Why Do Girls In Anime Say, "Now I Can't Get Married?"

by Justin Sevakis,

Juan asks:

When it comes to anime jokes and phrases the one I that has intrigued me is the the situation were a girl has been seen naked by a guy and says the line "Now I can't get married.". I've been wondering were does this phrase come from since till this day it's used frequently in anime. Is it rooted in Japans social culture or is there a historical meaning behind it?

This is a, frankly, lame and dated throw-away joke, that keeps popping up in anime mostly out of lazy writing. Basically, a female shouts this, often while crying or moping after having her skirt flipped up or boobs squeezed. It's a reference to the old conservative Japanese society, in which her parents would attempt to find her a husband and arrange a courtship. The parents of the potential suitor would examine her closely and determine whether she would make a good bride.

It's a common joke in old-timey Japanese stories about how picky those parents can be. In the olden days, a lot of factors were important to parents that don't come up much today at all, namely class and family bloodlines. In anime like Ranma 1/2 (which plays a lot with those hoary old traditions), you can see older characters noting women with "good birthing hips," and such. Nothing would make a girl "damaged goods" like having already been sexually despoiled in some way. And so, when a female character is loudly crying that "now I'll never get married!" she is (usually hyperbolically) declaring herself damaged goods.

The Japanese tradition of Miai, or Omiai, has been in decline after World War II, when the Western idea of marrying for a pre-existing love took root. The idea behind a Miai is that such love can bloom after the wedding. Unlike arranged marriages in other cultures, Japanese Miai are really just courtships. The bride and groom meet each other ahead of time, go on a few dates, and usually have a say in whether a marriage will take place or not. There was a great deal of ceremony to the proceedings, and often a neutral matchmaker (nakodo) involved. The selection process involved a great deal of prejudice, and so people with minority ancestry or coming from a low social caste or poverty were left at a real disadvantage.

Miai still happen in Japan, though they're increasingly rare and often the exclusive domain of very traditional families. Until the 1940s a good 70% of marriages were arranged in this way, but now it's believed to be less than 6%. Marriage has changed a lot in Japan in that time, with people waiting until they're older, having fewer kids, and have similar lives as single people as people do in the West. So the odds that anyone these days would ever shout that phrase in real life as anything other than an old fashioned joke are pretty much zero.

THAT'S how stale and dated that joke is.

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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for nearly 20 years. He's the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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