wishy washy disclaimers. Let’s get this list on the road:

5. Abuse as romance

In a way, Tsunderes can fall into this trope as well. Somewhat throwing a fit and making their partner feel horrible about having an innocent conversation with a friend because they are jealous is not a sign of love. Someone having feelings so strong that they lash out at their supposed loved one is not passion.

I’m already super picky about romantic storylines as it is, but the second someone gets raped but it’s o.k., you’ve lost me. I just immediately stop rooting for that couple. I think most people agree with me but this is just so common in all media that I have to believe someone likes it.

don’t get mad at me, this is what Google images gave me when I searched

4. Stupidity as purity

I get that some notions are really though to bring across in fiction. But why do characters who are presented as particularly “good” or “pure of heart” have to be painfully naive? Once again this isn’t restricted to anime tropes, it happens a lot. But I do see it a bit more often in anime.

This isn’t a hard set rule but I very often see the good or kind characterization illustrated by a character that believes every lie, is easy to fool or doesn’t seem to ever think or question anything too deeply. And that goes for boys as much as girls. It just makes for boring characters is all.

3. Isekai exposition

Now this one isn’t really fair. Isekais have it though by virtue of being set in worlds that are different enough to our own that if the rules aren’t explained to the audience, it’s hard to understand what’s going on. However, that doesn’t mean you have to just get a bunch of characters sitting around explaining to each other how everything works. There are smoother ways to do it. I’ve seen it.

But the exposition route seems to be heavily favoured lately and a lot of new shows depend on dialogue to get the details across. There are up sides to this and I know for a fact that a lot of viewers like this approach. But I don’t!

2. Freudian excuses

Sure they’re evil but they had a though childhood. They betrayed us all, but their family was in trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all good with redeemable villains, some are fantastic. And it’s great to give characters backstories, conflict and nuance. But once in a while, you can have someone who’s just a jerk. No excuse needed. They just have values, preferences and beliefs that clash with the heroes (and probably the audience) and that’s all there is to it.

They aren’t lonely or misunderstood and they don’t regret their actions. And characters like that can still be complex and layered. Heck, they could even be redeemable. There are a lot of complete jerks who I would never want to meet or even talk to in real life, who I think make amazing characters.

It’s just that sometimes I get the feeling authors don’t want to risk completely alienating their audiences with regard to any one character (to be clear this happens in every form of media, not specifically anime tropes) so they find excuses for their bad behaviour. And lately, it happens so often that finding a plain bad guy cause they just are, is getting to be a thrill.

Also, when excuses are done badly it can really muddle the themes and messages of a story. Am I suppose to feel bad for this dude that just killed a whole bunch of people because he got made fun of at school?

1. Love triangles

I hate them!

I actually have not one but two friends who consider love triangles as one of their favourite anime tropes. They are more likely to pick up a story if a love triangle is involved. I think I have seen this trope executed well exactly 3 times out of 12887352490475624541872. But who’s counting.

This said, I still like quite a few stories that have them so it’s not like it’s gonna destroy everything. Peguindrum only had love triangles and that’s a masterpiece!

Hey look at that. I managed to contradict myself in my own post! Go me!

Like I said, there are ways to execute these tropes that I really enjoy. So it’s definitely not absolutes. But these are somewhat common narrative elements that I have noticed I have very little patience for in general.

Are there any tropes that you don’t like? Do you know why? It’s o.k. if you don’t, sometimes stuff just bugs us!

57 thoughts

  1. Gotta agree with Scott that Freudian excuses are subjective. Abuse as romance is definitely not okay (especially not the infamous “uguu cage of love”, as I’ve seen it being nicknamed), nor is incest (which showed up in the comments, although Japanese fanbases like to trade in that occasionally).

    The romantic component of harems (or reverse harems)/isekais really only bug me if the protag is a Potato-kun. Lately, reverse harems have been getting better with their protags (see Code:Realise and Koi to Producer), but harems never really change.

    When I read “stupidity as purity”, my mind immediately jumped to certain characters who are loved by their fanbases for such attributes. If you apply the definition quite broadly, it includes characters like Jotaro Aragaki (the Gymnastics Samurai) because he’s not very good at reading emotional cues or communication. To me, “naive but pure” is a narrative shorthand for both being able to create a character that’s easy to write and relate to, because everyone has moments of naivete in some way or other and it’s easy to write “pure” characters generically.

    …Then again, I consume a lot of shonen, so I’ve grown apathetic to the specific strain of lovable idiots who may have such attributes as eating a lot, being romantically dense and being only good at fighting, so I’m contradicting myself here in a way.

  2. Interesting list. Definitely agree with the rapey stuff being a turn off.

    I’d probably say the little sister who is in love with her older brother and tries to sabotage any relationship he has with a girl his age out of jealousy. Or any incestuous storyline really.

    And in the name of balance adults (male and female) going gaga over little girls too. The females doing it might be funnier but paedophilia is a huge no go area they need to abolish ASAP in Japan.

    1. I don’t mind the little sister trope as long as it stays the kid having hero worship which happens a lot. If it gets sexual then it’s really uncomfortable

      1. Monogatari was full of siscon. It only got bad a couple of times though. A fair bit of attraction to underage girls in general. And the legal loli trope too. Despite this, it is one of the all-time classic anime franchises. In one sense, it is the story of Araragi-kun’s growth out of that sort of thing.

        “A Sister’s All You Need” played with the sis-con trope in a way that was funny and didn’t set off alarms in my head.

  3. I have to say, abuse as romance ranks very highly for me, especially if we include jealousy as “look how much s/he loves me”. Sometimes people get insecure because the potential partner is not jealous. God, I hate this.

    I also dislike the “the-ugly-races-are-evil-and-it’s-fine-to-eradicate-them” trope. It’s what made Goblin Slayer hard going for me, but it also troubled me in Grimgar, where they tried to subvert this. It rears its head this season, too, in “I’m Standing on 10^X Lives” (I’ve forgotten how many, a million?). Thank God for Slime.

    And I’m really picky when a show’s about depression, trauma, suicide… I can’t stand Your Lie in April, and I really can’t stand Orange (because it’s really good at portraying the suicidal mindframe and then suggests the power of friendship solution in a much too simple way; it’s the mismatch that makes the show hard to take).

    As for the others on your list:

    Stupidity as purity: yeah, I could do without that, too, but there are times when it’s clearly an act. That is the character decides to trust people because that’s the kind of world s/he wants to live in. I wish I could remember an example, but I’ve certainly seen the ditzy girl revealing her “true selve” in a key moment. It’s also what make Gon from Hunter X Hunter work; he has the ability to turn trust into a sort of menace, because he’s really a psycho down below.

    I’m neutral on Isekai exposition and love triangles. Fred beat me to mentioning White Album 2, which is IMO the benchmark for love triangles. But then that’s not a romance with a love triangle; it’s a romance about a love triangle. And the two girls involved are seriously friends, and value each other as much as the guy. It’s an object lesson in how to pull it off.

    Freudian excuses… this is difficult for me. I don’t like it when people just pretend whatever the character did doesn’t matter anymore; he’s “one of us” now. The shounen mid-boss conversion, so to speak. And that character trait, then, is downplayed, too. Only wrestling storyline are allowed to be that silly. In any case. As for the Freudian excuses themselves; I don’t actually think they’re Freudian excuses. It feels more like… social responsibility? Anime is way more collectivist in its outlook, so when they show the villain being bullied in childhood, it’s not always just so you feel sorry for the villain (that, too), but it’s also about you get what you give. If you take the broader view, there are definitely anime where the villain remains unredeemable, because they’ve just dropped out and there’s no way back, so they have to be defeated – it’s about the failure of the system, too, in a sense. You disagree with the “lawful good paladin”, but you take the same action in the end, because it’s the only path left. Again, I really wish I could think of examples.

        1. White Album is a harem, with two girls standing out, so you could stretch it and call it a love traingle, but it’s really just an all-routes adaption, with no clear outcome. I like White Album a lot, but, yeah, it’s White Album 2 that’s the master piece. The two shows are completely independent, except for one song of the first show/game kicking off the plot of the second one. No need to have seen the first one; you gain no additional insight whatsoever, just the occasional easter egg in the background, IIRC. The first White Album is set in the 80ies; I think White Album 2 is set in the 2000s? I’m unsure about that.

          White Album has two seasons, so make sure your watching White Album 2, and not the second season of White Album. This has caused confusion before.

  4. Abuse as romance – Absolutely agree. That includes the hyper tsundere as you mentioned. It is possible to include rape in a story as a horrific and despicable act but pretending that there’s “love” in any respect is outright despicable. Then of course, there’s the “questionable consent” trope that turns me off completely.

    Stupidity as purity. – Yeah. I’d include timidity as purity with it. The guy who cannot bring himself to say “Daisuke,” no matter how much he loves or how perfect the opportunity. I don’t understand why people find this appealing.

    Too many isekais and Freudian excuses – Enough of the isekai have turned out to be entertaining that I don’t mind. Overlord, Slime, Re Zero, Konosuba, etc. I think the Freudian stuff is all to make you sympathetic for the Devil.

    Love triangles – It is difficult to do triangles and have them work out well. Most don’t put in the effort. A really good triangle is quite a joy. White Album 2 comes to mind as one that almost left me in tears.

    The one trope that hits me completely wrong is the sexualized loli. Never fails to make me cringe, even when it is the less noxious “uber-powerful 400-year-old who only looks like a loli” trope. I suppose even it could be done well but I’ve never seen it. Nabokov didn’t do anime.

    1. I have read Lolita twice and I didn’t really like it… I don’t know why I didn’t think of the loli or legal loli tropes. I suppose because I got so much flack when I last wrote a post about it I sort of blanked it out

      1. I guess loli has come to mean any prepubescent girl? I hear Beatrice in “Re: Zero” referred to as a “loli.” There is nothing sexual about her that I can see.

        Has the definition simply shifted? Or do some guys simply view all little girls as sexual objects, therefore all are lolis?

        That’s why I put the adjective “sexualized” in front of the term. Some people have come to think of a loli as any little girl. Probably think it derives from lollipop, not Lolita. Or may be culturally ignorant enough not to know what Lolita was all about. The child in the book was 12 but all the film adaptations have her in her late teens, well out of Lolita range, in order not to offend. (The actress is always 18+ to keep the film legal.)

        As a daddy and a scouting assistant and a sub teacher, loli-con and shouta-con both set my alarms ringing. Not that there isn’t great anime that use the trope but something like “How Not to Summon a Demon Lord” has me enjoying it and then they toss intoxicated sexual assault on a naked loli into it and the whole thing is ruined.

        1. Those ones! Man, ok yeah- Lolita, Daddy Long Legs and Gigi trope. In dramas and in anime, they need to go.
          I have to admit though, I love Labyrinth! So, I will make an exception there.
          Otherwise, anytime a character is supposed to be decent yet abuses their authority- no good.

          1. I forgot about Labyrinth but I guess you’re perfectly right – it would fall into those tropes. You just blew my mind

  5. Great post! I fully agree with your other points. I don’t know how anyone can like pairings built on toxicity and abuse. I won’t name any shippings in particular, but some of the worst examples I’ve seen in this regard usually just find all that stuff romantic or sexy and just….like….no. Why? And no again.

    “Stupidity as purity” Ugh. I typically don’t get annoyed by this too often, usually because many instances I can think of where it’s like this the naive person in question will usually realize where they went wrong and punish the person taking advantage of their stupidity, but there are some cases where it’s simply ridiculous, especially if the ‘pure’ person in question is a love interest. ‘She’s so stupid and clumsy and cries constantly and gets herself into trouble all the time because she’s more naive than two year old and she literally, and I do mean literally, can do nothing for herself…..But she’s pure as a fresh blanket of snow and I love her~’ or they somehow manage to turn an evil-as-frick enemy good because they’re just so goshdarn innocent that they’re nice to their kidnapper/attempted murderer etc.

    But one you really get a high-five from with me is….

    “#1 love triangles”

    Yes. Yes. All of this. Yes!

    I can’t stand love triangles either. They can be interesting when written correctly, but 99% of the time it’s just written for the sake of pointless drama and baiting shippers. Most love triangles aren’t even really triangles. That would involve being unsure about which guy/girl the MC would go after and, let’s be real, you rarely don’t know which person is being built up to be the endgame love interest and which one will be left in the dust. I can only think of a few instances when a show/manga has flipped the script there and it usually didn’t work.

    Some of my least favorite tropes are;

    Harems/reverse harems (This is technically a genre, but what I really mean in a trope sense is what I like to call The School Days effect where every single guy/girl falls for the MC somehow, especially if the MC is a terrible person (IE School Days) or insanely bland (IE Amnesia) It’s even worse when everyone’s stories are tied heavily into how much they love the MC….)

    Prodigies/”miracle rookies” (mostly in terms of gaming/sports shows where someone very young or with little to no experience in the game is quickly a champion at it without even trying that hard, usually being either undefeated or hardly ever defeated in their run. Give me an underdog who works his butt off any day. I especially hate it when it’s like ‘Your (usually missing) parent was incredibly good at this game, so it’s no wonder you’re amazing at it.’ Like what?)

    Chosen One/Fate/Destiny/Prophecy storylines (Luckily, it seems we’re breaking away from this trope, but I still see it on occasion. This one is a instant line to rustling my jimmies. These stories are usually so boring because they lay out exactly what will happen (or if they’re trying to make a point about not following fate, exactly what WON’T happen) But more to the point I really hate the ‘Chosen One’ trope (Or any trope where the fate of everything lies with the main character) because it makes the MC overly important and puts too much on their shoulders both in an out of universe, especially if they’re little kids. The other characters end up amounting to Chosen One helpers as a result, and you’re never worried about the MC because they basically have the ultimate plot armor.)

    MC gets the best everything (Self explanatory, but the worst. I get that, as the main character, they should get the most spotlight, but it needs to be evened out with the rest of the team getting good stuff too. So many shows that do this end up leaving the rest of the team behind so they’re, again, glorified helpers or, in the worst of circumstances, don’t even really get to help anymore because they’ve stagnated for so long that they simply can’t. So many great characters just end up dying (in a figurative sense) because the show is so laser-focused on showing off how awesome the main character is.)

    Sorry for talking your ear off (or…writing your…eyes out? o.o) I tend to get rambly lol Great work again! 🙂

    1. wow a lot of people dislike Harems. I have nothing against them but I do understand how they can get annoying.
      I also tend to like flawed everyman heroes. Where there heroism comes from hard work, a combination of circumstance and usually is a group effort. But then again, I did love Harry Potter as a kid and that’s the ultimate chosen one trope.

      1. I actually used to really like some harem shows, but the formula gets so old so fast, and I really started to hate it when more of them would have toxic MCs to focus on. The bland ones are just boring, and that’s fine (self-insert is the point of many of those shows afterall) but when all the girls like an objectively terrible guy it gets really frustrating.

        I also loved Harry Potter. The Chosen One trope can be done well sometimes, but more often than not it just serves to lessen the overall experience, in my opinion.

        1. Heheh… I like chosen one tropes. Unless if being the Chosen One means that every member of the opposite sex falls for them no matter how much they try to be irresistable. (here’s looking at you Sword Art Online)

  6. Out of these, stupidity as purity would probably be my 1, with rape and romance being an extremely close second. Both should be mostly if not entirely erased from the medium.

  7. I LOVE your list! I feel the same way about anime, books and all forms of media.
    I would switch a few around in order, but still the same.
    #1 love triangles
    #2 stupidity = purity
    #3 abuse as romance
    #4 Isekai exposition (or lengthy explanations)
    (although I needed that for Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works)
    #5 Freudian excuses

    I MISSED you! I have been swallowed alive in work and studies lately.
    I love your lists <3

  8. Great post. I agree with you. The one that pisses me off the most is stupidity mistaken for purity or innocence looking character mistaken for naivety. Another thing that annoys me is when the girls fight over for the same boy or waiting for (excuse my language) some punk to rescue her.

    1. Damsels in distress can get a bit boring. I haven’t seen as many in anime as in other media so that’s a plus.

      1. I have nothing against damsel in distress in the media especially if it was intended for male demographic. It is none of my business on what people choose to like or watch, but I do have a problem with it when it starts to influence society perspective on the “supposedly weak girl”.

  9. I really hate it when Magical Girls or other forms of team fight for absolutely no other reason then to make it an episode .. Usually it’s just a misunderstanding and no one is willing to communicate because they got the grumps! A trope I really dislike.

    Another trope I really dislike is the “hidden” awakening.. A good guy character has their back against the wall and suddenly it is revealed something is lurking inside them.. either a new form, a hidden demon or a beserk mode.. or ancient DNA thing that allows them to kick ass without ever having earned this.
    In Dragon Ball Z it was forshadowed and in those cases I don’t mind it that much.. but we often have these completely random awakenings.. like Yusuke did in YuYu Hakusho or how Yuma suddenly transforms into a space hero in Yu-Gi-oh Zexal.

    I don’t dislike Freudian excuses in villians, I just hate that “every” villian has them.. but you gotta sell those figurines and mugs.. and people are sooner tempted to get merch from a character they find humane.. I think there are some good freudian excuses.. like a charater being tortured and just snapping afterwards.. but people like Laxus from Fairy Tail and Pegasus from Yu-Gi-Oh are examples I do not like either.

    I don’t like love triangles much either, I do not mind a character getting a crush on a character that is already in a courtship situation.. it happens.. but the whole .. not knowing who to pick I find a very toxic portrayel of love. If you really like someone to make a relationship work .. there wil not be another person in your mind.. if you love both.. you don’t love either enough.

    1. Mmmm, those are all good additions as well.
      Break ups or unnecessary tensions in plot over mere miscommunication (that is not in line with the characters).
      And agreed, if someone is torn between two people, they shouldn’t be with either one.
      Hidden awakenings and sudden rescuing that came out of nowhere is another one, although that is OK once in a great while.

    2. I don’t mind the heroic awakening but then again I haven’t seen it all that much. Also I’m a sucker and easy to please with heroic tropes in general.

  10. 5hanayome laughs in Love Hexagon!

    I get ya. Triangle is the minimum it takes to set up dramatic clash between two intially independent love interests of the same protagonist. Creators love the idea of minimum effort for maximum result and yet less than a quarter of them can do it properly.

    1. It is a very easy way to set up conflict but it does take some effort to balance all the elements properly.

  11. Love the patented keyboard smash for exaggerated number example. I haven’t seen another blogger do it in about 284357638 years. Your typing ability is growing before our very eyes!

    …Oh, uh, neat post!

    1. I also hate love triangles. But considering that most of the time it’s present, I guess many likes it. when it’s well done then I don’t mind it. Though I tend to avoid romance focused anime/manga unless I find synopsis or characters interesting .

      “2. Freudian excuses”
      I always find villains more charming without it.

      “4. Stupidity as purity”
      On some occasion it can ruin character development (needed in story) for me. But otherwise if story is light-hearted and easy going then I don’t mind it.

  12. Harems, reverse or not; so many anime do not know how to set up multiple love interests for a single character in a way that’s not completely predictable. Every single show I’ve watched with this as a premise I was able to tell from episode 1 who the main protag would end up and I have yet to be wrong. I like a variety of waifus and husbandos in one series as much as a next fan, but harems aren’t the way to do it for me.

    1. I haven’t watched that may and since I rarely watch romance, in the ones I have seen the MC didn’t end up with anybody. But I can understand what you mean. It must get very formulaic

      1. Man, I want to know which ones those are since that sounds way more interesting then what I’ve seen!

        1. Let’s see, Uta no Prince sama never ends up with an established couple in my memory, How not to summon a demon King, Yona of the Dawn (although I think she would have ended up with someone if it had kept going), Haganai, Idolish (I haven’t seen the second season yet), Kenka Bancho, Love Tyrant, The World God Only Knows. Thinking it over that’s the majority of harems I have watched.

          1. Damn, that is true for Idolish and Kenka Bancho, totally forgot about those two despite watching them lol.

  13. I agree with these a lot for the most part. Abuse is wrong, over written dialogue is a huge turn off for me and I’ve dropped shows instantly when that the dialogue hits, I think creating stupid but pure characters are by those people who try to copy standard character tropes but don’t know how to make them complex, and OT3 for life.

    Having freudian thing work depend on so many things.

  14. Love triangles get on me nerves too. I can also only think of a handful of instances where I thought the trope was well done annd worked well in the story, most of the time it’s just annoying.

    1. It’s actually pretty hard to write a balanced and interesting triangle. I have a feeling most authors don’t always give it the time and attention needed.

  15. I do think the explanations are necessary in some shows, especially sports anime. Haikyuu does the lengthy explanations well, because they take a character that doesn’t understand what is happening, and have another character who understands the sport explain it to them. It helps the audience better understand why a specific play was so well done, and it makes the events have an even bigger impact. But we definitely don’t need it all the time in every show.

    1. Generally sports shows tend to break up expositions. They use fans in the stands and coaches to explain the game during matches in non consecutive episodes. When shows need to set up the laws of an alternative universe you usually get more continuous exposition dumps for the first 5 or 6 episodes in a row. I understand the need for them but it does get tiresome. Then again, it’s not like you can wait 40 episodes before setting up the basic physics of your world either so I know they can’t take the sports route of sporadic exposition.

  16. Number 4 and 5, definitely. I’m okay with love triangles, as long as it contributes to character growth or makes sense in the overall story.

  17. I’m not a huge fan of lengthy exposition in any format, especially when it’s lazily done.

    One of my pet peeves are monologues that stop fights so that one character can rant for five minutes before it continues. Like let’s all stand around while they deliver a lengthy one-sided discussion. Pretty much anything that unnaturally breaks up the action falls into the same category for me.

    1. Naruto… I love that show, but that scene where the Okage and Ochimaru are staring at each on the roof for… was it 3 episodes???

      1. Yes. There’s a scene in Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladewords where Emiya is fighting Archer and it goes on and on, stopping every now and then so that Archer can berate him for ten minutes. I think that was also three episodes.

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