May 11, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.