We all know when the cliché moments are gearing up in our favorite shoujo manga series. Perhaps the characters are at the school festival or trip, or maybe a new character has arrived to stir up trouble and fall in love with our main character, Heroine-chan.
It can be easy for a series to fall into the same patterns as those that came before. Honestly, the common clichés in shoujo come into play because they easily create drama and cliffhangers. I’m not one to hate on the typical plot device, but the manga that really stand out to me are the ones that take a situation that usually leads to a cliché and make it completely original. As I may have indicated, the unique shoujo manga is my favorite source of entertainment, and many of them become unique by changing up the patterns.
Read on for my top 5 shoujo clichés turned on their heads.
5. Hiding the “Big Secret”
While this cliché may be most common in typical superhero shows in which the hero has to keep his secret identity, it is also used quite a bit in shoujo manga. Heroine-chan or Handsome-san has a horrible secret, my friends. It is a secret so horrible and degrading that they can’t possibly share it with anyone. Maybe they are (gasp!) poor, or (egads!) a prince. Of course, chaos ensues as the relationship lacks trust and the other characters come close to discovering the secret with their antics.
My favorite breaking of this pattern is Hana Kimi and its use of Mizuki’s secret identity as a female in an all-boys’ school. Instead of pursuing the troubles of the main love interest finding out the secret, (and possible homosexual crisis) Sano finds out Mizuki’s secret in the first chapter. Of course not every character knows the secret, but the manga avoids typical love interest clichés by allowing the problems to stem from other areas besides Sano thinking he loves another guy.
4. Heroine is Desperate for Attention From Her Crush
I also like to call this cliché the “I hope senpai notices me” syndrome.It is possibly one of the most used patterns of shoujo manga, in which Heroine-chan ardently hopes that the most (insert adjective here) guy in school will suddenly want to date her. All of her goals are consumed by attaining Handsome-san, and eventually, through the power of their love, she finds her true calling or some such nonsense.
Skip Beat! is a great example of twisting this cliché completely. Although Kyoko begins as the girl who pines after a guy, after her change of heart, her goals completely change. Kyoko focuses on her career and attaining success as her ideal. In turn, her Handsome-san senpai, Ren, notices her because of her hard work. She does nothing to actively earn his love, instead he tries to impress her and get her to notice him. It is a refreshing take to the romance story.
3. Misunderstanding/Miscommunication Causes a Breakup
I couldn’t count the number of times I smacked my forehead at the overly common use of miscommunication as a dramatic device. For some reason, Heroine-chan and Handsome-san think that they can have a romantic relationship without talking to each other at all. Heroine-chan is seen talking to another man? Handsome-san gives her no opportunity to explain herself. How could she not have been cheating? Because that is a healthy relationship in shoujo world, my friends.
One of the reasons that I love High School Debut is for its complete lack of annoying clichés such as this one. Not only do Haruna and Yoh start dating much sooner than in a normal shoujo manga (not saying much as the typical romance takes you to chapter sixty without a kiss), but they also stay together through cliché after cliché. When Haruna thinks that Yoh likes his old girlfriend, they actually talk it out and get over things. Yoh also doesn’t get mad and calmly understands that it isn’t Haruna’s fault when some random dude kisses her. They portray a healthy romance in a sea of crazy.
2. The Frenemy
It always happens. Inevitably a new character is introduced into the manga — let us call her Witch-san to be kind. Witch-san wants to steal Heroine-chan’s boyfriend. She is scary, mean, cruel, and just plain evil most of the time. Don’t worry, because this won’t stop our favorite Mary Sue Heroine-chan. She is nothing less than a saint and can’t stand disliking a single person. Heroine-chan accepts Witch-san as a rival and eventually, through some bizarre set of circumstances, the two become close friends and Witch-san is often the defender of justice or some such.
Kimi Ni Todoke took a refreshing look at this strange cliché. When another girl threatens Sawako’s relationship with Kazehaya, Sawako is under no delusions. She straight up tells this girl that she doesn’t like her because she is trying to steal her man. She also tells the girl that she knows that they can’t be friends under such circumstances. Sawako doesn’t hate this girl, but she behaves how any normal girl would and avoids her company. I like this more realistic approach because believe me, girls do not want to be best friends with the girl who likes their boyfriend. It just doesn’t happen.
I would say that the shoujo girl needing to be rescued is the most used cliché of all. I mean, who can resist a drastic action and a heroic ending? Heroine-chan and her frail body are useless to resist being kidnapped by Handsome-san’s enemies and she faints instantly. She has no resources or brains to help her escape and can only hope for her dear love to rescue her. In turn, Handsome-san gets really scary eyes and beats the crap out of people, making Heroine-chan swoon for his bad boy looks.
I loved the way that Kaichou Wa Maid-sama approached this cliché because the pattern itself was clearly being made fun of. Misaki is tied up by some creepers lurking by the shop. As Usui gallantly charges to her rescue, he enters the room to discover that Misaki has escaped and beaten the guys to a pulp by herself. It makes sense considering that only a judo master can subdue the Senkei class president. Not only was this approach humorous, but it was also quite refreshing.
There are plenty of other manga that break clichés, especially when it comes to character stereotypes and romance plots. Here are my suggestions:
- Ouran High School Host Club
- Dengeki Daisy
- Special A
- Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun