“Hands off my bibles!”

“Hands off my bibles!”

Have you guys ever noticed that many characters in shojo manga are fans of shojo manga themselves? Females in shojo manga seem to enjoy turning to girls’ comics as a love guide, and tend to be extremely protective of their collection. For example, in the opening pages of Sand Chronicles we see Ann at age 26, who chastises her younger sister for trying to take her shojo manga by telling her to keep her “hands off her bibles.”  However, some shojo heroines have to learn the hard way that real-life romance doesn’t always go as smoothly as it does in their prized manga. Take Haruna in High School Debut for example – when she and Yoh first start dating they have a hard time getting used to acting like a couple, so she gives him a stack of shojo manga to read so he can learn how their relationship is ‘supposed’ to progress. After reading over 100 volumes of manga, Yoh decides that it’s alright if their relationship isn’t ‘normal’ because things are fine the way they are.  I also really like when series make reference not only to the main character being a fan of girls comics, but also to common shojo clichés themselves. For example, in Itazura na Kiss, when Kotoko joins her college’s tennis club after her crush Naoki does, she begins ‘image-training’ by reciting scenes from Ace o Nerae!, a popular 70s shojo series about a tennis player. Unfortunately, Kotoko is athletically challenged, and when Kotoko and Naoki have to play a match together, Kotoko tries to get Naoki to ease her nerves by telling him that in shojo manga, the male love interest would usually “gently hold her hand or give her a kiss of encouragement.” Naoki being the cold jerk he is bluntly tells her to forget it. By having the protagonist be a fan of girls’ comics, the fourth wall is broken in a fun way, because the conventions of shojo manga are allowed to be made fun of while still endorsing shojo manga itself.

Even after 43 volumes, Asuka can’t get enough of this addictive shojo manga.

But probably the biggest series where the main character’s love of shojo is touched upon is Otomen, because the leading character is a male! Asuka Masamune, who excels in sports and is seen as extremely masculine, is hiding a secret from everyone: he actually loves everything girly, from sewing to stuffed animals. One funny scene in volume one is when Asuka tries to resist his girly habits by putting away all of his plushies, and he begins to read Shonen Junk (a not-so-subtle reference to a certain boys’ manga magazine), but gives up because he finds shojo romance stories more exciting. Asuka’s favorite shojo manga is “Love Chick” by Jewel Sachihana, who actually turns out to be a playboy who goes to school with Asuka named Juta Tachibana! Juta knows Asuka’s secret ‘girly’ habits, and uses him as the model for the main female character in “Love Chick” because Asuka’s the most feminine person Juta’s ever known. Juta tries to balance encouraging Asuka’s femininity and his budding romance with a not-so girly-girl named Ryo while keeping the fact that he’s the author of a shojo series a secret.  And because the story is all about Asuka learning to accept his girliness, Otomen is filled with pages trimmed with lace and sparkles, and thus embraces the most traditionally feminine aesthetics of shojo manga. So in essence, by incorporating shojo-crazed characters, the authors of girls’ series are telling the reader ‘hey, it’s okay to love shojo – because we love it too.’


9 thoughts on ““Hands off my bibles!”

  1. I have noticed this too in several series and it always makes me smile. It’s nice for the mangaka to include a little nod and wink towards the reader. Great post ^_~

  2. I’ve noticed this a lot too and High School Debut came to mind first. I enjoy seeing it in manga, its a nod of respect to give another creator for mentioning their series.

    1. That’s very true – I love it when manga authors reference or even try to draw characters from authors who have inspired and influenced the genre; it’s one of the best forms of respect in my opinion. This especially happens a lot with classics like Rose of Versailles and Candy Candy.

  3. I think it’s great when the writers themselves can make fun of the genre and its cliches they are writing for. It’s very tongue in cheek and a way to show the reader that they don’t take themselves too seriously.

    Otomen is one of those mangas I wanted to read myself. I’m drawn to the fact that it’s a guy who is into the ultra girly things and not the female love interest. Kind of puts a different spin on what it means to be “male” and “female.”

    1. I too love it when authors poke fun not only at the genre they’re writing in but also at themselves (this happens a lot in Dengeki Daisy) – I think it’s funny. I think most of my favorite series have moments when they step back and poke fun of themselves; it makes the series more relatable.

      Otomen certainly plays with gender roles by showing that even a guy who seems as ultra-masculine as Asuka has a very ‘feminine’ side. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s a fun series.

  4. I love it when characters break the fourth wall and say something along the lines of, “not like a shoujo manga” or “just like a shoujo manga”. I’ve seen it a few times and it has always put a smile on my face but I can’t remember which manga did it. D:

    1. Ah yes, many series I love do this too. Kodocha is notorious for breaking the fourth wall, and Sana often compares herself to the heroine in a girls’ comic. Ai Yazawa loves to do this as well.

      1. Ah, yes. Nana! That’s one of them. Thanks for jogging my memory. Please Save My Earth also did it, but instead of shoujo, it made a joke about shounen-ai/boy love manga. xD

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