The Bathroom as a Narrative Device in Anime

Believe it or not, I think the restroom serves a purpose (beyond just being a collection-and-disposal facility for bodily waste) when it comes to anime and fiction in general.

In fact, I can think of 5 possible reasons why bathroom scenes are included. There are probably even more, but I was already having enough of a bowl writing this one.

Alright, enough stalling. Here goes!

There May Be Gossip

Sometimes lips will move and words will run (in addition to the usual movement of matter associated with restrooms) within these personal hygiene stations. A character may waltz in and will hear others talking about someone the character knows or was wondering about.

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THERE ARE SO MANY VACANT URINALS WHY ARE YOU TWO VOLUNTARILY ENTERING THE SPLASH ZONE???

This happens primarily because the bathroom is, to some degree, considered to be a private place. On that basis, these busybodies hold a conversation while handling their business since they believe they can be discreet.

And for the most part it is except for potential hidden cameras or awkward characters hiding in bathroom stalls to avoid confrontation and interaction.

A Place for Reflection

At times, a character will go into a bathroom and stare at the mirror. This usually signifies that said character is experiencing self-doubt or is troubled. Whether or not the individual overcomes such feelings before leaving the bathroom depends on the series and on the character.

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This is from chapter 2 from Tokyo Ghoul:re so this isn’t spoilers, okay?

Other times a character will go into a stall and just let loose with his or her or their true feelings. Again, this happens because said individual believes the stall offers a degree of anonymity.

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And sometimes they are just incorrect.

Fateful Encounters May Occur

In some cases, a character will be curious or thinking about another character. And then the former ends up running into the latter at the bathroom because coincidences happen in fiction and in real life.

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Running into someone who scaled a toilet stall isn’t something that usually happens in real life, however.

On that note, these chance meetings will sometimes reveal a bit about these characters. After all, the restroom is a place where people are vulnerable. By definition you become partially naked and thus end up being exposed. As such, scars or injuries are thus momentarily visible.

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I said this in an earlier post (and Tatara himself also noticed) but pay attention to the athletic tape!

Enabling One to Eat Lunch in Solitude

There are a few lonely characters who eat lunch while sitting in the bathroom stall. They’re never dropping deposits while consuming matter, at least, which makes sense since holding a bento and chopsticks is an activity that requires two hands.

Well, I suppose a character can place the bento across his or her or their lap or could just eat an onigiri, but I digress.

Showcasing a Fear of the Dark

If there’s a child character or a childish character or a character with a (hidden) childish side, then the individual may ask for someone to come along for a late night bathroom trip. After all, it’s scary to be by yourself at night, right?


Alright, now it’s your turn. Do you agree with what I’ve written here? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Have you any other ideas? Please let me know in the comments section down below!

Thank you for reading.

20 thoughts on “The Bathroom as a Narrative Device in Anime

  1. I feel like I’m reading about my life… Awkward….

    It’s my alone time, my secret snack time, my self reflection time, my cry in privacy place… Never had an important conversation or meet someone at a critical moment there though.

    You don’t seem to be popping up in my feed anymore Remy. Disappointed with wp in that regard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh didn’t meant to cause you discomfort, oops!

      Hmm might be for the better that this list remains a bit off, then. Would be awkward to run into someone right after using the restroom but before you got to wash your hands.

      Awwww damn. What a shame.

      Speaking of, I’ve been a bit behind on posts and noticed yours didn’t show up in my email. Will have to go to your blog and check your content tomorrow since it’s getting late over here. Until then!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I never thought much about this, but it is true that there are a lot of important scenes involving bathrooms…it’s just something you don’t think about generally. You made very good points

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A long time ago, I used the restroom at a store, and then the stall door would not open. Of course, no one was around at the time. Fortunately, it was one of those types where there is a large gap between the door and the floor, so I managed to escape.
    However, maybe if I had climbed over the door, I could have had a fateful encounter, as that’s totally the expression I would have had on my face.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That first Welcome to the Ballroom image reminds me of one of the scenes early on in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE!…but of course, it’s much more fun to watch it than to have me explain it to you, so I’m not going to say anything else about it.

    When you think about Western media, often bathrooms are more commonly used as an escape from socialisation or schoolwork. The slight difference between how Japanese meda and Western media handle these sorts of scenes is kinda interesting in its own way because it’s not a thing of significance in people’s eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh? You sure do know how to sell a scene to people. Now I’m curious!

      Great points. It’s kind of silly to write about something most people don’t pay attention to, now that I think about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I completely agree. The bathroom really is a significant marker in a series, particularly those with a high school setting. There aren’t many places for a student to go when they’re in school… so they live a lot of their life in the public toilet. It’s a place for socializing, for confrontation, as well as a “safe” place to hide with your emotions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not the most sanitary place to eat, I’ll admit.

      Well, just because it’s a staple doesn’t mean it’s not important. I would say that there’s usually a reason and purpose why a character is shown entering a bathroom. Otherwise it would have been cut out altogether, which is what some shows opt to do.

      Like

  6. I really liked Darker Than Black’s use of the bathroom when Hei and Misaki first had a real conversation.
    It isn’t something we think about all that often, but bathrooms come up a lot in anime. Something I should probably pay more attention to in the future.

    Liked by 3 people

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