I was skimming the article "Boys' Comics vs Girls' Comics in Japan
" on www.sleepisfortheweak.org, one of my favorite anime/manga review websites. While skimming the article, It made me think of both Twelve Kingdoms
and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon
(my first anime), for different reasons.The article says this on teams/friendship in Shounen manga:
"He almost never goes at anything solo--he may be at the top in the end, but he'll never get there without his best friend/group of friends helping him, and he'd never turn his back on a single one of them (not even on the jerk or the hothead or the coward, because every group has at least one). ... ...but bonds outside of the main two or three people are usually less solid, and a shoujo lead is perfectly able to live her own life with her man and leave her friends to their own devices (or, frankly, out of the story)."
My first thought was for Sailor Moon
, the series that was my first exposure to anime and to this day is my initially defining idea of shoujo (though this is probably a poor example, as SM is a superhero story more than what I now define as a shoujo story.) But when I think aobut it, SM actually differs quite a bit from other shoujo I've since read: the team and friendship is all-important to the story of SM. Although SM has a very prominent love story, the show is, in essence, about friendship and teamwork. In some ways it's oddly like Buffy-- the love life of the heroine and her brooding beau may go up or down, but at the end of the day she has her scooby gang and her wise mentor to make everything alright. SM is so into the idea of friendship and teamwork to fight the good fight that it's practically a Care Bears episode at times. Side note: Being fairly femnist-minded, I think I'm weirdly lucky that, for all its many flaws, my first anime was a superhero story where the girl is the hero and her boyfriend is a perpetual sidekick/villain... well, except for the first season where he's a dark rescuer with mysterious loyalties... oh fuck, I shoudl really sit down one day and list the ways Buffy was like Sailor Moon.
The primary focus on friendship/teamwork doesn't make SM any less shoujo (there's a lot of other ways the series defines shoujo cliche, especially in the little things), but it makes me curious to realize that, when I think back on it, I actually can't remember many other shoujo series I've read where teamwork/friendship is a big deal. It's certainly not a big deal in Fushigi Yuugi
(teamwork that is, as friendship *is* a big deal but only because the best friend is the antagonist of the series), the only other shoujo series I can think of at the moment that I've seen from start to finish (Princess Tutu
doesn't count because that series is its own genre of themes and styles.) Is Paradise Kiss a shoujo
series? For some reason I want to label it something else.The article says this on goals in Shoujo manga:
Shoujo is usually less about the goal and more about the "getting there," so, while a shounen manga may have a very desirable ambition and a very specific route the characters must follow to succeed, shoujo titles usually stay away from that formula and focus more on the varying things that happen to the lead throughout her life.
That made me think of The Twelve Kingdoms
, where lack of focus is never a problem for the heroine's plotline, and the story is all about the adventure. This was then followed by the thought "You know, 12K has a lot of the elements of a shonen series." Why? Because it's a cool adventure story about action and fighting and war and battles and politics. Its main character just happens to be female instead of male. And I don't mean she embodies traditionally "masculine" traits, because she doesn't-- she just happens to be set on an adventure where she learns to kick ass and take names and save the kingdom from destruction.
I'd love to have more series like that. I can name the few that I've watched that are like that on one hand: (12K, SM, Read Or Die OVA, Princess Tutu)
I'd love to see more anime or manga where you can have battles and adventure and drama... and the hero is female. I want more Buffy's and more Beatrix Kiddo's in my anime, please.
(Also, when is Adult Swim going to grab 12K, anyway? That show would work so well for them.)