Anyone who was ever dated can easily attest to the fact that men and women have very different ideas on romance, courtship, and love. Fiction written for men and women and fiction by men and women is therefore distinctly different as well. Almost universally you will see that shonen and seinen manga treat love and romance completely differently than shojo and josei manga. I would daresay that the magazine a manga is published in is more important to how romance in handled in manga than the sex of the author. Score another point for the power of the editor in manga. We are very clearly going to be talking about generalizations. I’m sure there are a dozen examples to counter each claim we make below. Especially since most manga magazines want crossover appeal they tend to try to add elements from magazines for the opposite gender in at least one manga in their anthologies. Most of the times the manga that break the rules we set below are the exceptions that prove the rule.
I think it is funny because as many difference as you can find, you can find almost as many parallels that are just dressed up a little differently. I can think of examples of shonen series that treat love in a very natural and organic manner, certianly, but that sure isn’t the norm. Love seems like this cast-off that is thrown in when need but never really becomes a solid or believable part of the story. Most characters personalities just aren’t suited to it so you can feel when it is being forced.
As Short Round said in Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom, “Hey, Dr. Jones, no time for love.” Most shonen fighting and tournament manga seems to have a similar philosophy. There are definite examinations of relationships and romance in these titles but it almost always happens in the background. Most fighting manga tends to focus on themes of friendship and teamwork. Girls will express romantic feelings most of the time and sometimes male side characters will express their love for someone but the protagonist will usually only have platonic feelings for the women around him in the beginning. This leads to love having two main proposes in fighting manga. Powering up the protagonist in his darkest hour and to create comedy in between the action.
Girls are known much more for being emotional and able to express their feelings better than males. So it is no surprise that this is often the way it is portrayed in shonen series. The girl might not be direct but she will express her feelings to a side character or make it extremely obvious through her actions. I think the age of most shonen protagonists is an age where guys are thinking about the physical side of woman rather than the emotional. So a girl has to worm her way into a boys heart because they really aren’t looking for it, it might not even occur to them.
The protagonist tends not to show much in the way of romantic feelings for girls. Ichigo Kurosaki is a prime example of this. You would assume that he was an asexual plant most of the time except for a few occasions and they seem done for comical effect. He often goes out of his way to protect Orihime and Rukia but he seems to do so in the same way that he would protect any of his friends. We clearly see that Orihime has romantic feelings for Ichigo and is is often hinted that Rukia has feelings for him as well. The only male side characters that seem to show any interest in women in general are Mizuiro Kojima, Keigo Asano, Kisuke Urahara, and Shunsui Kyoraku.
I wonder if it just doesn’t come up because the target audience is around 10-12. Although this doesn’t stop it in literature. Perhaps because for young boys love doesn’t seem very manly so if it comes up in stints it is more tolerable. I really don’t think it has a negative effect personally. I mean series like Kenshin were quite popular! It adds a layer of depth but it can be hard to balance it correctly in a fighting series. I think that is the big problem knowing when to throw it in and when to pull back.
Most of the time when the hero realizes that he has feelings it isn’t until some critically point in the story. Usually he discovers his love either after the girl is kidnapped, threatened, or killed. Sometimes they also realize their love when it looks like they can’t win but then the girl shouts out their name. Also if the girl has been corrupted by evil the hero often realizes his love for his heroine which helps break her free of the controlling influence. No matter what the scenario it is this realization of love that lets the hero either spring back with renewed energy or a new found power. It seems Samurai Deeper Kyo can’t go for three books without Yuya having to shout out someone’s name to bring them back up to full fighting form. You think she was a monk using Chakra in Final Fantasy Tactics. Also Damon and Rain are able to overcome the Devil Gundam’s influence and power up when they realize they love each other. I bet you dollars to donuts Ichigo is only going to realize he has feelings for Rukia during a battle if it ever comes up at all.
Thank goodness we don’t have to wait for those moments in real life! But it does make for some great dramatic moments! Fighting series are soap operas for men, really! Always friends becoming enemies, romance, deception, mystery, and someone always ends up being an old acquaintance or relative or some such. And even though a lot of times you can predict wants going to happen, it doesn’t stop you from sitting on the edge of your seat for it. The added romance is no different. It has to be this huge culmination of many situations and then it must burst forth for ultimate dramatic effect! However, I am always thankful for situations that aren’t solved using the power of love.
There is also the whole section of manga known as shonen romance manga. This category is most often mistaken for shojo manga by casual readers. The general assumption is shojo manga are all about romance and love so any manga about romance and love is a shojo manga. It usually involves a milquetoast protagonist that through some series of events gets some girl he would normally consider out of his league to spend time with him an eventually fall in love with him. There are usually alternate suitors for both the boy and the girl who try and woo them away.
I remember that horrible woman…what was her name? Oh, yes! Jessica Chobot who had a list of the “best shojo manga” or some such thing. And smack dab in the middle of the list was Love Hina. NO! NOT SHOJO! NOT EVEN CLOSE.
The most popular variation is one we have discussed before. The harem manga. In a harem manga there are usually almost no guys of significant importance other than the protagonist except a possible mentor figure or rival. The only thing that is required is that almost every attractive female is slowly drawn to the hero as the series goes on. Anything by Ken Akamatsu follows this formula to a tee.
I think I would say “hero” lightly. I mean most of the time it is super wish-fulfillment because the guy does absolutely nothing to warrant people falling for him left and right. At least if he was a hero, as in did something heroic, there would be a reason!
Well, most shonen romance is wish fulfillment pure and simple. Who would not want someone beautiful and caring will come and just fall in love them them? Considering that most otaku are not the most suave people on the planet. The concept of being able to find love just they way they are has an undeniable appeal to someone like that.
Everyone wants that, it is true. A good portion of shojo is the same way. You are dealing with a main character who is average (if that in shonen) and all of a sudden the hottest people on the planet want their bodies! Although, the person always has some wonderful quality deep down inside. This is basically how everyone feels and all they need is someone who can recognize their greatness.
Romance in seinen is much less prevalent. There is a whole lot more sex but not much love. I feel that shonen manga is usually about a young man’s journey to become the best. Seinen manga is all about the guy who is already the best and he just has to take care of all the punks that get in his way. The same thing relationship exists between shonen and seinen manga when dealing with love. In shonen manga the hero slowly learns about love and wins that love. In seinen the hero is the man. He has mastered the game of love. He does not need to court women. Women come to him.
Seinen involves everyone wanting your booty, even thought you may not want theirs! Or it is about how love gets in the way of your manly quest. As I have said before…everyone girl/woman from the age of 4 to 400 wants Guts! Even if they don’t know they want him, they do, you can see it. But funnily enough he doesn’t get too much action. I guess he has that whole saving the woman he loves and weird fetus creature sightings to deal with. I don’t read too much seinen to see patterns but I feel that there is never that definite lovely ending to it. There is so much drama, blood shed, and whatnot that that type of ending would seem out of place. I expect a massacre at the end of Blade of the Immortal and not much else.
There is some actual romance in manga aimed at men but it is harder to find. I feel that Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku is a good example of a legitimate romance manga from a seinen anthology. Maison Ikkoku has several interconnected love triangles and several women are interested in Godai; but, it is mainly how Godai and Kyoko fall in love over the years. I also feel that Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino and Ai Tanabe slowly develop a natural and organic relationship in Planetes.
I think any series involving “real” love can easily attract a female audience. Heck, lots of shonen has the crossover appeal that shojo will never, ever see. I think most things that are straight up romance fall into the wish-fulfillment category, on both sides. Everyone has their own ideal qualities in a significant other so it is hard to say when things really ring true. This is one of the reasons why doujinish are so prevalent, even of characters that have little romantic interaction. For me, stories that involve a larger plot that one romance have a fuller feel to me. And this is how it is handled in shonen for the most part.
Top 5 canon couples
1. Kyoko Otonashi and Yusaku Godai (Maison Ikkoku)
2. Kanji Sasahara and Chika Ogiue (Genshiken)
3. Jinto and Lafiel (Banner of the Stars)
4. Anemone and Dominic Sorel (Eureka Seven)
5. Kazuya Hasukawa and Igarashi Miya (Here is Greenwood)