The golden shojo rule

The golden shojo rule

Peach Girl: Kairi steals Momo’s first kiss.

For most fans of shojo manga, it becomes obvious that there is a golden rule:  the guy the main female character has her first kiss with is the person she’ll end up with. Whether the girl’s first kiss is accidental, forced, or (in extremely rare circumstances) consensual, eventually the heroine will start to warm up to the person who stole her lips, oftentimes because of the kiss. The fact that the main female character must always end up with the guy who stole her lips’ virginity is interesting because it shows how big of a deal first kisses are for teenage girls – not just in shojo manga, but in real-life Japanese society. Some fans may argue that because so many shojo series pair the first people to kiss each other, it makes it obvious who will end up together, which is particularly bothersome in series that center on a love triangle. Series such as Boys Over Flowers, Marmalade Boy, and Sand Chronicles all abide by the ‘first kiss’ rule.  This rule even holds true in series where the main female character originally has feelings for someone other than the person she shares her first kiss with. For example, in Peach Girl, Momo has had a crush on Toji since junior high and worries what he will think of her when rumors that she has kissed playboy Kairi start to spread. When she confronts Kairi about the rumors, Kairi decides to make the rumor true by stealing her first kiss, which she repays him for by kicking him in the groin. But over the course of the series when outside influences (mainly Momo’s frenemy Sae) tear apart her relationship with Toji, Kairi becomes Momo’s shoulder to cry on, and at the end of the series she chooses him. Yet while I’ve found that the majority of the time the first kiss rule is upheld, this rule, like all others, was meant to be broken.

In the opening scene of Red River, Yuri gets kissed by a boy she has a crush on named Satoshi, but soon after strange things start happening to her whenever she’s around water. While in the bath, Yuri gets pulled into Anatolia during the year 1500 B.C, where she becomes the concubine to Prince Kail Mursili. Yuri tries not to allow herself to fall for Kail because she knows she’s from a different world, but eventually she is able to reconcile her feelings for him, and Satoshi is long forgotten. Another series that seems to subvert the golden shojo rule is Tail of the Moon. Although I haven’t finished Tail of the Moon yet, at the beginning of the series clumsy ninja-in-training Usagi is told by her grandfather that she will marry Hanzo, a handsome ninja from another tribe. This sparks jealousy from Usagi’s childhood friend Goemon, who was told from the time Usagi was born that he would one day marry her, and it doesn’t take long for him to steal a kiss from her. However, it’s very obvious over the course of the series that Usagi’s heart is set on Hanzo, and he begins to be charmed by her cheerfulness, which makes it seem pretty clear that Goemon and Usagi won’t end up together.

Dengeki Daisy: creepy Akira steals Teru’s first kiss. Let’s just hope she doesn’t end up with him.

The first kiss rule is also played with in interesting ways. Early on in Ouran High School Host Club, the host club attend a party where a lucky girl will be named queen of the dance and receive a kiss on the cheek from a member of the host club. After helping a female student named Ayano become closer to her crush, the host club name her queen of the party, and she chooses Haruhi to kiss her. However, Hikaru and Kaoru’s schemes cause Haruhi to slip and she accidentally kisses Ayano on the lips, thus leading to her first kiss being with a girl! Dengeki Daisy has an interesting case – because whether it adheres to the golden shojo rule or not all depends on a person’s definition of a ‘kiss.’ In volume six of the manga, Teru fights off an enemy who is after a cell phone that connects her to the mysterious hacker Daisy. Kurosaki (who is Daisy himself) rescues Teru from drowning and is forced to give her CPR. However, in volume seven Teru comes across the creepy villain Akira, who seems to take pleasure in making Teru uncomfortable. He steals Teru’s first kiss, which makes Kurosaki more upset than Teru herself. When Teru seeks Daisy’s comfort, he is unable to hide his attraction to Teru and tells her that finding out she was kissed by someone else makes him want to go give her a kiss that would make her forget about Akira’s “clumsy attempt at kissing in an instant.”  So while Akira may have officially been Teru’s first kiss, technically Kurosaki did get to have a taste of Teru’s lips before Akira, thus bringing an intriguing twist on the golden rule. Of course, there are other shojo series that are more realistic and focus on older characters such as Nana, and thus they inevitably avoid many shojo clichés including the golden shojo rule. Can you guys think of any other series where the first kiss rule was subverted?

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Cover-to-Cover: Dengeki Daisy

Cover-to-Cover: Dengeki Daisy

      Cover-to-Cover is a column where I’ll choose my favorite cover from a particular series. This time it’s one of my favorite recent series: Dengeki Daisy! Going into this, I knew choosing which cover I like most for Dengeki Daisy was going to be difficult because I love the series’ art. Kurosaki and Teru’s character designs are sharp and attractive, and even the manga’s black and white artwork is effectively cute yet sensual. Most importantly, with the exception of volume eight’s cover, every cover of the nine volumes Viz has released so far has featured the couple on it. This is especially appealing to me because I love covers with the main couple on them. I’ve already expressed my love for this couple before, so this made my decision even tougher. There were a few covers that stood out to me right away, especially volumes seven, three, six, and two. When I first saw the cover of volume seven,  I immediately loved it. I loved that Kurosaki was kissing Teru’s hand, and both of them are drawn really well. However, the reason I didn’t choose this cover was because Teru is crying. Even though I like the cover on it’s own, I prefer to see images of my favorite characters looking happy together.  The cover of volume three is cute because Teru is staring up at Kurosaki, who is holding her chin in his hand. I’m not as in love with the colors of this cover, however, not to mention I’m not crazy about the way Teru’s hair is drawn. Thus, even though I like both of these images they simply can’t hold up to the high standards of some of the series’ other covers.

       So it comes down to volumes two and six. Unlike my other Cover-to-Cover choices, this isn’t a case of which one is better, because both of them really capture the essence of both the characters and the series.  Volume two’s cover has Teru with an adorable expression on her face, and I love that it seems as though she just kind of naturally fell into Kurosaki’s arms. Volume six has Teru embracing Kurosaki from behind as he plays with her hair. Even though all of the covers feature daisies on them (for obvious reasons), the daisies suit this cover particularly well – it almost feels as though Kurosaki and Teru are sitting in a grassy field in a park somewhere. I love that Kurosaki is playing with her hair, and their expressions are just so loving I can’t help but smile. Most importantly, Teru and Kurosaki’s pose is pretty unique as a cover image, and I feel like they look like equals on this cover (which is interesting to note considering the fact that Kurosaki is supposed to be Teru’s protector, not to mention since he’s several years older than her). So as much as I love the cover of volume two, I’m gonna have to pick volume six’s cover image as my favorite cover for Dengeki Daisy. Just don’t tell volume two.

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?

Dengeki Daisy: Teru & Kurosaki

Dengeki Daisy: Teru & Kurosaki

Even if you aren’t Daisy…I’ve already fallen for you.” – Teru Kurebayashi, Dengeki Daisy volume 2.

I don’t really want to tease you. I actually want to hold you in my arms…I tried to run away many times. But I want you.” – Tasuku Kurosaki, Dengeki Daisy volume 6.

One of the manga series I’ve been really enjoying reading recently is Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi. The series is about Teru Kurebayashi, who was left a cellphone by her older brother after he died that connects her to Daisy, a hacker whose identity remains unknown. When Tasuku Kurosaki, a deliquent janitor, shows up at Teru’s school one day he becomes Teru’s protector and is quickly revealed to be Daisy. At the heart of my enjoyment of this series is the relationship between Teru and Kurosaki. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen for a couple as quickly as I have in this series. There are couples I love because of their dynamics (such as the rapport between Akito and Sana in Kodocha, who argue and tease each other but are always there for one another), or I love the couple’s love story more than the couple itself (such as Naoki and Kotoko in Itazura na Kiss). Dengeki Daisy is one of the few series where I feel as though I love the couple for both reasons.

On the surface, Teru and Kurosaki as a couple remind me a little of Tsukushi and Tsukasa from Hana Yori Dango. Both couples bicker a lot – Teru always tells Kurosaki that she hopes he’ll go bald, while Kurosaki often makes remarks about her ‘puny A-cups.’ And at certain points in both series the main girl is hiding her feelings for the guy she loves. However, while  Tsukushi’s refusal to admit her feelings for Tsukasa is a bit frustrating, I actually enjoy watching Teru struggle to hide her feelings for Kurosaki. I think a lot of this is because I love the setup of Teru and Kurosaki’s relationship: Teru knows Kurosaki is Daisy but doesn’t want him to know this, while Kurosaki is trying to resist his feelings for Teru because he is unwilling to forgive himself for a certain incident from the past (which I won’t reveal). Thus, their teasing dynamic is really just a pretense to cover up their hidden affections. But it’s more than just Teru and Kurosaki’s fun rapport or their unique situation that makes me like them as a couple. I really appreciated that Teru’s a bit brighter than the average shojo heroine because she figures out that Kurosaki is Daisy on her own pretty quickly – I expected that revelation to be dragged out a lot more. I also really love the use of inner monologues in the series – not that this is unique, it’s just that it’s great to see Kurosaki’s thought processes, because normally guys in shojo are left shrouded in mystery.

And, much like Tsukushi and Tsukasa, Teru and Kurosaki have great chemistry. I’m a fan of sexual tension in manga as long as it’s not too smutty or the only point of a series (cough cough Black Bird), and Dengeki Daisy hits those notes very well. Because Kurosaki and Teru’s relationship is one where they both have to repress their feelings, the tender scenes between them stand out. Little things like Kurosaki brushing his fingers through Teru’s hair, putting his face close to hers, or kissing her cheek when she’s asleep make it impossible not to root for the couple (and also get Kurosaki labeled a pervert by Riko, a woman who works with him). That’s probably a good thing, because one potentially troublesome aspect of the blooming romance between Teru and Kurosaki is the characters’ age difference. While Teru is 16, for awhile in the series it’s unclear just how old Kurosaki is – but it’s quite obvious that he’s at least a few years older than Teru considering he’s working at her school. I felt it was wise that Kyousuke Motomi held off on revealing Kurosaki’s age for several volumes, because by the time it was specified I had already fallen for Teru and Kurosaki’s vibe as a potential couple. And besides, Kurosaki’s teasing makes him seem more like a teenager anyway. If anything, I think it’s because Motomi knows how to tease her audience that Teru and Kurosaki are such a fun and workable couple, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more.