Rachael has PTSD from being bullied herself. She likes certain anime because they offer some emotional solace and show great friendships.
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 of 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 upperclassmen), 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.
- 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.
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, or
- 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.
- 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 the 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.
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 over-react 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.
- 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
4. The Happy Magical Slave
The Japanese place less of a 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.
- 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 the 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.
- 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, is fighting for Anthy's honor and dignity as a person.
3. The Overly Plucky Tragedy Girl
This type of character can be male, like Hayate from Hayate the Combat Butler, but it's usually a teenage girl. She has cancer. Her mother died. Her father was an abusive drunk. A gang of rival ninjas ritually sacrificed her dog to Cthulu, who also came and ate her legs. She's been living in a ditch by the side of the road and only getting out once a week to scavenge for rotten apples and roadkill.
But she's SO HAPPY! She has a face that just lights up with joy. She's not letting the struggle get the better of her! She's overflowing with milk and honey, no matter how mean everyone is or how tough she has it! She's a survivor!
Yeah, that's a little . . . unrealistic? People who go through intense traumas and grief in life shouldn't be expected to just put on a fake smile all the time. I'd rather have an "angsty" character, because at least they are feeling something that makes sense relative to the bad things that happened to them. It just doesn't make sense to have a character like that, it's unrealistic. It's also kind of a slap in the face to people who have experienced trauma, like we're supposed to just "get over it" and not let it affect us. I know it's a great ideal to be like that, but it is just that, an ideal. And its use in anime to sort of cutify the suffering girl character is pretty annoying.
Why I Dislike This Type
If I met someone like this in real life, I would think they had a serious mental illness (kind of like many character types on this list). It's not normal to be so happy when life is bad, no matter what religion or philosophy might tell you otherwise. I get that Japan is very much a "grow a thicker skin" culture, and they respect people for having a strong, unbreakable spirit.
I get that. But it's not good to tell victims of circumstance to just "suck it up, buttercup" all the time, either. Sometimes, people need nurturing, support, and validation of their suffering that can't come from living in denial. Some people need closure in the form of justice. Others just need a shoulder to cry on. The "plucky girl" tells real girls in real life that their suffering and traumas are erasable with a little positive thinking. Positive thinking is okay, but we can't act like it solves everything.
Also, this character's plight is often a string of almost comically exaggerated bad events designed to pull at our heartstrings. It comes across, in the worst examples, as calculating and manipulative, like showing us a baby bird with a broken wing. Like, of course I sympathize with it, but using things we're all naturally predisposed to sympathize with (basically, a sad little girl) feels sort of like cheating. Related annoying tropes are the "ill girl" or "littlest cancer patient", in other words, characters who are sympathetic and endearing because they're fragile, sick, and dying. Too often, these are stock characters, without much personality, independence, or agency. They're just there to make other characters, and the audience, feel bad. They are also commonly objectified, in the sense that often they're reduced to "the sad thing" that serves as a motivation for the protagonist.
- Shiro from Deadman Wonderland suffered horrible experiments as a child. Even so, she comes off as a bubbly, carefree girl when she meets Ganta. But as we get to know her, we realize that she only acts this way around him because of a promise she made in the past, and not because she is always actually optimistic.
2. The Clueless Jerk Guy
Basically, the male version of the tsundere.
Hey, dumb crybaby! You're a girl! Girls are weak and stupid. You should be like me and play sports karate action ball! Feelings are bad! Grr!
*female characters swoon*
Whatever, I have work to do, out of my way, ladies!
I know I've taken shots at many female character types, but there are bad male character types, too. They may not be as noticeable as the overly theatrical girl types like the yandere and tsundere, but are still annoying like them. This type is someone who shows up a lot in comedy, shounen, action, ecchi, harem, and romance shows. He is a total jerk who is indifferent to girls' feelings, and/or totally oblivious to their expression of said feelings. And the panties drop for him anyway.
I think maybe it's because a certain amount of jerkiness in the Japanese male is tolerated or even encouraged; they are supposed to treat women like children, who need their authority and guidance in the form of punishment for bad behavior and rewards for being good. Punishment is often in the form of indifference or withdrawal; the girl is desperate for the jerk to notice her, and he can use this to get her to do something he wants, to get her to stop doing something he doesn't like, or to win an argument.
I said they're the male tsundere, but they can have a touch of male Mary Sue-senpai as well, often being very handsome, tall, and/or wealthy. Often, like the Mary Sue-senpai, he has refined manners and is elegant. And like the Mary Sue-senpai, their love interests fawn all over on them while they barely notice.
- "Jerk with a heart of gold", your mileage may vary.
- Oblivious to romantic and sexual advances, either intentionally or unintentionally. Does not have much or any sexual interest. This gives him power over the girls who desperately pursue him, or makes him immune to the charms of the femme fatale.
- Focuses on one thing (often something associated with increasing his status, like training) so much that women are not a distraction to them.
- Unintentionally hurts girls' feelings for comedy or drama.
- Sometimes can have an immature "girls are icky" attitude.
- Not usually as malicious as they are just aloof and indifferent.
- Cannot catch feels, at least, not until later in the anime series (much like the tsundere).
- Like the tsundere, will often make "I was just in the neighborhood" claims whenever they do something nice, chivalrous, charitable, or when they rescue a female love interest from danger.
- Often tells an emotional girl to calm down, but in a mean way, like "you're ugly when you cry".
Why I Dislike This Type
It's not terrible per se, but it's bad if it is an abusive relationship dynamic portrayed as a romance (like with sexy slave characters). These kinds of characters are overused and boring, like other character types on this list. It also promotes the "women love jerks" stereotype. In real life, as hard as it is for some people to believe, women do prefer considerate men.
If they don't like "nice guys", it's because a self-described "nice guy" is usually a loser who thinks that his self-diagnosed niceness is the key to getting the girl. But this is usually without them actually doing anything "nice". Also, "jerk" guys often do nice things for women they're interested in, like protecting her. They might say they were just in the neighborhood, but we love to see the cute hero beat up a few bullies who are hassling his lady.
So while women are sometimes attracted to dominant, powerful men, they don't want men to be wholly inconsiderate to them either. Some healthy balance between being self-interested and being interested in the other person is where it's at. I hear many, many more women complaining that their boyfriend or husband is "inconsiderate," a "jerk," or that he "doesn't care," than I ever do that he is a "softie" or a "wimp." It's important to me to challenge this stereotype that women go after jerks, because boys will get the message that they have to act like jerks to be attractive. Let's face it, these anime bishounen princes are attractive for other reasons: looks, grades, popularity, refinement, status, charisma, not because of their cold aloofness. And their initial jerk-ness is just there to set them up for character development. They often become better people by the end of the series.
- Renton from Eureka 7 may seem like he's a clueless jerk, but really he's just an angsty teen in love (so he obviously has sex on the brain). He doesn't know how to interact with girls, so he comes off as oblivious. His character develops throughout the show, and by the end, he is a kind, emotionally intelligent young man.
1. The Generic Male Protagonist
New from Kawaiicorp! It's Protagonist Boy! He has brown hair, no glasses, no hobbies, no special interests, and no defining characteristics! He's basically Bella Swan with a penis! He's as dull as dirt, but hot alien babes want to have his babies anyway! Say hello to the best protagonist you won't have to write or think about! Call now!
I internally fume whenever I see a new anime pulling this crap. And it happens at least once every season. He's an ordinary high school boy, and...that's it.
- Middle school, high school, or (more rarely) in college.
- Brown or black hair (occasionally some other color, usually dark).
- Brown eyes (again, with occasional exceptions).
- Does not have supernatural abilities or powers of his own, if there are other people in the school who do.
- Not usually exceptionally skilled or passionately interested in anything.
- Led around by the balls by female characters; be they tsunderes, yanderes, Mary Sue-senpais, or even complete psycho killers (like in Higurashi).
- Often the victim of an unwanted harem. Poor, poor guy...
- Stuff is explained to him in expository info dumps by said female characters, so they're usually written as a transfer student or freshman.
- Will have the infamous anime cliché spot next to the window in the classroom.
- Is going to be the "straight man," the only person who's not insane in the room, etc.
Why I Dislike This Type
They're boring. Basic. Their personalities are a blank slate. Like many female sex-object characters, their entire being is shaped by other characters' actions. Calling them "the protagonist" is sometimes iffy. They're better described as the main character or main viewpoint character. A "protagonist" is supposed to be the character who makes the story happen, whose desires, goals, wishes, and ambitions drive the story. For example, Ash from Pokémon is the protagonist, because everything that happens in the anime is caused by or linked to his desire to become a Pokémon master. But these characters are passive and weak. They're reactive rather than active. They usually have weak or no desires of their own, other than: 1) a hot girlfriend, and 2) to survive whatever situation they're dropped into.
- Accel World subverts the usual trend of the protagonist being average by making him short and chubby.
- Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion is essentially a deconstruction of this character type. Says something that this trope was already getting old when NGE first came out. Shinji shows the problems of having a very passive character as the main viewpoint character, and how that can be frustrating for the audience.
- The Genius Ditz: Oh my God how quirky and charming! NEXT!
- The Hot-Headed Shounen Fighter: Why get meaning out of the conflict or experience character growth, when you can just punch walls until you feel better?
- The Yamato Nadeshiko (Traditional Housewife Type): Yeah, that's what I fantasize about, a girl who will do my laundry and yell at me for forgetting to take off my geta in the house.
- The Overly Optimistic Girl: Makes me want to puke. (Except for Sailor Moon.)
- The Otaku Protagonist: Shows up in more and more shows now that isekai is a dominant genre. Usually a sign that a show is unfunny and unoriginal. Better examples are when the show doesn't glamorize otaku-ness, but shows negative consequences of that lifestyle, such as in Welcome to NHK. Other examples seem like they're just trying to stroke the egos of otakus. You get this in Western fiction now too, with things like Ready Player One.
- The Imouto: Anime's new and "improved" way to fetishize little girls, this time with 20% more incest! Thanks, I hate it.
Recognizing the Patterns
There are certainly exceptions, and many of the above characters I use as examples are still characters I like. It's just hard to see these patterns and tropes get abused so much that they become cut-and-paste shortcuts for creating "new" anime characters that just feel recycled.
The presence of a lot of the above annoying cliches in episode 1 of an anime will make me much, much less likely to click on episode 2. This almost ruined my enjoyment of, for example Re: Zero: Starting Life Again in a New World. Re: Zero starts off with a first episode that seems cliché as hell. You have a bland protagonist get put into a parallel dimension, much like in Sword Art Online or the dozens of other "ordinary kid sucked into fantasy world/video game" shows. Then, you have a heroic Mary Sue-senpai girl save him from some street thugs (also a cliché), and guess what, she has a TALKING CAT. It took me a long time to make myself watch more Re: Zero, which I did because I wanted to know just why such a cliché-infested anime could be rated so highly by reviewers on My Anime List.
So, I gave it a chance, and I found out that the first episode of Re: Zero is actually a kind of mask, and after that the mask comes off, and the reality of the anime is revealed. It's definitely worth checking out, I haven't finished it, but I'm definitely going to. And now, I know why everyone's talking about it. But if I hadn't stuck around for episode 2, I probably would have written it off as another cliche-filled blockbuster that appeals to the masses but not to experts and critics like myself.
If You Want to Write Your Own Manga . . .
So, if you want to write your own manga story, books about "how to draw manga" usually tell you how to draw these repeating character types, but they're not fun at all for the seasoned manga reader. Instead, play around with it and make sure your characters are unique, not clichés, but fully developed beings who feel real and human to us (even the non-human ones!). Putting a lot of thought into your characters is one of the most important aspects of writing, so don't half-ass it! And best of luck!
Questions & Answers
Question: Isn't Luna from "Sailor Moon" different than the annoying talking animal troupe? She's pretty serious and mature with Usagi.
Answer: I want to clarify because of many of the comments I've been getting that the examples I show as pictures are just examples of a trope. And disliking a trope because it's overused, cliche, or often poor writing, DOES NOT mean I dislike every character used as an example of the trope. The examples are simply used to show HOW the trope is used in popular anime. Individual example characters are mostly shown to represent the origin of the trope, and it's more well-known examples. That's so people can understand what the trope means. But the examples themselves are not bad. It's just that later, derivative works, did create bad examples, and every one of these tropes is pushing into cliche territory by being overused and often poorly executed. Saying you hate tsunderes, for example, does not mean you hate Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion, although she is (arguably) an example of a tsundere.
Similarly, I don't think Luna herself is annoying. She is one of the better "talking animal sidekick" characters. But this is a type of character I often hate in more recent anime because it's so often poorly written. Again, Luna is simply an example of a trope or pattern I dislike about more recent anime. Not a character I necessarily dislike per se.
Question: Where is Meowth in this list of annoying anime characters?
Answer: I liked Meowth. Especially the episode where his backstory is explored. Not always funny, but not the worst character in the show.
Question: Why do anime guys let the girls lead them by the balls?
Answer: There could be many reasons, depending on the type of show.
It allows a harem series to exist without there being any actual sex. If there was on-screen sex, it would push the show into being pornography. So to be acceptable on general TV in the desirable time slots, they want "sex sells" without actual sex. So harem shows often feature some kind of conflict that explain why the women who want to do it with the protagonist do not. It usually comes down to the girls being defiant and competitive amongst themselves. It might also be because a lot of anime have a loser protagonist who does whatever a girl tells him to do because at least a girl is actually talking to him. Examples: Kyon in 'The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya', the protagonist in 'Sakurako: Lovely Bones", etc.
Other times dominant women and weak men are played for comedy because it's considered funny to reverse what they consider normal gender dynamics - like with 'Prison School'.
Question: Isn't Asuna from Sword Art: Online a Mary Sue? She’s got to be part of the strongest guild, respected, comes from a rich family, etc.
Answer: Yeah, you could definitely make that case. Part of why I don't like SAO. The point of MMO games is that everyone is supposed to use strategy and fight collectively, working as a team. But all I saw in the episodes I watched before I dropped it was that either Asuna or Kirito charges in and saves the day each time, without much of the planning or strategy that goes into real cooperative game-play.
Question: Any recommendations that portray what a reasonable protag would do in the face of these character tropes, like tell them off, shut them up, or or just ignore them? I feel like that'd be... cathartic.
Answer: I can't think of that. With tsunderes, I feel like the work of Rumiko Takahashiii tends to handle them most realistically, and she's very good at writing romance between characters that starts out with a kind of mutual tsundere-ism that becomes a more mature and more benevolent relationship over time. I'm talking about Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2 mainly. I do feel like it'd be cathartic to see more realistic reactions to these tropes.
Question: Isn't the point of a dull protagonist in anime is to make them an "insert character," so the viewer can imagine themselves in their position?
Answer: I get that is the thinking and largely why so many are created. But I also think it's a fear on the writers' part to take the risk; if you give your characters strong opinions, then people might dislike them or disagree with them. I've never been able to actually "insert" myself as a skinny lollipop boy with shaggy brown hair, either. Why does that type get to be anime's "default human"? It's not relatable at all to most girls and women. It's not a bad thing to write that in for boys/men, sometimes, but it gets to be a problem when they never do anything else. I just think it just makes the protagonist uninteresting, and that makes it harder for me to get emotionally invested in the plot of the anime.
Question: Why nitpick mostly girls? Are you saying girls are more annoying/mean than boys?
Answer: This is about character types. The reason I dislike the character types mentioned is because they're too often repetitive, which makes new series with too many cliche characters "dead on arrival" in my book. I can't get emotionally invested in any stock character I've seen over a hundred times. If there are more female character types than male character types that have become stock character cliches, maybe the problem is that anime and manga authors have trouble writing good, multi-dimensional female characters.
Question: I think all of these tropes are okay to use if used correctly. Do you think the biggest problem is that these anime characters emotions and character traits never evolve or progress along with the story?
Answer: I think good writing can definitely make up for bad tropes, even cliche ones. I think the thing I want to see is like you said, characters with emotional depth and character growth. Characters can be a thing (say a Purity Sue), but if all they are is that one thing and nothing else, that's boring. It's a combination of wanting more realism (real people are complex and multi-faceted), and wanting more interesting characters (it's more interesting if characters change).
Question: What are your thoughts on the weird creepy antagonist who displays flamboyant behavior and shows an almost pedophilic interest in the young hero Hisoka from hunter hunter or Orochimaru from Naruto?
Answer: I enjoy Hisoka very much. Lol. I didn't watch all of Naruto. I can tell you the LGBT+ community wants representation of more positive same-sex-attraction in media. Sure. But I think I like how Hisoka is flirtatious and confident, in a way that reads as sexy in a playful way. I also like how badass he is. A lot of antagonists have some kind of subtly erotic tension between themselves and the protagonist. I guess I don't mind that as subtext too much. It can get creepy when it's an adult and a child though like that is a problem with Hisoka, I understand why certain moments with him might feel awkward. But it's probably also intentional. He's a bad guy, making the viewer uncomfortable is part of what makes them the bad guy.
Question: Why is Keiichi included in this list of annoying anime characters? He’s not the protagonist of Higurashi, it’s Rika.
Answer: Rika is an important character, but Keiichi is the protagonist. I guess it's up for debate and all, but the anime is based on a visual novel where everything that happens revolves around decisions you make as Keiichi. He's definitely the main character. Depending on the arc, Rika, on the other hand, can either be very important or not that important at all.
Question: Why exactly do you see Mami from Puella Magi Madoka Magic and Tougou from Yuki Yuna is a hero as the Mary Sue-senpai stereotype?
Answer: I think people misunderstand what I mean when I use an image of a character as an example. It doesn't mean the character is bad, or unoriginal, to be an example of this type. It's just that I'm sick of new anime always using this type, or having other characters (not pictured) in newer anime who don't move beyond the stereotype. They play the cliche straight and use it as a lazy device for quick and easy characterization without more thought. Yuki Yuuna and PMMM use the trope as a starting point, and then show the characters' hidden depths. But many anime I've seen use these tropes without doing that. Perhaps I should have explained better in the article. Anyway, they fit the basic pattern in both cases. Older than the protagonist, more of a "blue oni" type, more sensible, more elegant and refined. More experienced with the universe's magic system or rules. Elegant and upper class. Mami has her own luxurious apartment all to herself, and drinks tea, a symbol of this "ojou" type, and has princess drill hair. Togou has the long, elegant, straight black hair more common in this type. She's older, wiser, more mature, and just better at things. In both series, I like them as examples, because they both do/are more than that, but there are lots of examples of that type being used as a cliche stock character. Also, in bad anime, such characters are often stock love interests and the deliverers of exposition dumps. That's why I hate the TYPE or the CLICHE, not the specific examples of characters with traits resembling that type. I used images for reference from many well-known anime so that people would get that I'm speaking about PATTERNS, not individual characters.
Question: If Chibi Sailor Moon is 900 years old, wouldn't that qualify her as a child-acting adult?
Answer: It's kind of weird with her because her curse, as I understand it, meant she never really grew up, so she's still mentally a child, and she doesn't have a lot of real-world life experience since she's from the relatively isolated future Moon Kingdom. The question of what adulthood and childhood even mean in that situation is interesting. She's kind of like a knight on a quest, a quest to become a real adult. That's the basis for her character arc. I would not call her an adult just because of her chronological age, because she hasn't matured past a certain point.
Question: Have you, the writer of this article, ever read Fruits Basket? If so, what did you think of it? If not, I really recommend it. It does have a few of these cliches, but the characters have more depth and grow quite a bit throughout the series. I would definitely recommend this manga series.
Answer: Yes. Tohru Honda is what I was thinking of specifically when I was thinking of the unrealistically plucky optimist girl (but Vash the Stampede is kind of a guy example too). But the show is very good, I just thought Tohru sets an unrealistic standard for trauma recovery if that makes sense?
FireDragon1321 on January 08, 2020:
The Hot-Headed Shounen Fighters of the world are- for the most part- basically my collective problem children. But there is too much of a good thing, and the trope you mentioned is definitely 100% what turned me off to certain series. Training arcs in shounen also make me go on a berserker rage, because I feel they act as stand-ins for character development (on top of featuring verbally/physically abusive scenarios- I mean, some of it's a cultural thing, but some of it's just painful to watch). But a shounen hero who is written well is my jam. Tai from Digimon is a good example- he does have a short training arc, but it's written to address his fears and weak points as a character (not just to make him/his Digimon stronger), and he grows over time from an impulsive boy into a more level-headed leader- with a few bumps along the way because growing up is never easy.
In a similar vein, most of these tropes can be good if either subverted or made into round characters. Exceptions- Happy Magical Slave (aka- my main problem with the Fate series) and Generic Male Protagonist. Happy Magical Slave is about, well, slavery, and there's really no subverting that well outside of a "rebel against the master" plot. Plus it can't be justified for obvious reasons.
As for Generic Male Protagonist- I tend to like protagonists, so if a series has this guy, I will run for the hills. I don't know any of the characters pictured here, and I suppose it doesn't matter. They also tend to be red flags for bad anime and/or dodgy genres in general (harem, most modern isekai, etc). He's not a character so much as a warning. Needless to say, I voted for Generic Boy in the poll, as he tends to be the bad apple that warns you the whole bushel is rotten.
Weeb Master on December 30, 2019:
For the pictures you used i'd bet that you just searched up characters of the anime trope and chose like the first few different characters you got, and some that you know so that you can reference them to seem more credible. I personally agree and disagree with your post equally. Though, the things that I agree with are the opinion about the stereo type, and the things that I disagree with are about what that character trope really is. For example, there is no stereotype made for sexualisation except for the erotic stereotype characters like those who are overly flirty to a point that it's just asking to have sex, and not portrayed as a joke for the series.
I personally think that tsundere's shouldn't exist at all, but there are some very well written out ones. You can't exclude a character from a stereotype just because they have depth. Which is what you did with asuka. For the tsundere, they typically don't warm up to the character they like. You had also contradicted yourself when explaining this, "because real people have personalities for their own reasons, not just as reactions to a single person that their whole being revolves around." This is in the explaination. Here is the contridiction, "This character is supposed to be about how people bully people they like" this is in the reasoning behind why you don't like them. Based on this, it's not just a reaction to a single person their whole being revolves around. That second quote is a better explanation to what a tsundere is than the actual explaination that you put. And with tsunderes, they're whole being doesn't revolve around one person, the only reason why it seems this way is because they usually aren't the main character, so we only see the times that revolve around the main charaacter because the whole story revolves around the main character. Basically, it's not their whole being that revolves around the one they like (usually main character) only their screentime revolves around the one they like, like the screen time for all characters because all screen time for a story revolves around the story's main character.
Toru from fruits basket is a terrible example of the Unrealistically cheery survivor girl (unrealistically long title for a stereotype so I'll just say UCSG) because she isn't unrealistically cheery, she's just optimistic so that nobody worries about her, she's actually completely torn up about her mother and the terrible treetment from her aunt and uncle. For them, she puts a smile on her face out of fear, which is something that I do too for my brothers.
My house is full of hypocritical children and I'm the youngest, and as the youngest, I keep my mouth shut to make it easier through the day, but the thoughts in my head run similar to what the child acting adult characters say. I have my own pride and when that's broken through, I fall apart emotionally. Yukari from rosario x vampire is a bad because 1, she is not a prodigy, she is a witch which are typically many times smarter than others in that world. And 2, she does not demean older people because she is younger, even though it seems that way when we first meet her. It runs much deeper than age, it's the fact that she get's bullied for being half human, and as a way to get back at them, she pulls childish pranks on them. I feel like you only chose her to put as a picture example to further your argument on sexualising lollies just because she is in an ecchi harem anime.
There is another problem I see, light yagumi, the clueless jerk guy... light yagumi... clueless... I have a feeling that you are the most clueless person I've heard about because light has one of the highest deductive reasoning abilities in all of anime, which is the exact opposite of clueless.
I don't feel like typing anymore, so i'm gonna stop here, even though I have so much more I wish to say. I've been typing this on my phone while laying down on my back, so my hands are cramping up from holding my phone above my face while actively moving my fingers. But you get the idea right? Fact check before posting, though I'm being a hypocrite right now because I have never fact checked in my life, so use what I just said against me, I don't care, it doesn't change the fact that you fall under the same fault, have a wonderful day.
D on December 02, 2019:
I understand the stereotypes in full, but I feel the characters to represent them were not the best. Such as mami and tougou for the mary sue-senpai, they weren’t really that character, especially tougou since she was in a wheel for the majority of season on of yuki yuna is hero. Mami seemed like the character, but really only did it for show. Also madoka as the overly happy girl, i just dont see. She was an happy character but she was often indecisive , and scared
dude come on on September 20, 2019:
"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"
it's a japanese cartoon, many japanese people look like that. i'm japanese living in america and other (american) guys have thought i was a teenager well into my 20s, and people have thought my girlfriend (older than me) was my little sister, because white and black people age much faster and aren't used to people who don't, and aren't used to telling foreigners apart.
when a 14-18 year old girl is drawn curvy with big breasts it isn't realistically portraying her age for japan, it's making her look like a porn star or european immigrant. equating secondary sexual characteristics with sexual maturity is very racist.
Littoral Idiot on September 06, 2019:
Mami Tomoe is just too perfect? I guess crippling loneliness is a Mary Sue trait now.
Gossie on August 05, 2019:
Yeah, I know I'm late to the party.
Pfft. Wish fulfilment generic male protags. Yeah, they take it way too far. Hey, maybe one day they'll give them a single character trait that puts then at odds with the other characters.
Wait a minute. Were people still talking about NGE in 2018?
yeet on July 29, 2019:
also for adult acting kids, not so much as she kinds of acts like a bratty child in the beginning, but later we can see her warmer side, chihiro from spirited away kind of shows this because she is kind of like the women that work at the bathhouse when she was helping, but she isn't really bratty like most of the adult-kids in anime. only really in the very very beginning, but i can kind of forgive her because if i was her i may be like that if i was in her situation.
Ten on July 18, 2019:
The points you made about the mascot animal character doesn’t apply to Shippo from Inuyasha at all.
“Always happy and upbeat.” He really isn’t. He’s mischievous and is constantly arguing and being petty to Inuyasha. He gets easily stressed out in battles and it doesn’t take much to make him cry. When he’s first introduced he is trying to get revenge on the demons who killed his father.
He doesn’t have a catchphrase. And the only thing about him that comes close to a running-gag is that he isn’t good at shapeshifting and that he’s scared of Inuyasha.
Third one is accurate.
Doesn’t help or guide the main characters, because he doesn’t know a lot. More often than not the other characters are looking out for him.
He isn’t an animal, he’s a demon (and the part where you said that he’s part human is also wrong) demons are considered on par with humans when it comes to intelligence in this series.
The human intelligence part also doesn’t count considering he’s a child.
Isn’t the source of anyone’s power, and it’s a known fact that he’s a weak child, and relies on others to protect him. In serious situations he’ll try to help as much as he can, but doesn’t make a big impact because again- he’s a child.
He doesn’t mention the fact that he’s a fox demon very often. The fact that he makes fun of Inuyasha for being half human or a part dog demon it played for comedy though.
Doesn’t give a lot of exposition, and is the character who actually knows the least amount.... because he’s a child.
“Cute appearance, often acts child-like” as I stated before, he’s a child.
Light from Death Note doesn’t really count as clueless because his main personality traits are that he’s manipulative, self obsessed, and will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
The writers don’t make him out to be a jerk with a heart of gold. It’s known from the beginning that he’s just a jerk that knows how to get what he wants.
He’s fully aware of the people who are attracted to him, and he takes advantage of that. He goes on a few dates, and is seen cuddling Miss just to string her along.
Third one is hard to say, because his goal also involves manipulating some women, and it’s difficult to do what he wants when one of them is constantly trying to get his attention.
He doesn’t intentionally hurt girls feelings, but it isn’t used for comedy or drama.
Doesn’t really act in a way that implies he thinks girls are icky, but he’s just not romantically interested in anyone.
“Likely to be a red oni type” not sure what that means
He isn’t aloof or indifferent. It’s been shown since the very beginning that he’s kind of a bad person. Majority of his interactions with L consists of him being malicious.
Yes he doesn’t catch feels.
Doesn’t rescue anyone from danger. He only saved Misa because the shinigami literally threatened to kill him if he didn’t.
Last one also doesn’t work because Light is always mean to Misa when he’s impatient. He’s not a good person, that’s something that has been apparent since the start of the series.
irjn bhjisnx hbchcjnw on June 24, 2019:
tbh I agree with about everything you said. But I have to point the animal one. (of course which includes my favortie anime) I understand what you ment with the animals always giving the mc information. BUT the first animal you show (the blue cat) doesn't really gives information to the main character. This character also isn't the source of magic to ETHER of the main characters. He is helpful twords transportation and also have a past just like all the other characters. He is an important character to the series and could even fill a whole season based on him! I admit, he do look cutesy and kawii like all character animals but shouldn't be based on how he looks. This character also makes me laugh quite a bit! I still agree with your opinion but I don't think his charcter was a good example for your point. I hope my opinion doesn't offend you in anyway but I just wanted to point this out! I suggest you actually watch the show! I mean, It would be my favorite anime for no reason! :) Anyways I hope you see this and undrestad what I'm coming from!
Comic Writer 666 on June 16, 2019:
I'm sorry you feel this way, but if you hate these cliches then why even watch anime. Most of these characters go through this thing called CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and break away from their streotype. Why even watch it for the plot and the characters when you can complain about the people who have worked their asses off to make that manga/ anime and tried to make a character that could be developed easily. I've noticed that you've added Inuyasha characters and first of all how dare you and second of all these characters have been put through certain situations to help EVOLVE their characters. In conclusion, you can't watch anime without being annoyed for 5 seconds because of all the stereotypes you've put into your list.
Juliana McKenna on May 26, 2019:
I wanna fight about for the overly happy girls that take life with a smile even though life has treated them like trash. While I agree that japan tells its women to suck it up and forget about the societies blatant sexism, I don't think being "angsty" about your horrible life will breed any more future success. If anything, I believe holding a grudge for your past will hold you down and keep you exactly where you were before. The optimistic girls/boys are looking to the present and the now, not the past. And btw, almost everyone has traumas of their own, so you're right, they probably do have a "mental whatever" :/
Neld on May 01, 2019:
Hm. This article's got a lot more Shimoneta than I expected, considering the sex-negative tone of the writing. But you make some good points. Anyway I am pretty sure #1 occurs so often because the role serves as an audience self-insert for the Japanese male target demographic. It's not the main character, it's the player character.
Bread on April 17, 2019:
Tanya von Degurechaff is definitely *the* subversion to your Adult-Acting Child trope.
I Agree! on April 09, 2019:
I agree with all your points! These people are just butthurt 8 year olds.
Anon on March 29, 2019:
I wouldn't say the cheerful survivor is unrealistic but rather, the more realistic archetype. People who have had had lives are usually the most optimistic people you'll ever meet because they have become so strong from their hardships. Sure, it's natural to be upset and affected by tragedy but no point in being all depressed because of the past for all your life since things can only get better.
Fuck Sakura. on March 25, 2019:
Where is Sakura?
Ghost on March 24, 2019:
Honestly, most of the character types you mentioned are the ones i like the most. Some of them even actually help to explain the anime a bit more or make it more enjoyable to other people.ps. If you dont want characters which are too happy don't watch happy anime then. Most of the ones you had described are some of my favourite characters
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on January 26, 2019:
I dislike how that happened with Asuka. In the original Evangelion series, she was no-nonsense and took no crap from anyone, especially Shinji. In Rebuild, she acts like a stereotypical love-struck Japanese high school girl like you see in all sorts of other anime. Falling into this cliche pattern made her go from badass to boring, real fast. It's not wrong for a character to desire romance or have a crush, but for them to suddenly change character and become wholly devoted to someone else is a little weird.
Yanpo on January 25, 2019:
The worst for me, due to how overdone it is, (which can exist inside every other anime girl trope) is the “All of my life’s goals and ambitions are tied to or secondary to *insert male character*”. Especiall when it’s girls and women who were formerly competent and independent suddenly becoming what’s essentially a slave to the whims and desires of a man (sometimes another woman).
Danzig87 on January 24, 2019:
I hope I don't feel disillusioned for anime after watching these "cliches".
Hailey on January 09, 2019:
if there wasn't any tsunderes in anime would it really be anime? also why does it matter its not your opinion of how they make their anime's
Some Random Abnormalities on January 07, 2019:
It's philosophy. Don't ask the people.
Lily on December 05, 2018:
be Grateful!! they tried their best and your here complaining.Really?
Distain on December 02, 2018:
I'm not gonna say I hate this list, but I dont like it. It is very understandable as to why people would dislike these characters, as they are used way too often. But (in most series) the characters are unique in one way or another- such as when you posted Tomoya (main character in Clannad) in the 'generic main characters' I was a little surprised, as to I hadnt thought of him as a normal main character, but I realized that he really is. Character troupes such as these are found in a good share of anime, but the characters are still different and have different interactions based on their world, and other characters they have around them. I dont find any of these types annoying, but rather just 'uncreative,' which is fine by me.
But if these characters annoy you so much, then why watch anime? Theyre found in so many series, I figure it must be rather hard to find something that you like, right?
Gemsyut on November 25, 2018:
The Generic Male Protagonist is the most annoying but makes anime somewhat interesting and funny (but please count out the serious-clever type like Light Yagami).
The Happy Magical Slaves can be more annoying in some other ways but i think happy magical slaves makes the stories less interesting.
actually in my opinion, there is another type of chara who is more annoying than all the people in your poll. guess what?
it is The Lucky & Charismatic Bad Guys!
usually male, ugly, perverted, manipulative.... but by circumstances (or coincidences), there are always plot devices (or armors) that make them fascinating in front of people around them.
example? Buggy and Wafol from One Piece. they are worse than Mr Satan from Dragon Ball.
seriously, i hate these kind of people who are lucky enough to have their existence to be needed even by heros/heroines to reach their goals.
especially those who are just some random guys who basically are not related to main chara and their problems. but they become kick ass character who play important roles.
Blup Blup Bubble Guppies on November 21, 2018:
OMG YOU ADDED LIKE ALL MY FAVoRITE CHARACTERS AND BEING HAPPY ISNT CRAZY OR UNREALISTIC THERE ARE REAL PEOPLE whO ARE LIKE TOHRU HONDA AND EVEN TOHRU ISNT HAPPY ALL THE TIME!!! IN THE MANGA, SHE CRIED TWO TIMES ALREADY IN THE FIRST THREE BOOKS AND IS SHOWN TO BE EMOTIONAL AND BE IN A BAD MOOD AND STUFF!
wussdk on November 14, 2018:
clueless jerk guy, proceed to show light yagami, goku, inuyasha...
basically according to this list you must've hate 95% anime out there.
rxmembur on November 05, 2018:
I hate the noisy girl. when she does something 'eah' 'aa' 'ugh ' 'nee' this aint all of em
orzFingers on October 30, 2018:
The Unrealistically Cheery Survivor Girl/Boy is real. They're usually INFJ, INFP, or ENFP, but they're very optimistic.
I don't think the situations you proposed are realistic backstories (maybe they are in anime), but very cheery people do exist; they have to have a lot of resolve. Usually, if they can feel morally correct feeling happy, then they will feel happy. They're not going to feel that way if their mother died, but if they're just beaten down in society by people they can rationalize are morally wrong, then the person can feel good being happy.
Mako from Kill La Kill, for instance, is real.
Entertaining read, though.
YeetFam on October 27, 2018:
HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT THE GREAT MANKANSHOKU!
FairyTail Lover on October 25, 2018:
HOW DARE U CALL HAPPY ANOYING!!?
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on October 20, 2018:
Yeah Anon, I just watched School Days, which takes this to a logical extreme with a guy who ends up with multiple girls wanting him, but doesn't care about any of them whatsoever. But I think the point is they're playing that for horror. But yeah, it would be better if they had character growth than simply having a sociopath who dies at the end and never learns anything.
Anon on October 19, 2018:
I have found lately there seems to be a trend for borderline sociopathic lead male characters. Light from Death Note, obviously but also Kei from Ajin and (to a lesser extent) Haruo from Godzilla. I wouldn't mind it if the story used this as a starting point for them to develop as a character but they often don't (my favorite manga, Kiseiju, is a good example of this growth although in that case it's going from a regular teen towards a cold blooded person). Instead, it seems like the writers are trying to show this cold logical "I'm smart so I don't have to care about the world" as something to be admired in those characters...
Eosphoros on September 20, 2018:
My personal choice for the most annoying character is the "Crazy villain" or just crazy/insane character that always laughs or smiles at a dead body and always get excited whenever they kill someone. Now, I don't hate them because they kill people for fun, I hate them because they're so predictable and overused to the point where they might as well be holding a script and reading from it when they have to say their lines. It's pretty much gotten to the point where you can tell that the author has just given up on writing an interesting character and instead turned to a premade character, slapped on a name and a look, and there's the finished product. I hope I can get your thoughts on this character though. Some obvious examples are that girl blonde gril from Overlord, the bad guy from the Alfheim online arc of Sword art online, That one purple haired woman from Future Diary, and that other blonde girl from My hero academia. I guess Harley quinn is one too as well.
_ on September 15, 2018:
why do you even watch anime
Griffith on August 21, 2018:
Tomoya is generic? Okay. A depressed, realistic MC that doesn’t give a crap anyhow about pleasing viewers in the narrative (unlike kirito) is somehow generic. Just his nihilistic presence very much subverts him from “generic” MCs. I’ve seen plenty of generic shoujos/SOL and from from various dime a dozen MCs he definitely stands out.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 19, 2018:
"Sometimes, the clueless part is from the girl who doesn't make it any easier." True. That was a really funny problem in this one episode of original Sailor Moon with Mamoru and Usagi's relationship. She got mad at him for forgetting her birthday, even so much as slapping him for it. Only problem, she had never told him her birthday!
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 19, 2018:
I get what you're saying there but I just personally can't enjoy anything if there are too many cliches in the way it's written. It's like seeing a magic trick where you already know how the trick is done. It's only fun for people who don't know what you know.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 19, 2018:
She fits the type in the sense of coming from an old, prestigious household, being waifish, having the classic Japanese lady-like long black hair, pale skin, dark eyes, those things. It's a visual medium so visually speaking, she's that character type, if a variation. Fuu is the 'team big sister' type.
XaneKudo on August 14, 2018:
Hmm...let's go over each one and offer my opinion:
The Mary Sue-senpai: Only bad if she flaunts her perfection and gets no comeuppance for any wrongdoing. Honestly, it does depend on the other characters around her if it's welcomed or not.
The Tsundere: Harems and romcoms tend to take this and do the Love Hina approach, thinking it's funny. It's not.
The Overly Plucky Tragedy Girl: I think of Beast Boy from the Teen Titans Comics with this; he makes jokes and laughs because he's covering up his depression from losing his family. It's either that or be emo and possibly attempt suicide.
The Generic Male Protagonist: Sadly, not everyone can make a protag interesting. He's only there to promote the girls for waifu bait, who ironically end up pretty stock from a crapton of various tropes as a result.
The Clueless Jerk: Well, he's a dick. Sometimes, the clueless part is from the girl who doesn't make it any easier. Bonus points if she knows he's clueless from the get-go.
The Adult-Like Child: We do not lewd the lolis. That is all.
The Happy Magical Slave: CTRL + C The Overly Plucky Tragedy Girl explanation.
The Annoying Talking Animal: No one loves these...
Overall, some of these can be annoying, but only if they're used in the most basic format. Sadly the reason for that is because they're mostly catering to the otaku in Japan. We Western folk don't matter...for the most part.
Guy on August 07, 2018:
Eh, I don't see how these are necessarily annoying though. Tsundere's are the closest to annoying, and that's only because they're so overused. In that sense though I don't mind them either, because that means the market clearly likes them, and who am I to suggest that the majority is has the wrong opinion. Though, from a perspective of "this is my least favorite character types", this is entirely fair.
The only real issue I would take is that you're quick to throw people who like these character types under the bus, especially if it relates to some kind of fetish or desire. Like with the "adult-like child/loli" or "magic slave girl" things. I think it's overly prudish to say that with these things belong in porn and shouldn't be present in general entertainment. But even beyond that, you just straight up say people shouldn't like the tsundere/clueless jerk guy. I might be tired of tsundere girls, but I'm still into the tsundere boys that show up in shoujo occasionally.
Not really something to take issue with but you said in reference to Re;Zero "I probably would have written it off as another cliche-filled blockbuster that appeals to the masses but not to experts and critics like myself." I think that's a terrible mindset to have, rather snobby as well. I would consider myself an expert, and to an extent a critic, but I can still enjoy those kinds of shows. I don't go out of my way to dislike something on the basis it has popular appeal. I'd wager that most people who are "experts" don't either.
AnonER on August 07, 2018:
Omg! This was so funny and very accurate! I am a long time anime watcher and as a young woman I loathe these character tropes and the dreaded high school scene. With exception to Bleach, which I think has your entire list here, it somehow works for me! And Awwww, don't put Inuyasha here!! The thing is, I don't think I would like American tropes either. But, at least the action hero gets the girl over here! I always end up watching Shounen for the action, but get dissapointed in the end. Where is the freakin romance? The josei/slice of life I have come across is just boring. I want Black Lagoon, with romance! I feel like its a weird Japanese thing. Like flash panties with these young girls or have a happy slave girl. I don't mind a helpless girl as long as she develops throughout the series. I feel like fans always talk about slash and ships, but the creators of anime don't get it. Or they think we want a stupid love triangle. Or you should have to wait 500 episodes for a kiss. Are there any action romance anime, not in a high school setting? (Besides SAO)
Leehiepeleg on August 06, 2018:
um... you said Togo/Washio was perfect? a mary sue? you do realize she suffered from deppresion, tried to commit suicide, was overly strict and worrying (as a child) and also broke down the wall that kept humanity protected? Yep, definitely a perfect character with no flaws
also yuna was not in love with her or looked up to her! Fuu was the one treated as a senpai
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on July 15, 2018:
That's true. I'd say like with Togo he's a variation of this type. Many characters can fit the general characteristics a type but have some ways in which they differ from a typical example.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on July 15, 2018:
She is built from that trope mold, though she does differ from the mold in significant ways. Kind of like Homura in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I'd think of her as a version, style, or variation of the trope.
Yagami on July 15, 2018:
light yagami is a jerk but never a clueless person... he’s jerk and calculating...
Ambiguous on July 14, 2018:
I'm surprised you used Togo from Yuki Yona is a Hero as a Mary Sue senpai. To be fair, there's a lot of mary sue types but you focused on for whatever reason on the elegant, rich type. The show's characters are not written the best and it falls with the trend of magical girls with a dark twist, but I felt Togo was sufficiently flawed. Admittedly you don't see this until the latter half of the season.
There's actually a good reason for why she's a good magical girl given the Twist on her backstory.
Also, it's hinted earlier she's pretty pessimistic and can be gloomy and might have some form of depression or PTSD. You're not given a clear answer if Togo actually wanted to kill herself or was testing a theory she had about the fairies. And of course the big flaw is the finale where she almost destroys humanity because of how depressed she is by the hopelessness of their situation
Wjd on July 11, 2018:
Anime is becoming extremely over saturated, I hate all of these. Especially the tsundere, and also another annoying character would have to be the main character who takes shit from everyone without ever dishing any back, overall just being a pussy faggot boy who doesn't care if anyone disrespects him. Like people will slap him around and he'll just say something like "I'm sorry for existing!" It's pretty aggravating to see. Which is why I watch anime that I can relate to. Like berserk, hellsing etc.
Yumi on June 19, 2018:
You forgot the cute sexy blonde foreign exchange student.
Si on June 16, 2018:
Cheerful survival girl isn't exactly a slap in the face. Nor is it unrealistic. I've been pshyically and verbally abused, teased as a child, and other things yet I'm not butting heads with the world. A lot of the times when something bothers me it goes away. I've been pelted with things yet I don't walk around with a chip on my shoulder. I'd rather just not butt heads with people.
Shilpa on June 13, 2018:
Well, seeing all this,
what about the protagonist in saga of tanya the evil. That girl sure have some goals
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on May 17, 2018:
"It only means means that pretty much every anime is the product of lazy writing." Yeah, that is the problem. They're all copying other anime instead of thinking about how teenagers live in the real world. So what they make is a breathless imitation of anime, rather than something that feels inspired by reality in any way. Hayao Miyazaki said otaku should not be the ones writing anime. What he meant was that to be a storyteller, merely imitating other stories is not sufficient. It's helpful, but a good story has some grounding in real life, even with fantastical elements or unlikely events.
E on May 16, 2018:
Kimi Redfox your comment was the dumbest ever written anywhere congratulations. First of all "it's not rare for a teenager to be seen as perfect"? What kind of world you live in man. Teenage years are pretty much always made of acnee, zits, blackheads, mood swings, peer pressure and bitchiness. Nobody is perfect and everybody is well aware of that especially teenagers. Furthermore generic male protagonist are in every anime so you cant criticize them? It only means means that pretty much every anime is the product of lazy writting. And what the hell do you mean when you say anime character shouldnt be relatable?
Breanna on April 14, 2018:
I think the cheerful survivor girl is extremely insulting, never mind annoying. I can't believe you used Happy and Inuyasha as examples for annoying characters... I do relate to you on the article though.
Fred from SoCal on March 27, 2018:
My favorite subversive version of the animal sidekick is the cat possessed by Amanojaku in Ghost Stories. Make sure to watch the English dub. The subbed version is terrible and completely different.
123 on March 25, 2018:
you literally listed all the types of characters in anime...
Fred from SoCal on March 23, 2018:
Tora-dora has the classic tsundere in Taiga. That anime knew how to handle the character type and did it well with a convincing backstory of why she was "tsun-". Her slow evolution into a more "-dere" type was well done and believable. Ryuuji has his own problems. In the anime he starts out as a bit of a jerk with low self-esteem and an unearned reputation of badness. He too evolves over time and in a believable way to a better disposition.
Lazy authors just incorporated a tsundere into their stories because they thought the character type was popular. No effort to understand why she was "tsun" and why she would ever evolve into something different.
Asuke from Neon Genisys is definitely NOT tsundere. She has lots of "tsun" but no "dere".
IMHO Hitagi Senjougahara from the Monogatari franchise is a much better example of a well rounded and genuine tsundere.
As you pointed out, while it is *possible* to create interesting characters from any character type, most anime authors aren't that talented. They are working with prefabbed and generic characters and plots, not creating things from scratch.
Jonny on March 18, 2018:
Not gonna lie I found myself really into Inuyasha despite him being a jerk. I found it interesting and compelling in some way that he has so much trouble being open about how he feels. It's obvious he cares for Kagome but he rarely ever admits it during the majority of the show. Keep in mind though despite him fitting the trope of The Clueless Jerk Guy he has some pretty compelling backstory for being a jerk. His original love interest tries to kill him and he has no idea why. She also ends up dying though if I recall he didn't find out about it until Kagome woke him up from his slumber on the tree where he was frozen for decades and decades in place by Kikyo's arrow. I found myself really loving the show's romance. Yeah, I was often annoyed because Kikyo was resurrected and stuck around too long forcing Kagome and Inuyasha's romance to be in a near limbo state for most of the series. Kagome admits to herself in like episode 30 or so she fell in love with Inuyasha but he doesn't admit his feelings until the final episode of the final act which aired years after Inuyasha finished.But it's not entirely without development they grow to care about each other over time. Inuyasha eventually becomes a better man who finally admits how he feels for Kagome. In the end, it felt worth the long runtime to see them end up together. Plus I enjoyed seeing Kagome become less and less useless over time and finally start to become able to do shit on her own. Yeah, she never really reaches Kikyo's level on a lot of things I feel and she's certainly not ever as powerful as Inuyasha with his half-demon (technically called a Yokai in the original Japanese version, but he's basically a demon anyway) powers and his powerful sword. You could say he's a jerk and maybe verbally abuse to Kagome a lot but he's not really a bad guy he's just an angry guy. I mean he's a half demon so part of his personality can also be attributed to that too.
D on February 28, 2018:
You know, art imitates life and in this case I have worked with people like those described above, lost in a sea of introverts, social misfits, Lettermen (and gals) and the hermits.
The thing is these people do well when they have a common goal or work place (some stay isolated). How they fare in normal society however, one could write a book.
Just like at the work place a tsundere is usually avoided, the super smart loose their audience rather quickly or have to spend every waking minute describing everything to the laymen.
Anime in some cases may actually embellish on the rare social misfit or give us office satire.
Think I'm wrong? What about our fearless leader which is he? How about Ben Stine? The list goes on and on. Humans behave in ways that work for them and some are just plain mad.
What do you think?
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on February 05, 2018:
This even goes back to historical literature with Estella in 'Great Expectations'. Or 'The Taming of the Shrew', even older.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on February 05, 2018:
Maybe you're right, blackLeviathan. Maybe it's the gender-inverse of the "women want bad boys" trope. People want something that's hard to get. A bit of a challenge. A hunt. The tsundere offers boys/men that challenge.
blackLeviathan on February 04, 2018:
Regarding the tsundere female character I remember something related:
Some people made a psychological test. (Heard this in a psychology lesson and I think knowledge taught in school is the most neutral and true.)
The same/resembling women talked to different men and acted differently and tested which is the most popular. (It wasn't in Japan.) And the type which was the most popular reminded me strongly of tsundere. So I think the success of tsundere characters stems from the general preferences of malekind. (Joke)
(Sorry for the bad English and fuzzy sentences.)
Criticalwatcher on January 27, 2018:
Generic male prontagonists are the worst. Having this with a tsundere is a pain to watch, full of cringe.
Rosaphoria on December 28, 2017:
I liked Ana better as classic perfect girl with a twist. So pretty... Then she... Watch the show
B;ah on December 22, 2017:
God this is stupid.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on December 10, 2017:
Maybe, I haven't finished Darker Than Black. Maybe I should go back and watch it. :)
Crippled Dolphin on December 09, 2017:
Would you say that Mao from Darker Than Black is an interesting subversion of the talking animal trope?
Bob Franklin on November 10, 2017:
Honestly, it really annoys me whenever a girl with a tragic backstory acts all happy-go-lucky. Obviously in a real-life situation I wouldn't say that, but as stated this type of character is so overused.
What I dislike the most is that it puts anyone who had actually experienced trauma feel like crap for not having a "better attitude". The message is understandable yet easily poorly executed in a sense that these characters are doing so well JUST because they pretend to be happy.
A little rule of thumb, being honest is more beneficial to one's mental state than creating a false sense of reality. You can be tough and smile at anything comin' at ya, but at the end of the day, how are you feeling? What is stopping you from getting out of your situation? Are you being honest to yourself?
I get that my little rant is a bit over-the-top in regards to fiction, but my god it annoys me so much :/. Sometimes you really can't find solace nor gather the strength to do these crazy superhuman feats.
Seriously, what some animes could be showing is these character's flaws and weaknesses. They are hardly ever portrayed as that because the storyline often shows them using primarily their strengths rather their weaknesses. Which is good considering that is normally how the plot progresses at times, nothing wrong with that.
It is well noted that you do see moments where the tragic-girls have their moments of despair, but in the end, what are the things you mostly see on screen? Their mask of a face which has a plastic smile.
So that's my rant for the character I personally have most distaste on, I could be totally wrong but it's just an opinion I have on this cliche.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on September 03, 2017:
BadAtom, yeah, it's kind of funny. Show, don't tell. You don't need some random person pointing and staring and telling the audience "we are witnessing a fight". Unless it's Juri and Koto from YYH, then I don't mind as much ;)
BadAtom on September 03, 2017:
How 'bout that one person that stands by the side of a fight/battle and does absolutely NOTHING. They just stand around saying something along the lines of,"They're so powerful!"or,"The fight is so intense!" If you're just going to be there to ruin the mood, then begone. their exceptions like, the person is being save in someway (assuming the person is worth saving). PLEASE just give me pure action.
lul on August 30, 2017:
i hate the nerd type of characters, the ones with red glasses, a self cut hair cut, oh wait.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 23, 2017:
haha, yeah, I hate that one too. It happens in too many school anime. I otherwise like a new show called "Love and Lies" that's on Amazon Video right now but they did that, and I was rolling my eyes.
haha on August 22, 2017:
I hate the cliches where a male character "accidentally" trips and falls on a girl or a woman, only to get in a compromising position. It can be anything from boob grabbing on the floor to other areas of the body, or their face on the girls chest.
And then the female retaliates in as cliche and as annoyingly as possible by hurting the guy physically and mentally.
Whenever I see something like this in anime or manga, I stop watching it or reading it.
Chloe Jagmai on July 17, 2017:
This is very true but in the reality of it all the creators simply create these Animes because they like to see people happy about what they've made. They don't care if some people don't like it they only care that 1. People enjoy it. and 2. They get money.
While they work hard on it many people say bad things about their anime saying "it's so cliché". Their feeling must get hurt because of this but they still continue on with creating, they try to block out all the hate.
Personally I agree with you, but when I start getting tired of the same character type again and again I go to the animes that nobody watches because they are different and don't get enough attention for that.
While it seems that I'm arguing with you I am only takeing into consideration the good side to the characters that are so 'Cliché'.
Now just at take into consideration how these creators have a budget and deadlines, so they can't spend too much time thinking up new and wild imaginations and mind sets for these characters.
But hey what do I know I'm just some random Middle Schooler who doesn't have a life!~
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on July 17, 2017:
"without these characters it wouldn't be an anime" Uh no. I think anime could get by just fine without being so cliche and repetitive. It sets the industry back when they feel obligated to repeat tired cliches because of audience expectations and commercialism. That's why I prefer seinen, alternative, and indie stuff.
"...you can always laugh at the funniness or stupidity of the characters. Plus these character types are there to pull you in more..."
But the thing is, the 87th time I see the same old tsundere character, doing the same old huffing and blushing, because of the same old "ooh he tripped and saw up her skirt or landed on her boobs" scene, it's no longer funny or cute anymore. To the seasoned viewer, it just looks like they took a lazy way out of characterization and plot development. Basically, it shows a lack of creativity. It does not in fact, "pull me in more". It repels me.
Chloe Jagmai on July 16, 2017:
But without these characters it wouldn't be an anime cause you can always laugh at the funniness or stupidity of the characters. Plus these character types are there to pull you in more. Maybe Try Maid-Sama, cause the main Character is really smart, gets invited to a pristigious school, is the student council President, I don't strong, has good manners, but she isn't Rich and she works hard for all of this.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on April 22, 2017:
Yo, the rules of fiction and the rules of reality are different. It's just not a good character type in principle, because they're not unique or interesting in and of themselves. It's ok for a real person to be a certain way, but fictional cliches can make stories boring to the audience. That's the only problem I have with that. Like I knew a girl in real life who was like the "Mary Sue Senpai" type at our anime club, she had gone to conventions when I didn't go to any until I was out of high school, and I was jealous that she had the money to wear Gothic Lolita to school and collect expensive dolls. I didn't hate her, but that character type is boring and kind of lame, for the reasons I stated.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on December 04, 2016:
I never said I don't like that character type (the generic male protagonist) because it's unrealistic, but because it's boring and it makes any anime it's in seem instantly more predictable and less creative feeling.
Kimi Redfox on December 03, 2016:
I actually like some of these types.....I actually find them all hilarious in there own way. Especially Happy's type.....his name is Happy for godsakes! He's there to give Fairy Tail it's happiness! Also,he's never guided Natsu through anything and he's not always happy despite his name. Also..the whole generic anime protagonist thing...? That's like...every anime ever dude,get a grip. It's not rare for a teenager to be seen as perfect, especially in highschool, so I don't think that's too far of a stretch....like come on, stop comparing anime to real life,that's not what it is. The whole, "I don't like them because they don't relate to real life at all" thing is gonna have to stop because comparing anime to the real world...? Is pointless
somebody on September 29, 2016:
so.. basically don't like the anime ????
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 09, 2016:
Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!
"you are much more touchy than I am!"
I'm just being a critic. It means you have to point out what you don't like for the sake of showing the medium you love how to improve.
"We are trying to get on with our lives and make happy futures just like those who havent.... and if that makes us un mentally well or something, well... sorry? ^^''"
Good point, I guess what I was trying to say is, in these fictional examples though, this kind of person is often held up as the gold standard for how people dealing with troubling life events should cope, and not everyone can live up to it, or should be expected to. But everyone's reaction to trauma is going to be personally different. There is going to be a lot of diversity. These character cliches might be how some people react, but they don't reflect the complexity of real life.
SammyTehHooman on August 09, 2016:
This list I mostly agree with but I must say you are very much so more touchy than I am! With things like womens roles in the anime I dont entirely agree.
I for one am someone with a VERY tragic past (not bragging, just being objective) And therefore have met many people whove gone through similar incidents (losing parents, homelessness, sexual abuse etc. and im only 19)
I find it actually refreshing that me and my friends always smile and have a bright disposition on life. Why do people think that since we've been hurt we have to be doom and gloom? We arent FORCED to be happy or smiley, yknow? We are trying to get on with our lives and make happy futures just like those who havent.... and if that makes us un mentally well or something, well... sorry? ^^''
Anyways, I love your blog and will definitely be reading more!
Scribbling Geek from Singapore on August 03, 2016:
You're so absolutely right with this list. Nearly every highschool anime I had watched had that perfect Mary Sue senpai. And she's usually the head of too many things too.