Kabedon is a popular trope in romance anime and manga that refers to a character asserting their dominance over an individual by entrapping them against the wall using their hands. Due to its popularity, many Asian advertisements and live-action dramas feature kabedon scenes, though not always seriously. Let’s take a look at the origin behind the iconic kabedon and why it's often seen as controversial, rather than romantic.
The literal English translation of the Japanese word, kabedon, is “wall bang,” where kabe means “wall” and don is the onomatopoeic sound for “bang.” When the (typically) male character slams his hand or arm on the wall to corner (typically) a girl, it results in the “don” sound. The ideal result is the female character eventually falling for the male, taking his kabedon to mean he's serious about her.
There are actually two types of kabedon in anime and manga. The first type is the shonen kabedon, where a character vents their anger and frustration onto someone else by pushing them against the wall and confronting them. A prime example of a shonen kabedon is in My Hero Academia, in a scene where Bakugo furiously slams his fist into a wall to corner and confront Deku. This instance of kabedon is the result of a friendship fallout, though fans have also taken it as Deku/Bakugo fan service.
However, in shojo and yaoi series, kabedon is primarily used as a way to flirt. The voice actor Ryoko Shintani, who starred in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, coined the term as romantic back in 2008, however, kabedon didn't gain popularity until popular shojo manga like Ayu Watanabe’s L DK and Hiro Fujiwara’s Maid Sama! began using it regularly.
An example of an iconic and emblematic kabedon scene is in Kanae Hazuki’s Say I Love You. In Episode 2, “Fried Chicken Flavored,” Mei Tachibana expresses her frustration over Yamato Kurosawa’s friendly advances towards her, which have left her unsure about how sincere his feelings are. To prove his sincerity, Yamato does kabedon on Mei, ending with a kiss to show how much he likes her. The scene in Say I Love You. is a prime example of how the kabedon works when it comes to romance -- it's a confrontational way of confessing one’s love or initiating a romantic relationship. In this case, Yamato presents himself as someone unafraid to be direct, and Mei, while taken aback, still accepts his love confession.
Eventually, the kabedon trope became an Internet meme, with plenty of light-hearted comics and fan art jokingly advising women on how to avoid kabedon. Anime and manga series also began poking fun at the trope. For example, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, pokes fun at how much fujoshi love kabedon by having Hirotaka Nifuji and Tarō Kabakura be forced into a yaoi kabedon by their girlfriends, Narumi Momose and Hanako Koyanagi.
Many speculate as to why the kabedon trope became so popular among anime and manga fans, yet the most popular reason is that the kabedon is a way to show men’s dominance and romantic side. In many Asian and western dramas, Asian men are depicted as “herbivores” or “grasshoppers” -- as in, intellectual, cultured and stylish, yet lacking masculine sexiness. When it comes to romance in media, Asian men are rarely depicted as assertive or direct. Thus, kabedon caters to a woman's supposed fantasies, romanticizing the idea of a man sweeping a woman off her feet with his masculine assertiveness.
In a fictional setting, kabedon is seen as cool and attractive. However, when done in real life, kabedon is downright creepy and cringe-worthy, even in live-action fiction, like the L DK movie. The cringe of a real-life kabedon comes from the fact that it’s way too aggressive. At best, it'd lead to an awkward situation, at worst it could be considered sexual harassment or abusive. Kabedon can be interpreted as a fantasy of male dominance and female submission, in which a woman is forced to confront her feelings in the same way that she herself is being confronted, or rather, intimidated. Although kabedon is glamorized in romance anime and manga, it’s definitely something you shouldn’t do in real life without consent.