Top 50 Anime Cliches

Top 50 list of Anime Clichés

There are few people who love anime more than I. Anime like Yu-Gi-Oh, DragonballZ, Evangelion & InuYasha set a standard of majesty and wonder and immersion that American cartoons struggle, and usually fail, to match. And yet, as I watch the latest masterpiece to come out of Japan I sometimes can’t help the feeling that, somehow, I’ve seen it all before…

  1. Hair Principle #1
    The main character will have some sort of spikey, overgrown or shaggy hair. This hair will be preferably cooler looking than anyone else’s (save the main villain). Basically the cooler (or bigger) the hair, the more important that person is to the plot.
  2. Motivation Factor
    The hero’s home town, city, slum, or planet will usually be annihilated or his/her parents will have been deceased or seperated which motivates him/her to fight for freedom/justice/love.
  3. Female Accomplice rule #1
    At least one of the hero’s female accomplices will fall in love with him. He is either oblivious to this fact despite obvious signals/hints or semi-aware. If he is semi-aware of this, he will steadfastly deny it, as will the female.
  4. Female Accomplice rule #2
    Someone else at any point in the story will inevitably be attracted to the female accomplice, causing the hero to get jealous.
  5. Logan’s Run Rule
    Anime characters are young. Very young. The average age seems to be 15, unless the character is a decorated and battle-hardened soldier, in which case he might even be as old as 18. Such teenagers often have skills with multiple weapons and magic, the ability to perform superhuman feats, years of experience, and never ever worry about their parents telling them to come home from adventuring before bedtime. By contrast, characters more than twenty-two years old will cheerfully refer to themselves as washed-up old fogies and be eager to make room for the younger generation.
  6. Single Parent Rule
    Anime characters with two living parents are almost unheard of. As a general rule, male characters will only have a mother, and female characters will only have a father. The missing parent either vanished mysteriously and traumatically several years ago or is never referred to at all. Frequently the main character’s surviving parent will also be held hostage at some point by the villains, awakening the hero’s inner powers.
  7. Some Call Me… Tim?
    Good guys will only have first names, and bad guys will only have last names. Any bad guy who only has a first name will become a good guy at some point in the game. Good guys’ last names may be mentioned seldomly but they will never be referred to in the plot.
  8. Female Accomplice rule #3 (Misty’s rule)
    The more the female accomplice argues with the male lead, the more that she is actually in love with the hero.
  9. Law of transformation #1
    The hero will have a special power or device that allows them to transform into superior versions of their normal selves. Being good-natured and pure-hearted, they never use these powers to take advantage of everyday issues and only use them to fight the villains.
  10. Law of transformation #2
    When the time to fight said villain comes (as is indicated by the Bad Guy Theme™) they will stand bolt still either hold the transformation device or start unleashing their inner power, the music throbs with the show’s theme and a lengthy change takes place. This same animation is repeated for every episode in the series. The villain is held still during this time and never even thinks about destroying the heroes while they are transforming.
  11. Female Accomplice rule #4
    The female accomplice that is secretly in love with the hero is always taken hostage at some point in the series so that the hero can save her. This holds true even when the female character is clearly more powerful than the male character.
  12. Vengeance Rule
    Whenever the friend or lover of the hero dies, the hero will hold them in his/her arms and yells the character’s name as the camera pans upwards towards the sky. They will then seek vengeance on whoever did this and unleash a secret power from within.
  13. Hair principle #2
    A Male’s hair color is usually restricted to black, brown or blonde, but females can have every hair color imaginable.
  14. Law of Physics
    Any law of physics that applies to the real world is 75% or less applicable in anime.
  15. Hey, I know you!
    You will accumulate at least three of these obligatory party accomplices:

    • The spunky princess who is rebelling against her royal parent and is in love with the hero.
    • The demure, soft-spoken female mage and healing magic specialist who is not only in love with the hero, but is also the last survivor of an ancient race.
    • The nauseatingly cute mascot who is useless in all battles.
    • The tough-as-nails female warrior who is not in love with the hero
    • The achingly beautiful gothy swordsman who is riven by inner tragedy.
    • The big, tough, angry guy who, deep down, is a total softy.
    • The hero’s best friend, who is actually much cooler than the hero.
    • The grim, selfish mercenary who over the course of the series learns what it means to really care about other people.
    • The character who is actually a spy for the bad guys but will instantly switch to your side when you find out about it.
  16. Hey, I Know You, Too!
    You will also confront/be confronted by at least three of these obligatory villains:

    • The amazingly good-looking and amazingly evil long-haired prettyboy who may or may not be the ultimate villain.
    • The villain’s loyal right-hand man, who comes in two versions: humorously incompetent or annoyingly persistent.
    • The villain’s attractive female henchman, who is the strongest and most competent soldier in the army but always lets the party escape because she’s, yes, fallen in love with the hero.
    • Your former ally who supposedly “died” and was forgotten about, until much later in the game when he/she shows up again on the villain’s side and full of bitterness.
    • The irritatingly honorable foe whom you never get to kill because, upon discovering the true nature of his superiors, he either nobly sacrifices himself or joins your party.
    • The insane clown or jester who will turn out to be surprisingly difficult to subdue.
    • The mad scientist who likes creating mutated creatures and powerful weapons ’cause it’s fun
    • The adorably cute li’l creature or six year old child who fights you and, inexplicably, kicks your butt time after time.
  17. Silent Bob Rule
    The less a character talks, the more ‘cooler’ he is, the more likely he’ll become evil, and the more chance of a female falling for him.
  18. Weapons rule
    Swords are much cooler than firearms, and are usually more powerful. There’s also a better chance that it will be a ‘legendary weapon with the power to destroy the earth’.
  19. Reverse Silent Bob rule
    The more a character talks, the more annoying he is, and thus the more likely he is to become a good guy, and the more chance of a female not falling for him.
  20. Weapons rule #2
    Females will always use a bow, gun, or a rod/staff. They just aren’t cool enough to use swords.
  21. Rule leading up to the Vengeance rule If a character gets destroyed by the antagonist, the protagonist rushes in just too late or something grotesque happens i.e. the close up or zoom in of the eyeball, pupil dilates eyes open wide and then pan out for the enraged or horrified anime ‘Nooooo’ or if its more rage then remorse ‘ArrrRhr’.
  22. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Melfice Rule)
    If the male hero has an older sibling, the sibling will also be male and will turn out to be one of the major villains. If the hero has a younger sibling, the sibling will be female and will be kidnapped and held hostage by the villains.
  23. Keitaro’s Rule
    The more klutzy a character is, the better chance they have of a gorgeous female falling for him.
  24. Rule of Fashion
    Sunglasses are cool/mysterious and they can be worn anywhere. The person who wears them is usually tough-as-nails and is a silent-bob type.
  25. Overused plot rule
    Anime come in about 3 types: The type that is set in the past where everyone uses swords or magic to fight evil demons. The type that is set in the future with futuristic devices and giant mechanized suits. The type where the main hero (or a team of heroes) have special superhuman powers or devices that allows them to fight evil.
  26. Nostradamus Rule
    Legends, Prophecies and rumors have a 90% chance of being true, and will usually be accompanied by a flashback.
  27. Anime Build type #1
    Any character considered cute/adorable will have gigantic eyes, rosy cheeks or cat/bunny-like features.
  28. Anime Build type #2
    All males will be subject to the Hair Principle (above) and usually wear some kind of loose or baggy clothing. (usually a shirt with shorts/jeans)
  29. Anime Build type #3
    All females will have breasts that cover up 1/8th of the screen, and will be wearing some variant of a blouse and a skirt for added sex appeal.
  30. Female Dominancy Principle
    No matter how powerful that male protagonist is, he will always be putty in the hands of his wife/girlfriend. One slap from a female character and you know that male is down for the count.
  31. You Can’t Kill Me, I Quit
    The good guys never seem to get the hang of actually arresting or killing the bad guys. Minor villains are always permitted to go free so they can rest up and menace you again later — sometimes one episode later.
  32. And Now You Die, Mr. Bond!
    Fortunately for you, the previous rule also applies in reverse. Rather than kill you when they have you at their mercy, the villains will settle for merely blasting you down and leaving you in a crumpled heap while they stroll off, laughing. (This is, of course, because they’re already planning ahead how they’ll manipulate you into doing their bidding later in the series)
  33. Female Accomplice rule #4
    The female most likely to fall in love with the hero will be the one that he has treated like a friend, when the female obviously wants more. She usually has tried numerous advances, all of which the hero is oblivious to.
  34. Best Friend rule
    The hero’s best friend will often have a heart of gold, killer skills, and a hot girlfriend/love interest that is often hotter than the hero’s love interest/wife/girlfriend. That best friend is easily manipulated to the side of evil due to his jealousy of the hero (unless the best friend was a former rival of the hero, which is often the case).
  35. Emotion Principle
    You know when an anime character is happy or cheery when they have flashy lights or some kind of background effect accompanied by an enthusiastic looking face. A character is sad and depressed when you see them have little stripes of blue down their forehead and no eyes, while they breath out a puff of (smoke?). A character is afraid when his/her character magically grows smaller, and his feet turn into little spikes when they try to run away with tears in his eyes. A character is angry when their heads magically grow bigger (this is sometimes accompanied by a red background). A character is embarrassed when a sweat drop forms behind their head or when they put their hand behind their head to rub it.
  36. Overused moral lines
    Usually occurs after the hero(es) defeats the villain. An inspiring speech is made from the hero about how ‘everyone should stick together and be friends forever’ or ‘together we can accomplish everything’. It occurs rather prominently in kid’s anime.
  37. Indestructible villain theory (Team Rocket theory)
    The villain always comes back somehow. Whether he was thrown into a lake, imprisoned, blasted into a mountain or sent into space, the main villain always manages to come back somehow (sometimes as a robotic form).
  38. “What are we going to do tonight, Vinsfeld?”
    The goal of every hero is to Save the World from an evil figure who’s trying to take it over or destroy it. There is no way to escape from this formidable task. No matter whether the protagonist’s goal in life is to pay off a debt, to explore distant lands, or just to make time with that cute girl in the blue dress, it will be necessary for him to Save the World in order to accomplish it. Take heart, though — once the world gets sorted out, everything else will fall into place almost immediately.
  39. Zelda’s Axiom
    Whenever somebody tells the hero about “the five ancient talismans” or “the nine legendary crystals” or whatever, you can be quite confident that Saving the World will require him/her to go out and find every last one of them.
  40. Time theory
    What occurs in 30 minutes (aka one episode) can vary. If the goal of the episode is to progress to that goal, then what occurs in that episode can take place over as much as a couple weeks. If it is a battle or event, then it may have only been as little as ten minutes that occurs.
  41. Filler Guide
    Filler material that has nothing to advance the plot of the story and are used only to prolong the length of the series are mandatory in every anime.
  42. Average Joe rule
    The average hero is in fact, just a regular, high school/college kid who ‘accidentally’ stumbles across someone/something (i.e. powers, aliens, technological devices which change their lives…). Said kid is usually nerdy but has a hot girl friend or love interest.
  43. Hidden power principle
    Whenever the main hero is about to lose to the bad guy, an event always occurs which either triggers a hidden power inside the main hero, or causes someone else to save him, both resulting in the defeat of the bad guy.
  44. Female Equilibrium Rule (Brock’s rule)
    The main hero’s best friend always goes for the females that aren’t any more attractive than the hero’s female accomplice. The main hero himself does not usually go for females because that will make him look desperate, which is a no-no in The Standard Hero Attributes™.
  45. ¿Quien Es Mas Macho?
    Every powerful character you attempt to seek aid from will first insist upon “testing your strength” in a battle to the death.
  46. Armies aren’t what they used to be
    The Hero’s are always more powerful than the government or the military. The army’s tanks and bombers are useless in Saving the World.
  47. Law of Cuteness
    The younger you are, the more adorable and cuter you are.
  48. Maginot Line Rule
    It is easy to tell which city/nation is the next conquest of the villain: its streets are filled with citizens who brag that (insert name here) would never dare attack them, and would be easily defeated if he/she/it tried.
  49. Girl-Choosing Plot Principle
    Any anime where the nerdy male gets to live with/meet with all sorts of gorgeous females who all have a crush on him. The male must then proceed to put up with all the female seduction even though it becomes apparent who his main interest is.
  50. Determination Factor
    The main character is almost always determined to achieve his goal, and is deadset against giving up. Sometimes this is what leads to the villains demise.

I Hope you enjoyed my list :P

6 thoughts on “Top 50 Anime Cliches

  1. mantt

    LOL, u hit the nail right on the head bro, but i think u forgot something..

    1. how about “the chosen one” dude? the 3 most top anime use it(naruto, bleach, OP – but i dont know if bleach really use it), and yeah its soooooo overused and boring……

    the chosen one will probably achieve his/her/its goals with probability of succes 200%, what matter is the process and time it takes….

    its so fun to watch these chosen one theme in a while, but in this age, >50% of the anime already use it…STOP IT ALREADY

    2. Japan is the center of the world. The said adventurers take journey across the world. They met people/animals/whateva ranging from black to white, petite to huge, bad to good, big breasted bimbo to flat chested loli, cool-ass emo to noisy-ass teen/kids and blah blah blah. But HOW can they speak and understand the same DAMN language? Japanese, of course is the main language of the world. That’s really bugging me. One Piece and Naruto, especially guilty for this. I dont really know any other example, yet.

    Thats all. Sorry for my sux english, so its up to you to add these to your lists. And thx for the good job, very funny :)

  2. Brandon

    Lolz… man that is sooo true. recognize more then 99% of that stuff. but i also think the whole chosen one should also be in there but other than that GREAT list man

  3. John

    #51
    Characters will always repeat words that are deemed shocking or confusing in order to place emphasis on that fact.

    #52
    The main character knows absolutely nothing in the beginning and requires lecturing from often several different characters. This lecture explains the situation to the character and what he needs to do to overcome a certain challenge. This only occurs when a character is currently trying to overcome a challenge AT THE SAME MOMENT, (which is really wasting your time and screwing up the pace of the series because all of those fillers could have been used for a purpose).

  4. Justin#2

    I’m making a series myself, and I almost managed to miss all the cliches on the list =D

    Main heroine is a silent type with super strength. Isn’t in love with the hero, but its a plot twist that they’re actually siblings. Does that count as a loophole to rule 15?

    The other main heroine uses a frikkin AXE. I dunno. The main character has a transforming weapon handle. He could have any weapon he wants, but I don’t think a sword will be his go to guy.

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