Last updated: January 26th, 2020 08:51 pm
This one is for my fellow ladies and gentlemen of culture.
Have you ever watched a poorly written, hastily animated, highly generic, and just all-round trashy anime about a protagonist living an ordinary life that is suddenly whisked to a fantasy world or becomes trapped in a video game? Have you perchance watched several such Chinese cartoons? And if so, have you noticed eerie similarities these shows seem to share and yearned for a fun game of trope spotting during your next binge? Then you’ve come to the right place, my highly specific friend!
I present to you two bingo cards. If you don’t know what a Bingo card is, I cannot help you. You are beyond my abilities. For all the rest, you’ll know what to do. Having said that, in cases where it’s not obvious if something qualifies or not, I elaborate below on what counts as a marked space and what doesn’t.
- 12-13 episodes
The show consists of 12-13 episodes. Additional OVAs or movies don’t count.
- Beach / Onsen episode
Usually an episode that exists exclusively for the purposes of self-indulgent fanservice and takes place at the beach or at the hot springs. OVAs count.
- Came from a light novel
The source material the anime was adapted from was a light novel. Did this really need explaining?
- Seasonal cliffhanger
At the end of the season there are cliffhangers or prominent foreshadowing hinting at what’s coming next (even though season 2 or a movie furthering the plot has not been announced and – let’s be honest – will probably never be made).
- Awkward attempts at romance
The MC attempts to get romantically close to another character or vice versa. Cringe ensues.
- All the chicks love him
Or at least most of them.
I wonder what specific audience they are aiming for here? Hmmm.
- MyAnimeList score 5.5 – 6.9
Obviously not the pinnacle of the art form we’re dealing with here.
- Classic D&D races
We’re talking Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, etc.
- Generic A1 pictures art style
If you’ve seen any other shows from A1 you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Main example of this: notwithstanding hair and accessories all humanoid faces look almost exactly alike.
- Only struggle against main villain
Everything else is not even a challenge.
- Denser than a brick
The protagonist finds it highly confusing why the person of the opposite sex talking to them is so flustered or gets mad at their ill-considered comments. We’re talking sociopathic levels of emotion recognition.
At least one girl with this true to life personality is present in the show. Boys count as well, though they are not nearly as common.
- “I didn’t see anything, really!”
MC walks in a room (full of) girl(s) in various states of undress, much to their dismay. More contemporary show try to be annoyingly clever or even meta about this dynamic. Which isn’t fooling anyone. I see you.
- References to Earth mythology
Predominantly Norse, sometimes Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian rarely even more obscure; basically anything from real history is accepted.
- Damsel in distress
Poor helpless girl gets kidnapped, necessitating a (teenagers idea of) an edgy power fantasy incarnate to gallantly extricate her from the perilous predicament. Variations on the theme also count.
Are enemies who previously had no trouble going toe to toe with the strongest warriors in their world unable to so much as scratch the isekai’d protagonist? If so, you know what to do.
- MC dresses in black
Usually a black coat. E D G Y.
- Copy-pasted MC looks
The lead character shares a striking resemblance to fellow compatriots from other shows in the genre in terms of appearance. I mostly mean physique, hair, and facial features – since their clothing choices will likely vary.
- Animation shortcuts
The people or buildings in the background don’t exactly… look right.
*Presses boob against MC*
- 3+ filler episodes
At least 3 episodes of the show do nothing to advance the plot. Side-quests at best, straight up screwing around at worst.
- Pseudo-European medieval setting
Look, I’m not going to be picky here: as long as it’s pre-industrian revolution it’s acceptable. This is not a history class.
- Demon Lord
OK, this one’s kind of broad so stay with me.
An incredibly strong character (sometimes multiple characters) referred to as “the Demon Lord” or variation thereof exists or has existed in the fantasy world. Possible variations on the theme:
- Demon Lord is the main villain
- Demon Lord joins the isekai’d protagonist
- the protagonist themselves assumes the role of the Demon Lord (or at least calls themselves that)
- references to Demon Lord appear but the proverbial title might not belong to anyone at the time of the story
- Otherworlders speak Japanese
A fascinating phenomenon with a curious side-effect of significantly simplifying the anime writers’ jobs. Convenient, isn’t it?
Auto-translation spells, devices, or other handy mechanisms that simplistically and definitively solve the language barrier issues also count.
A female character affectionately and… shall we say enthusiastically hugs the MC(‘s arm).
- Superior Japanese culture
The protagonist introduces lowly otherwold gaijin to the highest form of civilization.
By which I pretty much mean Japanese cuisine and public baths.
- Adventurer’s guild
Does anyone else find it curious that the state which naturally seeks to monopolize violence would permit this level of autonomy and even provide a gathering place to a large number of highly skilled and volatile mercenaries?
- 90%+ of cast are girls
A ballpark number. No need to pull out your calculators.
- MC was a NEET
I of course mean the personality type, not a social category. Furthermore, I say was because that trait usually vanishes quickly. Once isekai’d, they find themselves at the center of attention in a radically unfamiliar environment so they naturally adapt by suddenly becoming highly extroverted. You know, like in real life.
If they remain a neet in another world it doesn’t count.
- Denizen loli actually 500+ years old
500 years is a ballpark number I threw out there. But basically any adolescent-looking girl that has lived for several average human lifespans (or thereabouts) is accepted.
Not that the FBI would understand.
- Paragraph-long show title
Titles so descriptive you don’t even need to read the synopsis. Or watch the show…
- Monsters in terrible 3D
Ran out of money? Gotta cut corners somewhere. Most natural place to do that? Climactic fight scenes, of course!
- Game mechanics
From straight up computer game UIs to leveling to… maybe some other stuff. I’m not a gamer, all right? If in doubt, find one and ask them. I’m too lazy to.
- “Hello MC, here’s all the info you’ll need!”
There’s two examples that come to mind. One is the first character the MC encounters – perhaps the person who summoned them or an introductory NPC – who proceeds to take up significant chunks of the first episode to verbosely explain stuff. Because who has time for world building, amirite?
The other is a character who follows the MC on their adventure and serves as a sort of vending machine that serves up exposition whenever something happens that is too complicated for us viewers to worry our pretty little heads about.
Ultimately, however, there’s no need to be so precise. As long as a character exists that exists mostly to spew poorly concealed exposition, it counts.
- MC beat up by female companion
Most anime fans will know what I mean here. For the non-weebs: we’re basically talking anything that isn’t a legitimate battle between two such characters that makes sense in the story.
- City on a river encircled by walls
Yes, I’m well aware a lot of (at least European) medieval cities were built around a river and were walled like this. That is all well and good. However, some of these shows have near-identical cities like these, down to the exact way the river flows through them. Follow the link. Shameless plagiarism is what that is.
Animal ears on humanoid characters. Simple as that.
- Childhood friend
I have not been able to confirm this but I hear they are government-issued in Japan.
- Lazily written rapey villain
So you want a temporary villain. Perhaps one that serves more as a plot device for the lead character to show off their skills on rather than an actual character. Just have them kidnap a girl and attempt to sexually assault her! Simple and easy, no writing skill or basic human decency required.
- Harem never infights
Why compete when you can share?
- Most useless skill actually OP
Not that complicated: MC get skill, skill no good, people make fun of MC for no good skill; MC persevere, learn to use skill in unexpected way; no one expect skill be use in unexpected way, now MC stong.
The most prolific serial killer in Japanese pop culture.
For the uninitiated: many protagonists are transported to another world after death. Usually they die being hit by a truck.
- Base 10 gold to Yen conversion
You know that one friend you have who’s always been bad at math? This one’s for them.
- Skill listing lasts several chapters
Twelve or so episodes is a lot of time, dude. Gotta fill it somehow. Also, what says “power fantasy” moer than having a ready answer to any challenge?
- 3+ Deus ex Machinas
Let’s get serious again for a second because this one could be ambiguous.
What I’m talking about here are those insanely unlikely coincidences that hapen at juuust the right time to allow the plot to move forward or to allow the protagonist to escape with their plot armor unscathed.
Alternatively, if there is a character in the anime literally named “Deus ex Machina” – like the image cheekily implies – that is acceptable too. Why not.
- No season 2
Why build a quality piece of media when you can sell merch instead?
- Local religion full of assholes
To be fair, all religions are full of assholes. But in these shows they tend to be just slightly more megalomaniacal and bloodthirsty than your average Jehovah’s witness.
In their defense, there has to be a way to show just how virtuous our hero is when they oppose one of the most reviled institutions in human history… and then proceed to not even attempt to challenge those systems but instead just buy a slave girl or two and only free them. Truly an example we should all seek to emulate.
- MC is a gamer
The most oppressed minority.