Hot Spring Scenes. Oh how I loathe them. They are the bane of my existence (well, one of them...I seem to have quite a few). They are almost invariably pointless, crude, and degrading just to have to sit through.
What is a Hot Spring Scene, you may wonder. You also may not wonder that, knowing what I'm talking about or just not caring, but I'm going to explain it to you anyway, because I like the magic words that appear when I hit the letter buttons and want to see more of them. Well, a Hot Spring Scene is a small, but (given its typical lack of importance to the plot) unusually time-consuming event in an RPG (or anime or comic, but I focus on the RPGs) in which the main party spends time soaking in one of those communal baths that Japan is famous for. The guys will be on one side, and the girls will be on the other--in theory, anyways. I'll admit that I don't really see the appeal of sharing the joys of scrubbing armpits and soaping up asscracks in the great outdoors with a bunch of other people a few feet away, but I don't have anything against the idea of a social bath thingy, and the impression that the games give is that they're supposed to be relaxing.
My problem with Hot Spring Scenes in RPGs is that they will, without fail, include at LEAST one of the following stupefyingly idiotic and crude situations* that manage to be possibly the cheapest gags that Japan has to offer. Seriously, fart and dick jokes have no less integrity than this crap:
A. Breast Comparisons. Dear lord. There is some kind of unwritten law in Japan that if any two or more females are naked near one another, they have to, under penalty of death, loudly compare the size and shape of one another's bust with their own. Why? Because the lowest common denominator demands it, of course! I mean, I know that girls probably do talk about that every now and then during their teens, but these characters are often adult women, and it's like they have nothing else they can possibly talk about. And the actual dialogue is always just unbelievably stupid. This is basically how it will go, with only a little variation:
Girl 1: OMG Girl 2 you have breasts and they're nice!
Girl 2: OMG no way Girl 1 your breasts are bigger! EVERYONE IN THE WORLD WISHES THEIR BREASTS WERE BIGGER BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT GAME DEVELOPERS THINK FANBOYS WANT.
Girl 1: Yeah but ironically the only people in all of anime-RPG land who don't want big breasts are the girls who have them! If only I had your lesser-sized breasts, Girl 2! Which I must, of course, emphasize loudly the niceness of, again!
Girl 3: I am very flat. This is sad, but somehow humorous, as well!
Optional Girl 4: What up bitches, sorry I'm late and/or over in the corner so that my joining the conversation sets up the possibility of my surprising you.
Girls 1, 2, and 3: OMG Optional Girl 4 you have the most perfect breasts of all, even though you are the least likely to have such things, given that you are very innocent, a cross-dresser, or possibly an entirely different species!
I can't help but feel that even the breast-comparing talks that do occasionally occur in real life between girls can't possibly sound so stupid. You could call a phone-sex operator and hear a speech less blatantly (and poorly, for that matter) designed to turn you on.
B. Attack of the Fanboys. What could possibly be more HILARIOUS than the idea that men want to see naked women? Nothing, hope many a game maker.
Many of the Hot Springs have two separate areas, one for men and one for women (which seems too few in some RPGs; you'd think some of them would have more divisions, given how many different species of sentient beings exist in them), meaning that the entire party can bathe at the same time, segregated by gender. Well, fine, right? I mean, most RPG casts are made up of fairly respectable people who aren't indecent savages, so I'm sure they can manage the bare minimum of etiquette and keep to their own side, right?
Ha ha ha, no. Not at all, it seems. These paragons of heroism that we're supposed to respect may be able to resist the temptations of power and the very essence of the forces of darkness, but tell any one of'em that there's a topless girl bathing next door, and suddenly they have less integrity as human beings than Austin Powers. If one of the male party members doesn't outright try to sneak into the girl's side, then he's at least going to find a hole in the wall or boards or rocks or whatever separating the two sides. Of course, he'll usually succeed, because for some reason, not only does every single word whispered on the girl's side carry over to the men's, so that the breast-comparison nonsense can further inspire them to voyeurism, but there's almost always SOME part of the boundary that can be looked through. Sure, you'd THINK that an established business running a Hot Springs area would take some sort of steps toward privacy, but where would be the "humor" in that?
And of course, the finale to all this is usually the girls finding out that one of their friends has developed an instant case of Seriously Creepy Stalker Syndrome, and physically harming him in punishment. While the logical conclusion to this scenario, I would like to note, for the record, that this, like all other parts of the scene, is not really at all funny.
C. Unintentional Attack of the Fanboys. Like Scenario B, Scenario C involves the boys invading the girls' bathing area (don't ever expect to see the roles reversed, incidentally, because, as we all know, while every male alive has to be perverted, not a single female could ever be). This time, however, it is, incredibly enough, unintentional! Somehow, through a turn of events that is more contrived than the plot of Xenogears, the boys wind up in the girls' area without intending to. Maybe somebody mixed up the time when the girls would be in the bath. Perhaps someone got the directions mixed up. Hey, maybe one of the guys was on his own side, leaned against the wall separating the sides, and somehow the wall caved in and he fell across the side. Nothing is too unlikely or obvious a ploy for this "comedy!"
This scenario, like the one above, ends in the guy being beaten up viciously, only this time he doesn't deserve it. Because, somehow, this is expected to be hilarious.
I swear, the Japanese have a disturbing obsession with men getting the shit beat out of them by violent, short-tempered, and totally unreasonable women. There've been animes where this happens at least twice every freakin' episode.
With few variations, at LEAST one of these scenarios is guaranteed to be in an RPG Hot Springs Scene. While perhaps not THE absolutely stupidest, base cliche scene in anime ever (thank goodness RPGs haven't started incorporating those fucking swimsuit contests that animes throw around all the time...Persona 4 just better not be the one that makes it a norm for the genre), I certainly can't think of a worse one common to the world of RPGs. Hot Spring Scenes are like the perfect mixture of low-class perversion, poor writing, crude semi-humor, and just a whole hell of a lot of "Wow, that's just pathetic" short of actually just being Final Fantasy 10-2. This bad cliche is one that needs to die more than pretty much any of the others.
* The Suikoden series is the only one that's sort of an exception, in that it has a crapload of Hot Spring Scenes that don't have the crappy events I list--but SOME of their scenes DO include the terrible cliches, so they're not really exempt.