Shoujo is my favorite genre. While I may not be as widely read or have watched as much – unlike most shoujo lovers and I have the tendency to redirect love to other genres for the sake of a good story, shoujo will always be the genre closest to my heart. I’m gonna be the first to admit it, with sub-genres like mahou shoujo, yaoi, and others, the genre is too broad. But if there’s one thing I enjoy about shoujo the most, it has to be the love triangles.
Love triangles always make an interesting story. Let’s forget the fact that the female lead is too average (or less than average) and the male leads are riddled with their own imperfections. Shoujo lovers live for the high-strung drama, doki-doki moments and finally, the lead’s final decision as to who she wants to end up with, we love it because it’s more developed than the fairytales that we all grew up and fell in love with it.
The Fateful Meeting
It is a tried-and-tested formula. A girl of average circumstances (or less) attracts the attention of two guys who are almost the opposite of each other. After a weird turn of events that will lead to love for the female lead, these two guys engage in silent gentleman’s agreement battle to fight for the one they love.
While the premise is repetitive, it still comes out as “something different” because of the circumstances. Fruits Basket has the two male leads Jyuunishi curse, Skip Beat! has the backdrop of show business, and Densha Otoko has the otaku-vs.-suave-guy conflict. No matter the circumstances, the formula – and various reversal of variables – of a love triangle makes for awesome plots and can be applied to any backdrop and genre.
The two male leads would meet the girl under different circumstances from friendly encounters (Mizuki and Nakatsu in Hana Kimi j-drama) to What-a-jerk-off! (Kyoko and Ren in Skip Beat!) to childhood friends (Yuuki and Zero in Vampire Knight). Hardly prelude to love material but the fateful meeting of characters is only a jump point of things to come.
This is what makes shoujo a shoujo. The encounters of one character with the boys leading to revelations that contribute or hinder the two of them from getting together. The heart of shoujo comes in the missed opportunities, misunderstandings, too much thinking and not enough talking, and high dorama when the two rivals come face-to-face with one another. I will not be giving anything beyond the generic examples in the previous statement because those are the common denominators of the genre where the only difference would be the characters. But this is the part of the story that can drag on for years for a manga reader and would cover episodes 2 til the second to the last for an anime viewer – character and relationship building.
And yeah, as sad as it sounds, milestones for a reader/viewer comes with two characters finally being able to hold hands and the almost-first kiss -_- because it’s such a big step. The personal thrill comes from the unusual chaste non-courtship between the two and the lead.
The Highly Intense BGM-filled Conclusion
After all the struggles and the conflict, the main character closes the books with one and seals the deal with the other. The question as to how we react to it is dependent on which guy we actually prefer in the end.
There have been many fans who have flailed a series they have been following forever because the guy of their choice didn’t get picked. I know several people who called Fruits Basket (manga) crap because Tohru chose to be with Kyo instead of Yuki, while another set of several adored it for the exact same reason. Similarly in anime, a lot hated the fact that Shinichi chose the basketball girl over the chicken girl in True Tears (anime), while I liked it for the same reason. (Note: Yes, I consider TT to be a shoujo rather than harem because there was no harem to begin with considering they changed everything from the game, keeping only the title.)
The only exception that I can think about is in Shinishi Doumei Cross (which I never read but heard a lot of when the now-disbanded – maybe – AGRR extensively discussed shoujo) where the female lead couldn’t decided between the twin brothers who want her so she just chose to marry both of them. Geh! Is that even legal?
The Boring Aftermath
After one of the male leads emerges victorious for the battle for the female lead’s heart, they turn into the most boring couple in the world. All the personal demons of each character have been let out – family problems, personal hang-ups, traumas, even the tragic way so-and-so character’s puppy died – have been let out and accepted. While during its run where the characters struggle with each other, after it’s all said and done, there’s pretty much nothing left afterwards. No opportunity for any sequel or OVA because everything else come out as… weh.
Unlike other genres where a new stronger opponent can pop up at anytime and the story continues, shoujo doesn’t allow legroom for this. Rarely has any shoujo series featured the aftermath of the two characters being together… because there’s pretty much nothing else after. Anything and everything that comes up is a non-issue because their love has gone through THIS much for anything to come in between them. After the magnificent ship has sailed, no one can get on anymore.
Introducing a new third party to tear apart the happy couple is not even a conflict worth mentioning because neither girl nor guy would even consider. In Lovely Complex (anime), where the story didn’t even start out as a love triangle, the only thing to challenge Koizumi and Otani’s relationship was the other short dude who fell in love with Koizumi. But it became more of a matter of Otani’s own insecurity because Koizumi was working at the same place as the other guy. Koizumi never even considered the other guy as anything more than a friend.
Really now. If there is an introduction to a new third party in the final pairing in shoujo, it can never have too much of an impact to sway the heart of either party. If there is, I haven’t seen/read it. But even if there is, it always come out as a silly misunderstanding and only strengthen a relationship on the trust factor.
There are other series where more conflict arises, but this is more of reaffirming the pairing’s devotion to each other. While there is the the-story-continues in Hana Yori Dango (j-drama) after Tsukasa and Makino got together, the shoujo formula no longer applies. Sure, there was the amnesia thing, but what happened after Tsukasa recovered his memories? He went straight back to Makino. Even Tsukasa’s primary rival for Makino’s heart on the first season Rui, who could have easily jumped in and woo Makino to his side, ended up becoming their ally and the conflict revolved more around Tsukasa’s mother being the hindrance for their happily ever after.
But the most painful example of the crap, boring aftermath would have been Densha Otoko‘s (j-drama) Let’s-exchange-necklaces thing. I was like, “Gimme a frickin’ break!” I yawned through the last episode of them being too shy around each other to reaffirm their feelings for one another. Why I still watched it was because I wanted to know what happened to the other otakus in the Aladdin Channel and even that disappointed me. While special covered a new conflict in the story (which I don’t think was ever in the manga), it was more of protecting Saori’s identity as Densha Otoko’s lady love.
Basically, for any more extensions on love triangles, the words ‘filler’ and ‘fan fodder’ come into mind.
Certainly there are exceptions. But from the point of view of a love triangle, there is only exception I can think of… Fushigi Yuugi (anime) where a third party, Hotohori, gave up on Miaka almost too easily. Too early into the series to establish a proper love triangle, giving the inevitable to Miaka and Tamahome. C’mon, this pairing had defied laws of physics and reality that Tamahome reincarnated into the human world to be with Miaka. While OVA2 introduced Mio, she was hardly a threat to the pair. OVAs that followed Taka and Miaka after the series ended no longer became about their relationship but as to the fate of the world inside the book.
Another exception is where the third point of the triangle barely registers. Bokura ga Ita (anime) is generally about Nana and Yano’s trials and tribulations after they become a couple. But before they got together, Yano’s best friend, Take, slithers around Nana. Take is one of those characters who borders on potential third party that you don’t know if he’s a supportive best friend or an opportunist who will jump at the first chance he gets if Yano screws up with Nana. But he barely even registered on Nana’s radar. Likewise in Skip Beat! (manga) where Kyoko’s own hatred for Shou and her oblivion to Ren’s feelings for her made her aware of their existences but their feelings never caught her attention.
The only magnificent shift in the love triangle variables I’ve seen was in Princess Tutu (anime) where the story came from one prince, two princesses to shift to one princess, two princes. But the conclusion as to who Ahiru ended up with did not come until the very end where she went back to being a duck when Mytho fell in love with the other princess. Her knight stayed with her forever though… which would make a really weird hentai if the story continued on. C’mon, this show with a cat who wants to marry everyone as a ballet teacher.
Letting Great Things End
For me, the build-up is great and the conclusions are good for my fangirl heart. Of course, my liking for the series will always be dependent on which point of the love triangle I favored. But after that, that’s pretty much it. As much as I want to see more and more of the pairing, I really don’t know what else they can offer. So after the drama is over and done with, let’s let a series end with the greatness of the ending it gave, knowing they will sit side by side together to old age surrounded by their grandchildren. Delving into what happens next will just reduce me to tears of boredom.
For argument’s sake, if ever a new conflict arises that would sway the heart of either character’s heart to cause them to drift apart permanently, wouldn’t that have just thrown the years of your fandom for the series out the window and cancelled out everything that the two characters went through? Seeing that happen will just make you demand your money back for all the videos, mangas and other merchandise you bought. But for the reader/viewer, that is only supposed to be a temporary setback that can prove how strong the relationship would be. They’ll be back in no time.
I tried to find an appropriate shoujo way of explaining it, but can’t. I could use Sailormoon, but I can’t because I never got past Sailor Venus arc to do the description justice. So I’ll be using another genre with a generic plot to express it: If a character dies in an awesome epic death, a series becomes legendary. But because of excessive public outcry for more, the creators revive the story and our hero comes back to life. Do we really want to see him bumbling around and going through the same struggles all over again like he did before he got his legendary status?
I just realized while writing this how little shoujo I’ve covered in my life. If you have any more titles to contribute for expansion, by all means… As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, I am not as proficient with shoujo like some bloggers I can name. I think ghostlightning asked me to guest because usagijen turned him down and I’m the only other alternative. -_-”’ I’m not even on the frickin’ blogroll ;A; hazy and kanzeon were notably absent on our nightout.
As my own personal disclaimer, I mentioned if the series I am talking about is the anime, j-drama or the manga. Just because I watched the anime or j-drama doesn’t necessarily mean I read the manga.
Also, I cannot count harem anime. However hard I try, I can’t complete a harem series.