Anime creates a lot of unique, diverse characters that are relatable and entertaining to watch. But at the same time, there are an equal amount of characters who have some of the worst personality traits I’ve ever seen. Perhaps the most common and bothersome one is the Perverted Anime Male Trope (unofficial title), in which the protagonist is obsessed with the large, gravity defying breasts of the female leads.
In most cases, I try not to let this trope mar my experience with a show. I tolerated it in shows such as Soul Eater, Gurren Lagann and Kill La Kill, but it’s getting harder to do. When something you barely tolerate keeps popping up over and over, it gets harder to overlook it and focus on the story or character development. So much of the time, the trope is meaningless, frustrating, and there have been several instances where my interest in a show would completely disappear the moment the Perverted Anime Male Trope reared its ugly head.
I don’t understand why it’s such a huge staple of anime. What is with the continued portrayal of a young man’s fascination with a woman’s body? Is it really that appealing that it needs to exist in every other anime ever created? Does it resonate with the audience in some weird twisted way that I’m missing? Where does this trope come from?
I started researching some facts about the current state of Japan’s culture and was surprised by what I found. In recent years, Japan’s population is suffering from a serious decline because men and women’s lack of desire to establish genuine social connections with another. Part of this issue comes from the strict gender roles enforced on males and females.
For instance, it was rather typical for men to be raised under the mentality that they should be devoted to their work. Since this may be undesirable for some young men they withdraw from society with their anime and video games as a form of rebellion. On the other side of the spectrum, women were raised with the mentality of staying at home and raising a family, but this gender role has shifted to one of empowerment for females. Now it’s more common for women to prioritize their work over relationships because they don’t want to be brought down by a relationship.
These gender roles are important to understanding the origins of the trope, but so is the idea of commoditization in Japan. Japan has gotten particularly good at literally commoditizing everything imaginable, even extending to basic social interaction with another person. No longer do the people in Japan value genuine social interaction; it’s been derailed for the sake of pleasure with no meaning or connection to the other person. When people can buy an item to give them support instead of interacting with a real person, it has an adverse effect on creative mediums like anime.
According to Hayao Miyazaki, the now retired figurehead of Studio Ghibli, the reason that the quality of anime is dropping so considerably is because anime studios are comprised of “otakus”. Otakus are basically Japan’s equivalent to obsessive fans, and in Miyazaki’s case, this label carries a particular negative connotation. Miyazaki asserts that because otakus spend most of their time watching or anime or playing video games, they don’t interact with people on a personal level, meaning that their ideas of how a boy should interact with a girl is completely skewed and results in the most common anime trope known to man – the perverted guy who only sees a girl for their body and nothing else for the sake of a good “laugh”.
This is a huge problem for me because in the real world, the perverted male personality is unacceptable. It’s not something for people to “laugh” at as is the expected response when watching anime because this behavior isn’t tolerated. I’m not saying anime needs to be a spitting image of real world issues and questionable people. I enjoy shows that immerse me into the story and characters. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that the show is obligated to be demeaning or crude. Who knows, maybe the reason I’m so against this type of “humor” is due to cultural differences. Maybe through this sense of humor, the trope is trying to make a commentary about the personality traits of young men in Japan by making fun of it.
Regardless, none of this justifies the existence of the Perverted Anime Male Trope. Far from it. I can’t help but think that a trope that is abused this badly no longer makes a commentary and instead becomes a meaningless aspect of anime because it offers nothing new for audiences to ponder. Furthermore, a trope resulting from a sheltered and detached way of life doesn’t make for deep, well-written characters or fluid, natural conversations. It leads to fake and shallow interactions as the result of those who are too insecure to find it for themselves.
This should be a lesson for future anime writers to avoid the Perverted Anime Male Trope because of how frequently it appears in the genre. Either give audiences something completely new to ponder or look for new creative ways to either make this commentary about young Japanese young men and the effects of commoditization in Japan more interesting. I would be onboard with seeing these commentaries but since the anime genre has proven that it can’t deliver without the overuse of the Perverted Anime Male Trope, I think it’s high time to put it to bed and find something new.