Happily ever after for everyone! – beta couples in shojo manga

Happily ever after for everyone! – beta couples in shojo manga

One of the most common elements of shojo romantic-comedies is the presence of beta couples. Beta couples are secondary romantic relationships, which often serve as a contrast to the series’ main couple. Whether they’re the main character’s best friends or rival love interests who hook up after being rejected, the beta couple’s relationship is rarely developed or highlighted over the course of the series. I’ve found that the beta couple often is well established at the beginning of the series – they’re typically childhood sweethearts or they might get together right at the start of the manga – but either way, the fact that they’ve been together for so long make them great go-tos for relationship advice. They typically have little drama, and their presence in the series is typically used to contrast the main couple who struggles to get (or stay) together. And while beta couples may feel cliché (since the characters are often flat their relationships end up feeling just as boring, which was how I felt about the inclusion of Harumi and Tatsuya’s relationship in Mars), there are certainly interesting ones to be found. So I thought I’d take a look at a few examples.

When I think of beta couples, the first series that comes to mind is Marmalade Boy. Alongside Miki and Yuu, the series highlights the progressing romance between Miki’s best friend Meiko and her teacher/secret boyfriend Namura, as well as losing love interests Ginta and Arimi. Unlike many series, however, when Marmalade Boy begins focusing on Ginta’s new feelings for Arimi or Meiko’s heartache over her and Namura’s breakup, it doesn’t feel forced. This is because while most series will only start focusing on the protagonist’s best friends after the main couple has gotten together officially (such as Love*Com), Marmalade Boy does a great job of balancing all of it’s romantic storylines at the same time. I think another reason I like Marmalade Boy‘s beta couples better than most series is because I wasn’t particularly moved by Miki and Yuu’s romance. I didn’t care much for main character Miki, which would normally prevent me from getting extremely attached to a series. But because there were so many other characters and romantic pairings for me to choose from, the series stands out, and Ginta and Arimi became my favorite romance in the series.

Special A Akira and TadashiOther series have tried to balance the main couple’s romance while developing their friends’ romantic entanglements. One example is Special A, which not long after establishing Kei’s romantic feelings for protagonist Hikari also begins to develop Akira’s relationship with her longtime friend Tadashi, by showing that behind her constant punching of the goofy SA member lies romantic affection. Later, when Akira and Tadashi get together, fellow SA member Megumi asks out Yahiro, who is also in love with Akira, in order to prevent him from interfering with the new couple. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Megumi’s feelings to turn into real affection. But after finishing Special A, I was bothered a bit by the series falling into the trap of pairing almost all of it’s main cast with someone else. It’s extremely cliché, suggests that the only way a person can be happy is if they are in a romantic relationship, and is highly unrealistic. After all, how often does it happen that your entire group of friends happens to have a significant other?

Paradise Kiss Arashi and MiwakoThen there are the series that present their beta couples so uniquely it’s difficult to label them as such. The josei manga Paradise Kiss immediately presents childhood sweethearts Miwako and Arashi. At first, the two seem mismatched – he looks like a tough rocker and she’s a sweet lolita – but Yukari sees that the two go well together. However, over the course of the series the couple is shown facing their own problems when their former friend Hiroyuki Tokumori, who once had a crush on Miwako, comes back into the picture. But rather than being played for empty drama, the series shows that the couple’s problem isn’t rival love interests but rather Arashi’s jealousy, which was strong enough that it caused him to ask Miwako to cut off her friendship with Hiro. And unlike many other beta couples, whose relationships are stable enough that other characters constantly ask them for romantic advice, Miwako is often the one who turns to Yukari for advice or comfort when things get shaky between her and Arashi. Unlike so many beta couples, there are genuine emotions behind Arashi and Miwako’s relationship, which makes the inclusion of their story feel worthwhile.

Hana Yori Dango has two examples: Rui and his childhood crush Shizuka, and Tsukushi’s best friend Yuki’s crush on F4 member Sojiro. When Rui chose to follow Shizuka to France after she decided to become a lawyer, I thought she’d fall for him and their relationship would work out. But when Rui returns to Japan it’s clear that things weren’t working between the two of them, and I was somewhat surprised that the two of them never got back together. Even more surprising was that Yuki’s feelings for Sojiro also remain unrequited. Usually in manga when a girl has unrequited feelings for a guy but decides to pursue him anyway he will end up falling for her, even if he can’t stand her in the beginning of the series (like Naoki in Itazura na Kiss. Note also that there is a double standard: if a girl in shojo manga has a creepy suitor she will never give him the time of day). But Sojiro doesn’t change his mind about good-girl Yuki nor will he change his philandering ways – yet rather than feeling discouraged Yuki decides to appreciate her feelings for him, and the two become better friends. I liked that not all of the romantic pairings in Hana Yori Dango had happy endings, and that most of the cast remained single up to the series’ finale. And because there are so many manga that will take the same combination of characters (like pairing a cheerful girl with a grumpy guy) and develop several couples with those exact same archetypes, I really love when each of the couples presented in a series feel distinctly different from one another. It makes sense that beta couples work best when they’re presence isn’t forced into the storyline and include interesting characters – because rather than detracting from a story they add to it.

Everybody loves them…except me

Everybody loves them…except me

I was thinking about the characters I’ve liked from every anime series I’ve watched. What I quickly realized is that in many series I’ve watched, the character with the biggest fanbase is one that I’m indifferent to, or actively dislike. So, I’ve compiled a list of characters (some more popular than others) that most fans who have seen these series like…but I don’t.

  1. Sailor Mercury (Sailor Moon): I’ll start off with her because she’s a pretty recognizable character. Like many of the other characters on this list, I don’t actually dislike this character – I find her to be pretty boring, but harmless nontheless. However, I don’t understand her enormous popularity – in a poll from Animage magazine ranking the most popular female anime characters of 1992 (the same year as Sailor Moon ‘s debut), Sailor Mercury was voted number one.  Out of all the characters from Sailor Moon , I definitely prefer Sailor Venus and Sailor Jupiter, who have much brighter personalities.
  2. The elusive Madoka.

    Madoka (Kimagure Orange Road): Now, KOR is from 1987, so I wouldn’t exactly say Madoka’s the most popular female character in anime today. However, back in the late 80s, Madoka was the number one girl-next-door for anime fans in Japan. Even in the late 90s, when Kimagure first came to America, Madoka was seen as a goddess by male anime fans because of her beauty and constant teasing of Kyosuke, the main male protagonist in the series. However, the reason why fans love her is the very reason I have a problem with her character: she’s too perfect. She can play the saxophone and piano, she can sing, horseback ride, ski, surf, is beautiful, and gets good grades without trying. Her only flaw is that she’s so melancholy – which is because everything has come so easily to her. Since I don’t find this to be a very good excuse for her sullen nature, I don’t really sympathize with her. Meanwhile, her best friend and love rival Hikaru, who is considered to be very annoying by most Kimagure fans, I find to be very sympathetic because she is the third wheel in this triangle.

  3. Roy Mustang (Fullmetal Alchemist): Here’s another character I don’t have any actual problems with – I just don’t see what the fuss is over him. Now, Ed is still more popular than Roy, but there is a huge fanbase of fangirls for this flaming hot coloniel. Now aside from the fact that I don’t actually find him hot, I’d much watch Ed and Al in action, or find out Lust’s background than waste time seeing Ed and Roy duke it out. Yet,  he was always voted in Newtype’s Top Ten male characters throughout 2004, when FMA was first airing in Japan. Furthermore, in an Oricon poll asking Japanese fans which side characters were most deserving of a spinoff, Roy ranked sixth among male fans. But considering how many fans love Roy because they ship him with Ed, I may have to chalk this one up to not being a yaoi fangirl.
  4. Haruhi in a typically bossy stance.

    Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya): Haruhi is a unique character on this list for several reasons. First, she comes from a series that I really dislike, while all the other characters on this list come from anime I actually enjoyed at one point or another. Second, rather than being neutral towards her or curious as to why she’s so popular, Haruhi is definitely the character that I most actively dislike on this list (and probably in anime in general). Finally, while she’s an enormously popular character, maybe more than any other character I’ve mentioned, she’s also got a significant hatedom. Yet while there are many who can’t stand the loud, bossy leader of the SOS club who sexually assaults it’s female members, her fans seem to outnumber her foes. In a 2010 Newtype poll, Haruhi was ranked the fifth most popular female character of the 2000s. What I have noticed, however, is that the people who dislike her character often tend to be women. Thus, my hatred for this character perhaps can best be explained by the fact that I am not a member of the show’s target demographic: moe-loving males.

  5. Riku Harada (D.N.Angel): While Riku is not anywhere near as popular as, say, Haruhi Suzumiya, of all the female characters in D.N.Angel, Riku is by far the most liked. Now this could be because fans find Risa, Riku’s boy-crazy twin sister to be shallow and Mio, a hyper girl who isn’t from the original manga, to be annoying, thus making her the best of the worst. However, while Risa didn’t really bother me because I’ve met several girls like her, I found Riku to be too bossy and irritating to be considered the ‘nice’ girl, and I’ve never cared for her since.
  6. Rui Hanazawa (Hana Yori Dango/Boys Over Flowers). This…is a hard one. I think the main reason I’m not a fan of Rui (aside from the fact that I don’t see why people find him to be a prince charming) is because I love Tsukasa Domyoji, Rui’s rival love interest, so much and want everyone to love him too. That sounds sort of childish, but I just hate when people gush over Rui so much when I find him to be cold and kind of boring for a good portion of the series. There are so many fans who were willing to look past Rui’s jerky moments because of his kinder acts towards Tsukushi, but weren’t willing to do the same for Tsukasa, EVEN WHEN TSUKASA RISKED HIS LIFE FOR HER. Just look at this poll: Crea magazine asked for the top 100 male manga characters Japanese females fell in love with most, and Rui is number four on this list. Four. Out of all male characters in every manga ever created. The only saving grace is that Tsukasa is also on the list, at a very respectable number thirteen. But he’s so much more funny and loving. Sigh. There is no justice.

So have you guys noticed that you tend not to care for characters everyone else seems to love? Share your thoughts!

Cover-to-Cover: Boys Over Flowers

Cover-to-Cover: Boys Over Flowers

Cover-to-Cover is a column where I’ll choose my favorite cover from a particular series. This time around I’ll be doing one of my favorite series ever: Boys Over Flowers a.k.a Hana Yori Dango. This Cover-to-Cover is an interesting one because it seems a lot harder than it actually is. With 37 volumes, there are so many covers to choose from that it’s difficult to know where to start. Right away I knew I wouldn’t be choosing any of the covers from the first fifteen volumes or so: the earliest covers feature Yoko Kamio’s artstyle before she perfected it, and I like her later artwork for the series much better. More than that, many of the series’ earliest covers look cluttered: they feature way too many characters who are all different sizes from one another, which I tend not to like. However, because many of the series’ later covers feature group images with the characters in proportion with each other, I actually really like these covers, especially volumes 19 and 36. I love the character’s poses on volume 19‘s cover: they all look very cool next to each other. With volume 36, I love that each guy is in a suit and is holding a flower, while Tsukushi is standing in the center. I love seeing Tsukushi with the F4 because of how much their relationship changes over the course of the series. At first, Tsukushi only looks at the F4 as a group of spoiled rich kids, but as she gets to know them she sees them as good friends, and realizes that they truly are boys more than they are flowers. Yet as much as I love seeing the group all together, what makes me even happier is seeing the series main couple, Tsukushi and Tsukasa, together.

There are several covers that feature Tsukushi and Tsukasa alone together. Volume 23 shows a very sweet Tsukushi and Tsukasa, while volume 20 features Tsukushi and a sleeping Tsukasa in the fall leaves. Even though I love the pose and the colors of volume 23’s cover, I’m not a fan of the way the characaters were drawn (I think Tsukasa’s neck looks way too thick). And while I love the seasonal imagery of volume 20’s cover, something about this cover doesn’t draw me to it. But if there’s one cover that makes me smile every time I see it, it has to be volume 26. I love the combination of the pink and yellow – the colors really suit the series and have a very energetic feel. More importantly, this cover captures Tsukushi and Tsukasa’s dynamic very well: she’s giving Tsukasa a hard time (and loving every minute of it) as she grabs onto his head while he looks on with a grumpy expression. And the fact that he’s giving her a piggyback ride is adorable. But I love more about volume 26 than just its cover: this volume is the start of probably my favorite storyline in the series. In volume 21, after Tsukasa’s mother threatens to have Tsukushi’s friends’ fathers fired unless she breaks up with him, Tsukushi and Tsukasa decide to go their separate ways. After realizing she can’t forget him, Tsukasa makes an earnest plea to make her happy and Tsukushi realizes that she’s still in love with him. Volume 26 follows the two as they learn to mesh as a couple, and it’s very fun and sweet to read. Right from it’s cover, volume 26 showcases the best Boys Over Flowers has to offer.

Here comes the bride: weddings I wanted to see

Here comes the bride: weddings I wanted to see

When you think of June, one of the first things that comes to mind is a wedding. June is the beginning of wedding season in the west, and thinking about how many people are getting married during this time of year has made me think about marriage in Japanese culture. Marriage is an important custom in Japan: 87 percent of men and 90 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 wish to be married someday, according to the National Institute of Population. Despite the importance of marriage in Japanese society, it’s interesting to note that weddings rarely show up in manga. This makes sense because most manga revolve around high-school-aged characters who are far too young to get married. Still, there are plenty of manga that feature couples I feel deserved to have a proper wedding ceremony, so I thought I’d highlight series where I wish (as well as many other fans, I’m sure) I could have seen these characters officially say their ‘I dos.’ And please note that since I’m discussing marriage that there are definitely spoilers, so read with caution. 

  • From Sand Chronicles: Ann and Daigo in wedding attire

    Near the end of Sand Chronicles, things seem pretty hopeless for Ann Minase and Daigo Kitamura. When Ann sinks further into a depression years after her mother’s suicide, she breaks things off with Daigo out of fear of bringing him down with her. After dating her friend Fuji and briefly getting engaged to another man, Ann’s life begins to be consumed by monotony. She becomes more depressed until she finally almost kills herself. However, Ann’s brush with death makes her realize that she wants to live, and upon learning that it was Daigo who saved her life, the two are reunited. Volume eight’s epilogue shows Ann and Daigo living on the beach, happily married and chasing after their baby. But after seeing Ann and Daigo struggle so much, it would have been nice to have seen the wedding ceremony as well. At least the series’ author, Hinako Ashihara, drew a picture of what their wedding probably looked like. 

  • After Kira Aso falls for bad-boy Rei Kashino, the two are threatened to be separated by everything from love rivals to brutal violence. In Mars‘ fifteenth volume, Kira and Rei decide to get married. Rei tells Kira that he always wants to protect her, so despite the fact that they’re still in high-school they register their marriage license. However, the two don’t have any sort of wedding ceremony – their friends throw them a casual party and give Kira a present of lace, which she places on her head as a veil. But Rei doesn’t show up because he was stabbed by Masao, a sociopath who has been obsessed with him. Fortunately, Rei lives, and a year later we see his father pestering him because he wants grandkids. Although I was happy that Kira and Rei were able to stay together, I wish I could have seen them get married in a traditional ceremony – but in a way, a no-frills wedding suits this couple perfectly.
  • In Boys Over Flowers a.k.a Hana Yori Dango, Tsukasa Domyoji, son of one of the richest families in Japan, falls for spunky lower-class Tsukushi Makino after she stands up to his bullying. At first Tsukushi dislikes Tsukasa, but over the course of the series But Tsukasa’s mother constantly tries to keep them apart: first by arranging a marriage for Tsukasa, then by threatening to have Tsukushi’s friends fired. But eventually Tsukasa’s mother gives in, and Tsukushi and Tsukasa are free to be together without any interference. However, this doesn’t last long: in volume 35, Tsukasa decides to take over his family business and go to New York for four years after his father collapses. He proposes to Tsukushi, who promises him at his high-school prom that if he returns a good man that she’ll make him happy. In Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box, which takes place one year after the end of the series, Tsukushi and Tsukasa get officially engaged. Even though these characters are so young, I couldn’t help but want them to get married because I love Tsukushi and Tsukasa as a couple so much. And I know I’m not alone: in one poll by Oricon surveying what completed manga series fans would like to see continued, Hana Yori Dango ranked number two, and one fan said that they would like to see “the start of a family.” Luckily, the j-drama resolved this issue: in the Hana Yori Dango: Final film, Tsukushi and Tsukasa finally tie the knot in a beautiful ceremony, giving me the wedding I had always wanted to see.

So are there any weddings you wish you could have seen in your favorite manga? Or are you content with seeing a couple’s romantic journey being left open-ended? And is the age of a couple an important factor in your desire to see them get married, or does it not matter to you?

Sliding scales of male tsundere

Sliding scales of male tsundere

A tsundere is a character who is both ‘tsuntsun,’ (aloof) and ‘deredere,’ (sweet). While most anime and manga fans associate the term tsundere with female characters like Haruhi (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and Taiga (Toradora), many male love interests in shojo series also have tsundere qualities. Some of them are cold and gradually warm up over the course of the series (usually because of the main female character), while others seem hotblooded yet are actually shy. Because of this range in tsundere personality types, I feel as though the following male tsunderes are sliding on a scale from cold to hot. Of course, this is all my personal opinion, and some of the characters I’ve listed I’ve never seen labeled as tsundere yet I feel fit right in.

Naoki Irie (Itazura na Kiss – 1990)

Level of Tsundere: Neptune is warmer…

The paragon of the cold tsundere love interest. He’s a genius at everything from academics to tennis to cooking. He doesn’t get close to people, so he’s hard to figure out. Naoki has a lot of pride and is confident in his abilities,  but when it comes to love he barely lets on that he cares. In favor of romatic gestures, Naoki prefers to brutally tease Kotoko about everything from her (lack of) grace to her body, publicly rejects her love letter and dismisses her in front of her entire class. Most importantly, he can run circles around her in terms of intelligence. Thus, Naoki is someone who is ‘above’ Kotoko – she’s out of his league and she has to work hard to earn his love. And because melting moments for him are few and far between, it takes a while for the audience to warm up to him.

Shinichi Chiaki (Nodame Cantabile – 2001)

Level of Tsundere: a Slurpee

A music prodigy, Chiaki sees everyone around him as an idiot. From to his perfectionist music style to his tidy apartment, Chiaki does everything by the book. Like Naoki, he’s pompous, is a good cook, and is admired by many of the students at his school, especially women. However, he isn’t ‘perfect’ at everything and does have weaknesses, including a fear of flying that is preventing him from accomplishing his dream of travelling to Europe so he can study to become a famous conductor. And despite his arrogance, he often gets roped into doing favors for his classmates (usually due to Nodame’s whims), so while he may be berating them he’s still helping them out. In particular, he shows concern for Nodame when she does something foolish (which is often), which reveals his feelings for her. As the series progresses, Chiaki realizes how snobby he used to be and starts to loosen up.

Rui Hanazawa (Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango – 1992)

Level of Tsundere: Dippin’ Dots

Now, I’ve never seen anyone label Rui a tsundere – usually fans just describe him as being quiet and very mysterious. However, I consider Rui a tsundere because like Naoki, he doesn’t interact with people much or get attached to them. He’s also bipolar – sometimes he’s really harsh and acts like he doesn’t even like Tsukushi (let alone love her), yet other times he’s nice to her. Naoki acts this way too, but it’s usually realizing the depth of Kotoko’s feelings for him that makes him act nicer – but Rui’s switches don’t seem to be for any particular reason. Even though Rui has been shown to be a ‘prince charming’ later on in the manga, he’s not perfect at everything like Naoki is. He also seems superior to Tsukushi – probably because she acts really awkward and unlike herself around him. The complexity of his character makes him hard to figure out, especially when his feelings for Shizuka are still in the mix – so perhaps this is why the audience preferred Tsukasa as the main love interest, and Rui lost his leading role.

Yuu Matsuura (Marmalade Boy – 1992)

Level of Tsundere: Marmalade-flavored shaved ice

He’s good at academics, sports and cooking, but he’s not ‘perfect’ at everything like Naoki is. He teases Miki, but in a less cruel way than Naoki and less childishly than Tsukasa – if anything, his teasing is pretty affectionate in comparison. Although he doesn’t get attached to people, he does smile and acts friendly towards others in a distant way (whereas Naoki won’t even bother with people). And like Naoki, he seems to be ‘above’ Miki, who is average, and has many girls who like him. However, unlike Naoki, he doesn’t seem to have any problems with admitting his feelings to Miki. He’s ‘hard to read,’ according to Miki, but slight signs of jealousy reveal his feelings for her to the audience, which makes him less mysterious than Rui. However, he does have other hidden secrets he is tormented over… Perhaps because his character isn’t as extreme as some of the other ones, he doesn’t stand out as much as other ‘cold’ male love interests.

Izumi Sano (Hana-Kimi – 1996)

Level of Tsundere: Tap Water…and just as boring

Another one who is not normally labeled a tsundere, but I will because he warms up over the course of the series, which is a typical tsundere trait. Cold Angtsy Guy #3571, there’s nothing very different about Sano in comparison to other tsunderes. He’s generically athletic, smart and popular with girls even though he goes to an all-boys school. Even though he’s had family problems, he explains that the reason he initially treats Mizuki coldly is because he apparently doesn’t know how to talk to girls (which is makes no sense considering how easily he was able to talk to his former manager who is female).  At first, he bottles up his anxieties  about the pressure he faces to high jump. However, he openly laughs and smilies, so he’s not as closed-off as Akito. Sano’s friends point out that he’s like a ‘mother-cat’ with Mizuki, and that he’s changed since meeting her. Thus, even though Sano’s friends say he’s closed-off, like Yuu, Sano’s not anywhere near as cold as Naoki. There have been times it was more difficult to tell what Sano is thinking than Naoki – not because Sano’s more mysterious, but because I simply didn’t find him interesting enough to care.

Akito Hayama (Kodocha – 1994)

Level of Tsundere: a Junior Frosty that’s been out in the sun

I consider Akito to have a unique blend of traits from both cold and more volatile tsunderes. Even though he’s only 11, he’s quiet and a ‘lone wolf’ who does his own thing. While he’s smart and athletic, unlike Naoki, he’s not perfect at everything.  He’s cynical and never smiles, yet he also won’t lie, even to people he dislikes. However, he does have a fiesty side – he has a temper that causes him to kick things (though he’s not as violent as Tsukasa). However, unlike other tsundere love interests, he and Sana feel like equals. Even though he’s popular, she’s one of the few people who understands him and they both can only be themselves around each other. Sana herself is spunky and one of the few people willing to stand up to Akito when he causes trouble in their classroom. Unlike Naoki, Akito does at least accept his love for Sana, and tries to express his emotions the only way he can by saying he ‘doesn’t hate’ Sana. Furthermore, he has a few close friends, and is looked up to by the other guys in his class, so he’s not a complete loner.  We can see how his tragic background shaped him into the person he is, who can only see things negatively, and rather than thinking he’s a jerk, we really feel sorry for him.

Tasuku Kurosaki (Dengeki Daisy – 2007)

 Level of Tsundere: Medium salsa (since he doesn’t like tomatoes)

Kurosaki slides more on the hotblooded side of the tsundere scale. He is a reformed deliquent-turned janitor who loves to tease Teru by pulling her hair or calling her a ‘puny A-cup.’ Like most other male tsunderes he is resistant to admit his love for Teru. However, this is because Kurosaki feels guilty about his past, and thus his teasing isn’t meant to be cruel like Naoki – instead, he is doing it because he feels like he doesn’t deserve Teru and doesn’t want her to know of his feelings. He’s quick to anger and violent with anyone who threatens Teru , but he rarely blows up at Teru beyond teasing her. Like Kyo, he’s actually shy around the girl he loves but tries to hide it – he blushes when Teru compliments him or shows him any affection. One thing I love is that Kyousuke Motomi, the author of Dengeki Daisy, makes fun of Kurosaki’s tsundere ways in a very tongue-in-cheek manner.

Kyo Sohma (Fruits Basket – 1999)

Level of Tsundere: Kimchi
He’s prone to violent outbursts, just like Tsukasa – however, he doesn’t pick fights with strangers like Tsukasa does and instead has a grudge solely against one person, his rival Yuki. The curse of the Zodiac has made Kyo uncomfortable in social situations, and since he feels unaccepted by his own family, he doesn’t get close to others. Unlike most love interests who are popular, Kyo is often teased (especially by Tohru’s friends). His tendency to yell and lash out at people comes from his shyness and inability to express himself. This is also true when it comes to Tohru, who he worries about in his in own way (which often involves yelling at her whenever she’s careless). Although he’s hot-blooded, Kyo shares similarities with colder tsunderes – for example, he rarely smiles. And like other fiesty tsunderes, he’s often awkward and at a loss for words during tender moments, which brings out his dere-dere side.

Tsukasa Domyoji (Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango – 1992)
Level of Tsundere: The sun seems like frozen yogurt in comparison…

He’s pompous like Naoki, but he doesn’t actually have the skills to back it up considering he’s not that bright. Instead of being cold and disinterested, he ‘s loud, violent, and teases Tsukushi like a child. Unlike other male tsunderes, who rarely let their motivations show, Tsukasa’s childish goofiness makes him transparent, thus hurting his ‘cool’ factor. But it’s because of his childishness that he and Tsukushi feel like equals despite the fact that he’s rich and powerful – and that they’re both quick to anger, and stubborn. Unlike most other male tsunderes in shojo manga, Tsukasa has no problem telling Tsukushi he loves her once he figures out his feelings for her, and is willing to give up everything to be with her. So rather than being mysterious, Tsukasa is obvious and overt, which makes him both hard to handle and hard to resist.  All of the contradictions in Tsukasa’s character – that he’s violent yet gentle, arrogant yet selfless – ultimately make him not only unique, but very lovable.

There are many other male tsundere characters, from Shaoran in Cardcaptor Sakura to Hikaru in Ouran High School Host ClubThis page provides a good list of other examples.  I feel that in many cases, the more tsundere the love interest is, the more interesting the romance is because there tends to be a lot of push-pull between the male and main female protagonist. I seem to like tsunderes who are extreme, like Tsukasa, or ones whose reasons for being jerks are interesting and cast them in a sympathetic light, like Kurosaki and Akito. Do you guys like male tsundere love interests or not? And who are your favorites?

Here comes the rain again…

Here comes the rain again…

I’ve noticed that many shojo series, many important events occur in the rain. Whether the main couple gets some alone time and finally reveal their feelings, or they have their first steamy kiss, chances are the rain will be pouring – with no umbrella in sight. While the presence of rain in a scene is a sure way to add drama, in real life you may want to pour emotions somewhere inside in order to avoid catching a cold. And since rain scenes tend to be major events, many of the moments discussed below are spoilers, so please keep this in mind before reading. Here are some of the most iconic scenes that take place in (or because of) the rain:

Itazura na Kiss: This may be one of the most famous rain scenes in manga, and is so loved by fans of the series that it is simply known as ‘the rain scene.’ After Naoki decides to go through with an arranged marriage to save his father’s struggling business, Kotoko becomes depressed and starts dating Kinnosuke, who has always had a crush on her, in order to forget him. When Naoki finds out that Kinnosuke proposed to her, he decides to wait for her on her way home out in the rain. When he asks if she’s in love with Kinnosuke, Naoki gets so angry that he yells at her and tells her that he’s the only one she loves. She says he’s right but it’s useless because he doesn’t love her – then he kisses her and tells her not to ever say she loves another man. They hug, then rush home in the rain so he can ask her father for her hand in marriage. But as much as I love this scene, I have to say I think I like Naoki’s proposal immediately afterwards a little bit better, because it’s one of his few sweet moments.

Tsukasa standing in the rain after Tsukushi breaks up with him *sniffle*

Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango): Along with Itazura na Kiss’, this is probably one of the most loved rain scenes in shojo manga, as well as one of the saddest. In volume 21, after Tsukasa’s mother Kaede threatens to have Tsukushi’s best friends fathers fired, Tsukushi waits for hours in the rain to break up with him. When she tells him about his mother’s machinations, Tsukushi stops Tsukasa from confronting his mother by telling him that her leaving is her decision. He then asks if she has ever looked beyond his mother and his rich upbringing and instead looked at him as just a man. Although she thinks to herself that she’s seen the real him many times and images of Tsukasa flash through her mind, she tells him that if she loved him she wouldn’t be leaving him. Only after walking away from him can we see the tears pouring down her face, and she finally admits to herself that “there were many times…many, many times…she thought she loved Tsukasa.” She admits that she could only break things off with him in the rain at nighttime because the surroundings would hide the fact that she lied to him. I love the question Tsukasa asks her because for such a long time in the series, Tsukushi was unable to reconcile her feelings for him with his rich lifestyle yet this scene shows that she loves him despite this. This was the first moment in the series to make me cry, and one of my many favorite scenes between the couple.

Dengeki Daisy: In volume three when Teru returns from a vacation because of a typhoon, Kurosaki invites her to his house to make curry for him. However, he doesn’t have rice and goes out in the typhoon to get some. Because Kurosaki left his window open, the typhoon makes a mess of Kurosaki’s room and knocks over a music box Teru had given to Daisy, a hacker who has been protecting her from the shadows. The music box, which plays the song “Time After Time” lures Teru into Kurosaki’s room for the first time, and makes her realize that Kurosaki is Daisy.  When Kurosaki returns home drenched, a strike of lightning causes a power shortage, and leads to a tender moment where they hug and Teru cries in his arms because deep in her heart, she knew he was Daisy all along. I really like this scene not only because I’m fond of this couple, but also because I was glad that the revelation that Kurosaki was Daisy wasn’t dragged out for too long. I am especially fond of the fact that Teru wanted him to be Daisy because she already loved him.

His and Her Circumstances (Kare Kano): There are a few times rain leads to important developments in the main couple’s relationship in this series, but the most important is probably when Arima and Yukino have their first kiss. Although they had been dating for awhile, Arima and Yukino hadn’t managed to kiss each other yet and were still pretty insecure about their relationship. When it starts raining after school one day, they decide to hide out from the rain in the school building, which eventually leads to a conversation where Yukino tells Arima she’s glad she can depend on her. This causes him to try to kiss her, but the loud crash of thunder stops him before he can. However, after cooling off a bit they continue their conversation, and Yukino mentions that she wants to be the person Arima can depend the most on as well. This time they finally kiss, and this sweet moment is all thanks to the rain.

So what do you guys think? Do you have a favorite rain scene I haven’t mentioned, or do you find rain scenes to be cliché?

How to get your guy, shojo-style

How to get your guy, shojo-style

Many shojo anime and manga feature heartrending love stories, some of which are painfully realistic and others that put any Fabio-clad romance novel to shame. I have compiled a list of great romantic advice from some of the most popular shojo series, which will help you capture the heart of the man of your dreams. With a lot of determination and a little luck, these tips should help you get any man you desire!

  • Blackmail him: Shojo heroines often have to contend with guys who are way too cold and smart for their own good, so if the girl wants to bring him down and make him realize she’s his perfect match, she’s gonna have to fight dirty. Just look at Sana’s experience in Kodocha – when bad boy Akito started causing trouble in their sixth grade classroom, Sana decided to take his ‘monkey reign’ down by threatening him with a picture of him with his pants down. It didn’t take very long for Akito to fall for her (though that whole putting his family back together thing may have helped). Kotoko in Itazura na Kiss also used this tactic in volume two, when her heartless crush Naoki made fun of her stupidity at their class’ graduation party, and she got revenge by showing off baby pictures of him dressed up as a girl. Oh sure, Naoki yelled at her for doing it, but his next reaction was to kiss her, so not only will blackmail get you your desired results – you’ll get them fast!  And for any guys looking to shojo manga for advice to help improve your love life, blackmail works just as well when guys use it on their girls, such as in His and Her Circumstances when Arima got Yukino to do all of his schoolwork when he found out that her ‘perfect student’ image was an act, while in the first volume of Hot Gimmick, Ryoki manipulates Hatsumi into becoming his slave when he sees her buying a pregnancy test for her younger sister.
  • Stalk him:Don’t believe people when they say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ – in a battle as complex as love, you have to be at the front line at all times. At the beginning of Peach Girl, Momo mentions that she chose which high school to attend because of her crush – talent and career goals be damned. But the most extreme example has to be Mizuki from Hana-Kimi: she moved all the way to Japan, pretended to be a boy and enrolled in an all-boys school just to be near Sano, the high-jumper she’d admired for so long. Sano falls for her cheerful stubborness, but I have a feeling the fact that Mizuki was around him 24/7 didn’t hurt, either. It’s even better if you manage to move in with him like Miki does in Marmalade Boy (although that was her parents fault). It won’t take him too long to decide he loves you, even if he does see you without your make-up on – because having a live-in girlfriend saves time. 
  • Sponge off of him: If you do manage to get into the same school as the object of your affections, chances are the tuition will be so high Donald Trump would weep. Take advantage of the perks of not being in the Top 1 percent by having your guy spoil you! Your guy will be so fascinated by your strange ways (like making bento lunches and taking out the garbage) that every chance he gets he’ll shower you with lavish gifts and vacations, like Tamaki does for Haruhi in Ouran High School Host Club. Of course, you can’t expect or ask him to be your sugar-daddy – when he gives you that necklace that’s worth more than the entire McDonalds franchise, promptly scold him for spending so much money on you. Because then he’ll know you’re not with him for the money, which will make him love you more and he’ll buy you even more stuff. But if you’re as brazen as Ran from Super Gals!, you won’t need to hide your intentions to mooch off your man: Ran has every guy in Shibuya lining up to buy her everything from takoyaki to limited edition watches so they can be her guy, but it’ll take more than that to win her heart. Take notes ladies, take notes.
  • Beat the crap out of him: Guys in shojo manga tend to have girls fawning over them all of the time, so the best way to stand out is to make it clear that you aren’t interested in him at all with a nice slap and he’ll be head-over-heels in no time. The best example of this occurs in Boys Over Flowers, when Tsukushi stands up to rich bully Tsukasa by giving him a hard kick to the face, and it doesn’t take long for him to fall for her. Similarly, in the first volume of B.O.D.Y, when Ryoko finds out Ryunosuke works at a host club and he comes onto her, she gives him a swift punch to the face. This intrigues him so much he decides that he wants to win her heart. Once your guy sees how spunky you are he’ll do anything to make you his – whether you want him or not!
  • Cheating works.

    Cheat on him: What better way to get your man’s attention than to show him he’s got competition? Shojo gals tend to have a spare guy or two interested in them, so they may as well put them to good use! Kotoko does this twice in Itazura na Kiss – she goes on several dates with nice-guy Taketo in places where Naoki can see her in order to make him jealous, and later on in the series when Kotoko believes she’s lost Naoki for good, she decides to accept her hopeless suitor Kin-chan’s marriage proposal, prompting Naoki to confess his feelings for her. Another example occurs in High School Debut volume five – when Haruna tries to hook up her friends Mami and Asaoka, her boyfriend Yoh gets annoyed when Haruna constantly compliments Asaoka, and the two end up in a fight. In order to get Yoh to apologize, Asaoka decides to take Haruna out on a date in the hopes that Yoh will follow them and admit his jealousy (Haruna gets kind of swept up into his plan). After going to dinner and a movie, Asaoka decides to up the ante by telling Haruna she should cheat on Yoh with him and tries to kiss her. This finally lures Yoh out and the two make up, and Haruna begins to realize how much Yoh cares about her. This tactic works so well that not only do you and your guy not need to be an official couple – you don’t even have to cheat on purpose! For example, when Fuji forces a kiss on Ann in Sand Chronicles, her boyfriend Daigo blames himself and the two grow closer. So anytime you find yourself doubting your guy’s love, a little tryst on the side should work wonders.

So there you have it! With these tips in hand, you’ll be able to get the man of your dreams in no time! And if you’re lucky, he’ll be a seemingly mean pretty boy who is sweet only around you and happens to heir to a multibillion dollar company – just like every shojo leading man out there!

*Results not guaranteed. Actually, some of these could land you in jail. Please proceed with caution if you choose to attempt any of these. You have been warned.