SHOUJO MANGA MONTH: INTRO AND A BIT ON WEDDING PEACH
Hey NOVI readers, are you ready to ogle some hunky dreamboats, receive heartfelt confessions of undying love, and witness a couple of sexual assaults? If you answered yes to at least one of the above, you’re in luck because it’s SHOUJO MANGA MONTH with CC.
About Shoujo Manga
In A Sociology of Japanese Ladies’ Comics, Kinko Ito categorizes love and human emotion as the eternal themes found in shoujo manga.
- Elegant clothing
- Rich character interaction
- A long look into the inner lives of girls
I don’t feel entirely comfortable calling “shoujo” a genre because shoujo manga groups many genres together, mainly drawing from the magical girl, boys-love, slice-of-life, romance, and fantasy genres. The name “shoujo manga” more closely describes the audience of the titles rather than the story itself.
Female protagonists must be somehow unreal, but relatable enough that young women can live through their experiences. The most fun elements of shoujo manga are the larger-than-life, extravagant ones: Magical princes from outer space. Hidden powers locked inside of your makeup compact. Cat dance instructors.
I remember putting up with some absolutely terrible shoujo manga titles simply because the female characters seemed a lot more well-rounded than ones in books aimed at boys ever did. There are not a lot of comics made for women, period. Even fewer are created by women, or lack some sort of condescending merchandizing tie-in. Every time a girl speaks up and says, “Hey, if you want us to read comics, you should make a space for us,” the replies are always the same dismissive bullshit we comics ladies are pretty used to by now. Male comics fans: talking about the intersection of comics and gender isn’t played out just because you can’t see how it affects you. Shoujo manga provided a space for us to exist and while it was a foreign space for us English-language readers, it seemed a lot more respectful than most of our other options at the time.
A lot of women in comics look like this:
And a lot of women in “normal” manga looks like this:
And these are a far cry from the worst examples I could find. I mean for godssake, ignoring the fact that her top must also function as a bra, I still can’t understand how on earth you can you can see her buttcrack through her undershirt, sweatervest and skirt.
Yes, I know about Ghost World, Blankets, and The Runaways…now. I didn’t back then, and even still, all of these titles are written by guys.
Why Shoujo Manga?
Shoujo manga exposed a lot of young North American girls to comics for the first time back in the mid-to-late ‘90s and early 2000s. It showed us that sequential art can exist for us too, and we can fill roles other than that of the hyper-sexualized vixen or the woman in the refrigerator. Our experiences and obsessions are valid and magical and worth exploring, and somebody out there cared enough to explore them. Yeah, I realize that shoujo manga is just as chock-full of gang-rape and unrealistic depictions of enduring romance as it is filled with beautiful, finely-inked panels and nuanced emotional depth. But for me, as a young girl who had eschewed superhero titles, this space was perfectly safe and welcoming. It appealed to me and pandered shamelessly to everything I was obsessed with. Though I can recognize the tropes a mile away, I’m still exceptionally fond of these fun, occasionally gimmicky stories.
Units of Measurement
I am going to rate all of the shoujo stuff I talk about on three scales:
Because what would a shoujo manga be without studly dudes? It’s like 1/3rd of the attraction (the other 2/3rds are, in this order: pretty clothes, and cat dance instructors). This scale is rated between 1 to 5 Tuxedo Masks. Why Tuxedo Mask? Because he is the hunky shoujo manga boyfriend of all hunky shoujo manga boyfriends, obviously.
2) Unfortunate Implications-o-meter:
A lot of shoujo manga romances are pretty unsettling. Sometimes a sweep of the hand can explain away a sexual assault or an incestuous relationship. Yuu Watase can’t even write a simple slice-of-life school comedy without gang rape and pregnancy drama. Masami Tsuda’s Kare Kano, a sweet, humorous coming-of-age tale about two competitive students in love concluded with [SPOILER ALERT! CLICK IF YOU DARE]. The Unfortunate Implications-o-meter is where I’ll talk about all that weird shit that comes standard with shoujo love stories. Girls doing stupid things for love, marrying their (step???) brothers and getting raped by their boyfriends “in a good way” will be evaluated in this category. This grouping is rated between 1 to 5 Soichiro Arimas, because fuck that guy.
3) Overall score. This is just how readable the book is, on a scale of 1 to 10. Anything rated as a 1 is likely to bum you out so badly that you run head-first into a train, while something rated around a 10 is a glorious, godly beacon of pure cherry blossoms raining upon us from above.
I visited my local Austin Books and Comics Sidekick Store and picked up volume 1 of several titles. Today, we’re just going to start with the first thing I found and branch out from there—HERE WE GO:
Publisher in the US: Viz: 2004
Years Published in Japan: 1994-1996
Year Sailor Moon was Published in Japan: 1991-1997
out of 5
The romantic lead isn’t really all that great. It’s pretty much your basic shoujo love story: two people are just shitheads to each other until they fall in love. I mean, he’s not horrible, but considering that almost everything about this manga is a poor imitation of Sailor Moon, he is no Tuxedo Mask.
It could really be worse I guess. YAWN.
½ an Arima. Thankfully, nobody gets raped but I really hate the “let’s just be shitheads until we fall in love” approach to romance.
Wedding Peach: An Overview
The absolute worst thing a shoujo manga can be is mediocre. A good shoujo title is either moving with its believable characterization or so horrible that you can’t get through it without crying through your laughter. Wedding Peach tries so hard to be Sailor Moon that it fails utterly in both categories. It’s too derivative to be any good, and considering that it’s basing itself on something super solid, it’s not really all that bad either (which somehow just makes everything much, much worse).
Wedding Peach reads like it’s working through a checklist. The story doesn’t have the decency of being over-the-top and the art isn’t charming enough to keep me reading. There are some cute reaction faces. That’s pretty much it.
We start off with Momoko, the ditzy heroine, learning that she is actually the valiant warrior of love Wedding Peach.
In contrast, here is a panel from Volume 1 of Sailor Moon:
Some super bad dudes are going to ruin newlyweds’ happiness by poisoning their hearts. They are also after an arbitrary number of magical artifacts which will help them take over the world. The bad guys are so poorly ominous and accidentally goofy that it just makes sense that Wedding Peach and her dippy friends are the greatest threat to their evil plan. There’s some mumbo jumbo about dark powers but I’m still confused about their end goal here. The villains are apparently demons and their plan is to I guess ruin everybody’s honeymoon happiness by cockblocking them in the most bizarre way possible.
I’d be pretty pissed off too if somebody replaced my uterus with a creepy, defective furby. The Token Shoujo Animal Mascot is a bad guy, in case you hadn’t noticed. This would be an interesting twist on the usual formula if only 1) he wasn’t such an annoying little butthole and 2) it wasn’t obvious that he is going to switch sides eventually over the course of the story.
Luckily Wedding Peach, and her gratingly irritating friends Stupid Flower Names 1 and 2 defeat evil and the day is won.
I’m still holding out for HOLY EYELASH CURLER PEONY GRADIENT or MYSTICAL TAMPON HYRDANGEA KALEIDOSCOPE myself.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10
It’s pretty lame but there are definitely worse things out there. On the other hand, Sailor Moon or Magic Knight Rayearth are stronger magical girl titles. Wedding Peach, or at least Volume 1 of Wedding Peach, lacks the two things a shoujo manga needs to achieve real memorability: stupidly extravagant elegance, or warm-hearted sincerity. The whole endeavor reads like a merchandizing cash-in designed to rake in money from Sailor Moon fans. Magical girl manga usually follows the same few plot points. Transformation sequences and derpy romance are a part of the package and readers of the genre know that the important part is how these things happen rather than that they do. However, for a manga about bliss and happiness, Wedding Peach manages to blunder through the usual magical girl cornerstones joylessly and mechanically without really endearing you to anybody.
The other thing that bothered me about Wedding Peach was the way the female characters tear each other down. Pre-transformation, Momoko’s friends pick at her self-esteem and insult everything she does, but once they all transform suddenly they’re ready to throw themselves into harm’s way for her. If I wanted to watch a bunch of shitty people who are supposedly friends belittle each other, I’d watch Glee. Wedding Peach was derivative and uninteresting, and I don’t plan on finishing out the series.NOVI Shojo manga cat dance instructors cc girls comics mediocrity shojo manga month terribleness twins wedding peach shoujo
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