How Seiren re-engineers galge stock characters

John Ohno
15 min readMar 16, 2017

Seiren is not among the most popular shows this season (with a MAL score of 6.4/10, an AP score of 3/5, and an IMDB score of 7.3/10), and it is not among the best shows this season, but it does something interesting and unique that I think is worth a closer look. Specifically, it appears to be an exercise in rediscovery and re-engineering.

Anime has a well-deserved reputation for relying upon stock character types and plot structure. This is not necessarily a bad thing: most of what anime does differently from western productions is about cleverly saving effort and resources without sacrificing story quality, and stock characters can be used to this end. However, stock characters have become over-fitted, to the point that shows that hew too closely to type become predictable and boring (for instance, see this season’s Gabriel Dropout, a show that despite incredible animation and voice acting, was consistently done better beat for beat twenty years ago).

One way to combat this is to draw attention to it (as last years Saekano did). This works fine a couple of times, but by itself quickly becomes boring: the character who is aware that she is a shallow cliche becomes another shallow cliche. Another way is to engage in a dialogue with the type, adding nuances that make categorization fuzzier and possibly bringing in self-awareness but still engaging in the same attributes and behaviors that are associated with the type (which, as Digibro explains in several videos, is part of what NisioisiN does in the…

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John Ohno

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net