Buying a cake for Christmas is a Japanese tradition. But these cakes have a definite expiration date — no one wants to eat Christmas cake after December 25th. And no matter how attractive a woman is, it's said, no Japanese male will want to marry her after she's 25. Thus, "Christmas Cake" is used as a metaphor term for a woman rendered unmarriageable because she is past the freshness of her youth; roughly equivalent to "Old Maid." It's a common trope for a character to at least be surprised that another isn't married yet by this age. Even when the writers are sympathetic to the character, nagging to marry will still come from someone, usually her parents.
A Cool Big Sis may be one, or heading there, usually with extreme annoyance; referring to this character as Oba-san is about as tactful as referring to someone as Ma'am and is likely to induce a rage. Sometimes this is just a device to explain them hanging around other characters younger than them.
On the antagonistic side, a Punch-Clock Villain is often a Christmas Cake. She tends to be very attractive but is relegated to cake status by annoying habits. The other problem occurs if she's also stuck in an Improbably Female Cast, a straight-up Chromosome Cast, or any such place where men are slim pickings. The Competence Zone might force her to hang around and even fawn over men much younger than her.
Interestingly, the more unexpected the presence of the Christmas Cake is, the more likely her being one is emphasized as being an attractive point. If a character expresses this point in-story, he Likes Older Women.
This is on its way to being a Discredited Trope: the latest Japanese census data shows that more and more people are marrying older, with most people under 25 remaining unmarried. Many teens and young adults have never heard of the concept and many that have think it's old-fashioned.note Having a character believing in the Christmas Cake concept may mark them as being likewise old-fashioned. Others just seemed to move the age up to match the times; "New Year's noodles" (referring to Toshikoshi soba, generally eaten on New Year's Eve) raises this seemingly-arbitrary threshold to 31. The Christmas Cake trope is related to Never a Self-Made Woman. It's primarily the Japanese-culture specific variant of Old Maid, so Japanese entries should dominate this list. Also, a woman being single and 25 years or older is not enough to qualify for this trope, even if they are Japanese. In order to fall under this trope, the woman must make a specific reference to the concept of "needing to have been married by a certain age" - typically by either having a complex about being older and unmarried, or making it clear that they don't believe in the concept of being "too old to marry". (If the woman simply doesn't care, and isn't made to care by the plot, it doesn't count.) If the trope itself is brought up but not in reference to any specific female characters, that counts as an example as well. If a non-Japanese entry is to be added, it must be one where the trope is discussed and where the age where an eligible bachelorette becomes a spinster is both specific and young (25 is still considered young in many cultures; it should be lower for a non-Japanese entry to count such that it stands out).
Another more modern, but no less blunt, term used in Japan is "urenokori", which is also a term for leftover unsold items in a store's inventory.
See also Grande Dame and Maiden Aunt for the much older Western variants. Also see My Biological Clock Is Ticking and I Want Grandkids. Not to be confused with Fruit Cake. Not to be confused with being a lie, either. Compare and contrast with Stacy's Mom, an older character who has an excess of younger suitors.
Oddly enough, guys (particularly otaku men) have a similar concept, though without the food metaphor: an unmarried/virginal man who stays that way by 30 is referred to as a Wizard, taking inspiration from mages having Virgin Power in popular media. This one in particular is a double-duty insult, as it's also supposed to imply they're childish (pretending to become something they can never be in real life). They also face career prejudice, as a man over thirty who hasn't married shows a lack of responsibility and commitment.
In an ironic twist, in North American anime fandom, it has completely flipped meanings. Instead, "Christmas Cake" is applied to highly desirable women near/over 25, with message board arguments over who is best. No examples of this latter-day meaning will be added here.
To head off possible cross-cultural misunderstandings, traditional Japanese Christmas cake is a sponge cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, bearing no resemblance to the British-style fruitcake widely consumed at Christmas in Western countries, which is famous for its long (long!) shelf life.
- Sawako Yamanaka from K-On!. A running gag with her is that she desperately prays for a nice man to enter her life and when things don't go her way she throws all her troubles on the light music club. Part of this is because she's got a Sensei-chan rapport with the other members.
- Taeko Yasuko of Area 88, Ryoko's loyal secretary. She is very sensitive about her age and exploded when someone hit on her since she thought he was making fun of her.
- Minamo "Nyamo" Kurosawa from Azumanga Daioh is nagged by mom and frequently teased by Yukari, despite the latter being a "cake" herself.
- Linna Yamazaki in Bubblegum Crisis 2040 has to deal with her parents who not only nag, but set up meetings (omiai) for her with potential partners.
- Emu Hino, the female lead from Crying Freeman. She was in her late 20's and a virgin by the time she met Yoh Hinomura and was set up for death. So, she asked the handsome and gentlemanly Yoh to take her virginity before killing her... which partially breaks Yoh's conditioning and makes him fall for her, thus he decides to make her his partner instead.
- Mitsuka Yoshimine from DearS. Her age is never specified but she sure looks like she's at least 25, and despite the ridiculously Stripperiffic costumes she routinely wears (and/or strips out of) while teaching a high school class (presumably full of horny high school age boys), plus the fact that pretty much everything that comes out of her mouth is suggestive or overtly about sex... Nobody pays any attention to her. At all. Her love life is deader than a doornail.
- Detective Conan:
Nagato: I apologize for my daughter's behavior... I believe she's like this since she hasn't been able to get married.
- Subverted. 28-year-old detective Miwako Satou was offered a matchup by her mother since she looked as if she Must Have Lots of Free Time, and hence, would become a Christmas cake. Which turned out to cause a Wedding Deadline-like moment for her boyfriend, Detective Takagi. Really not helped by how the guy Satou Sr. wanted for her daughter was Takagi's romantic rival, Detective Shiratori.
- Subverted in an earlier case, too. The victim is Sayuri Matsumoto, a Christmas Cake that was Shinichi and Ran's middle school teacher, and even when she's getting married now, she's still past the "average age" of 25. The would-be killer was... the groom, hell-bent with revenge since her Overprotective Dad caused his mother's death many years ago. They do reconcile and get married for real... but only several years later.
- While not directly stated, it's very strongly implied that Yayoi Himeno from episode 32 is about to become one these. She's already 24 years old, looks and acts perpetually angry, and later we learn that the reason why she was brutally murdered (first strangled, then stabbed in the chest) was that she kept bugging her much-older boyfriend for marriage... but didn't know that said boyfriend was actually a married man, so he killed her to keep his wife from finding out.
- The Stranger from 10 Years Ago OAV shows that if Shinichi never returned, it's highly likely that Ran would prefer to stay alone and become this while waiting for him, even turning down Dr. Araide's marriage proposals. Said OAV was just a dream of Conan's, but still.
- In the "Distinguished Family's Consecutive Accidental Death Case", the eldest daughter Nobuko not only is single while her younger sister Yasue is married and her brother Hieomi is engaged... she is already 39. It doesn't help that she treats her brother's girlfriend Miyuki (herself a little past the limit) like shit; her father reacts via openly citing the trope.
- Mika-sensei from Doki Doki School Hours is 27 and still lives with her parents. She doesn't mind though, since she loves to be spoiled by her father and cares mostly for good food. Her mother is worried though and sets her up for a date for an Arranged Marriage, which doesn't turn out too well.
- Miz Mishtal in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is another example of this; her first appearance shows her negative reaction to a letter from one her old (and married) schoolmate. Of course, the trope then gets famously subverted soon after when she meets Fujisawa. Since both are in their late 20's, it works out well for all involved.
- Mayuko-sensei from Fruits Basket. In the ending she gets together with Hatori. This is even lampshaded at one point, when Shigure meets her while standing in as Tohru's guardian for a parent-teacher conference. As they snipe at each other, one thing he says is how she's pretty much all but past her marriageable years.
- Yura Kawada from Futari Ecchi, before she meets her match in the equally cute and even-then-not-taken Makoto, whom she met via an arranged date that went really well. Her cousin-in-law/neighbor/counselor Kyouko also fits in, until she gets married as well.
- Namiko-sensei from Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl has gone without a boyfriend for thirty-five years. Or so she says all the time. She also tends to fall into holes.
- Shura Kirigakure from Blue Exorcist is hinted to be this when Yukio starts to say what age she will turning this year. He gets an empty beer can thrown at his forehead for his troubles, but not before he says enough of the word to make it seem like he was going to say 26 or 27. Turns out there's a good reason she never bothered getting married. Due to a magical contract made with her ancestor, she will die at the age of 30. Once freed from said contract, she later mentions she is going to a dating party.
- Haruka Urashima from Love Hina. She hates being reminded of her single status and called "Oba-San" (mostly in the anime than in the manga). Though she ultimately marries her Victorious Childhood Friend (none other than Seta Noriyasu) in the manga.
- Nanako Kuroi (Lucky Star), 27 and still single. After hearing her students discuss the christmas cake/unmarried woman metaphor earlier in the episode she actually buys a Christmas cake after the 25th and proclaims (as she walks into the sunset) "You are wanted". Further joked about when Nanako meets Kona's cousin Yui and assumes because she is alone at a festival that she is also unmarried at an advanced age. Yui however is married, but with a husband seems to always be off at work and offscreen. Everyone but Nanako just finds it embarrassing.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Mari Iijima, voice actress for Minmay, mentions this trope by name in the DVD commentary for the ADV release of episode 9, "We are like Christmas Cakes".
- Macross Delta: Freyja is implied to be one by Windermerean standards: she's 14 (later turning 15), and one reason she ran away from her home was the village elder putting extreme pressure on her to get married already. Justified by the Windermereans' short lifespans; dying at 30 means their race would have to start having kids at around 14 in order to have time to raise them.
- Mahoromatic turns the idea into a gag, where a much older Suguru is shocked to find his old boy-chasing teacher looking exactly the same.
- Shizune, as shown in one of Shippuden's omakes where she whines about how she's unmarried at age 31, (due to having spent alot of years accompanying Tsunade and having to make sure she did not get into too much trouble) unlike Kurenai who has already a boyfriend. Becomes a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment when said boyfriend, Asuma, dies.
- The current Mizukage, Mei Terumī, is apparently one as well. While nobody is dumb enough to actually say this, she often misconstrues one of her bodyguard's words as claiming this. She then promptly threatens to kill him if he won't shut up, while still maintaining a smile on her face. The way she treats her younger bodyguard and her comments about Gaara and Sasuke have some fans joking that she fits the "fawning over younger men" part of the trope as well. The fact that she called Sasuke attractive before trying to melt him doesn't help at all. For some it might however, and you know who you are.
- There's also Tsunade, though of course she only looks young because of a special seal that storing chakra in her forehead, giving her a youthful appearance. She's really quite old but she never bothers to look for marriage. Painfully justified since her fiancee Dan died and she was unable to save him. Beyond him, there was her longtime friend Jiraiya. While it was never explicit if she did fall in love with him, he still maintained strong emotions for her and his death was a painful wound for her.
- This is even called out in the final chapter when the former Hokages have a get-together and this subject comes up for Tsunade and Mei, with both expressing it's "too late for them" when it comes to romance.
- Touko Kuzunoha of Negima! Magister Negi Magi is the calm and composed Shinmeiryuu mentor of Setsuna. At least, she's calm and composed most of the time. When the scheme of the Big Bad in the Mahora Festival Story Arc went off without a hitch, ruining her love life, and leaving her a future where she'll remain an unmarried 30-something, she snapped.
Kataragi: It could still work out...
- Misato Katsuragi of Neon Genesis Evangelion makes this one of the few tropes the show plays straight, feeling discouraged at having to go to a friends wedding while single. There are also subtle and very ambiguous hints that she might actually be into Shinji (who is fourteen, by the way and her ward), but shes also very attracted to Kaji, her ex, and is devastated when hes killed. Furthermore, Kaji is a bit like Shinji. All in all, she has issues when it comes to men.
- Her friend, Ritsuko, as much as she likes teasing Misato about her love live and lack thereof, is actually pretty much in the same boat, and is in some ways even much worse off, as she is having an affair with Gendo, who doesn't reciprocate her feelings at all and instead just uses her for her skill and knowledge.
- Haruka Shitow of RahXephon is 29 years old and has presumably remained unmarried due to still carrying a flame for her childhood sweetheart Ayato, whom she lost when she was 16.
- Yomiko Readman of Read or Die is 25 years old in the OVA, and 30 in the TV series and lives by herself in an apartment full of used books. She used to have a boyfriend/lover in Donnie Nakajima, but he died ...and it turns out that Yomiko was the one who sent him to his end in the manga. In the anime, it's implied Joker killed him off, though it's never explained what happened. Though, the manga clarifies that it's both: Joker arranged for Yomiko to be forced to kill Donnie. When Yomiko found out at the end of the manga, the events of the anime backstory happen. She still has a couple potential suitors. It's just that neither of them are men.
- Moriko Morioka from Recovery of an MMO Junkie is 30, unmarried, and a socially awkward NEET. While this trope isn't mentioned by name, she believes herself, at 30, to be "practially an old maid" and wonders why any male would be interested in her, and thinks wearing a bikini is something for younger women to do, not herself.
- Megumi Takani from Rurouni Kenshin is 23 years old, meaning she's still not one technically speaking, but Sanosuke pretty much calls her Christmas Cake to her face after Kenshin tells his friends about Enishi and Tomoe. She is very displeased. In the end, she decides to come back to her hometown to pursue her dream to be a doctor rather than marrying.
- Marie Mjolnir from Soul Eater. In her introductory scene she's freaking out, because she wanted to have been married and retired by now, so she declares that she wants to marry the toilet. Later things look up for her. She is about to get back together with her old boyfriend, and then he's murdered on the way to their reunion date. By the end of the manga, she is pregnant and the father is heavily implied to be Stein, her First Love.
- All the main characters from the Trigger Web animation Turning Girls are 28 or 29, and still single. Each episode deals with their lives as older, single women. This trope is invoked on one of the girl's 30th birthday, as she becomes suddenly unable to attract male companionship.
- Yuri-sensei from Toradora! (who is 29) to the point that she talks about it to herself constantly, and nearly acts like a zombie. In the Light Novels, this trope is referred to, especially in earlier volumes when she didn't have a large role in the story, literally almost every time she is mentioned. The omniscient narrator seems personally to hate her.
- Sumire from You're My Pet is viewed by her coworkers with a mixture of awe and hostility for being a 28-year-old working single woman whose high education and intelligence scares away men. She does find a patient boyfriend in her first crush, Hatsumi, but in the end goes the Likes Older Women route and hooks up with Takeshi who is 8 years her junior.
- Ayako, the Shrine Maiden in Ghost Hunt. Naru teases that she's a bit old to be an unspoilt virgin.
- Ayako is only 23 years old according to Wikipedia and a few other sites, so she's actually still a few years away from becoming a Christmas Cake.
- Subverted in Fairy Tail. Ur gets advice from a friend that she should settle down and get a man since she's approaching that age. It turns out Ur already had a daughter, which she never mentioned because she believed her daughter was dead. While we don't know what happened between them, her daughter Urtear is alive and kicking as The Dragon (and hates her mother because she was tricked into believe that Ur had abandoned her to her luck but she still planned to go back in time and fix that "detail" to not lose her).
- Phantom Quest Corp.: Ayaka realizes she isn't getting any younger and wonders if she'll ever find that "special someone". So she sometimes asks Madam Sumei to read her fortune, only to be told her chances are nil. Though it's subverted, since she knows Detective Karino is in love with her and she isn't above flirting with him. But she doesn't make it easy for him either.
- Patlabor: Shinobu is in her mid-late 20's and a dedicated police captain of the Special Vehicles 1st section. As such, her mother worries about her chances of marriage, fearing she may be injured before she finds a husband. While Shinobu appreciates her mother's concern, she appears to be in no rush to get married. Though, given the way she and her fellow captain, Gotoh, relate to each other, you'd think she already was.
- Taeko from Only Yesterday. She's 27 and unmarried, which gets brought up many times in the film to the point where Toshio's grandmother suggests she marry him. Since Toshio and Taeko quite like each other, it ultimately works.
- Highschool of the Dead flat-out defies the trope with Shizuka, since her age (27) hasn't stopped anyone from finding her sexually appealing. Takashi's friend, Imamura stated that he thought she was hot specifically because she's an older woman. Takashi and Hirano have also been aroused by her and Shimada said she had a nice body, before attempting to rape her.
- In Rosario + Vampire, Mizore Shirayuki is a yuki-onna, and her race can only bear children from the mid teens to mid twenties. A literal Christmas Cake, she is forced into an Arranged Marriage so she can marry and have kids. She tries to escape by going to the one she is in love with, stripping, tackling him, straddling him and begging him to have sex with her. The next three chapters show very explicitly- Mizore's problem is not that she personally wants to have children. It's the fact that her particular version of 'arranged marriage' means 'legally bound, forever, to be the Sex Slave, or watch said slaver destroy your hometown and everyone in it.' Nothing justifies her attempted rape of Tsukune, but it's understandable that she got a little crazy. (We see Mizore's fiancée sexually violating her later in the manga, incidentally. It is the trauma of this that drives her to attempt suicide.
- The adult manga Toshiue no Hito uses this for some drama when the 20-year-old protagonist (in university at the time) introduces his new girlfriend to his parents; they're scandalised that he's living with a 26-year-old widow. When they actually meet her, they're somewhat surprised to find she's really, really young-looking. How young? She later models clothes for pre-teens.
- In A Bride's Story, it is mentioned that the newly-wed Amir is a bit old for marriage. She's twenty, and her husband is twelve. A bit of Truth in Television because Asian girls at the time did tend to be married off in their early teens.
- The Second Guest in Gregory Horror Show is an unmarried woman who is, if Judgement Boy's observation is true, in her late twenties/early thirties. The fact that she chose her career over her boyfriend (resulting in him breaking up with her) and that she had to watch her best friend marry the guy actually turns out to be the root of all her mental problems. Poor woman...
- A Running Gag in the early episodes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is how Madoka's Meganekko homeroom teacher, Kazuko Saotome, complains endlessly about her Christmas Cake status. Even in class. Her age isn't fully disclosed, but she is a friend of Madoka's mom Junko... so she may be already in her thirties. To give you a good idea, one of her lectures is based around many ways the world could end, with her quipping that she'd rather have the world end than carry the label of Cake.
- Hitomi Shinonome from Loveless, Ritsuka's homeroom teacher, is just 23, but still counts. Made worse by how she is also a virgin, thus she still has her cat ears (which are supposed to disappear once the person has sex) - a symbol of her immaturity and insecure nature. All of this has a devastating effect on what's left of her self-esteem.
- Haruna Sakurada from Sailor Moon is one of the most famous examples of this, specially in the first anime. in its second episode she has a sobbing Heroic BSoD when a Brainwashed and Crazy Umino flips her skirt and gives the audience and the boys quite a Panty Shot ("... I'm soileeeed! I'll never get marrieeeeed!"), shows LOTS of envy when a fellow teacher accepts a marriage proposal (subverting the trope in the process; she's noted to be 34) and then almost catfights with Rei and Usagi for the bridal bouquet, and when she does get an off-screen prospect boyfriend and the guy cancels their date due to work she becomes very irritable. On the episode following that Panty Shot, Usagi hears a love letter on the radio that came from her and can't believe it came from her teacher seeing as how she's too old for this stuff.
- Keiko from 20-Year-Old Girl × 30-Year-Old Maiden angsts about this, especially once she starts dating Emi, a cute girl ten years her junior, whose youthful beauty makes Keiko even more aware of her age. Fortunately, Emi doesn't seem to mind.
- Tomoe from Hanasaku Iroha is REAL sensitive about her lack of relationships.
- Tesla Magnets in Megaman NT Warrior is not only a Christmas Cake but obsesses over it. Just to give you an idea, she hijacks a robot named Thirty and goes on a rampage. And if she's ever especially angry, expect a backdrop covered in "30" to appear.
- Hidamari Sketch: Yoshinoya-sensei is hinted to be at least thirty years old, but doesn't seem to care all that much. (In her own mind, at least, she's eternally seventeen.)
- Bleach: Although she's never directly called "Christmas Cake" in the anime, Rangiku Matsumoto's age is a very sore point for her, with one filler episode going so far as to even create a male version for the sole purpose of having one kid press two berserk buttons by referring to Rangiku as "oba-san" and Yumichika as "o-san" in the same conversation. The anime later takes Rangiku's age references even further by making it such a big issue in the Zanpakutou Arc that it's actually the reason why Rangiku's zanpakutou, Haineko, is angry with her. Averted in the manga, where it's never an issue for either Rangiku or Yumichika, making it an anime-only trope.
- Implied to be the case with Major General Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist. She uses it to her advantage when charming information out of an enemy. Though it appears to be less because of her age and more because of her terrifying personality and power (she is the second person capable of intimidating the Elric brothers.)
- Played for Laughs at implication in Carnival Phantasm in the Ilya's Castle Special: After defeating Rider, Ilya boasts that mature women had no value, then Caster retaliates by calling her a lolicon doll that doesn't understand the true value of mature women. Ilya retaliates again by defeating Caster... but not after claiming this:
"All Japanese men are lolicons!!"
- Played with by Meme Touwa in Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl; she leaves a note for Makoto saying that the refrigerator contains a cake that's about to hit its expiration date. Naturally, she's hiding in the fridge.
- The club advisor's single status become a running gag in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, to the point where it the physiological damage could bring her down to her knee.
- Implied in Kiniro Mosaic. Local Sensei-chan Karasuma said she's "praying" on Christmas. This probably means she's praying for a boyfriend.
- Shizuku Ninomiya from Beyond the Boundary. The very mention of marriage around her is a Berserk Button for her.
- Bekki Natsumi from No-Rin anguishes about this all the time. She claims to be 40 years old, but only looks to be in her mid-20's. She often makes it a point to mention her single status to her class a lot as well, which often sours their mood but also breaks up any arguments that may have been occurring too.
- Aya Kunitachi in High School Ninja Girl, Otonashi-san is still husband hunting at age thirty. To her dismay, the man she falls for, Kariya, is a Jerkass who considers her an Abhorrent Admirer due precisely to her age, despite being 32 himself. To him, there is a significant difference between thirty years old for a man and for a woman.
- Mayumi is one in The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior. Some of the comedy in the series is derived from her terrible luck with men, and how she always laments when a younger female coworker announces she either has a boyfriend, or is getting married. And she always seems to go after Jerkass men who have a tendency to be two-timers, which only exacerbates this problem. Although considering other aspects of her personality it actually makes sense why she'd be single.
- The third story in School Mermaid has a school gym teacher named Noriko join in on the mermaid hunt because she nearing 30 and desperately wants a boyfriend that's she willing to invoke the mermaid spell to get one. The disturbing thing however the object of her curse is a school-aged boy.
- Koumoto Akari, the teacher of the school in My Monster Secret, is considered a Living Legend for her sheer number of failed attempts at getting a boyfriend, and her inability to attract any man is treated as an almost supernatural aura that deprives even Shiho of her sexiness when the latter tries to give her advice. Her great-great-grandmother Akane takes an intense delight in reminding her, and often pays dearly for it. It doesn't help that she's inhumanly strong, extremely prone to violence, and her ideal man is a literal Prince Charming on a white horse. However, Akari's story does have a happy ending: Sakurada (one of Akari's students) confesses to her late in the series; though she says they should hold off on dating until he's graduated, they do become a couple.
- Biologically enforced and exaggerated with the Emaan of Super Dimension Century Orguss: females become irreparably sterile by the age of 18, so any Emaan female who doesn't have a Teen Pregnancy will never have children at all.
- Midori from I'll Bring You Mille-Feuille! is almost twenty-seven and obsessed with finding a husband... Despite being gay. Her friend is unamused by her wants to have a beard and states she's only hurting herself.
- Happy Negative Marriage has a Rare Male Example, and one more focused on the social expectations than on the individual's own insecurities. Keita doesn't particularly want to be married, but the company he works for expects that men will be married by 30. Its compensation plans are set up to favor married men, project management is unofficially restricted to men who can head a family, and its singles dorm kicks out anyone who turns 31. Keita's boss also forces him into a marriage interview at the instigation of his mother; ignoring a "request" from one's boss is tantamount to suicide. But, you know, nobody's forcing him to get married. Everything goes well for completely unrelated reasons.
- A few of City Hunter's recurring characters have the age part down... And don't care: Miki is a foreigner (or at least was raised in Central America) so she doesn't have the social conditioning, Kaori used to care (and would sometime drop hints to Ryo that she was getting to that age) until she learned that her beloved Ryo could not marry due being legally dead, and Saeko just doesn't care and will claim she's 20 whenever this is brought up.
- Examples from Cat's Eye:
- Subverted with Rui: she's in that age bracket, and her sisters, the fiancee of one of her sisters, and a cop friend with the hobby of matchmaking have tried to get her a boyfriend, failing because she just doesn't care. There are hints she's actually in love with Toshio, but never says anything because he's the fiancee of her middle sister.
- Late in the series Mitsuko Asatani starts approaching that age and gets progressively crankier for her inability to find a boyfriend. This is part of her Deconstruction of the Office Lady trope: she's an ambitious woman with the skills to succeed even as policewoman (and has been explicitely called an elite cop), and that's exactly what scares away most of her potential boyfriends (the rest are scared away by her cooking). Fittingly, when she does get engaged it's by accident: she happened to unknowingly have on her the deactivation code for the explosive watch Hitomi had put on Kamiya, and Kamiya ran through the whole town, ruined the cover of some of her fellow cops while they were undercover because only they knew where she was, barged on her meeting with the latest potential boyfriend shouting he needed her, and when the potential boyfriend tried to interfere he punched him out, and only then he realizes he has effectively proposed to her in the presence of witnesses.
- My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!:
- The head maid of the Claes household (named Joana in the anime) was never particularly attractive and focused too much on work, so before she knew it she was past the age she could reasonably hope to get married and simply gave up. However, when she made friends with Catarina her coworkers saw her better sides and she eventually ended up marrying a handsome young gardener.
- The novel recognizes this trope as a Discredited Trope in Japan by stating the 23-year-old Anne would have been considered young in Catarina's previous life, but Catarina then states this trope is a Sorcier custom.
- Rossweisse from High School D×D stresses about never even having had a boyfriend... despite being similar in age to her sudents, and a Valkyrie (later half-Devil) in a series where supernatural beings have life expectancies in the quadruple digits. Her previous employer was a Dirty Old Man who was undermining her self-esteem to improve his own chance (yes, that's Odin by the way). That said, of all of Issei's lovers/fiancees, Rossweisse is the one who dresses and acts like an adult: Vague Age aside, Rossweisse is a teacher.
- My Hero Academia:
- Midnight, who is a history teacher at U.A. High, flies into a rage when Mt. Lady takes a jab at her age (she's 31) and the two end up in a Cat Fight in a talk show. Doesn't help that Midnight is known as the 18+ Hero (with an S&M motif) so has an obligation to maintain a sexy image.
- Pixie-Bob, a member of the Wild Wild Pussycats, gets so sensitive about her age, she grabs Izuku by the face and tells him "I'm 18 at heart!" forcing him to agree. Moreover, she's desperate enough to "call dibs" on Izuku, Bakugo, Iida, and Todoroki "in three years." Lampshaded by teammate Mandalay when Aizawa asks about it: "She's getting desperate. She's at that age."
- In Girl Friends, Narumatsu-sensei is rather sensitive about her age, since after she mentions that she hasn't been on a date since she was in high school ten years ago, she insists that Mariko "Mari" Kumakura, one of her students, not try to calculate her age. Of course, she has recently gotten married, but she's not very happy about her husband.
- The male counterpart of this trope is referenced in Fly Me to the Moon, when Nasa's friend and kohai Kaname had dreamed that he would turn 30 without getting married and tell her that he had become "a wizard," prompting Nasa to complain that she shouldn't be dreaming about that. In reality, it's averted with a vengeance, since Nasa got married as soon as it was legally possible for him to do so, and learning about that prompted Kaname's remark.
- Invoked in The Karate Kid Part II. Yuki-san, Miyagi's old flame, willingly decided to remain an "old maid" as she considered that it was the better alternative to being a Trophy Wife to Sato, Miyagi's Rival Turned Evil.
- Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer, two films by the renowned director Yasujiro Ozu, are both all about this. In both, Setsuko Hara plays a woman in her late 20s named Noriko who is unmarried. She is pretty much OK with being unmarried, but in both movies her family thinks that this is a major problem, and they decide to make an Arranged Marriage. In both she gets matched up basically against her will to an older man the audience never sees. The difference is the ending; one is a Downer Ending in which she's badgered and pressured into going through with the marriage, while the other is a less depressing ending in which she instead marries a different man she has genuine feelings for.
- The comments made by other characters in the movie Kumiko The Treasure Hunter indicate that they regard the 29 year old title character as a Christmas Cake well past her sell-by date.
- In Fear and Trembling, a semi-autobiographical novel by Amélie Nothomb in which she describes her disastrous experience as a foreign Office Lady in a Japanese corporation, her immediate superior is an unmarried 29-year-old woman. It's hinted that her parents are desperate to see her get married before she turns 30 (which she doesn't).
- Discussed by name in American Fuji, where Alex meets a 25-year-old woman who is unhappy with her current boyfriend, but fears that if she leaves him, she will not be able to find another boyfriend. The trope is also a source of much misery for expatriate Gaby, who keeps getting lectured by older men about how, now that she's in her thirties, she should try and settle down with a man.
- In the novel Flower Drum Song, Helen Chao is a plain girl who hopes to marry Ta because she's getting on in years (she's mid-twenties and unmarried!) to the degree that she gets him drunk and date rapes him. When he rejects her, she kills herself rather than live as an Old Maid. For what it's worth, in 1950s Chinatown, laws prevented marrying outside one's ethnicity and immigration quotas meant that there were more men than women - meaning females could be very particular about who they married.
- This trope is what kicks off the entire plot of the Light Novel Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out So I Teamed Up With A Mythical Sorceress! Tanya, a 25 year-old mage, is unceremoniusly kicked out of her adventuring party by her fellow party member Ryan. His justification? She's around the age where she should start thinking about settling down, finding a husband, and starting a family.
- Kamen Rider Drive's Rinna Sawagami is 29 years old and often refers to her worries of being too old for marriage. In one episode where a Monster of the Week is looking for a bride, he even rejects her as too old. By the Kamen Rider Mach movie she is finally engaged to her co-worker Otta, although they seem to have an on-off relationship.
- Total Divas has Natalya making a crack about Summer Rae still being single when she's nearly thirty. It's clearly a Berserk Button for Summer - as she slaps Nattie so hard she breaks her nose.
- Until the 90's, All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling's policy was that their wrestlers had to retire at age 25. To put this in perspective, they were the last surviving women's promotion in Japan since the WWWA toured back in the 1950's up until the establishment of JWP in 1986. Nearly two generations of Japanese wrestlers did not have the option to jump to other promotions unless they were willing to leave the country.
- The thirty year old Muffy from the Story of Seasons series. She's always lamenting her failure with men (one of them even dumped her specifically because of her age), and in the Japanese version of Harvest Moon DS, her parents even try to arrange a marriage for her (in the American version, they just try setting her up on a blind date)! She's also one of the available marriage candidates in Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and Harvest Moon DS — in DS, she'll also eventually end up marrying Griffin if the player doesn't marry her, though in A Wonderful Life, she and Griffin will merely remain in a state of perpetual UST.
- High school teacher Noriko Kashiwagi from Persona 4, who is immediately fingered as one of these in her introduction and later is so delusional about her looks that she competes in a high school beauty contest and genuinely acts surprised at her loss. One could say she is an Expy of Mitsuka Yoshimine.
- In the earlier Persona 2, this was deconstructed with Ulala. In contrast to Maya's success as an editor and her luck with men, Ulala, on top of being aimless, has been repeatedly swindled by a slew of boyfriends and is stuck in a dead-end job as a lingerie saleswoman. Her jealousy of Maya reaches to the point that she drunk-dials JOKER to take Maya out and is cursed by him in the process. Thankfully, the curse is dispelled by Katsuya, Baofu, and Maya herself, and Ulala eventually undergoes some serious Character Development. By the end of the game, she's much happier and more secure of herself, and has gotten a better job as Baofu's partner in his new investigation firm.
- Discussed in Persona 5. One of the potential Love Interests, Sadayo Kawakami, has a second job in a Maid Service that requires her to put on an sweet and naive act for her clients. Because she's older, this makes it harder for her to pull off, and as result, she doesn't get many customers. As such, she gives this as justification for why she's ok with the Protagonist using her service, despite being his homeroom teacher. The reason she has said second job? Being blackmailed by a former student's abusive guardians for money after he died in an accident, shortly after she'd been forced to stop tutoring him. As such, Joker's arc with her is to change them to break her free of her debt and renew her passion for teaching. She is the most hesitant entering in a relationship with Joker, with her becoming a form of mother-figure to him if their bond is platonic.
- Additionally, played with by Sae, who's hinted to be in her early 20s. When her new boss is told that she won't be allowed to prosecute Shido, he condescendingly reminds her that she hasn't found a husband yet, and suggests that she can use her time off to find one, which doesn't make Sae any happier about the news.
- The basis behind a joke in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, where Aguija is called an "Old Hag" by the teenaged Lune Zoldark. She takes particular offense to this, saying that she's still in her 20's. Hard-Drinking Party Girl Excellen (23) then gets into it, pointing out that all the females in their team are still younger than her, drawing a few uncomfortable laughs from Katina and Rhada, who at ages 25 and 27, are only just.
- In MX, Aqua Centrum has this stigma as she is among the oldest pilots in the game, older than her copilot Hugo by a few years and significantly older than the various pilots from series such as Gundam and Dragonar.
- In T, Sagiri Sakurai is around her late twenties and hasn't even married due to getting too much into her job for nice paychecks. Meanwhile, she already got co-workers that already had children in elementary school age. As a result, calling her an 'old lady' even by a 10-years old (a correct assessment) will send her to a prolonged Ma'am Shock.
- Raine Sage of Tales of Symphonia isn't quite to this point yet, but she does make more than one reference to worrying about her age. All the more ridiculous because, as an elf or, rather, half-elf she'll live for about a thousand years. She can, indeed, pursue romantic involvement with the much younger main character.
- Reina Mayuzumi of Trauma Center Under The Knife 2, also The Vamp, is 35, single, and constantly tries to sex up Derek, after which Angie furiously complains that she has to be much older than she looks. Her ultimate fate is related to this trope.
- In Mitsumete Knight, becoming one is Sue's greatest fear, as she's already 22 by the beginning of the game. She wants to have a husband and have a lovey-dovey relationship with him, but can't find one because she drives away her suitors with her Well, Excuse Me, Princess! and Mood-Swinger attitudes.
- In Luminous Arc, the Garden Children talk about Vanessa in this manner, shortly before she starts a Bar Brawl with them...
- Atelier series:
- Esty of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland is 26 years old and constantly worrying about getting married. One ending has her rope Rorona into a futile quest to find her a husband.
- Rorona herself would have been in her 30s in Atelier Meruru The Apprenticeof Arland, but Astrid couldn't stand the thought, so she had her take a potion that turned her into an eight year old.
- Marion Quinn has become one of these in Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, where she's aged 26. Similarly to Esty, she's always worried about getting married, but she's also pretty much Married to the Job.
- Parodied in The King of Fighters XIII, as Mai gets pissed when she pretty much tricks herself into believing that Athena is calling her an "old maid" in their pre-fight chat. Poor Athena has no idea of what's going on.
- Heavy Cruiser Ashigara from KanColle is usually portrayed in fanworks as this for a few reasons: first is probably due to her namesake's "Hungry Wolf" nickname, which usually gets misinterpreted as a woman seeking for a relationship with men; second could be a reference to the historical fact that several of her namesake ship's commanding officers were never married; and third is probably from a joke that came from her name "purity", which is usually thought of as a good thing but it's possible the joke is she's still "pure" (virgin, unmarried) despite her mid-to-late 20s look.
- Milked for all its worth in the Anime adaptation, where Kisaragi initially mentions that she's suffered yet another failed mixer and didn't land a guy. Again referenced three episodes after, where she turns an otherwise fun curry-making contest into Serious Business of incredible proportions due to her belief that getting first place would prove that she deserves to get married already. Take note, her remaining opponents then are technically kids..
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
- Manuela is a deconstruction. A former Diva of one of the biggest opera companies in Fodlan and still maintaining her beauty, she nonetheless finds it impossible to hold onto a man for more than one date. The game makes it very clear this has nothing to do with her age or looks (the former has done nothing to hurt the latter), and everything to do with her slovenly living habits and drinking problem. On some level she's aware of this, but complaining about her poor romantic fortune is easier than cleaning up her act.
- Dorothea is only eighteen, but already terrified of ending up as one of these. She candidly admits to anyone who asks that she clawed her way through the rather strict admission process for Garreg Mach Officer's Academy because a lot of young noblemen attend and it would be easy to land a rich husband while she still had the beauty to do it. As revealed in support conversations, she used to sing in the same company as Manuela, and it's implied seeing where the former Diva is now has her deeply spooked.
- Final Fantasy IX - General Beatrix, aged twenty-seven, is among the older characters in a position of authority. In the game's epilogue, she is resigning as general and has a Last Minute Hook Up with Steiner after quite some Belligerent Sexual Tension for most of the game.
- Liliana spends most of Princess Waltz pretending to be a middleschooler, yet rather pointedly asks Arata if he likes 'older women'. His mother on the other hand outright accuses her of being a cradle-snatcher.
- Lotus from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. She's graphically depicted as Ms. Fanservice, in a skimpy outfit with large, shiny assets. But one of the game's characters, who isn't that much older complains repeatedly about being forced to look at her "wrinkly grandma boobs". She's actually 40 years old and a divorcee with twin daughters.
- Chizuru in The Eden of Grisaia ruefully admits in the afterstory that she really does need to get married soon if it's every going to happen at all, but unfortunately the only person she's shown any interest in and can meet with often is ten years younger than her, her student and her family wouldn't approve of him. However, she does have a bonus sex scene that would fit into the canon ending where Yuuji basically has a harem that has her quit worrying about appearances and just go for it.
- Played for Laughs in VA-11 HALL-A: one of the news stories you can read at the beginning of the day is about Christmas Cakes, and the reporter mentions an interview with someone who got upset and then ranted for an hour about how ridiculous it is. The someone? Jill, the main character (who is 27).
- Japanese Idol Singers are mainly marketed for their attractiveness and being the surrogate to their fans' ideal girlfriends in order to build an economic relationship with their fanbase. Most idols leave their groups around age 25, sometimes even earlier, and move onto acting, hosting, or sometimes a less idol-like solo singing career. This is because the industry prefers more youthful girls, and idols are seen as "unmarketable" for the target demographic past that age. Compare that to male idol singers, who usually change careers around ages 30-45 on average.
- Demographic and social change has caused some modification- to 'New Year's Cake' (up to 30-year-olds), and as mentioned in the description, 'New Year's Noodles' (up to 31).
- Rose McGowan in her autobiography talks about Hollywood's obsession with young women and how it affected her; to the point where she felt humiliated when a talk show host mentioned she was 28.
"Back then I thought it was just because young women were more beautiful, but now I realise that it's because a young woman is typically more docile, often easily manipulated, and too easily tricked into doing what the man wants, both societally and individually. F... that. Funny how when we come into our own power as women, that's exactly when we are considered unattractive."