Anime probably doesn’t rely on its particular tropes and clichés more than any other media or genre, but man, it feels like it. It seems like every show, movie or OVA are the same, and the people making them are just following a pre-ordained checklist. Here are 10 of the most prevalent anime clichés out there.
1) Parental Guidance Suggested
More than 50% of all high school aged children in Japan are completely parent-less, and another 35% only have one parent remaining. Basically, if you’re Japanese and have a kid, you are signing your own death warrant. Goku from Dragonball Z? No parents. Naruto? No parents. Ichigo from Bleach? Dead mom, living dad. Tohru from Fruits Basket? No parents. The three main kids from Evangelion? Only one of them has a parent, Shinji’s dad, and Shinji would have been way better off if he had died. The amount of middle-school and high school aged kids who are living without any kind of adult supervision is, frankly, absurd.
2) Me So Hungry
Are you the protagonist in an action anime? Then guess what? You have a terrible eating disorder. For some reason, being the star in any shonen/boys-type manga or show means you like eating all the time, and this is somehow supposed to be hilarious. Goku eats everything, One Piece’s Monkey D.Luffy is obsessed with meat, Death Note’s L must constantly be feeding himself sugar, and yellowtail tuna is Zatch Bell’s heroin. Even the few fat anime characters are less obsessed with food than these guys. There are some anime heroines obsessed with food — usually fighters, like Ikki Tousen’s Sonsaku — but more of them seem to be obsessed with booze, like Evangelion’s Misato, Ran of Tsukikage Ran, Karula from Utawarerumono, and Yukari from Azumanga Daioh.
3) Girls, Girls, Girls
You know what happens when you have a country effectively without adult supervision? High school kids living together in sin! And not just regular sin — harem sin, because invariably one guy will end up living with four or more hot girls, all of whom desperately love/want to bone him. The “harem” is such a common cliché in anime that it’s actually it’s own genre, encompassing Love Hina, Hayate the Combat Butler, High School DxD, Shuffle, Tenchi Muyo and oh, more then 160 others. And those are just the non-porn harem anime. If I listed the hentai harem series, we’d be here all day.
4) Fear > Sex
How does one have a show about one guy living with several attractive ladies and not have it end up as porn? Well, not because these guys have taken a vow of chastity, but also not because they’re super-honorable or something. No, the problem is that the male protagonists are painfully shy, so whenever any girl makes the first move, they generally stammer, have nosebleeds, pass out, run screaming, or some combination. High School DxD, To Love Ru, Onegai Teacher and more are all examples of this cliché — which seems a little weird because most of these series are also PG-13-equivalent boob delivery devices, too. The amount of sex the average Japanese high-school student in a romance or comedy anime turns down is, frankly, absurd. No wonder Japan has a problem with declining birth rights.
5) The Boobfall
Have you accidentally bumped into someone so hard you fell down on them? If so, have you ever landed face first in someone’s boobs? Sure, it might happen occasionally by accident, but in Japan it happens every single time. It’s like cats always land on their feet — Japanese anime characters always land face first in boobs (this goes for both guys and girls, by the way). Sometimes, falling isn’t even involved — anime characters walk (or run) in someone’s breasts so often that TV Tropes has named it “Funbags Airbags.” The worst version of the Boobfall, in my august opinion, is the accidental grope. Say you're falling on someone — what do you do? If you answered "To use my arms to break my fall, or, at least to try to avoid falling upon the other person as much as possible as not to injure them," then you're a human being. If you answered, “Put my hands directly in front of my chest as if I were catching a football, so when I land on a girl I can cop a feel” then congratulations, you are an anime character, in such company as Shinji from Evangelion, Ed Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist, everything Love Hina’s Ken Akamatsu has ever written, and countless others.
6) Groping Is Our Business
So if that’s “accidental perversion,” what about “intentional perversion"? That act belongs solely to the salarymen, those tireless white collar workers who keep Japan’s economy
strong okay and who, no matter their age, once they are in a train car with a high school girl, will immediate start groping their bottom. If you are a girl in a sailor suit getting on a train, there is a 99% chance one of the suitcase-carrying passengers will use the jostling of the train to cop a quick feel — and that’s the best case scenario. Some will use their phone camera to look up your skirt. But that’s anime, obviously; in real life, Japan has made some subway and train cars for women only, so… yeah, that’s just pretty horrible.
7) All and Tsundere
The best known Japanese character stereotypes is probably the moe girl, more popularly nicknamed the “Moeblob.” These are nice, quiet girls who are exceedingly polite, proper, cute without being sexy, and most importantly, devoid of anything resembling a personality. They were insanely popular 5-10 years ago, with countless series focused on boring girls who did nothing and had nothing happen to them, but they’ve finally faded (to replaced by anime about girls with huge breasts. Progress!). But there’s one character type that existed before the moe, and will continue forever: The Tsundere. These are the bossy, bitchy female characters who have a soft, romantic inside; they usually give the male protagonists a hard time, but are secretly infatuated with them. These characters are often physically violent and/or often super-strong, and they often beat the objects of their affection. Tsundere include Akane from Ranma ½, Asuka from Evangelion, Sakura from Naruto, Chidori from Full Metal Panic, and Winry from Fullmetal Alcihemist just to name a few of several thousand. Note: the chances of the Tsundere receiveing an accidental boobfall from the boys they like is about 1-in-1, as is the chance they will immediately punch them for it.
8) Child Soldiers
When trouble comes, we don’t need the army, the air force, superheroes, or even Godzilla. All we need are a few teens. The amount of anime heroes over the age of 22 is shockingly low, especially when you consider that these kids are doing everything from fighting alien invasions, waging wars, piloting giant robots, hunting demons, battling ninjas, whatever. Evangelion, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Code Geass, every Gundam series… the list goes on and on and on. It’s like people in Japan disappear at the age of 24. Or maybe that’s when they become salarymen and start groping high school girls on subways trains.
9) Hot Springs Eternal
When you want to titllate your viewer but are tired of boobfalls, it’s time to hit the baths — specifically, the bathhouse or the hot springs. This is basically an excuse to get your main female characters naked, and then provide more boobfalls. These are common enough in anime that they can be reasonably predicted to occur at the 6th, 7th or 8th episode. Even young kids' series like Pokémon and Mega Man: NT Warrior have them. The only difference between the kids' shows and the older-skewing shows is that when you buy the more adult shows on DVD, you get to see the nipples censored that were in the TV broadcast. Whee.
10) Born to Run
There is nothing I can say that will illustrate this cliché, found in the opening credits of pretty much every anime ever, better than this video will, so enjoy.