Characters in anime tend to sneeze when someone else is talking trash about them behind their back. This running joke occurs a lot, and has a very short explanation.

There is a Japanese superstition about sneezing. Supposedly when someone sneezes, it means that others have been talking about them. I have been told that negative remarks are not part of the superstition, even though it usually turns out that way in anime.

Some quick examples:

  1. Bubblegum Crisis #8: Lisa is asking Naoko about Nene, and Naoko says, "She's a pretty girl, but no boyfriends.. maybe I should fix her up." "Never mind," says Lisa. Quick cut to Nene, who promptly sneezes.
  2. Bubblegum Crash #3: (yes, I am a BGC fan) The Knight Sabers notice an AD Police helicopter, and start talking sarcastically. "Oh, look, Leon's here." "Eh, he's never around when you need him." "Yeah." Cut to Leon, who promptly sneezes.
  3. Rurouni Kenshin: (I forgot which episode) Some samurai are conspiring against a politician. Cut to the politician, who is far, far away, and he promptly sneezes. An aide asks the politician if he is OK, and he says he is fine, except that he thinks someone is plotting against him.
Now, maybe take another look at your favorite anime and see if there's an extra joke you missed. e.g. I'm guessing, but I can almost guarantee that Tenchi ends up sneezing a lot.

See also: anime cliches

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