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.
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.
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!