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8 Anime Character Types I Find Annoying

I critique anime, games, movies, books, and more, getting to deeper levels of analysis and thought than many other critics on the web.

Read on for the most annoying character types that you find in anime.

Read on for the most annoying character types that you find in anime.

Round vs. Flat Characters and Anime Stereotypes

Anime sometimes suffers from characters being stereotypes that hit the same note over and over again. These characters lack the psychological complexity that makes characters interesting and human-feeling. In literature, these are called flat characters. They are seen as "two-dimensional" because they're not very life-like, much like how a sculpture of a person can look more real to us than a painted portrait. Like a sculpture, a "round" character is detailed to the audience from many different perspectives. The Joker from Batman is a round character, for example, because he is complex, changes over time, and can be interpreted in many ways. He's like a sculpture in the round, that can be seen in different ways from different angles.

"Flat" characters certainly have their place. Unimportant supporting characters don't need to be complicated to be effective, because their role in the narrative is more limited. A work of fiction can get kind of weighed down if it tries to make every character round. Les Misérables does this, for example, making the book excessively long. But, generally speaking, it's good for at least the main protagonists and antagonists to be round characters with a lot of complexity to their identity.

A bad, flat character can often be a cliché or stereotype. In anime, there are numerous recurring character tropes. Sometimes, these can effectively create interesting, dynamic, complex characters. Other times, they're just a hack's way of writing, making boring, unlikable characters that seem like a stack of tropes rather than an actual person we can sympathize with, or get to know in an organic way.

What makes a particular instance of a trope bad?

If we know everything about a character in the first few seconds based on superficial details like their height, breast size, gender, hair color, eye color, hairstyle, clothing, eye shape, body language, and voice, it's probably not a very interesting character. And that kind of character instantly alienates the avid anime viewer from the show. They will recognize the cliché as cliché, and realize quickly that these creators have nothing original to add. They're just using cookie cutters or templates to give us a story.

And here are my eight least favorite cliché anime character types.

Note about the examples I use (in the pictures) to illustrate the article:

If I choose a particular character to illustrate the article, that is an example of a trope I don't like, but it does not mean I don't like that character in particular. Or that that particular character is a poorly written example of the trope he or she is being used to illustrate. A multitude of images of similar-looking characters is used here to demonstrate the ubiquity and sameness of certain anime character types. I had a lot of comments and questions on this article that come from a misunderstanding of this, so I felt like clarifying.

8. The Mary Sue Senpai (Also Known As: The Ojou-Sama)

If you have a protagonist with a crush on senpai (an upperclassman), the object of his desire is this girl. She is so perfect, you seriously wonder if she even poops. She's an unrealistically swan-like presence in a school full of more realistically awkward teenagers. Everyone else looks like a dork around her.

Defining Features

  • Tall in stature, usually with an elegant silhouette.
  • Long, straight hair, usually black or purple, but may also be blonde or silver. (Or she will have a very precise, elegant hairstyle, like princess curls, pigtails, braids, etc.)
  • Will either be the student council president or go to an elite school of some kind.
  • Usually from a rich and/or well-connected family.
  • Speaks very polite Japanese and has refined manners.
  • There will be tea.
  • Usually very pale-skinned, as per traditional Japanese beauty standards.

Why I Dislike This Type

If done poorly, she's too perfect. She doesn't seem like her actual canonical age. She seems like a very elegant and refined 30-something infiltrating the high school or middle school setting. This trope glamorizes richness, making it seem like rich people are totally flawless, god-like beings. It also can be a cheap way to create drama: the totally average male protagonist (which I get to later) falling for the "dream girl" who is way out of his league.

Often, by the end of the anime, he is rewarded with affection for spending the whole anime as her dog, doing whatever she wants, and constantly white knighting for her. I get that it's a thing because it's a wish-fulfillment fantasy, but in real life, people like that are just annoyingly snooty. I definitely would not put up with elitist snobbery in real life, let alone find it attractive in a potential partner.

Most importantly, this kind of character is just rarely interesting. You know she's going to be heavily restricted by the bounds of propriety and honor, playing the "straight man" in contrast with wilder characters' antics. She's too honest and pure to do anything truly "outside the box." In other words, she's usually a Mary Sue and a Purity Sue type of character, too flawless to be genuine and human.

Good Versions and Subversions of this Type:

  • Satsuki from Kill La Kill shows that being this kind of character is not all it's cracked up to be, especially if you have a psychotic mom.
  • Ai from Shin Chan is a parody of this type, that points out its classism.
  • Ayame Kajou from Shimoneta only originally looks like she's this type of character, but turns out to be a "dirty joke terrorist."
  • Rei Hino/Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon seems like this type at first, but has a lot more depth and complexity revealed about her as the series progresses.
  • Homura Akemi from Puella Magi Madoka Magica resembles this character type superficially, but is also revealed to be a lot more complex the more you find out about her.
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7. The Annoying Talking Animal

A fairly common anime staple, this character is always at the hero's side. Often, they give exposition in info dumps. Or sometimes it's subtle guidance they give the main characters. They're cute, they're charming, they move merchandise and keep up brand awareness of the show. But they can also be annoying because:

  • They ruin serious moments with bad comedy.
  • Their catchphrases and associated running gags quickly get stale.
  • Their blunders make things harder for the protagonist.

A good version of this character would be more competent, but not infallible. They wouldn't know (and explain) everything that happens. But neither would they always seem to be in the way, or always the bumbling comedic relief.

Defining Features

  • Happy and upbeat. Cute appearance, often acts child-like.
  • Running gags and/or a catchphrase.
  • Associated with comedy, often breaks up dramatic tension with comedy.
  • Helps or guides the main character(s).
  • Is an animal, usually with supernatural powers and unusual characteristics.
  • Usually able to talk and intelligent on a human level, though some may act more like animals.
  • Sometimes is the source of the hero's power, or can become a walking deus ex machina.
  • Constantly refers to what kind of animal they are, or their non-human status is often milked for comedy.
  • Gives a lot of exposition. If poorly written, they will speak in paragraph-long info dumps.

Why I Dislike This Type

It's not always done poorly, but when it is it's annoying. I find comic relief annoying, in general. This type of character often comes across as annoying when the writers are clearly trying to make it likable and funny. It's like a little kid following the main characters around. Their ignorance is presented to us as "cute," and their incompetence is supposed to charm us.

They're also frequently overused as an exposition device and source of knowledge. Since these characters are supernatural or magical, they often have helpful advice to give. But this can be overdone if they're telling the audience a lot of things about their world, instead of showing them.

These characters also have a habit of coming to the rescue at the eleventh hour. If this character exists, be prepared to see them save people at the last minute, either directly by using their own powers, or indirectly by getting help or giving the main character new powers.

But those that give the main characters their powers always raise the question; why didn't they just use this magic for themselves instead of giving it to the protagonist? Many of these characters, if you think about it, are powerful enough to be their own heroes. They shouldn't even need some half-baked anime girl or guy to fight their battles for them.

Good Versions and Subversions of this Type:

  • Some Pokémon and Digimon are an exception. For the most part, Pokémon don't talk, so they can be cute without having that annoying child-like tendency of talking too much or saying stupid things.
  • Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica acts like this character type, but is actually cunning and manipulative.
  • Luna in Sailor Moon isn't bumbling or annoying, but she is an info dump queen.

6. The Adult-Like Child

Usually female, this character is usually a side character. Other people have called this one the "deadpan loli." But I don't like referring to these characters as "lolis" because the reference to Lolita implies that they're being treated like sex objects, which is very much debatable and up to audience reaction - unless there are obvious erotic scenes with them, which is rare. I'm just uncomfortable using a term that implies the sexual fetishizing of little girls so casually.

Unfortunately, the sexualization of these characters is probably the reason why there are so many of them. Especially those who are not only a bit smart for their age, but act like full-fledged adults. It makes them annoying. Anime likes to make the excuse that the "loli" is there, among older children or adults, because of her intelligence. Child prodigies are smart, sure, but not every child is a prodigy. We've all known people who were able to move up a grade or two in school, but many of these examples are a bit extreme.

Some go as far as to give weird, convoluted magical justifications for these girls showing up in a high school with older girls. Sailor Moon's Chibiusa, or "little Usagi," is the main character's daughter from the future. And that's not the weird part! The weird part is, she's actually hundreds of years old, but never quite got the hang of growing up. So all that fan art you have of her? Just explain to the feds that whole "future child from the moon" story, and no worries about shower time with the other inmates for you!

It bothers me that these girls often just exist to be sexualized by the fans. The anime industry is not so much about selling anime as it is about selling merchandise. Japanese culture also seems to be more relaxed about portraying children in a sexual way than American culture. I'm fine with non-sexual child nudity, such as in the context of bathing - in Japan, family members of the same sex often bathe together and it is not pedophilic. But having a whole character type just designed to appeal to pedophiles in the anime's audience is... creepy.

A related character trope I dislike is when older teens, aged 14–18, are drawn short and flat-chested, as if the artist is trying to make them look 11–13. This happens in "slice of life" comedy shows like Lucky Star to make the girls look cuter, but it just kind of bothers me that they don't really look their ages. In some anime series though, there will be a lone character, who is "really 16" or whatever but drawn petite, again, in order to market the character to fetishists of that kind of thing.

Why I Dislike This Type:

These characters tend to annoy me because they represent a larger problem within anime: sexualizing little girls. It's weird, off-putting, gross, and makes me very uncomfortable. It's not why I got into anime in the first place, definitely.

But, in the story itself, the characters are often annoying because, as prodigies, they know a lot, but as children, they still act like conceited brats. They can often act like arrogant know-it-alls. Still being children, they tend to still have chaotic mood swings, and can immaturely overreact to slights and misunderstandings. This can be funny, but it can also get old quickly. They tend to be very prideful and defensive. This character can is often "flustered" or "frustrated", because they have a huge psychological complex built around feeling inferior to everyone else because of their age. Or height, or (sigh) breast size.

So they act like the typical aloof, bitchy, tsundere princess (I deal with the tsundere later, it is also one of my least favorite types). These characters usually pop in halfway through the anime like an unwanted guest, and they challenge the main character, but usually over issues that are completely shallow and meaningless. Expect them to hold their heads high and never admit they're wrong, even when they are. Ever deal with a child you just wanted to punch? How "kawaii"!

They just don't add anything new to the show. They create drama and conflict, but rarely do they contribute meaningfully to the resolution of it. And if I see another "flat-chested loli vs. tall and busty gal" love rivalry again, I swear to God...

Interesting Subversions and Good Versions of this Type:

I really can't think of that many. Usually, a loli-brat is annoying, it's just a matter of degree, some being less annoying than others.

However, Banba from Princess Jellyfish either is or appears like she is a little girl, but she's not in any way sexy; instead, she's an otaku who likes trains, and who has an eye for picking out the best meat in the grocery store. Her acting is subtle, and she doesn't do what I see many other adult-like children in anime do, which is go out of her way to challenge and belittle adults or older teens. Maybe she is an adult - her age is ambiguous.

5. The Tsundere

She's usually smacked into an anime with the subtlety of a bolt of lightning. Tsunderes are one of the most overplayed character types in anime. It gets its name from "tsun-tsun" meaning aloof or standoffish, and "dere-dere," meaning love-struck. So the idea is that the character goes from aloof and bitchy to warm and loving.

This happens in a lot of anime. Most of the time, they're more "tsun-tsun" than "dere-dere," and don't actually undergo that much character change. Also, because "dere-dere" implies a romantic interest in the main character, these characters are all defined by their relationship with the (male) protagonist. That's why they often fall short of seeming like a real person, because real people have personalities for their own reasons. Reactions to a single person are not what their whole being revolves around.

This trope is also somewhat sexist, as it boils down to just anime's version of Taming of the Shrew.

Technically, Asuka Langley Sohryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion is not a tsundere. She has the harsh "tsun-tsun" part, but doesn't actually use that behavior to mask a crush on the protagonist. And she never actually softens her attitude towards him. This character is supposed to be about how people bully people they like, but it ends up giving girls a "tsundere card" to basically act like annoying, stuck-up cunts most of the time.

Defining Features

  • Pigtails, or pinned-up hair.
  • Red or blonde hair is common, but other (usually bright and warm) colors can be present as well.
  • Eyes are drawn in the cat-like style, less rounded than more innocent characters.
  • They blush a lot whenever anyone dares to imply that they have feelings for the main character.
  • Has signature ways of huffing, sighing, and turning away angrily.
  • Often known for frowning and scowling.
  • Has a ball-shriveling yelling voice.

Why I Dislike This Type:

Like I said before, the tsundere is so overdone. When I see an angry bratty girl with pigtails, I know right away that I'm not getting substance or depth in that character. Not usually, anyway. She's the typical "lady doth protest too much" character, acting harshly towards a character she likes, because she likes him. While this might be a fantasy wish fulfillment for some guys, it really means putting up with a girl who constantly berates you, until you are eventually, for inexplicable reasons, rewarded with affection . . . for putting up with all of it? There are easier ways to get laid, guys! And talk about unrealistic expectations.

A tsundere is just a narcissistic, conceited, lady-jerk who is occasionally tamed by the main character's penis. What's to hate?

Interesting Subversions and Good Versions of the Type:

  • Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion only appears like a tsundere at first, but then you learn about her past and realize that she's a bully because of her traumatic history. Asuka's mother committed suicide, and she always tried hard to impress her step-mom after that. She always felt like she was never good enough to be either her real mother's "doll," or her new mother's daughter. Therefore, her personality is interesting, and her reasons for being a bully are far deeper than just wanting to mask her raging girl-boner for Shinji.
  • Tora Dora's female lead, Taiga, is often called a tsundere, but she's not as flat of a character as a badly written tsundere.

The Psychology of Being Attracted to Tsundere Characters

Ren Adiero

Ren Adiero

4. The Happy Magical Slave

The Japanese place less value on freedom than Western culture. It shows in characters like this. Usually, a magical girlfriend or magical housewife character, these characters, like the loli and tsundere, are sex objects that exist for the titillation of the audience and are often not very interesting beyond the fanservice.

Defining Features

  • A goddess, alien, or other supernatural creature.
  • Has powers far beyond a normal human's.
  • Incredibly ignorant and naive about the world.
  • Wishes to satisfy the protagonist's every whim.

This character often relies on guidance from the bland male protagonist. She's meant to be a kind of "manic pixie dream girl" character, or can be a nurturing "Yamato Nadeshiko" or Japanese housewife archetype. It's a harmless wish-fulfillment fantasy, but the underlying tones of slavery and subjugation that are usually present in the story are what bother me.

Why I Dislike This Type

Basically, just the whole "happiness in slavery" thing. We do not see these magical women rebel or revolt against their masters. It's assumed that the male protagonist is good, even when he's a complete jerk. Her goodness is supposed to be such that it justifies the condition of happy slavery. But that makes it seem like they are idealizing an unhealthy relationship in which a "good woman" is an entirely selfless martyr. It's unrealistic.

These stories also make it seem like coming of age, as a man, means learning how to manage and educate a slave. It also sends the message that domestic, sexual slavery is morally justified by whatever supernatural bullshit the writers can think of: a life debt, magical wish, etc.

Yeah, no. That stuff belongs in porn but doesn't have a place in regular entertainment. And even if it's not a sexual relationship per se, like with Sebastian in Black Butler, or when sex is offered but not accepted, it's still a bit weird to see a being with immense supernatural powers be subjugated and treated like a servant or slave by an ordinary human.

Interesting Subversions:

  • Ai no Kusabi is a short Sci-Fi OVA series that explores real-feeling sexual slavery and all of its emotional consequences. It also shows the problem of having to choose between being an abused "pet" for a rich person's amusement or being free to be poor and starving, in a world with a dramatic gap between the rich and the poor.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena, the slavery of the "rose bride," Anthy Himemiya, is not taken lightly at all. Much of the drama of the show revolves around Utena, a newcomer fighter in the duels, who is fighting for Anthy's honor and dignity as a person.