Abusive Relationships in Shoujo Manga by the Numbers: Week 20

This Week
Boys Over Flowers vol. 18
Dengeki Daisy vol. 11
A Devil and Her Love Song vol. 10
The Earl and the Fairy vol. 2
Flower in a Storm vol. 1

Spring 2017 Shoujo

As I said last week, this coming season brings an unprecedented eleven shows clearly and explicitly aimed at a female audience, not counting shows that could go either way or appear to be aimed at a general audience. I’ve been eyeing the databases, looking over what shows I’m anticipating most. I don’t have the best track record for keeping up with current anime – I still have one episode each of Sakura Quest and Code: Realize to watch – but I’m still eager and excited to see female viewership being explicitly marketed to. What are these shows?

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii/Love is Hard for an Otaku comes from a Pixiv webcomic, much like last season’s Recovery of an MMO Junkie. And, like Recovery of an MMO Junkie, it tells a story of working adults bonding over shared interests and falling in love.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai/Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love reunites the creative staff behind Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun for an original series. There’s no telling how it’ll come out, but Mitsue Yamazaki’s skilled direction ensures it’ll be beautiful to watch at the very least.

3D-Kanojo/Real Girl is based on a josei manga, which despite a rather otaku-ish premise, I’ve had recommended to me several times.

Akkun to Kanojo/Akkun and Girlfriend is based on a shoujo manga that I’m not familiar with, but the premise sounds like one of a dime a dozen bad boyfriend series. I’ll give it a shot, but I’m skeptical.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin is based on an otome game. Historically, I’ve been pretty divided on otome adaptations – I respect that they’re unabashedly for girls, but they also tend to put forward fairly normative images of femininity that just don’t jibe with me. Plot-based ones like Code: Realize have a better chance at catching my eye, which looks to be the case for this one as well.

Amai Choubatsu: Watashi wa Kanshu Senyou Pet/I am the Guardian’s Pet has kind of a gross Nazi aesthetic and masochistic bent that I’m super not into. I’m predicting it’ll be a smutty short, and historically those haven’t been localized.

Cutie Honey Universe, despite Go Nagai’s well-deserved reputation as a horndog, is shoujo, just like the original. I haven’t delved into Cutie Honey, but I’ve always wanted to. Hopefully this will be a good starting point.

Kiratto PriChan and Aikatsu Friends are both new entries into long-running idol franchises aimed at young girls. Not my scene, but I’m happy they exist anyway.


Boys Over Flowers vol. 18

When the Makino family’s finances hit rock bottom yet again, they decide to move to the countryside so Tsukushi’s father can earn a living as a fisherman. Poor Tsukushi is left behind in their apartment to try her hand at independent living. A few guests stop by, one most unwelcome–Tsukasa’s mother! Tsukushi stands up to the domineering woman, effectively declaring war. Then a housewarming gift from the F4 wreaks havoc on the apartment, leaving Tsukushi homeless! Will anyone take her in?! (summary by Viz)

2 points

Hey, we’re halfway through the series!

Domyoji was barely in this volume, making it an unusually pleasant read. I’ve particularly been enjoying her friendship with Rui – the two are much more comfortable together, and Kamio’s increasingly expressive art makes that clearer with every volume. One particular moment I enjoyed was when he puts half her hair up in knots without her noticing, then laughs when she realizes what he did. It’s a sweet, natural moment that I could easily see happening between close friends. Their comfort together probably means that his role as a prospective suitor is over, clearing the path for Domyoji.

In one particularly chilling moment, Tsukushi comments that she’s gotten used to all the “accidents” she’s had since she started high school. She’s referring to ending up living alone, but she talks about the unfortunate turn her life has taken as if it’s by a force of nature. However, most of her suffering has had a manmade source: Tsukasa Domyoji. He’s the one who incited the bullying she’s faced, who has tormented and abused her, and completely destabilized her life. When she comments how she’s gotten used to it, it reeks of normalization – she simply accepts the constant turmoil he causes as a part of life she must cope with.

Normalization is one of the most insidious parts of living with abuse; because humans are so resilient, we can get used to pretty much anything. Plus, Tsukushi is told at every turn that Domyoji is desirable, even ideal, because of his wealth, so the abuse she suffers at his hands is seen as “worth it”. Once things become accepted as just a part of life, it’s harder to break away from them, or even think of life without them as possible.


Dengeki Daisy vol. 11

Teru’s friend Rena reveals doubts about her engagement to successful businessman Kazuki Morizono—and for good reason! He seems to be in cahoots with nemeses Akira and Chiharu, with a hidden agenda involving DAISY’s “Jack Frost” virus! How will Teru and Kurosaki deal with this newfound threat? (summary by Viz)

4 points

After a volume of Kurosaki and Teru fumbling around, rearranging their relationship into couplehood, Dengeki Daisy turns its focus back to the vague plot of people trying to get their hands on the Jack Frost virus. The culprit this time is Rena’s fiance, a very bad man in word and deed. On top of trying to get a virus for his own gain, he explicitly and clearly abuses Rena, including kidnapping her.

Why doesn’t the volume have many points? Well, it’s not romanticized. Morizono is quite clearly a villain, and the way he treats Rena comes across clearly as unacceptable. He slaps her, mocks her, and tells her she should be seen and not heard. The text implicitly compares him to Kurosaki, who is teaching Teru to fight when the volume opens. For all that the two pick on each other, at least Kurosaki admires Teru’s spirit and energy, right? It’s true, and now that the two are a couple, he’s treating her much more nicely. Still, I don’t care for when series set up an implicit comparison like this to make the romantic lead look better, which earned it a tropes point.

Still, I do appreciate Rena’s own role in the plot. Since the first volume, she’s shown a pattern of being drawn to abusive men. Morizono, while he’s abusive as well, wasn’t a partner she chose for herself, which frees her psychologically even as he holds her captive in Singapore. I don’t want to blame abuse victims for not being able to find help or even recognize that they need it – that’s totally normal – but it’s still good to see Rena not only realize that Morizono is worthless, but to do what she can to help herself.


A Devil and Her Love Song vol. 10

Even though Maria wants to be with Shin, Shin fears that getting close to Maria will trigger her traumatic memories. When Maria starts having hallucinations, will they be able to overcome the past together? Or will the struggle only tear them apart? (summary by Viz)

6 points


A Devil and Her Love Song takes a dark turn this week by combining Maria’s trauma bubbling to the surface to her and Shin finally being able to level with each and confess their mutual feelings. The way this is handled, which I’ll get to in a minute, is especially disappointing because leading up to that, there are some great scenes, including Shin and Maria getting into a fight. The two are both so frustrated by their lack of communication and mixed messages that it all comes pouring out.

The fight is actually a great moment for their relationship. I’m not of the opinion that fighting every night is normal and healthy for couples, but sometimes other forms of communication break down and it’s the only way to get things out. The fight had no name calling, no accusations, no physical element – just good old-fashioned yelling their frustrations and calling each other out. There’s no power imbalance or weeping and begging forgiveness. It clears the air, and the relief the two feel is palpable. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a real fight like this in a shoujo manga, but it was fantastic.

But then.


Maria starts hallucinating while the two of them are alone together, screaming and crying. Shin’s solution is to kiss her. Hard. He spent so long avoiding her because he was afraid his touch would trigger a flashback, and now he goes a complete 180. When she starts to calm down, he pushes her against the piano, triggering her further. When she starts screaming “No,” and “Stop,” he refuses until a piano wire breaks, and slices open his hand.

Maria isn’t mad – she was screaming because the hallucination, not because of him – but he still refused to stop. And now we have to watch as the narrative tries to make us feel sorry for him, as Maria tries to reassure him and get him to stop self-flagellating. I’m not fucking buying it. Not at all. I’m not going to go all, “Oh poor little Shin, he thought he was raping her but it was something else entirely,” because fuck that. This kind of attitude makes it look like women should comfort and reassure the men who assault them, because they just feel so terrible about the rape.

Fuck that, and fuck this series. I feel so betrayed.


The Earl and the Fairy vol. 2

Edgar and his small band must travel to the Isle of Manan, once home to the Blue Knight Earl. But the island is surrounded by merfolk, whose tragic songs cause rough seas and shipwrecks. And even if Edgar and his companions reach the island, they face death if it turns out he isn’t a true heir to the Earl… (summary by Viz)

4 points

I had to add a new column for this volume of The Earl and the Fairy: plotting murder. That’s pretty unacceptable in the context of a relationship, right? I mean, it’s probably significant that he had been planning to before and changed his mind, but “deciding against killing you” isn’t much of a grand romantic gesture.

I kid, I kid. Seeing someone as a tool and growing to appreciate humanity is totally fine in the context of the genre: historical fantasy romance. (I did include that there, because you never know what will come up in these crazy school melodramas.) Plot-driven series can befuddle the data points a little, because the love interest usually has some sort of goal other than the heroine in mind at the start. When he acts selfishly, turns out to have an unsavory past, or is otherwise a less-than-ideal partner, it makes more sense. Context affects how we see the characters, and what Edgar does – kidnapping Lydia, using her as a pawn, and planning to kill her before changing his mind at the last minute – comes across very differently than it would in a straightforward romance.


Flower in a Storm vol. 1

Riko Kunimi is trying to lead a normal high school life when Ran Tachibana bursts into her classroom carrying a gun and tells her that her life is now his. Ran, the richest, most powerful 17-year-old in Japan wants her as his wife, and he’s not taking no for an answer!

If Ran can’t capture her by five o’clock the next day, he’ll give up on her, but he has all that money can buy at his disposal. However, Riko has one trick up her sleeve–she has superpowers! (summary by Viz)

15 points

What the fuck did I just read?

You, my wonderfully perceptive readers, have probably already realized from the description that this is not the kind of manga that does well in this column. It’s the kind of series where I’m tempted to point to the central conceit and say, “Need I say more?” Flowers in a Storm wants to be wacky, zany, madcap adventures, and falls short of its goals while presenting an utterly reprehensible romance.

I probably don’t need to spell out the fundamental issues with the romance here. Ran stalks her, kidnaps her, touches her without permission, and basically forces her into a relationship. Flower in a Storm isn’t really going for romance here, I think. It wants more laughs than “aww”s. But… why? What about this situation is supposed to be funny? When you strip away the layers of ridiculousness, you have a young man with incredible levels of wealth using all his resources to bully a young woman into marrying him because he thinks it’s cool she has superpowers. (Those superpowers, by the way, are poorly defined and sorely underutilized.) When Riko finally accepts his affections, it feels more like acquiescence than requitement. It’s a decision made under duress, which cannot count as consent.

Next Week
Boys Over Flowers vol. 19
Dengeki Daisy vol. 12
A Devil and Her Love Song vol. 11
The Earl and the Fairy vol. 3
Flower in a Storm vol. 2

One thought on “Abusive Relationships in Shoujo Manga by the Numbers: Week 20

  1. When I caught up to last week’s blog, I was excited to see you were checking out Flower in a Storm! I bought both volumes when it came out but really did not like the story, so I felt a bit vindicated at those 15 points.

    I’ve also been enjoying your Dengeki Daisy analysis! That was one series I recommended for years, but never actually got around to buying past the 6th volume. And now that I’m Kurosaki’s age, I feel very different about Kurosaki & Teru’s relationship…


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