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6 Classic Anime Tropes

by Lynzee Loveridge,

The word "trope" has negative connotations, easily mistaken as a synonym for "cliche". Tropes aren't necessarily cliches but they are story writing scenarios and character traits that are considered very familiar, sometimes to the point of being tiresome. At the same time, there's also some comfort in tropes. They can quickly designate a character's role to the audience, a show's overall tone, or lend assurance that at least in this world, bad guys get their just desserts. These staples swap around as personality types and settings come in and out of favor. Some of these tropes below are becoming rare, but were much more prevalent when I started heavily watching anime in '90s. This is a look back on the days of perpetually late school girls running to beat the bell with toast in their mouths.

6. All Evil Rich Girls Have the Same Laugh This brand of evil upperclass snob rarely shows her face anymore. She usually had a posse of at least three other awful girls who aspired to be as beloved as their ringleader. The character is prone to underhanded tricks, usually to publicly embarrass the new girl protagonist who inadvertently caught the attention of the school's "prince." Evil Rich Girl's defining feature, besides sporting blonde drill-hair curls, is a distinctive "o-ho-ho" laugh. The first character to bust out the iconic chortle was Ranma 1/2's deadly gymnast, Kodachi. Cardcaptor Sakura's love-rival Meilin, Nanami from Utena, Esmeraude from Sailor Moon, Ayeka from Tenchi Muyo!, and Naga from Slayers are all guilty of laughing this way.

5. If You're a Harem Anime Protagonist, Your Parents Are "Gone on Business" Harem anime, and in some cases shōjo anime, have created a generation of pseudo-orphans in the name of fanservice potential. Most parents in Japan aren't letting their 14-18 year old children live alone in a flat or the family home while they're off in Europe, but it's much easier from a writer's perspective to set up romantic scenarios between teens if you don't have adults snooping around to ruin the mood. This setup is so expected within anime that it's usually addressed in the opening episode's first few moments in voiceover or throwaway dialogue.

4. All Accidental Falls Lead to Romantic/Sexual Shenanigans Speaking of harem anime, this staple doesn't seem to be going anywhere, although I can't argue for this style of fanservice humor's appeal. It's an easy way to throw in gropes while exonerating the protagonist from responsibility (but the girl will slap him anyway). Shōjo anime has its own version of this, albeit tamer. Colloquial called "shōjo stairs," the female protagonist will somehow fall down her school stairs, be it forward or backward. Her hands might be full of handouts or suddenly her feet just don't work. One of her male admirers will catch her or break her fall and they'll end up in a near to actual kiss as a result. Falling down always seems to leads to falling in love.

3. The Student Council President Can Probably Kill You If the student council president doesn't fall into entry #6, then he or she is probably a hyper-competent, elegant leader who also has honed combat abilities. These might be hidden supernatural powers or the character is just a master of judo. Student Council President Tōga Kiryū from Utena (and the entire council itself), Kyoya Hibari from Reborn!, Mitsuomi Takayanagi from Tenjou Tenge, Satsuki Kiryūin from Kill la Kill, and Tsukasa Domyōji from Boys Over Flowers all seem more likely to punch a student than help them with homework.

2. We're Going to the Beach, and Someone is Going to Shout "Umi!" at the Water I'm not going to mock the ubiquitous beach episode, as droll as they are. I understand the it's nice to shake up the setting, throw in a bikini reveal, and top it off with some fireworks at the end for a romantic setting. What I've never understood is how there is always one character who runs down the sand then screams "ocean!" at the top of their lungs towards the waves. Yet it happens over and over. Is this an acknowledgement of their general excitement? I'd like to see this lampshaded at some point, with a character yelling at everything on the beach to let us know what it is. "Crab! Seaweed! Towel! Drink Stand!"

1. At Our School Cultural Festival, We're Having a Maid Cafe The cultural festival is a big event, with students putting in extra work to create an attraction for the event. What kind of attraction is usually decided by vote, and if you're an anime student attending anime school, the choice is often a maid cafe. These maid cafes can come in a few different shapes and sizes, like all the maids are male or the waitresses also wear cat ears, but the end result is still usually a cafe. Very rarely a haunted house gets picked instead, but the last time I saw this option chosen was in Karin and School Days (with the latter using it as a cover for sex). There's also been a slow change for "school play" becoming more popular as a more dramatic location, but maid cafes still win out.

The new poll: Now that summer convention season is winding down, how many anime conventions did you attend this year?

The old poll: Who is this summer season's best hero?

  1. Made in Abyss: Reg
  2. Welcome to the Ballroom: Tatara Fujita
  3. Classroom of the Elite: Kiyotaka Ayanokōji
  4. Restaurant to Another World: Shopkeeper
  5. Knight's & Magic: Ernesti "Eru" Echevarria
  6. Magical Circle Guru-Guru: Nike
  7. Altair: A Record of Battles: Mahmut
  8. Saiyuki Reload Blast: Genjo Sanzo
  9. Gamers: Tasuku Uehara
  10. Saiyuki Reload Blast: Son Goku
  11. Aho-Girl: Akuru Akutsu
  12. Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu: Izuminokami Kanesada
  13. In Another World With My Smartphone: Tōya Mochizuki
  14. Saiyuki Reload Blast: Cho Hakkai
  15. Fate/Apocrypha: Saber of Black
  16. Clean Freak! Aoyama kun: Aoyama-kun
  17. Fate/Apocrypha: Sieg
  18. Elegant Yokai Apartment Life: Yūshi Inaba
  19. Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu: Mikazuki Munechika
  20. Fate/Apocrypha: Kairi Sisigou

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her son on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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