Otome anime are like cute Instagram girls or cute Instagram boys – they look nice on pictures even though their caption is some pretentious copy–and–pasted bullshit quote from Tumblr, over time you begin to realize they all look like each other, with the same filters and same hashtags and same damaged hair and infected piercings, you realize that perhaps they´re just cute because of the five filters and perfect lightening used on them.
I don´t know what the fuck that means, but shit, I had to start the post out with something, so I´ll say that that´s otome anime to me. They always look pretty on the cover and for the supposed target audience, we´re almost always drawn to it before realizing that, shit, it´s an otome anime, all otome anime are the same and they´re all pretty crap. So why oh why do we keep watching them? is there an otome anime where the community as a whole can actually massively appreciate it? what is the recipe of a better otome anime and if so, is it beneficial to the creators to change the formula?
The answer to the previous question is quite obviously a big fat no. If the formula needed to change, it would have, but out of all genres and sub–genres in the spectrum of anime, I think the otome adaptations are the ones that have remained the most stale and the most faithful to the formula set in its origins.
Granted, female oriented shows are a pretty fresh concept when put in the timeline of the existence of anime, especially in the abundance in which it is created today, I´d give credit to Free!, but I´m probably wrong, and I don´t feel like having fifty people line up to tell me that.
Either way, otome anime are cleary just another branch of the reverse harem genre, if that´s what you can even call it – I think we can trace this back to 1996, with the debut of the 51 episode anime Hana Yori Dango, later turned into a pretty irrelevant JDrama and best known for being the most popular Kdrama in the history of Kdramas, if you are even slightly interested in that stuff, I am one hudred percent sure the title “Boys over Flowers” rings a bell, anyway, that drama starring the beautiful Lee Min Ho did infact spawn from Hana Yori Dango.
Hana Yori Dango tells the cliché tale of the poor but ever so hardworking girl suddenly surrounding herself with A Class rich douchebags who turn out to not be such douchebags after all, eventually they´ll all fall head over heels in love with her meanwhile she´s too busy having a complex over her breast size and her student council work to actually give a fuck. This could be empowering, but is instead just sad, buried under five pounds of bad examples of machismo and always reverting to the traditional man–woman roles. But this manga is old, so I think it can get a pass.
Later, this genre spawned Fruits Basket, The Wallflower (not to be confused with the novel The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) and to some extent, Fushugi Yugi.
Out of these three titles, two are pretty much recognized as classics for some reason. Personally I think all three of them are shit, but hey, that´s just me – and these three title still had the same feeling, plot points and ideas as their grandmother Hana Yori Dango, basically, they didn´t do anything to change the status quo, because the people liked it, there wasn´t much of it and fuck, if it worked, it worked.
Then, a little show called Ouran Highschool Host Club peeked it´s head around the corner and saw the elephant in the room – finally, a show saw the clichés and the tropes and took them all in with both love, respect and humour to create a parody of the entire genre, humanizing its archetypes, giving the female actual character (a character I´ve never seen being done as good ever since) and introducing the genre with feeling and laugther to a whole new audience, courtesy of Studio Bones and the magnificent mangaka herself, Bisco Hatori.
I think it´s safe to say that Ouran Highschool Host Club took the reverse-harem title and ran the fuck away with it so fast that others can just hope of coming second place. Ouran Higschool Host Club changed some things, the reverse-harem manga to anime adaptation became almost extinct and a new phenomenon, a trend we´re in the middle of right now, was on the horizon.
The otome branch of the genre.
Forget manga or light novels, soon enough, visual novel adaptations were gonna become the norm –Hiiro no Kakera, Kamigami no Asobi, Brothers Conflict and the much loved and respected Amnesia and Diabolik Lovers all spawned from this unstoppable trend, but again, there´s one anime that takes the crown, not nearly as flashy as Ouran has done it, and shit, it´s not even self aware, but it doesn´t always stick to the formula – that show is, of course, Uta no Prince–Sama, currently counting three seasons with a fourth one in the works, produced by A1 Pictures, it´s the single best selling female oriented show of all time, volumes rack up to a 30k average, for some perspective, the only few other shows I can think of with these numbers are Shingeki no Kyojin, Love Live and Monogatari. Think about it. Let it sink in. Ready? good.
Naturally, stuff like Amnesia and Diabolik Lovers and Brothers Conflict hardly ever make it to a 1k average – so what is the point of these shows? are studios just praying for their Utapri? is it just a 12 week long promotion for the game?
I think it is, and I also think that the Uta no Prince sama anime began with that purpose aswell, shit, I don´t even think the games sell this well.
So, why is the anime such a crazy hit? I don´t know, man, but I can guess.
It´s worth to note that the reason this show sells like hotcakes is because of the ticket event, this is not speculation, this is just a fact. Hosted by a bunch of popular voice actors, fans will buy ten copies of the volume if it increases their chances of seeing the Mamoru Miyano in the flesh. Fandoms, man.
Basically, Otome anime are there more for what happens after the anime than what happens in the anime. In Kpop language, you might love a group for their personality and not care for their music, but you´d go to their concert just for them, even if their performances make you want to die. At least they´re cute.
Of course, the people that would go this far are in a strong minority of the community, but they´re the people with the money and passion to keep it alive and kicking for the rest of us, wheter their tastes are too shady for yours, well, too bad mate.
Chances are I ain´t telling you nothing new, and all of this is just background information of a small genre that you don´t really give a crap about apart from ripping it to shreds whenever something so hilariously sexist, toxic and disgusting like Diabolik Lovers come around.
Otome anime cater to tastes, different fetishes and different fantasies – I think that´s absolutely beautiful, and shit, Diabolik Lovers made me laugh more than most anime comedies do. Could the otome genre turn around and stop with its formula?
Yeah, of course, anime writers are still writers, they ain´t incompetent, just chained down to the expectations and rules set from the past. Will we get an otome anime where the girl grows some balls and choses a man? I think we might, it just ain´t coming in a long time.
Tl;Dr – Otome anime are there more for what happens after the anime than what happens in the anime, the Utapri fandom could solve world hunger if they felt like it and Lee Min Ho is one handsome fucker, but Jackson Wang could drag me to hell and I´d thank him.