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

Killing Stalking Chapter 2 Review

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.


Okay, ouch. That chapter end very reminiscent of a Stephen King novel and not such a happy visual. He definitely would have been better off being arrested for attempted break and enter.

Backing up a bit and looking at this chapter in order, not a lot happens and yet this kind of seems to be setting the scene for what is to follow.

Yoonbum is struck with the bat that we saw poised above him at the end of the last chapter and somehow in this moment, as he is crawling and scrambling to get away this is his thought:

It turned out the Sangwoo I knew wasn’t here.

It was kind of fascinating. Later he gets to the “I don’t want to die” mentality but in this initial phase he is thinking entirely about the target of his stalking and that sudden realisation that no matter how carefully he has watched and how much he knows about this man, Sangwoo, he doesn’t know who he actually is. During chapter 1 I had a mild moment of concern that they would try to justify stalking someone as a form of affection but they clearly didn’t in chapter 1 in the end and chapter 2 essentially slams the door on the possibility that this story is going to attempt to romanticise stalking someone.

That said, there are so many other areas for concern here is terms of where this relationship is heading and it will be interesting to see how these themes are developed and presented.

Anyway, after a whole bunch of knocks and things, Yoonbum actually manages to declare that he was in love with Sangwoo and he more or less apologises for bothering him. For a moment it seems like Sangwoo might accept that and they start heading up out of the basement and then Sangwoo knocks Yoonbum down the stairs knocking him out cold and injuring one of his legs. Definitely seems like Sangwoo likes playing mind games with people and watching Yoonbum go from desperate to having the fleeting moment of optimism before that hope is crushed underfoot is pretty brutal even as you remember he got himself into the mess he finds himeslf in.

Actually, despite all the violence and the dark themes being woven here, probably the only part of this that really raised flags for me and made me wonder where this was going, was the way Sangwoo treats the corpse of the woman (the one who was tied up last chapter). While it is very telling of Sangwoo’s character we already kind of had enough evidence of his character and this just seemed like an excuse to make the reader shudder. And that’s probably where the line is for me in terms of what I enjoy here and what makes me question why I’m reading it. The other acts of violence, agression, and the ground work being laid for Sangwoo to seriously mess with Yoonbum emotionally all feel necessary for the narrative that is being told, but the treatment of the corpse kind of felt like it was unnecessary and needlessly gratuitous.

Overall though, this has been a compelling introduction and even though it seems the road for the next part of the story is pretty locked in place, it’s kind of like a horror movie where you just have to watch it anyway and find out just how bad things can get. And then of course there’s the question of will anything change to make it better?

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