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Author Topic: When does it become cliche?  (Read 2277 times)

Offline Sidenote

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When does it become cliche?
« on: December 20, 2015, 04:26:56 PM »
So we're coming to the close of an anime that was all about cliches. I thought now might be a good time to bring up a question that's been on my mind a lot this anime season: when does a trope become a cliche?

Let me give a bit preface:

I just finished watching Your Lie in April. I had waited a long time to watch it because from the art style, I could tell it was probably a shoujo (or heavily influenced by the genre), which is filled with sterotypes. Plus, I'm a pianist, and I didn't want to watch a romance that would probably get the musical aspect of things all wrong.

Then I watched the show. On the one hand, it was really good. I was completely wrong; it was shounen. Character development was realistic, everything musically related was on point and super relatable, soundtrack fantastic, animation great, artistic direction on point. But on the other hand, it was absolutely what I expected it to be. Cliche love story with cliche characters and conflicts. If you don't know what I mean, read the spoiler. All of them have been personalized for Arima Kousei.

Spoiler for Hiden:
My childhood friend is in love with me trope: So common, especially in anime. The conflict with Arima's best friend falling in love with him was obvious.
The Girl I fell in love with dies: Saw it coming from like episode one.
My mom beat me: A very common stereotype of japanese music culture. Dunno if it's true or not.
My life started at one moment: The idea that both Arima's piano rivals, and his student, and his future lover, were all pretty much created by his one performance... kinda ridiculous
My step mom is super hot: why?
My student is a loli who happens to be my rival's sister: huh?

The thing is, when Shigatsu did all the sterotypes/cliches/ridiculous setups, they were actually good. The story made me even cry at points, which rarely happens to me. So what separates Shigatsu's use of cliches from some of the worse animes out their, like Eureka 7 Ao, Aldnoah.Zero, or Gate?
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Offline gedata

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2015, 05:54:16 PM »
So what separates Shigatsu's use of cliches from some of the worse animes out their, like Eureka 7 Ao, Aldnoah.Zero, or Gate?

Nothing. Shigatsu sucked.

Offline samui

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2015, 06:32:45 PM »
Well, Your Lie in April's good moments are really great but it's dull (or irritating) moments make me want to slam the screen of my portable tablet. It's polarizing, that is a feat in itself. The artwork borders on KyoAni amazing though.


So when does it become cliche? Repetition of scenes from different animes copied and pasted as if you are copying a text from the internet to your MS Word Application. All genres are guilty of this, so it's a matter of executing those tropes. Akagami no Shirayuki-hime might be the best example of a cliche well done this year. There are still these tropes (The nice prince, the damsel in distress, the third wheels) but it uses its excellent character interaction which elevated this from meh to decent.
I am not sure if good animes are getting fewer these days or my taste has gone numb because most of what I watch recently look the same.

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Offline SQA

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2015, 07:32:53 PM »
Execution.  It's always about execution. 

The difference is in how a trope is used.  Does it exist to propel the story or as a touchstone so the audience "connects" to a character without the creator having to do the work?   This is what happens when you get "clones" of series.  The clone exists because a previous media work "worked" on audiences, so the contours of the characters have to be close enough to the original work that people will recognize them.  This creates a situation where the characters (and tropes in general) exist solely so they exist, rather than being part of the narrative of the characters themselves.

Since Star Wars 7 just released, it's important to remember that since 1977, so many studios (in all manner of media) have attempted to recreate Star Wars.  The only "clones" that ended up working are, by my tally, Gundam and The Last Starfighter.  Both of which still hold up.  But they work because, while they borrow concepts & ideas (plus a few tropes) from Star Wars, their point is to tell their own story, in their own way, without just trying to borrow story beats from the original work.  The Last Starfighter might actually be the genre progenitor of the Otaku-pandering series.  (No joke, give it a watch.  It's a great sci-fi adventure film and the story structure is pretty much exactly what is still used, beyond a generic "Hero's Journey" story.)

The classic example in anime of this is the Tsundere.  The character archetype can work, if the other characters are built in such a way that the actions make sense (and serve the story), but nearly all of them exist to check a box in the product description.  To the point that I'm having problems coming up with an example where it actually "works".  It's so ubiquitous that it's hard to even come up with examples that work as characters.  (And, after reading a huge list of them, I came up with a few that work)  So after too much reading, I think Taiga from Toradora, Revy from Black Lagoon and Makise Kirisu from Steins;Gate would qualify for the tag and be good examples of where the trope is simply part of the process.  It's not a flag that's raised and you know all there is (or most) to know about the character.  (I'd reject Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari as a Tsundere, even if she calls herself one.)

But where the trope "works", it's simply a starting part to an archetype.  It's not the end of the character, which is what changes everything.

Offline TypicalIdiotFan

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2015, 07:53:04 PM »
I've said this numerous times, but there really isn't anything original anymore.  At the point where something original became a trope, it became simultaneously cliche.  I don't know if trope and cliche are synonymous, but they are in my brain.  If a pattern forms, and is recognizable as such, then it has already become a measuring stick for all similar patterns to be compared to.

What separates a good title from a bad title is not originality.  Originality should be celebrated, but it shouldn't be lauded for originality's sake.  Original shit can still be horrible, so what makes unoriginal shit not horrible?  It is what the author / creator does with the unoriginal concepts, tropes, or cliches that makes something good.  You can take every unoriginal idea and make an original work from it.  Deconstruction, a trope in and of itself, is taking other cliches and tropes and breaking them down.  In effect, a tropish show becomes original by taking a different view of something.  Parody works the same way, as does satire.  Even works that aren't any of these things can be original, so long as the creator doesn't lead the tropes completely along the same path as others.  Hell, even that can work if they do the same path in a different way.  Again, it is about EXECUTION, not about what built the story.

As far as the spoilered tropes, the first is definitely overused, and I was almost surprised for a while there because I didn't think it was going to happen.  Alas it did.

The second one was telegraphed from a mile away.  It wasn't supposed to be a secret.  Indeed, the author played upon that inevitability to weave the story together then gave you false hope at the end.  Bastard.

The third one really got some people's goats.  I remember people slamming Shigatsu for it, while I laughed at them.  For that alone, it was perfect.  Nothing is more amusing than watching people getting their safe spaces violated.

Four happens in a lot of shows.  Yeah, it bugs me, too.  In most cases it is used to symbolize that the entire world revolves around how amazing one character is, which usually is the mark of Mary Sue'dom or similar hack writing tactics.  Shigatsu is okay because, especially when it comes to music and the arts, inspiration and the drive to become an artist can come from anywhere.  Usually they see someone adult with their honed craft making wonderful art, but this time it was a kid, which is a different spin on things.

I don't know what the **** is wrong with the fifth trope.  What are you, gay?

The sixth one is also not a problem, especially since she was cute as hell and demonstrated human qualities beyond her obnoxious behavior.  She was refreshing in a way.  I'm not sure I'd qualify her as loli, though.  More of a tween.

*EDIT*

OR what SQA said.  Damn you for being quicker than I.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2015, 08:09:36 PM by TypicalIdiotFan »
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Offline Marid King

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2015, 11:12:38 PM »
I'll second TIF and SQA, but raise you this.

There is no such thing as a cliche. Execution is literally everything. You can take the most beaten of dead horses, and turn it into a fresh, compelling horse, and you can do it today. A thousand people might have tried, but that doesn't matter, because 99.9% of them failed.

To answer your question more directly, a trope becomes a cliche when we all give up hope that anyone will ever get it right.
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Offline Sidenote

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2015, 11:33:05 PM »
a trope becomes a cliche when we all give up hope that anyone will ever get it right.
In effect, a tropish show becomes original by taking a different view of something.
Execution.  It's always about execution.
But where the trope "works", it's simply a starting part to an archetype.  It's not the end of the character, which is what changes everything.

I'll be keeping all of those quotes. Good one-liners to throw into a conversation when I wanna sound smart.
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Offline Shadowmage

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2015, 11:33:59 PM »
I kind of agree that everything can be argued to be cliched, but I would only use that word when a show utilizes an old idea in a manner where I can blatantly see the seams showing.  Right now I'm trying to trudge through the eight episodes of Asterisk War I did not watch and it's absolute torture since I know exactly what everyone will say and do, and the characters are so phony that I can't even register them as humans.  On the flip side of things, Gundam: IBO is just as derivative as Asterisk War but it's presented in a way that is not glaring to me.  I clearly see the Gundam algorithm running the background, but IBO has the right mix of presentation, competent dialogue, plot consistency and a deft understanding of the tropes the show is using so that the call backs come across as homages rather than rip offs.  It's really a lot of small things, but it has a massive effect on the final reception.

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Offline SQA

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2015, 09:20:55 AM »
Further along my execution point, I was discussing Avatar: The Legend of Korra recently, and a point I made during the second book seems applicable. 

The writers can obviously handle a range of characters (see Amon & Tarrlok, Lin Beifong & Pema), so the world and side-characters were fine, but the main 4 were such a blank slate and just simply off.  If Korra is a guy, she would pretty much end up being every Naruto trope to a T.  And I think that's the biggest problem.   She's Naruto without the charm or the facade to hide the pain.   And I guess that makes Aang into Luffy, which actually isn't too far off.

I'll stop while I'm ahead, but it makes a lot of sense.  I know why they'd make Korra female for the series (easiest "change" from Airbender), but an attempt to keep her relatable lost most of the character in the process.

What killed the entire Korra series is the core issue in this topic.  Korra is one of the highest budget "anime" shows we're going to see for a while.  Some of the fights are damn awesome, but the entire main cast are just their tropes.  To the point that I inadvertently called how they were going to "resolve" the romantic relationships.   When your characters are only their tropes, the only way you end their arcs is utterly predictable.   This is probably the point where the trope morphs into cliche: when you can predict what the characters will do.

Now, you can get trope characters that rise above the tropes simply due to the actor portraying them or the writer's talent moving above what a character is given to work with.  On the first, the one that comes to mind is Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".  It was a 60s sci-fi movie that was elevated to "Classic" by doing a few scenes so brilliantly.  And you see writers, occasionally, do really good things with adaptation jobs when the original work really didn't deserve it.  (Which describes a lot of the decent Light Novel series, actually.)

Thus, if a trope is simply how the character was built, it takes massive work by the production staff/actors to make the character "work".  But if the trope is simply a starting point for the execution of the character's development, the character (and the trope) can become part of something much better, as the trope simply saves a certain amount of need for backstory/character motivation.  (And, in a visual medium, when it's really well done, they can do all of it simply by visual presentation.  Which can be really enjoyable to watch.)

Offline themaster20000

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2015, 12:46:33 PM »
I kind of agree that everything can be argued to be cliched, but I would only use that word when a show utilizes an old idea in a manner where I can blatantly see the seams showing.  Right now I'm trying to trudge through the eight episodes of Asterisk War I did not watch and it's absolute torture since I know exactly what everyone will say and do, and the characters are so phony that I can't even register them as humans.  On the flip side of things, Gundam: IBO is just as derivative as Asterisk War but it's presented in a way that is not glaring to me.  I clearly see the Gundam algorithm running the background, but IBO has the right mix of presentation, competent dialogue, plot consistency and a deft understanding of the tropes the show is using so that the call backs come across as homages rather than rip offs.  It's really a lot of small things, but it has a massive effect on the final reception.

I agree that Gundam:IBO is great example of how you do cliches. The plot is the same as most Gundam shows with the main characters getting pulled into some conflict that they had no part of at all. What makes it work is the character writing and the way it's painting the relationships between them; which in turn makes you forgive the usual plotting since you care about these characters and the conflicts their being put through. Along with the show having great direction and mostly good writing. Compared to something like Asterisk War or the new Garo which are just conveyor belt shows that are made up of cliches with no creative at all to them to make them stand out.
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Offline SQA

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2015, 10:04:30 PM »
Content on a schedule, especially the tight ones of TV production (anime or otherwise) extenuate the problem and show why it's so easy to fall into the trap.  "Fast, Cheap, Good: pick any 2" is a classic Engineering maxim, but it applies all over the place.

Offline Kylaran

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2015, 08:38:14 PM »
Content on a schedule, especially the tight ones of TV production (anime or otherwise) extenuate the problem and show why it's so easy to fall into the trap.  "Fast, Cheap, Good: pick any 2" is a classic Engineering maxim, but it applies all over the place.

This response is going to be incredibly long but I want to summarize by saying that I really agree with approaching anime not as a work in a vacuum but through understanding the production and business issues related to it.

I'm not sure if anyone else here has done theater or film, but I once worked on an amateur stage production where the director said that none of us male actors (most in our early 20s) could even do a realistic sigh. NUs amateurs could put weight behind it enough to present the feeling of burdens weighing down on the character. The guy who ended up with the middle aged, slightly suicidal character role couldn't really get that realistic portrayal going before opening night, but the director left it in there anyway because he felt the story was consistent--the acting just wasn't enough to bring it to life.

There's something about the weight of an act and the way people act that is always logical to that person; or, at least, consistent with that person's behavior. Cliche's and tropes only sort of define the a rough outline of the way the situation plays out. Situations play out according to scripts plenty in anime, but this isn't bad in an of itself (i.e. TIF's remark about correct execution). When we walk into a restaurant and order something, that script is defined and easy for us to act out. Its a lot harder when we go to a foreign country and try to do the same thing, because the script itself is different.

Let's assume that the writer or director have a really clear idea of what they want to see on screen, so they use a basic framework involving keywords like "tsundere" "osananajimi" "bishoujo" to give a better idea of how their characters are or act. The real difficulty here is taking this basic work and making it realistic on screen. I mean 'realistic' here not as mirroring reality, but that the characters and acts are believable. Thus, the writer and director are now tasked with instructing their 50 person animation team and voice actresses to properly portray this character in the way that is compelling as the original author wrote. Frameworks are just frameworks, so it's easy to see how the end result might be boring as hell even if the original idea is interesting.

If cliches and tropes are scripts, then there's nothing wrong with using a framework as the basis for the show. They're not inherently bad. Being against the use of tropes is probably hard to define logically, and the preferences here would probably be deeply personal. You could even take the logic further and reduce it to something like: "Aristotle defined Greek plays into drama and comedy, but those aren't original so I can't do comedy" or something silly.

So we're coming to the close of an anime that was all about cliches. I thought now might be a good time to bring up a question that's been on my mind a lot this anime season: when does a trope become a cliche?

Tropes and cliches are seem (at least to me) fairly nebulous in terms of boundary and really just appear to be a difference of scale and/or frequency of use. In the end, frameworks exist for a reason, and the use of them isn't really an issue. So tropes and cliches themselves probably don't matter as much as critics want us to, because I have a feeling that their definition and how people feel about them are just one way to encapsulate the battle that goes on between writing and directing a good story, and the actual production and execution of the said show.

Tropes and cliches could be bad, or just cliches could be bad, or even possibly all tropes and cliches could be bad. I'm not sure if there's much explanatory power to get caught up in the differences and definitions here though.

Offline Reckoner

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2015, 09:29:32 PM »
There has to be a consideration with any show that what a seasoned viewer might feel is quite different from an inexperienced one, even if they are equally scrupulous with the content they digest. Anything that invokes the same old tired formulas of DBZ and Naruto may earn the ire of many viewers. For example, you see this all the time in the anime world where people cry "ass pull" when the main character suddenly gets a power up to beat the big bad guy that wasn't really telegraphed. Goku going super saiyan is a template for what has come after. For many viewers who originally watched DBZ, it was a crowning moment of awesome. Now those same viewers belch at the site of anything remotely similar. However, how would newer viewers feel?

To echo a common sentiment in this thread, a lot of it is just execution. Assuming of course that the original idea or "trope" had any merit to begin with. At the same time, execution only goes so far. In my personal experience, I have never really considered something truly great unless something genuine came through from the creators. It is easy to say that Shigatsu is just a typical teary-eyed story about a dying girl which happened to be executed well, but I truly think it differentiated itself considerably with Kosei's story. You could definitely feel a bit of the heart and soul of the original mangaka.

Offline Sidenote

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Re: When does it become cliche?
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2015, 11:42:56 PM »
Tropes and cliches are seem (at least to me) fairly nebulous in terms of boundary and really just appear to be a difference of scale and/or frequency of use. In the end, frameworks exist for a reason, and the use of them isn't really an issue.

I suppose I should define my terms; trope is a term that I've mostly seen in the literature world. It means something that gets turned over and over. This can be an idea, a line, or a format, depending on the medium. So when talking about anime, a trope is not an archetype, but an idea core idea that gets used and reused, and therefore changed and fuller fleshed out over time. In theory, a trope is never complete. But sometimes it feels like it is, like it's dead. And that's when a cliche born.

I'm not sure if anyone else here has done theater or film, but I once worked on an amateur stage production where the director said that none of us male actors (most in our early 20s) could even do a realistic sigh. NUs amateurs could put weight behind it enough to present the feeling of burdens weighing down on the character. The guy who ended up with the middle aged, slightly suicidal character role couldn't really get that realistic portrayal going before opening night, but the director left it in there anyway because he felt the story was consistent--the acting just wasn't enough to bring it to life.

There's something about the weight of an act and the way people act that is always logical to that person; or, at least, consistent with that person's behavior. Cliche's and tropes only sort of define the a rough outline of the way the situation plays out. Situations play out according to scripts plenty in anime, but this isn't bad in an of itself (i.e. TIF's remark about correct execution). When we walk into a restaurant and order something, that script is defined and easy for us to act out. Its a lot harder when we go to a foreign country and try to do the same thing, because the script itself is different.

I like this idea though; tropes acting as bare bones for a story. It's the production and direction that gives it meat.

There has to be a consideration with any show that what a seasoned viewer might feel is quite different from an inexperienced one, even if they are equally scrupulous with the content they digest. Anything that invokes the same old tired formulas of DBZ and Naruto may earn the ire of many viewers. For example, you see this all the time in the anime world where people cry "ass pull" when the main character suddenly gets a power up to beat the big bad guy that wasn't really telegraphed. Goku going super saiyan is a template for what has come after. For many viewers who originally watched DBZ, it was a crowning moment of awesome. Now those same viewers belch at the site of anything remotely similar. However, how would newer viewers feel?

To be able to be literally define a trope/cliche/stereotype like that and do it in an entertaining, long lasting way like DBZ or Naruto did is legitimately admirable. So when we see something that's similar, but not the same, not as definitive, not as (admittedly) ridiculous as DBZ, I think it's fair to give newer viewers a hard time. They should realize that they're not the first to go through the thrill ride of an OP moment, and shouldn't fanboy about how Aldnoah.Zero is best mecha ever, or how Kirito could beat Trunks anyday. When I see people talking about crud like that, or shows trying to aspire (and failing) to be Gundam or DBZ, of course I'm gonna vomit at how misguided these people are and how lame their life must be if White Kaneki Ken is really the coolest shounen transformation they've ever seen.

To be fair though, it is ridiculous when anime elitists are to full of themselves to just sit back and enjoy the show like good old times. Even if they can't enjoy the 'wow' factor that a new viewer feels, they can still respect that feel and try to enjoy the show.
To echo a common sentiment in this thread, a lot of it is just execution. Assuming of course that the original idea or "trope" had any merit to begin with. At the same time, execution only goes so far. In my personal experience, I have never really considered something truly great unless something genuine came through from the creators. It is easy to say that Shigatsu is just a typical teary-eyed story about a dying girl which happened to be executed well, but I truly think it differentiated itself considerably with Kosei's story. You could definitely feel a bit of the heart and soul of the original mangaka.

That was one thing that I found very special and original to Shigatsu: how it took everything, from beginning to end, from Kousei's perspective. It made everything, including the ending, tie together nicely and fall under the 'boy grows up' theme and the 'I exist now' message. An odd parallel, but for some reason it reminds me of The Yearling in terms of it's sweetness and theme.
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