The “Other Guy” in Shojo – Round 3, All-Female Round-Robin
Round Three of the All-Female Round-Robin involves the “other guy” in shojo anime / manga (see below for topic). It’s the somewhat redundant storyline that plagues nearly every sappy romance, because really, how many completely original obstacles are there to love (or even TRULUV!!!111one) unless you’re Juliet Capulet?
“The concept of “the other guy” in shoujo plot lines: In a shoujo cliché, the main couple faces many obstacles on their way to TRULUV. One of these obstacles is “the other guy”. And “this other guy” happens to embody all the qualities of the ideal male. And yet in the end, he is rejected for the original guy, even despite the original guy being an asshole, hurting the girl with his antics, and having blatant flaws.”
Anyway, the two main series that come to mind when I think of this are Fruits Basket (Yuki / Kyo) and NANA (Nobuo / Takumi).
In Fruits Basket, Yuki is the one who is even-tempered, kind, and soft-spoken, while Kyo is loud, angry, short-tempered, and liable to break things at any time – he’s even hurt Tohru a few times! Still, in the end, Tohru chooses Kyo over sweet Yuki – why?
In NANA, Nobou is the quintessential nice-boy – even though he’s in a freaking ROCK BAND! I mean, come on – how much luckier can Nana get? But noooo…Nana wants the bad boy from Trapnest (that’s Takumi, by the way). In the end, she fools around with both of them, gets pregnant, and runs off with Takumi, leaving poor, sweet Nobou alone – why?
I think this happens in shojo manga for two main reasons – both of which involve incentives for the reader, NOT the character.
Reason 1 – Shojo manga is drawn to be appealing to the overly romantic aspect of girls – not the responsible aspect. People read books (including but not limited to manga) to experience things that they wouldn’t be able to experience in real life; that’s the draw of fiction. Nobody would want to read a manga where the heroine gets up, brushes her teeth, goes to school (in a normal school uniform, mind you, none of that sailor-fuku!), comes home, eats dinner, and goes to bed – not unless she magically transforms and fights crime by night, or something. It’s boring to read about what we already know and do everyday. When you apply this to shojo manga storylines, most women wouldn’t want to read about a “normal” romance – they would want the character to take the risks that they never would. No gal in her right mind would run off with the smoking, cussing, tattoo-covered bad-boy delinquent when she could have the sweet-as-sugar nice-boy who tells her how much he loves her everyday. However, if the heroine is able to choose the bad boy, turn him around, make him renounce his evil ways, and pledge his everlasting love to her (which, by the way, will NEVER happen in real life) – this makes the book interesting to readers. Which brings us to Reason 2.
Reason 2 – When a rough character says something sweet or kind, it means a lot more than when a nice character says exactly the same thing (this also means bonus points if the heroine is able to turn the bad-boy around!) The two guy characters contrast each other and make each other’s individual traits stand out all the more. These differences can also be used to build drama in a scene – and we all know how important drama is to shojo manga! Let’s go back to Fruits Basket for an example. If Yuki turns to Tohru and says “Tohru – you…you mean so much to me,” then it’s sweet but not super-important. On the other hand, if Kyo turns to Tohru and says “Tohru – you…you mean so much to me,” then it’s a seriously epic scene.
Having a “rough” character also naturally leads to major character development. If a character is a total dick to everyone around him, chances are there’s some kind of major trauma or rejection lurking in his past – all this makes for a good story. An exception to the last statement is made for Fruits Basket, where EVERY character has some kind of trauma or rejection lurking in their past. >.<
Basically, it is my opinion that the “other guy” is there to set the story apart from real life. He contrasts the crass ways of the hero of the story. This type of storyline also distinguishes the characters and makes their individual traits stand out. It also presents an interesting “twist” because the reader would naturally expect the heroine to pick the nicer boy. More or less, all these things are there to appeal to the dramatic, emotional, and hopelessly optimistic and romantic side of readers.
…but hey, that’s what shojo is all about, right? And that’s why we love it.
Check out the other gals who already posted on this topic!