10 (Overused) Commandments of Anime

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When in doubt... list! I'm sure most of you have noticed by now just how run-into-the-ground some ideas are, even if you don't watch a lot of anime.

Is this a dancing anime?
Oh look, another mecha anime.
An ordinary guy? With non-ordinary lovers? Shocking!

But, there arises another typically vague question that I like to ask - is this necessary? Can cliches work? Is it possible to take these stereotypes and turn it into something good? Sometimes these can be good starting points - many good anime can garner interest by taking, well, a 'trope' as it can be called and putting spin on it, breaking the mold.

Of course, it would be better, perhaps, to start with a completely fresh premise, but in this day and age what IS fresh? Just about everything, if you look closely, can be considered a homage/rip-off/subversion/alteration/spin-off of something else, essentially. Although, perhaps, the major details can overwhelm the minor.

Well, on that horribly serious note I'm going to kick into the list after the jump, of 10 anime cliches that you probably know far too well by now.

These aren't in any particular order, just in case you're curious. To be honest looking back at this afterward this seems more of a rant than a list of cliches, but look of it as more of an "You Know You're In an Anime If..."

1) Strange Pheromones (Harem Rule)
Quite possibly one of the most common setups of any harem anime - one guy, twenty girls. The protagonist, no matter how boring, dull, and ordinary he may or may not be, will garner an impressive selection of girls vying for his affections, for little to no explicable reason. Even the most reputed of harem anime fall to this cliche - as much as the characters can be expanded upon and detailed and made into great people, they still all share one flaw in being as stupid as to fall for the same guy. An interesting harem anime, to me, would be one with more than one lead male, or secondary relationships at least - but then one has to watch out for the equal trap of Everybody for Somebody, not to mention utter confusion.

1A) Your imouto, but not really / Childhood friend / X years ago (Eroge/Ren'ai Rule)
Of course, harem girls come in many flavors as well, and with many predictable rules to them as well. One will appear to be of family relations, but actually won't be - this allows for the Little Sister stereotype (in combination with Tsundere at times) as well as Completely Legal Sex (not). Childhood friends, the kind that you grew up with since you were kids, are common. Frequently one can also find Enthusastic/Energetic Girl, Quiet Girl (in two variations: silent and strong or simply shy. Five times fast, eh?), the lolicon (although she's 18, of course), maybe a Rich Girl in the mix, and The Girl With A Large Rack. Wait, that's usually all of them, somehow. And of course, everybody is tied to a certain date in the past...

2) I Could Kill You, But I Won't (Shonen Rule of Villians)
Any group or faction that has a chance of defeating the main party, won't. And if they do, defeats never last more than one episode. To be fair, this rule applies frequently to American films/TV and video games as well, whether it be Bond's latest escape or That One Battle in The Beginning You Can't Win. But still, one has to wonder, when the villains have their ultimate goal in their grasp, why don't they just go for it. Aside from the rule that Good Always Wins, of course.

2A) Innate Ability / The Little Guy (Rule of Racing/Competition)
Also, frequently the hero is much unlike the most of us in that he possesses some hidden power that makes him either The Chosen One or a professional-grade competitor at whatever his field is (drifting, swordfighting, card games, etc). In any case, he will always appear to be weaker than his opponent, perhaps by many magnitudes, but will nearly almost triumph. Usually goes hand-in-hand with the above rule of villain haughtiness. Sometimes one has to wonder if we handed them a weapon (car, whatever) of equal or greater caliber, how great the wipeout would be. Unless...

2B) Proportional Upgrades (Rule of 9000)
If the hero recieves an upgrade that would give him an advantage in competition - a new sword ability, a turbocharger, new familiars - the Other Guys will quickly advance to the same level, if not greater. The rule applies in reverse as well - no matter how good you are, there's always someone better, a bigger bad guy. This frequently is abused to ridiculously improbable levels.

3) Newton Who? (Rule of Physics)
Breasts bounce. Things explode. Skirts fly up. Cars go sideways at 90 degrees. Ninjas jump 20 feet in the air. Tears are round and drop in slow-motion. Cuts open slowly before gashing furiously. Transfomation sequences stop time (and are really shiny). You always end up in a compromising position when falling. Stuff breaks when falling. Every object can be lethal in the right hands. Guardrails are invincible. Hammerspace is infinite. Any questions?

4) Improbability Drive Active (Rule of Normality)
Anything that has an infinitely small chance of happening, will happen. Anybody that appears to be normal, is not. (Exception: The Hapless Friend) Nothing happens unless it's in the nick of time, and in slow motion. Anything that appears to be useless, is not. "But...that's impossible!" is only said by the enemy. If friends deem a task impossible, that will only make it easier for the hero. Everything has a place and a purpose. This rule can also be extended for improbable starting situations that really make no sense to outsiders, but are fully accepted by the people in the show.

4A) Color Coded (Rule of Hair)
All characters are extremely distinguishable, with the exception of The Identical Twins, who will frequently swap identity, and possible become a running gag when characters confuse the two. No two hair color and hairstyle combinations are alike. It is perfectly acceptable for hairstyles to defy gravity, and possibly in some cases to change on their own when characters undergo a transformation. The main hero(es) is usually identified as the one with the most extravagant hairstyles, while less important characters may lack distinctive hair colors (i.e. blue, red, green) or faces as a whole. The exception is eroge and possibly ren'ai anime, where the protagonist will be as dull-looking as possible, frequently with gray hair. Also, as a corollary, frequently the most (and least) important characters will have exactly one outfit that they wear throughout the entirety of the series - if not an outfit, than at the least an identifying piece of clothing.

5) Good End (Rule of Dubbing/Rule of Endings)
99% of the time, everything will work out perfectly. Dead character, perhaps, will come back. Or maybe they will reappear as ghosts. In any case, their purpose on Earth has been fulfilled and they will move on. In romance anime, either all the girls will end up happy with at least one guy, or else they will relinquish their loved one peacefully. The bad guy will either die or realize the error of his ways - or maybe, just run away and swear vengeance another day, if a sequel is in order. When applicable, end with 1) a kiss sequence, 2) a pan up/fade out, 3) a still shot/group picture.

6) Partly Snowy With a Chance of Sad Girls (Rule of Weather)
The weather frequently reflects upon the moods of the main character. Sunny days are carefree and happy - especially if there's a lens flash added as they pan across the sun. Rainy days, 99% of the time, only occur when characters are sad or otherwise in a bad mood. The other 1% is when rain sets up for a romantic subplot, because only one umbrella exists among the main characters. Snow is an exception, as in most cases either a place will never experience snow, or is stuck in a situation of eternal snow.

7) Half-Laws, a.k.a Why Couldn't I Have Come Up With Something Better and Learned to Love the Bomb
- Life happens in neatly arranged, titled, 24 minute segments bordered by 2 minutes of singing, posing, and possibly dancing on each end. (Rule of Time I)
- In lighter fare, everything must happen in these 20-minute chunks, otherwise it's not worth doing. Heavier fare, as it is, gets to employ the 'cliffhanger' rule. (Rule of Time II)
- Take a break about 10 minutes into the segment to fade out and/or pose, returning afterwards to repeat the last minute of what you just said. (Rule of Eyecatch)
- If nothing exciting happens, it's alright to pretend it never happened at all, or only reference it with one line. Life must always be non-stop action. (Rule of Interest)
- Turn smaller and/or deformed when you are shocked or perhaps in a state of bliss. If possible, add facial distortion, losing your pupils altogether. (Rule of Chibi)
- There is somebody watching you out there, and you might just be aware of it if you're feeling funny. (Rule of Fourth Wall)



The only one I'd argue with is Rule 5 - a lot of anime don't end up happily ever after, after all. I wouldn't call the ends of the Rurouni Kenshin OVA's, Ayashi no Ceres, or Full Moon o Sagashite happy, to name a few more prominent examples. I think it probably breaks about even for happy endings versus unhappy endings.

Rule 3 ftw.