These Beloved Shojo Anime Slyly Share Dangerous Messages

Shojo anime is often the first stop for young girls just getting into anime, and with the responsibility of such a young and easily influenced audience, shojo creators should have that responsibility in mind at all times. However, the slyest of toxic messages can hide away in seemingly innocent places.

Although much beloved and some of them standard watching for anime fans, these shows can bury some incredibly harmful ideas beneath the surface that are either so well hidden or so embedded in our own society that they're difficult to detect. Here are three shojo anime with unexpectedly harmful messages.

Fruits Basket - Tohru Gives Too Much of Herself Away

Tohru Honda, the protagonist of Fruits Basket, is an undoubtedly good person. She is beloved by everyone in the show and many in the fanbase as well. There are questions on forums on how to be more like Tohru, quizzes on how much like her you are and some fierce arguments against the idea that people find Tohru unrealistic. Regardless, however realistic or unrealistic Tohru may be, anyone who is like this character is due to burn out. Tohru gives herself away, every time, in order to help those around her, and while that is a praiseworthy action, Tohru also doesn't take the appropriate amount of time to take care of herself in return.

Additionally, while she improves throughout the series, she has a habit of putting others' problems before her own. Again, while this in itself is not a bad thing, the fact that Tohru does this all the time is unhealthy for her own mental state. Fruit's Basket is a common first-read for girls getting into manga, and the recent reboot of the anime makes the series more accessible than ever. The fact that forums exist on how to be like Tohru simply shows how her character type can be idolized for being so incredibly kind without thought to the ramifications of never taking care of yourself in return. It's okay to want to take Tohru as inspiration, but she should only ever be a rough estimate instead of an idol.

Ouran High School Host Club - Haruhi's Agency is Constantly Ignored

Cast of Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club is another staple for getting into anime, which makes it worse that it hides so many toxic messages. From the first episode in which Haruhi Fujioka is forced to join the host club for breaking a vase, she is living in debt and therefore subject to the whims of the club, and that doesn't stop at school. The club makes their own decisions about going to visit Haruhi at home and at the place she's working over the summer, and casually stalks her to the grocery store and while on a date with another club member.

Haruhi's agency as a character is stripped down even to what she wears -- she must present as a boy in order to attract guests of the club, but Tamaki Suoh in particular is constantly trying to get her to wear more feminine clothes that he picks out. These more innocent actions can even turn disturbing, such as when club member Kyoya Ootori feigns a sexual assault on Haruhi in order to make her understand how weak she is as a girl. Haruhi is a character who can laugh all this off, but that doesn't change the fact that one of the most basic starter anime titles out there is filled with the main character constantly having control over her own life stripped away.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom - The Incest Elephant in the Room

all routes lead to doom

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is charming and funny, but the fact that the show has graduated Keith Claes's childhood crush on his older sister into actually making him a potential love interest is troubling. Keith and Katarina Claes are adopted siblings from a young age. While Katarina thinks of Keith in a strictly platonic manner, Keith has very different intentions. After being rescued from a kidnapping, he kissed Katarina and has now declared his love, finally making Katarina aware of his feelings.

It gets worse. While trying to get their sibling dynamic back by showing Keith her new pajamas, Keith pins Katarina to the bed, telling her that if she walks into a man's room at night in her nightclothes, she can't complain about what happens. He then kisses her forehead and lets her go, and the matter is settled for the season. Combining the incestuous relationship with blatant victim-blaming makes it wrong that Keith was ever and continues to be one of Katarina's love interests.

These shojo anime likely don't intend to propagate harmful messages, but instead mirror society. Tohru is good because women are meant to be endlessly kind and giving. Haruhi puts up with the Host Club because women put up with the immature antics and boyish tendencies of men. Katarina is the joke of her own series and so can't respond to her brother acting so inappropriately. It's unfair to lash out at anime specifically while these attitudes still run rampant. However, while still beloved series, it's important to acknowledge that sentimentality does not a flawless anime make, and that it's fine to call out these fan-favorites so that the young people getting into anime for the first time are entering a safe community that has their best interests at heart.

Yatora in Netflix's Blue Period anime
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