Oh, So Tropical: The Convenient Stomach Rumble

I’m a writer so I can say this: There are a lot of gimmicks writers use to keep the story moving. For instance, the great crime writer Raymond Chandler said, “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.”

Sure. Why not? I wrote a whole story with guys coming through the door with guns in their hands. It sucks, so don’t look for it anywhere.

A gimmick they use a lot in anime and manga is the convenient stomach rumble. You know, there’s a pregnant pause in the action and then someone’s stomach rumbles. Boom! Action resumes, usually in a new direction.

Sure. I started jotting down instances after I noticed it. I found it in:

Toradora
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Midnight Diner (Yeah, I know it’s not anime but I love it anyway)
Drifting Dragons
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal
Samurai Champloo
March Comes in Like a Lion
Fruits Basket
Sekerei

Those are just the instances I remembered to write down. I’m 100% certain it’s been in other things I’ve seen. Isn’t there at least one in Cowboy Bebop? Miss Kobayashi’s tummy has rumbled, I bet, and I bet Kanna’s has, too. And so on.

So why does this pop up so often?

Well, for one thing, it’s kind of funny. I bet it’s funnier to Japanese audiences to Americans since the Japanese are a more private people. I mean, can you imagine being a very private person and have your internal organs announce themselves like that?

But, like the man with the gun, it also moves the action from one scene to the next.

Sometimes the action just plain stalls out. Japan being a polite society there are times where one character offers something out of politeness and another refuses out of politeness. Since they’re both trying to be polite that can go on FOREVER, right?

This is one you see in Evangelion. Shinji has run away from Nerv, the first time, I think. He’s out in the fields around Tokyo-3 and who should he run into but his classmate Kensuke Aida, the nerdy kid, right? Aida’s camping out: He’s got an army helmet and a campfire and some kind of rations, and he’s playing soldier.

Kensuke Aida, friend and provider of sustenance

Politely, Aida offers Shinji some food.

Now, this is Japan, so it’s polite to refuse no matter how many hours you’ve been wandering the fields around Tokyo-3. And Shinji is nothing if not a polite boy; in fact, the fact that he’s a “good boy” has been established three or four times already by that point in the story.

Politely, Shinji refuses.

See the problem? Aida says, “Yes, please, it’s no trouble,” and Shinji says, “No, I can’t, I’m not hungry,” AND THAT CAN GO ON FOREVER. It’s a stalemate, right?

And then Shinji’s stomach rumbles.

What that says is, “I’m lying about not being hungry.” In the face of it, Shinji has to yield to Aida’s offer and the scene – which ends with Nerv agents finding Shinji and taking him back to get bitched out by Gendo – can go on. The rumble gets them out of that, “Yes-No-Yes-No,” loop.

Sometimes it’s even simpler than that. Sometimes you just write yourself into a hole and you have to get out of it somehow.

Okay, drop a little acid. I want you to flash back on Toradora.

Ryuji and Taiga have just discovered they are next door neighbors (along with him being the guy she kicked in the head at school that day). They are standing in Ryuji’s apartment and gone through the “Oh, it’s you routine.”

Here’s the problem: They don’t know each other. I’m not sure they WANT to know each other at that point; I mean, he stepped on her and she assaulted him, so, well, talk about painful memories.

So what do they have to talk about?

That’s the problem. At that moment the writers have put them together, and at that stage in their relationship they have nothing to say to one another.

“Oh, crap,” says the writer. “I wrote myself into a corner! Heeeeelllllppppp!”

“Gurgle, gurgle,” says Taiga’s tummy.

BOOM. Now the scene can move forward. All Ryuji has to say is, “Can I get you something to eat?”

And unless she hates Ryuji Taiga pretty much has to say, “Yes,” since she can’t say, “No, I’m not hungry.” Not in the face of that evidence!

That moves that stalled scene forward and gives them something to talk about (his cooking) AND reveals elements of their characters to us the audience, specifically, that she’s a Tiny, Hungry Girl and he’s motherly.

In anime and manga stomachs never rumble randomly (like mine just did). It’s a plot device. Writers, toss it in the tool box.

I think I’ll get some pretzels now.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Oh, So Tropical: The Convenient Stomach Rumble

  1. That’s so true! Anime tummies either rumble at the best times or at the worst times. Like, I think it was in Kemono Jihen, when two of the main characters were trying to sneak into a lab and the bad guy was right around the corner when one of their tummies rumbles. In some anime this gimmick is used quite often, like in Trigun, where Vash seems to be constantly hungry.

    Liked by 2 people

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