The Problem with Romance Anime

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I have officially given up on romance anime. This isn’t because all romance anime is bad, though I personally think it is, but because I don’t like the romance genre in general. I haven’t enjoyed any romance novels I’ve read, I haven’t enjoyed any romance films I’ve watched and I honestly think romance shouldn’t even be a dominant genre in media at all. This doesn’t mean I hate it as a sub-genre or romance subplots in anime, only so long as they don’t become the main focus of the series.

The majority of the anime that I still have on my list ‘to finish off’, and have for some time, or I have plainly just dropped completely are dominantly of the romance genre. The few romance anime I have watched to the end are because someone adamantly stated that I should or because there was some other gimmick at the end of the series that made it more interesting. Even in these situations, I have come off these anime feeling like I have not enjoyed myself and have wasted my time. Now let me explain why by pointing out some problems that most romance anime have.

toradora23One dominant problem with romance anime is that the different relationships and characters are so incredibly unrealistic or very unlikely. Love octagons or colorful-haired harems that fight over one guy are not realistic, characters whose whole lives revolve around one relationship are not realistic and plot events specifically catered to draw together two characters who shouldn’t be together, or break apart two characters that should be together, are unrealistic. Another problem is that the entire premise of the story is a first world problem. Why should it matter to me if these characters don’t have the social skills to work out their relationships?

I mean I know love can make some people retarded but even in anime you should never go full retard. Finally, there’s a rule that stories need conflict and most conflict in romance comes from emerging relationships rather than relationships that have been going on for a while, therefore almost every romance anime is about relationships that are beginning and never about conflict between couples that have been together for a while. Adding to this, most of the  anime about young people is set in some kind of school, the most common setting in anime!

sakurasou-no-pet-na-kanojo-08-23In the end, I hate romance anime, whether it’s depressing or feel good or a bit of both, it generally comes down to the frustrating will they, won’t they question and as the famous comedian Patton Oswalt said; “All romance should be called one thing; trying to fuck. In this anime this guy and that girl are trying to fucking, in that anime this guy and this girl are trying to fuck. Will they fuck? Probably! From the creators of ‘Meh’ and the directors of ‘Nye’ brings you Err…” (Paraphrasing)

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Other ‘The Problem with’ Posts:

The Problem with Horror Anime

The Problem with Comedy Anime

The Problem with Slice of Life Anime

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37 Responses to The Problem with Romance Anime

  1. vvhite says:

    Hmm… I’m not a big fan of this review. Proceed carefully, very long comment (or review on romance anime) coming.

    First of all…
    “I honestly think romance shouldn’t even be a dominant genre in media at all.”
    I know you probably meant anime, but that sentence is still incorrect. Romance is a very popular and succesful genre in most forms – there are multiple very successfull, well-written, well planned romance novels, movies, series. So yes, it does have a place amongst the dominant genres in media.
    Problems mostly arise when it comes to anime / manga, from the very nature of these. We all know that animes are very different from movies, and not just because the characters are 2D and not real actors. In anime and manga you’re allowed to freely cross lines you could never do in movies – take any popular shounen manga and it’s big fights; if you ever made that in a real movie, viewers would be very unsatisfied and the movie would get very low ratings. Movies and animes are very different, and their audiences are usually very different, too.

    Now let’s take all that info and apply it to romance anime. Since it’s anime, you’re allowed to cross certain lines you wouldn’t in a movie – for example the typical romance tropes, where the main characters somehow end up on top of each other, accidently kiss each other, etc. Using tropes is a characteristic in anime in general, so it’s perfectly fine. But there are two problems that come from this:
    1. The anime often becomes an endless line of tropes, regardless of genre (in shounen you can see the same thing very often, very cliché anime fights and events are happening over and over with smaller twists, but in general they’re the same once you watch it with a critical eye). Problem is that while cliché anime fights can be still entertaining from the very nature of the fights and the risk of disposable, yet loved side characters dying, in romance anime that’s not happening. The story becomes very repetitive and predictable, even boring, it feels like you keep watching the same show over and over just with different looking characters with different names and different graphics.
    2. This is related to #1, because anime often relies on the usage of different tropes they often fail to add new, interesting elements to differentiate the different titles from each other. This is a very big problem in romance anime. In shonen you can easily create a very different world because of it’s fantasy elements, but unless a romance anime also tries to go for a fantasy vibe (but then they aren’t pure romance anymore) they only have few opportunities. They neglect proper world and character building and focus on cute, lovey-dovey scenes instead, making the show feel empty.
    3. Crossing the lines. In my opinion this is one of the biggest problems. I’m a romance lover, but usually I only read books or watch movies and don’t watch romance anime for this very reason. They often cross lines. Just think about the romance animes you know – either the ones you watched, the ones someone recommended, or you saw them in videos. In how many is the romantic interest an underage (looking) girl? In how many is a love interest a “tsundere”, which’d translate to an abuser (and an abusive relationship) in real life? In how many are there inappropriete scenes that’d result in police getting involved in real life for sexual harassment? In how many are there multiple love interest, and how would that look in real life? In how many are there relationship between siblings, step-siblings, or worse? Relationships between underage characters and adults? Yes, yes, they’re drawn 2D characters, but that doesn’t make the topic, the setting and the storyline any less wrong.
    4. Things happen too fast. Things happening very fast is also a typical characteristic in one anime. Just think about how many things can happen in 10 episodes, or maybe 20; a whole (big) arc can be done in 20 episodes, heck, even the whole series. Meanwhile 20 episodes in a live action series is usually an average season, and the very first conflict could be coming back in season 5, or staying active until season 5. In anime an arc comes, suddenly everything else stops and the focus is on the conflict and events of the arc, and at the end of the arc it gets resolved and forgotten. Things happen a lot quicker – so characters could end up falling in love even if they only interacted a little, because of plot. While that can be done in a great or OK way, it’s very easy to mess it up – and many shows mess it up big time.

    These are the general problems with romance – but most things I mentioned can be found in all anime genres in different forms. It’s just very obvious in romance anime where the story is (usually) already very limited.

    Of course there are exceptions – Lovely Complex, for example, is a pretty pleasant exception. While it uses many tropes, it adds some unusual elements – the male lead is very short, the female lead is very tall. They’re an unusual couple, and struggle from it too, characters have problems with their appearance and confidence, and as they graduate, even career problems come up – which they’ll solve. It’s an overall entertaining show, it has it’s downsides, but is one of the better ones imho.
    Akagami no Shirayuki-Hime is also a purely love show, but it takes place in a fairytale like setting, and IS like a fairytale – that gives it an unique touch, an unique feeling. The main characters are just very loveable and have their own little problems, and they also change and evolve as the story progresses.
    This one is a manga, but a very good example. Although it’s not pure romance, it’s still mainly about the male and female lead falling for each other and doing what they need to do to be together and have peace: Reimei no Arcana, or Dawn of the Arcana. It shows how two people, who were tied together by an arranged marriage, grow to love each other through actually getting to know each other and facing difficulities together. They just match once they get through the harsh beginnings. It also features war, a tyrant king, multiple conflicts between different characters, problems with slavery and human arrogance and vengeance, and characters are dying (or almost dying) in it. The thing keeps you entertained because the world and storyline was actually built with care, and there was thought put into each character and their backstory.

    See, I would’ve loved to see something like this from a “The problem with romance anime” post. You did have some very great and true points (“the different relationships and characters are so incredibly unrealistic or very unlikely”, “characters whose whole lives revolve around one relationship are not realistic and plot events specifically catered to draw together two characters who shouldn’t be together, or break apart two characters that should be together”, etc.), but I feel like you failed to touch on many very important aspects of romance anime. You slightly touched on what I talked about in #3 with mentioning harems, but you didn’t go into detail very much other than how unrealistic that it.

    To me, your post felt like more of a rant than an actual review or anything similar, it felt like you just watched a romance anime you didn’t like, got mad, and decided to write a post about how romance anime isn’t great and shouldn’t even be a genre in media. I feel like if you make such a bold exclamation you should elaborate on WHY it’s not a good genre in itself, with your main point being something other than “I don’t actually like romance anime” and “Why should I care?”, because on that basis, why would you care about a random shounen anime’s plot if shounen isn’t your style? That’s why it felt like an angry post to me.

    I’m not trying to say that your post is bad or your points aren’t good enough, however. I’m just adding what I felt like was missing from your post, it’s just my opinion based on watching and reading romance (in all forms) for years, and being critical of what I see / read. I intended this as constructive criticism / add-on for anyone wondering about romance anime in general, but take it however you want.

    Have a great day/ night, and kudos to anyone who managed to read this!

  2. The world is NOT flat! says:

    I believe you have mental issues.

  3. olivia says:

    sorry i think that is the best part

  4. Black Rabbit says:

    I utterly hate romance Anime and manga I will not read or watch it,I highly prefer horror like Tokyo Ghoul,Deadman Wonderland and Corpes Party

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  8. fiddletwix says:

    While I really hate romance movies and novels, I do partake in romance anime and manga. While it’s far from my favorite genre, some stories I’ve found can be pretty damn sweet. I definitely see your views on the genre. In fact, your post made me realize that, when it comes to romance anime, I almost always end up just really hating one character or another or hell even the whole cast simply because they’re complete idiots or just horrible people that are made out to be our main protagonists or just simply likable characters. Name any romance anime that I’ve watched and I’m certain I can name one character that I ended up just full-on hating by the end. It’s like many romance anime don’t know how to make a story without ending up making it way too cheesy and sweet or creating terrible characters for the sake of conflict.

    I will say that if there’s one genre I’ve completely given up on it’s harems. It’s all the problems of a romance anime with loads of cliches, ridiculously setup fanservice, unrealistic and predictable plotlines, and usually flat and unmemorable/unlikable leads who will obviously end up together. I don’t like to say that I’ll never give a show a shot, but I just really cannot take another harem.

    • Lazarinth says:

      ‘Name any romance anime that I’ve watched and I’m certain I can name one character that I ended up just full-on hating by the end’
      Kokoro Connect?

  9. The Otaku Judge says:

    Everyone has different tastes. If you don’t like a specific genre then avoiding it makes sense. I don’t like 90% of romances, but occasionally I stumble across one that thaws my icy heart haha.

  10. I wholeheartedly agree that romance should never be a central focus of a story or that the plot should have more interesting points to it. There are only so many ways couples can fall in love, and most of them are covered, which causes romance stories to be very repetitive.

  11. Silvachief says:

    I think you’re right that we’ve put the nail in that coffin for good XD We’ve talked about the lack of anime featuring existing relationships as well, and I completely agree that the “will they, won’t they” approach to romance is radically overused. Still, I enjoy it when it’s done relatively well.

    One point, though. If realism in anime is what you want, you’re going to have a bad time =P Granted I get exactly what you mean.

  12. mirrorpurple says:

    But…but… Romance tho… *sniff sniff*

  13. somethingaboutlynlyn says:

    I’m just a curious reader, but which romance anime have you completed?

    I am a fan of romance and rom-com genre in anime and manga, but I get where you are coming from. Sometimes these story lines aren’t realistic enough.

    • Lazarinth says:

      This is hard because I’ve watched a lot that I know I’ve missed out here but the ones I remember are Toradora, both Clannads, Nagi no Asukara, Fruits baseket, Ef, Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Anohana though I guess that’s more drama and Kokoro connect and anything in my recommendations list you would consider romance which is probably none. This doesn’t touch on the amount of anime that I didn’t finish and I tried to get at least 10 episodes in with the others before I said ‘fuck this’ and dropped them. Try me, considering your tastes, I’ve probably dropped anime you would consider masterpieces.

      • somethingaboutlynlyn says:

        Oh man, “Try me, considering your tastes, I’ve probably dropped anime you would consider masterpieces,” sounds like a challenge. But I can’t think of any recommendations that would satisfy you.

    • Lazarinth says:

      In a way, I’d be surprised if there were any that weren’t on that list people would consider as up there. I was just seeing if I’ve watched what people consider the best of the best of romance anime.

      • somethingaboutlynlyn says:

        Well to me, Clannad was the best of the best. I’ve watched Air which is based on another Key visual novel, but I wouldn’t recommend it though.

        I don’t know what people consider the best of the best though. We all have different opinions, haha.

    • Lazarinth says:

      Oh! Clannad is an almost perfect example of what I put in this post of; ‘plot events specifically catered to draw together two characters who shouldn’t be together, or break apart two characters that should be together’ for overly contrived emotional affect.
      Spoilers!!!!
      I mean his wife dies, his daughter dies and at that point I wish he’d raised a dog that got run over on his birthday so he could sobbingly sing happy birthday to himself as a rain cloud specifically targeted on him began to pore down soon followed by him being mugged and then stabbed to death in the street. I hope this exaggeration shows the affect I’m talking about.

      • somethingaboutlynlyn says:

        What you said reminded me of the movie, John Wick.

        Okay, now I am curious. Did you watch School Days?

    • Lazarinth says:

      See! I knew I had forgotten a few romance anime I had watched to the end, and what an ending! I have to say that anime went from utter shit to holy shit in less than one episode.
      Funny, I actually liked John Wick, but then I do like the action genre. And it’s getting a sequel!

      • somethingaboutlynlyn says:

        Haha! So is “utter shit to holy shit in less than one episode” a good thing?

        Yeah, I actually enjoyed that movie too. It was action packed from beginning to end. I really liked the concept of that hotel he was staying in there though. I am also excited for the sequel.

    • Lazarinth says:

      As I said it was the ending. A somewhat unique ending doesn’t really make up for the rest of the series being utterly shit.

      • somethingaboutlynlyn says:

        True. The ending is unique. I interpreted it as them heading to their demise, or the other world, hell because they have no hope in their current world.

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