Sorry this update is a week late – it’s con season, and panels and interviews means I have a ton of prep work to do. I’ll be presenting my Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga panel at both Otakon and AnimeFest, so come over and say hi if you’re there!
I accidentally rebooted my computer and I hadn’t saved my spreadsheet for quite a while and I lost so! Much! Data!
Beauty is the Beast vol. 4
Black Bird vol. 3
Black Rose Alice vol. 2
Boys Over Flowers vol. 1
Beauty is the Beast vol. 4:
As winter sets in at the dorms and the boys hog all the electricity to heat their rooms, Shimonuki continues his quest to win Eimi’s heart. She agrees to a date, but they both end up confessing to Wanibuchi. Because despite Wanibuchi’s commitment to another woman, Eimi can’t stop loving him. So what will she do if Wanibuchi goes through with his plans to move back to Mexico?
(Summary via Viz)
The summaries really make this sound more melodramatic than it is! This volume is about half lighthearted hijinks, a quarter Wanibuchi backstory, and a quarter romantic drama. The hijinks continue to highlight the strange connection that Eimi and Wanibuchi share, and the two have quite a few sweet moments. The summary dramatizes Eimi’s attraction to Wanibuchi, making it sound like she’s pining after him, but it’s not like that at all – she’s drawn to him in ways she doesn’t really understand, that she doesn’t quite comprehend is romantic. She doesn’t even mind him having a girlfriend.
Speaking of Wanibuchi’s girlfriend, I really waffled on whether or not to add points for that. She’s clearly older – she’s a hairstylist while Wanibuchi is still in high school – but her age is never really specified. Wanibuchi is seventeen years old and a mature one at that, with all the trauma he’s gone through in his life. I’ve been struggling to find confirmation, but it appears that at the time of publishing, seventeen-year-olds could legally consent to sex in Tokyo (the age of consent has since been raised to 18). It exists in a massive grey area, and perhaps I’m being charitable because I like the series in general, but I’m opting against giving it points.
Black Bird vol. 3:
Misao is starting to trust her heart where Kyo is involved, especially after he gives her one of his primary feathers. It isn’t just her first present from him, it’s a magic talisman that will keep her safe when he’s not nearby!
Misao is elated to be able to go to school without the fear of being eaten, just like a normal teenage girl. But as her feelings for Kyo deepen, she starts to realize that as his bride she will have to leave her human life behind–including her family!
(Summary via Viz)
As Black Bird starts to head into more plot-driven matters, the points have started to drop… for now. However, the foreshadowing hints at a lot more abuse dressed up as supernatural drama, particularly isolation from her loved ones, so I suspect this is only a temporary dip.
Misao has settled more into her situation, meaning she’s “acting out” less so that Kyo doesn’t “have to” “punish” her as often, i.e. he’s successfully groomed her to submit to him and behave how he thinks his fiancee should. The sex is consensual, and the villains are more prone to seeking Misao out than her stumbling into their clutches. Him giving her his feather so that she can go out without being pestered by spirits is nice, and actually goes against the grain a bit by granting her more independence, and there are fewer passages where she comments on how he acts/speaks/touches her roughly but she can feel his tenderness underneath, which is one of my least favorite tropes.
Black Rose Alice vol. 2:
Flash-forward to 2008. In Tokyo, Azusa Kikukawa agrees to sacrifice herself as the next breeding ground for the vampire group in exchange for Dimitri healing her fatally wounded young boyfriend. But now that the deal is struck, Azusa finds herself in a strange house and a strange body, surrounded by the men she must choose from for a deadly embrace…
(Summary via Viz)
First, a big-time correction for the first volume: while I was reading it, a couple pages were stuck together and I didn’t notice. Turns out on those pages Dimitri tried to rape Agnieszka so uh. Big omission. Guess that volume gets two points.
The second volume finally reveals the main plot, which appears to be… a reverse harem? After a volume of pretty interesting horror, the main plot kicks in. Azusa inhabiting Agnieszka’s body is now Alice, and she has to select a “propagation partner”, after which the two of them will die. Of course all the boys want to propagate with her, and of course Alice is hesitant. This supposedly puts her in a position of power over them, but soon one of the vampires, Leo, starts coming on to her quite strongly – he kisses her suddenly, crawls into her bed, and so on. She’s not particularly thrown by it, but the permissiveness throws me.
Boys Over Flowers vol. 1:
Tsukushi Makino is accepted into the prestigious, Eitoku Academy. Life changes dramatically for Tsukushi when her friend falls on Tsukasa Domyoji. Tsukasa is the explosive leader of the “F4,” a group of the most powerful, rich and handsome boys. Domyoji refuses to accept Makiko’s apology and Tsukushi steps in to protect her friend. A red tag appears in the Tsukushi’s locker the next morning which is a sign from the F4 that she is to be bullied by the school. Tsukushi continues to stand up to her oppressors.
(Summary via Viz)
I was sixteen or so when Boys Over Flowers first came out in English, and after a couple volumes I realized the main love interest wasn’t Rui, who was decent despite consorting with scumbags, but the violent, stupid, bullying Doumyouji. That was the first time I realized that sometimes shoujo promoted romances that I simply couldn’t get behind.
The series starts relatively low, since the romance has yet to really kick into high gear. Tsukushi is tough and resilient in the face of vicious bullying, and make no mistake, Doumyouji stops at nothing short of emotional terrorism. He does little himself, instead resorting mostly to using his wealth and social standing to incite their classmates to violence like attempted gang rape. However, when she stands up for herself, she reminds him of his abusive older sister, causing him to become enamored of her and have his staff kidnap and drug her in order to give her a makeover.
Boys Over Flowers has a reputation for being more “authentic” but I just don’t get it, it’s just as melodramatic and soapy as any other series.