Queerness in shojo manga: crossdressing

Queerness in shojo manga: crossdressing

When I started thinking about the presence of queer characters in shojo anime and manga, the theme of crossdressing immediately came to mind. Crossdressing, homosexuality, and the desire of males to be ‘feminine’ are themes that are heavily present within shojo manga, and it is interesting to see how these themes connect with one another. Much like my last post on the representation of queerness in shojo manga, this time I will once again be focusing specifically on male characters. While there are plenty of female crossdressers in shojo manga, unlike the male crossdresser there is (usually) no doubt that the female crossdresser is straight. For example, in Princess Knight Sapphire makes it clear that she dislikes being forced to dress up as a male, and wishes she could be more feminine. And in Hana-Kimi, the reason Mizuki pretends to be a male is so she can be closer to a boy she admires, and by the end of the series when her gender has been revealed, she grows her hair out. However, males who crossdress as females in manga almost always not only are in love with other male characters but wish to be female themselves. This isn’t shocking considering the depictions of gay men in most Japanese media. Homosexual men in Japan are usually called okama, which is a troublesome term because it is also often used to describe male crossdressers. Gay males in Japanese media usually are shown to be, if not exceedingly feminine, then they are outright crossdressers. Thus, in many ways homosexuality and crossdressing have been made interchangable in Japanese language and culture.

Fushigi Yugi – Nuriko

Characters who like to crossdress are often depicted as having psychological or emotional problems, and these problems are  sometimes revealed to be the cause of the character’s desire to crossdress. For example, Ritsu Sohma in Fruits Basket suffers from low-self esteem and constantly apologizes for everything he does, which is why he decides use his dressing as a woman as an outlet to escape the pressure to meet people’s expectations. Yet near the end of the manga when Ritsu begins feeling better about himself, he decides to stop dressing as a woman. What this implies, however, is that only people with emotional scars feel the need to crossdress, and that once those scars have been cured so too will the desire to dress as a woman. There is a sense of transience given to the crossdresser – that his habits are only temporary and eventually will stop (as they should). Similarly, in Fushigi Yugi, Nuriko begins dressing as a woman after his younger sister died so he can live on in her place. However, as Nuriko becomes closer to Miaka, he is able to overcome his grief at his sister’s death and eventually decides to cut off his hair and quit the “gay act.” But what’s even more troublesome in Nuriko’s case is the entanglement of gender identity and sexuality. Nuriko’s desire to ‘be a woman’ has nothing to do with his sexual desire, yet the series treats the two as though they are the same thing because it is revealed that he is in love with Hotohori, the king of Konan. This is bothersome because Nuriko’s attraction to males is written as a natural part of his transition into being a woman, rather than it being shown that Nuriko would have been gay regardless of how he dresses. Thus, the stereotype that crossdressers are also gay (and that these two identities are interchangable) is reinforced through Nuriko’s character. 

I’d also like to consider how crossdressing characters in shojo manga categorize and label themselves in terms of gender identity and sexuality. Tamahome and the other Suzaku warriors often tease Nuriko about his crossdressing, and they typically call him an okama. At one point, Nuriko gets annoyed and asks to be called a ‘new-half,’ which is a male-to-female transsexual. There is a certain ambivalence to Nuriko’s character, because while he adopts a female name as the king’s consort (Korin, his late sister’s name), he acknowledges that he is truly male when it comes to his role as a Suzaku celestial warrior. However, in contrast, in Love*Com there is very little sense of ambiguity when it comes to how Seiko sees herself. When Seiko is first introduced, she falls for Otani and immediately gives a big kiss on the lips. Otani is flattered that a girl as adorable and kind as Seiko would like him, yet when she tries to make a move on him in their school’s infirmary Otani discovers Seiko is actually a male (named Seishiro) when she removes her shirt. Otani turns her down (while saying that he still thinks she’s a cool person who is more feminine than Risa, Love*Com‘s female protagonist), and Seiko isn’t phased for long by her rejection. As the series progresses, Seiko becomes ‘one of the girls’ Risa talks to about her love troubles, and it is easy to forget that she is biologically a male. When her male identity does become a problem for Seiko, it’s only because her voice suddenly becomes deeper and doesn’t match her appearance. Seiko decides to stop dressing as a girl, but Risa encourages her not to let her voice change alter who she really is. It doesn’t take long for Seiko to return to crossdressing, especially after she realizes that her voice problems were because of a cold and weren’t permanent. Rather than treating the crossdresser as a ‘temporary’ identity, Love*Com treats Seiko’s female identity as though it’s simply natural, and instead of discouraging her transgenderism, Seiko’s friends support her. It is because Seiko is so comfortable with her gender that I can’t help but see her as she sees herself: as a fun-loving, sweet girl – and that’s why I always refer to Seiko as a girl. I can appreciate the range in how Nuriko and Seiko view their genders respectively, however, because this helps emphasize that gender isn’t fixed and shows that there are multiple identities that are possible beyond just the male/female dichotemy.

But not all shojo anime and manga treat crossdressing and homosexuality as though they are the same thing. In Ouran High School Host Club, Haruhi’s father Ranka works at a bar full of employees who are transvestites. Even though he’s getting paid to dress as a woman, Ranka makes it clear that he enjoys dressing as a woman and did so even before he married Haruhi’s mother. Ranka also affirms that he isn’t gay and that the only person he ever really loved was Haruhi’s mother, who accepted the fact that he liked to dress as a woman. Thus, Ouran High School Host Club shows that there is a difference between how one dresses and his or her sexuality. However, Ranka still shares much in common with other, more stereotypical male crossdressing characters. Ranka is a fun character who is loved by many fans of the series, because he’s quirky and not-so-nice to Tamaki. Seiko is sweet and positive, while Nuriko is fiesty and often sarcastic (not to mention, he’s my favorite character in Fushigi Yugi). Male crossdressers may be stereotyped, but they are usually engaging and funny characters, and we can’t help but laugh with them.

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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?

Watched the anime, didn’t read the manga

Watched the anime, didn’t read the manga

The Kare Kano manga - which I still haven't read.

When it comes to anime and manga, I generally will only watch the anime or read the manga of a series instead of pursuing both. I do this because I get turned off of buying a manga when I already know what happens in a significant portion of the series because I’ve already watched the anime adaptation. There have been some series (such as Boys Over Flowers and Kodocha) that I loved so much that I broke this rule, but I’d say that this holds true for most of my manga collection. However, there are some series I feel like I’ll always wonder if I should have pursued their manga. This is especially true for shojo series because anime adaptations of shojo manga tend to run shorter than shonen series and thus animate only part of the story, which means if you’ve only watched the anime you’re probably missing a bunch of important stuff.  His and Her Circumstances (a.k.a Kare Kano) is the main series that comes to mind – I really liked the anime, and I’ve always been curious about what happens next in the series. In particular, I wanted to learn more about Arima’s ‘dark side,’ which had only just begun to be touched upon in the anime, and I also wanted to see more of Tsubasa and Kazuma’s developing relationship. As soon as I started to seriously consider picking up the manga where the anime left off, I began to hear that the ending of His and Her Circumstances left almost everyone dissatisfied. Spoilers already turn me off from pursuing series, but finding out that even people who loved the series thought it was horrible by the end made me decide not to read the manga. Yet I still feel as though I’m missing out on something, and that maybe I should give it a chance – because it’s not the destination that counts, but rather, the journey.

Another anime I watched that made me wonder if I should read its manga is Fruits Basket. I’ve already made it clear that I find Fruits Basket to be overrated and that I have problems with Tohru. Even though there are parts of the series I do enjoy, such as some of the more tragic storylines involving Hatori and Momiji, I still wasn’t engrossed enough by the series to continue it.  But it’s precisely because I’m so critical of the series that I feel I should read the rest of it. Many fans of the series defend it by arguing that the manga is much better than the anime adaptation, which, like His and Her Circumstances, only told part of the story. Maybe I’m missing something by not reading the series later developments. Maybe the second half is amazingly original and captivating. Maybe there’s some extraordinary quality in the manga that was lost in the anime. Or maybe I should just read the whole thing to confirm to myself that it’s overrated and I was right.

My reluctance to pursue more than one incarnation of a series has even happened when I start off with the manga first. The main series that comes to mind is Nana – I read the first seven volumes of the series in Shojo Beat then collected up to volume twenty-one of the manga as graphic novels. However, I’ve always heard great things about the Nana anime, particularly its music. While this would not normally be very important to me, the fact that Nana‘s plot heavily revolves around music has always made me curious about checking out the anime to find out if the music and voices sound like I imagined them when I read the manga.  But the fact that the anime only goes up to volume eleven of the manga makes me wonder if watching the anime is worth it, especially since it covers material I’ve already read. So do you guys both watch the anime and read the manga of your favorite series, or do you choose between them? Or does it really come down to the series?

Good girls don’t have to be boring: Sawako & Tohru

Good girls don’t have to be boring: Sawako & Tohru

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of Fruits Basket. Even though the series has its touching moments, Fruits Basket often gets praised for being the best at comedy and romance when I feel that there are other shojo series do these things better. My biggest problem with the series, however, is Tohru. I found Tohru Honda to have absolutely no personality – she never stands up for herself, has no distinct likes or dislikes, and I found her constant positivity to be annoying. Soaringwings did an excellent post discussing the flaws of Tohru’s character and why she is ultimately a passive heroine compared to other female shojo protagonists. Although there are many passive shojo heroines, the main character I’ve often seen Tohru compared to is Sawako Kuronoma from Kimi ni Todoke. When I started reading Kimi ni Todoke, I immediately found myself gravitating toward Sawako, the ‘loner’ protagonist who, despite her extreme kindness, has trouble communicating her feelings to others. I began to wonder: how is it that I had such different reactions to these two characters when they share so many of the same personality traits? After giving the question some thought, I began to realizes that many of their shared attributes only skim the surface of these characters. 

Sawako

Tohru and Sawako’s similarities begin with their willingness to bend over backward for the people around them. For example, in Fruits Basket Tohru spends all of her money to buy chocolates for the Sohma family even though she needed it for school. And in Kimi ni Todoke, Sawako does everything from doing all the classroom chores to tutoring her entire class for a test without expecting anything in return. Tohru and Sawako are extremely optimistic, and they each try to see the good in others. Because of their kindness and hyperconsciousness of others, this also means that they have trouble saying what they want and they often feel as though they’re being selfish or inconveniencing the people around them by stating their opinions or desires. Both girls are also purehearted, which is probably why they are so naïve, especially when it comes to romantic matters. However, I feel that Sawako possesses several characteristics that make her very likeable. First of all, Sawako has never really had friends, and seeing her try so hard just to say ‘good morning’ to her classmates (not to mention how elated she gets when they respond) makes it hard not to root for her. Her shyness, combined with her desire to have friends, makes her extremely relatable and also makes it easier to overlook the fact that it’d be hard to find someone as kind and positive as she is in real life. Sawako also has more to her than just her kindness – part of the reason she has always been a loner her whole life is because people are scared of her: her jet black hair and sometimes creepy smile reminds people of a horror movie character named ‘Sadako.’ Rather than resent her nickname, Sawako feels bad that she doesn’t have any supernatural powers and tries to impress people by telling ghost stories. I found this to be an interesting quirk to Sawako’s character, and I loved seeing her accidentally make creepy faces whenever she tries to be cheerful.

Tohru

But while Sawako is relatable and quirky, Tohru has no real defining characteristics other than her kindness. She’s not especially smart or athletic, and the only thing she seems to be good at is cooking (of course). While a lot of Sawako’s inability to speak up for herself comes from shyness, there’s no real reason to explain why Tohru is as passive as she is. Ultimately, I think the main reason why Tohru is a far more bothersome character to me than Sawako is because there are far more interesting characters than Tohru in Fruits Basket. Tohru’s character serves the sole purpose of healing the Sohma family, and the character development of each Sohma member is more important than Tohru’s own. Yet while Tohru learning to stand up for herself isn’t the main focus of the story, Sawako’s character development is the main attraction of Kimi ni Todoke. By focusing on Sawako over Kazehaya or their romance, she is empowered and feels more like fully dimensional character. It’s fun to see Sawako learn to love herself, and once she falls for Kazehaya she realizes that sometimes it’s okay to ‘be selfish’ and say how you feel. So while both of these characters are supposed to be the ‘average girl next door’ so that any female fan can relate to them, Kimi ni Todoke shows that ‘average’ doesn’t have to mean ‘boring.’

The order of things

The order of things

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the timing of viewing an anime or reading a manga can influence your opinion of a series. For many anime fans, you might rate a series very differently if you watched or read it early in your fandom comparised to after you’ve been into anime and manga for a while. It’s often easier to enjoy a series more if you’ve seen or read it early in your fandom because everything is still new, and you’re less familiar with what’s cliché. For example, I saw D.N.Angel about three years into my anime fandom and enjoyed it’s romantic entanglements (the hot guys didn’t hurt either). But when I rewatched the series last year, I found I didn’t care about any of the characters and felt it was really uneven, especially it’s ending. However, my feelings about the show were still stronger than if I had only gotten into it recently because of my initial viewing of it seven years ago.  Or, you might appreciate a certain type of show (more niche, introspective, etc.) later in your fandom than if you’d seen it before because your tastes have matured.

There also may be outside influences that impact your opinion of a series. For example, if you watch an anime or read a manga that has a plot or themes resembling a monumental event in your life, the series is likely to make a big impression. Maybe you saw a show when you were going through a difficult time and the series helped you cope or cheered you up, or it may strike a nerve because of its vivid portrayal of the human condition. This happened to me when I watched the first Kimagure Orange Road film “I Want to Return to That Day,” in which two characters break off a long-standing relationship that was doomed to fail. I’m already sensitive to watching characters go through emotional trauma , but because something similar had happened to me just two weeks earlier, my impression of the film always takes me back to those raw emotions.

Kimagure Orange Road: "I Want to Return to that Day"

There’s also series you may enjoy but could have been your all-time favorite if you’d seen it earlier. For example, my favorite anime are Kodocha and Boys Over Flowers, but I wonder if my opinion would be different if I had watched certain series before these two. For example, I found Marmalade Boy and Fushigi Yugi to be wonderfully addictive series that I really enjoy and consider to be personal favorites. But I gripe on their flaws a lot, mostly because I watched them after being an anime fan for several years. However, maybe if I had seen them when I was less critical, I would love these shows even more and would have gotten just as obsessed with them as I did with Kodocha and Boys Over Flowers. Another example is Fruits Basket – although I like the show, I think watching it after hearing so much fuss about it made me very cynical towards the series. I came into it with very high expectations – I had always heard that it was funny, moving, and has extremely relatable characters – but I just felt as though it didn’t measure up. Part of my resentment towards the series was that I felt that Kodocha was much stronger in portraying the elements Fruits Basket was praised for yet wasn’t as popular. But if I had seen Fruits Basket before hearing so much acclaim for it (and certainly before seeing Kodocha), maybe I would have liked the show more.

Leave it to the fangirls…

Leave it to the fangirls…

The fanatical Prince Yuki fan club from Fruits Basket

I consider myself to be pretty tolerant of shojo clichés. The accidental first kiss, love-letter disasters, tender moments at the school’s infirmary – these things don’t bother me so much, and some still manage to make me squee if they’re done right. But there is one cliché I cannot stand: the fan club. So many shojo manga feature a group of girls who are so gaga over the hottest, most popular guy in school that they decide to start a fan club dedicated to him. Now, while other anime have crazy clubs (Haruhi Suzumiya has a club devoted to finding aliens; Ouran High School Host Club has…well, a host club), I’m pretty sure in real life, most Japanese schools wouldn’t allow such a ridiculous organization to their roster. The very first time I noticed a fan club in an anime or manga was the ‘Prince Yuki’ fan club in Fruits Basket, and well…let’s just say I skipped those scenes. Realistically, there’s rarely such a thing as a ‘most popular guy in school,’ but if you touch him, you’re dead. Often, the main female character gets bullied for any interaction she has with the walking god that is her love interest. Aside from how stupid this cliché is, what bothers me most about it is that in real life, most girls would be trying to date the most popular guy instead of worshipping him from afar.

There are some manga that use the fan club cliché in unique ways. For example, in The Devil Does Exist, Kayano’s rival Rika secretly pays Takeru’s groupies to bully her so Takeru will come to her rescue. This also serves as a catalyst for examining Rika’s self-esteem issues, although I’m still not crazy about the presence of a fan club in the story. Probably my favorite use of the fan club cliché was in Love*Com because it was so tongue-in-cheek about it. When Risa joined the fan club for her teacher called ‘The Mighty Girls’ in volume six, she and a group of other girls go to the extreme of chanting a “Hymn to the Lord Mighty the Great” whenever he’s around. I actually found the use of the fan club to be pretty funny because as soon as she joined it, Risa seemed brainwashed and became increasingly zombie-like, causing her best friends to beg her to quit. Not only that, but it was also refreshing to see the fan club devoted to someone who wasn’t a love interest  for the main character (although Otani does become jealous at the shift in Risa’s attentions). But overall, I think manga-ka should leave the pretty-boy worshipping to real life fangirls. After all, there’s plenty of them.