The first part of this post can be found over at “I Drink and Watch Anime.” Irina kindly invited me to participate in a collaboration post wherein we discuss—as you can surmise based on this post’s title—problematic anime/otome tropes! Because the put-together and humorous Irina was thoughtful enough to include me on a topic that I actually feel comfortable writing on, how on earth could I turn her down? I’m so~ excited!!
Last time on “Shoujo and Irina Talk About Problematic Anime Tropes…”:
Shoujo: I personally see no problem with embracing the appeal of protective men, but the problem arises when otome companies and anime studios fail to recognize that there *IS* a difference between protective and possessive, and in the interest of manipulation of emotion and bringing things to the next level so to speak, they have potentially thinned that line to a frightening degree.
Shoujo: I will also mention that women are often made to seem weaker to enhance this trope, but otome MCs can still be capable, independent, and intelligent without ruining the protective bachelor/otome MC relationship. Even the strongest of us need protection sometimes. I think that otome could find balance in using multiple types of MCs; I would hate to have them eliminate mild, fairly dependent women entirely and I’d hate to see them besmirched as incapable, but I think that women who ID as more independent have a place too! Just like any media, we need heroines of all types!!
In addition, I agree that sexual harassment is NOT a compliment and that it needs to stop being used as a tool for plot advancement. I took issue with this in Code: Realize as I played through Impy Barbicane’s route; ultimately harmless, perhaps, but his advances were laid on so thick that, in my reckoning, they didn’t just skim harassment but landed there outright. No matter how the heroine felt, he kept up his advances. I was feeling particularly uncomfortable with that after a specific real life situation unfolded outside my local pizzeria, but I am confident that I would have been disgruntled with this behavior at any time.
There is a way to do lovable, childlike, and obstinately love-struck, but that way is far more reminiscent of Mineo from Collar x Malice than anything Code: Realize produced, and it bothered me.
Even in Hakuouki (my beloved, beloved Hakuouki), we have verbal examples of men putting the responsibility for their arousal on women (read: You better not say such cute things, or I won’t be able to control myself.); it isn’t enough to ruin the game, and I understand that–rather than allude to a real possibility of assault–their intent that Chizuru feel appealing, but this wording is generally unacceptable in most situations, is it not? And it seems more and more prevalent all the time. Let the man tell her she’s appealing; don’t normalize this type of problematic beating around the bush.
And, um… about being cornered, Irina? If *Husband* wanted to corner me, that would be okay because he is Husband and very not scary and we’d probably just end up laughing in each other’s faces, but anyone else I would be very scared. Because that happened to me once before and I just wanted to cry… It was very Not Good™.
Irina: Look, there’s nothing wrong with being shy or reserved. There’s nothing wrong with being accommodating even to extremes as long as you realize it will probably never be appreciated. But there’s no excuse to stop thinking. These types of portrayals are why to this day some people have a natural subconscious bias that women aren’t smart, or at least *as* smart. It’s why when we picture a mad scientist it’s almost always a man even though labs are becoming real hen houses.
C’mon main characters, we can do better. I regularly bemoan the sad reality that brains and ingenuity don’t seem to be regarded as desirable traits. This is not a very reasonable approach for our gene pool. And that sorry state of affairs is made triple obvious in our dating sims. Even characters that are supposed to be “smart,” act like complete idiots and are amazed by the simplest things. Childlike wonderment is charming but at a certain point it becomes a developmental damage.
This is probably the main attraction to yaoi dating sims. Main boys often have a bit more going on upstairs. To be honest with you guys, the only traditional otome heroine I could think of that I wouldn’t be too nervous letting her handle sharp objects is Lulu from Wand of Fortune. She was the best and I genuinely enjoyed embodying her. (From the anime, Yui of Kamigami no Asobi generally seems like she has her stuff together as well). On the other extreme we have Fuka from Oz Mafia who is such a complete moron that it’s become one of the best, most hilarious features of the game. Not for a single second did I see myself in her, but man do I love laughing at her.
Just once, I would really love to see an MC clap back when being patiently told she can no longer choose for herself who she can socialize with. Just kindly let the guy know his input is noted and considered irrelevant but we can still go to the park or whatever… Do people really go to dates in parks you guys? I mean I get it when your date is a magical animal boy but seems a little…old fashioned maybe. As I was typing the sentence I imagined it in my head and actually, if it’s not -20C outside, it could be pretty nice. I take it back.
Just once, I would love for an MC to not be an actor in one of those old as seen on TV infomercial and be capable of doing one thing by herself. Tying her shoes, making her dinner, taking a decision.
I understand why main characters are so often meek. Cultural differences mixed with the desire of creating a character that is unassuming enough to be used as a simple vessel for the player, is going to create invariably pleasantly bland heroines but why oh why do they have to be that stupid?
Ok that’s not seduction, it’s lying….
Yeah yeah, we all know that a lot of otomes are essentially a game of guess what your virtual crush wants to hear. Obviously, telling the young players that the way to get love is to change everything about yourself isn’t exactly the most empowering message but there’s another reality here that doesn’t get discussed quite as much. Why are all my romantic suitor options all so intellectually fragile and limited as to be unable to accept anything other than a super specific point of view?
Whether you’re supposed to be blindly agreeing with everything or endlessly berating them or just playing the martyr saint, most otomes will allow for one right answer. Sometimes only one right and everything else wrong, sometimes several neutral but generally, you have one right option. This makes sense on a game design level, but you do end up with a bunch of characters that seem like moody little children with some impressive mental limitation more than anything else. And I’ve noticed that some people do approach their potential partners with exactly that frame of mind.
They feel the need to placate them and humour them not because that’s how they’ll win their favour but simply because they’re not entirely sure the poor darlings could handle anything resembling and actual conversation. They might get a headache…
I can’t count the number of people (both genders) I have seen feint interest in a particular subject or hobby just to artificially create common ground. Once in a while you do end up developing a genuine interest – great! Most of the time it becomes unsustainable and one person eventually admits they don’t actually care about the thing. You just end up with a lot of wasted time, boring evenings and someone feeling bad because they made the other endure something unpleasant without meaning to.
I will however, attest that I see no harm in the usual “pick a bachelor and figure out what he needs to hear” formula of otome games because, when I play them, I consider this part and parcel. For me, it’s exploring worlds in which the MC genuinely feels the way I’m portraying her rather than simply conforming for the sake a man; however, I do see where it could become a problematic midnest if someone applied to real life the theory that the goal of wooing someone is worth sacrifice of personal beliefs and interests. I would hope that no one would seriously consider this tactic under the influence of otome, but I do, like you, know people in real life (who have never played otoge, mind) who have faked their personalities for men… it has never ended well.
On a related note, one of my favorite things to do is sail into an otome blind and pick only answers true to me during the first playthrough that I might see, in a fictional universe, the timeline and relationships in which I’d end up. 🙂
To be fair, there are some otomes out there that manage to avoid these tropes. There are also some games that have all of them but are still super fun. Dating sims tap into a fantasy element that is pleasant and healthy to explore. If you haven’t tried at least one, I urge you to do so, you may be surprised by just how engaging they can be. Let’s just all remember our grains of salt.
I would like again to thank Irina for inviting me to participate in this collaboration post! Let us know in the comments below (or over on Irina’s blog!) what you think about these (and other?) problematic otome/anime tropes! ❤