5 lies anime taught me

Fiction lies to us all the time. Sometimes it lies in small ways, like when fairy tales promise a handsome prince. Sometimes it lies to us in big ways, like when every damaged character is magically cured by the power of love. But specific types of fiction lie to us in specific ways. What follows is a list in progress of lies that anime have taught me. There might be other, bigger lies, just like there might be other, better examples, but these are the ones I thought of first, presented here in no particular order.

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1. If she beats you, she loves you.

In a number of anime, mostly harem types, there’s the trope of a female character having a violent outburst against her male counterpart. This is not to be mistaken with tsundere where the girl starts off hostile or cold toward the guy then falls in love. No, this is like when Keitaro (Love Hina) will do something relatively innocent, and through wacky shenanigans, end up in a compromising position with one or more of the girls in the house and get the shit kicked out of him for his mistake. It’s meant as comedy, but stops being funny when you see it all the time. It gets to the point where you can guess who the main character will end up with based on who punches him in the first episode. This is not to say that this ecchi-style humor is a gender-swapped Domostroi—it’s meant as an exaggeration of real life. Only, it isn’t.

5 lies anime taught me

Women are, generally, rational creatures who understand when someone makes an honest mistake, and no one over the age of twelve hits the person they like. But anime would have you believe otherwise, because the only characters who act this way are the ones in love. Take Rurouni Kenshin, where Megumi playfully flirts with Kenshin to the annoyance of Kaoru, but we know that she doesn’t have actual feelings for Kenshin. There are very few circumstances in which Megumi would go as far as to strike Kenshin, but Kaoru hits him all the time. If this were a real relationship, this dynamic would be reversed, with the flirting girl in love and the violent one not.

2. In a love triangle, the girl will choose the asshole.

There are a few codicils to this one. The first being that a true love triangle must exist, by which I mean both men have to be viable candidates. This is not a Ranma ½ situation where everyone wants to bone Akane while Ranma doesn’t have any real competition. This is a Fruits Basket, Boys Over Flowers, Kitchen Princess, and anything Yuu Watase situation.

5 lies anime taught me

The second codicil is what makes this a lie. The guys in this type of series are only assholes because they’re emotionally complex and possibly broken. In real life, people say that women like assholes, but I’ve always had a problem with that. Mostly because it implies that these women are deserving of whatever shitty treatment they get by virtue of their attraction to bad behavior. That is victim blaming, and that is shit. The other problem I have with that saying has to do with the fact that women do not like assholes. They like confidence. They like charisma. These things feel like security or safety. It just so happens that confident, charming people can sometimes be assholes.

3. If you try hard enough, your parents will love you.

From Shinji Ikari (Neon Genesis Evangelion) to Kyoko Mogami (Skip Beat!), anime is littered with characters that have terrible relationships with their parents. Not going to lie, I’m a sucker for this trope. Something about a character naively thinking they can convince their parent that they’re worthwhile is heartwarming. It’s also wrong. No one can make anyone love anyone else.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s look at Paradise Kiss. This series is one that I personally deem important because of how honestly it deals with its main character’s relationships; however, it does suffer from this trope. The main character Yukari pushes herself in school in hopes that her mom will love her like she loves Yukari’s little brother. It’s not until Yukari becomes a successful model that her mother begins to see any value in her. That’s the problem, though; she’s only of value because she’s successful. If the stars hadn’t aligned for Yukari, her mother would still be withholding her affection. That’s not love, but the audience is supposed to believe it is.

4. As long as you believe in yourself, strategy doesn’t matter (AKA “the heart of the cards”).

There were times when I would be playing Magic the Gathering and I would be losing hard. You know what I mean: when you should have mulliganed but decided not to, because, hey, all you need is one blue mana and the odds are in your favor. Well, in times like that, I would think “heart of the cards”, because at that point, divine intervention is all that could save me. You know how many times that’s worked out? Zero.

No matter what Yu-Gi-Oh tries to push, believing in yourself isn’t enough. Sorry, Ash Ketchum, you have to actually think about your Pokémon and who they’re fighting against before you just send Pikachu out to fight a ground type. Beg pardon, Inuyasha, but you can’t just swing Tessaiga around like a drunken baseball player. Hey, Naruto, sometimes you have to do more than say “believe it” and punch. That goes for you too, Goku.

5. You can just get over your psychological problems.

This is what actually got me thinking about lies I’ve learned from anime. I was watching a show called Your Lie in April and I was annoyed that the love interest was forcing the main character to play the piano when he was clearly traumatized. That led me to think about Sasuke Uchiha (Naruto) only dealing with his “I witnessed my family get massacred by my brother” issues when it was plot relevant. And it also led me to think about Ren Tsuruga (Skip Beat!) creating a whole new personality to overcome causing his friend’s death. And I also thought about Gold (Macross Plus) mentally rewriting history so he wouldn’t feel the responsibility of hurting someone he loved.

5 lies anime taught me

I could go on and on from show to film to books, but I don’t think I need to to prove my point. You can’t brute-force mental health issues. I know this has more to do with Japanese sensibilities than anything else, but that doesn’t make it any more right. This last one more than the others is problematic, because it can have the most lasting effects. This type of thinking only fuels depression, because it makes you feel like you should be able to just get over it, but can’t.


These are by no means the only lies anime ever taught me. In the future, I may write about others, but for now these were the ones that stuck out the most. All I can say for certain is that I think anime is worth the lies. With the exception of that last one, I think believing in them is a small price to pay for quality entertainment.

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  • Bran Flakes

    Well, I mean, if you’re getting your life lessons from anime, you have the same problems as people getting their life lessons from TV. It’s not SUPPOSED to accurately reflect reality. They’re works of fiction. They’re supposed to tell a good story–or barring that, tell the sort of story that will make the most money. I mean, you can take this pretty far. “Whenever something dumb happens, people don’t dramatically fall to the ground! I can’t create weapons out of my blood! My hair doesn’t stick out at multiple strange angles! ANIME IS BULLSHIT!”

    I know it’s probably in good fun, but it does get grating after a while when people complain that fictional works don’t measure up to reality properly. They’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to be smart enough to realize your life isn’t an anime/book/movie/etc.

    • CthulhuBob

      Not true; bad fiction ignores reality, good fiction emulates reality. That is what makes the classics worth examining in detail over and over (i.e Shakespeare) and why bad fiction ends up on the trash heap of history (i.e. Stephanie Meyer). This is why we value entertainment so much, it holds up a mirror to our beliefs and requires us to reassess them. If that wasn’t the case then books, movies, manga, tv shows, music etc would be ephemeral and never memorable.

  • The Pud

    “The other problem I have with that saying has to do with the fact that
    women do not like assholes. They like confidence. They like charisma.
    These things feel like security or safety. It just so happens that
    confident, charming people can sometimes be assholes.”

    I have to wonder if this isn’t akin to saying “Women do not like cars; they like tires attached to power trains and vehicles with enclosures that they can get in and out of. It just so happens that enclosed vehicles with engines and tires can sometimes be cars.” ;-)

    At the end of the day there are many guys with excellent attributes that are not assholes but a lot of women just go for assholes. Like Jenny in Forrest Gump… who I guess had psychological issues she didn’t just get over.

    • Cameron Vale

      I don’t know about that. Imagine if, for example, women found Axe Body Spray to be extremely attractive. Women would be extremely nice to a man with Axe Body Spray because they wanted something from him, and the man would be a cocky bastard because he attracted women with so little effort. But other men who didn’t understand what was going on, and were maybe a little jealous, would only see a bunch of extremely nice women falling over themselves for a cocky bastard. edit: I’m not saying that these guys are wearing Axe Body Spray, that’s just a random example.

      • The Pud

        I’ve done it myself though. I used to attract women by being a complete asshole. It took a long time to mature and retain those positive aspects of self-confidence and temper them with a decent attitude and I think a lot of guys don’t bother. Of course you could argue this was a time in life when no one was being very mature. I also have seen a lot of guys attracted to women that were basically assholes too so I guess it works both ways *g*

      • FelixCatus

        I can tell you, as a woman, that neither I or any other woman I know find Axe to be attractive. Just saying.

  • Gallen Dugall

    So much yep. These are meme truths within the genre that are so prevalent that it turns me off from getting into anime much.

  • Thomas Stockel

    Good article. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this as a regular series.

  • Tim The Enchanter

    “Women are, generally, rational creatures who understand when someone makes an honest mistake … ”

    Where are these women? I’d love to meet them.

  • jbwarner86

    Ha, I never got into the Love Hina anime, but I read the whole manga, which is approximately ten thousand times longer and thus presents far more opportunities for these five girls to beat Keitaro to death for things that aren’t his fault. Right around volume 4 (out of 14, mind you), I started thinking “Christ, I don’t care which one of you psychos is secretly in love with him, just leave the poor dude alone and take a goddamn chill pill already.”

    Then I learned Ken Akamatsu based Keitaro on himself. Man, somebody’s got issues.

  • Wolf Zimmerman

    “…and no one over the age of twelve hits the person they like.”
    That’s not exactly accurate. Four letters: BDSM.

  • rpdavies

    Nice to see Love Hina get a mention, even some of my friends who know anime better than me haven’t heard of it. I discovered it throught TV Tropes & recently bought a full set of DVDs at a charity auction.

  • Sarah F.

    “You can’t brute-force mental health issues.” In the case of phobias and anxiety issues, actually, brute forcing things is a big part of therapy.