Anime Cliches 14: Kamikakushi/Spirited Away

Type: Premise/Setting cliché

What made it popular: Japanese folklore/mythology

Cliche Level: Medium

Where can you find it: Inuyasha, Ixion Saga Dt, Spirited away, Escaflowne, Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku, Dog Days, Mondaiji Tachi, Jyu Oh Sei, Higurashi etc. Typically a tool of the fantasy and adventure genre.

Description: One or several characters are suddenly taken away from earth/or their own world usually by magical/supernatural means (Scientific variations also exist, but they are so rare that they are not even worth mentioning.) without their consent, and are taken to a strange new world that is vastly different from their former home either in culture, technology, fauna, flora or other way some way. These characters are then faced with two choices 1  is to accept their new home and live there 2 is to try finding a way home. Self Explanatory video from an anime that uses this cliché.

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Mythological origin: Kamikakushi (神隠し, lit. “hidden by Kami“) means “spirited away”. Kamikakushi is used to refer to the mysterious disappearance or death of a person that happens when an angered god takes a person away. In pre-modern Japan children would often disappear in this way and be rediscovered several days later in a shrine or temple, consistently telling a story of being swept away by a god

Why is it bad: The whole reason this cliché exist is to make us more sympathetic towards the characters, since anyone would be afraid if let’s say one day you went to sleep and suddenly found yourself in north korea, and returning home to their family or trying to survive are goals anyone can relate to. Usually it is done to make characters more relate-able since they they were abducted from a world like ours and thus easy sympathy points are generated, but sometimes this cliché is done purely for the sake of self-insertion (Zero No Tsukaima, Oda Nobuna no Yabou).  Most of the time the magical or supernatural means they are brought into the world are never relevant again or explained in any way and if it does actually get explained it is usually just  hand waved as “lol magic” or “lol demons.”

Sadly most of the time said characters don’t even really seem to care that they are in a foreign/alien world, their reactions don’t feel genuine or proper in such a situation. Whats worse is that they may even get familiar with setting in 1 or 2 episodes, after the initial confusion they sadly start acting like a character that lived there his whole life, not to mention they don’t tend to show signs of home sickness or anything, even though they tend to have returning home as a goal. So it mostly comes off that they just had to have some sort of goal in this anime or it would be going nowhere. Plus sending the hero home one the main plot is over is one of the easiest ways to end a story, which obviously doesn’t take any writing skills or creativity. (Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku)

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