Top 10 Worst Anime Clichés


Clichés, or Tropes if you fancy, are rampant in every medium. However anime is one of the worst offenders of all. Directors and writers use these conventions to an unsettling extent, mainly to move a show along faster. This is because most clichés, tropes, and archetypes are so familiar that we immediately produce conclusions that the writers and directors don’t have to do themselves.

That’s not leaving them off the hook though. They are still terrible in many ways and just the sight of them makes us cringe. So, in no particular order, here’s to the 10 worst anime clichés that most could so openly do without. Face it, we’re better off without them!

Overuse of Archetypes
cliche1Nothing turns me away from a show more than when the protagonist enters a room and immediately you can call out each archetype.  These are attributes of a character that come straight out of the “how to make a crappy anime” handbook.  The tsundere that gives an interested look before turning her head away with a “hmf!”  The expressionless girl who screams the emotionless doll.  The hyper genki girl who jumps onto someone’s shoulders.  The mid-life crisis sensei.  The list goes on.

As mentioned earlier, these are used to produce pre-conceived elements that require no explanation.  Readers and viewers immediately connect and know what they are dealing with, allowing for the story to move forward quicker.  However it’s in this that we find one of the unseen faults to it.  It makes for shallow characters.  Characters we’ve seen before that get no explanation.

The Over-Sized Bustcliche2
I’m not oblivious to the reason for this one.  Sex sells and anime producers know this.  Unfortunately this pulls from the show itself in unfortunate ways.  Chests that defy gravity, break logic, and leave our characters with painful repercussions.  Alright, that last one was made up, as we know none of this has any reality to it.

Sadly, explained in the fan service section of this article, this element creates a horrible effect to the show itself.   It takes the focus away from the plot, it ruins the character, and overall is just unneeded.  Then there’s the constant play off of it by the women who are not so well endowed.

Harem Conclusion
cliche3Sadly this is one of my most struggled with clichés.  I can’t count how many shows I’ve immediately turned away from the moment I discovered that it either has a love triangle or a harem.  You have one boy (usually oblivious) that is surrounded by many possible mates.  Usually there’s a girl who just doesn’t mesh well with the protagonist, however somehow in the end he chooses her in some way.

Why I generally hate these shows is because there’s always one girl who is absolutely perfect for the protagonist, yet he will at some point break her heart and walk away.  Then there’s the fact that these shows are generally left opened and the protagonist never really ends up with any of the possible girls.  It always leaves me heart-broken, it never goes anywhere, it’s overly predictable, and I’m never happy in the end with how it goes.

cliche4Only the Youth Can Save Us!
Ring any bells?  This is the case where there’s some evil threat endangering the future of mankind.  The only chance we have to thwarting this danger is by enlisting young children to fight it off.  This is generally in the form of large robots that they pilot or some other form of weapon.

This cliché is typically used as a way of connecting to young anime viewers and buyers.  However it’s also an easy way to tap into the general audience that likes to see young love or younger women.  Unfortunately this also means for a lack of innovative story concept and the use of other more annoying clichés.

Oblivious Boy
cliche5That typical male protagonist.  Usually found in harems or rom-coms.  Even though he often encounters a girl who is throwing him hint after hint, he typically brushes it off as if the girl is just being weird.  All to often, those around him point out his stupid nature as being just flat clueless.

This becomes even more annoying as we run into harems more than anything.  Which, on top of the typical harem conclusion, makes me especially hate these shows.  It often leads to heart breaking moments where the protagonist, after many episodes, finally acknowledges a character.  Only to brush them off for their new-found interest.

Is it a boy or a girl?  That is the question.  These wonderful creations have been confusing men and woman for ages.  It’s your male characters that gives off feminine charm, or your female characters that dresses in such a way that they could come across as a boy.

This cliché is often more annoying in the case of becoming an overused joke.  Often forcing the protagonist into question his sexual preference due to becoming semi-attracted to the trap before realizing the true gender.  The often side damage to this issue is often that traps are never fleshed out as characters and are often thrown in as sexual confusion and repeated gags.

School Setting
cliche7Yeah this might seem weird, but in the world of anime this one is the most overused cliché ever.  As it’s titled, this is a show that is set in a school.  Not technically a modern school, but any type of building for educating.  Taking often the form of a training location for knowledge in equipment, magic, basic knowledge, etc.

Sadly, similar to the case of “Youth Saving the World”, this is often an attempt at connecting to young viewers or appealing to people who enjoy young love and young men and women.  Also similar to that, it often leads to stories, settings, and plots that are lacking any unique or ground breaking elements to them.

This also always brings up another annoying and overused cliché.  How every character ends up in the same class.  Or when a bad person enters the show, they somehow end up in the protagonist’s class.  How this is technically possible with the many possible rooms and large attending numbers is beyond logic.

Moving into the second part of the school setting cliché is the clubs within schools.  I’ve always wondered what the ratio was for anime to club shows.  No doubt it’s pushing near a 1 in 3 show ratio.  It never fails that when I see a club come up in a show that I’m immediately turned away.  That’s not to say that there is no redeeming value in them, it’s just that they typically follow the typical outline over and over again.  Always lacking in any real plot or character development.

Comedy shows are the biggest offender in these.  Often using a club as an excuse to bring a level-headed person into a room full of archetypes and random jokes.  Forcing the level-headed character to point out every crazy situation and play off each joke in the book.

Magical Girls
cliche11Transformations, batons, cute mascots, school girls, magic, and cute characters!  Yes, that all adds up to magical girls.  Similar to club shows, anime is full of them.  Easily taking over another 3rd of that ratio.  Taking a random girl who’s usually in school, offering her powers to fight enemies, and secretly saving the world in the shadow of night.

There’s a few gems out there, but typically magical girl shows offer nothing unique or interesting when it comes to plot.  They follow the same outline over and over, only sprinkling minor changes here and there.

cliche10Obvious Fan Service
Beach episodes!  Photo shoots!  Bath taking! Bathroom walk-ins!  Clothing damage!  Convenient gusts of wind!  The list goes on!  Fan service in anime is the obvious attempt at cashing in on the love for the female anatomy that many have.  It’s the panty shots, excuses for bikinis, and the best way to avoid real story progression.

Yes, I insert that argument once again.  Beach episodes is an entire episode of no story progression.  Bathroom walk-ins are overused and easily explained but never.  One can’t take the story serious when having chests fly in front of the screen or panty shots covering the shot.  It’s tacky and tasteless in many cases.

That concludes this list of top worst anime clichés!  There are hundreds of other terrible sins of anime writing, but we only have so much time to pay tribute to them.  If you have a most hated list of anime clichés, let us know in the comments and thanks for reading!

Co-Founder of and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 1300 shows. Outside of Otaku Spirit, he has been a judge for the Anime Awards and aided in reviewing titles for some publishers. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Sharing this joy, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.

  • By CSarracenian, April 28, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

    “Magical Girls”




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