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.
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!