Miscommunication in Manga and Anime

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Communication. It’s what people attempt to do in real life when they want something, like expressing their feelings or asking for a glass of water because the restaurant put too much MSG in the food. But it’s also what some characters in anime and manga tend to not do.

(Spoilers for Flip Flappers and Saki in this post

A lot of conflicts and situations in anime and manga can be solved, remedied, or avoided outright if the characters involved just sat down and talked. Unfortunately, that would also mean a juicy source of tension and conflict would disappear.

As a result, some characters seemingly lose the ability to communicate out of nowhere. They struggle to coherently convey to others about this or that. Sure, it means a lot of drama is sure to happen, but, in my opinion, it leaves the reader or viewer frustrated as the situation unfolds.

One such example can be found in the currently airing series, Flip Flappers. The main character, Cocona, finds out that her childhood friend, Yayaka, initially forged their friendship in order to keep tabs on her since Yayaka belongs to an evil organization (in episode 10).

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I understand that Cocona had no time to clear up this misunderstanding (it was a pretty unsettling reveal that left her feeling betrayed, I’ll admit) since said evil organization had basically invaded the base in order to capture her, but she ends up flipping out on her partner, Papika, and starts jumping to conclusions and throwing around accusations about how everyone has been deceiving her.

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This isn’t the only incident where Cocona is shown struggling to talk about how she feels. Instead of trying to get Papika to help her understand who Mimi is after hearing Papika mistakenly call her Mimi, Cocona just throws tantrums and doesn’t give Papika a chance to explain herself (episode 9).

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And when she did start asking Papika for answers, Cocona is impatient and dismisses her answers since she’s already made up her mind (episode 10 again).

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This is apparently justified since Cocona has an underdeveloped sense of self and is anxious to find a place where she belongs (in my opinion), but seeing these repeated instances where she basically acts like a child agitates me nonetheless.

Now jumping to a series in which I’m heavily invested (to my detriment; I’ll talk about it in some other post later), Saki also features several misunderstandings which either serve to drive the plot forward or to keep the readers amused.

The main character, Miyanaga Saki, aims to reconcile with her older sister, Teru. There was a time when both sisters were close, but something happened and now they struggle to communicate. Saki has made attempts to talk to Teru, but Teru continues to brush her off. This leads Saki to believe that Teru is still angry at her (again, I must stress we don’t know why).

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However, it’s revealed in chapter 167 that Teru isn’t angry at Saki. She just doesn’t know what to say to her younger sister, so she brushes her off and ignores her… only to essentially collapse upon reaching her school’s designated break-room. As a result, the cold mahjong prodigy looks vulnerable and depressed over how she doesn’t know how to communicate with someone who used to be so close to her.

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That being said, it’s not like all misunderstandings are bad. They essentially define the rom-com genre (then again, your milege may vary in regards to the rom-com genre being good or bad). Think about it: what if characters always knew how to properly communicate? There would be no tongue-tied people in love, no admirers struggling for episodes and/or chapters on end to confess. Lovestruck characters would confess, get shot down or find their love accepted, and that’ll be the end of that! Stories would be boring.

There certainly wouldn’t be any tsunderes (you can decide if that’s a boon or a disaster). I, for one, would be sad to see Suehara Kyouko being more honest with her kouhai, Ueshige Suzu (from Saki, once again). Kyouko’s tough love (in the form of writing on Suzu’s head with a marker) is quite endearing to me.

It’s probably the only way Kyouko can express affection to her junior yet it leaves Suzu confused about what Kyouko thinks of her. Yes, the yuri googles are on and I cannot, shall not, will not take them off.

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Punished means “scribbling on her forehead with a pen” (Ch 74)
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Kyouko recommending Ueshige Suzu to join the team as a starter for the team (Ch 74)
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Senpai is the best endorsement (Ch 74)
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Of course, Kyouko wants to keep her affection for Suzu under wraps. Also, nice, she’s addressing her by first name now (Ch 74)
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It’s time for her punishment! (Ch 75)
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No escape from tough love (Ch 75)
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A repeat performance?! (Ch 114)
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Kyouko is such a softie (Ch 114)

Sorry if this post didn’t make much sense. I guess I’m just tired of seeing characters failing to just talk things through when doing so would solve a lot of conflict. I know that it’s humorous or even needed in some instances, but it does grate on my nerves a little bit.

What about you? Do misunderstandings and instances of miscommunication tickle your fancy? Do you prefer seeing characters struggle in this manner? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

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20 comments on “Miscommunication in Manga and Anime”

  1. A lot of anime has characters misunderstanding something. I kind of don’t mind this as a lot of real conflicts between people come from the assumptions they make rather than through finding out the real feelings of the other person.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is true. It does make for good stories and it can be realistic since people tend to misunderstand in real life, too. In the end, it seems like misunderstandings and miscommunication are needed to spice up stories (and life).

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My reaction to these depends. Sometimes, there’s a legit reason behind them and they’re understandable. Other times though, when the characters are just being dunderheads or acting nothing like they usually do purely for the sake of adding drama, it makes me want to rip my hair out. Or their throats. Either one’s fine, I’m not picky.

    In romcoms, I can take a little silent pining or bumbling mistakes but if it goes on too long, it becomes annoying. Maybe I just get irked easily.

    You know that popular trope where one partner is trying to propose and the other assumes they’re cheating? Shit like that gets on my nerves so fast. Like, hey if you were in a steady enough relationship that marriage is an option, shouldn’t you be able to fucking communicate wtf people??

    Sorry, got a little ranty there. Basically, miscommunication does add realism to relationships but can be a disaster if taken too far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel exactly the same way, so it’s not just you!
      Sure, sometimes misunderstandings happen in real life and the author/studio/producer may feel that a series needs some misunderstandings to spice things up. But they have to be careful about the frequency and the plausibility of these misunderstandings or else the audience may get impatient and irritated!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy shit, someone who loves Saki. People never understood me for being obsessed with that show. You and I need to have a LOOOOOONG talk over coffee, haha!

    As for “communication”, I think we tend to be a little “spoiled” as the viewer since we get an overview of the emotions at play. In the real world, “communication” and “misunderstanding” really is quite difficult, and even the fundamental task of “trying to be understood” can be difficult to the point that it drives people towards depression. Rei from March comes in like a Lion is an excellent example of this. Many times, it’s easy to point out that the solution is very simple, but many times the person we’re really trying to fight with is ourselves, and our answers often come out contrary to what we truly want to say (ergo the “tsundere” attitude). This explains why Cocona seems to lash out at Papika when, in fact, she just feels betrayed by the fact that she invested herself in their relationship enough to open herself up to her. Instead, she feels like an idiot because all of it was a ruse, and she was playing a bit part as a “replacement” for someone else. Here, Cocona felt like they actually HAD a genuine relationship, only to find out that it wasn’t what she thought it was.

    But of course, she could’ve easily have said that, but is it really that easy to say these things out loud? Makoto Shinkai’s characters (from 5cm per second, for example) are prime examples of our inability to voice out our own feelings out of sheer inadequacy — the fear of failure or the fear of “being right”. Because sometimes, it’s easier to fool ourselves in our own sense of self-preservation. We convince ourselves that the status quo is “okay” and that we’ve been bearing it out for so long that we’re afraid of what might happen if we should break out from it. It’s the same reason why Teru can’t speak to Saki because she’s afraid what she’ll say to her — will she get mad? Will she cry? Will she be happy?

    And this uncertainty paralyzes us into inaction, and we make assumptions and live with the status quo. The failure to communicate is indeed a bane of existence, and many conflicts certainly wouldn’t have happened had it not been for good communication. Unfortunately, our egos dictate our ability to reach out to others beyond what our comfort zones are. It’s when we accept the risk of being exposed — of being right, wrong, scared, indignant, or whatnot — that we are able to communicate honestly. It’s tough to do, and it takes a different kind of “courage” — but when we do communicate, I think it’s important to remember that not all things turn out for the better. But at the very least, there’s closure.

    This is a tough topic you picked, but a pretty important one especially in this day and age of mass “communication”. We often say lots of stuff online, but what are we really communicating? That’s another question for another day I guess. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loveeee Saki. The original anime, the manga, Achiga-hen and its manga, Zenkoku-hen, Shinohayu, Toki, Biyori and Biyori BG are all stuff I’ve read or are following. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that one reason I started this blog in hopes I can find more people to talk about Saki! I’d be down to talk about Saki over coffee for hours on end!

      People just don’t understand! Well, I guess involving a complicated game like mahjong as well a copious amount of fanservice might make people hesitant to embrace the show, but it’s so much more than that. I legitimately get teary eyed thinking about most of the schools and what they’ve gone through (except Eisui and Rinkai. The mikos were reallyyyyy underdeveloped and Rinkai has nothing tragic going on as far as I can tell).

      I think you’ve done a much better job talking about why miscommunication happens in both real life and in anime and why viewers are rather spoiled (guilty as charged). You’ve also made me realize that I only superficially touched upon the topic, haha. Thank you.
      I think that would be an excellent topic for another post! c:

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, I think you’re definitely more hardcore than me, but I loved all arcs of the anime. I haven’t really gotten to reading the manga, because to be honest, I have a thing when it comes to reading fan-translated things. I’m more comfortable reading the original Japanese since I know what the original says. It’s a similar reason why I prefer subs, because I can hear what the original says and confirm whether or not the subs are missing something in translation.

        But yeah, we need more Saki. When the hell will they bring out the continuation to the Nationals arc? I need closure!!

        Like

      2. Maybe a little bit, haha. They were all great!

        That’s fair. Sometimes the translations are off and the readers (and translators) get the short end of the stick. We’re of like minds when it comes to subbed shows, though.

        …also it might be for the best that you put off reading the manga for now. Ritz has been submitting pretty sloppy work. A lot of pages are just sketches. Every chapter has like one or two colored pages and then the rest are not even inked. You can see what I mean if you look at the pics of Teru’s “reunion” with Saki in my post. It’s probably due to how she’s running two prequel side stories (Shinohayu where we get see the pros play as middle schoolers; Toki is about… Toki) AND Saki at the same time. The other two get preferential treatment but Saki doesn’t. There’s also the fact that Saki chapters are now short (the last one was 9 pages) and come out every so often instead of biweekly like the rest of series published in Young Gangan Comics. Still, I love the franchise to death.

        Yes, we do! Personally, I think Ritz is going for the long game here. After the Nationals Arc, we saw Kiyosumi and Himematsu advancing to the semifinals, right? Well, back in January of this year, the girls finally managed to finish the semifinals. You would think that the next match is the finals match, right?

        No! Because now the girls who couldn’t make it to the finals are playing a match to determine who gets fifth place in the team tournament. I won’t say which teams are fighting since that’ll be spoilers… But yeah, that sort of came out of nowhere and this fifth place match is happening on the same day as the finals match. So almost by default, the captain match in the finals will take place late at night. She’s really setting the stage for an amazing showdown, that Ritz!

        Oh, and there’s also the fact that characters have been referencing an autumn tournament. This particular tournament is taking place in summer. Saki will never end! I just hope we get more anime adaptations! I think we all need closure!!!

        Like

  4. No worries, Remy. This post made sense to me. I agree that without these miscommunications and misunderstandings, series would be boring. And besides, if the viewer/reader is frustrated, it means that he/she is affected enough by what’s happening in the series to feel that way. I’d rather feel frustrated than uncaring for a series. Good post, Remy. And of course, thank you for sharing it to my blog carnival. Keep on watching anime and blogging. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve raised good points. If I didn’t care about a series, then I wouldn’t get angry when I see characters hem and haw. And thanks for the kind words. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to this topic thanks to the input I’ve received, haha.

      Thanks for dropping by and thanks for hosting the otaku blog carnival. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great to hear. I know what you mean. That’s why I love receiving comments. I actually get more excited when I receive notifications for comments rather than new subscribers. We get a lot of intelligent viewpoints from other bloggers, and in turn motivates us to write a deeper analysis about a topic for the next post. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your post. Keep it up. I hope to see you again for the next blog carnival if you have the time. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I feel the same way. Getting followers is alright, don’t get me wrong, but interaction with readers and other bloggers is just better. I think you described the situation to a T!
        Thank you and I hope to participate in the next blog carnival. It’s because of these blog carnivals that I feel comfortable enough to talk about topics that aren’t just episode reviews again, haha. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Exactly. Interaction with your readers just makes blogging more fulfilling because it makes you feel that they’re really reading and your post touched them in some way.

        You’re very welcome, Remy. I hope to see you again at my next carnival on January. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree, it can get so frustrating. It may even feel like it’s insulting my intelligence at times! I mean, I find myself looking at the screen and asking “are you effin’ serious? -_-” ”
    But like you said, no miscommunication would mean no conflict and no conflict would mean no story unfolding. A necessary evil, but one that could at least *attempt* to be believable at times.
    Please try harder, creators!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The gall of these creators, right?
      I get upset, too, over how they’re wasting my time. Or how they’re wasting character’s development or what not.

      Sometimes I think they have a dartboard and when they run out of ideas they start tossing darts to see what they could do to spice things up. “Writing in an incident of miscommunication that could be easily resolved but isn’t in order to frustrate the audience” surely tales up half of the​ dart board at the very least!

      Liked by 1 person

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