Also if you’ve seen a mans nipples once you’re not eligible for marriage.
More like, the genre of anime and manga where we learn together with our feminist heroes, the epitome of intersectional discourse, and the genre which speaks for all girls across the world. Or like, all girls across Japan, because I still have to see someone be in love with the same person since sandbox primary school days, ten years later in hotbox highschool evenings.
While I think Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun has successfully taken the piss out of the shoujo genre already, I’d like to discuss the backwards thinking and unhealthy characters of this shallow genre some more.
I don’t hate shoujo. It’s a guilty pleasure – hate that term or not – and most shoujo anime and manga are shallow, offensive, backwards and little pathetic. That’s a fact. Still, as with everything there’s good between the evil and in this case my all time favourite anime (and manga) is one. Nana by Ai Yazawa, and with anime, we have Kare Kano, by internationally recognized intersectional feminist legendary icon, Hideaki Anno. Or like, half the show was by him until he got angry one day and stormed out of the Gainax studio. Which is just understandable.
If we’re talking about manga exclusively, a nice recent example is Horimiya. A good fanfiction turned hetero but is extremely cute nevertheless and I say this just because the couple starts dating early in the game and that alone is a sign of how fucked the state of the genre actually is.
Which is to say, the chase is more important than what comes after it. That might have a deeper meaning. I’m not gonna look for it.
Typically in shoujo (especially the older ones but, like, still everywhere today) the woman is inferior to the man in every sense except that she comes from a loving family. If that sounds too social justice-y for you and you can’t handle all of this non ableist non binary tri gendered immigrant queer pansexual intersectionality, well, in short, the female comes from a happy family. The male doesn’t. Ever.
The receipts are overwhelming – Kaichou wa Maid Sama, Special A, Itazura na Kiss, Say I Love You, Ao Haru Ride, Kare Kano and Orange. At the odd time that both people are seemingly equal, the male figure is always painted as some sort of wise figure who tells our protagonist the ten ways of how she’s fucking up with her life. All the shows above are guilty of this.
The difference with these shows and the age old Kare Kano is that in Kare Kano it doesn’t feel like an easy cop out for character sheets and development. Yes, the boy has issues and yes he’s still better at basically everything compared to his girlfriend, but it feels genuine and so, isn’t problematic, but it’s just a circumstance.
Which brings me to my next point; tragedy.
With the exception of Itazura Na Kiss (Read: ironically, the most mysogynist and backwards anime ever) almost every hit teen romance I have seen (Twilight, 50 Shades Of Grey, etc) the male character is tragic and broken and lost in life. Sad b00yz do good on the market, apparently.
This isn’t to create a good backstory, but for young girls to be dripping in their panties over the pretty boys with a fringe because they can change them ! Really ! He humiliates me, he hits me, but he has had it rough, I can change him !
This never works out in real life and is the first step in the Abusive and Toxic Relationships 101 book. If a person disrespects you from the get-go, they’ll disrespect you forever. If a person has grown up watching one parent beat the other and no one has told them that’s wrong, they’ll do the same. No man or woman will change that. Anime and fiction for tween girls will tell you otherwise, though, so beat that guy I was talking to up for me Hendrick ! You’re so macho alpha ! It’s love !
It might just be a time issue thing. Or a shoujo thing. Or a nobody-wants-to-read-about-it thing. But the relationship is not just the main topic, it’s literally all there is to it disguised under a couple of episodes where a friend has boyfriend problems of herself. You can’t trick me, Mr.Anime, romance is all the girlies think about, right?
This is where Orange, in all its shitty animation quality and terrible adaptation qualms, does something good – the love interest is depressed and suicidal, and they go about it in a reasonably understandable and mature way. The love doesn’t overshadow these facts, because a kiss can’t cure a trauma, but it certainly can become a crutch. Orange takes its themes semi-seriously and it perplexes me that a show that can do this also makes a big deal out of holding hands. You can read more about my thoughts on Orange here, though.
Cleary shoujo manga and anime doesn’t care about things like body image issues and suicidal friends almost killing themselves on their birthdays because they had a little bit too much to drink. Oh, is that only me? Alright.
It’s a little bit hypocritical to say that this is a target audience thing when these manga also encourage toxic behavior and even more so normalizing it. It’s a fantasy, but I’m waiting for the day some producer wakes up and says ’shit, it’s time for Nana part 2’ – come on, guys, if Nana was successful, you can’t say it would flop.
Okay, alright. Perhaps I’m being bitter and the radical internet feminists have brainwashed me into looking for all the bad in things that aren’t harmful at all. Maybe it’s okay to have the same plotlines done again and again and again. If you can lose yourself in it, then reality doesn’t matter, right?
This is the exact same argument as “Just shut your brain off ! That’ll do the trick !” – no, thank you. If something doesn’t do it from the get-go, I won’t bother with it at all. It worked when I was twelve, it won’t work now.
Shoujo is an example of exactly what a relationship should not be.
Romance shouldn’t be about changing someone, romance shouldn’t be about stalking your love interest to submission, romance should be mutual. Mutual respect, mutual love, mutual everything. Back to what I said earlier though, it’s all about the chase for the shoujo people.
Take Itazura Na Kiss for example: The protagonist follows the flawless love interest around for years, getting angry for no reason at the girls he hangs out with, improves her grades only for him to notice her and not for her own good, continuously questions his actions and invades his own, private life.
That’s not cute. But this is shoujo, and this is just her showing concern for him and I use these pronouns because I have never seen the guy follow the girl around town. Call it reaching, but funnily enough the girl is always the one walking behind him.
I wear make-up for him to notice me. I don’t wear make-up because he doesn’t like it. I study to catch his attention. I don’t study because it will intimidate him. I wear short skirts because he thinks it’s cute. I don’t wear short skirts because he doesn’t want other boys to look at me. I hang out with other boys to show him I don’t need him. I stop hanging out with other boys because he doesn’t let me.
Again, this is a reality. If you haven’t seen your friends change like this for their significant other, I’m not sure in what kind of reality you live. Naturally, it goes both ways too.
How cliché is the scene where the male pins the girl down on the ground or bed and tells her that men can assault her at any moment? We even see this in Ouran Host Club, arguably the most progressive show of the decade.
What if we switch the roles? What if it was the girl who pinned him down, what if it was the girl telling him he can’t hang out with his friends, what if it was the girl punching another girl for him? What if it were the boy following her around, what if it were the boy who has been in love for five years? what if it were the boy who sucked at everything?
Suddenly it’s less cute, huh?
Look, what I’m really trying to say is that it’s cool to enjoy fiction. I blush a lot just like you.
But this kind of fiction is also dangerous, especially if the people watching it are younger and start to think that keeping a girl on arms-lenght is cute and that girls dedicating their lives to the perfect boy is normal. I’m sure you all know this, but shoujo doesn’t represent a stable relationship, it represents fantasy, all I’m saying is that I would love to see an anime with a healthy relationship and if not, an intentionally toxic one.