Have you guys ever noticed that many characters in shojo manga are fans of shojo manga themselves? Females in shojo manga seem to enjoy turning to girls’ comics as a love guide, and tend to be extremely protective of their collection. For example, in the opening pages of Sand Chronicles we see Ann at age 26, who chastises her younger sister for trying to take her shojo manga by telling her to keep her “hands off her bibles.” However, some shojo heroines have to learn the hard way that real-life romance doesn’t always go as smoothly as it does in their prized manga. Take Haruna in High School Debut for example – when she and Yoh first start dating they have a hard time getting used to acting like a couple, so she gives him a stack of shojo manga to read so he can learn how their relationship is ‘supposed’ to progress. After reading over 100 volumes of manga, Yoh decides that it’s alright if their relationship isn’t ‘normal’ because things are fine the way they are. I also really like when series make reference not only to the main character being a fan of girls comics, but also to common shojo clichés themselves. For example, in Itazura na Kiss, when Kotoko joins her college’s tennis club after her crush Naoki does, she begins ‘image-training’ by reciting scenes from Ace o Nerae!, a popular 70s shojo series about a tennis player. Unfortunately, Kotoko is athletically challenged, and when Kotoko and Naoki have to play a match together, Kotoko tries to get Naoki to ease her nerves by telling him that in shojo manga, the male love interest would usually “gently hold her hand or give her a kiss of encouragement.” Naoki being the cold jerk he is bluntly tells her to forget it. By having the protagonist be a fan of girls’ comics, the fourth wall is broken in a fun way, because the conventions of shojo manga are allowed to be made fun of while still endorsing shojo manga itself.
But probably the biggest series where the main character’s love of shojo is touched upon is Otomen, because the leading character is a male! Asuka Masamune, who excels in sports and is seen as extremely masculine, is hiding a secret from everyone: he actually loves everything girly, from sewing to stuffed animals. One funny scene in volume one is when Asuka tries to resist his girly habits by putting away all of his plushies, and he begins to read Shonen Junk (a not-so-subtle reference to a certain boys’ manga magazine), but gives up because he finds shojo romance stories more exciting. Asuka’s favorite shojo manga is “Love Chick” by Jewel Sachihana, who actually turns out to be a playboy who goes to school with Asuka named Juta Tachibana! Juta knows Asuka’s secret ‘girly’ habits, and uses him as the model for the main female character in “Love Chick” because Asuka’s the most feminine person Juta’s ever known. Juta tries to balance encouraging Asuka’s femininity and his budding romance with a not-so girly-girl named Ryo while keeping the fact that he’s the author of a shojo series a secret. And because the story is all about Asuka learning to accept his girliness, Otomen is filled with pages trimmed with lace and sparkles, and thus embraces the most traditionally feminine aesthetics of shojo manga. So in essence, by incorporating shojo-crazed characters, the authors of girls’ series are telling the reader ‘hey, it’s okay to love shojo – because we love it too.’