There are some anime you watch – I’m looking at YOU What Are You Doing Here Teacher – where you watch it and all you take away from it is this:
I’m not sure this is properly described as a trope since it’s really a gag so cheap that writers just can’t stop themselves from using it, like Wile E. Coyote holding up a little sign that says, “Help” just before he falls off the cliff, except, you know, not as funny. But how many THOUSAND times have you seen a male anime character accidentally fall, and in falling, landing, or trying to keep himself from falling, grab a female character in a sexually intimate manner?
Yes, I mean grabbing her breast or pressing his nose into her crotch. But I think that sort of language sort of trivializes what’s going on, so I’ve decided to name this trope “Nice To Meet You, Ms. Ayanami” after the notorious EVA scene where Shinji sees Rei coming out of the shower, accidentally trips and falls on her and ends with his hand on her breast. Since it’s the first time they’ve actually conversed in any way, well, let’s just say that was a fine how-do-you-do.
And you see it everywhere, it seems. Well, not in the shows actually meant for kids or shows that are meant to be “nice” or “cute,” but you do see it frequently in shows that explicitly made for boys. Like harems, right?
(Just to give you some idea, in the original EVA it only happens once, but in the harem game The Shinji Ikari Raising Project it happens all the time. It happens so often that the writers refer to it in the afterword!)
Now, let me start with this: Yes, I am overage. You guys know I’m a college professor and was for a while before I started writing this blog four years ago, so you can immediately set a minimum value to my age, right? (If you want to sharpen up that estimate some, I’ll remind you that my father was a World War II veteran. Yeah, I’m literally a Boomer.)
And in all those decades of life I have never once done this.
In all those decades of life I have never once seen this happen.
In all those decades of life no one has ever told me about doing this, having it done to them, or hearing about it happening.
“Nice To Meet You, Ms. Ayanami” seems to only happen in anime. Well, why does it show up so often?
Once again we have to go back to basics: With lots of exceptions, anime is a medium made by Japanese men for Japanese boys. And the makers of anime make anime in order to make money. That means holding the attention of Japanese boys.
Now, in great many ways Japanese people are very, very polite, so polite they don’t even like to just come out and say, “No.”
So you take your polite Japanese boy who probably hasn’t even asked a girl for a date let alone touched her in a sexual way, and show him the male character in an anime, a character with whom he is supposed to identify, and … OOPS! Oh, my! I’m so sorry! Nice to meet you, Ms. Ayanami.
Okay, let’s get in the boy’s head:
OH, MAN, HE TOUCHED HER THERE!!!!
I’m so jealous!
How could he dare? Well, it was an accident. He tripped. He wouldn’t have done that deliberately! (Actually, sometimes he would. This is why I can’t watch The Seven Deadly Sins. You know what I mean.)
Aw, man, he’s so lucky! I want to do that!
Do you see it? It’s pure wish-fulfillment. The boy is jealous of the character because he was permitted to sample of the forbidden (to the boy) fruit.
How does it work as a gag?
Well, to go there, we have to remember how a gag works: You set up an expectation. You violate the expectation, creating tension. And you cue comedy, so the tension can be released as humor.
Expectation: That woman has attractive breasts, but it’s socially forbidden to touch them
Violation: HE DID IT! HE GRABBED IT!
Cue Comedy: But he was tripping over his own feet, the clumsy fool
That cue not only cues comedy, but it also absolves the actor of the majority of his responsibility in the matter. It was an accident! He wouldn’t do that deliberately! No one would! And he’s SO SO sorry! Look, he’s apologizing and his face is all red; he didn’t mean it!
There are a bunch of reasons to dislike this trope.
Oh, yeah, it’s totally sexist. It reduces the female character to a breast. In some of the saucier (let’s say) shows, she’s actually depicted as liking it and/or being sexually excited even though she pretends she doesn’t want to be.
It encourages boys to try it. After all, the male character was absolved of all responsibility because it was an accident. All the boy has to do is say, “I didn’t mean it! I’m so sorry!” After all, who can know what’s really going on? (That’s how ALL lies work.)
It turns a woman’s sexual integrity into a smutty joke.
It’s a really cheap laugh, at least for the target audience. For the rest of us, it’s kind of creepy.
I wanted to name this trope after that infamous scene in EVA because, while it’s there, all right, it’s not quite the same as a lot of the other instances.
One is that Shinji is genuinely interested in Rei, has found her inexplicably fascinating since he first saw her beaten up on a stretcher. But his interest was not, and will not be sexual, which is a good thing since she’s his mother’s clone.
One is that Rei is nude, which the girls in this trope rarely are, but she is nude because that symbolizes the fact that she does not see herself as human yet. Rei’s nudity is symbolic of her being something larger than just a girl to be groped.
And one is that at the end, despite his apologies and obvious embarrassment, she’s PISSED at him. Sure, watch the next scene, when they get to NERV. He still has the pass card Misato sent him to give to Rei, and she snatches it out of his hand, giving him the coldest shoulder ever seen. She not embarrassed and she’s not giggling and she’s not turned on. She’s been violated and she’s angry and she smacks him upside the head.
“Nice To Meet You, Ms. Ayanami,” is a gag that works, and we know why it works, but it’s a cheap gag, along the lines of a fart joke or a banana peel. Write better, folks.
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.