So…Japanese girls like it rough, huh?

So…Japanese girls like it rough, huh?

In keeping up with the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d take a look at the most popular romantic scenarios in anime and manga. Last year, Goo asked its female users the following question: “Of the typical scenes in a romance manga, which would you want to experience in real life?” Here were the top 10 choices:

  1. Being hugged from behind and told “I love you”
  2. Being asked out in a slightly forceful manner, e.g. “You’re going out with me today”
  3. Being patted on the head and told to “Do your best!”
  4. Discovering that their male confidante was in love with them
  5. Turning to look behind them and being kissed by surprise
  6. Having someone worry about them and look into their eyes while asking “what’s wrong?”
  7. Being fought over by more than one man
  8. Being grabbed by the chin and kissed suddenly
  9. Seeing him off at the train station and being dragged on to the train at the last second
  10. Having him wipe their tears away while saying “Don’t cry”

    Romantic, huh?

Number three seems more like how you’d treat a pet than a girlfriend, so I don’t see the romance in it at all. I’ve definitely seen it, though – I believe Sano does this to Mizuki in Hana-Kimi. Being asked out on a date in a forceful way I’ve seen done by Tsukasa in Boys Over Flowers, which lead to a disastrous (yet intriguing) date. I’m definitely not a fan of number nine – someone dragging you on a train at the last moment seems pretty selfish to me, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen this one in any anime or manga. Some of these scenarios are very fun to read whenever they occur in manga, especially numbers five and eight. These two just scream Yuu Watase: probably my favorite forced kiss is with Takiko and Uruki in volume of Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden. Another great example is between Naoki and Kotoko in volume two of Itazura na Kiss, which is the first sign that Naoki has feelings for her. And, for some reason, many of the forced kisses I can think of in anime are initiated by the rival (losing) love interest like Soshi in Absolute Boyfriend and Fuji in Sand Chronicles. And being fought over by more than one guy is in pretty much every shojo manga and it’s mother (although once again Yuu Watase is the queen of this cliché. No wonder she’s so popular). But in real life, I’m pretty sure having more than one person interested in you, while a confidence-booster, wouldn’t exactly be fun.

Takiko and Uruki

Naoki’s ‘take-that’ kiss with Kotoko:

Naoki and Kotoko

 And yet another forced kiss:

Soshi and Riiko

What’s interesting about this list is how forceful a lot of these scenarios are. In my opinion, a lot of these scenarios aren’t so desirable or sweet once you place them into a real life context. Being grabbed by the chin and kissed or being asked out in a demanding way are only romantic depending upon who does it: if a guy you don’t know or don’t like did this you probably would be pretty scared or pissed. But what it really comes down to I guess is different cultural values: many Japanese males are shy, especially when it comes to romance, so this helps explain why Japanese women want more assertive men because there aren’t as many men who are openly romantic, and thus this is reflected in manga. So this begs the question: which came first? Did the fantasies of real life Japanese women influence the pervasiveness of romantically assertive men in manga, or was it that these male characters in manga shaped women’s real-life desires? Or maybe it’s a little bit of both. And some of these fantasies definitely appeal beyond Japanese audiences: I have to say, I’d love to have number one done to me. I guess I like it rough, too. 😛

Yuu hugging Miki from behind

18 thoughts on “So…Japanese girls like it rough, huh?

  1. Great post again. I agree, these things may be cute and hot in fantasies, but no way in real life would I want to have any of those done to me (and even in fantasies it has to be done a certain way to appeal to me). Most of them would pretty much piss me off and I would never ever consider dating any guy who did any of those.

    That said, I don’t know if these fantasies are a result of their society. I mean if we look at teen romances in the west, most of them also have very assertive male love interests. Twilight, for example, has Edward and he does the whole, “you’re going with me and you don’t have a choice” thing a lot (which is reminiscent of points 2 and 9, not to mention Jacob plays into 4 and 7) and I wouldn’t say men are not romantically assertive in the west. I think there is a certain appeal in the more assertive males in romantic fantasies because fantasies tend to be a self contained playground for out deepest desires, some of which are to have someone doing whatever it takes to swoon us. Any way, that’s just my two cents. 🙂

    1. Thanks! There’s also an evolutionary theory that the reason why women like aggressive men (a.k.a ‘bad boys’) because they were the ones who killed animals and got food and thus made the best mates. Thus, you’re probably right that the appeal of a bad boy goes beyond culture – I just think the way it’s presented in shojo manga is more uniquely Japanese. However, in real life a bad boy probably wouldn’t make the best boyfriend, especially since they tend not to have any sort of inner sweetness that we see in the bad boys from shojo manga.

      1. Yeah there is that theory, but well, it can be quite a radical theory depending on which theorist or sub-theory you are reading so I refrained from mentioning it. That and I don’t quite buy it myself because animal behaviour is very flexible. What may have worked once for a species can change and once it changes, the old behaviour no longer has any bearing on the new behaviour. Although I do admit most cultures have similar mating rituals, i.e. it is proper for the male to make the first move and not the female, so that does definitely influence our fantasies (male assertive love interest), but even then I think the bigger part is that having someone trying to win your love is just an intrinsic aspect of human desire (we even see it pop up in male romances as well where the females try to cater to the males or impress them in some sort of way). Any way, I’m definitely rambling right now, but I do agree that it is tricky trying to determine what is culture and what is just human nature as the two are really heavily linked and shape each person (and western culture, I believe, isn’t too different, when it comes to mating rituals and gender roles, from Japanese culture, so that could definitely explain the similarities and the acceptance of one culture’s romantic fiction by the other.) Ahem, ok I’ll stop now. ^__^

  2. I don’t think being hugged from behind is rough; now being _grabbed_ from behind is a different story. I have noticed that in anime and manga, the guys can get a little rough with the girls. I’ve found it disconcerting to say the least. But there is the cliche even in the West that girls like bad boys. Forceful behavior can be perceived as strength or mainly. It really depends on the context in which it is done. Yanking me all around, grabbing my arm, forcing me to kiss you, is not attractive to me at all. Wiping my tears, asking what’s wrong, looking into my eyes; now that’s cool.

    1. Agreed. Some times it’s not cute or attractive but creepy and board line abusive (hello Ryoki from Hot Gimmick). There is definitely a thin line with a lot of these from stuff I can enjoy (as a fantasy) and stuff that just disturbs me. Usually that line is determined by the set up and how frequently the male randomly kisses/grabs the female. If it’s painted as this one desperate attempt, then I’m all aboard the fantasy train (Rose of Versailles). Or if the female character actively resists the male’s advances (Basara) and they bicker a lot (Hana Yori Dango) that I can also get behind as I find the sort of romantic tug of war to be rather fun and cute.

      1. That’s definitely true – bad boy/jerky love interests are less offensive when the girl is strong or smart enough to meet his match. That’s why I love bickering couples like Tsukushi and Tsukasa from Hana Yori Dango and Teru and Kurosaki from Dengeki Daisy.

    2. I definitely agree that the cliche of girls liking bad boys exists in the West, but the appeals of some of these things just baffles me. I don’t have a problem with all of these, but numbers three and nine really seem demeaning. And the ones you mentioned like wiping your tears and asking what’s wrong just don’t seem romantic to me – those are kind gestures that any friend could do.

  3. I actually like number 1 myself. I think being hugged from behind and being told “I love you” is the less aggressive romance option out of all the others you’ve listed.

    A lot of the things that seem good on paper will never work out in real life. It’s the same how some of us think Tsukasa is an appealing romantic hero and you root for him and Tsukushi to get together, but in all honesty if any girl met a guy like Tsukasa they would be scared senseless by his anger issues, possessiveness, and his ability to be too demanding out of girl. At times forcing her to do things she already said no to. No one in their right mind would date someone like this in real life, but it’s fantasy. We are allowed to indulge in the fantasy as long as we know this is not a good idea in reality.

    1. I definitely agree with you that most of these fantasies don’t work in reality and that (hopefully) most people are aware of this, but the thing is that some of these things don’t even work as fantasies in my opinion. Number three is just demeaning, and I find a guy looking in the protagonists eyes and asking her what’s wrong to be more cheesy than romantic. But to each his (or her) own, I guess.

  4. The world of shoujo is so fantasy-like that it’s depressing. It’s probably why I love it so much. But speaking of rough, I don’t know if you solely read mangas, but Korean manwhas are very rough. I have seldom found one where the guy isn’t some rough maniac, with deadly mood swings…
    I guess that’s taking rough love to the extreme.

    1. I’ve heard that Korean manwha take it further than shojo – and that being an abusive jerk is taken beyond a verbal level. And shojo that are too rough (like Hot Gimmick) I just don’t enjoy, and while I can see why it’s a guilty pleasure for some, it bothers me that there are a few girls out there (especially young ones) who actually see Hot Gimmick as an ideal romance.

      1. Yeah, manhwas can be brutal sometimes. Not so much between the two leads, but most of the time between the main girl and the guy who hates the main guy. Or girl vs girl bullying.
        Ahhh. Hot Gimmick. Never could bring myself to read that one. Really? Can’t say that I agree. I mean my perfect idea of a romance in no way includes any phyical abuse. I was always more of a ‘light hearted’ relationship type, like Ouran, or Hana Yori Dango.

  5. Hi! Just checked out your blog today, and I must say I’ve enjoyed your posts. I totally agree with most of your analyses.
    Reading through this list of what women “prefer”, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at number 3. Being patted on the head and being told to do your best? What are you, a dog?! They might as well have included being given a cookie after doing something right and being told “Good girl!”
    I agree with the sudden kiss too. Truthfully, anyone would be frightened and scared if someone randomly kissed them in real life. But of course shojo is shojo. Real life rules doesn’t apply. Sometimes, it manages to pull off but sometimes it’s plain ridiculous, especially in the case of possessive lovers like in Hot Gimmick or Desire Climax.

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      That was my reaction to number three as well, and I wondered why so many girls would find that appealing. Yet while ‘real life’ rules may not apply to shojo manga, I do find that as a reader I’m able to draw a fine line between the things that work in manga but not in the real world, and the things that don’t even work in manga (like pretty much any ‘romantic’ scene in Hot Gimmick *shudder*).

  6. Oh I like to be patted on head. I pat my hun as well 🙂 It’s heartwarming and reassuring. As for the ‘pet’ thing, I’m his foxy and his my cat 😀 If it’s mutual, it isn’t sexist.

    1. I guess I’d never thought about it that way – since this list is all about what ‘romantic’ gestures guys do to women, I hadn’t thought about women doing these things in return. They should really poll women about what romantic gestures they like to see female characters do to males. I can definitely see why a head pat would be reassuring, but it all depends on the context, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s