Crowning Moments of Awkward

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!

banner of the stars 1 06 atosurya dinner with lafiel and jinto

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.

Actually the scene I refer to is the one that led to this interrogation.

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?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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47 Responses to Crowning Moments of Awkward

  1. RyanA says:

    I like this. BTW, while I’m sure for Jinto that dinner was quite awkward, I didn’t feel it was that awkward as a viewer. Now, Tsucchi’s pedo introduction.. yea that was awkward.

    Love the Inglorious Bastards cut XD

    • Hehe thanks. The key here isn’t just to get which moments are awkward, but to determine if they are “crowning moments.” It’s a highly subjective trope, which I hope you guys will identify in the shows you’ve seen.

  2. Emperor J says:

    The first thing that came to mind was the chapter in Onani Master Kurosawa where the title character confesses to everything. Sure, there was no permanent damage done, but at the time of reading there wasn’t even a redeeming factor. He did something horrible and embarrassing with malice. Short term, he took a ton of punishment, but yet it was hard not to feel that he deserved it.

    • Now this is more like it… It was a very significant moment in the story and perhaps the best one too. It can easily be considered a moment of awesome, only that it is profoundly marked by awkwardness. I don’t see a problem it being both, given that these are very subjective tropes.

  3. Hogart says:

    Another epic CMoAwk in Banner was in season 2 when Jinto was listening in on the hostage “negotiations” as they were breaking down, right down to the point where you see him realize what was about to happen, and Lafiel can’t bear to keep watching.

    The first half of Spice and Wolf 2 is just one epic moment of awkward after another, and ends with Horo awkwardly pinning all of the blame on Lawrence.

    I also loved every awkward second of the fourth episode of Eve no Jikan.. but it’s also a CMoHB.

    Then there’s that moment in ToraDora where Ryuji almost drowns, and we’re treated to Taiga’s surprisingly honest and straight-forward reaction, only to have her hand-wave it away calmly in the next scene.

    And now I’ve got to get back to work. Curses! Another break gone just like that..

    • gwern says:

      Great romantic comedies really seem to use this trope in particular, don’t they? It’s practically par for the course for tsundere characters in particular. (Last ep of Haruhi season 1, anyone?)

      • Hogart says:

        Yeah it does seem to be used as a crutch (often as a club) to inject some comedy or drama into a show’s romance. It’s really the best of shows that make it seem utterly believable, and maybe even inevitable.

        I’m tough to sell on this trope, actually. Most of the time it’s attempted it’s hammy or wooden or just ridiculous… hardly fit to be “crowned”.

        • Yes, there shouldn’t be too many examples that should qualify. The run of the mill awkwardness in comedy and romance shows are something that I personally won’t look into but I think the fans of such shows would be a better source of confirmation and validation — if only since this is a fan-driven exercise primarily (and an academic pursuit secondarily, or even further down).

      • I think so too, though I feel awkward not being able to produce examples at will.

    • I’m not sure about this until I see it again, though I do remember the high tension of that moment. Banner 2 is my favorite part of the franchise — in part because of Jinto’s understated badassery. But yeah, I can see it being such a crowning moment.

  4. Rakuen says:

    I feel really stupid saying this (though I’ve been having a case of the dumbs), but I just can’t quite wrap my mind around the scope you’re going for. I get the cringe feeling from watching an awkward moment, but maybe you’re trying to be a little too precise with the definition. Maybe I just need an example that doesn’t require me to try and remember things I watched two years ago.

    Though you’re right, the Banner of the Stars moment you cite was pretty much the opposite of awkward. It was a little awkward going in, but it was handled very “straight,” as it were. It’s one of the things I really liked about the series.

    Hmm, I’ll try to remember to look at this post when I return from the convention this weekend and see if I can put something together for the YKTTW.

    • I think it’s important to be a more precise because this is a finer distinction I believe. I think many moments can be awkward, but for a crowning moment there should be a greater significance to it within the story.

      I do appreciate your taking the idea straight-on, and look forward to the feedback you get from the convention. I’d really, really appreciate it.

  5. Almost every situation involving Fuhrer-President King Bradley in FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood. The viewer knows from early on that he’s up to no good, and the characters are at first trying to keep their actions secret from the military, so whenever he shows up, it becomes unbearably awkward, and only gets worse the more that the characters learn about him.

    The crowning moment so far, though, was when Ed, Al, Armstrong, and his assistants are discussing their plans in regards to investigating the mysteries surrounding the military and philosopher’s stone. Just as they’re doing so, Bradley suddenly comes walking through the door, and you have to watch the characters all squirm as Bradley looks over their notes and plans, and confronts them with facts that they didn’t expect him to know… all while putting up with his slightly exaggerated comic dialog that is never clear if meant to be a joke – he’s obviously laying on the awkward Hans Kanda style, and it gets pretty damn brutal. I was heaving a sigh of relief along with the characters when he took off.

    • vucubcaquix says:

      I honestly thought the most awkward part was seeing the most powerful man in Amestris shuffling out of the window.

      I can only imagine if I saw Obama walk into my hospital room and do the exact same thing…

      • For the life of me I don’t know or remember what you’re referring to.

      • gwern says:

        This highlights the subjective nature of the trope; to me, the Bradley scenes were primarily humorous and dramatically ironic, *especially* the hospital scene. At least, in the manga. (Did _Brotherhood_ play it much different?)

        My personal standard is, ‘if I were watching this anime with my mom, would I be cringing and looking away as I flush red, while leaving a little gap between my fingers to peek through?’

        To me, the scene in Haruhi, the angel scene in _Toradora!_ – these meet it.

        • Maybe it’s a Brotherhood thing, but the tension was incredible. My brother and I were both on-edge, and are every time Bradley appears. My brother hates him because of it, but I love him because of it lol

        • God that angel scene in Toradora!, why didn’t I think of that? It was terribly awkward indeed and central to the composition of Taiga’s character and determines much of her behavior.

    • I haven’t seen a single episode of this franchise, though I am interested to watch it at some point in my life. Hopefully other readers who’ve seen the show can validate your claim.

      • Bradley does well (or should I say Arakawa, the manga-ka) to offer tension and awkwardness to the scenes he’s in. I can vouch for that. I’ve read half the manga & finished the Brotherhood anime. It’s the fact that he could physically kill them in an instant (he’s the most bad ass character in that show by far, hell he’d probably beat up your favorite shows’ most bad ass characters), he could order their deaths and it would be done by tea time, or he could order everyone you hold dear murdered by sundown. So the awkwardness is legit.

        The problem I’m coming across is what exactly that CMoAwk is, that one moment. Because Bradley makes a habit of showing up, making you uncomfortable, acting jolly and then leaving in weird ways. Then again I’m gonna need some more thought overall to wrap my head around this trope and pull my own examples.

  6. vucubcaquix says:

    I applaud the idea, but one issue may be that there are just so many flavors of awkward and many of them already have their own page. It may perhaps lead to an edit war? Or no, Crowning pages are subjective, right? I know some of my favorites are a bit meta, but they full under the moment.

    Oh, this may be my first time commenting on your blog, but I’ve been following for nearly a year and a half now.

    • Thank you and I hope you’ve been entertained and have otherwise found some value here.

      I’m actually intimidated by how HUGE the tropes taxonomy has become, and I know I’m probably cluttering it up — and maybe even worse than that by not editing on the site itself. But as I’ve said in the post, this is just a thought that made sense to me. More intense fans of a troping persuasion are free to have a go and run with it (I’m not so concerned with credit or being an authority, just a nod would be nice but that’s it).

      The hindsight dynamic almost feels like a cognitive bias like survivor prejudice or recency bias… or to use a trope — fridge logic. I am aware how ridiculous it can get to re-categorize the existing taxonomy of tropes. Maybe it IS covered by the awkwardness-related tropes, but I think there are moments that kind of really stand out and become part of why the show or the character is remembered by the fans.

    • Rakuen says:

      Yeah, Crowning Moments are subjective, but it’s still difficult to get a new taxonomy added to the wiki. I believe the last time someone tried to add one, it immediately got hit by the Cut List and deletion. They like having their Awesome/Funny/Heartwarming taxonomy and leaving it at that. Given people’s propensity for getting out of control with creating pages and examples on the wiki, it’s probably pretty valid.

      • I think “the wisdom of crowds” can be decisive here. If the community doesn’t see merit in the edit, then the proposed trope may simply not be distinct enough or ready for primetime (so to speak). My reliance on the comments section also reflects consideration on “crowdsourcing,” though the size of the crowd is much smaller.

        And yet, I feel like I’ve come to learn a lot from you and the others, which makes the exercise of blogging this idea really worth it. Thank you. I’m still looking forward to any feedback from con-goers you may have gotten :3

  7. kluxorious says:

    Watching the last episode of TTGL. That was awkward…

  8. coburn says:

    In Welcome to the NHK, well, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a bit about halfway through where a bunch of dudes meet up and go to a beach, and, er, yeah… The stakes were rather high for an awkward moment.

    • Oh so there’s a beach episode. I’ve only read the novel so I am unfamiliar with the moment so I’m curious to see it now. I suppose — along the lines of otaku awkwardness there should be mention of Genshiken wherein at least 3 characters have some choice awkward moments, very sexual in nature (e.g. having to ask other people about your otaku boyfriend watching anime while he’s fucking you, being caught red-handed doing yaoi porn while attempting to maintain a public hatred for it).

      • yeah, NHK throws in like 4 or more arcs in the anime and manga, all of which are pretty ridiculous, but still really good (just don’t go in expecting the novel’s gritty realism). The beach part was quite awkward in the beginning indeed.

      • kadian1364 says:

        I’m glad you mentioned Genshiken. The whole series is punctuated by both comedic-awkward and cringe-in-your-seat sorts of awkward. I especially remember Genshiken 2 with the whole hardcore yaoi episode.

        • Good distinction. I think I have a bias for the cringe-worthy awkwardness than the played up for big laughs kind of awkward when it comes to this trope.

          The really funny moments kind of take the discomfort away.

  9. Chrisa says:

    I’d say in Berserk, there’s this one scene that just makes me feel so awkward. It’s where Guts realizes that Casca was fighting while on her period. His hand has blood on it and, with the same hand, strokes his chin thinking that women are “wow” or something. Holy shit. Ew. Where was your hand just at and where is it now? But it could also be said that Guts is so used to blood that it didn’t phase him.

    Also, in Wolf Guy, any time that creepy goth/punk girl tries to hit on him. Squick.

    Please Save My Earth has so freaking many. Jinpachi and Rin are talking about Alice. One of them happens to Alice’s reincarnated lover. Both were rivals in their past lives and contended for Mokuren (Alice’s past life). Rin is a little boy while everyone else is high school age and he gets engaged to Alice. AWKWARD AWKWARD AWKWARD. Also the scene where Jinpachi is admitting that he likes Alice to his friend. Said friend’s past life had a massive crush on Jinpachi. His friend is currently a boy and is thinking that he is perverted for liking another boy. Later the same friend is confronted for his feelings and called a pervert for it. Made me a little mad.

    Skip Beat has a hilarious one. Ren and Sho are with Kyouko in a stairwell. Ren has realized that he loves Kyouko, so has Sho. So, to prove to Sho that he’s important and that he wants Kyouko, Ren puts his hand on her waist and pulls her in close to him. Unfortunately for Ren, Kyouko’s love-retarded and hardly notices it. It’s so awkward that even Sho comments on it.

    • I’m going to start watching Berserk soon so I’ll look out for that one.

      Mmm, squick is indeed a form of awkwardness but I’m not sure (and I’m afraid to look it up on the tropes site — or to have anything to do with the trope site, as I’ve barely had time to respond to these generous comments LOL).

      Someone else would have to validate your claim about Please Save My Earth since I know nothing about it.

      Oh yeah, Skip Beat… I think this is a great example.

      • I recommend *reading* Berserk. The anime adaption leaves out way too much juicy stuff that makes the manga amazing.

        • I’ve actually started reading the manga over a year ago, finished 2 volumes. I already know I like it and plan to get up to date sometime soon.

          • coburn says:

            Just to be contrary, I’d make the case for Berserk’s anime being better and, by leaving stuff out, making certain scenes of distinct awkwardness (for the viewer) more shocking. I read the thing first, and think I would have been better off starting with the focussed (relatively) classy version of the story.

          • Four episodes in and I like the show a LOT. I’m thinking that you’re not just being contrarian here, and that the anime is indeed good for being compact. However, digi over there is a noted connoisseur of excess so I think I know why he’d prefer the manga. But having told him Gambino is played by Wakamoto I think will get him to watch hehehe.

  10. Myssa says:

    Tropes themselves are not bad, and as a writer they’re pretty much part and parcel of the profession. However, even as a writer-in-training (ESPECIALLY as a writer-in-training) I always advise my friends to stay away as humanly possible from the TVTropes wiki. Less lost hours that way.

    Speaking of awkward… I found a good chunk of Chapters 62 to 66 of Bakuman like that, especially since most of the misunderstandings could have been avoided had one party just come clean about the issue (the truth behind Iwase’s letter, found in the book she gave to Takagi, which his girlfriend Miyoshi thought meant he was cheating on her, which caused her to tell her friend Azuki, which caused Azuki to get into a fight with Takagi’s manga-writing buddy Mashiro, and on and on).

    • You know that’s awkward indeed, but I think it was played too much for laughs. I think, if Nakai were any more important (but maybe Aoi Ko is), the whole deal with him presuming a relationship with the glasses-girl assistant in order to reject Aoi Ko when she had to ask for his help (after her rejection of his advances) was VERY cringe-worthy.

  11. When I start thinking about your proposed trope several scenes from Noir come to mind. That show has a way of being classy and graceful even surrounded by slaughter. There’s a scene when one half of Noir has a short exchange with the daughter of one of her targets after killing him, of course there’s that kiss in one of the last episodes in a bathing pool, but there’s one moment that stands out wonderfully for me.

    Episode 11, “the Moonlit Tea Party”, it involves Noir, a new assassin and a tea party in Noir’s apartment with the lights off by a window. There’s this tension between Noir as to what to do about this person. They have a calm, somewhat cryptic conversation and then at the end the assassin asks for the fork one of the members used and says goodnight. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so it sounds vague, but you in time realize the importance of that meeting. You also realize that it was date. Awkward!!!

    Hope I’ve grasped that concept here.

    • The surprise of the thing gives me pause, but if both the characters and then you feel awkward and it merits consideration. If it is a very important moment if not in the show, but at least in the overall stories of the characters involved, then it may just be “crowned.”

  12. kadian1364 says:

    Moyashimon: Goth loli Kei and Tadayasu. The whole story permeates with bizarreness, but I think that scene took the cake.

    Tatami Galaxy: Another show full of weirdness, but a genuinely awkward moments (whole episode really) involved the dutch wife.

    Code Geass: The Euphinator. Arguably the biggest and most jarring turning point in a series characterized by awkward narrative leaps.

    End of Evangelion: Shinji. Asuka. Hospital bed. Awkward~

    • I think the Moyashimon moment wins… it is really awkward, funny yes, but not in a laugh out loud way. It also took us by surprise in a big way.

      I need to pick one of the Dutch Wife moments but indeed the awkwardness quotient is incredibly high in Tatami Galaxy.

      I took more shock and drama from this moment than awkwardness (Bloodstained Euphy), but yes it merits consideration.

      I think the Bedside Happy Ending in EoE is indeed awkward, but somehow it didn’t come to mind when thinking of this trope. Maybe it’s because he didn’t get caught. I felt more awkwardness when Kaoru joined Shinji in the showers.

    • gwern says:

      > End of Evangelion: Shinji. Asuka. Hospital bed. Awkward~

      Awkward? Again, subjective, but I’d link this more to ‘kicking the puppy’ or ‘crowning moment of cowardice’ (note: latter does not exist). As Shinji says, he is scum. It is his lowest point, and he has more than a few.

      In the examples I gave, the ‘crowning moment of awkward’ lead to some sort of catharsis or breakthrough. That’s utterly lacking in EoE.

  13. vendredi says:

    Genshiken strikes me as chock-full of these moments. Madarame’s bold declaration of “not just stripping, but screwing” comes to mind during his conversation with Saki about characters in two-dimensions.

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