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Why is stupidity considered a heroic trait in anime?

Goku, Sailor Moon, Vash the Stampede, the examples are countless. In anime, being an idiot is a shorthand way to show that a character is all-around good or at least innocent. It’s prevalent enough to have its own trope: Lawful Stupid. It’s not limited to anime but it is most prevalent there. Why is this? Is there a cultural or literary tradition? Is it just a fun trope to play with? The dea is definitely worth examining more in-depth.

  • I think most of the time it exists to add a bit of comic relief, and also allows the characters to get into more silly situations because if the character were at a genius level, they wouldn't fall for traps and stuff that could put them in unique situations. – xFezziwig 7 years ago
  • I agree that it is essential to the comic relief of the stories, but I think it also makes an important point. Our culture places a great deal of value on intelligence, but these animes propose that intelligence is not the most important part of being a hero. You don't have to be particularly clever to triumph over difficulties. Your values (hard work, friendship, etc.) are more important. I think this is an important message. – C8lin 7 years ago
  • I think stupidity is also a good way to show how characters are human. At some point, we all make dumb mistakes so it's natural for anime characters to show these same traits as well. – seouljustice 7 years ago
  • I've wondered this as well. For example in Naruto, the hero is incredibly powerful and has a good heart yet he is clearly depicted as not being the brightest bulb in the room. His struggle to be accepted and to overcome his learning disabilities portray him in an underdog light. Showing us that hard work and goodness reign the day. – lion 7 years ago
  • I think the scarier question to ask is "do a majority of viewers relate to a protagonist's lack of intelligence?" There is a clear distinction between viewers who watch anime for immersion and those who watch it for escapism. If an author or screenwriter can place a viewer/reader in a fantastical world yet fill it with characters who are just as equally clumsy or stupid or athletic or lazy then the reader can not only flee from whatever reality they want to escape from but they can also feel accepted or at least socially safe in this new world where these character exhibit the same traits as they do or a lack of. – Pushingaterd 6 years ago
  • I'm wondering you if you could take a look at what the hisyorical hero archetype was in Japan and contrast that against anime. You could also look at what Japan values in heroes as a culture since the Western hero is meant to only possess superlatives, and also doesn't Japanese culture highly value intelligence? Perhaps not as rigidly as other Asian cultures (please correct me if I'm wrong) but this could be a reason as to why they want a break from the status quo? Again using Naruto as an example, the story is actually heavily based on traditional Japanese legends and creation myths (e.g. Kaguya as the Moon Goddess) so I'm wondering if Naruto as a character also filed under some traditional elements – Pamela Maria 6 years ago
  • I also agree that it is more of a comic relief. It works and seems to have been working for a long time now but I think as our idea of a hero develops, the idea becomes repetitive and a bit of a turnoff. As for tradition, I'm not sure but it sounds very interesting to dive into. – Melissa 6 years ago
  • While it also serves as comic relief, I think most protagonists who are portrayed as stupid are done so to highlight how pure of heart they are. The narrative is always emphasizing their stupidity as something good because it separates them from being conniving, a trait often depicted in anime as villainous. – brightasgold 3 years ago