Type: Character Cliché
What made it popular: Possibly Clannad and the works of Jun Maeda.
Cliché Level: High
Where can you find it: Haganai, Fate/Stay Night, Shuffle, Oreimo, Chuunibyou, 11eyes, Air Gear, Little Busters etc. Common characters in harems and rom-coms.
Osananajimi or Childhood Friend refers to any character who has grown up with another character in the show (typically the protagonist) and has a close relationship with them because of this. In harem anime the Childhood Friend is usually the first girl that is introduced due to her closeness to the harem lead. This cliché character doesn’t necessarily have to be a girl, male childhood friends also exist, they usually serve as the best friend in male oriented anime or as a possible romantic character in shoujo/josei anime.
Female Childhood friends are most commonly either a DereDere, Tsundere Genki or Tomboy girl.
This cliché includes a few subclichés, such as:
- Arranged Marriage: The Protagonist and the Childhood friend were promised to each other prior to the events of the show. A typical plot point in many harem-romance oriented anime like Shuffle. The Protagonist may or may not have forgotten about this promise.
- Estranged Childhood Friend: Refers to childhood friends that are no longer friends with each other and may actually despise each other instead, or have become bitter rivals.
- Forgotten Childhood Friend: Refers to scenarios where their childhood time together has been forgotten by at least one of the characters involved. Most commonly used with 1. Arranged Marriage and 4
- Transfer Student Childhood Friend: Prior to the events of the show the Childhood Friend in question has left the city where the protagonist lives and moved somewhere else, only to move back at a later date, possibly at the start of the show or somewhere in the middle. Commonly used with Subclichés number 1 and 3.
- Childhood Friends Never Win: In romance/harem anime Childhood Friends almost never manage to “win” the protagonist’s heart to the point that it has become a running gag amongst the anime community and can be counted as a cliché on its own.
Why its bad: Childhood Friends generally make for terrible characters in almost any show they are in. Why? Because all the development and characterization that made them go close together with the protagonist happened prior to the start of the anime. We didn’t see their relationship develop and it cannot go any further except degrade (worsen) as their relationship is already “complete”. Because of this it is very hard to care for Childhood Friend characters. A newly introduced character is always preferable to that of a childhood friend, because then the viewer at least can see the development and relationship improvement unlike with the Childhood Friend who is already established in her role and relation to the protagonist.
Romance anime seems to be aware of this dislike, which is probably the reason why they almost never make the childhood friend win, resulting in subcliché number 5. In harems she exists for the sole sake of being the base for the protagonist’s conquest only to move towards the more interesting and exotic girlfriend materials that the show will introduce. In more “serious” anime the childhood friend is a common tool of comic relief and a drama/shock factor generator (by killing her off, having her raped, kidnapped etc.)