Friendship in shojo anime and manga

Friendship in shojo anime and manga

  There are few shojo that focus as much on romance as Marmalade Boy does; the (anime) series literally has a dozen love triangles. But the relationship that interests me most in Marmalade Boy isn’t one of the dramatic couples or contrived triangles – it’s best friends Miki and Meiko. Marmalade Boy was the first anime I watched that featured a prominent and relatable female friendship. I understood Miki’s desire to be the closest person to her best friend, and her disappointment at finding out Meiko never confided in her the way she does. And yet, despite their problems, Miki and Meiko end up being the person the other could depend on the most: Meiko was there for Miki when she was unsure about Ginta, and in return, Miki decided that Meiko needed to see Namura and took her to Hiroshima. So while some of the romances in Marmalade Boy fell flat for me, seeing Miki and Meiko made me wish I could have their friendship. And while most shojo manga best-friends end up becoming a love rival or betraying the heroine (Yuu Watase loves this cliché), it’s refreshing to find genuine friendships that are also not completely perfect or idealized. Watching Marmalade Boy made me think about what other friendships in shojo anime and manga I thought were well-portrayed or could really relate to. And after reading an interesting article on friendships in shojo; I decided to write about the manga friendships that have affected me most.

 If there’s one friendship in manga that reminds me of my own, it’s Risa and Nobu in Lovely Complex. I love the way they tease each other yet always support one another through their problems – and that the way they help each other is by encouraging the other to show their ‘inner boobies.’ I love the random, perverted conversations they have, such as a scene when Risa and Nobu are at a sleepover and pretend to hit on one another. Even though their friendship isn’t always at the forefront, the dynamic between Risa and Nobu feels more than just fun – it feels authentically teenaged, which is what makes them so relatable.

Nana Osaki and Nana “Hachi” Komatsu

 While Marmalade Boy and Love*Com feature my favorite anime and manga friendships, of course there are many other great ones. Kimi ni Todoke explores that awkward stage when you haven’t defined yourselves as friends. Cardcaptor Sakura, on the other hand, has Tomoyo, who always helps Sakura out and wishes for her complete happiness. And it’s impossible to talk about female friendships without mentioning Nana. The series is unique in that the central thrust of the series isn’t a romance or an overarching plot, but the friendship between the Nanas. At first, Hachi idolizes punk-rocker Nana, but as the series progresses and the two grow closer, Hachi realizes that Nana isn’t as strong as she seems. The series not only explores the potential possessiveness and jealousy that comes with becoming close friends, but also the rewards of finding someone you can’t imagine living without.

 Of course, there are great male friendships in shojo manga as well. The main one that comes to mind for me is the F4 from Boys Over Flowers, a.k.a Hana Yori Dango, four rich teenage boys who run their high school. I love the idea of a clique of guys who under their spoiled-rotten façades, are really normal, sweet guys who have also been best friends for thirteen years. I also adore that every member of the F4 has his role: the leader, Tsukasa, who is constantly causing trouble, Akira and Sojiro, who clean up the messes left behind from Tsukasa’s rampages, and Rui, who is usually off sleeping somewhere. And even though they argue (a lot), I love that they always band together to help each other out, especially in the live-action adaptations. Plus, they’re hot. There’s that, too.

  Oh, and I thought I’d mention that when I considered boy-girl friendships where neither character has romantic feelings for the other, I couldn’t think of any! So if any of you guys can think of some, that’d be great!

Boys Over Flowers’ F4 – Rui Hanazawa, Akira Mimasaka, Sojiro Nishikado and Tsukasa Domyoji
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8 thoughts on “Friendship in shojo anime and manga

    1. I could only think of friendships with the male love interest’s friends as well, like Kimi ni Todoke – but even then it’s pretty common for the guy’s friend to have unrequited feelings for the girl, such as in High School Debut. Super Gals! might be a good example – Yuya is a pretty good friends with Aya and Miyu but definitely doesn’t have any feelings for either of them since he initially likes Ran.

  1. Basara has a prominent male/female friendship. Sarasa and Hayato are best friends in the series (no romance implied between them and both hook up with someone else). Granted he doesn’t know she’s a girl till way into the series, but once he does he still thinks of her as his best friend. The only disappointing part is that as the series goes on, their friendship becomes less prominent as it shifts to more a group bond between all the allies Sarasa gathers. Anyway, that’s the only series I can think of that even has it without any romantic feelings (like Tsukushi and Kazuya are good friends, but he also likes her romantically).

    1. Another example! Yeah, it seems to be common for ‘friendships’ between members of the opposite sex in anime and manga to involve some sort of one-sided crush. Or there will be a male character who is ‘friends’ with the female protagonist because he’s paired with her friend, but the two aren’t actually all that close and barely interact outside of group interactions.

  2. I’m terribly late in replying to this post but I’ve recently stumbled upon it and wanted to add in my two cents. I’m surprised you mentioned the main female-female relationship between the two main characters of Nana, but left out the male-female relationship between Nana Osaki and Nobu. While reading the series it was always their relationship that I personally looked to as the most moving and perhaps true friendship throughout the story. There is a real understanding and reckless selfishness that really resonates with me about how they interact and feel towards one another that isn’t as desperate as the Nana-Hachi friendship, or as destructive as the Ren-Reira friendship, or even as dependent as the Hachi-Shin friendship. I won’t mention Yasu-Reira, Yasu-Nana, or Takumi-Reira for obvious reasons, but in general I think the series really does work to illustrate the various relationships between both men and women on a very diverse level.

    1. Thanks for commenting! When I was writing this, I think because I was so focused on Hachi and Nana’s friendship I had temporarily forgotten about the other characters! Nana and Nobu are a great example of a male-female friendship that never turns romantic, and actually, their relationship grew on me quite a bit. Nobu has never been my favorite character, but his side story where we see him meet Nana and want to keep her in his life is one of my favorite chapters.

  3. Mikan and Hotaru from Gakuen Alice are also worth of mention. Mikan and Hotaru seem to have some kind of love-hate type of friendship, their sometimes like to bicker because of their opposing personalities. Hotaru always acts cold and distant towards Mikan, she sometimes even finds Mikan annoying because of Mikan’s bubbly personality. Deep down, despite of Hotaru’s cold and distant tendencies towards Mikan, she deeply cares and being protective towards Mikan and she loves Mikan like she is her own sister. If there is something wrong with Mikan, she would not hestitant to help or defend Mikan. Hotaru likes to express her love and affection towards Mikan in the unusual ways e.g: aimed baka gun at Mikan, called Mikan “baka” occasionally, or making a robot modeled after Mikan. Mikan herself also trusted Hotaru so much, no matter how cold and distant she is towards Mikan.

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