Anime and the Embarrassment Cliché

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Alright, I’m just going to cut right to the chase on this one: I think I may be growing a bit tired of embarrassment humor. Embarrassment humor is the kind of comedy derived from the simple feeling of shame. These kinds of gags are something that you, assuming you’re even a casual anime viewer, have probably witnessed on more than one occasion. The typical scenario for this is a character making a foolhardy mistake. After they make said mistake, either a heavy amount of blush is applied to their now close-up chibi face or a frantic animation/editing style is utilized to emphasize their current psychological state.

It’s a simple gag, and one that’s probably relatable to most people, myself included. Unfortunately, “relatable” is not necessarily equivalent to “enjoyable”, though even if it was, its overuse would all but ensure that these kinds of gags will not remain amusing forever. If it’s done in unique and impressive ways, I’m usually not one to complain, but I’m afraid I don’t see that happening very often.

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Not to be confused with bashful humor, which I would classify more in a sense of being courageous despite being completely out of one’s comfort zone, like giving a speech or confessing love. There are many permutations I can see coming from that particular brand of comedy, whereas with basic embarrassment humor I mostly see only the ridicule of stupidity. Now, I’m not trying to be a defendant of stupidity, or say that stupid things and stupid actions aren’t meant to laughed at. It’s just that when it’s the same stupid action, repeatedly, I can’t help but feel worn out.

And when talking about stupid, the first anime that comes to my mind would have to be NEW GAME!. An example of exactly the kind of lazy, uninspired humor that I’m speaking of would be the time the main character Aoba fell over during a foot race to work.

That’s it.

She fell.

How embarrassing.

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Subtle digs aside, it’s not like NEW GAME! is the only offender I’ve seen. Things like the old “says they’re not hungry but then stomach growls” gag is something I’ve seen implemented in so many of my favorite shows, most recently in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. It’s just a cheeky little joke, but it’s also contrived. And that was only one slip up for Maid Dragon, as for the most part the show is relentlessly original and its characters are delightfully shameless.

I guess this is has just been me expressing my disdain for yet another cliché, though I honestly wouldn’t even call this a “disdain” per say. In polished and sincere scenarios, it doesn’t tend to bother me one bit. When I see it used as just a cheap joke however, it usually leaves me a tad disappointed. But what do you think about it? Does this kind of hackneyed gag bother you at all, or do you have any examples of great embarrassing moments that you think could change my mind?

And who knows, maybe I’m just so used to embarrassment in my everyday life that I can barely stand to see it in my entertainment…

…nahhhhhh.

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5 thoughts on “Anime and the Embarrassment Cliché

  1. I really dislike contrived embarrassment gags so it’s nice to read an article like this.
    I think the director of Gintama/Danshi koukousei no nichijou does a great job at making embarrassment gags original and funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. D says:

    Humor that’s dependent on the character’s embarrassment usually makes me uncomfortable. I can stand it in small doses or creative ways but when they tell me I’m supposed to laugh at some poor idiot’s humiliation, it gets too much. I easily suffer from secondhand embarrassment so I guess that’s why.

    Liked by 1 person

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