100% Perfect Girl: the destructive potential of obsessive love

So, it has been ages since my last manga review. Somehow I find that I am more interested in reading manga precisely during school term and I gravitate towards anime and other things (like books, movies, tv series etc.) when I am having an actual holiday. I have no idea why but I guess it has more to do with the precise reason that I have learnt to associate manga with the endless drone of studying so I feel less inclined towards manga as a whole.

Anyway, enough with the frivolous rambling and let’s get on to my first real manga review in quite some time.

100% Perfect Girl is a manhwa that is not really new, and yet it has always managed to occupy a corner of its audience’s thoughts in the shoujo manga community. By reason of the combination of ‘shoujo’ and ‘mature’ tags, this seemingly thoughtless way of categorisation actually belies a more fundamental characteristic of the story being told that is rather different from what we see in a typical shoujo manga (which tends to be told in a lighter palette of colours, even when it contains realistic aspects in the portrayal of behaviour of young people in love). And it is simply this: 100% Perfect Girl is a very heavy read. It probably should come with the tags *warning: not for the faint-hearted*

Now, that’s not to say that 100% Perfect Girl deals with dark and depressing topics like discrimination, treating humanity as a means to an end, war or military. 100% Perfect Girl deals 100% as its title suggests, with love, but yet it is of a love that is so possessive and full of jealousy that it turns into a rather vicious, ugly animal, destructive of life and people in its path.

Story:

100% Perfect Girl mostly tells the story of an extremely rich and powerful young King, who falls in love at first sight with a beautiful, ethereal young girl who comes from a a very poor, commoner family. Before I launch into a rant about how unrealistic the entire ‘love-at-first-sight’ trope has been overplayed to the point that teenage girls who are overtly exposed to such media develop fitful, flighty dreams about The One, let me just state that it is very characteristic of Korean media to take people from the dire opposites of the income spectrum and spin a love story. Its part of a reason why I am not particularly fond of Korean drama series and manhwa, but this is a topic which I will expound upon on another day.

So anyway, guy falls in love with girl and then pursues her to the ends of the earth (literally). Girl doesn’t actually fall in love then, but succumbs to the temptations of good looks and money anyway …. is what I like to say, except that said girl should probably be given more credit than that. Jay Jin may be so, but she is headstrong in the sense that she still manages to keep her head on tight. It is however, too bad for her, since with the melodramatic flair atypical of a story where the author seems set on pushing that elusive fairytale ending further out of reach, the poor girl has to suffer through a series of unfortunate events:¬†jealousy, kidnappings, assassinations, multiple accounts of semi-rape, familial revenge, physical violence, depression and suicide. All because she falls in love with this one guy whose idea of love translates into massive suffocation and restriction of personal freedom due to his inherent flaw of possessiveness and obsession.

What was commendable was the effort made in drawing out certain realistic issues and in portraying how a fairytale set-up may not necessarily end in a happy ending (by saying this however, I maintain a neutral position as to whether this series contains a happy or sad ending). That unfortunately does not mean that the protagonist’s life can be anything short of unrealistic. There seems to also be a larger focus on drawing out flaws in characters though the positive traits surface somewhat that helps to round out their personality.

Art

The art style can certainly said to be unique, with broader strokes on the characters’ facial features and with notable emphasis on the eyebrows and lashes. Characters’ faces are also relatively long and pointed, and Jay Jin’s more ethereal yet down-to-earth beauty has been captured quite well in the way she is drawn.

Thoughts:

100% Perfect Girl was addictingly fascinating, but I only devoured it in an effort to stop that growing feeling of dread as the series progressed and to see whether a happy ending is actually possible for this bunch of unfortunate characters. I actually felt emotionally drained after the entire series though I wasn’t exactly smiling in delight, crying or even being excited at all, simply because I was just shaking my head throughout at how unlucky the characters had to be.

All in all, this series was a tad too dramatic for me. Though it had a good plot, I felt very personally removed from the characters, and it didn’t manage to touch me unlike its shoujo counterpart Haou Airen (which I think did a better job than this) or its Chinese live action drama counterpart (Summer’s Desire, which portrays more three-dimensional characters and an extremely interesting female protagonist and which I highly recommend). It is still well worth a try though for those who prefer darker, more serious shoujo stories along the lines of Haou Airen.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below about this manga, whether you have read it or not ūüôā

Ashita no Nadja: a shoujo romantic adventure that defies its childish-looking exterior

Type: TV series

Genres: Adventure, Drama, Historical, Romance, Shoujo

Episodic count: 50

Years aired: 2003 – 2004

Ashita no Nadja is a historical shoujo anime that tells the story of a young thirteen year old orphan girl who sets out on an adventure to find her mother after learning that she is alive. With a positive and cheerful demeanour, she joins a travelling circus troupe as a dancer, and meets many people along the way, touching their lives in subtle ways and making their lives for the better.

I have always been hesitant in watching any series that looked like its specifically built for kids – with rainbows, dancing ponies, unicorns, floating bubbles and a Happy Ending because childhood innocence should be preserved and children should be given a right to enjoy the precious few years they have looking at the world through innocent eyes filled with wonder before they are destroyed by the ubiquitous negative messages of physical violence prevalent in mass media today. Ashita no Nadja seemed to be precisely that, portraying Nadja as an ideal protagonist with kindness brimming with every action, and gullible to the point of my frustration…

… Except that what seemed to kick off as a rather episodic series and a superficially optimistic character quickly developed into something more for me. Nadja and her story of adventure actually defy conventional standards of a shoujo anime in certain ways, but yet manages to retain that sense of innocent delight , due to the following reasons.

Fleshed out characters

Nadja’s character is more fleshed out as the series progressed. She definitely has certain principles about how kindness and helpfulness towards others should be extended and maintained, which she stands by throughout the series. Yet, she also learns to stand tall in the face of adversity, and she represents the more valuable trait of tenacity and resilience in the face of her surrounding circumstances, and realistically so. In fact, I don’t think I have seen another anime that has portrayed so resoundingly the importance of maintaining a positive mindset despite encountering misfortune. (For example, in contrast, Cosette of Les Miserables holds on to that attitude in a way that is too unrealistic for me to truly comprehend.)

The other characters whom we meet in an episodic fashion are also recurring characters with sympathetic backstories that all play a role of enabling Nadja to grow as a person. Even the supporting cast have certain motivations for their behaviour that aren’t immediately apparent, yet understandable later on when explored. The romantic interest(s) here also have decidedly different values which they hold steadfast to, and this turns out to be extremely crucial as part of the romantic development and resolution.

A gripping plot with a satisfying resolution

Ashita no Nadja starts out with a surrounding air of mystery regarding Nadja’s true mother, and as she goes to different places and finds out little snippets of her mother’s whereabouts and true identity, the audience is kept in the suspense as well. Though early scenes actually show that side of the story, the developments in the middle still manage to withhold that element of surprise, tripping one up just when one is lulled into a false sense of security with a series of unexpected twists.

Moreover, the content of the setting and plot are to be lauded in keeping things interesting during the more episodic parts of the series. As a performer, Nadia visits different countries and visual treats come in the form of different backgrounds, dances that Nadja performs, and people.

Of worthy mention…

In watching a series, there is rarely any one episode that particularly stands out to me unless it contains a major plot twist. However, Ashita no Nadja has managed to become the only exception with its groundbreaking episode 26, which has the most stunning episodic direction that I have seen. Episode 26 is lush with beautiful animation, the famous lyrical waltz of the series playing in appropriate times in the background, and it is also heartbreaking even though there isn’t actually anything sad happening in that episode. I have rewatched that episode on its own not less than three times, and I have never done that for any other episode in any other anime. (In fact, I feel like doing it again now.) It probably also helps that it contains a major romantic development with the male romantic interest I root for, and whose beauty still manages to break my heart.

Those beautiful shades of light in his hair…

Conclusion

Ashita no Nadja is highly recommended for all shoujo romance fans despite a seemingly hefty 50 episodes that indicates a huge investment of sorts. For those who love seeing more-than-one love interests, this is definitely a series for you to try out, especially for those who like to try out a well developed historical romantic adventure.

*All images belong to their original creators and I do not own any of these images.*

Shoujo Manga Updates and Thoughts :) (Part II)

Another slew of mini-reviews for certain shoujo manga which I have completed ūüôā

Sprout

The set-up here is rather similar to Strobe Edge; in a sense where a girl falls in love with a guy who already has a girlfriend, though this girl already has a boyfriend at the start. When¬†the main girl’s parents decided to turn their house into a boarding house and invite tenants in, she is initially unhappy with the suggestion, but her sentiments change as she realises how fun her housemates (including the guy she fell for) are.¬†My personal favourite moments are those fun times all of them spend together at their house. As for the romance, it was really quite an arduous, almost painful journey to read about a girl who leaves her boyfriend for a guy who is already attached – I personally didn’t see anything too redeeming about the main male lead, though this could be said to be something that’s ‘different’ from the ordinary shoujo manga plot.

Mr rating: 7/10, worth a try but it can be rather painful.

Nakanmon!

This story starts pretty interestingly as a series of occurrences lead five students to be late on their first day of school. This group is a pretty odd one: we have a crybaby female lead who just moved to Tokyo (who has understandable reasons for being the way she is), a tsundere-ish guy with a nice heart, a player, an aloof girl and .. another aloof guy. Despite the drama potential with such an ensemble of characters, do not be fooled as there is actually an almost non-existent love triangle. The characters grow and change with what they can over 16 chapters, especially the main female lead and the main male lead (which I will decline to say which one is). The romance ends up being quite cute and it’s a rather short and refreshing 16 chapters.

My rating: 7/10

Ouji to Hero

The story is had a cliched setting with a love triangle between a poor but pretty, nice female lead and two popular, good looking guys, one being the ‘prince’ and the other being a ‘hero’ (due to his name actually). Having said that though, the drama was good because of the love triangle taking central stage and I did enjoy the ride, as there were many plot twists in the middle as well.¬†However¬†the ending was terribly disappointing as the actions were not justified by what the characters were actually feeling – there was a rather poor explanation given for all their behaviour (especially the male leads). I had expected a more logical explanation for everything.

My rating: I still gave it a 7/10, because despite the things that didn’t make sense, I couldn’t deny that I was pretty addicted and I did enjoy the drama. However, stay away if a satisfactory, sensible ending is a must for you.

Boku wa Kiss de Uso wo Tsuku

This started out as a mystery: who was the person who had kissed Meiko in the library? There are 4¬†possible candidates i.e. male leads involved in this, and I did have a fun time trying to guess who was it and who Meiko would eventually end up with. Fortunately for me this time, she did end up with the guy I preferred, but as with all short manga there wasn’t too much exploration or development of the male characters to turn me into a fan.

My rating: 7/10

Though all the four manga here have garnered the same rating from me, the only one I would seriously recommend is Nakanmon! because I felt that it has the most realistic character development and it really did have satisfactory romance. Having said that, I don’t think the rest of the manga this time around is a waste of time to try ūüôā

Have you tried any of these? What did you think about it? If you haven’t, which ones are you motivated to try? Comments are welcome! ūüôā

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*

Shoujo Manga Updates and Thoughts :) (Part I)

‘Sup people! I have been on a shoujo manga roll recently despite many valiant efforts to finally quit and focus on my studies *ahem* so there’s really been a lot of manga I have read since my last manga related post! So I decided to just do mini reviews for some of the manga I have read so far – no spoilers ahead, so read on! xD

Cat StreetCat Street

This is a coming-of-age story which focuses on a group of friends. Keito Aoyama is a famous child actor who retired from her career early due to a traumatic incident and she has been passing her days without purpose since then. One day, she meets a stranger who brings her to El Liston, a free school for students like herself who don’t think they have a place in society. There, Keito finds new friends and slowly grows to accept and open up to others, as well as confront her childhood fears. This is a story about finding yourself, and I really liked the concept of El Liston – I wonder why there aren’t more of these institutions in real life! There is a lot of character development in here – and for the romance part, its not conventional¬†because Keito doesn’t choose the first guy she falls for, though its possible you’d pick up some clues right at the start about who she’s gonna choose in the end. Though because I have seen so many great reviews on it I went in thinking that it will blow my mind – it didn’t, but it has a very unique story and likable characters nonetheless.

My rating: 8/10, recommended! Contains drama and psychological themes.

Stardust Wink

This is a romance comedy between three childhood friends: Anna, Sou and Hinata; and Anna’s love journey to see who she actually likes. This is a typical high school fluffy shoujo manga, but its also not so typical after all. The characters are not superficial though Anna is really really confused all the time about who she really likes – in fact, I think its hard to tell who she’s going to end up with – there’s so many twists and turns. Even when she’s confused, Anna is not fickle-minded and that’s a relief. The English translation is not fully scanlated yet, so I finished this in Chinese. However, I think there isn’t a real difference between stopping at where the English chapters end and the ending; its essentially the same though there are other certain revelations about the relationships of one of the main characters.

My rating: 7/10, recommended if you are looking for a light, entertaining but not superficial shoujo read with a confused girl (I personally love these things, haha!)

Hiren TripHiren Trip

A story about an aspiring mangaka who meets her school’s student council president – one of the less seen male sempai-female kouhai relationships out there. The girl falls for the guy first, but thankfully it wasn’t too cliched.¬†The art fits my taste and the feelings explored weren’t superficial to say at the very least. Too bad it was really too short (8 chapters) but it was a pleasant read.

My rating: 7/10    

Renren Zakari - SO ADORBS <333Renren Zakari

The story screams love triangle alert! But make up that with gorgeous art and gorgeous lines and it really makes those very short 5 chapters worth it. I like love triangles a lot anyway so there isn’t anything that would dissuade me from reading this. Plus, the main female is not an annoying character so that’s a gigantic plus. Check out the screenshot, how is that not enticing? xD

My rating: 7/10 

Hana to Rakurai

Hana to Rakurai

The language is truly beautiful, whether its spoken or written, it’s able to make others feel emotions¬†

That’s most likely what love is.

A story about helping people and passing that kindness on to others. These themes are not uncommon, but its rare that they are explored subtly and able to elicit a emotional response from its audience. This story deals with characters’ past and the challenges they face in interacting with others, and it also deals with friendship in a very meaningful way. This is a very heartwarming story about reaching out to people, and possibly tearjerking too when we get to know about¬†their backstories. Its amazing how all these are explored in merely 8 chapters.

My rating: 8/10, highly recommended!

That’s all from me for now; thank you for reading and hopefully you are persuaded at least to check out these manga. Look out for Part 2 of this series ūüôā (having completed so many manga that I can’t fit everything into one post :p)

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*

Hirunaka no Ryuusei: your most realistic take on love

I am constantly behind on my attempts to write anime reviews simply because I keep reading these amazing shoujo manga which I really have to write about immediately. I actually fear that I may not recover from the story and its characters if I don’t actually do so, hence here I am.

I have been hearing about HnR for quite some time already; yet I had always put it somewhere behind on my priority list because the more manga pages I see online, the nagging feeling that this is a really good manga starts to arise. And what that means is that its probably going to be one of those manga that I won’t be able to recover from at least a while; that’s why I was always planning to wait till my school term is over till I actually indulge in such good reads.

But one day, I was feeling so drained after a few consecutive weeks of never ending projects, presentations and midterms, so I decided that #yolo I would read whatever I want, and I am pretty sure I am craving some good shoujo manga, and it was a mid term break for me anyway. So here I am.

*Please note that from here on, there will be certain¬†spoilers about the manga. Though they probably won’t consist of anything too major if you are an avid browser of shoujo manga forums, Pinterest, tumblr, and the like.*

I am pretty sure there those who have read enough shoujo manga, both good and bad, know that there are many tropes and cliches that shoujo manga stories always seem to fall back into. I am not sure how much this holds true for the rest of you, but I have always felt frustrated not only at the lack of creativity of how the romance in such manga progress, but also the crevasse between the world of shoujo manga and real life, in my opinion, the distance which could be easily reduced with a simple realisation on the part of the mangaka. For a genre that focuses so much on romance development during youth, I am often surprised to find a lack of any manga that closely resembles what most girls in real life would choose to do.

However, Hirunaka no Ryuusei represents what I hope to be the start of a whole new dimension to current shoujo manga. It has taken the whole of romance development to a newer, down-to-earth level that is like a breath of fresh air. I admit that romances like Strobe Edge and Heroine Shikkaku are realistic in their own right; but it felt that they were toeing around the line, beyond which would bring shoujo manga to a whole new level, and yet they fall short of that and retreat back into the safe zone. I have always felt a tingly bit of frustration at that outcome though it is admittedly outweighed by the process.

Hirunaka no Ryuusei starts off pretty mildly. We have Suzume, a country girl who moves to Tokyo alone to stay with her uncle and start school over there. She meets Shishio Satsuki, a regular visitor of her uncle’s cafe, who happens to be her homeroom teacher. As she goes to school, she makes her very first friend, Mamura Daiki and basically blackmails him into doing so after finding out his secret: that he’s pretty shy around girls and blushes madly whenever a girl touches him. With such a seemingly simplistic plot as backdrop, we are brought,¬†subtly and unknowingly, into the a world with one of the most realistic dealings of romance that this genre has probably ever experienced, as a love triangle forms between Mamura, Suzume and Shishio.

The love between Shishio and Suzume was through a slow process, without any official pronouncement or declaration of going out with one another, they gradually fall into the routine of a relationship with one another. The love was never passionate, nor did it feel that both of their feelings actually got through to each other at some point. As the audience, I have always felt slightly melancholic as I see Suzume struggle to reach out to her sensei, only to have him reflexively avoid facing her feelings outright and telling her what he truly feels about her, that he reciprocates his feelings as well. However, though Shishio can be said to be really immature and insensitive in handling his relationship with her, for example, not being entirely honest with Suzume and using one of what I perceive to be the worst and most hurtful reasons for breaking up with her, I feel that it is really mostly due to being in a really difficult position. All the secrecy that surrounds their relationship due to it being a taboo relationship opens up many opportunities for understanding. Even Suzume comes to realise, while still being in love in Shishio, that having to hide their relationship all the time and not having anybody to talk and confide in, is tiring and painful in itself. Shishio, meanwhile, remains troubled about their relationship all the time as he questions what he is doing about the taboo nature of the relationship.Though never intending to hurt her, his hesitation and struggles showed in his inconsistency of his treatment towards her; sometimes hiding his feelings really well but at other times, throwing away his mask; making Suzume confused, and unhappy to an extent.  As noted by Mamura and Shishio, in trying to deal with all these, Suzume became somebody unlike herself.Their moments of happiness were short-lived, and ultimately their relationship at least at that point in time, was so brittle and had such a weak foundation, ultimately leading to an inevitable breakup.

Mamura, on the other hand, faced none of the problems with a taboo relationship. Though shy with girls at first, he quickly comes to the realisation that he has fallen hard for Suzume. Of course, Suzume was unable to return his feelings at first; but being sensitive to her at all times, he manages to turn up and comfort her in times of need. Unconsciously, he had become her rock where she turns to for a sense of solace and comfort. As Suzume notes, she feels like she could talk to Mamura with no problems at all, unlike when she was with Shishio where during their long periods silence she catches herself wondering what he was thinking about. Except for the occasional periods of time when she knows Mamura likes her but she was unable to reciprocate the feelings he has, as well as periods of shyness and embarrassment, she has always been able to talk with him casually and normally.

So how should Suzume choose when there comes to a climax in the manga where both Shishio and Mamura have pretty much made their feelings known to her? How does she choose?

Suzume loved the both of them, but in different ways, and at different times. In ultimately choosing Mamura, she has¬†made it clear to herself that she wanted to cherish Mamura in the way he had supported her all this while. She was acting on her feelings at that point, and she was no longer tied by her feelings in the past. Mamura had, all this while, from¬†an existence that was previously in the fringe edges of her heart, become an existence of so much importance that he envelops her entire heart. Here is where readers are totally thrown off guard; simply because in most shoujo manga, even after realising that one should reciprocate the feelings that the ‘nice’ guy had for her, the ultimate outcome would be choosing the first guy that one ever loved.

Perhaps the idea of choosing the first guy would make sense if we believe that one can only truly fall in love once, and be faithful¬†to that love; our feelings to anybody else couldn’t have been ‘true love’. ¬†However, this rarely every happens in real life; we fall in love multiple times, and most people aren’t lucky enough to just fall in love and end up with the person we first loved for the rest of their lifetime. One may say, its precisely because its like that in real life which is why we indulge in mediums like shoujo manga to satisfy our imagination and dreams that a ‘one true love’ could exist. However, this does not detract from HnR’s arguably bold step in taking a stand on this matter in the other way. In rationalising Shishio and Mamura as both first and second loves, the mangaka’s message is clear to us: ¬†that it is okay to fall in love twice, and its okay for us to pick the guy who was there for you all the time, and that timing matters in a relationship and once it is gone, ¬†it is gone forever.

And in fact, its what she should have done. Its what every girl in her position should do, for herself, for the guy she loves, and the guys who love her.

I personally have very mixed feelings about this manga; mainly because I have always proclaimed myself to be an avid ‘underdog’ supporter. But when I came to the end of this manga, I couldn’t help but ache for Shishio’s sadness and acceptance of that outcome, even though I was also really happy for Suzume and Mamura. I suppose this is where¬†the strength of the story lies; because technically Shishio couldn’t very well be blamed for his actions and his slowness in getting his feelings through to Suzume. As I have mentioned, it was all a matter of timing for them.

Perhaps going into the manga already knowing who Suzume picked in the end had been a mistake from the start, since it actually changed my perspective throughout the manga. This is the first time I genuinely felt for a teacher-student relationship and felt heartbreak at Shishio’s plight throughout the manga; while also rooting for the other two as well. I daresay Yamamori sensei had done an excellent job with this story which I will never forget, and I hope it opens up the gates to more realistic shoujo manga in the future.

*All images in this post do not belong to me and are owned by their respective owners.*

Please feel free to comment if you have any thoughts on this! ūüôā

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki kun: the shoujo-esque shounen (or is it the other way round?)

Tags: Anime, Takumi (Scya), Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Sakura Chiyo, Kashima Yuu, Nozaki Umetarou, Wakamatsu Hirotaka

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki kun is a comedic series that is told from the point of view of Sakura Chiyo, who we see confessing her feelings to her schoolmate Nozaki, right at the start of the anime. Due to a misunderstanding, however, Nozaki thinks Sakura is just a fan. She then discovers Nozaki’s other identity; a shoujo manga artist. As she gets closer to Nozaki, she befriends Nozaki’s quirky acquaintances who assist him and serve as inspirations for his manga. (Source: ANN)

The beginning of the series deludes us into thinking that it was just another typical shoujo series albeit with a comedic twist to it. Such ways of thinking are immediately proven wrong. As we are introduced to the quirky characters that make up this show, we quickly realise that Gekkan Shoujo is a very well done parody of all existing shoujo character archetypes and school events. Defying conventional standards is what makes this comedy stands out amongst even its peers in the same genre. A brief character analysis would serve to prove my time.

Chiyo Sakura

Our protagonist is a really typical shoujo heroine, with unrequited feelings towards her schoolmate, Nozaki. Honestly, there probably isn’t much that stands out about her character in particular, except to serve as a backdrop to all the other unique characters that populate this series. She serves as the emblem of normalcy, making her a sharp contrast to the other characters. However, she really plays along well with the others. At the very end of the series, though, the focus revolves back to her and her relationship with Nozaki, reminding us that hey, this IS the protagonist, and it is because of her that we get introduced to all the wonderful characters.

Nozaki

This is a pretty normal male high school boy who is a professional shoujo manga artist. This seemingly irreconcilable set of identities already set him up as a just-for-laughs character. As his stoic nature soon shows, he is definitely talented in certain ways (in being a professional mangaka) and severly lacking in others (sometimes everyday common sense). He uses the people around him as models for his manga characters, and often goes around sniffing out ideas for his manga. One particularly ironic aspect about him is that though he specialises in shoujo manga, he is incredibly dense and oblivious with regards to Sakura’s feelings towards him, which are not exactly discreet.

Mikoshiba

GekkanShoujo1

Kashima and Mikoshiba. No prizes for guessing who is who.

This misleadingly designed character whom, on first glance, seems like the ‘flirty’ love interest in shoujo manga, is actually a tsundere and becomes extremely shy after flirting with girls in general. In fact, he serves as the model of the female lead in Nozaki’s manga.

Kashima

This princely fellow almost always seen to be decked in a royal outfit and ready to go to the rescue of maidens around him….is actually a girl. Naturally, she becomes the model for the ‘princely’ male character for Nozaki’s shoujo manga.

Seo Yuzuki

One of the most hilarious characters ever to be created, her denseness to social situations always never fails to crack me up. Check the self-explanatory gif below for illustration.

SeoYuzuki1 SeoYuzuki2 SeoYuzuki3 SeoYuzuki4 SeoYuzuki5

And many other supporting characters which complete the hilarious anime that is Gekkan Shoujo.

What can I say? Do watch this if you just want something to laugh about, or if you find something inherently funny (or ridiculous) in overused character tropes in all shoujo anime/manga. Having said that, please don’t watch this for any romance, for you may very well be severely disappointed. (I wasn’t, because i love all their current relationships now to care xD)

*All gifs and clips used in the production of gifs belong to their respective owners. I do not own any of this and I do not claim credit for their production.*

Spoiler Comparison: Strobe Edge vs Heroine Shikkaku

El Manga Heroine Shikkaku de Momoko Kouda tendrá adaptación a película Live-Action en Verano.

Heroine Shikkaku

Strobe Edge - Gacchan, Ren, Ninako and Andou

Strobe Edge

*Please go on tumblr/Pinterest to check out the above two manga if you haven’t tried them because my images SERIOUSLY DO NOT DO THEM JUSTICE. Also, this is a spoiler warning so read at your own risk.*

I don’t actually normally do comparisons but I realised I HAD to do this for myself, or my thoughts will continually be raging through my head and my soul will never rest in peace.

Shoujo manga has always been a gigantic heartache for me because I have a habit of shipping the underdog/second male lead character and it absolutely destroys me when the girl, despite this second guy unconditionally loving them so much, chooses to go back to the first, which may or may not be the best choice (note that this is subjective though) for them.

Take these two manga for example. The setting and plot are awfully similar, and in fact, the same. Well….almost. Let me highlight the respective differences (blue for Strobe Edge,¬†red¬† for Heroine Shikkaku)

Heroine (Ninako, Hatori) is in love with first guy (Ren Ichinose, Rita Terasaka) and confesses to him. First guy has certain issues that prevents them from accepting the girl’s confession. (For example, already having a girlfriend, but for HS its really due to RIta and Hatori being childhood friends hence the latter is unable to see her as a love interest). Heroine is extremely determined and is convinced that she will only love first guy, so she tries to deal with her feelings (or act on them). In comes the second guy (Andou, Kosuke Hiromitsu). This guy is popular, flirtatious, and a player. However, he gradually falls in love with Heroine. Drama ensues. Note that the second guy falls hard, totally and completely.

BUT. THEY BOTH CHOOSE THE FIRST GUY.

However, there is actually a big difference between how I feel about who the heroine ends up with, though both actually make sense, to an extent.

In Strobe Edge, Ninako is a pure, kind¬† girl who questions herself and her actions while trying to pursue her feelings for Ren. She is selfless and strong, in my eyes, and though persistent, never really comes across as annoying. Most importantly, Ren himself never really emotionally cheats on his girlfriend. He sorts out his feelings even when unconsciously falling for Ninako, and is purely devoted to his girlfriend and is there when she needs him. They actually break up and its some time before he starts realising his feelings for Ninako and then acting on them. No surprises there when they end up together, even when we as readers all feel for Andou. But Ninako is never really confused about her feelings of who she likes; its clear that its Ren all the way, and its only because she doesn’t run away from Andou’s various attempts and tries to answer properly to his feelings that the ‘drama’ in that part of the love triangle comes in. I really felt sorry for Andou because its clear that he really loves Ninako but Ninako never really gave him a chance.

Hence, one could say that Ninako and Ren are really the perfect couple. Their selflessness and readiness to put themselves in other people’s shoes make them a perfect fit with each other. I don’t actually see either of them with anybody else, and to me, this is the only end the manga could have ended.

Heroine Shikkaku, on the other end, features a very unique female protagonist, Hatori. She would be what one would term as the ‘bitchy female rival’ in most shoujo manga. Viewing herself as the ‘heroine’ in Rita’s love story, she dismisses whatever potential rivals she has as ‘supporting/side characters’. She is really persistent in trying to show her love and support to Rita and comes up with some menacing plots to break Rita and his then girlfriend apart (the latter who happens to fall into the stereotype of nerdy, shy, quiet girl with glasses and short hair). She harbours evil thoughts towards her rivals and is sometimes seen as annoying because of her persistence and inability to see the truth of the situation (that Rita is NOT interested in her, period.) However, we all know she is not really truly evil. She does have an inkling that what she is doing is wrong though she doesn’t attempt to change much. She is¬†real.¬†She is a reflection of our inner demons if we are placed in the same situation (God forbid, but I doubt I would be as forward as her – i am more of the ‘cry dejectedly in the corner’ type). Even after listing all her lousy attributes, I can actually say I like her – I admire her courage to live according to how she feels, her ludicrous facial expressions, and the fact that she can be read so openly like an open book. Not to mention her overwhelming ability to blame herself for events that transpired and wanting to look out for people she cares for (which feeds into her indecisiveness in choosing between the guys).

Rita, on the other hand, is a seriously lousy male protagonist, though I can’t bring myself to hate him either. He is unclear about his feelings, often gives the wrong signals to both his girlfriend and Hatori, only came to like Hatori when he realised she was gradually falling for Hiromitsu and treating her as convenient when she was around initially. He only goes all out in his pursuit when Hatori is actually in ‘like’/in serious danger of falling for Hiromitsu. He was literally oscillating between his girlfriend and Hatori, and his indecisiveness is at times.. astounding. But his efforts to redeem himself worked somewhat, and I didn’t hate him in the end. Mainly because of another reason though which I will elaborate further below.

Hiromitsu, on the other hand, is to die for. Sure, he belongs to the ‘player’ archetype, popular and flirty, and never taking relationships seriously. But the depth of love he has for Hatori is amazing. Even when he knew that Hatori still couldn’t get over Rita, he welcomed her into his open arms. He was willing to be the distraction for Hatori’s feelings. Even when she was supposed to be his girlfriend but spent so much time with Rita (and more-than-a-friend interactions with Rita) he still chose to believe in her and push down any feelings of jealously. His magnanimity towards his rival even when he is clearly smitten with her is..amazing. Even when he let his guard down towards the end of the manga and gave into his jealousy, one can forgive him due to the fact that he has done so unbelievably much.

Which brings me to my most important here. Hatori may be very likable, but she does not deserve Hiromitsu. She knows this herself which is why she chose to let him go in the end instead of trying to fall in love with him and never really succeeding. In fact, Hatori and Rita are perfect with each other. Why? Because Hatori is really an imperfect ‘ideal’ heroine. She is merely the heroine of her own story, and because she has made so many mistakes and wavered with regards to her feelings towards the two guys. Which makes her a perfect match with Rita, who is similarly indecisive himself, and who also makes tons of mistakes along the way. In a way, both of them are idiots who really and truly belong together (as Hatori’s friend Nakajima summarises perfectly in the Extra at the end of the manga). And that is really the true message of the manga: the realisation that we are only human, we make tons of ridiculous, stupid mistakes, we are selfish as well, and that we control our own stories and the way we live our lives.

I suppose I could draw comfort from the fact that Hatori really tried to love Hiromitsu, and see only him. They were in a relationship for a good couple of chapters, and endured through trials and tribulations as well while trying to maintain the relationship with so many rivals and drama going on. Hatori really appreciated what Hiromitsu had done for her, and this was also one of her reasons for letting him go, to find somebody who is more worthy of his attention and love. (I mean, its also because she was really in love with Rita, but I’ll still give her credit).

Hiromitsu really breaks my heart, though. What me (and other Hiromitsu fans, I am sure) need now is another continuing story for him to find his soul mate; someone who encompasses the same traits as Hatori (the ones that made him fall for her) but doesn’t at least come with that baggage and won’t hurt him the same way as she inevitably did.

On a sidenote, those who have seen my MAL profile would know that one of my absolute favourites is NANA. The main lead, Nana, is also someone indecisive with her feelings, completely superficial, always looking for love, and what one would term as a ‘weak’ protagonist. She believes in true love but her relationships never work out well. Some people even call her a slut because of the way she jumps from one guy to another usually but frivolous reasons. But I really identify with her because she knows that she is weak, helpless, dependent, fickle, but chooses to still pursue these superficial goals. And sometimes, one would think, why not? Life is full of materialism. Everybody wants to be loved, live richly, be always surrounded by loved ones, to be the center of attention. We just do the best in each situation we encounter, try to keep loved ones by us, and live. Nana is the embodiment of such pursuit and thus grounded in realism. That’s the reason why I like her. Hatori is somewhat similar to her but..still loses out because she isn’t as grounded in reality as the universe of NANA (and Nana herself) is. Maybe because I believe that its possible to try and love someone and succeed. Maybe because I believe that there is no point being hung up on say one person without trying to find a better love. Maybe because love is more than attraction.

Having said that, I can’t wait for the live action film of HS and SE to be released. Both are coming out in summer this year and I¬† hope it won’t be destroyed by actors/actresses’ poor acting abilities. (seriously, that’s the worst.)

*All images are obtained from Pinterest and I do not own any of the above images.*

Chihayafuru: the seamless blend of shoujo, josei, and sports

chihayafuru-1

The Chihayafuru series, in its entirety, is a shoujo anime which has elements of literary and poetic appreciation, as well as ‘training’ easily associated with that of competitive team and individual sports. It features a high school female protagonist, which misleads one into thinking that it is only for the¬†shoujo¬†genre. But as we follow the series further, we realise that Chihaya’s motivation to improve herself her skills of playing¬†karuta¬†and her never ending desire to win and ‘be the best in Japan and the whole world’, is more reminiscent of the male protagonist of a¬†shounen¬†sports anime. Chihaya herself is pretty much tomboyish, and her cluelessness to anything to do with romance makes her a unique female protagonist, similar to Sora¬†from Kaleido Star. In fact, the two are pretty similar, if not for the fact that Chihayafuru manages to develop Chihaya, Taichi, Arata and not to mention the rest of the supporting characters much better than Kaleido Star did. We see Chihaya’s desire to win as not merely idealistic as Sora’s dreams, but her passion for karuta and to become good at it is laid out in a more sophisticated manner. To love karuta is one thing, but to see Chihaya’s journey in her self-understanding of how to even better appreciate karuta, from appreciating the colours of different sounds and the evocative scenes that accompany each verse, leads the viewer, too, into a more unanced understanding of the sport that is nothing short of beautiful. Watching Chihayafuru really calms one down, forces one to take a step back, and appreciate the most basic elements of nature, emotions and the way people relate to each other. The anime exudes a very serene feeling which is not overshadowed by tensions created by competition, and carries both the excitement of watching an intense competition, and when that ends, what viewers are left with is the impression of serendipity, peace, appreciation for nature, literature and history. Of worthy mention is the way Chihayafuru takes time to expound on rivals’ backstories and the various reasons and how they are motivated to improve on their karuta-playing skills. We identify different aspects of ourselves with the various perspectives of these people, and we grow and learn from how they manage to win the war within themselves, and from what happens if we don’t manage to do that in time.

This story also manages to squeeze in what I consider to be one of the most trying and well developed love triangle I have seen so far in a¬†shoujo¬†anime. It is rare to see a story where I can’t choose between both male contenders. My preferences lie with Taichi, the one who has stuck by Chihaya all this while, giving her mental and physical support. He who spent some time trying to run away from his feelings, has incredibly bad luck in general, and whose journey in karuta pretty much has everything to do with Chihaya. He who loves Chihaya wholeheartedly and unconditionally, and whom, I believe, his love for Chihaya spurs him on in karuta since the two are inexplicably linked, and his desire to win is augmented by his subconscious efforts to win Arata, his rival in both karuta and love. Taichi is the figurehead of normalcy (ironic given his princely stereotype – smart, rich – a gir’s dream) given his mental weakness. Yet he is the one who has shown tremendous character growth over the series, where we are shown his overcoming of obstacles in his karuta journey and given a glimpse of hope for his romantic endeavours at the very end of the second season.

Chihayafuru-2-Arata

Arata, though undisputedly a main character as well, is never really physically present together with the other two. Nevertheless, he looms largely in the minds of both Chihaya and Arata as they strive to beat him (and for Chihaya’s case, to reach him). The group interactions between the three are largely limited. Arata fans bemoan the precious lack of time that Arata actually gets to physically interact with his beloved childhood teammates, before they get interrupted (by an event central to plot advancement as always). However, his lack of presence is made up by the amount of times the other two of him. He is never really absent from their tight-knit group, and is never far from the minds (and the audience’s, since this is a story of karuta and Arata is karuta).

Chihayafuru is a beautiful story of competition, art, sport, friendship and motivation. Though I am embarrassed to say that I still do not understand the full nuances of the game and the strategies involved, this never spoils the ride for me. Chihayafuru is always a good choice after a long day of school and studying.

Kaleido Star: Final Impressions

Kaleido Star tells the story of a 15 year old girl named Sora, who travels to America to realise her dream of being a member of the world renowned circus troupe Kaleido Stage, and is a tale detailing her personal growth and struggles as she strives to become a unique beacon of light on stage.

Kaleido Star is a beautifully executed drama of a girl’s aspirations and the unwavering effort that she puts in in realising her own dreams. Trapeze artists, theatre and gymnastics combined into this performance concept , “Kaleido Stage”, makes the setting a very attractive one. I have always been enamoured by gymnastics, perhaps mainly because their emphasis on form is an aesthetic experience which requires more than a few years of toil, blood and sweat, complete with heightened risk of bodily injuries and/or permanent damage to their bones and muscles. Yet, the outcome is always pleasing to watch as a member of the audience. Perhaps because it is so hard to portray such a sport realistically that very few films have used this sport as a basis of their story. Hence I was naturally looking forward to the show when I was reading the synopsis.

However, as I continued watching, I realised Kaleido Star was more than that. Sora Naegino is a very strong, tenacious female character. The older I grow, I realised that though I give in to my guilty pleasures of well crafted, good looking male characters in a story (resulting in much fan-girling and squealing), well crafted, strong female characters manage to stick in my mind more. In fact, if the main female character is someone I truly admire, identify with as a person, and realistic, that book, story or show is the one that remains at the back of my head, the one that flashes through my  mind as I toss and turn in bed in the wee hours of the morning.

Sora Naegino is such a character. She is good-hearted, ready to help others, and an eternal optimist, able to look at things in a positive way which makes her perspective rather refreshing. Yet, she still manages to stay realistic in her pursuit of her goals, and definitely does not come across as overwhelmingly idealistic or naive. Though her intentions may seem too angelic and altruistic at times, her journey is fraught with obstacles which she struggles to overcome. The process in which she suffers, even loses hope and is sometimes even caught in a downward spiral of negativity and depression, which is in stark contrast to her optimism, makes her more real as a character and one that viewers, or whoever who has had to work hard to get something they want, identify and feel for her.

The people around her also form a close circle and do a great job of supporting the story. Her interactions with her friends and supporters does not make one feel that these characters are merely supporting her, as their backstories are also explored well enough to make them stand alone as memorable characters. The humour is not overdone and repetitive, and the gags that accompany each character trait continuously gives one a good laugh despite the general content of the gag remaining the same each time.

However, some drawbacks remain in the story as it is a tad unrealistic for Sora to continuously get up by sheer power of will when her physical ability to endure painful training is clearly exhausted. This makes her success in achieving her goals one that is too good to be true, especially since they take an astonishingly short time to be achieved.

Last but not least, SORA x LEON = ‚̧¬†*fangirls*