Why are you such a misogynist?
Why do you hate stories written by women?
I don’t –
Why do you think women and girls are too stupid to tell reality from fantasy?
Why would you think –
That’s the only thing I can assume from this blog!
Apparently my continued pursuit of this topic, along with my lack of more positive coverage of shoujo, has given some people the deeply mistaken impression that I am suspicious or disdainful of it and that I only read shoujo manga with this aspect in mind. In retrospect, I can see where that impression comes from. This has become something of a passion project for me. It’s a topic I consider deeply important, so it’s only natural that I give it a lot of focus. However, because of a number of factors, I haven’t written as much as I wanted to on other, more positive aspects of the demographic. In order to combat this perception, I’m going to include in these posts short essays about shoujo manga and my relationship with it that I hope will clarify things.
So let’s get one thing absolutely clear first: I love shoujo manga.
Seriously! I’ve been voraciously collecting and reading it for most of my life. I own all of Kodocha, Marmalade Boy, Basara, both the old and new editions of Fruits Basket… but a list of all the shoujo manga I’ve ever read wouldn’t make for an interesting post, would it? Plus, it probably wouldn’t prove much of anything. So instead, I’ll start off with the question of why I don’t include more coverage of shoujo.
This blog was never meant to be a complete profile of everything I consume. Not even close. The majority of what I watch and read never get a mention on this blog, although if something is particularly woman-positive or handles its female characters in an interesting way, it gets a mention in my recommendations post even if I don’t end up writing a full post on it.
So why don’t I write more full posts about shoujo manga?
Well, if you look carefully, I don’t write a whole lot of posts about manga in general. This isn’t because I don’t read a lot of manga – I check out four or five volumes from the library a week at least, and usually read at least one volume before bed every night. It mostly has to do with how I digest media in general.
With the exception of these posts, I don’t go into a series expecting to write about it. I don’t know about their themes, characters, or narrative strengths and weaknesses, and I don’t really go in for more general reviews. I don’t take notes because I don’t know what’s going to jump out at me as relevant or interesting later on, and unless I’m zeroing in on a particular detail, I prefer to wait until a series is complete. When I decide to write about something, I usually have to rewatch/reread to mine for the specific examples, and that’s when I take notes.
This is easy with streaming anime, but difficult with library books. A three or four volume series is manageable – I have all of Millennium Snow checked out so I can write about it – but a lot of shoujo manga runs long. Sometimes other people put holds on it so I can’t renew it or check out the whole series at once.
I like my general approach to writing about anime and manga. I think it’s more interesting to take series as a whole, and to only write when I think there’s something truly worth examining about it, but the challenges to writing about manga are a definite disadvantage.
And so… on to the numbers!
This week: Beauty is the Beast vol. 3, Black Bird vol. 2, and Black Rose Alice vol. 1
Beauty is the Beast volume 3:
Eimi unknowingly makes a conquest of Shimonuki, from the boys dorm. But she’s so wrapped up in her admiration of Wanibuchi that she doesn’t even notice. Shimonuki decides to seriously pursue Eimi, and what better way than to get close to the competition? But the plan backfires when Shimonuki starts to idolize Wanibuchi, too! Will Shimonuki ever be more than Eimi’s fellow “Wanichin” fan? (summary by Viz)
The third volume of Beauty is the Beast brings more character building and plot to the previous volumes’ slice-of-life antics. Shinomiya acts as something of a catalyst, someone with a less… idiosyncratic world view to observe Wanibuchi as well as create more opportunities to explore his character and relationship with Eimi. It’s wonderful to see a complicated, troubled romantic lead who never acts aggressive toward the heroine. Once again, this installment nets zero points.
Black Bird vol. 2:
Kyo, the head of the Tengu demon clan, is Misao’s only chance for survival. But even though she has sweet memories of him as a childhood friend, she has trouble reconciling them with the man he has become. Despite the strange attraction she feels for Kyo, can she trust her life, let alone her heart, to a man who only cares about the promise of her blood? (summary by Viz)
I honestly thought this volume of Black Bird had gotten fewer points than the first one, but when I totaled them up, it had received 12 – only one fewer than the first volume. Many of the points come from attitudes embedded in the writing, and not just Kyo’s actions. One of the most troubling things about it is the way Misao almost never questions Kyo – she wonders if he’s just out because of her special qualities and not because of who she is and gets upset when he grabs her body, but when he gets angry or acts controlling, she just accepts that he knows what’s best for her. She has no agency; she thinks, “If Kyo didn’t feel the way he did about me, I would probably be killed or raped by now,” and muses about how cold and heartless and hurtful she must have been when she was put off by his sudden advances in the first volume. When he pressures her into kissing him, she thinks that if he loves her, she has no reason to refuse his advances. It’s a common form of pressuring someone; if you don’t have a specific reason not to, you shouldn’t withhold sex, regardless of your feelings.
Black Rose Alice vol. 1
Dimitri Lewandowski is a celebrated tenor in early 1900s Vienna. When he is killed in an accident, his corpse is colonized by the seeds of a vampire master. At first, Dimitri denies that anything has changed, but as the people around him start dying, he is forced to accept the ghastly truth.
Flash-forward to 2008. In Tokyo, Azusa Kikukawa’s troubled love life comes to an end with a fatal accident. Dimitri appears in her dying dreams with a diabolic proposal—he will save her lover if she agrees to become the breeding ground for the next generation of vampire seeds… (summary by Viz)
Well, that sure was a thing.
The first volume of Black Rose Alice isn’t supernatural romance or urban fantasy; it’s straight-up vampire horror. It’s a new take on vampires, but it doesn’t soften or romanticize them like many modern reinterpretations, unless you think spiders crawling out of a man’s mouth to drink blood is adorable and endearing. The elegant character design and beautifully detailed mansions of the turn-of-the-century European aristocracy contrast with body horror, as well as the shift to modern Tokyo toward the end of the volume.
This volume was mostly table-setting for what’s to come, with little actual romance to speak of. It gained only one point due to a teacher-student romance, even if the teacher was aware of how inappropriate their relationship was and about to break it off until he graduated.
Beauty is the Beast vol. 4
Black Bird vol. 3
Black Rose Alice vol. 2
Boys Over Flowers vol. 1
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