Strange Anime Gimmicks

Calling anything in anime “strange” could smack of beating an undead horse.

It’s been established that the medium will try anything and everything for a show; I even did a post on why I love anime for its strange habits. This results in anime working with some super odd gimmicks: selling points in a story that may or may not work overall. The results aren’t always tangible and sometimes give an outsider enough ammo to write off anime as a weird habit for messed-up basement dwellers.


The Nope Is Strong

Other times, you get a crazy-awesome idea that earns its massive fanbase. Like it or hate it, these are a few strange gimmicks anime have made use of to give it the unique flavor we know. Sure, the west has made use of these as well, but we’d be remiss to say Japan hasn’t used them to completion.

  • Point of View Anime

Media have been chasing the elusive butterfly of “interactivity” for years. Drawing in the audience sometimes isn’t enough; they wanna put people in the center of the action, make them a part of the story. With this desire in mind, there exists a niche that I don’t see as often in media via east or west, but I see far more often in anime: the POV show, in which the viewer becomes the protagonist.


The first thing that comes to mind is a little Otaku-regalia called Makura no Danshi, an anime dedicated to 11 different boys that hang out at your house while you’re at work. Or, for the straight men in the audience, you could flounce around One Room, where three different girls will brazenly walk into your house and flirt awkwardly into a camera. Both of them are cringe in concept (and execution) but thankfully occupy a very niche market.

That being said, if you enjoy POV anime, I’m always curious to hear what you like about it. Feel free to comment.

  • Strange Personifications

American shows personify random objects in weird amalgamation all the time, with movies like The Brave Little Toaster that feature the soothing sounds of suicidal cars on their way to the junkyard. But it would be dishonest of me to deny that anime are the champions of weird and/or unusual personifications. Not only do they pick the last things anyone would ever wanna see a face on, but they manage to create multimillion-dollar franchises with it that have dedicated fans all over.


Case in point, the ever Yaoi-Baiting, Fangirl beloved Hetalia series, where the author personifies the countries fighting in WWII into handsome bishounen  (and pretty young girls) who are either at each other’s throats or singing Christmas carols together. Or if Hetalia is too mainstream for you, more experienced Otakus can point to Unko-San, an anime about a poo-fairy that brings good luck to his poo-buddies. The gimmick is harmless… but don’t expect anyone outside the community to understand it.

  • Cute But Deadly

The cult of kawaii is strong in anime, especially with recent accusations of overabundant moe. But what happens when that cute becomes a viable threat, crazy enough to mow down a crowd of helpless on goers who were unlucky enough to be in the room?


Once again, this one isn’t exactly limited to anime either; horror has been making cute/beautiful women and harmless little children into scary monsters for years. But anime goes the extra mile on occasion and makes the most adorable of characters into violent nightmares. The now infamous Higurashi is a perfect example of this technique, as the cast looks like your standard young anime girls until the knives come out. Or take Mariko from Elfen Lied, who’s built up to be this terrible, horrifying person, and turns out to look like the most non-threatening character in the series.


Show of hands. Who looked at this and thought “violent psychopath?”
  • POOF! Now you’re a Human!

A common trope in folklore and legend is the transformation of animals into human beings and vice-versa. But modern media in the West hasn’t made as heavy use of this as anime has. One could trace it back to Japanese Shinto, but, certainly, there’s an argument to be made that anime loves changing animals into people to incite a weird and quirky story.


A solid example comes from the staggeringly popular anime, Princess Tutu. My experience with the anime is not even skin-deep (it’s on my list) but research and non-spoiler descriptions describe it as this super-meta anime about a duck being changed into a ballet dancer to reenact a fairytale (original to the show) about a mallard, an emotionless prince, and a raven. The fairy tale supposedly goes off the rails, but the transformation from animal to human plays a very prominent role in the entire show.

This and the gimmicks above it are what lend to anime’s unique flavor. It experiments with niche markets and old concepts with almost reckless abandon, making each viewing experience unique. Some experiments may end horribly and produce a product best left alone, but some cases give us jaw-dropping narratives that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. It’s dangerous, but most of the fans are ready to roll.


Do you know a strange gimmick in anime? What’s the weirdest anime you ever saw? Feel free to comment below. And don’t forget to follow via email or WordPress to be notified of new posts. Feel free to leave a like as well.

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