I’ll kiss you and you’ll fall in love with me- Ramblings on Shoujo



starsamaria: Over at tokyojupiter Anna T. wrote a very nice post about the current running shoujo series. It’s interesting that all 3, Kamisama Hajimemashita, Sukitte Ii Na Yo, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun feature a kiss in the first episode – I’m used to shoujo series taking a bit more time to get that far! 

I’m not criticizing any of these three series because it’s something that literally every shoujo series does: but it’s somewhat bothersome that the average shoujo female protagonist a) has never been kissed before and b) her first kiss is usually stolen. At first glance it seems like an innocent cliche, but when you think about it, both reinforce the female’s virginity and ‘innocence’ when it comes to sexual matters, as well as the idea that the male should be the partner to initiate (and control) a romantic relationship. Very rarely is it the male’s first kiss as well, since he’s usually shown to be popular with girls, which further asserts the importance of female purity.

Foxy Lady: Great remark! The whole thing is more disappointing when you think that these manga are written from women and it makes me wonder, if this obsession with virginity on their part reflect their own personal affairs or if it’s the editor’s suggestion and thus what the industry demands, since it appears to be profitable. One could say that shoujo are written for girls that just enter the puberty and are going to start dating now. But alas, even shoujo with older girls and women continue this trend.

starsamaria: I know every person forms his or her own opinions, but even so culture still influences how you think the world should work. Since Japan still upholds traditional gender roles in many ways, I guess it makes sense even for female manga authors to reflect them in their stories.

Foxy Lady: I want to talk a bit more about Sukinayo. In the first episode where Mei is stalked and Yamato arrives to help, I was really expecting him to say something like “I’m her brother, is there any problem?” instead on forcing a kiss on Mei. Wouldn’t it be a more intimidating solution and less of a rush not to mention less abrupt and not spoiling the chances of a slowly developing friendship? Shoujo really lacks males as friends among other things.

Starsmaria: You’re right that shojo series rarely have co-ed friendships – even the friendships that do exist usually involve a one-sided romance, or eventually evolve into romance. The most common ‘male-female’ friendship that seems to exist in shojo manga and anime is the female being friends with her boyfriend’s male friends.

Foxy Lady: Now, in episode 2 of Sukinayo, I was half ready to laugh, half doki doki. I liked that the different meanings behind kisses were brought up, yet I can’t take it 100% when it appears to me that Yamato is simply insensitive and fooling around… after all a kiss on the mouth is generally considered a romantic/erotic one in most cultures.

SPOILER ALERT: the male protagonist is rumored to have kissed every girl in his school except one with whom he’s said to like a long time. When asked by Mei about it, he says that that’s exaggeration, but doesn’t deny giving a kiss on another girl and goes as far as to say that “a kiss is just a kiss”. At the end of episode, Mei, who has started to develop a crush on Yamato despite knowing that the kiss in episode1 was taken without her consent, follows him to the karaoke club where he had invited her, yet she didn’t go at first. There she complains to him about how he treats girls and he forces other kisses on her, each time giving a different interpretation eg. a greeting kiss, a kiss for being cute, a kiss for her and asks her to understand the difference.

At this point is also worth mentioning how in shoujo kisses act as enchanters and enslavers -if i may use these terms; they are like the magic recipe to quickly make someone fall in love with you and/or become your slave. The blushing and the petrification are standard reactions while in reality the boy would get slapped or the girl would cry, like in Sakamichi no Apollon (though the latter is categorized as josei rather than shoujo).

Starsmaria: I haven’t actually been watching Sukitte Ii Na Yo (since I usually don’t watch currently running anime), but what you said about ‘fooling around’ reminds me of the first kiss in episode 7 of Itazura na Kiss. The guy knew the girl liked him and he always ignored or teased her, but as soon as she said she planned on getting over him he forces a kiss on her then sticks out his tongue and tells her ‘take that.’ Again, there’s a level of control and possessiveness there, and even though it’s shown to be cruel the audience is supposed to read it as at least somewhat romantic. And I was thinking – it’s funny how the kiss in Kamisama Kiss simultaneously breaks and upholds the stereotype. Nanami is the one to kiss Tomoe (which breaks the stereotype) – but it’s for non romantic reasons (since she has no romantic intentions towards him), which upholds her ‘purity.’  Also, even though she kisses him so she can be his master, this also means he is now her protector, which further enforces traditional gender roles.

I think the interpretation of kisses thing sounds interesting – it reminds me of Dark in D.N.Angel using a kiss as his greeting, and it’s depicted that Dark is ‘suave’ with women rather than being creepy. In regards to your comments about kisses acting as enchanters and enslavers, I’ve been thinking about the fact that in series where the girl gets kissed by a guy, she is almost always unaware that he has feelings for her until the kiss (the kiss is his way of telling the girl he loves her, even though in real life this would be unromantic). Sand Chronicles, Marmalade Boy, Kodocha, Maid-sama…it’s hard to think of a series that doesn’t do this. Thus, it’s interesting because it upholds the stereotype that men ‘take action’ (i.e, kissing a girl to show that he loves her) rather than conveying his emotions verbally by actually telling the girl that he loves her. And though the female may be mad at him, she begins to think of the guy in a romantic way because of the kiss. Thus, she becomes ‘enchanted’ by him, as you so eloquently put it.

Foxy Lady: So, it also or rather mainly plays an awakening role in a Sleeping Beauty fashion… well, there are cases in more ‘pure’ and fluffy series like in Kimi ni Todoke, where the confession comes first, but you know the world of shoujo anime and manga way better than me, so I’ll take your word and consider them rare exceptions.

Starsmaria: Yeah, series like Kimi ni Todoke are few and far between.

Foxy Lady: Thank you for the interesting discussion.

Starsmaria: I’m glad we chatted 🙂

———————————————————
Notes:
1.This was a conversation that started in the comment section of tokyojupiter’s post and was continued in emails. We thought it’d be a shame not to have it saved in a place easier retrieved. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as we did 🙂 Starsamaria is the great blogger behind  Shojo Corner– a true shoujo fan!
2. Further reading: Shoujo Seminar- Lessons on how to get a man by Moe Sucks

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13 thoughts on “I’ll kiss you and you’ll fall in love with me- Ramblings on Shoujo

  1. While I speak for yuri specifically, it does not change anything that it can be approached like any other shoujo rom-com or otherwise. What I mean is that like in pro-wrestling, the build to the championship match is equally as important as the match itself. You need to get the audience to care about the characters enough to want to see their first kiss as a magical one. When one of the characters is not liked, the kiss will be meaningless when it finally happens, meaning it will be just as bad as a rushed kiss. Heck, even Natsuyuki Rendezvous got it right…in its own way.

    Long story short, you want a kiss to be awesome writers, focus on making the fans WANT to see the two people eventually kiss and make sure the two people are likable. If you’re going to rush it, make it worth the viewers’ time at least.

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    • Natsuyuki Rendesvous got it right indeed and the physical contact between these two was the only 100% worthy thing in the series- at least for me. But the factor of age, namely they are adults, plays another role.

      I agree with what you say about the good writing, yet don’t forget that in yuri, unless we have a butchxfemme couple, the gender roles are totally different and that helps.

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  2. I haven't read or watched Skip Beat, since I usually avoid show-business themes. But starsamaria has certainly read it. Just search her blog and you can find a commentary on female rivalry and friendship in Skip Beat.Sakamichi no Apollon was a pretty good series. It had such great potential at the first half of the show that I honestly got disappointed by the second half. I don't think that this series could get a second season. There's no point in it either. It would have come out perhaps better, if they had decided to make it 24 episodes from the start. I must get around to read its manga, btw, just for comparison's shake.Thanks for mentioning a post of mine again over at your place 🙂 You can't imagine how happy you make me! Getting quoted is such an honor! It's my pleasure working with other co-travelers of the animangasphere. I'm glad that such circumstances benefit us all 🙂

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  3. Didn't read entire post due to potential spoilers but anyone seen Skip Beat? It's great.Also, that screenshot from Apollon? GAH. Makes me miss Ri-chan sooooo much -_- None of my favorite animes get a second season :/Thanks for introducing me to another blog~

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  4. I'd don't know what happened either. It's weird. It wasn't that much extra work, so no worries. 🙂 I also used to be on blogspot but moved to wordpress because for some reason, blogspot liked to mess with my formatting whenever I edited an already published post (and I do this a lot because I don't always catch all typos before I publish).Thanks for the recommendation. I read pretty much anything and everything, so I'll definitely give the manga a go as well. 🙂 Not to say the purity problem isn't important, because it is, but I think of it as part of the larger framework that expects women to be passive in relationships and men to be the initiators. After all, if you need to keep your purity, you can't be "aggressive" and make the first move. And the best way to undermine ideas about purity is to show women/girls who aren't afraid to make the first move or have experience in relationships. 🙂

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  5. You're definitely correct that Kamisama Kiss will further explore the 'mortal/immortal' perspectives. I'm up to volume eight of the manga, and one theme that's becoming more important is that Tomoe is beginning to learn that humans are stronger than they appear to be. But framing it this way still doesn't sidestep the issue of gender (at least for me, personally) because the female is the one playing the weaker role, as traditional gender roles have always dictated. And I'm also interested in who will be the first to initiate a romantic kiss – because although Nanami realizes her feelings first, it seems to me that the development of a romance will come down to Tomoe.

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  6. Interesting ideas on the table! I'd like to learn later if the first romantic and not 'enslaving' kiss will be given by Tomoe or Nanami. Unfortunately, after having watched two episodes the premise and the characters didn't move me, thus I dropped it. After all, I have to choose among a bunch of anime, since i can't keep up with all of them…

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  7. I'm with soaringwings on this one. Kamisama Kiss shows promise at breaking some of the conventions. I was impressed that they had the kiss initiated by the female protagonist but it went beyond that.Yes there is still the worry that the male will eventually become the protector later. But with the exception of the first episode, so far all of his actions to protect the "heroine" have been shown to be unnecessary or misguided. Following Tomoe (male) through an episode has so far gone like this: Nanami (female) initiates some sort of conflict, Tomoe assumes male protector role, Nanami initiates some action that resolves the conflict independently of Tomoe, rendering his efforts void. Tomoe is then left to reflect on his perception of mortals.My caution with this lies only in that the perceptions being challenged so far are more so those of "mortals and immortals". The perspective presented to the viewers is that being mortal is where the problem lies. So in a way it is sort of side stepping "female / male " convention changes by framing it this way. If the re-framing isn't intentional then eventually I expect the current role reversal to fall apart. If it is intentional then this show is trying to break gender conventions for Shoujo without being blunt about it. They would be framing it in manner that males would not dispute. (ei we mortals aren't so weak). So now I am stuck watching this to see whats what.

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  8. I'm not quite sure why did you have problems posting with WordPress… I'm really sorry if you lost a commnt and had to rewrite it. I guess it's blogspot's whims… And that's one reason to migrate next year to wordpress. Anyways…You make a great point as you stress the effects of this patriarchical model on men, as well. Shoujo heroines are still expected to wait for the guy to take initiative. I know it's seinen, but if you want a mature story where the woman makes the first move, then I recommend reading natsu no Zenjitsu, which I've talked about extensively before here http://kitsunetoneko.blogspot.gr/search/label/Natsu%20no%20Zenjitsu

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  9. For some reason it wouldn't let me post with my WordPress account logged in, so here's my second attempt at a comment. Hopefully this one goes through. ^__^;;;I agree with everything you both said and for me personally, the most problematic aspect of this trope is the fact that it expects the guys to act on their feelings/desires (rather than communicate them) and the girls to be acted upon (rather than take the romantic initiative). This seeps into all sorts of ideas about gender and not just purity ones, but also the idea that men should view romance as a conquest. I think that's as equally problematic as the whole notion of purity. Examples where the heroine initiates the romance are very rare and I guess that's why I'm pretty intrigued by Kamisama Kiss even if it does play into the whole protector is male, protectee is female. Outside of Kamisama Kiss, I can't say there are any shoujo heroines (that I know of) who actually start the romantic relationship, even in works I feel are very progressive and forward thinking.

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  10. Definitely agree – it's the reinforcement of gender roles that's problematic. Although society creates media, media reflects society, so by having weak female protagonists in series aimed at females themselves suggests that teenage girls 'should' be ditsy and only interested in romance. What's interesting, however, is that even shojo series with non-stereotypical intelligent and strong female leads still use the 'forced kiss' cliche. By having an 'alpha male' forcefully kiss a female character who is smart and uninterested in romance (like Misaki from Maid-sama), while on the surface it may seem to be a romantic fantasy, it's actually 'putting the woman in her place' for defying the gender roles expected of her.

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  11. There are many tropes out there and they aren't necessarily annoying; do you remember a you tube video that had gone viral some time ago named 'every anime opening ever'? Running or crying characters in the opening are a cliche, but cliches can be useful as they establish a recognizable pattern that allows comprehension and predictions. You, as a writing tutor, should know it best; there's a certain structure to every type of writing format that eases the communication. Of course, it can get subverted and get something pleasant out of it, but that's not always the case.Zettai Ryuki or Crowning Moments of Heartwarming are both stereotypes, yet I adore them, and I guess many people do. Others get thrilled with the Foe Yay trope, others with the May December Romance, others with the Chastity Couple etc.In a nutshell, it's not the stereotype that annoys me but the gender dynamics that shouldn't represent the same ideal that existed 50 years ago. If it wasn't the majority of them, I wouldn't worry that much. Hell, even if it was 50-60% I would be content.

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  12. Great post you two!I'll admit that I too am getting a little weary of "go-with-the-flow" shoujo leads that get swept off their feet. (Though it IS worth noting here that I watch shoujo more for the comedy and the warm fuzzies than for the actual romance.) Judging by how common it is, I want to say that there is certainly an audience that enjoys that kind of thing, but at this point, I think it's become a problem beyond the gender role aspects. Weak female shoujo leads are, at this point, a full-blown *stereotype*. They're a trope, a cliche. I would think that would be a problem for most people, regardless of what their views on gender equality are.Actually, to extend that line of thought, I'm curious about your two's views on this. Do you see traditional gender roles as a problem more because of the gender dynamics it introduces (or rather, reinforces), or because it's a stereotype? Interested on your take.

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