The best romance anime can be a window into a nearly universal experience: love. The shows that get you emotionally invested in the characters keep you glued to the screen as you experience the highs and lows of their relationship and emotional lives. Unfortunately, many series rely heavily on romance anime tropes to achieve better ratings and engagement. And while tropes in romance anime can help unify the genre and make it recognizable, they can also get really boring and stale.
Some of the stuff you see in every romance anime, like the complete absence of LGBTQ people and the fact that anime characters often interpret rejection as a sign to keep pushing until they get the romantic or sexual relationship they want, are not only dull, but actively harmful. Even if you're a casual fan, you probably know at least a few of these recurring themes in romance anime. Check out this list and vote up the romantic tropes you're sick of seeing.
Ah, love in the springtime of one's youth! It's a trope that appears in every anime from Your Lie in April to Lovely Complex. Most romance anime focuses on the trials and tribulations of high schoolers in love. This could be okay if you're still in high school, but the thing is, people are still having romantic relationships beyond their high school years and they're still watching anime.
Besides being unrelatable for older viewers, the focus on teenage romance is also just plain repetitive. There's a whole lot more to love than just its beginnings, but unfortunately, romance anime seems intent on endlessly repeating the opening act. Even high school students who have had more than one relationship might find these "first love" stories to be a little stale.
How do you capture the interest of an easily distracted audience? Narrative tension. How do you create narrative tension? Give your characters meaningful, unique personal goals, put obstacles in their way that are a genuine struggle to overcome, and - oh, wait, you're not trying to tell a compelling story. You're just trying to bang out some contrived nonsense! In that case, what you need is a love triangle.
In a love triangle, one character must choose between two different relationships. Think Two Princes by the Spin Doctors, only sometimes it's princesses instead. Often, the goal is to keep you in suspense until the very end, which can result in some confusing and unrealistic relationship developments. To be fair, it's not always terrible - the love triangle between Kikuhiko, Miyokichi, and Sukeroku in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a genuine attempt at exploring all three characters' personalities, and the love triangle between Menma, Anjou, and Jinta in Anohana is pretty deep. However, love triangles only work when they do more than just drag out the inevitable conclusion, which seems to be getting more rare.
You may have noticed that in anime, male characters often start gushing blood from their nose whenever they see a hot girl or have a lascivious thought. While this might seem like a rare form of hemophilia that needs immediate medical treatment, it's actually a visual euphemism for boners. In order to keep it kid-friendly, anime studios will rarely animate an actual erection, so it's replaced with this splashy phenomenon. The trope appears in anime of every genre, but it's particularly prevalent in romance anime. Female characters also have nosebleeds to represent arousal, but this is a fairly recent reversal.
This might seem surprising to those of you who occasionally check in with your childhood friends on Facebook, but in romance anime, childhood friends are a huge deal. In some shows, like Nisekoi and Love Hina, the entire plot revolves around a guy trying to reunite with a childhood friend who he made a romantic promise to in some long-ago sandbox or kindergarten class.
The male protagonist typically remembers zero details about his childhood beloved, but he's still totally hung up on her to the point where he's ready to propose the instant he figures out who she is. This strange plot isn't unique to anime, either - it can also be found in Japanese literature, like Haruki Murakami's massive 1Q84. While the trope can be touching if handled correctly, it also sort of implies that women are interchangeable, and who they actually are isn't as important as the archetype they symbolize. Over all, it's kind of a lukewarm concept.