Type: Plot Device
What made it popular: It has been a commonly used tool across multiple mediums due to the fact that it, like many other clichés, is a really convenient method to start a story and introduce as well as establish the main characters.
Cliché Level: High
Where can you find it: To Love Ru, Accel World, Bleach, Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima, The Vision of Escaflowne, Inuyasha, Angel Beats, Guilty Crown, Gundam Ms Team, Denpa Onna by Shaft etc.
Boy meets Girl or Girl meets Boy, is the cliché in anime where in the show’s first episode the protagonist meets a girl/or a boy, and this is used as a catalyst for all later events in the show. They can either meet completely at random, due to a twist of fate or the meeting can also be intentionally engineered by someone. Whatever the case, one thing is certain, that anime sure likes to use this cliché a lot, especially in romance and harem anime, but it is also quite common in genres of fantasy and action as well, where the girl or boy in question is usually what pulls our normal, every day protagonist into the realm of fantasy and magic, or pulls him out of his peaceful world into a world of war.
It is very common for this meeting to have some kind of major meaning or turning point in at least 1 if not both of their lives. Such as some of the aforementioned scenarios or cases like falling in love at first sight, it is not rare for this small and otherwise trivial meeting to determine all of the protagonist’s later actions.
Why it’s bad: It is a tool of convenience for when the writers can’t think of a better way to start a plot or establish a relationship between two characters. Other than being a tool of convenience for the writer, it is also used because it is a lot more comforting for the audience to see a relationship start and buildup from the beginning, even though in many cases, unnecessary filler episodes are created just because of these “bonding” episodes, that could with all honestly be easily skipped and avoided.
And it’s not like this is the only way to do thing, they could always just in medias res into the point where the characters already know each other, other than comforting the audience, there is no reason to start from the beginning from a writing standpoint. And I wish anime would get more creative and stop overusing this cliché. As this is one of the few cliché’s that are kind of hard to hate on due to its trivial nature, but anime is sure as hell trying its best to make us hate it.
And now for the subliché count:
- The encounter leads to romantic relationship: Arguably the most common subcliché in this genre, just like the title says the boy and the girl end up in a romantic relationship usually either midway or at the end of the story. Many harems or love triangles are predictable because of this, since the protagonist usually get’s together with the girl he met first and had a strong impression imprinted on him from the beginning.
- Damsel in Distress: The girl in question is in danger or is chased by some monsters, evil entities and what not, protagonist sees this and of course jumps to the rescue, leading to their first meeting. An usual cliché in fantasy, supernatural and action anime. Shows that use this cliché’s usually keep this a “protecting” kind of relationship where the protagonist plays the role of a bodyguard until the story eventually evolves it into a romantic relationship [does not always happen]. (Guilty Crown, Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku for example.)
- Female Protector: The opposite of Damsel in Distress, the protagonist is chased by monsters, evil doers etc in the first episode, and a powerful female character jumps to the rescue, leading to their first meeting. The girl in question usually has supernatural powers to excuse this subcliché and like in subcliché 2, she also ends up playing the role of a bodyguard towards the protagonist (Shakugan no Shana, Nyaruko)
- The Contractor: Girl and boy meets, and the girl proceeds to grant a contract to the protagonist that grants him some kind of power, ability or something that changes his otherwise mundane life. (Code Geass, Accel World)
- The Freeloader: Boy meets girls and due to events that happened within the story, the girl moves into the protagonist’s house and starts living there. This can either be a result of her house being destroyed, being exposed to danger or being unable to return to her original magical/supernatural world. (Bleach, Toaru Majutsu no Index)
- The “coincidental” meeting: A subcliché that exists solely that the usage of the main cliché can be excused or justified. Basically the protagonist is going to a meeting, or perhaps he is moving somewhere else in the first episode, traveling away from his original home perhaps. And he ends up meeting a girl on his way, it doesn’t really matter what happens in that particular meeting. But what does matter is that the girl will be living at the exact place that is also the protagonist’s destination, perhaps she is the neighbor, perhaps she is his roommate or perhaps she will be his boss, the roles can vary. But it is used to introduce the characters earlier, making it seem more clever than the usual Boy meets Girl, but in reality its all the same. (Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko)
- Search for the Girl: The usual boy and girl meeting happens, then the girl is gone, literally. She is either kidnapped, taken abroad, married off or simply goes away on her own will. Regardless of the scenario in question, the protagonist in question starts chasing after the girl and spends some major episodes just searching for her, only to find her either mid way or at the end of the story. This subcliché can trigger any time in the story, not limited to first episode, especially common in fantasy and supernatural anime.
As you may have noticed all of the subclichés involve events that would constitute as major plot points. This is because the existence of the Boy meets Girl cliché is not only born out of convenience but also because it can be used as a tool that moves the plot forward or starts a chain of events.
In general this cliché reeks of convenience especially when extremely important characters in a world or setting meet each other just at the right place and the right time, as if God himself has intended everything to fall into place just like this. The “God” here is obviously the writer himself.