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?

Advertisements
Kodocha: Why I love Sana and Akito

Kodocha: Why I love Sana and Akito

(There are some spoilers in this post, so please be cautious when reading). Sana and Akito were probably the first couple from an anime or manga I got really obsessed with. The fact that they are, alongside Tsukushi and Tsukasa in Boys Over Flowers, my favorite couple is probably why Kodocha is one of my all-time favorite series. Almost everyone I know who has seen or read Kodocha loves Sana and Akito, but I feel that many people love them for different reasons. Many people get caught up in the fact that they are children, and thus appeal to people because any romantic interaction between them is sweet and innocent not unlike Sakura and Shaoran in Cardcaptor Sakura. But the fact that Akito and Sana are eleven when they first start falling for each other isn’t why I love them so much, and I actually feel that by sweeping their relationship under the ‘child romance’ category doesn’t do them justice. This is especially because Sana and Akito are unlike so many children presented in anime and manga; they are far more complex than just being shy and innocent. While Sana can be a little naïve about love, she is very aware of other people’s feelings and often says things that are beyond her age. And Akito, due to his troubled family history, is very savvy about the world around him and his sullen nature makes him seem more mature than other boys his age.

In the beginning of the series, Akito and Sana start off as enemies because Akito is causing trouble in their classroom and eventually Sana gets so sick of his ‘monkey reign’ that she stands up to him. But when Sana finds out that Akito’s mom died giving birth to him, his sister blames him for their mother’s death, and his father is never at home because he’s working, she decides to help bring Akito’s family closer together. When she succeeds, Akito falls for Sana, and instead of telling her he gives her a kiss in front of their whole class when they’re on a school trip. Sana gets pissed, but when Akito helps her out later on in the series she begins to see him as her “worst enemy and best friend, all rolled into one,” which I absloutely love. One of the things I love about Sana and Akito is that not only are they a great couple – they’re also great friends who are always there for one another. Even better is that they are the only ones who understand each other. Because of his family life, Akito believes he can only see things negatively, and in the beginning of the series the only way he can tell Sana he loves her is by saying he “doesn’t hate” her. But Sana is the one who gets Akito to open up a bit more and stop being gloomy, and she could see that under his ‘Mr. Cool’ act he was lonely. Akito becomes more motivated because of her and eventually pursues his interest in karate because he wants to do something with his life just like Sana is with her acting. And Akito is the only person who sees the real Sana, which allows her to lower her guard around him. At one point in the series, Naozumi wonders when he sees Sana crying what could have happened to her because she’s the strongest person he knows, and Rei similarly ponders how Sana could be so weak when it comes to matters of the heart when she’s normally so fearless. But Sana feels that she’s not really as strong as everyone thinks she is. Probably the best example of this occurs when Sana was worried about her mother’s book being published, which revealed that she was actually adopted, and she kept her worries hidden from everyone by pretending to be her typical hyperactive and cheerful self. Akito, however, was able to tell that something was wrong, and he becomes the person she can confide in. And in many ways, Sana is at her strongest when she’s with Akito – he brings out both her kind, loving side as well as her determined fiestiness. Thus, they both bring out the best in each other. Read more

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.

Love is complicated…(love triangles in anime and manga)

Love is complicated…(love triangles in anime and manga)

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write about some of the best and most unique love triangles in anime and manga. There are many many love polygons to be found throughout anime and manga, even in series that don’t specifically focus on romance. And while this may be a shojo blog, some of my personal favorite love triangles are from shonen and seinen series, so this list won’t be limited to just shojo examples. I hope you guys enjoy! 

♥Kyosuke-Madoka-Hikaru (Kimagure Orange Road)♥

Why it stands out: They’re all best friends.

In my opinion, Kimagure Orange Road is the quintessential shonen-romantic comedy series and features one of the best love triangles in anime and manga. At first glance, this triangle may seem straightforward: Kyosuke is a newcomer to town and is torn between a sweet, clingy girl named Hikaru and the ‘bad girl’ Madoka whom he falls in love with at first sight. However, this series raises the stakes because not only are Hikaru and Madoka best friends, but as the series progresses the trio become close friends, making Kyosuke’s inevitable rejection of Hikaru in the series’ first film all the more painful.

♥Kyoko-Godai-Mitaka (Maison Ikkoku)♥

Why it stands out: They’re all sympathetic.

One of the best romantic-comedies there is, this classic 80s seinen series features a love triangle between Kyoko, a widow who becomes the mangager of a run-down boarding house, Godai, a poor college student who is Kyoko’s tenant, and Mitaka, a coach at Kyoko’s tennis school. This is one of the few love triangles I’ve encountered where I liked and sympathized with everyone involved: it’s easy to understand why Kyoko is so reluctant to pursue either of her suitors as she struggles to overcome her husband’s death, and I love that both Godai and Mitaka are very respectful of Kyoko’s feelings. You can’t help but root for Godai to win Kyoko’s heart not only because he is the complete underdog, but because he matures into such a sweet and caring guy. And while in most series the charming rich love interest usually comes across as a jerk,  when Kyoko finally rejects Mitaka after he has waited for her to reciprocate his feelings for almost four years, I couldn’t help but cry.

♥Tsukushi-Tsukasa-Rui (Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango)♥

Why it stands out: It’s unpredictable.

Even though I had been spoiled about who Tsukushi would choose before I got into the series, I still consider Boys Over Flowers’ main love triangle one of the least predictable love triangles in anime and manga. Soon after standing up to the rich clique of bullies at her school called the F4, Tsukushi develops feelings for Rui Hanazawa, the quietest member of the group. However, when the F4’s leader, Tsukasa Domyoji, begins to fall for Tsukushi, she finds herself torn between them. There is a lot of tension in this love triangle, particularly after Tsukasa confesses his feelings to Tsukushi in volume six and Tsukushi ends up feeling as though she betrayed Tsukasa by choosing Rui, and it was at this point in the series that I began to believe that I had been misinformed of who the main couple of the series was. However, Rui ends up rejecting her because he still has feelings for his first love, and over the course of the series Tsukushi finds herself slowly falling for Tsukasa, which made me elated. I think the main reason this love triangle feels so unpredictable is because the author originally intended for Tsukushi to end up with Rui but ended up changing the storyline when Tsukasa became more popular with the fans, allowing the shift in Tsukushi’s feelings to feel very genuine.

♥Akito-Sana-Fuka (Kodocha)♥

Why it stands out: They’re 12.

This was probably the first love triangle I ever became really invested in, which makes sense considering the fact that Kodocha is my favorite series. I love that Akito, who had been in love with Sana from early on in the series, starts dating Fuka when he believes Sana is interested in someone else, which serves as the catalyst for Sana to realize her feelings for him. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Sana and Fuka are best friends, causing Sana to hide her feelings for Akito from both of them because she doesn’t want to hurt Fuka. None of them know how to handle the situation well because they are only twelve years-old. It doesn’t take long for Fuka to realize she’s the third wheel in this triangle, and I love the scene when Sana and Fuka finally confront one another. When Fuka admits that she doesn’t feel like Akito’s real girlfriend and Sana says she’ll take him from her, all I could think was ‘aww snap!,’ making this one of my favorite moments in anime love rivalry.

♥Sousuke-Kaname-Tessa (Full Metal Panic!)♥

Why it stands out: Sousuke only vaguely seems to realize he’s in a love triangle.

This is one of the few triangles where I enjoy the romantic moments of both possible pairings because while I prefer Kaname and Sousuke as a couple, I can’t help but like Tessa. While it’s fairly obvious that Sousuke is developing feelings for Kaname, the hot-tempered high school girl he’s supposed to be guarding, Sousuke is completely dense when it comes to love. This is especially true when it comes to his commanding officer Teletha ‘Tessa’ Testarossa, who is anything but shy about showing her feelings for him, which completely confuses (and possibly scares) the moody military officer. So while Sousuke may be completely oblivious to Tessa and Kaname’s feelings for him, the entanglements of this triangle are very fun to watch.

♥Momo-Kairi-Toji (Peach Girl)♥

Why it stands out: She dates both of them.

In most shojo love triangles, when the main female character decides between her two leading love interests, she’ll generally stick with her choice and the losing guy will often find love with someone else. However, in Peach Girl, despite the fact that Momo starts going out with Toji, the guy she had a crush on prior to the beginning of the series, she not only later dates playboy Kairi Okayasu after Sae’s manipulations tear her and Toji apart, but she even ends up with Kairi. While there are a few other love triangles where the female dates both guys (such as in Sand Chronicles),  it’s usually made obvious that she is only going out with the second guy as a rebound and is still in love with her first love interest. But in Peach Girl, despite the fact that Momo still has feelings for Toji when she starts dating Kairi, Kairi’s charms win Momo over and she eventually chooses him.

♥Hagu-Morita-Takemoto (Honey and Clover)♥

Why it stands out: (spoiler) She doesn’t end up with either of them.

While I’ve never personally cared for this love triangle because I never understood why either Morita or Takemoto was in love with the moody and introverted Hagu, it still stands out to me as a unique love triangle because she doesn’t choose either guy in the end. Even though Hagu is in love with Morita, Hagu decides to spend her time focusing on her artwork after her hand gets injured, and asks Shu (Professor Hanamoto) to stay by her side and help her. So even though I may not have been as invested in this love triangle, I respect Honey and Clover for not tying up all of the romantic loose ends like most series would, as well as for being one of the most poignant examples of unrequited love in anime and manga.

So what I’ve noticed is that I especially like love triangles where the people involved are friends. In these triangles, there is a lot more at stake, which is why they are so dramatic and interesting. If anyone has a love triangle they love or feel is unique, please feel free to comment!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d rank my favorite Christmas-themed episodes in anime. In Japan, Christmas is typically celebrated among couples as a romantic occassion; many couples get enganged during the holiday. This is also reflected in a lot of anime Christmas episodes, which often contain romantic themes. Some of these episodes are full of holiday cheer while others are more bittersweet, but they all have memorable moments.  

5. Maison Ikkoku episodes 39&40:

An epic two-parter, Kyoko discovers a rock that was given to her by her late husband and asks Godai to find out what type of stone it is. Mayhem ensues when Godai’s friend loses the rock on the train and Godai spends Christmas Eve searching for it in lieu of going to the Christmas party being hosted by his neighbors. Both episodes have an undercurrent of melancholy, but romance ultimately wins out when Kyoko realizes the anxiety she felt wasn’t because she wanted to find out information on the rock – it was because she was waiting for Godai. 

Sakura sleeping with her adorable Yukito plushie

4. Cardcaptor Sakura episode 35:

This episode features Sakura, Yukito and Shaoran at an amusement park (with Tomoyo and Kero-chan following them and Toya ‘coincidentally’ working there). Although Shaoran has a crush on Yukito, this episode is one of the first times that he expresses romantic interest in Sakura. But aside from the ever-shifting love triangle, this episode has a really memorable battle where Sakura and Shaoran work together to capture the elusive ‘Fiery’ card. I love the end of the episode when Sakura and Yukito are on the ferris wheel. And the plushie Sakura gives Yukito is adorable.

3. Kimagure Orange Road episode 38

Another romantic Christmas episode, this one revolves around a couples-only Christmas party and combines the typical ‘day that never ends’ set-up with Kyosuke’s supernatural powers to solve Kyosuke’s eternal dilemma: Hikaru or Madoka? In the first scenario, Kyosuke decides to go to the Christmas party with Hikaru, then he gets a do-over and goes with Madoka. Finally, he goes to the Christmas party with both girls after realizing how much he cares about them and doesn’t want to hurt either of them – even if it makes him look like a two-timer. The supernatural weirdness doesn’t end there, though – Kyosuke’s grandfather decides to dress in a Santa suit and spread joy (in the form of snow) around Tokyo.

A festive holiday celebration with the Azumanga gang

2. Azumanga Daioh episode 17

Probably the funniest Christmas episode there is – when Tomo asks Chiyo-chan if she still believes in Santa, Kagura ends up defending Santa’s existence by proclaiming that he’s paid by the government to deliver presents for everyone, and that he can fly at Mach 500. I love that when Tomo asks Chiyo-chan what she’d want for Christmas if she could have anything, Chiyo-chan says the star atop the big Christmas tree. The girls also decide to have some fun on Christmas Eve by singing karaoke. Yet in true Azumanga fashion, much of the episode has nothing to do with Christmas as we’re drawn into the girls’ random conversations – including Osaka’s infamous horror story about smelling a fart that wasn’t hers when she was alone in her bedroom. Priceless.

1. Kodocha episode 38

My all time favorite Christmas episode ever (not to mention my favorite episode of Kodocha). It’s got a middle birthday party, Naozumi singing a Christmas carol, Akito freaking out because he can’t decide what to get Sana, and a toy dinosaur Akito ‘doesn’t hate.’ And of course, it wouldn’t be Kodocha without over-the-top wackiness (in the form of Mama’s life-size Christmas tree hat). But the best part of the episode is definitely after the party has ended and Akito tries to tell Sana he loves her – and gives her a special Christmas kiss instead. Awww… Even better, when this episode came out on volume 10 of the U.S DVD release of Kodocha, it was two weeks before Christmas, so watching it always helps put me in the holiday spirit.

Foreshadowing in Kodocha

Foreshadowing in Kodocha

Note: There are some spoilers for the series, so read with caution!

There are a lot of things I love about Kodocha. I love the way it blends comedy, drama and romance seamlessly. I love its cast of quirky characters, and I especially love the romance between Sana Kurata and Akito Hayama. But one of the things I’ve always respected about Kodocha is its use of foreshadowing. This may not seem like something extreme – most good film and television at least attempt a gradual buildup of the story. Yet I’ve always found that Kodocha excels at foreshadowing because of how engrained so many of the plot hints are in the comedy. Even the filler episodes of the anime foreshadow later events, such as in episode 28 when Sana decides to plan a middle-birthday party for herself and Akito and a sweet moment occurs between the two during the actual party in episode 38. While the comedic foreshadowing isn’t exactly ‘subtle,’ I think it really suits the series.

A minor example of foreshadowing is in episode eight of the anime, when Aya mentions on a field trip that she has a crush on someone but won’t say who. Sana teases her and says that she should tell the guy she likes him – or better yet, give him a big kiss. This, of course, serves as foreshadowing not only for Aya’s confession to Akito’s friend Tsuyoshi later on the series, but also for the kiss Akito gives Sana later on the episode. Another example of a joke being used as foreshadowing occurs in episode 18. In it, Sana is hiding out from the paparazzi at Akito’s house after her mother’s (a famous author named Misako Kurata) book hit stores and revealed that she was adopted. At Akito’s house, Sana takes a bath with his sister Natsumi, who mentions she has three moles on her butt. Natsumi and Sana tease Akito, saying they’ll never tell him where the moles are – to which Akito promptly guesses that they’re on her butt. In the next episode, Sana’s birth mother decides to meet her, and when Misako asks for proof that the woman is Sana’s mother, she says her baby had three moles in a line on her backside. Only Kodocha would use such a goofy moment to lead into something so serious – but that’s just the way it rolls.

Fuka, Sana and Akito from Kodocha

But the best example of foreshadowing in the series has to do with the introduction of a major character.  In the episode nine, after Akito kisses Sana in front of their entire class, the guys in their class comment on how cool Akito is, and mention that Akito’s first kiss was a bet in kindergarten. This piece of information pisses Sana off, but over the course of the series, Sana and Akito grow closer and she slowly begins to realize the nature of his feelings for her. In episode 52, the two enter middle school and meet a girl who moved from Osaka named Fuka Matsui, who quickly befriends Sana. But for some reason, she can’t stand Akito – which in episode 53 she reveals is because he stole her first kiss in kindergarten. Fuka held onto her grudge because the guy she liked mistakenly thought she already had a boyfriend when he found out she had been kissed. When Sana goes on a location shoot to film a movie, Fuka’s crush comes to town and she asks Akito to pretend to be her boyfriend in front of him. After he helps her out (for sushi), Fuka begins to see him in a new light, and becomes aware of Akito’s feelings for Sana. When magazines (falsely) print that Sana has started dating someone, Fuka feels bad for Akito and asks him out and he agrees (in his usual enthusiastic manner: “I guess it’s okay”).  Sana finds out that Akito and Fuka are going out, causing her to realize that she loves him, and she is then torn between her friendship with Fuka and her feelings for Akito. One brief side comment came back 44 episodes later to become a major plot point – and I love it.

Kodocha’s also great for bringing back lines that seem trivial but end up being used in serious or important ways. In episode 10, Akito tries to tell Sana he loves her, but he can only tell her ‘he doesn’t hate her’ because of his cynical nature (not to mention his shyness). It doesn’t take long for Sana to decode his cryptic message, because she ends up coincidentally running into Akito’s father, who tells her that when Akito says he doesn’t hate something it means that he loves it. Much later on in the series,  Tsuyoshi asks him why he’s dating Fuka  and he responds that he ‘doesn’t hate’ her. While this may seem to suggest that Akito is developing feelings for Fuka, a few episodes later Akito finally tells Sana that he’s always loved her – and thus we see how much Akito has changed because of Sana. There are many wonderful things to love about Kodocha, but the strength of its use of dialogue in developing the major characters  always struck a chord with me – and it’s why “I don’t hate” the series.