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!

Calamitous Intent

Death by Moe

Ria’s Crazy Movie Reviews

Yukan Blog

~ by enima01 on June 27, 2008.

9 Responses to “The “Other Guy” in Shojo – Round 3, All-Female Round-Robin”

  1. I agree that the bad boy character is much needed in anime, otherwise, why watch? I can’t stand the Kyo character, I wouldn’t want to be around someone like that to save my life, but I he makes for good entertainment!

  2. On the contrary, many a gal would run off with the smoking, cussing, tattoo-covered bad-boy delinquent even when she could have the sweet-as-sugar nice-boy who tells her how much he loves her everyday. It’s relatively common knowledge that woman are turned on by “bad boys”…
    That’s why a lot of the dating advice guys read (granted, very few of them actually read at all, let alone dating advice; myself as an exception) advise you to adopt the positive traits of a bad boy. For instance, say some jerk is sexually harassing you in the work place; who would you rather take care of it? Mr. Sweet or the “bad boy”? Women are frightened by other men all the time (sometimes their even physically and sexually assaulted); a veteran fighter turns them on. There are several evolutionary reasons for this reaction too. (think of what a woman would need of a man in the jungle). There’s also the adrenaline rush (as DeAngelo mentions) and the fact that the stereotypical bad boy is seldom insecure physically or emotionally(or at least they have the pride to not reveal it), has a strong masculine sexuality(Fitzgerald), is never awkward, and has “bucketloads” of confidence.

    I myself think its important that a guy be alert and have an adept understanding of human emotions but he also has to have stoic control over his passions, be strong(both physically and mentally), and capable of protecting his girl.

    Ex 1 Matthew Fitzgerald’s Article on “How to be a Bad Boy”
    http://www.askmen.com/dating/curtsmith_100/126_dating_advice.html

    Ex 2 David DeAngelo’s Take

    The Bad Boy (danger) Someone who’s dangerous and thrilling to bearound. Bad boys are everything from gangsters to bikers to some rock and roll musicians. These guys are usually tough, dress tough, and act tough as
    often as possible. They drink, smoke, get tattoos, and generally demonstrate in every way possible that they’re from the wrong side of the tracks, and your mother would not approve.
    Examples: Tommy Lee, Mickey Rourke, any guy on a Harley, and Sammy The Bull.
    Why do women love them? Danger Will Robinson! There is an addictive emotional rush being around a guy that could literally do ANYTHING. A lot of these guys wind up beating their model girlfriends and spending time in jail. Later, the woman says “He made a mistake, and I love him…” Amazing. These guys almost always control their women. Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend being the extreme version of this one. You can get a tattoo and buy a Harley and act all bad, but it’s really not making to you a better person to become a criminal.
    I have to mention that this personality type is the one that women are most MAGNETICALLY attracted to. Again, this is because of the addictive rush that comes from being around them.

  3. […] Enima […]

  4. what? no props? send me some love at alexandrianphilosopher@yahoo.com anifans.

  5. heh, i agree with your logic, although I do also believe that girls naturally like gravitating towards more alpha-male types over beta males (e.g.: Takumi v. Nobu)

  6. mispellled – yeah, i see what you mean there…a lot of people have also expressed that opinion; that the girls are naturally drawn to the bad boys because of their alpha-male-ness. see matt’s comment for more on that – he researched it out very well! :)

  7. im commenting about Tohru choosing Kyo over Youki…. wich NEVER had happened, bedside do we like it or not Kyo alredy has a “gf”, who is ToHru friend .they made it clear from the third episode that she wasnt going to take him away from her…. Kyo just lil acwored and not really good with showing feelings….and if u pay attention there are more and stronger romance between Yuki and Tohro then with Kyo… i wish she would end up wih Kyo , i LOVE cat, but……. and enyways in the end she NEVER made choice, they still all live together as they DID BEFORE…… GOOD friends
    and in time who knows lol…

  8. […] chosen the mysterious Fuji. So as often as fans say they want the girl to choose the good guy, the appeal of the ‘reformed bad boy’ storyline is still strong because it creates so much drama, […]

  9. No man, the bad boy is definitely more appealing in real life! I’m dating one as we speak!

    Aside from the confidence element – which is huge – I’m pretty sure I’ve read somewhere that the bad boy is all about forbidden sexuality. Good girls do not pursue sex. The bad boy brings it to her on a platter and she can retain her innocence. That’s part of the appeal of rape fantasy – she claims to not want it because she’s “not a whore”, but secretly she wants it and the bad boy can give it to her.

    My usual problem with good girl/bad boy pairings is that they often tend to not have much in common. The bad boy is hot, and he loves the good girl just because she’s unfailingly kind and self-sacrificing.

    Personally, I love bad boys because I’m a bad girl. I think it’s realistic to be attracted to people with whom you have something in common. I think that’s why I love pairings like Kyoko/Sho in Skip Beat – Sho is a bad boy, and I wouldn’t call Kyoko a good girl (she’s got a hell of a vindictive streak).

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