Once Upon a Cliche: Tropes and Anime

Tsun tsun, dere dere.

As I browsed through blog posts today on Animenano, I found myself looking at this post. I read it, and, well, it basically is trawling for opinions on the matter. Despite my extreme difficulties in ignoring the blatant spelling error in the blog’s very title, I couldn’t resist the urge to consider the topic of the cliche. For the random record, though, I personally prefer the term ‘trope’ for whatever reason. Probably just being a show-off, right?

Obviously, tropes continue to be utilized for a reason – they’re popular. Yeah, some of us will bitch about the sheer quantities of tsunderes rolling around in shows these days, but we’re far, far outnumbered by the folks who love the tsunderes; if not, you wouldn’t see it so much. So one could make the argument that tropes are economic necessities, insofar as they get people to cough up cash for merchandise and the like. But if I just looked at it that way, I’m ducking the responsibility of forcing my opinion upon anyone who will read this, something that would be a serious offense as a blogger – after all, what is a blogger but a public masturbation artist?

I’m divided over tropes. Sometimes, they’re awesome, and I’ll never get bored of them. In other cases, I’d like to burn whoever it was who created it in the first place. I suspect that in this regard I am like most anime fans; we all have our favorite flavors of trope, if you will. Some of us can binge on the vanilla, but others of us can’t stand it. Kind of like how I could eat Funyuns all day, and a lot of people hate them. To me, those Funyuns never get old! The tropes that never get old? The best friend who pines after the lead and never has a chance, sharing an umbrella, magical girls… I love these and more, and I’m sure I’ve seen them all at least ten times apiece, and undoubtedly many, many more.

However, speaking more generally, I don’t out of hand dislike tropes – the important thing here is whether or not it can surpass the fact that it is a cliche. Even with those tropes I like, a little variance here and there doesn’t hurt. But for those tropes I don’t necessarily enjoy, the writers really have to put some effort in; can the tsundere exceed her stereotyped role? Or is she just another crappy Sayaka Yumi (Mazinger Z) knock-off ? glo recently talked about how Taiga in Toradora! managed to put a new spin on the tsundere trope by having her acting in a tsun tsun manner out of regard for the feelings of others, not just because she was too embarassed to ‘fess up. That’s a trope done right.

There is another way for a cliche to be successful and not re-invent the wheel in doing so – if the trope is executed excellently, then it gets away with its derivative reality. Kanon 2006, for instance, was hardly groundbreaking. But it worked because it was done so well. Think about it – if someone told you you just had to watch this awesome show with this nice guy in it who moved back to his old hometown, and then helped these girls out, oh, yeah, and he has amnesia, and the girls are cute. And, um, he’s cousins with one of them! And knew all of them as a child at some point! I mean, holy fuck, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole if that’s what someone described it to me as! (Actually, I probably would since I seem to have a fairly high threshold of pain when it comes to anime.) (And when it comes to stabbing myself in the hand!) But Kanon 2006 took an over-used formula, and created something good out of it by taking the pains to get beyond its cliches.

So, as is so often the case, context matters. I can show you ten instances of shitty trope-usages for every good use, but that is, of course, the nature of the anime beast. Isn’t it sad to reach such a conclusion? It sounds like such a cop-out! At least I had a fun phrase in there, right? I think I’ll now refer to bloggers as ‘public masturbation artists’ exclusively. Hope it catches on. Then I can sue people when they use it on the inter-tubery and use the money to buy booze and DVD’s! Fuck yeah!

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2 Responses to Once Upon a Cliche: Tropes and Anime

  1. Karry says:

    “Obviously, tropes continue to be utilized for a reason – they’re popular.”

    Thats not the reason why. If there is one thing that can be said about human beings – its that we are slaves to habits.

    BTW, get rid of those annoying snowflakes, they make browsers lag.

  2. jacobian says:

    I think it’s important to remember that characters themselves aren’t carbon copies of a pre-existing trope; the trope itself is created in order to classify a group of characters.

    While this facilitates communication (it’s much easier to use a label like “tsundere” than it is to try to explain a character’s personality), it also has a dismissive function (if you’ve seen one tsundere, you’ve seen them all).

    In this sense, originality is a bit of an illusion, as it depends on your system of classification. When we recognize something as unique, it’s only because we pick up on its differences, rather than dismissing it based on its similarities.

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