From tropes to cliches, whatever form of entertainment you find yourself drawn to it’s a certainty that some things are so common creators will find a way to keep staples of a genre forever relevant. Such a topic is often met with negativity and criticism, so let’s save that for another time and rejoice in a few tropes I personally find always appealing in our female orientated dating sims.
When it comes to tropes within Japanese media, I do not think any of my picks are as common as the expected festivals to sneak into a piece of entertainment. Be it an anime episode, a manga chapter, or any visual novel, festivals will somehow and in some way make an appearance, especially if its title’s genre has anything to do with schools or youth. The trope is well-known and well ultilised to reinforce character relationships due to the new location and possible events to take place that would not be likely to be achievable in the original premise.
From watching a fireworks display to catching goldish together, it’s never a clearer time that relationship bonding is a monumental moment unless doing so during this celebration. But its main attraction however is the changing up of the character’s usual design and clothes, often putting them in a flattering and traditional yukata. And no more is it a blessing on the eyes than with your favourite LI’s within the otome genre, such as Amnesia: Memories above where in each route we get treated by a memory of the LI sharing the day with their date, the Heroine. Also the fluff witnessed in each and every festival is top notch, such as the first time hand holding is seen between a couple to avoid either of them (mainly the MC, who am I kidding?) being lost in the excited crowd.
The next step in the relationship: The lap pillow
If you’re unsure of your relationship stance with an LI, you can be certain that if your lap is used as their pillow then you’re making good progress. It is once again a trope within other medias outside of otomes, from anime, to TV shows, and other video games. It can be used for just as little romantic build-up as the festival examples, since a lap pillow can also show of how close friends are.
Within otomes it is used quite frequently as such displays of closeness and comfortableness, with either the LI or MC using this opportunity to relay concerns to the other and opening up as their relationship develops (for example with Nicola from Piofiore as the above picture). In other instances it can even be the end route’s CG after the MC and LI finally start dating, such as in the Prince of Tennis dating sims or be a wholesome, romantic gesture seen in Ikki’s After Story in Amnesia Later.
Through sickness and in health
Despite using Okita as my image for this trope, it’s not that telling of explaining why I am so fond of the “sick” trope. While Okita’s case falls under the incurable illness category, his character is tied to the real historical figure his name shares with, who did suffer and die from the disease of tuberculous while his otome counterpart has a slight extension of living thanks to becoming a “fury”. His route is still tragic and emotional considering the turmoil of the character and his real life counterpart’s young death, so my personal preference is in the more calm, cute and cosy environment of a non-threatening cold our MC has to sleep off from.
Sure it’s much less concerning and tense of an event and is most likely not at all that popular of a trope, but its simple premise with more laid-back but still engaging relationship development is still an adorable sight to behold. For example, in Amnesia Ikki cares for the Heroine when she falls ill and stays in his bed. It’s even the first time Ikki shows consideration for her and even hints at his falling for her. And to one up any event of an MC recuperating, if the carer is of a certain otome archetype that rarely shows any care (Tsundere, lets say), the height of achievable adorableness is reached.
Such an example is with the initially cold and distant, hot-blooded Kazuma Suzuka from Tokimeki Memorial’s Girl Side. One of his events is visiting him when he’s sick, and he’s touched by you checking up on him, even if he won’t admit it. It’s also nice when it’s revered, when the MC takes care of the LI, such as in multiple routes in Nameless where a lot of angst is elevated through the living dolls staying out in the rain.
The cute sidekick
There is always a robin to his batman, or in this case, our MC’s one and only close companion. I may feel alone in thinking of this as a trope since it is quite valid that this is not as frequent as other more prolific examples of what to expect in the genre. But personally, when I see how adorable and supportive the closest individual established to the MC is of them, it makes the time spent getting to know both the MC and their cute sidekick all the more delightful. But what do I mean by a sidekick?
I would classify a sidekick as either an animal or another person. In the case of both Code: Realize’s Sisi and Shall we Date: Blood in Roses’ Spade, both are used for different purposes in their games. Sisi does not bring any substance to the plot of Code: Realize ever, but does add a massive bonus of adorableness whenever his cute face appears as a sprite or in a CG. He’s a positive influence on Cardia by just being around her, and it is especially worth noting how important their bond is when we consider the last time she saw a dog their face melted due to their poison. You have already progressed, Cardia! On the other hand, Spade not only looks like a slick cat, but he is our heroine’s guide in this new world she finds herself in. And he talks, unlike Sisi. That’s always helpful if you’re telling the MC what to do.
Speaking of an instructive companion, when it comes to humans I want to point out Amnesia’s Orion, who can also be seen as the Heroine’s guider throughout the game. And a newer entry with Elena in Piofiore will be my next mention, as her friendship with the MC is integral to the plot at later points in the story, such as their joint kidnapping in Yang’s route that brings a world of despair for Elena. She’s also such a nice and down to Earth person who deserves as much goodness in life as Lilli herself.
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