Abuse in Shoujo by the Numbers: Week 14

Last Week:
Black Bird vol. 14
Boys Over Flowers vol. 12
Dawn of the Arcana vol. 9
The Demon Prince of Momochi House vol. 6
Dengeki Daisy vol. 5
A Devil and Her Love Song vol. 4

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Black Bird vol. 14

Sho is finally making a direct move against Kyo, and the battle between them is a close match. Will Sho’s recent feast on Misao’s blood give him the power to overcome Kyo? Or does Sho hope being killed in front of her will add to the pain of betrayal Misao already feels? (summary by Viz)

9 points

The Sho arc of Black Bird draws to a close and Misao returns home. Kyo apparently hypnotized her parents into thinking she was only gone for a night, when really he had spirited away their daughter for months. This strikes me as remarkably scuzzy, and I don’t think it was every explained previously exactly what he was doing and how he was isolating her. She also has been out of school all that time and is terribly behind on her schoolwork, so of course Kyo — ahem, Mr. Usui — has to tutor her. None of her friends seem particularly concerned about her months-long disappearance either. “Isolating from family and friends” is a major sign of potential abuse and, though Misao chose to go with Kyo voluntarily, she was effectively cut off from everyone outside Kyo’s tengu clan, with no one to support her if things went sour.

The arc ends about halfway through the volume, and most of the remaining pages are filled with quick little side stories. These side stories are dominated by small, petty jealousies, such as Misao’s father getting mad at his wife for drinking and chatting at home with Kyo, or Kyo getting upset at Misao for buying Zenki a glasses cleaning cloth. They’re little things, but they betray a lack of trust in pretty much every relationship in the series. No matter how many times Misao assures him that he’s the only one she’s ever loved, he gets mad if she slows the slightest sign of affection or gratitude to another man.

On the bright side, it looks like Misao may be developing her own powers? It would be an exciting development, considering how badly she wants to be equal to Kyo.

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Boys Over Flowers vol. 12

Tsukushi shocks everyone by making it all the way to the final competition in the Miss Teen Japanese Contest. Her striking individuality and dumb luck have gotten her a long way indeed! Now the field is narrowed down to Tsukushi and Ayano, the competition favorite. The final event will determine the girl most likely to become a “good wife and wise mother.” Who is fit to judge such a contest? Why, twenty-one kindergarteners, of course! Unfortunately for Tsukushi, the innocent little darlings remind her of the F4…! (summary by Viz)

10 points

Unfortunately for Tsukushi, or more unfortunately for me…?

Domyoji reveals himself as a man so petty and so small-hearted that he gets jealous of a five-year-old child and gets drawn into a pissing contest about their families’ assets. He’s also cruel enough to throw the child when he wets his pants in his sleep. Not drop, which is an involuntary reaction that I could understand, but hurls a sleeping kindergartener. When Tsukushi gets mad him about it, he tries to shrug it off and say the child wouldn’t have died (he very well could have and small children getting seriously hurt in that exact way is a major problem).

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Dawn of the Arcana vol. 9

Princess Nakaba of Senan and Prince Caesar of Belquat married each other for the sake of peace between their two warring countries. Political forces threaten to tear their world apart, but the two are inexplicably drawn to each other… But what happens when Nakaba finds out about Loki’s feelings for her? Torn between wanting to reciprocate the love of her dear friend and the love she now feels for her husband, Caesar, Nakaba’s decision between the two men may drastically change the fate of the future! (summary by Viz)

1 point

The revelation of Loki’s true feelings for Nakaba isn’t really as much of a game changer as the summary would have you believe. There is a shift in Nakaba and Loki’s relationship and she feels terrible about never noticing, but she doesn’t ever really feel torn between the two. Caesar is still the man she loves, with no doubt in her heart about that. I actually quite like how this is handled – instead of a lengthy, drawn-out love triangle, Nakaba internalizes the conflict as she processes the revelation. She feels terribly guilty about not noticing and hurting him by falling in love with someone else right in front of his eyes, but not to the point of self-flagellating or questioning her own feelings. She feels uncomfortable and awkward around him for a time, unable to take what they once had for granted anymore, all of which are realistic reactions that aren’t stretched out for the sake of empty melodrama. It’s quite nice.

Meanwhile, we get a view of a far more toxic ajin servant/human master relationship: Elahel the snake ajin and Prince Batal. When she was gifted to him for his 14th birthday, the king mentioned the prince’s ruthlessness with the implication that she was for him to use. And though he is kind to her, use her he does. When she is executed for doing his bidding, she rejects Nakaba’s pity, reflecting on how she is dying for the man she loves. However, since Nakaba is the point-of-view character, her rage and sadness at the situation informs us that the situation is meant to be warped and unjust, and not romantic in any way.

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The Demon Prince of Momochi House vol. 6

Himari Momochi inherits Momochi House, an estate which exists on the barrier between the human and spiritual realms. Himari is still coming to terms with Aoi’s rejection of her love confession when Takamura Nachi, the classical literature teacher, shows her a mirror that is said to reflect the true feelings of its beholder… (summary by Viz)

0 points

Handsome teachers are common as dirt in shoujo manga, and to be honest, they’re predatory more often than not. Maybe they’re not written as predators, but their willingness to consort with the girls crushing on them marks them as such. Luckily, the handsome Nachi, for all the girls squealing after him, never really enters the realm of “creep”. He’s sinister in other ways – how does he know about Aoi, and what the heck was with that mirror? – but he doesn’t seem interested in taking advantage of minors for the time being.

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Dengeki Daisy vol. 5

While trying to uncover who the fake DAISY is, Kurosaki gets injured protecting Teru from an attack! The near-fatal incident leaves Teru shaken, and she vows to stay close to Kurosaki. But is proximity just going to hurt them both with the truth still veiled? (summary by Viz)

14 points

I’ll be honest, this post has taken so long to come out mainly because I didn’t feel like reviewing this volume. Nothing really interesting happens – it’s just more of the same. It has a high point score because of the violent slapstick, power imbalances, comments about Teru’s body and so on, but it’s all stuff I commented on in previous volumes. There’s next to no development in their relationship, and only a little plot development. It’s all just kind of… there. Maybe next volume will bring me more to say. Who knows.

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A Devil and Her Love Song vol. 4

Maria encourages antagonistic Ayu to be true to her feelings, but that simple action snowballs into a huge rift within their class! As secret crushes and hidden motives are revealed, the backlash of honesty just might destroy Maria’s efforts in uniting everyone for the choral competition! (summary by Viz)

1 point

Oh hooray, instead of a long, strung-out love triangle, they’re getting the love confessions out of the way early! Shin kisses Maria suddenly, which brings the volume its sole point. I’ll be honest – while kissing someone out of the blue isn’t okay in real life, I still kind of love it in fiction. You know, if the moment is right and it’s gentle and not forceful… It’s a look that works for young, innocent teens. It’s cute as a sort of first love moment of vulnerability and risk-taking, when we, as observers, know that the attraction is mutual. However, it has the baggage of being widely romanticized including in real-life contexts, such as that famous D-Day photograph, and that complicates matters.

In high school, one of my friends tried to kiss me in the hallway before class. I dodged it, but the memory of turning around and seeing his lips coming at me stands stark in my memory. He was a nice enough boy, but terribly awkward in the way that attracts cruelty, and I wasn’t remotely attracted to him. He probably thought it would be romantic, like in the manga we swapped back and forth, but to me it was mortifying.

So I guess this is me, standing here, saying, “Hey I like these things too sometimes, even if I know they’re problematic.”

Next Week
Black Bird vol. 15
Boys Over Flowers vol. 13
Dawn of the Arcana vol. 10
The Demon Prince of Momochi House vol. 7
Dengeki Daisy vol. 6
A Devil and Her Love Song vol. 5

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