Abusive Relationships in Shoujo by the Numbers: Introduction and Week One

The response to my “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo” panel has been consistently overwhelming. The transcripts from my Sakura Con 2016 get new pageviews every day, and every time I present it, I get people approaching me afterward telling me how meaningful they found it. I’m incredibly proud to have put together something that touches people’s lives and resonates with their experiences so strongly.

Many of the series I used in my presentation are older, because those were the ones that made me take notice of this issue years ago. However, I’m not sure how relevant this is to current audiences – how many people sitting and listening are familiar with Boys Over Flowers or Hot Gimmick? New volumes of shoujo manga come out every week, thanks to the hardworking localizers at companies like Viz, Seven Seas, and many others. I curate my reading list pretty carefully, so for years I’ve made a point of looking for series with healthy relationships, or series that are aware of the abusive dynamics they contain. Starting work on this project forced me to engage with series I actively avoided, but what about the ones I just never heard of?

So I started wondering, how do the numbers break down? How many of the series that make it to US shores really do romanticize abuse, and how many don’t? In search of these answers, I’ve started a new side project: “Abusive Relationships in Shoujo by the Numbers.”

Methodology

I have three criteria for picking series: They must 1) be licensed in the US, 2) available in full at my local library, and 3) have the main character involved in a romantic relationship.

When doing projects like this, I tend to be systematic so that I don’t get overwhelmed by options. I’m starting by working alphabetically through Viz’s Shojo Beat catalog, starting with Beauty is the Beast and Black Bird. Every week, I will add a new series, until I hit my weekly capacity. At that point, series will be replaced after completion. Each volume will receive a score based on how many incidences there are of abusive behavior, working from the list provided by The National Domestic Violence Hotline. I also include date of publication and Japanese publisher, to see if there are identifiable patterns with that.

I understand that assigning things numerical values doesn’t allow a ton of room for nuance, and this can be a complicated subject. Because of this, I’m creating a biweekly column in which I include my observations in addition to the numbers.

This week:

Beauty is the Beast vol. 1
Beauty is the Beast vol. 2
Black Bird vol. 1

Beauty is the Beast: Eimi’s fellow residents are a little bit crazy, but a whole lot of fun. They’ve got a secret mission planned for Eimi’s new resident initiation…and it has something to do with sneaking into the boys dormitory across the street and returning with a special keepsake! Can Eimi pull it off without getting caught by one of the handsomest (and cruelest) boys in the dorm? (Summary via Viz)

1421502895

Based on the summaries, I went into Beauty is the Beast expecting a typical “bad boy” romance between Average Shojo Heroine and Bastard Boyfriend. Instead, it presents a quite grounded romantic comedy with an ensemble cast of dorm residents. Matsumoto Tomo’s chat columns reveal why: it’s inspired by her own experiences of living in a dorm. Many of the residents are inspired by girls she knew, as are the hijinks.

So what of the main couple? Eimi is eccentric in ways that charmed me, but I could see her annoying other readers. Wanibuchi, her love interest, is indeed a troubled youth who frequents bars, flirts with older women, and gets into fights, but he never turns that aggression against Eimi. The series walks a careful tightrope: he may be engaging in risky behavior, but never endangers Eimi, and Eimi is concerned but not actively trying to force him to change, allowing for a quieter but ultimately more interesting and believable dynamic. In fact, it only earned one point between two volumes: when Eimi breaks into his dorm, he catches her trying to take his nameplate, he jokingly says she has to do anything he asks. Although not explicit, there’s a clear implication that he means forcing her to do something physical. It’s not pretty, but luckily this the only time the blackmail angle shows up.

 

Black Bird: There is a world of myth and magic that intersects ours, and only a special few can see it. Misao Harada is one such person, and she wants nothing to do with magical realms. She just wants to have a normal high school life and maybe get a boyfriend.

But she is the bride of demon prophecy, and her blood grants incredible powers, her flesh immortality. Now the demon realm is fighting over the right to her hand…or her life!

Everything changes one day when Misao is attacked by a demon. Her childhood friend Kyo suddenly returns to save her and tend to her cuts–with his tongue! It turns out Misao is the bride of prophecy, whose blood gives power to the demon clan who claims her. But most demons want to keep her power for themselves–by eating her! Now Misao is just trying to stay alive…and decide if she likes it when Kyo licks her wounds.

(Summary via Viz)

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Black Bird, however… well, there’s a reason I selected it for my initial panel. It’s a steamy supernatural romance, similar to Twilight but with demons instead of vampires, and the boy is making no effort to contain his urges. Plus, he’s her teacher for bonus creepiness points!

In contrast to the mild Beauty is the Beast, Black Bird managed to net 13 points in the first volume alone. Kyo treats Misao as his possession from the very beginning, proclaiming that he will be his wife and grabbing her breasts from behind the first time he saves her. It also makes heavy use of the idea that there’s a big bad world out there that wants to murder her, so the only way she’s safe is if she stays by his side, regardless of whether or not she wants to. In one incident that made me particularly uncomfortable, he flies while holding her, despite her fear of heights. As they land, he assures her that he won’t drop her; he just needed to show her that she can’t live without him. Throughout the volume, she remarks about how he makes her feel “so protected” through his possessive behavior.

It’s an eighteen-volume series, so strap in. It’s going to get ugly.

 

Next Week:

Beauty is the Beast vol. 3

Black Bird vol. 2

Black Rose Alice vol. 1

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25 thoughts on “Abusive Relationships in Shoujo by the Numbers: Introduction and Week One

  1. Nat

    This is fascinating. Two completely different series are, actually, completely different. Some food for thought here.

    I enjoy that you’re sincere about you’ve approached Beauty is the Beast with some suspicion, which I assume is your standard reaction to shojo manga.

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    1. I approached Beauty is the Beast with suspicion because the summary described Wanibuchi as cruel. Cruel shojo boyfriends tend to be cruel to the protagonists, and there have been enough cases of ACTUAL cruelty that yeah, that was reason enough to be cautious. That description is misleading anyway, because I wouldn’t even describe him as cruel – that implies a level of malice that he lacks.

      I’m starting with those two series because they are early in the alphabet, and I have to start gathering data SOMEWHERE. Did you skip the part where I’m going to add series as I go? My hope is to get a broad survey of what’s available in the US to see what patterns develop.

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      1. Nat

        I mean, I think it’s pretty clear what kind of pattern you want to see here. This isn’t about cricizing specific series (though, for the love of me, I can’t figure out why you’d think a series like Black Bird—deemed as trashy even by many who’ve read it—deserves a detailed denunciation of its toxic dynamics in the year of 2017. But anyway!), but rather about a general attitude that’s been present in your shojo analyses since that first survey last year. You insist on presenting shojo series with healthy (or mildly healthy or whatever) relationships as if they’re almost abnormal in desperate needing our support, even though stuff like Kimi ni Todoke, Ore Monogatari and Lovely Complex are huge successes, counting with anime and live action adaptations.

        Even in this post, where you seem to be willing to at least wonder if shojo is actually dominated by badly handled depictions of abuse, there’s a feeling that there’s no real interest in those stories—there’s no comment on the art, and anything about plot is limited to the “is it abuse?” question. It’s a cold, honestly saddening approach, and part of a project from someone who seems to be more interested in waxing poetics about KyoAni moe than finding out and writing about good (and often overlooked) shojo.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As I said to Alicia, you assume just because I write about a series from one perspective, I don’t enjoy it in another way. That’s not true. Yes, a healthy relationship with a boy who treats the girl kindly can be a major factor in what makes me enjoy a series, and an abusive relationship can drive me away quite easily. I don’t go heavily into what I like about Beauty is the Beast – the delicate art, the grounded setting and relatively subdued approach to hijinks, Wanibuchi and Eimi’s developing bond – because that’s not the point of this post. But I’ve read almost all of Kamisama Kiss, even though Tomoe and Nanami’s relationship often makes me wince, because I love the setting and atmosphere. The leads of Kimi ni Todoke are very sweet kids, but the manga has been meandering and aimless for the last ten volumes and at this point I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because it’s gotten dull. When my coworker told me her nine-year-old daughter liked anime, I dug through my shelves to see what I had that would be appropriate for her and found Kodocha and Escaflowne, because those are series I love. I am capable of consuming media through MULTIPLE filters – often at the same time!

        So yes, I’d love to spend more time giving coverage to good shoujo. I have posts about Millennium Snow and All My Darling Daughters outlined – the All My Darling Daughters one has taken FOREVER to outline too, because finding a thesis among all the gushing I want to do was challenging. I’ve got Yona of the Dawn sitting in my Crunchyroll queue so that I can do a writeup on it, and I just noticed that Nodame Cantabile is available on Anime Strike. I wrote my post about isekai shoujo from the 1990s specifically BECAUSE I wanted to give those works more exposure. I’m working on a new post about Paradise Kiss as well. In the mean time, I’m sure as hell going to talk about how I was moved at the way I saw my experiences reflected in Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid or the way Please Tell Me Galko’s frank discussions of things like periods and breasts was actually pretty cool. I don’t write ANY series off because of their intended audience or who made it, shoujo or otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Alicia

      “You insist on presenting shojo series with healthy (or mildly healthy or whatever) relationships as if they’re almost abnormal in desperate needing our support, even though stuff like Kimi ni Todoke, Ore Monogatari and Lovely Complex are huge successes, counting with anime and live action adaptations.”

      Yes, quite. And shows a complete lack if understanding for the history of shojo manga. Which is fine, no one needs to know anything about the history of the medium they consume, but coming from a person who is claiming to want to write critically about the medium, is rather problematic. Like anything else shojo has trends that come and go, pendulums that swing back and forth; currently, sweet, “pure” relationship are all the rage, selling millions of copies and winning manga awards, while a few trashy asshole boyfriend titles are being consumed exactly for what they are — silly, trashy entertainment. When shojo came to the US in any real sense, back in the 90s, the pendulum had swung in the other direction: trashy stuff like Sensual Phrase was all the rage, and that’s the sort of stuff that got imported. Treating that particular, very specific type of shojo manga that was all the rage in at a very specific time in the history of manga as the “default” and approaching all shojo though the lens of “it’s probably going to be Sensual Phrase” is folly. You know what’s also folly? Pretending like this is the first time anyone has ever talked about these trashy titles and dissected them and “called them out” for containing unhealthy relationships. The PTA in Japan raged against these types of manga back when they were the Big Thing. Japanese fandom dissected them and identified them as part of a trend 20 years ago. Nothing about this is novel and no one is saving the Japanese from them selves here, at any rate.

      (Last comment. Can’t be bothered with this, to be honest.)

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  2. Morgan

    Oh, this’ll be interesting.There’s a ton of shojo coming out recently, so I suspect you’ll be busy with this for a while. Also, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Black Rose Alice next week. I’m not sure whats it’s like, but one of the author’s previous works was just completely awful on the romance front so I’m not expecting much.

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    1. Thanks! But it’s really not about approval – it’s about opening things up for an honest discussion about the patterns of the genre and what it implicitly represents to young women as ideal romance. Approval makes it sound like I’m passing judgement and telling people what they should or shouldn’t enjoy, and that’s definitely not my aim!

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      1. Morgan

        Oh no, I didn’t mean it like that. I’m not looking for you to pass your approval on whether or not I should read a series, I’m interested in just how many abusive stock tropes there are per shojo, since few people seem to address that. Sorry if I didn’t convey that properly in my response. (And good luck!)

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      2. Alicia

        If it’s not your aim, maybe think more about how you phrase things. As your blog stands now, your desire to dictate to girls and women what they should be reading and enjoying so they can avoid falling into abusive relationships is transparent. You say one thing, but clearly think another, and that’s apparent between the lines.

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  3. Interesting series, I can imagine your findings will be rather disappointing. I mean, there are so many overtly-abusive relationships in shoujo manga, you won’t have to look far to find them. I’m looking forward to further reviews…and reports of healthy relationships in shoujo manga.
    I came over, because I’d never thought about it in Beauty is the Beast — which is probably my favourite shoujo manga. Wanibuchi’s “cruelty” is the mask he likes wearing. I love that he constantly is feeding this “image” to those who are quick to judge him. It makes him a much more interesting character than so many teenage-male protagonists. I agree, he definitely walks a fine line – and his behavior can sometimes be reprehensible (especially to the other female character) but, he is also so much easier to forgive than so many other protagonists.
    …And I’ve always hated the summary on the back of the book. I don’t think it represents either character well…especially Emi. It really annoys me.

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  4. Alicia

    Well, at least you’re making an attempt to read a more broad range of shojo manga (with the caveat of “is available in the US”) rather than uncritically keeping up misogynist stereotypes about shojo manga perpetuated by people who don’t actually read it (read: mostly men who think anything by women or for girls is worthless and will dismiss it as trash and also, why can’t woman like nice men like them?) like you did in your last “survey”. So I guess I appreciate that, at any rate.

    Your methodology of approaching anything made by and for and about women/girls with suspicion, treating it as something women and girls must be protected against lest they be abused, while you reach over backwards in order to proclaim your latest favorite moe anime (sometimes made by women, usually made by men) to be revolutionary and deeply meaningful continues to be… interesting.

    Context matters.

    I also saw you went in with a straight face and asked the Shojo Beat staff (and, by extension, the women and girls who happen to enjoy Shojo Beat manga sincerely) for “recommendations” of shojo with jerk-ass boyfriends. That’s not tone-deaf or disrespectful to shojo readers (the people you purport to care about) in the slightest! When I saw that I was actually baffled by how boldfaced you were, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

    I apologize for this comment being crass, but ever since your first post I’ve been hoping against hope that you actually do appreciate this subcategory of manga made by and for and about women/girls, you just hadn’t had the opportunity to express your appreciation. I was hoping that surely, you would express your respect for its creators and consumers in some other way than “These works? They don’t have asshole boyfriends, ergo they’re good for you to read. Plot? Good writing? I’m not going to talk about that, what’s important in media by and for women is how healthy the relationships are!” but, well, you never did, and now this.

    Please just stop.

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    1. This comment honestly gave me a lot to think about. I really and truly love shoujo manga. I grew up reading it, and my bookshelves are lined with Basara, Lovely Complex, Fruits Basket, Yona of the Dawn… the list goes on. I’ve been reading it for almost 20 years now, and I have never once stopped hungering for it. That love is the source of my criticism, because I, and many other people I know, have internalized some pretty harmful lessons that shoujo manga taught us. Enough people have approached me, both online and in person, and thanked me for opening up this discussion that I am firmly convinced this project has meaning for a lot of people, even if not for you.

      A lot of my coverage of shoujo specifically HAS been negative, so maybe I haven’t communicated my love for it. I probably SHOULD devote more time to discussing what makes Yona or Princess Jellyfish or Fruits Basket so great, but honestly I get so stopped up by everything that I love about them that I end up getting horrible writer’s block. Seriously, I’ve been wanting to write about All My Darling Daughters for months now but I’ve been struggling to narrow down a topic, because I just end up gushing every time I write down something coherent. I’ve heaped praise on Paradise Kiss and Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and My Love Story, but I guess that’s not enough. The unfortunate fact is that the way I consume manga, and the way I approach writing can be difficult to reconcile. I’m working on a (positive) post about Millennium Snow, but I keep having to return the books to the library then wait for them to come available again. Writing about a longer series when you’re consuming them through library books is challenging, and I simply don’t have the cash to shell out for every single volume.

      I don’t automatically approach shoujo manga or series made by women with suspicion or caution, especially not more than I do your average moe show. If it looks that way, it comes back to the numbers game – most of my coverage is anime-related, and we’re lucky to get one or two shoujo series in a season! The only shoujo series running now is a short subject children’s series. But if I watch Anonymous Noise and find it wanting, will that garner me more criticism for ragging on something made for girls? That’s leaving out series like First Love Monster and Super Lovers, which I find COMPLETELY repulsive just from the premise. Otome anime just leave me cold 90% of the time. Instead, I find meaning in what IS out there, in things like how I saw my experiences reflected in things like Please Tell Me Galko and Miss Kobayash’s Dragon Maid. Can you see my dilemma?

      You assume just because I write about a series from one perspective, I don’t enjoy it in another way. That’s not true. Yes, a healthy relationship with a boy who treats the girl kindly can be a major factor in what makes me enjoy a series, and an abusive relationship can drive me away quite easily. But I’ve read almost all of Kamisama Kiss, even though Tomoe and Nanami’s relationship often makes me wince, because I love the setting and atmosphere. The leads of Kimi ni Todoke are very sweet kids, but the manga has been meandering and aimless for the last ten volumes and at this point I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because it’s gotten dull. When my coworker told me her nine-year-old daughter liked anime, I dug through my shelves to see what I had that would be appropriate for her and found Kodocha and Escaflowne, because those are series I love.

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      1. Alicia

        Maybe you should express some of that, then. I wouldn’t have batted an eye at this type of post if it came from someone who wrote about shojo manga in other contexts as well, even if that context was to be completely neutral on it and judging shojo manga by the same criteria that they judge other things — i.e. writing, plot, characters, all that stuff that doesn’t seem to matter to you when you actually bother to express your opinion on shojo. As I said in my original comment, context matters and the context of this blog is that the only criteria you have used so far to judge shojo manga is moral righteousness, rather than complexity of writing. You have solely been writing about shojo manga through the very, very marrow lens of “Is this healthy?” In this context, you are putting the onus of moral responsibility solely on the shoulder of manga created by and for women and girls. That is not right or fair. And I’m actually baffled by how you don’t realize what you’re doing, because if a critic went on and on about how the new Wonder Woman movie wasn’t “morally righteous enough” to be consumed by female audiences (rather than judging it by its writing or other artistic merits), you would call fault immediately. Or I hope you would, anyway. You have fallen so clearly into the trap of expecting media by/for/about women to live up to standards you do not seem to expect from media which is considered “neutral” in our society — i.e. media created by men, or about men.

        I understand that you are more of an anime fan, but that’s not the fault of shojo manga. That’s your issue, not issues with shojo or with manga. Shojo is out there. Go read it. And if you want to blame someone, don’t blame shojo manga, blame the US media industry for licensing and widely distributing what it chooses to (choices made, may I add, based on what is being viewed and what sells — which you yourself contribute to). So no, I don’t see your dilemma. I’d see your dilemma if I saw you actively consume shojo, like Lauren commenting above does, and then found it lacking, and you were asking for more to be licensed or widely distributed. In my book, Lauren can criticize shojo all she likes, and I’d take her opinions seriously.

        “You assume just because I write about a series from one perspective, I don’t enjoy it in another way”

        I’m to assume what else by your blog? I can’t read your mind, what you put out there for the world to see is all I have. And what you choose to put out there for us to see is an indicator of what you consider worthy of talking about, or what you consider personally important. I will judge that as I see it. You are not my friend. You are a blogger making choices about what you wish to talk about. Clearly, there are some things you do not wish to talk about, or which you do not deem to be all that important to talk about, compared to the things you do choose to talk about.

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      2. To be honest, I agree with you that I should give more positive coverage to the shoujo and I love and what I love about it – that’s what I started out trying to say but ended up getting more defensive because the tone of your comment started feeling more and more accusatory and I felt the need to explain myself.

        I tend to get overwhelmed by choice and so I start building systems and working off of lists, which has had an effect on what I’ve ended watching and posting about. It’s what has put me in the situation of watching and moaning about Sward Art Online and Re: Zero and how much I dislike them, while I’ve never written a full post about Yona of the Dawn or Princess Jellyfish. It’s also what has me reading Black Bird so early in this project. I’m not sure how to break out of it, because it tends to leave me with a lot of frustrated, half-completed projects, and taking feedback on social media such as polls about what I should work on has led to me neglecting the posts I want to write about All My Darling Daughters or Millennium Snow or Paradise Kiss. I don’t think it’s QUITE fair to say I only talk about shoujo through the lens of whether I think it’s healthy or not – my posts about Utena, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, and Snow White with the Red Hair are all very different takes, and the latter I would be heaping praise on if that were all it came down to – but I do see how it can come across as weighted that way, and that lens would affect even articles I didn’t mean to be taken in that way. And it IS a big priority for me, because I work in education and empowering young women through fiction is something that is important to me.

        I am going to try to prioritize supporting the shoujo/josei I love going forward. I already have three posts in the works about different shoujo series – two are unquestionably positive, one is more neutral in tone. It’s just hard when I can’t really afford to buy longer series and library books have to be returned eventually. I can see that I need to make it clearer to EVERYONE that this comes from a place of love, not just the people who know me personally.

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      3. Alicia

        P.S. Also, I actually expected you to address what you did to the Shojo Beat readers, but apparently you don’t actually think you did anything skeevy.

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      4. This too comes down to me not really thinking about how things come across out of the context of my life. Most of the series I’m currently reading on my own time – Kimi ni Todoke, Kamisama Kiss, Genbu Kaiden, Lovely Complex – are released by Shojo Beat, and I really admire that they’re making an effort to bring more shoujo and josei to the US. But I can see now how it looks without knowing that.

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      5. Alicia

        I’m glad you se my point. You didn’t just read my comment as accusatory, that’s exactly what I was being, since this kind of thing frustrates me a lot, and I hope you understand that I dont’ think shojo manga is beyond criticism (I don’t; I read a lot of it and much of it is crap, but that’s because most of anything is crap). But talking about it solely in the context of moral righteousness rather than considering it media with multiple facets is unfair. I would look forward to seeing you talk more about the shojo that you do enjoy.

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      6. I wish we could have started on a better note because this post gave me a lot to think about, and that + anxiety made for a truly terrible nights sleep. I’m generally pretty receptive to criticism and disagreement when approached like a reasonable person.

        I spent a lot of the last few hours trying to mentally unpack the way I approach shoujo vs how I approach stories aimed at other demographics. Anything with a romance at its center gets the consideration of what the relationship dynamic is; since shoujo is so deeply centered on romance, that’s what I zero in on more often than not. I didn’t date until college, so it’s hard to purely relate to high school romance on an emotional level. It’s probably a major factor in why I can engage more readily with stories that aren’t purely romance like Yona or Princess Jellyfish. Red River has some romantic/sexual content I would come down hard on if I hadn’t fallen in love with the setting and political intrigue.

        I’m a teacher straight down to my core, and much like my feminism, it’s a filter I can never fully remove. I see every day how children are taught gender roles from the very moment they’re born and how that echoes throughout their lives. I’ve felt in my own life the effects of the stories I’ve consumed. When a story is aimed at them, I get intensely protective about the messages present that they could internalize, and how to counterbalance harmful ones. It’s not a matter of thinking they’re stupid or incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy; it’s the simple fact that a twelve year old is going to internalize what they read more intensely than a twenty or even sixteen year old. In my original survey, a Japanese commenter mentioned how bullies can learn tactics from manga but nothing provides victims with tools to cope with it. My aim has always been to educate, not criticize blindly, and that’s another thing I should make clearer. When I presented at Sakura Con this year, there were a couple of preteen girls in the front row and the whole time I was hoping they would come away from the panel with tools to recognize abusive relationships in fiction and reality. In my revised version of the panel, I’m planning a section about how to have a judgement-free conversation about romanticized unhealthy dynamics.

        Reading and writing about shoujo became increasingly like a social science project analyzing patterns than taking each series in isolation. Stories aimed at other demographics never got that treatment, and I consume them more selectively, so it’s easier to analyze and discuss each one as a discrete story and not operating within a system. I don’t think either approach is wrong but it looks bad when they’re juxtaposed like they are on here.

        Going forward, I’m going to try to make sure stories aimed at women and girls get BOTH treatments. I don’t nd to stop, but I need to give a more balanced picture.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, as someone who loves lots of media and tends to be critical most of what I love, I appreciate the effort and work you put into these kinds of posts, even if Shoujo isn’t my niche.

    I had to google your “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo” story, and intend to read up on that, but I look forward to your continued feature!

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  6. Imani

    Ah. I am not a big manga reader. I’ve just started and, besides big titles like Tokyo Ghoul and Attack on Titan, tend to go for josei (which is hard, considering scarcity) and BL. I don’t read shoujo but I enjoy your writing so I follow your blog. For what it’s worth, your love for the genre is obvious to me–I doubt you would take on projects like this otherwise. You specify and detail what approach you take when addressing various texts; there is nothing in that to imply it represents, in totality, your relationship with the genre, or even the particular text in question. Not even the blog does that. Nothing wrong in trying to make it more representative if you want to.

    I am all for women and girls reading whatever we like and trusting in our own judgement. Part of developing the ability to judge involves being informed enough to get the most out of the text. Based on my own life and my eventual work in human rights advocacy, I’d offer that we often know much less than we think we do, and have absorbed more harmful concepts than we would like to imagine. “Abuse” and “rape” seem easy enough to define until we’re presented with scenarios (which some genres are more than willing to provide lol) and it becomes complicated.

    As a BL reader I know what it’s like to feel as if one’s beloved genre is constantly under siege. Then I’ll observe another reader equate a book character coercing another into sex with a pushy Girl Guides cookie seller and I tell myself to relax.

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