Christopher Booker, an English journalist, and author published a book in 2004 named The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. The premise of the book is an academic investigation into the nature and structure of stories and concludes that there are only seven basic narrative plots in all of the storytelling: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth.
Similarly, another author Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his rejected master’s thesis, “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper.” There are a total of six (close enough to seven) different graphs plotted: man in the hole, man meets girl, Creation Story, Old Testament, from bad to worse, and ‘which way is up?’.
Essentially, any story is bound to follow one of the six or seven possible plots. In the same way, stories will also typically include certain tropes.
Now, don’t get me wrong, certain tropes I enjoy. As well as that, tropes have often become tropes because a mass Populus have enjoyed viewing it – all of whom I shall label as mindless sheep, not that sheep had very much of a mind anyways – and I realise that I do not make up the majority of the people. However, since we live in a democratic world, I have the right to express my feelings of pure resentment toward certain anime/manga tropes whether you like them or not. Of course, I am not a pure cretin as, unlike them, I shall explain the reasons for my distaste towards them.
Generic, bland, self-insert protagonists
By no means am I saying that I’m ‘cooler’ than your run-of-the-mill anime MC, but I can’t seem to relate to these generic characters at all? They’re just too generic. I get it, I get it. They’re like that by nature, so whoever wishes to can insert themselves into the mind of the character and seemingly enjoy life in fantasy. But, no one’s like that in real life. No. One.
Everyone has some sort of eccentricity. It’s what makes us human. Stripping that away and giving us this ‘blank slate’ of a character to ‘paint our canvas with’ is just pointless. There’s literally nothing special about those sorts of characters, so much so if I see one, which is rather often, especially in isekai, I tend to close the tab I’m watching the show on and douse my entire device in gasoline, setting it on fire on a cross and accusing it for being a witch or hellspawn.
Yes, I’m exaggerating, but characters like Kirito from Sword Art Online, Touya Mochizuki from In Another World With My Smartphone, and Yuzuru Otonashi from Angel Beats just take the mickey. They’re completely forgettable, have no goals or aspirations, and they’re even shallower than the pool depth of a kid’s swimming pool. Not only that, but they all look similar…
The art of self-insert is hard, especially if you’ve got picky snobs like me. The simple thing is, a show needs a good MC with a likeable (or unlikeable, if that’s the goal) personality, some growth as a person, and maybe not looking the same would be nice. This would make the character a little more relatable and ‘human’.
Teenagers my age are saving the world
Is my hatred for this trope fueled with jealousy? Yes.
It’s on the other side of the spectrum from the trope above. Who knew reactive, mood-swinging teenagers would be the ones to save planet Earth or similar? I didn’t. So, now we’ve got characters like Monkey D. Luffy, Naruto, Ichigo, and Taichi Nishimura from Isekai Cheat Magician. Hurrah, hurrah.
Homer, a Greek author known for his legendary works, wrote a line in The Iliad which stuck with me. It was a speech by the King of Sparta Menelaus, he roughly said (translated by yours truly), “… a young man’s mind changes like the wind…” Yeah, they do. Look, if someone were to entrust a person similar to my age with this enormous and difficult task of saving the entire world, I wouldn’t trust them. I wouldn’t even trust myself.
What are the adults doing, sitting back in a reclining, watching the world about to completely screw itself over, sipping some prosecco with some nifty shades on? Oh, wait…
Maybe it makes sense. I don’t necessarily hate it, it just makes me feel useless really. What am I doing not saving the world? Sometimes, I tend to forget that this is all fictitious.
Overpowered or extremely intelligent characters
It’s one or the other. Has there been an example of both? I’m not entirely sure, so do feel free to let me know. Whatever it is, in order to defeat their enemy, the MC must need one of these two things. Oh, and one more thing, they’re destined to win.
Of course, they must go through hardships. This is often seen through the rigorous training that they do in Rocky-esque training montages. Yuji Itadori, Goku, Naruto, and many isekai protagonists (they don’t need the training, they’re just somehow gifted), all of them manage to be incredibly strong, defeating enemies that are leagues beyond their own. How?
Before you point it out, yes I did forget to mention Saitama. The reason for doing so is because I respect him. Him being overpowered is the gag of the series, and I respect that. For these other shows, it just doesn’t connect in my slow head.
Senku and Akira Shiroyanagi from Battle Game in 5 Seconds seem to possess intelligence that obviously far supersedes me. In fact, Albert Einstein would probably think, “Zere is no need for me, zey know all zese sings. Vy am I heere, just to suffer?” (it’s better if you say this out loud in a German accent) and immediately resign, escaping to the wilderness never to be located ever again – he’d probably be fending off predators with his iconic sticking out of the tongue.
At this point, I think I’m just writing out of jealousy…
Where are your parents, kiddo?
Parents are important for one’s upbringing. Apparently not for many anime/manga protagonists. I’ve noticed an incredible number of parentless main characters such as Gon, Naruto (he’s appeared on this list quite a lot of times, I promise that it’s not biassed), Mikasa Ackerman, Tanjirou, and Nezuko Kamado. Is it to make life easier by not writing in more characters? Or, is it because the creators of these series had a thing against their parents?
Saying that they are parentless, makes them orphans. But, sometimes it’s not even that their parents are deceased; sometimes, their parents just don’t want them, such is the case for characters like Gon, Ichigo Kurosaki, and Shiina from Narutaru. That’s quite sad, how un-parent-like.
This, of course, leads to big-time parent issues – a common theme found across adolescents these days, apparently. Oh no. Anyways, at least they can explore the world and be with their mates, going on adventures and the lot without a curfew. Being an optimist seems to lengthen your lifespan, I’ve heard, so I’m just trying to be positive. Perhaps, these protagonists’ parents were too negative/pessimistic?
Flashbacks when it’s a big moment
On a certain website, other readers and I agree with this statement: if there’s an emotional backstory during a fight, that character is as good as finished. In this manga, the name of which I have completely forgotten, we got to see one of the side character’s rather traumatic life and the decisions they had made to be out there fighting. I mean, I was a complete mess. Tears were flooding, my throat was hurting, and I could hardly breathe. Reading that back sounds like I’m describing something completely different. In the next chapter, that guy was left lying on the ground bleeding heroically.
Do I hate this? Not most of the time. But, it’s just that sometimes it gives away the fate of the character. Sometimes, a character I don’t like gets a random flashback. I don’t want to know why the character is the way they are, being all miserable and evil – just because you had a traumatic, parentless childhood doesn’t give you the right to destroy the whole entire world just because you don’t like it. Get a grip.
Useless female characters
Oh my goodness, I’m so woke that I believe that anime and manga poorly represent the female demographic. We must cancel them.
Apologies for my insensitive joke.
Female characters, I’ve come to realise, are often poorly written. Most of the time, their purpose is to be saved by the protagonist – a damsel in distress. They seemingly require a knight in shining armour, who oftentimes is not wearing a suit of armour and looks incredibly bland, in every situation possible as if they have no functioning brain. This is a problem with the writers.
If anything, men are more useless than women (uh oh, I think I angered male chauvinists and men with fragile masculinity and ego). So, please, I would like to see more independent, strong female characters who aren’t there for the sole purpose of pleasing degenerative men and their odd fantasies.
Once again, I must apologise for being rather political. It’s a curse of being a teenager. We just wish to focus on “the political and economic state of the world” as our representative Jaden Smith once said. I think I’ve taken a jab at a few too many people and groups today…
I digress. Tsunderes are characters that swing from emotionally hot and cold. They’re often very cold and violent to the people that they love – take Taiga from Toradora! – but they eventually open up and express their feelings. They’re an emotional rollercoaster to deal with. The thing about them is that you either love them or hate them.
The psychological aspect of it makes little to no sense at all to me; it’s like they’re thinking “I like you so I must hide this feeling and hurt you in any sort of way possible.” Isn’t that just a one-way ticket to disaster? Your love interest will absolutely despise you unless they’re some sort of masochist (as many anime lovers on Reddit are) who enjoy being stepped on a then different story, and your intentions of loving them will be completely hidden which means your love interest won’t like you back and it seems like your plans have completely failed and now your crush is with another girl or guy who actually shows affection. See where I’m going with this?
I guess they can be comic relief. I guess they can also be cute, like Tosaka Rin when she blushes or Hino from Quintessential Quintuplets (note that she’s my waifu of the show, which I think reveals a lot about me) when she blushes. Yes, blushing is cute. B-but, it doesn’t mean that I like tsunderes or anything… B-Baka!
Interrupted kiss sequence
Finally, this trope manages to get under my skin. I’m watching a good romance anime, giggling like a freak on acid while watching some cute, wholesome moments, and my eyes begin to get closer to the screen as the kissing scene comes. It’s initially awkward. Silence. They lean in closer. They close their eyes. DING DONG. Now they stare at each embarrassed and one of them stumbles to open the door. A great waste of my time, thanks.
What I would like to say is, how long does it really take to kiss? Stop taking so long. The tension of slowly getting closer literally makes my heart race at levels I never knew were even possible. Why don’t you just go for it? JUST DO IT. Lean in. Smooch. Done. Then the doorbell can go off and you’ve just established that you like each other romantically. The issue could just be solved.
Instead, we’ll never get them to be alone again, because their friends are right pillocks and braindead dummies and can’t read the mood, until next season. Great.
This article was rather long, making up for my month-long absence I hope.
Tropes are here for a reason. They are a motif because they are so popular and sooner or later they are bound to happen. I say that I don’t like these certain tropes, yet I’ll still find myself chortling to them, enjoying them. I suppose it depends on my mood too. This isn’t the whole list either. I think there are a few more other tropes that have gone out of my head; they’ll come out another time.
It is important to mention and clarify that this is my opinion. If you do not concur, you are free to do so. Democracy. The world of course is not black and white, it’s a whole multitude of colours with different perspectives and views.
Now, I’m going back to hibernate for a little while.
My pen name is Cheddar and I am currently a student. I enjoy writing, reading manga, and watching anime.