Common Anime Features – Abrupt Laughter

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It’s something that’s regularly found in anime of all sorts of genres (but it’s quite prominent in slice-of-life shows).

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, however, I guess I should explain this whole “Common Anime Features” thing (title is very much a work-in-progress). Essentially, it’s a series of posts I’ll be updating whenever I can notice something that a lot of anime series share in common. So, yeah. But enough about that.

The Lily Garden wanted to talk about abrupt laughter.

You’ve noticed it, haven’t you? It’s everywhere and happens in all types of anime series.

One character is talking to another character and then they suddenly start guffawing over something small. Maybe they won’t start laughing at the exact same time. But laughter is evidentially contagious since the two characters will inevitably end up having a good giggle together. It’s not limited to just the two characters, either. If they’re hanging out with other folk, chances are most of the group will join in and a chorus of laughter will ring throughout the air. One such example happened in Knights of Sidonia while Nagate and Shizuka are essentially marooned in space.

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“your speech sucked” “how rude” *laugh track*

The thing is, the characters often seem to be overreacting (from my perspective). Maybe one character just rattled off a silly pun or joke or maybe two of them played off each other in a hilarious fashion. Admittedly, it would be not at all strange for characters to chuckle over such antics. But subtle things are apparently boring. Instead, the characters tend to let out full-on belly laughs as if they have this compulsive need to express their merriment in an exaggerated manner.

What does including this abrupt and long sequence of laughter do for the narrative?

For one, it demonstrates closeness between individuals. If they’re already friends, the laugh session is a means to convey that they’re good friends who are comfortable enough to leisurely laugh together. If they’re more like strangers, having a good laugh together is a way to depict that they’re well on their way to becoming friends.

Returning back to the Knights of Sidonia example, the small talk and the laugh session happened when the two are by themselves in space after Nagate disregarded everything to make sure Shozuka wasn’t alone. This whole incident is what caused Shizuka, who had been nice enough to Nagate, to fall for our protagonist. In short, the abrupt laughter was a way to depict how the two grew closer to one another.

Secondly, it’s a means that studios use in order to “seamlessly” transition to a different event / scene / part of the conversation altogether. Seriously, go back and watch a scene where at least two characters laugh their heads off over something relatively minor. The viewer will get a few seconds (at best) of these easily amused characters chortling. And then a new topic / line of conversation will either pop up once they’ve calmed down, or there’ll be a small scene transition and they’ll be talking about something else or doing something else.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with the first reason. It’s a means of depicting the development of character relationships through both showing and telling. That’s so much better than one character pointing at the other and saying, “Yeah, we’re good pals.”

But the second reason is what cheapens the situation for me. It comes across as forced and I’m usually left thinking, “Really? That’s the best you can do?”

I also end up feeling awkward and disconnected because I’m watching these characters laugh seemingly out of nowhere and I’m failing to see why they’re behaving this way. Am I supposed to get a warm, fuzzy feeling seeing them laugh like this? Because that almost never happens for me.

For example, take Sakura Quest episode 3. Sanae ribs Yoshino by saying that the speech she made at the mascot contest, while good for her as an individual, was no good for her as a queen. Yoshino meekly responds that said comment is quite harsh and the girls have a giggle. And then Yoshino just so happens to notice that Ririko doesn’t drink alcohol right before the old man from the Board of Tourism shows up.

This example is more downplayed compared to the situations described in this post considering how the girls didn’t laugh too loudly, but the joke was pretty weak. I didn’t really see how that setup and delivery could be considered funny. Still, the girls laughing together shows that they’re coming together as a team.

And then they manage to squeeze in a small exchange that could be important later on (you never know) before the old man arrives and Yoshino confirms that she’s decided to become the queen of Manoyama and that she would like for the other girls to help her out as a team. Wow, maybe them laughing together right before Yoshino asked was meant to be.

Another example occurs in Love Live! School Idol Project S2 episode 11. The first-years and second-years end up deciding that their idol group, μ’s, will cease to exist after the third-years graduate from high school. It’s an emotional moment, but the leader, Honoka, manages to trick the others into thinking that they’ll miss the last train. Once they reach the station, the girls take a group pic in one of those crammed photo stalls.

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Said picture taken at said crammed stall.

It’s a silly picture, sure, and the girls start laughing over it. Laughing a bit too much, in my opinion. And then the girls begin crying because the studio needed a way to transition to a new series of events and because the actual emotional release was interrupted by Honoka’s white lie.

I can understand why the girls are crying (I admit I got teary-eyed when I first watched this scene) since their time as  fellow idols and dear friends would soon come to an end once Nico, Eli, and Nozomi graduate. Sure. As for the girls having a laughing fit over the picture…I don’t see why? Maybe they were stressed. Or maybe my sense of humor is off? Or maybe it was just poorly written. Hm.


Anyways, that’s all from The Lily Garden about this topic. Maybe my examples weren’t the best but I hope I made my point. Do you share the same opinions? Do you think this is a totally nonsensical point of view? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments section!

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15 comments on “Common Anime Features – Abrupt Laughter”

  1. Surprisingly that’s also how Japanese sometimes change subject in real life conversation too. I’ve listened to a radio show for OreImo hosted by Kana Hanazawa and Ayaka Taketatsu. Their giggling moments were so awkward.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree that it times it is definitely distracting, at times even cringeworthy, and other times even awkward. Still, I guess over the years having spent so many hours watching anime in all kinds of forms, I have grown to accept it in some way. That doesn’t mean that I like it every time this happens, but I don’t find it as annoying as when I first started watching anime. Still the first reason you mention, is definitely more acceptable than the second reason. Great and well written post: enjoyed reading it 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find it more odd when they do a flashback of some happy childhood memory and the only sound is the child giggling incessantly. Recently Ais in Sword Oratoria got this treatment. Seriously, if your kid is staring at you giggling like that for no apparent reason, there’s something incredibly creepy going on. Yet this is fairly standard for kiddy flashbacks if we’re supposed to think this was some happy childhood memory.
    Okay, characters laughing for no reason tends to annoy me.
    Really enjoyed the post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, yeah, that kind of nonstop giggling is definitely creepy coming from a young child. But apparently laughter is supposed to make everything okay!
      Mmmm it’s just one of those things.
      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, I don’t know about slice of life anime/manga in particular, but most of the times, I think they tend to laugh abruptly as a release point of their tension?
    I mean, mostly before sports matches (chihayafuru, Haikyuu, Area no Kishi) is the time when characters choose to make lame jokes that wouldn’t deserve laughing, but at that time get a great response…
    For me it’s more of a way to release stress, or hide your tears in a desperate situation that you suddenly laugh without any reason. Like, laughing only because you cant cry, I guess?

    I guess showing friendship can be a reason, but the second one’s a bit weak, believable but convincing…

    Anyway, this was fun to read, looking forward to your next post in the series!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like Aurora said above, abrupt and over-the-top laughter are sometimes portrayed as a way to release tension. The Love Live situation you mentioned seems to be that kind. The tears that followed do back it up.

    I do like kinda situation provided that it makes sense, i.e, there’s sufficient emotional tension for the laughter to diffuse. Otherwise, pointless laughter or even characters that randomly laugh/giggle/cackle a lot gets on my nerves. It’s weird and awkward. Using it as a way to change the topic seems odd to but I read the comment above about it being a cultural thing and that’s interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmm Auri seems to have explained it well. Laughter solves all!

      Fair enough. Gotta have good reasons or else it’s weird. Unless if they’re crazy, characters shouldn’t be cackling 24/7.

      Mmm interesting is the only way I could describe that, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Like both Aurora and D have said, I think it can stem from awkwardness. That scene from Sakura Quest I viewed the girls laughing because it was awkward. They were getting to know each other and then the old guy shows up, cue laughter.

    To be honest, I’ve done this before. Me and a few girl friends were sat around and someone showed up and it just felt so awkward we burst out laughing even though there was seemingly nothing to laugh at.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really never thought about this before I saw this post. It just didn’t register to me that they were laughing unreasonably. I just figured they thought it was funnier than I did.
    It’s interesting to think about why people laugh. I think in some social situations I’ll laugh if everyone else is, even if I don’t find a lot of humor in what’s going on. I suppose it’s just a way to fit in, and I’d be interested to see how much this sort of thing happens in non-anime shows.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, maybe they are and I’m overthinking things. You never know.

      Mm laughter is interesting like that. It would be quite a study to see if laughter of this sort happens in non-anime shows, I agree.

      Liked by 1 person

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