Have you ever encountered a person who said that anime makes them cringe? It’s a common sentiment. And while I can get defensive on behalf of the animes I love, I have to admit that even as an anime fan, there are times when anime makes me cringe as well.
Anime makes people cringe because of the excessive fan service, long-winding narrations, and character formulations. These elements can make an anime border on unrealistic, and while they don’t necessarily make the story less interesting, they aren’t exactly essential either.
To a certain extent, these elements can still be thought of as distinctive features of an anime. Some viewers even prefer having them incorporated into the story. Hence, I will expound on what it is about these details that end up making anime cringe-worthy for the general public. Let’s get to it!
Is anime always cringe-worthy?
It is very likely that not all anime makes you cringe. Many amazing animes do away with the cliches, and they are executed so flawlessly that even the most biased critics will have to admit that anime can be a medium of art.
However, these animes do not always get the recognition they deserve, as most of the better-known titles contain the typical elements that most people think of as off-putting. Because of this, the perception of anime as geeky and cringe-worthy continues to persist.
What is it about anime that makes you cringe?
1. Anime makes you cringe when there are fan service and harems
Anime shows that cater to specific markets can get rather excessive when it comes to fan service. Female characters are drawn with enormous eyes, large breasts, and tiny waists. Also, for some reason, their skirts are blown up in every episode. It’s no wonder that pre-conceived notions about anime tend to be negative.
Understandably, animations like these can be cringe-worthy for anime fans and non-fans alike. In fact, they can be outright disturbing because some of these shows are supposed to cater to young teenagers. Can you imagine your mom walking behind you as you watch this scene from Shokugeki no Soma?
Yep, I’d prefer that the earth swallow me then too. I’m sure no matter how hard I try to explain that it’s a cooking show, I can’t justify why this scene needed to exist in the first place. In any case, the over-sexualization of animated characters seems dodgey.
Harems can also make people cringe, as the entire storylines they perpetuate are unrealistic. You have one unpopular guy with barely any personality turn into the campus heartthrob as he, for no valid reason, suddenly has a plethora of females throwing themselves at him and fighting for his attention.
2. The lengthy narrations and self-reflections of the main characters can make you cringe
Animes that fall under shoujo and shounen genres commonly contain long expositions and dialogues about the character’s feelings and back-story. While there is nothing wrong with having such narrations every once in a while, having one every episode can be cringe-worthy for some viewers.
Yet this one can be chalked up to cultural differences, as Western audiences are generally not comfortable with long expositions about personal feelings. Meanwhile, although Japanese audiences are usually stoic, they admire people who are in touch with their inner thoughts and emotions.
Consider this table outlining the differences between anime and Western shows:
Exposition of thoughts
Emphasis on emotions
|Graphics and special effects|
Props and costumes
Traditional storytelling devices in Japan rely heavily on narration. Accordingly, as Japan is famous for valuing long-held cultural practices, they continue to employ these devices in various forms of entertainment.
In contrast, Western entertainment prefers to use graphics, props, action, and music to relay what is going on in a particular scene. While they also employ narration under certain circumstances, these are rare and minimal.
This is because narrations invoke memories of fairytales, with their classic “once upon a time, in a land far, far away” introductions. Since fairytales are thought of as children’s stories, shows that employ similar narrations as story-telling mechanisms are considered laughable by adult viewers.
Japan has a traditional storytelling form called the rakugo. It is a unique performance art which uses narration and minimal gestures to convey a story, instead of props, music, and costumes.
The performer’s voice is the primary method of expression, and they do not get up nor wander around the stage.
3. The cliches and one-dimensional character formulations can make an anime cringe-worthy
Most forms of entertainment fall back on standard methods and formulations that have been tried and tested. For example, romantic movies usually include a charming yet misunderstood male lead, an innocent yet intelligent female lead, and a conflict that would test their relationship.
There is nothing wrong with this because it works. In the end, the characters grow, and the guy gets the girl. However, this is not to say that these storylines are not cringe-worthy. They are called “guilty pleasures” for a reason.
Animes also contain numerous cliches and character formulas, and they usually subscribe to dere archetypes. Some of these include:
- goudere, who are forceful about their feelings
- deredere, who are innocent, pure, and simply joyful
- dandere, who watch over their love interests from a distance
Tsundere is arguably the most common archetype used in anime. Tsundere characters are those who act hot then cold, as they are too shy to show their true emotions. Nonetheless, they are shown to only put up a cold front, as they are truly soft-hearted on the inside. Famous tsunderes include Vegeta from Dragon Ball and Taiga Aisaka from Toradora.
Again, there is no problem with using cliches, except that some titles lean a tad too much on specific formulations. This is why some animes tend to have difficulty in showcasing proper character development. In the end, they are only one-dimensional, and they have no distinctive personalities of their own.
This is also why you have high school animes featuring 16-year old girls who act like they are no more than twelve. By leaning into the cute and sweet archetypes like deredere, some anime characters end up seeming mindless and cringey.
Consider this scene from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. Mikuru is a classic deredere, and even if Haruhi harasses her like this multiple times in an episode, she just acts lost and cute. But when you think about it, nothing about this scene is cute or amusing.
The fact that Haruhi frequently gets away with acting like this and that Mikuru never learns to assert herself can be quite frustrating and cringe-worthy for a viewer. Yet Haruhi is simply typecast as a tsundere, while Mikuru is being a deredere.
Still, despite all these elements in anime that can make viewers apprehensive, it is an art form worthy of a second look. You will discover unique plotlines, lovable characters, and insightful life lessons if you give it a chance. You just have to get past that initial cringe.