2 minutes and 28 seconds, 2 minutes and 32 seconds.
Can you guess what these represent? They are the time it took a protagonist to see a heroine getting undressed on 2015 autumn season anime, “Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry (Chivalry of a Failed Knight)” and “Gakusen Toshi Asterisk(The Asterisk War)” respectively.
It’s been about a week and the first episodes of the 2015 autumn anime series are almost all up. I’d usually find “what is most interesting” or “what would sell the most” discussions around this time of each season, but this season was different. What I found instead started with a discussion about the above two shows’ being too similar, developed into others such as why all the LN-based shows were so much alike.
(LN is an abbreviated form of “light novel”, a style of Japanese novel targeting young adults in their teens and 20s.)
So, I checked some of those articles. Many talked about the reason of a fixed trope being used in LNs, but none of them discussed further the content of the trope itself. And that is exactly why I decided to do myself. As the title says, I will clarify the reason why it takes less than 3 minutes until a heroine gets undressed in LN-based anime with this article. This “within 3 minutes rule” is not limited to the aforementioned two shows. Let me show you that this coincides with earlier studies.
According to the article above, “Bladedance of Elementalers” took 2 minutes and 48 seconds for the heroine to be completely naked, and “Unlimited Fafnir” only took 1 minute and 28 seconds. For the record, the heroine of “Chivalry” gets undressed at the second line of the first page in the original LN. That’s short enough to easily fit in one tweet. Why do these heroines rush to get undressed this early? The reason is simple. These girls become authentic heroines by “having themselves seen undressed by the protagonist”. Once you understand this, you’ll see other tropes such as a childhood friend never standing a chance and how a non-virgin is unpopular in these shows.
Soap block (Sekken-waku)
Before proceeding to the main topic, let me define some terms. Even though I’ve said “LN-based” in the title, this is only for the convenience, and does not mean all LNs are like this, nor is it limited to LNs. In fact, the above argument of “this season’s LN-based shows all following the same trope” also met some counter-opinions, that it shouldn’t be lumped together as a LN material. Therefore, I’m going to call this type of shows “soap block” in this article.
The name “soap block” is not my invention, but is an existing term in Japanese. It’s probably easier for you to get the picture if I show you the list of the sufficient elements, rather than a vague definition. The below is what the Niconico daihyakka (the Niconico encyclopedia) lists.
* tropes such as so-called “Lucky Sukebe” (an accidental lewd event considered “lucky”)
* School setting
* Fantasy setting
* Battle using magic and/or special abilities
* Main heroine undressed at her first appearance
* Protagonist with an irregular ability (different from those of heroines)
* MF Bunko J (This particular trait is weakened with the rise of other labels)
Those who are watching recent midnight shows to a certain extent would go “ah, those anime” and can easily come up with a few examples. The above elements are not prerequisites, but the more elements a show has, the more applicable it is, or should I say, its “soap” level is considered higher. The Niconico daihyakka also states, “However, since the definition is eventually up to each individual’s discretion, please first check out the first episodes of such shows to establish your own definition, if you haven’t watched any.” In this article, I will call these “typical LN-based anime with trope” as “soap block” or “soap”.
Translator’s Note: “Soap block” originates from the anime titles simulcasted on Niconico distribution block with viewers’ comments flooding on the screen.
The Anointed One
Now that we have the defined term, let’s move on to the main point. Why do soap heroines have to get undressed so early in the show? In order to explain this, let me bring up a religion here as it is the most intelligible. The scene where a soap heroine getting undressed and being seen by the protagonist corresponds to the event of “being anointed with holy oil” in the Old Testament.
Once upon a time in Israel, anointing with oil was a rite of inauguration into each of the three major offices: kings, high priests, and prophets. The rite was performed by an authority of the field, such as anointed priests and prophets. In the Bible, God (or Lord) chose whom to anoint. Incidentally, “Christ” is the translation of the Hebrew “Mashiach (Messiah)” which originally means “anointed”.
In this way, in the biblical world, the anointed ones were not kings nor prophets before they were anointed, but they got their roles divinely designated by being anointed. The same can be said to the soap heroines. That is to say, when a girl first appears in the show, she is not a heroine yet, but she becomes one when she is undressed and gets seen by the protagonist.
Furthermore, heroines occupy the similar position in anime as “kings of Israel” of the three anointed groups. You might want to consider protagonists to be kings, but protagonists in soap block shows are rather prophets who speak for the author. On the contrary, heroines whom the viewers demand, adore, and support with money are befitting to take the place of kings in anime. Most notable in particular is David who beat Goliath, to remind us of their striking resemblance in their roles.
In the Bible, the term “shepherd” is used metaphorically for leaders, with David who was originally a shepherd as the leading example among the biblical figures, and the faithful followers are the “flock of lambs” who have to be tended.
Up to this point, I’ve referred to those who watch soap block shows as “viewers”, but I would like to define a new term for them because the original sources are LNs, which are to be “read” rather than to be “viewed”. Following the biblical practice to call them “lambs” would be a bit hard for most Japanese to relate to, so allow me to call them “piglets” instead to maintain the “flock” aspect. From here on in this article, the term “piglets” refers to soap block followers.
The reason why soap block stories rely on such an appointing system for heroines lies with the rapid increase of bishoujo, or pretty young girls. When a story presents only one bishoujo, you’ll definitely see that she is supposed to be the heroine. However, in accordance with the current trend of bishoujo dominance in the genre where typical male roles in other genres are replaced with girls here and the trend even spreading to background roles, you actually can’t figure out who is supposed to be the heroine you want to root for. As a result, the supposedly heroine gets buried among a multitude of girl characters, and you don’t even notice her as a significant character in the story. The term “air heroine” describes this situation as her presence becomes unrecognizable as air around you.
In order to break down this situation, “the protagonist accidentally sees the heroine getting undressed” has been employed as the technique to inform you who the heroine should be. This so-called “Lucky Sukebe” (lit. Lucky Pervert, an accidental lewd event considered “lucky”) has been around for ages, but it is diverted to a rite to designate a heroine. (The act of anointing with oil was originally a practical custom as well. It served as a means to protect the skin from the sun and the cold, and was also known for sanitary and cosmetic purposes. For example, in “Odyssey”, every time Odysseus bathes, he is anointed with oil.) Thanks to the rite of inauguration, piglets can clearly see who is the heroine among a crowd of pretty girls in each show.
Repeating “undressed” over and over may hurt the dignity of this article, so let me instead call this act as “anointing with soap” in accordance with the Bible from here on. When you see a phrase such as “when a heroine was anointed with soap”, please understand that she was seen undressed by the protagonist.
Evaluation by a protagonist
If you have actually read this article thus far, another question may arise in you. “Isn’t there any other way to designate a heroine?” The short answer is yes. Ask Ouka Outori in “Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon” about when she was authorized as a heroine. She would reply, “The hand of the Lord was upon me”.
That’s what we call “breast grabbing”. It is definitely another heroine inauguration, as in, an act of anointing with soap. Touching with hand is also an important act in the Bible and it has various meanings.
There is a reason why these are appropriate as rites of inauguration. In the Bible, when the Lord chose a king, he said to Samuel the prophet:
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
*1 Samuel 16:7
That is to say, it is required for inaugurations to see the true nature, in other words, “in one’s birthday suit”. Breast grabbing basically implies the same thing after all, but in a direct manner. You just confirm what you see with your hands. So it is natural for protagonists to “grope” them, instead of just lightly touching them. Once they are confirmed as real things, they become the authentic heroines.
3 minutes’ Rule
Anointing with soap designates a heroine means it must be done as early as possible. What people want in these soap block shows are not protagonists but heroines. If anointing doesn’t happen early enough, the story would not go anywhere and piglets would lose interests because they don’t know whom to root for. If you choose a random pretty girl carelessly, you are risking your chance and may get disappointed by seeing her dead by the third episode. A double facepalm if you end up changing your Twitter avatar soon again.
Therefore, it is necessary to designate a heroine early on to let piglets feel assured before they decide to drop the show out of insecureness with their mentality as fragile as tofu. And that time limit is 3 minutes. This “3 minutes” rule is well-known to those who are involved with videos from their own experiences. Let me quote what Kazuo Koike said in one of his books.
For manga, the first 7 pages. You need them to fall in love with the characters. For videos, the limit is 3 minutes. But for YouTube and Niconico videos, the limit may be even shorter and probably around 20 to 30 seconds at best. Your characters must appeal to the audience within that time span.
This time limit rule seems to apply to general TV broadcasting scenes, too.
It’s like a test or maybe a touchstone, gradually but conclusively we have found out that 3 minutes coincide with human psychology perfectly. That is the first point. As you can see, it’s from the data of 20 percent audience share, in total of 20 million people. It’s irresistible.”
I thought it had been going well, but then saw that people switched the channel around in 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
As with other programs, anime shows all start at the same time, and people feel they have to judge which one they want to continue watching very quickly. Considering that piglets focus on what kind of heroines appearing in each show, a heroine must be designated within 3 minutes. In that sense, “Heavy Object” failed hard at the start from the piglets’ point of view. It went on and on describing the weapons and the world view for 4 minutes and 30 seconds and drove piglets away from the show. To the contrary, “The 35th Test Platoon” impressed me with its well thought-out strategy.
First, Bunny (Usagi) shows up at 2 minutes and 34 seconds to capture piglets’ hearts and buys time until the main heroine appears. It is the ideal form of soap block shows.
The strategy of designating a heroine early on is in touch with anointing a king in the Old Testament. When a prophet meets a king-to-be in the Old Testament, he rushes and goes “This man is to be the king, anoint him with oil already!” He never takes time to check the man carefully whether he is up to the role or not.
Now you see the basic principle of this heroine inauguration system. Understandably, piglets are watching the shows on top of their full awareness of all this. That is why they enjoy these shows without being bothered at the same or similar plots and developments at all. From here on, let me talk about more applied approaches.
First, let’s look at how multiple heroines in one show are treated. You can again see that it follows the Bible. The man who was anointed with oil as the first king of Israel was Saul, the son of Kish. He was the chosen one and anointed by the prophet Samuel, but he didn’t obey the God’s decree of “utter destruction of Amalekites”. The Lord rejects him as king due to his disobedience, and David enters the story to be anointed by the prophet as the new king. Saul was beautiful and brave, but David was even better with his music skill of a harpist. Now, apply this with the soap block, and you can see it is the so-called “replacement of the heroine”.
Thus, when someone gets newly anointed with soap, she is the new heroine. When it comes to multiple heroines in a soap block show, however, it is more accurate to say a heroine being added than replaced. In this case, you will have to evaluate the amount and quality of each soap anointed along with the updated timing as a whole. With these detailed information, piglets can determine who is the main heroine, or who is the heroine in a certain episode.
I had shown you Houki of “Infinite Stratos” as a typical air heroine earlier. She was anointed with soap in the first episode and she was definitely a heroine at first. But, compared to following heroines, especially Charlotte, the soap anointed on Houki was not enough and it got old. Because of this, piglets could not accept her as a heroine of the show any more.
In that sense, Julis of “Astarisk” was over the top, anointed twice in the first episode only.
While some characters become proper heroines, some fail to be one even if the creator meant them to be. Now that you have read thus far, you should be well aware that the failure happens when they did not get anointed with soap. Of course, it only means “failed by the soap block standard”. If a plot introduces you a supposed heroine, you can still call her a heroine with no anointing with soap. It’s just that piglets wouldn’t agree.
The most memorable show this season in this aspect was “Comet Lucifer”. It was never meant to be a soap block show, and it wasn’t even based on a LN. So it did not have to follow the soap block standards by any means. But if truth be told, it disappointed piglets so badly. In its first episode, the protagonist accidentally fell far down to the underground, and saw a mysterious system to meet this show’s heroine, Felia. She fell down into the protagonists arms, completely asleep.
She was wearing clothes. If it was to meet the soap block standard, she should have appeared fully naked. A little bird told me that groans of piglets echoed all over the running commentary at this scene.
I should also point out that there is another heroine-ish female character in this show. But piglets all dismissed her as a heroine after the first episode. The reason is that she appeared to be or smelled like a childhood friend of the protagonist. A childhood friend has a stage order issue to take the role of a heroine. By the soap block standards, heroines must follow the below order.
1. Meet the protagonist
2. Anointed with soap
3. Open up and become a friend
It is allowed to shorten the time period to the utmost limit for each stage, but skipping a stage or switching the order is completely out of the question. Now, a childhood friend does not bring you the “meeting stage” in the show, but starts with a friendly state with the protagonist. If she ever gets anointed with soap, it can only happen later. How could she have any chance of winning the heroine status like this? In order to properly make a childhood friend a heroine, the story has to start with the reunion of the protagonist and the girl and force them to have the “meeting” stage. Having them talk or behave in a distant manner would work even better. Of course, I should note that it still didn’t work for Houki of “IS” with this setting.
There are certain things that piglets cannot excuse and what soap block shows must not do: cheating, NTR, and non-virgin. It’s not a big deal for minor characters, but it would cause a major fuss if a heroine did any of those. When piglets get pissed off with these, other people start criticizing their “intolerance” or “reflection of the predominance of men over women”. But I hope this article has helped you to understand why piglets would feel furious. Those actions are treachery to their God.
The devil, or Satan, appears in the Bible to oppose God. However, what the devil mainly does is not destroying a country or anything, but seducing the chosen ones. The anointed ones must keep their loyalty to the Lord to resist such temptations.
Therefore, a heroine cheating or getting cucked is the same as yielding to the devil’s temptation and betraying the Lord. She negated the fact that the protagonist deliberately performed the rite to anoint her with soap. The Lord chooses another without hesitation whenever one disobeys his order, even once. She betrayed, let alone disobeyed, it is quite inevitable that piglets would snap. Additionally, in conjunction with cheating, some girls try to make the protagonists jealous by getting close to other male characters. That is of course no good. An excuse such as “the game of love” is unacceptable. You must not test God.
Lastly, the biggest sin of all is a heroine with sexual experience. This drives piglets out of control. It means she had been betraying the Lord from the start, so absolutely she cannot be forgiven. The quality of soap corresponds to the level of embarrassment a girl experiences. If she isn’t a virgin, what on earth could the protagonist do further to embarrass her enough in a show for the young boys? Do you now understand why piglets say “get soap in the ears”?
To conclude, I thank you for reading this to the end to learn about the soap block system and piglets’ mindset. I hope you now understand their culture to some extent.
Like it’s been said the last few years, the otaku population is steadily increasing year by year. To be precise, the number of those who are interested in the otaku culture is increasing. While some aspects of their culture are easy enough to understand, some are not. The series of uproar we saw this time around is actually a cultural conflict between the soap culture and others. I wrote this article in an attempt to ease such conflicts as a non-piglet.
There are a lot to overcome to grasp the soap culture. On top of that, it is even harder to understand this new genre of “transmigrated and trapped in another universe of harem”, which is supposedly derived from soap block shows. Anyhow, there is even a piglet sect of Trinitarianism who classify the creators, readers(audience), and protagonists as one. Some things are better left untouched when you aren’t familiar with it.