Monday, October 18, 2010

The Tiger's Top Ten: Most Illogical Anime Tropes

Hi folks, we're always looking to expand our boundaries here at the Anime Addict's Logbook, so in this vein, we're trying something new (for us anyway) and taking a stab at a Top Ten List! Today, we're looking at what I take to be the Top Ten most illogical concepts that ever came out of the world of anime and manga. So, without further ado, let's get started, and I hope you enjoy the ride.

Joey: Hey Yug, how'd'ya get ya hair to do dat?
Yugi: The heart of the cards Joey, the heart of the cards.
#10. Never a Hair Out of Place

You really gotta wonder how much hair gel some of these anime characters use to keep their hair looking like it does. Whether it's the floor-length locks sported by the Shinto priestesses, or the incredibly spiky hairdo's often worn by fiery male leads, the management requirements for staying incredibly fabulous have got to be prohibitively time consuming, not to mention, expensive. Most normal folks would never even conceive of going to such crazy lengths...  um, so to speak. Even if you didn't take the hair care expenses into account, how would anyone ever be able to move, much less fight, without their hair getting out of place, or having it catch fire, or getting sliced off by rogue samurai swords, or otherwise being damaged. It might even be an impediment in some cases. I believe I touched on this recently, in regards to the character Nobuto, from Bus Gamer, but how hard would it be for someone more iconic, such as Jessie from Pokemon to run around and actually cause trouble with that long inverted pink chameleon's tail she's sporting? Of course, probably the most flamboyant example of the impractical hair trope would have to be Yugi Moto from Yu-Gi-Oh! Whenever I see a picture of this guy I'm not sure if he succeeded or failed at what he was trying to do. Did he dye it in layers? I don't even want to think how hard it is to do the bangs and not ruin the rest of the do, and this is a kid working on this. Some adults would have trouble putting this together. His grandpa must be rich to be able to afford all the haircare products too. In all fairness, I did find a couple of pictures of cosplayers who actually have pulled it off. Even so, I don't know why anyone would want to permanently wear their hair that way, much less how anyone would have the time to prepare it on a regular basis, which is why Yugi Moto is my prime example of Illogical Trope #10.

Yuuko: I'm so above worldly concerns that I don't even
need to change out of my bathrobe to wait on customers.
#9.   Loose Flowing Clothes are Perfectly Practical (especially if they look like they could fall off.)

The varieties of clothing that anime characters wear are many, from the school uniforms to the bad-ass trench coats and combat suits. However, among these costumes can often be found the most impractical outfits for combat, or just about anything else. Of course cowboy dusters and heavy trench coats or cloaks, such as the one worn by Abel Nightroad in Trinity Blood are a regular gimme.They aren't the most practical in a combat situation as they impede movement (in spite of what anime studios tell us to the contrary). But there are worse offenders out there. One of the more outrageous examples I've seen is the attire worn by Yuuko Ichihara in xxxHoliC and the Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. Just about all of her outfits are impractical by design, at least the ones she wears around the shop. All those strings and beads, and never mind the various kimonos and such that look like they're barely secure and might just fall off at any second. Then there were some of the heavier costumes, lavish cloaks and even a few corsets in the mix. There were a couple that had me wondering how she could move at all. Therefore, she's a prime example of illogical anime trope #9.

Careful Amelia,
you could put someone's eye out with that finger.
#8.   Overly Dramatic Poses and Gestures

We've all seen this happen. Someone makes some crazy comment and someone else falls over. Or maybe while revealing the culprit of a crime or conferring blame, someone will dramatically point their finger in someone's face. And let's not forget those dramatic poses you see when the protagonists make their grand entrances. Light from the anime Death Note, is notorious for such exaggerated actions, as he writes the names of the condemned flaringly into his book while dramatically chewing his apple. But some of my absolute favorite offenders in this category are the main cast from Slayers. Almost all of them have done every one of the more commonly cited gestures at one time or another, and one of them, Amelia, the princess of Sey Ruhn, routinely does them all in the same scene. It may as well be one of her trademarks that whenever she sees evil being done, she will discreetly climb a tree to pose dramatically while lecturing said villain, pointing at them, and then, because of her clumsiness, falling in a heap in front of the very confused evil-doer. While a lot of these poses are indeed very funny and can even look cool, in real life, none of them would look natural at all. In reality, they'd just be silly. In fact, you'd be more likely to lose your balance and really fall over if you ever attempted them, not to mention, you could easily hurt someone else, which is why this trope takes the #8 spot.

Mikuru: As soon as I get out of here,
 you'll be hearing from my lawyer!
#7.   What Girls do When No One's Watching...

I think this must be some sort of otaku thing, but for whatever reason, in a lot anime with more than one female character, you'll find scenes involving girls groping each other. More often than not, it's the result of some girl being jealous of another female's breasts, and wanting to give them flak about it. You'll see this more often in anime for older viewers but some of it can slip out in venues for younger audiences. The victim of such activities is often a well-endowed but shy character who has everything going for her except for the self confidence to fight back, and though she will often pull away, or express embarrassment, she won't do anything else. The reason this is so impractical is that, most of the time, girls rarely grope each other in real life, for various reasons. For one thing, while it wouldn't be unusual for a fellow woman to be impressed by a huge rack as many such victims have, and maybe even express her awe verbally, she isn't likely to just walk up and start caressing them unless there's some compelling reason, like maybe if the two were really close and the girl with the breasts of note had consented. Most people would imagine a horny otaku who had lost control doing that before they'd imagine one girl doing it to another out of spite or jealously. This is a hard fact of of our psychological reality that Haruhi Suzumiya brutally exploits to get away with doing this to poor Mikuru in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. For another, such behavior in real life has consequences. If a girl doesn't want to be touched in a certain place, she will generally defend her right to be left alone, unless she has no self esteem at all. Further, a lot of this stuff seems to happen in intimate but otherwise public situations such as in a bathhouse, or in a room in a school. If the victim in the situation didn't kick the assaulting party's ass, it's highly likely that she would have plenty of witnesses to back up any potential sexual harassment charges, should a polite (or perhaps not-so-polite) reprimand be insufficient. My best guess is that situations like these exist more often as a perverted fantasy of the authors. Needless to say, if any of Haruhi's hijinks had occurred in a real-life situation, Mikuru would have quickly been convinced by those around her to request a restraining order which is why I have given this trope the #7 spot on this countdown.

Kenshin: Blah blah blah revolution
blah blah don't wanna kill blah blah blah...
Random enemy: Snooooorrreeeee...
#6.   Talking is a Free Action

The title of this trope comes from the practice of allowing players in a tabletop RPG to converse about their combat strategies as a fight progresses (And also as a way to prevent folks from having their characters physically punished by being unable to move if they shout something in battle.) The reason for this being that while a combat is going on, most players don't go in with a strategy and have to figure out what the heck everyone else is doing as the fight goes along, but the premise is that at random intervals during a tense situation, someone will spontaneously stop the action just to talk trash about who is going to get their ass kicked. Sometimes it will go into a more philosophical vein where someone wants to discuss the meaning of life, or perhaps talk about what's going to happen after the fact, or maybe give the opponent some juicy plot development. Whatever the reason, it's totally unrealistic especially in fights. After all, most real life-or-death fights are pretty short anyway, and even if it's more drawn out, once you've traded blows, crossed blades, or dodged each other's bullets a few times, you're gonna be so tired out you'll barely be able to keep yourself breathing, let alone have the attention span to exchange witty banter. Don't even consider talking to your opponent about the meaning of life unless he's weaponless and immobile. He'll kill you before you can say "42." It also shows up in hostage situations, chase scenes, and just about anywhere else that dialog would be inappropriate. Yu-Gi-Oh!, once again is a gratuitous example of this. With as much airtime as is devoted to lecturing their opponents as well as each other about friendship, Yugi and his buddies could probably have kicked Maxamillion Pegasus, Seto Kaiba, and Marek Ishtar's respective butts ten times over.  Perhaps one of the best examples I can think of, is the anime, Rurouni Kenshin. As lovably badass as many of the characters in the show are, they can't seem to have a single fight without someone stopping to engage in dialog. We all love Kenshin and his reverse-blade awesomeness, but he and many of his opponents are some of the wordiest samurai I know of, making his show my prime example of illogical trope #6.

Yusuke: Hey Hiei, you sure you don't want any help?
Hiei: Don't be a kill-stealer, you'll get the big villain later!
#5.   There Can Only be Two

Isn't it always this way, you have the protagonist whom you're rooting for and the antagonist and in the end they have to go man to man in order to determine who will emerge victorious. But why does the hero have to go it alone? Surely his friends deserve a piece of the action too, right? Apparently many anime producers seem to disagree, which results in each supporting character either having to take a turn with the villain alone, or sit out the entire fight while making comments from the peanut gallery. The argument could be made that it spawns from that old idea that you shouldn't get involved in someone else's personal battle. It definitely makes more sense in some martial arts series where if someone else were to jump into the ring while the fight was going on it would be socially inappropriate. But, that being said, it happens just as often in situations where everyone has a personal stake in what's going on and should therefore be doing everything possible to get rid of the enemy. If the villain is only barely able to fend off the hero, imagine how hard a time he'd have if he had to deal with the hero AND all of his friends at the same time. Unfortunately, this is not considered by many anime characters, and some of the biggest offenders in this category would have to be the main cast of Dragonball Z. Any time Goku goes toe to toe with just about any enemy in the series, or when anyone else does it for that matter, it always seems a foregone conclusion that they are going to try to take down their opponent without help. Usually, a lot of them will get their butts kicked and a lot of effort is wasted as each character is sequentially defeated until the hero gets there. Thinking about this logically, if the villain of the year (most villains seem to last that long at least) had to keep his eye on like five or six attackers at a time, including Goku, rather than just dealing with one overpowered Z fighter at a time, the Z fighters could probably knock each enemy out six times as fast, and probably with fewer fatalities (not that death matters much in the series after a while, the deceased'll just be wished back with the Dragonballs anway). This is also taken to new heights in Yu yu Hakusho. At least in the earlier part of the series, you almost NEVER see the main cast helping each other, even if the situation is serious. Granted much of the fighting takes place in fighting arenas, but even in the outside fights, the characters are compelled to take turns for no other reason then "It's my turn to go in." Somewhat amusingly, they'll even point it out from time to time. It's so intrinsic to the show that in the original Japanese titles of some of the episodes they'll even tell you whose turn it is. There are subversions to this on very rare occasions, but for the most part, only two there are. A villain and a hero. And that was trope # 5.

Random enemy: Hey Goku, are you sure you're all right?
You are? Okay, I'll just...   wait over here then.
#4.   The Epic Transformation

So the big bad villain is about to unleash his or her most devastating attack. It's almost the end, but wait...   our hero still has some fight in them, and they seem strangely confident. What gives? Suddenly, they take some odd fighting stance and start screaming their head off (are they in pain from constipation?), either that or say something totally ridiculous (usually to the affect of "I've been holding back, now I'm serious!") calling on the forces of...  whatever... to trigger a strange transformation montage that takes forever. Ten minutes later, the character has become more badass. Maybe they've gained more muscles, or a shinier costume, or maybe they even just revealed that they were a robot all along. Whatever it is, they're suddenly much more powerful and ready to take on whatever they're facing. From the perspective of needing to control dramatic tension, it does make some sense, but from the perspective of a pragmatic character it has so many drawbacks they'd be more likely to think of the cons before the pros. If you are a villain and Usagi from Sailor Moon suddenly waves her hand in the air shouting "Moon Prism Power!" in front of you, you aren't going to just sit there, and let her finish transforming into Sailor Moon. You are going to knock her over, and you are going to pound her to a pulp because she was dumb enough to stand still for you (though I really don't condone actual violence in any way, shape, or form, let's make that clear). The same goes quadruple for the characters in Dragonball Z again. I mean, it has sometimes taken a whole episode of them just standing there while Majin Buu or Freeza, or whoever the villain was, transformed without even trying to stop him. Maybe they're trying to be polite? I don't know, but I tend to think ceremony loses its importance when the fate of a planet is at stake. Better to knock out the enemy before he's gone into final phase and has the chance to get scarier. The same thing happens when any of the protagonists go up another Saiyan level. There's a whole lot of buildup and screaming and then suddenly the transforming character has more hair and their shiner. Most enemies have ample time to rush in and stop it, so why don't they? Oh well, whatever it's faults, this trope is one of the things that helps to make anime memorable, and that's why I've picked it as trope #4.

Random enemy: Um...  shouldn't you be resting right now?
Ichigo: What? I only lost my spleen, broke half my ribs,
 and got stabbed about 5 times, this is nothin'!
#3.   Just Put a Band-aid on it, You'll be Fine!

Last episode, our hero got the ever-lovin' crap beaten out of him, and whether he won or not, he looked like he belonged in a hospital. Blood had been pouring out of him like water out of a spilled bucket, some of his ribs were broken, and he looked like he might have damaged some important organs. By rights, he should probably be in the Intensive Care Unit. But somehow, he's not. At most he's got some bandages and he barely seems to feel it. He's probably just chillin' at home or in the locker room, or wherever, waiting for the next fight. In real life, it generally takes a few months for serious injuries to heal properly, never mind the resetting of bones and rehab, and all those other inconvenient things that generally require injury victims to not move around much for a while. The worst offender I've seen so far is Bleach. Now before you start arguing with me about how everyone in that anime has spirit powers and they've got Orihime to save everyone, I'd like to point out how many times Ichigo has walked out on the battlefield with bandages still affixed, and yet he doesn't even look like he's suffering that much. Even a guy with an iron will is gonna be hurting in a situation when there's a big gaping hole in his stomach that hasn't healed to the point where the bandages are no longer needed. Aside from the official members of the soul society who get a pass because they are technically not alive, many of the main characters are mortals, and have mortal limitations, at least earlier in the show (I haven't seen up to current time yet), and yet it's like band-aids cure everything in this series. I'd love a universe like that, but it defies just about any medical knowledge anyone has ever learned, which is why I give this trope the #3 spot.

Final fight with Vicious, Real Life Version:
Spike: *Bang!*
Vicious: *Dead*
Spike: *Having avoided all sword wounds,
returns to the Bebop for bell peppers and beef.*
#2.   Swords are Just as Good as Guns, Really!

This is one should be obvious. There's an old saying that you should never bring a knife to a gunfight, and there's a reason why. If you bring a blade of any capacity to a gunfight, 99% of the time, the gunman is going to win. Why? Shall I start with the fact that a gunman doesn't have to be anywhere near you to shoot you dead without a chance to fight back? (Bullets go a hell of a lot faster than even the most practiced sword arm.) Or maybe I should start with how a gunman can take cover and doesn't have to face his enemies head on. And then I should probably continue by adding that if said gunmen has an automatic or a semi-automatic weapon, the survival ratio goes down to fractional percentage points, unless you can get behind the guy before he merrily peppers the environment with lead messengers of death. The sad truth is that a sword is almost always outclassed by gunfire. Now I say almost because there are limited exceptions, mostly involving attacks from behind (anyone's going to be surprised to find a blood-stained blade skewering them from that angle), but for the most part, there is no other way to defeat said gunman, unless they don't know how to operate their gun or they have horribly slow reflexes, neither of which should be counted on. That being said, characters that do it, are totally awesome. Case in point, Vicious, from Cowboy Bebop. He manages to give Spike the fight for his life not once, but twice with nothing but his katana. It hasn't been confirmed whether Spike didn't survive the second fight. Now if this fight could have taken actually place, Spike probably would have won hands down the first time, as long as Vicious's more conventionally armed friends didn't shoot him first. Now that we're done with #2. The final ultimate illogical trope in all of anime is...

Dude! An arrow did that?!
#1.   The Laws of Physics Don't Apply

There's a running joke among anime fans that whenever you try to apply the laws of physics to an anime, somewhere, a catgirl dies. There's a reason for this joke. Most of the time, even if there is something close to logical physical boundaries in an anime, they are often subverted by not being applied correctly. (Although, the same could be said about just about any cartoon these days, we just selectively ignore them.) For instance, even in anime that are set in contemporary settings, characters can do things like jump too high, or end up staying in motion or halting it in ways they never should be able to (almost as though Earth's gravity decided to switch out with the moon's that day). But especially in less realistic settings your going to see some pretty over-the-top stunts that make you wonder "Wait, what planet are we on again?" This one probably has a hand in a lot of the other tropes we've already discussed for a number of reasons, but the main one is because breaking the rules the right way makes things awesome. When we see characters beating each other senseless in midair like in DBZ, it looks cool! In space battles, we should never be able to hear the explosions in Irresponsible Captain Tylor, but we do. Why? Because it's cool! Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke, should never really be able to behead a guy with an arrow, even if his bow arm is possessed, but who cares! Everyone who has seen the movie remembers it because it was so graphically incredible. Somewhat surprisingly this trope can be incredibly selective, especially when it comes to the way clothing hangs around a persons body, or in the case of more realistic productions where characters actually have some physical limitations, but otherwise it will generally hold true, to the point of creating some amazing visuals. And that is the Tiger's #1 most illogical anime trope.

Well, I hope you had fun, thanks for reading, and join us next week for my review of Gokusen!

Images taken from Bleach, Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball Z, Princess Mononoke, Rurouni Kenshin, Slayers, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, XXX-HoLiC, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Yu-Yu Hakusho

1 comment:

  1. I agree with a lot of these, there's been so many times when a group of characters split up to fight 1 on 1 when it makes no sense for the characters to do it, when it seems like it confers no advantage. Most of the time it seems forced or unjustified in the story, though more recently I think there have been some occasions where reasonable justifications were present. I think it generally made sense in Naruto's chasing Sasuke arc, since the antagonists just needed 1 person to get away and the protagonists had to make sure they caught up to that one key person. Soul Eater had a similar scenario when they were trying to prevent the Kishin's revival; it was another chase that seemed set up to have 4 1v1 fights, and the strategy for it seemed well thought out. Although in that, all didn't go as planned and they ended with with kind of a 2v1 and a 2v2. So maybe the trend on those is down.

    On the #1 trope, I have to mention Advent Children, it is a prime example of the laws of physics not applying. There's too many examples in it to name, and Nomura even said something about that in an interview, something like "There will be people who say that people can't jump that high or people can't stay in the air that long, but we decided not to care about that, as long as it looked cool." But I can't deny that's something I love about anime.