Feature: On Bad Romance in Anime

wolf girl

Last week I looked at some of the common elements of anime romances from the positive point of view. This post I want to look at some of the more problematic aspects of anime romance that seem to crop up again and again from personalities to full on stalking and imprisonment. Yep, these are definitely the marks of a bad romance. As always I’d love to hear your point of view in the comments below.

What features commonly appear in bad romance?

01. The guy doesn’t just come off as being a bit of a jerk, he is actually a jerk. Maybe there’s a reason for his damaged and warped personality but what he does is emotionally destructive to his love interest. Yet somehow, we’re supposed to be convinced that the girl will put up with this and should actually pursue this character despite the emotional trauma she’s dealing with, and that this is romantic.

While I know that there are many, many people trapped in emotionally abusive relationships it would be nice if so many romance stories didn’t glorify this. For a non-anime example we could most definitely point straight at Twilight. Edward is a controlling bully and his leaving Bella caused her to become nearly catatonic. This is not healthy. However, let’s go back anime and look at Wolf Girl and Black Prince. Whatever redeeming qualities Kyoya Sata may have or may develop later in the series he is a bully and the argument that Erika got herself into the mess with her lying doesn’t make it any better.

Of course there are plenty of other candidates out there for girls putting up with guys who manipulate them. Then again, we could easily turn that around and look at some of the truly horrendous girlfriends anime has given us over time.

02. Following on from number 1, we have the guy who wants a more physical relationship than the girl and is willing to push for it even when she clearly isn’t comfortable. While in comedies the guy in question will usually get slapped and dropped to the floor or beaten with a broom (hilarious, really) in serious romances what usually happens is the girl allows herself to be convinced. Generally speaking I avoid anime that goes down this road.

One I did watch was Say I Love You. While it isn’t too far over the line, Say I Love You definitely hovers on that borderline during the earlier episodes before the relationship starts to balance out a bit. For the most part Yamato is a generally nice guy (with a couple of rough edges) who helps Mei out and seems to like her but he is definitely more experienced in relationship and at times he is clearly pushing for more than she is willing to give.


Though mostly this is nothing compared to what happens to some guys in a lot of BL so maybe we should just be thankful for that and move on to the next point.

03. Anime romances tend to normalise stalkerish behaviour. Secret photo taking, finding out someone’s entire schedule, likes and dislikes of food, their home address and phone number, it seems nothing is off the table for some determined would-be partners in romantic anime. It would be an adorable display of affection if not for the creepy real world consequences of actual stalking.

However this particular behaviour has been normalised to the point where it is now parodied in comedies and played for laughs. Momokuri last year with Kurihara took this to extremes and while in the show it was played cute and for laughs with Kurihara having no ill intentions, one has to wonder what would happen if Momotsuki had ever tried to break up with her.

Of course, we see the far darker side of this behaviour in Mirai Nikki through the notorious Yuno Gasai who will genuinely do anything to keep Amano ‘safe’ including tying him to a chair and holding him in captivity.

This is probably my least favourite trope in anime romances.

04. The characters know nothing about each other but declare they are in love. How many times do we see the scene where the girl confesses to the guy having never actually spoken to him before? Why are you in love with someone you don’t know? There are so many assumptions being made here and it really makes me wonder how they expect a relationship to last when they can’t even speak to the guy properly.

Of course, there are just as many male characters confessing to girls they’ve only ever admired from afar so this isn’t exclusively a problem of the heroine of the story. I love it when they follow this up with an internal monologue that says they’ve always been watching that person. Yeah, because that will tell you everything about them, or you are journeying into the stalker territory from number 3.

05. The girl starts changing herself entirely based on the guy’s preference. She asks his opinion on everything and ceases to actually make any decisions on her own. It is like being in a relationship was akin to lobotomising the character and suddenly their brain has stopped functioning independently.

I know this one isn’t fair but a character who pretty much has no identity outside of her relationship is Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess. Realistically, what little we see of her before Keiichi makes his wish doesn’t really reveal much of a personality to start with (other than sweet) and then she’s bound by his wish for most of the rest of the show. In this instance it kind of works but I still find these sorts of characters frustrating.

Belldandy - you are sweet but this is a bad romance.

That’s it from me on bad romance trends but feel free to suggest your own or provide more examples of the ones above.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Fruits Basket Review Episode 11


Let’s Hop To The Hot Springs

Momoji and Kyo

Fruits Basket Episode 11

After a Valentine’s episode tinged with a lot more darkness than I expected we jump a month to White Day and Momiji pops up again with the gift of a hot springs trip for Tohru. It is more or less impossible not to enjoy scenes with Momiji in them. Usually the exuberant younger character would annoy me; however in Momiji’s case it is just impossible. I find him utterly adorable and really just want to give him a hug because all of the Soma’s really need a hung.


The episode isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though as Tohru is in a little bit of financial trouble due to missing a payment for a school trip. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Tohru as a character and the fact that she’s a little bit of an air-head actually works for her, but mismanaging her money and spending so much on Valentine’s chocolates that she couldn’t make a known payment just strikes me as particularly silly and also out of character. Tohru doesn’t like causing trouble for others and missing a payment and having her grandfather notified who in turn notified Shigure is causing all kinds of trouble.


Despite my misgivings about that plot device, now and in the original anime, I loved Kyo’s reaction and seeing how far he’s come in at least an attempt to monitor his own temper where Tohru is concerned. It is one of those brief but truly brilliant character moments that just make you smile because while it doesn’t seem like much, Kyo holding in his temper and telling Tohru to go take a bath rather than unloading on her is a huge step forward.

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Speaking of huge character steps, Yuki was also showing us his softer side this week. The usually expressionless character had more than a few moments of smiling and laughter and they were pure joy to watch even we wonder when things are going to fall apart again for these boys.


Fruits Basket continues to hit us hard in the feels each and every week, playing emotional notes well and rising to the occasion. While the plot and motivations may at times be questionable, this really doesn’t matter to the overall experience of watching Fruits Basket.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Would you like to read more about Fruits Basket’s feels?

Images from: Fruits Basket. Dir. Y Ibata. TMS Entertainment. 2019.

Up Close With Subaru

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 11 Subaru

This week I’m turning my attention to the human half of the fabulous duo that made up the very sweet My Roommate is a Cat, Subaru. Admittedly, individually, and particularly at the start of the season, Subaru’s personality is a little bit abrasive and hard to take. I still found him interesting to watch but didn’t necessarily like him. However, the fantastic, emotional journey he goes on throughout the series and the growth he makes as a person just made him really shine by the end of the series and I think he is a character well worth spending some more time on.

There will be some spoilers for the series.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 1 Subaru and Cat

If you only watched the first episode or two of My Roommate is a Cat, your impression of Subaru, other than the fact that we have yet another anime protagonist starting a show with the funeral of his parents, is that he’s a bit rude and abrupt. I kind of understood why though because in the cases where he was being rude to his editor, the editor had taken him out of his comfort zone seemingly for no reason. If you know someone doesn’t like going to cafes and the like and there’s no reason to meet them there, then why drag them out. Still, Subaru doesn’t make the best first impression on the audience.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 3 Subaru

However, in these first episodes, Subaru comes across Haru, who despite being a cat very much deserves her own character post, and Subaru, seemingly on a whim, takes her home with the intention of using a cat as a muse for a new character in a story he is writing. it’s an on the spot decision made without a lot of forethought and it becomes obvious fairly quickly that Subaru doesn’t have a clue how to deal with the new addition to his household.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 5 Subaru

Over the course of the series, we see that Haru’s presence in Subaru’s life begins to help him reconnect with others and makes him remember his parents and the many lost opportunities to connect with them. While this show doesn’t have a dramatic change of character, Subaru begins to subtly grow, seeking out small interactions with people building up until he agrees to a book signing.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 9 Subaru

That doesn’t mean he’s actually good at interacting with others. He’s still awkward, gets flustered, at times wants to run away, but he’s more and more committed to trying to deal with those in his life. He also begins to appreciate what each of the others brings into his life and tries to show that he appreciates it.

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However, the final push comes at the end of the series where he goes on the last holiday his parents planned. While this is an emotional enough development given the course of the story, what really shows the change in Subaru is his reaction when he realises he can’t get home to Haru as planned. Then, Haru manages to get out of the house and Subaru needs to search for her.


From a character who blatantly refused to leave the house and if forced outside was cold and cut-off, to one who actively searched for another and called on those he’d made connections with to help, Subaru’s character grew in leaps and bounds and while his basic personality hadn’t changed at all, something shown through the clever use of flash backs, his ability to deal with others and his acceptance of them had developed tremendously.


Ultimately, I really enjoyed watching Subaru grow as a character and found his story delightful.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 34: Hina’s Choice



Usually when a show makes their protagonist disappear for a whole episode the word filler is the first thing that comes to mind and yet episode 34 of March Comes in Like a Lion shows us how it should be done. Rei makes no appearance in this episode which is largely narrated by Hina and focuses on the events in her classroom after the field trip.


After the teacher finally gets a taste of the bullying going on in the classroom she loses it and while they might try to justify her previous actions as being worn down by seeing the same pattern over and over, a teacher ignoring bullying (worse, denying it’s existence and blaming the victim) is inexcusable. And yet, Hina once again takes the high ground as she helps the teacher and doesn’t hold a grudge or act like the teacher deserves what she is getting. In fact, Hina reacts with the usual concern we’ve seen her hold for others since the beginning of the series.


After the teacher leaves the school and the head teacher takes over the class it finally seems like someone is going to acknowledge that there is a problem but that leads to Akari needing to attend the school. This is probably the first time we’ve fully seen the burden Akari is carrying as she tries to be the mother to Hina and Momo. Yet, when Akari buckles under the weight of that burden, Hina is again the one who stands up tall.


While this isn’t an instant fix to all the issues that are going on in Hina’s class, this episode marks a transition in the events. What is more important than anything that the school or others are doing is Hina’s mindset. She’s determined not to give in and has promised that she will graduate. Someone needs to give this girl a hug, she’s fantastic.

So, Rei’s absence this week wasn’t an issue at all as this episode more than held its place in the story. Also, the new opening and ending songs are fantastic.


Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.


March Comes in Like A Lion Episode 28: Fight or Flight



The bullying saga continues and there are no easy options here. Every step leads to further complications and Hina is caught in a very rough spot. However, once again March Comes in Like a Lion shows us it understands people very well. Hina’s friend fled from bullying and retreated into herself and now is receiving counselling elsewhere. She’s completely withdrawn from school and from everyone she used to know. Rei remarks in a voice over that he thought that if things got bad she could just leave as another advocate for a flight response. One that we see Rei himself has taken many times in his life. Whle he doesn’t always physically flee, he withdraws himself from situations and human connections.

Hina on the other hand… Hina is not just upset. She’s angry. She’s a fighter and one who continues to think of others even while trapped in a cycle of misery. However, just standing up doesn’t solve the issue anymore than running away from it will and it is fantastic for an anime (or any story) to point out that neither response really magically makes the problem disappear.


Episode 28 is a great episode for building on Rei and Hina’s relationship. We see Rei trying to be the older of the two and trying to be the helping hand for Hina but then struggling to understand how to help her sending himself into a downward spiral of self-doubt and loathing that Hina then rescues him from in true Hina fashion.


Rei may not realise it, but this is helping Hina. For a little while she has a problem in front of her she can solve and a person she can help. He might feel like he’s useless and making things worse, but I don’t think Hina is ever going to see it that way.

The one thing I have to wonder is whether the teacher will remain in denial, or worse, whether she’ll try to redirect the blame onto Hina. We’ve already seen that this particular anime teacher would rather stick her head in the sand rather than see the reality facing her students and has brushed aside complaints of bullying previously. Though with one student having fled the school entirely and another now being openly targeted you would have to wonder how much longer she can keep that up.


The other fun part of this episode is where Rei recruits Takahashi (baseball character seen previously) to help out. It actually further complicates the situation but it does give Hina one further companion so at least she knows she isn’t alone even in the school. We also see Rei preparing for and playing in various shogi competitions. It is nice that he is motivated for a change even if he is still a little misguided.

This episode continues to be visually wonderful to watch, emotionally powerful and the story and characters are just fantastic. No complaints at all about how season 2 of this show is progressing.

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Karandi James.


March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 27: Emotional Ripples



Where last week hit its tone and remained consistent throughout, breaking the audiences’ hearts over and over again, this week is far less consistent and yet not any worse for it. Instead of focusing on Hina through both Rei’s and her own narration, this week we barely see Hina save for the end. Rather, we focus entirely on Rei and then Akari’s responses to Hina’s dilemma and how the impact of bullying affects everyone and not just the victim.


Rei is first seen trying to get advice from his former homeroom teacher about how to deal with bullying. There’s some amusing moments that still manage to cut deep when Rei points out he isn’t being bullied (though his teacher assumed he was at first) but then explains the reason he doesn’t get bullied is because the other students don’t even really acknowledge he exists.


It is interesting to see how Rei is thinking through the first half of this episode and the sheer amount of effort he will expend in order to help Hina even though a lot of his thoughts are either misguided or just confused. The earnest desire to help is there but the issue is complex and Rei can barely look after himself most of the time.


Still it was a new side of Rei and one which was pleasant to see because it shows us just how far he has come. He sees Hina as a person, even if he is slightly idolising her at this stage. He’s made a real connection and despite the current circumstances, he is fighting hard to protect her. For someone who used to pull the curtains closed and hide in bed, this is real progress and I honestly hope it doesn’t blow up in his face and send him back into hiding.


As for Akari, she is tormented because she feels she has failed as the stand in mother. She feels her advice to Hina early on in life was wrong, that she couldn’t help her now, that she said the wrong thing… Basically she feels completely helpless in the situation and while she can’t let that out when Hina and the rest of the family are around, she let it out with Rei. And, again in a sign of just how far he’d come, he managed to say what Akari needed to hear. It doesn’t fix anything, but sometimes an emotional salve can go a long way.

The visuals, remain stunningly on point and whoever did the sound direction this episode nailed it. With a number of tonal shifts within scenes and some really complex emotions, both the visuals and sounds managed to perfectly convey the ideas and really created a truly enjoyable viewing experience. With great character moments and dialogue thrown in, March Comes in Like a Lion continues its strong second season and remains my absolute must watch.

Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.



Karandi James.


March Comes in Like a Lion Series Review



March Comes in Like a Lion follows Rei Kiriyama a professional Shogi player despite being in highschool. Rei struggles with social interactions and sometimes just facing the day is an overwhelming challenge, however an encounter with three sisters will see some small changes in his life. You can find my episode reviews here.


There is no denying that I have absolutely loved watching March Comes in Like a Lion. For me there was an instant connection with Rei (not that I’ve gone through the same challenges or anything but I think we’ve all had those moments where we’ve wanted to run away from everything and hide). Rei’s really at the centre of everything in this show and whether you love it or not will depend entirely on how you take to him. Whether you enjoy watching him struggle and want to get behind him, whether you feel it cuts too close to home and feel uncomfortable, or whether you just don’t connect and find the proceedings fairly dull, it all comes down to that central character.


That isn’t to say there aren’t some other very strong points to the show but with a plot that is almost non-existent this show heavily relies on the character journey to carry the story forward. Outside of Rei’s emotional journey you really just have  boy drifting through life and encountering others, occasionally getting caught up in their drama, and then drifting on to the next thing. Some of those encounters are amazing, but it doesn’t make for much of a plot.


So what do I like about Rei?

He is at times represented quite pathetically, which isn’t the same as being a pathetic character. There are times when he gives up, when he loses his temper, when he surrenders a battle before he begins fighting. At all of those moments, everything about the show paints Rei as being pathetic. However, as a character he is magnificent to watch. This show gave me one of the best representations of a character going through depression and dealing with social anxieties that I have ever seen. Early in the series I worried that the sisters were going to be like some mystic fairy godmother and wave a wand and ‘cure’ Rei (a feat we’ve seen in so many other shows where getting a friend or a girlfriend/boyfriend suddenly changes everything). However, while they certainly give Rei an anchor to the world at times and a bright point within the darkness that surrounds him, they alone are not enough to transform him. They merely provide a catalyst for Rei realising he wants to change.


And that is probably the strongest part of his character. Rei remains the agent of change regardless of the other characters who may support that change, provide a means for that change, or provide guidance on how to change. Rei is the one who chooses to move from where he is. Because of that his journey is not linear. He moves forward and back, stepping into more positive spaces before falling back down. Each time he learns and gains from the experience but it feels incredibly genuine and more importantly, if you’ve connected with him, it is heart wrenching watching him fall. You just want to reach out to him and grab his hand but you know you can’t fight the battle for him anymore than his teacher at school can or the sisters.


The sisters themselves remain fairly nebulous to me. While they are that shining ray of hope that Rei needs, and at times they certainly kick things into gear (dragging Rei out when he’s sick to nurse him, running into him in town and bringing Nikaido over) as characters they get very little time and almost no development. The middle sister probably has the best moments when going through her first love and again when mourning her parents, but really the sisters seem more like a plot device than characters at times. That doesn’t really detract from the show but given their impact on the main character it would be nice to know more about them other than that they are nice. The cats are a nice touch though.


Later in the series an older shogi player becomes fairly significant in Rei’s life. Shimada is probably the best developed character outside of Rei and his influence on Rei is enormous in the second half of the series. Shimada is a great character to watch and his story plays out very well and is thoroughly engaging. At first it seemed odd that he was getting so much focus, particularly as it seemed like Rei, the main character, was being sidelined, however the choice was well made and when the focus shifts back to Rei you realise just how essential seeing Shimada’s story was.


The only other character I want to address in detail is Kyouko, Rei’s sister in the family that adopted him. She is set up as an antagonist and to be honest she is quite antagonistic, however that doesn’t appear to be her main role. Her relationship with Rei is more complicated than it first appeared and while at no point do I actually feel sorry for her, she is a horrible person, you begin to understand her actions a bit more when you realise that the father essentially forced his children to turn against each other in order to be the best. Losing out to Rei, and in so doing losing her father’s affection, seems to be the cornerstone of Kyouko’s entire character so her actions are understandable. What is less clear are Rei’s feelings for her given he clearly hates and fears her, but also seems drawn to her like a moth straight to a flame. If there was any relationship I’d like to see more of, it would be this one, because there’s a lot of unanswered questions about how Rei feels about the situation.


Outside of the characters what makes this show an amazing watch are the visuals  and the music. Both have been chosen very well throughout to really convey the emotions on screen. While at times the visuals get a little over crowded as they hit you with a plethora of colours and symbols, for the most part they perfectly convey the feeling of the moment and really give a concrete substance to the emotions of the character.


Okay, a few criticisms because I can’t leave this all shiny and happy. This show is slow. At times in the first half it is really, really slow. And the shogi cat song needs to disappear from existence and never be heard again. Plus, the first opening theme is significantly stronger than the second in terms of matching the tone of the show (though both ending themes are brilliant). And that’s really all I’ve got as overall criticisms.


All and all though, if you didn’t watch this or try it while it was airing I am definitely recommending it. It won’t grab everyone but it is worth trying as if you can get into it the character journey is well worth watching. I know it is only the Winter season that has aired so far in 2017, but I know it is going to be hard for another anime to have as much impact on me this year as this one did so this is definitely a contender for my anime of the year.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Killing Stalking Chapter 5

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.


There’s not a huge amount I want to say about Chapter 5. The events continue on logically from where we left off though it is unclear whether Yoon Bum’s illness is definitely caused by ingesting rat poison or whether Sangwoo had switched out the bottle contents, just like it is unclear why Sangwoo seemed to suffer no ill-effect from the meal. Though, it hardly seems to matter given what is important in this chapter is the back story we’re finally given on Sangwoo.

It’s not a complete picture or even overly detailed but the short scene we see of his father explains so much.

For all that Killing Stalking is definitely using sensationalised violence and sexual tension as a drawing card, underneath what I’m finding is that this world feels really, tragically real and the two characters are believable in their own messed up ways. While not every child who grows up a victim of domestic abuse becomes an abuser, in Sangwoo’s case his desire for emotional and physical control show clear parallels to the behaviour modelled by his father, only taken to an extreme form.

While I guess the fans who were hoping for these two to become a couple will probably appreciate the interaction toward the end of the chapter it seemed like a really bizarre time for that scene. As Yoon Bum pointed out, he smelled like vomit. And he was covered in sweat. And it wouldn’t have been difficult for Sangwoo to carry him into the bathroom prior. Also, did we hear the cries of another victim in the house during this chapter or was Yoon Bum a little delirious?

What was made clear, other than a motivating factor for Sangwoo, is that Yoon Bum is not over his fascination with Sangwoo despite everything he’s been through and that makes you wonder just what else has happened to him in his life that he is clinging so incredibly desperately to this one, deeply flawed, human being.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James