The Ick: Anime Tropes that Repel Viewers


Anime as a genre is bigger than it’s ever been. Every year it seems the genre finds new ways to grow and expand and draw in more eyes. Whether it’s a Shounen Anime with a budget to match the hype or an Isekai where a man is reincarnated as a chair, Anime has never been stronger as an industry.

But a recent scene from one of the biggest shows of the recent era, Jujutsu Kaisen, has brought up some discourse and gripes and various icks some viewers have with the genre.

Anime has been growing in scale, the art is better than ever, some of the stories, match any other media in terms of complexity, gravitas, and emotional impact. But by that same token, Anime as a genre has more than a few recurrent elements that can easily put off some viewers.

It’s okay we’re not related by blood!


One of the more problematic elements in any given show and the impetus for this article is the prevalence of incest as a topic within Anime. Far from just kissing cousins, many shows delve head first into the garbage bin with brothers and sisters full-on lusting after each other. It begs the question who is this for?

In the case of Jujutsu Kaisen (JJK), the reasoning for the implied incest is so on the nose for an already morally dubious character it reads almost like a hat on a hat. Now of course the elements had always been there but there’s a difference between UiUi being possessive of his big sister and said big Sister Mei Mei, sleeping in bed with him completely in the nude. You can say it’s to show Mei Mei is a bad person, but that has been evidenced in almost every appearance of the character.

Now JJK is by no means the worst offender in this category, but it is the most notable at the time of writing and would have been a glaring omission. Another show or duo of shows that have this problem in spades are the works of Tsukasa Fushimi, the infamous Oreimo, and EroManga Sensei, masterclass works of bad taste.

One could make the argument, that shows like those mentioned above, are notorious and that only people with a fascination with schlock would hazard upon them. That would be true if not for the nature of discussion in the digital age.

Positive or negative attention matters little to the algorithms of X, formerly Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook. A show being discussed is a show that is being promoted. And that discussion can be about how terrible it is but that doesn’t negate its impact on the media.

I swear the dragon is 1,000 years old!

Anime has such a diverse pool of character designs, from the burly men of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Baki to the silly Doraemon to the iconic Sailor Moon.

Nowi from Fire Emblem Awakening, age 1000
Nowi from Fire Emblem Awakening, age 1000

One recurrent element in many Anime and Anime-adjacent projects is the older-than-she-looks “lolicon” character. That is to say, a character that looks like a child, acts like a child, and is treated like a child but “actually she’s 1,000 years old so it’s okay”

A notable example of this is in the show Ms. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid which has the character of Kanna Kamui, who serves as the surrogate child of the main characters Tohru and Kobayashi. There’s no problem with this until she is isolated with an actual child, Saikawa where it’s stated after the fact Kanna wanted to engage in some explicit behavior with her classmate who was 6 years old.

Keeping in mind that both characters are depicted as children, this is an uncomfortable enough scene, but remembering that one of the characters is in a universe hundreds of years old, adds a predatory element to a show that is otherwise unnecessary.

His personality is sexual harassment

Minoru Mineta (MHA)
Minoru Mineta (MHA)

Anime has progressed beyond the need for the perverted character whose entire personality is that he is a pervert. In the rare cases where the perverted character is a female, the point remains as such. Delete them from the history books lest they offend the gods.

Hyperbole aside, the number of characters that exist in this trope is almost as comprehensive as the list of Anime.

There are the old men, like Muten Roshi from DragonBall and Jiraiya from Naruto, and there are the younger perverts, like Sanji from One Piece, or Miroku from Inuyasha, or Brock from Pokemon . There’s Mineta the worst character in fiction, there’s Meliodas from Seven Deadly Sins who’s the worst protagonist in a shounen.

These characters are defined by their “comedic” arousal levels and are usually used for slapstick but at the expense of the plot, pacing, and the female characters in their shows. Viewers are forced into the role of a voyeur as the character ogles various women in the show sometimes to a disturbing degree.

For some examples let’s start with Master Roshi from Dragon Ball. Roshi has the most prolific history of sexual harassment of the characters mentioned, as seemingly every woman in the franchise who encounters him receives some form of unwanted attention. During the Tournament of Power Arc, Roshi seemingly threatens a character with sexual assault for the “crime” of tempting him. Jiraiya proclaims in his introduction he’s not a “little pervert ” but a “big one”. His character goes on to leer over the various women in Naruto while also being one of the most powerful legendary ninjas in the show’s universe. Miroku, from Inuyasha, is this in spades, as his entire character can be summarized as a “perverted monk.” as opposed to Jiraiya’s perverted sage. Miroku is a bit worse as he routinely assaults women throughout the story and though his motivation(needing to sire an heir) exists, it doesn’t justify his treatment of women. Meliodas, from Seven Deadly Sins, is much more of the same, ogling the main female lead of his show and routinely physically assaulting her as well. This becomes somehow even more problematic as the story progresses and shows Meliodas has done this multiple times. One thing aside from the assault these characters have in common is their behavior is played for laughs in their show but reads as tone-deaf concerning the world outside of Anime fandom.

This is to say, the problem with these characters is their jokes, aren’t really jokes. When watching it toes the line of “dirty old man” to possible criminal assault but the viewers are either expected to laugh it off or worse sympathize with said perverted character.

The Joke is Assault


In recent years there’s been a reduction in this kind of joke, but that is not a tragic absence. The trope of physical or sexual assault being played for laughs is one that will not be missed if it is ever fully abandoned by the medium.

To preface, a character being violent is not a problem, a character getting hurt is not the problem, the problem lies with the setup and punchline repeating ad nauseam.

The male character does something usually a clumsy pratfall or rude comment so the female character overreacts and physically assaults him.

This is in contrast to the “female character exists, and male character “can’t help himself” and sexually assaults her in any myriad of ways.” which was touched upon in the previous section.

The rare permutations on this, the female pervert and the male tsundere are few and far between and don’t do much in the way of salvaging this overdone bit.

Both styles should be relegated to the trash bin as there’s much more room for humor that doesn’t start like the written testimonial of a restraining order.

I hate Anime, it’s so cool.

I hate anime

As a lifelong watcher and enjoyer of the medium, the notion of feeling shame for enjoying something is childish at best. It doesn’t harm anyone if someone enjoys My Hero Academy‘s objectively worst character or they hate the best girl, Tsuyu.

When addressing the problematic elements of a show it’s not to call for “cancellation” of it or hatred. It’s to acknowledge this thing could be better. Artistic vision is important but not infallible.

Toriyama brought back Goku, as is his right, but calling that out as a bad decision is the right of the end consumer. What can be done about these problematic elements is wholly dependent on the trends that Anime studios choose to follow. In prior decades it was blood and violence as the big ticket sellers, then it became “slice of life”, and now it’s Isekai.

It used to be that female characters were nothing but eye candy and damsels in distress to be won by the hero. Now they’re heroes of their own stories.

Tropes are not inherently problematic, but the overuse of them with no commentary, no creativity, and no tact, leaves some consumers with bitter tastes in their mouths.

Criticism is meant to help, and in this case, some things should be discarded.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Posted on by
She/They Black Queer writer currently living abroad. Working on games and making art.

Want to write about Anime or other art forms?

Create writer account


  1. Liu

    These tropes are one reason why I can´t enjoy most Anime anymore. I have the feeling that most Anime/ Manga from the last 4-5 years are just a collection of thrown together tropes with incredible one-dimensioned cookie-cutter characters. And I hate the fact that these tropes are accepted by so many viewers like there are a “normal” thing. No, it´s not normal to se*ualize you siblings and people who look like children, and neither is grooming…

  2. Hamza

    L00li trope must have been made from a creep who wanted an excuse to creep it’s so disgusting and weird.

    • Santana

      Fun fact; it just started off as a proto-chibi art style from the 70s meant to glorify childhood innocence.

      He took solace in making cute art featuring cute children as a coping mechanism.

      I forget the artist’s name, but he actually admitted to being disgusted by creeps who tainted his art aesthetic to become horrifically sexual.

  3. Warner

    Questionable tropes cycle:
    – A decent Anime use questionable tropes
    – anime influencers defend it saying ‘it’s not real, guys. chill’
    – this anime becomes popular
    – new anime follow these tropes
    – even newer anime follows
    – these anime making big money
    – questionable anime tropes become new normal
    – tropes become new reason ‘normie’ dislike all anime and it’s watchers

  4. ChumChum

    Suguha and Kiritos relationship in SAO Abridged is really well done. I’m so glad that SWE got rid of the incest plot line, and switched it with a much better storyline.

    • Amaris

      I honestly don’t even hate these tropes when they’re done right, by that I mean when they are treated with the respect and severity these situations are. Such as the characters stating this is weird or wrong or even having the manga/anime not glamorize it. I’m fine with these tropes as long as it’s not a long standing thing or if it is showing that it is horrible. Like I feel like in sao they could have kept the sibling crush thing as long as it was her developing a crush while they play the game then when the reveal happens they have an adult conversation about how it’s not okay and they could keep that awkwardness in future episodes. I just feel that if you’re going to use these tropes you treat them as the serious issues that they are.

  5. Ulises

    I hate these tropes.

  6. Dominick

    Guess game of thrones is for degenerates after all!

  7. Ayer

    Ah the true form of degeneracy.

  8. Levy

    FYI Tanjiro & Nezuko could have become a couple and be historically accurate since incest rates in Japan was high during the Taisho era.

  9. Adalynn

    This thing in…
    In Mythology: Yes
    In Real Life: No
    In Books and Media: Depends

  10. I’m also really tired of the permissive attitude towards grooming/pedophilia in a lot of anime. I don’t like FLCL at all because of how much it trivializes Naota’s sexual abuse from Mamimi and Haruko. Gainax in general was always really bad about this stuff, but FLCL was the worst in my opinion.

    I tried watching Great Teacher Onizuka, but gave up after ten episodes because ever adult man in that show lusting after teenage girls got real old real fast. It seemed like every one of Onizuka’s “solutions” towards any problems surrounding his female students involved him committing some kind of sexual harassment to them.

  11. Siothrún

    It was truly a pleasure to edit this article, and it is a truly great read! Thank you for the great work, and congratulations on the publication! I’m looking forward to a lot of these tropes ending.

  12. Mouse

    Japan is weird.

  13. Sebastian

    In Germany they already fighting for incest relationship rights. Some rights should never be granted.

  14. Davis

    The tropes attract the fucked up, edgy, emo 10-25 people.

  15. Sassy

    I really dislike the sibling incest trope. I remember watching Ouran High School Host Club with my sister and really disliking the creepy nature of the twins. You’re brothers! Stop!

    • Jessica

      One of the reasons why I stopped watching OHSHC.

    • mcee

      That honestly ruined these characters for me because aside from that I really liked the twins. It was supposed to be on the comedical side but I felt disgusted and annoyed.

  16. Staffie

    Teenagers having crushes on adults (and commonly their teachers) is pretty common irl and id say its relatively okay in a story as long as the story doesnt like end up turning them into a couple. Like the adult shouldnt reciprocate the teenagers feelings because clearly that is very weird and possibly illegal depending on how old the teen is. Although of course if this does happen it should be portrayed as a bad thing. Thats also the issue with the incest in anime typically where it isnt portrayed as negative or weird most of the time.

    • Bowe

      Besides, it is just fantasy, it’s a reason why it’s fictional since it is bad/terrible in reality but quite entertaining to read/watch in fiction.

  17. Kirby

    I honestly would love to have a serious interrogation of any mangaka and force them to justify why they sexualize some types of characters.

  18. Horne

    There is this rebuttal whenever one points out problemetic tropes in anime/manga “You’re ok with kids killing and fighting monsters but not being sexualised?” “It’s fiction, supernatural, fantasy. How are you complaining about being realistic in an anime with magic and supernatural characters.”

    I’m so sick of hearing that.

    • Marshall

      It is a good point, though? Tropes by their nature are not problematic, but how they are employed is what might make them problematic.

      No real human being is being harmed when someone creates a story about SA, just how no real human is being harmed when extreme violence is played for entertainment. You don’t gotta like it and I can’t blame you for thinking a person is weird for liking something you don’t, but live and let live.

    • Jan

      A good quote I read from Tumblr is “Sexual assault is real, your favourite villain’s fictional war crimes aren’t”. And, it took the words right out of my mouth

    • Rufio

      Another point is that sexualization doesn’t add anything to the story unless the story is centered around it, like Shimoneta. There’s no reason for the cat girl in Fire Force to be stripped naked because it’s not important to the story or characters.

  19. Evie

    The fact people enjoy these tropes is disgusting.

  20. tyler

    I don’t think most mainstream anime have problematic subplots. I can’t recall any problematic subject matter in shows like FMA, cowboy bebop, Naruto, One punch man, mob psycho, Kimetsu no Yaiba, etc.

  21. Terrance

    I cant help but to wonder how it would look like if a sane person wrote characters like some of these.

  22. Alfred

    I remember recently watching an anime about a single father who had a daughter who was 5, and he didn’t know how to cook. So, one of his student, who was a girl, decided to help him and I could tell that she was developing a crush while teaching him to cook. But luckily enough, he never once reciprocated those feelings and only focused on his daughter and learning to cook just for her. The girl also became a sort of older sister to the daughter and it was so much better than those teacher X student anime. Not every anime needs that trope, sometimes it’s better to just keep it wholesome

  23. chen

    My strategy on this is shutdown my brain while watching anything and forget about these kind of things when I on with my life

  24. hoew

    Great topic and article. Now, I need safe anime.

  25. Larii

    I don’t like or dislike pieces that envolve incest or other romantic taboos, it can be a really good drama because forbidden love themes are really efficient in delivering a dramatic and emotional turbulent plot. But if a piece only has the taboo thing to shock or just because they want to have it, then it sucks. So, to me, if the story is well written, and it impacts, I don’t mind it to envolve a siblings relationship. Also given the fact that I have a Christian background, to me, homosexuality is not so different morally than incest. But I don’t mind watching a show or playing a game that has or involves a gay/lesbian relationship. To me it is the same. Both are things that I would never do myself, but that doesn’t mean I have to hate every piece that talks about those things.

  26. Stephanie

    Yeah I really find the young romance trope to be really disturbing, especially when one of the characters looks like a literal chil.

  27. Leticia

    My most hated trope in anime/manga/novels is the abuses tsundere best friend or the love interest ,it always pisses me off on how they mistreat the mc ,for examples if a guy walks on a girl changing she screams and hits him while calling him a pervert but if its the opposite she still hits him and calls him a pervert ,like WHAT you were the one walking on him changing but you still called him a pervert and don’t let me talk about how they hit and calls the mc a pervert when another girl talk,hug or even flirt with them and there not even dating ,they always act like they’re dating when they’re not and also why is the mc always a pervert who simps for the female like for once could they at least try to make a badass,cool and not a simp character please….haaa well thanks for reading this. 😊

  28. Deacon

    The reason for these tropes is that humans have a natural inclination for Taboo in media (that’s why murder mysteries and cheating stories are so hot to some people). In the anime culture, these taboos have become the status quo so they’re added more for checkboxes than anything else. Conflating someone’s attraction to a taboo to anything malicious is pretty odd to me because murder porn exist and gets numbers but we don’t conflate those people to killers (I swear that I’m one of the last people on this planet that put murder over other crimes lol) but we’ll do it with anime tropes. I’m not defending anything, just giving a true unbiased explanation because you won’t get those in these kind of discussions.

  29. Iyana

    These tropes help gatekeep killjoys, though.

  30. Josiah

    it’s one thing to be weird. it’s another thing to be a weirdo.

  31. Mira

    i hate it when animes insert incest plots. it’s even more disgusting when played for laughs. i don’t care if they’re cute characters and what they’re doing is supposed to be sweet (if they weren’t related), it’s still super gross. i almost always give up animes when they add incestuous characters or plotlines. like i love Saiki K but those scenes with Kokomi’s older brother stalking her, sniffing her stuff and fantasizing about marrying her almost ruin the show for me. at least Kokomi is creeped out so it’s acknowledged in their universe that incest is creepy. still it’s a comedy so though they gave it some creepy vibes they also meant it to be comedic, but it’s not, at least for me. the show overall is just too hilarious to give up though, so i just skip those icky scenes on rewatch.

    • Nichooop

      THIS, as someone with siblings it really really makes me uncomfortable that people fetishize siblings like euuuagh

  32. Rose

    I have said the same before, the people who are supporters for incest content are probably people who #1 Dont have siblings themselves, or any healthy family relationships that give them the obvious idea that , yes, ITS A BAD IDEA.( I have sisters, and growing up with them would stir me away from trying to date anyone like them.) Or #2 those people are mentally just unwell in the realm of their fantasies and reality. Which is worse, if they do have siblings and close family. Imagine walking in on your family member watching incest anime or whatever, that relationship just becomes sus after that. EW! And there is something to say about the incest supporters and how I will mostly see them wishing in comments that they had a cute sibling that would do similar things like in anime. Like…. Wow. There are so many people who want to take advantage of a family relationship like that just to please themselves…. But yes, I really hope anime can transform with these topics, they can write about them but do not frame it as its a good or okay or normal thing that happens. In this day and age, there isnt a good reason why incest should still happen.

    • Bris

      Or, and this might shock you, the people who watch that stuff don’t care because they know that it is a fictional piece of media

      Just assuming someone has to be a certain way over what fictional products they consume is kind of stupid.

  33. Cook

    I’m proud of myself for dropping all of these animes!

    • Adrian

      Iam glad that i can tell the difference between reality and fiction, i dont mind anything degen as long as it stay fiction, drawn characters, people who cant tell the difference seriously should get professional help.

Leave a Reply