As a recovering reader of the TV Tropes website (I haven’t read the site in 2 months as of this writing, and have not made any edits for over a year), I hesitate to add links to the site no matter how relevant to the discussion I propose here. For me the site is an incredible time sink but doesn’t have any of Wikipedia’s veneer of respectability.
In any case, four of my favorite tropes are centered around the idea of “crowning moments;” instances within a narrative that are remarkable or even considered achievements by its fans. The categories of moments I am familiar with are (Crowning Moments of) Awesome, Funny, Heartwarming – and Crowning Music of Awesome.
Here I propose a new entry, something that I hope readers will contribute to and if one of you is a troper, you may put up the trope yourself on the site using the work done in this post and the comments when they arrive. Now, on to the trope as I imagine it!
Dinner with the sister of the guy you killed, celebrating his posthumous birthday? Banner of the Stars actually averts the awkwardness and the dinner itself is a triumph of dialogue and characterization (if not world-building).
I imagine awkwardness as a feeling experienced by the character and/or the viewer (vicariously) when he or she is at social risk. This is when one’s self-identity, and/or social esteem is under threat given the circumstances.
A crowning moment of awkwardness, would be a confluence when the stakes for the characters are high, the impact of the moment in the narrative is significant (may be very relevant to the plot), and that the moment is well-executed so as to be entertaining and or cringe-worthy. I personally die from watching things like this.
When I arrived late to my own wedding ceremony, that was rather awkward – but the fact that there was no turning back for anyone gave me the confidence to overcome that LOL. It was kind of terrible in hindsight though (though the ceremony and reception went very well).
Some fictional examples are in order. The movie Meet the Parents has its humor founded on awkward and embarrassing moments (I think the TV series The Office also relies much on this), but as for crowning moments the Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds is a rich vein of it. Often when SS Col. Hans Landa interrogates a character informally there is a high degree of awkardenss on the part of the person being questioned. But during the film premier when Landa doesn’t quite expose the horrible disguises the “Basterds” used to infiltrate it but instead toys with them ruthlessly (e.g. making them enunciate Italian words with their horrible East Coast American accents)… THAT was powerfully awkward.
It was of high personal risk to the characters (their lives depended on it), the moment is of immense significance (the mission depended on it), and the moment is so well-executed both in terms of the quality of the dialogue and the performances of the cast.
While I think romance anime and manga, and perhaps the harem type of shows rely on awkwardness heavily, I find it difficult to identify crowning moments because I am not as enthused by them as probably the fans are. I will say what I don’t think qualifies:
Embarrassment that leads to cuteness (dojikko moé) and otherwise doesn’t quite challenge the viewer or reader. Also, not so much the “I-It’s not like I actually care about you, you know? [have these cookies I made them]” kinds of situations. These are more heartwarming than they are awkward.
I am tempted to qualify the moment first episode of Hanamaru Kindergarten wherein the lead character introduces himself to the parents of the schoolchildren and then one of the kids naively calls him her boyfriend and makes him look like a pedophile in front of everyone. However, I find the moment so lighthearted and so early in the story that despite the high stakes involved the moment can render itself into a running joke and it did (therefore robbing it of much of its impact – to me anyway).
I can’t think of further examples as of the moment, but this is where you come in. What moments in anime and manga would you consider Crowning Moments of Awkward?