Mangamania: Ick

>> Sunday, March 13, 2011

First, something I never ever do, I'm going to do. That's right, a contest! And it's a retroactive contest. See, during my manga mania, I picked up several books that I either already had or turned out didn't work out for me, including several first in a series: Otomen, Kimi ni todoke, Ratsetsu, Bride of the Water God, and Vampire Knight. I also have volume 20 (don't ask me why) of Fruits Basket over and above the whole set and volume 1 of Night of the Beasts, which I let my manga-obsessed toddler play with so I can't vouch for the condition. I figured I'd make a drawing of all those who took the effort to make a comment throughout the whole manga mania series (including those to come) and draw names out of the hat for each commenter. Then they get to pick which book they want (first come, first serve) and I'll send it to them. Five books, five winners (6-7 winners if anyone wants to take a chance on the state of Night of the Beasts or wants Vol 20 of FB). I'll include anyone who's already commented, though you can bow out if you'd like. Most are in good enough condition for regifting if you want to do that. If no one's interested, hey, I'll donate them to the local library.

And that leaves us just manga I despise. Now wait, you might be thinking, what's the difference between not liking a manga and despising it? Some manga leave me cold and uninterested, even if I could recognize how someone else could appreciate it. These manga leave me nauseous and disgusted. I don't want to know someone who could appreciate them. (My daughter recommended one of these to me - I can't tell you how much that disturbed me).

What's the line between indifferent and hatred? Sexual coercion/rape. Now don't get me wrong. These manga aren't the only ones that include blatant sexual references (though none of these here as overt as say, Butterflies, Flowers). I am not a prude and sex doesn't bother me, even in media intended for younger audiences (like older teens). Heck, I like sex. But, as soon as we introduce unwilling partners or sexual aggression in the name of "romance," I'm out of there (as I've mentioned before). Package it for young impressionable teenage girls, and I need an airsick bag.

I should also note that I couldn't care less about a number of perversions. I know a number of people who like to play sex games, including BDSM, but, even there, the word is always-- always--willing partners and it's a rule that the submissive is the one in control. (I have a relative that ran a forum on this topic for a while - you're better off not asking). This is something else entirely.

There are few things I find more destructive to women as a whole than the tendency (often by female authors) to promote the idea that women are happiest when used against their wills, that an aggressive, even abusive, boyfriend is just showing how much he loves you. In my opinion, this is a crime women commit against themselves and, though not illegal, I will not hesitate to rail against it.

Among the things I found disturbing particularly for manga intended for teenage girls:

  • Physically and sexually aggressive scenes between romantic leads where every scene includes (but doesn't end with), "Please! Stop!"
  • Kissing a girl painfully and "uncontrollably" because he was pissed (at someone else)
  • Using rape of someone else's girlfriend as a revenge against that someone else
  • Having "romantic" rivals of a girl (who covet the boyfriend) set a girl up to be beaten and/or raped
  • Offering sexual favors to a man to get him to rape another girl for revenge (perhaps more disturbing given the one offering is also male)
  • Girls being kissed against their will explaining to their boyfriends that it was "their fault" for not being diligent enough - and having said boyfriends agree.
  • Extorting a girl into effective slavery and threatening to ruin her family is she doesn't obey. This slavery involves sexual aggression. (Note that these were the "romantic" leads)
I have to stop now. I'm getting a headache. And this is far from a comprehensive list. I need to add that these at least two of these titles are very successful. If you read out a fan's description of the story for Honey x Honey Drops in Wikipedia, perhaps you'll understand why I find these sorts of things so dangerous, as the fan who describes the story rationalizes away Renge's oppression. Ick.

I also have to say, I don't think it's a coincidence that the girls in these manga come across as abysmally stupid and weak. Or that my fondness for a manga is often inversely proportional to the character of the female protagonist. I'll include a brief premise but I don't think I'll need much to explain why these didn't work for me.

Kyou Koi wo Hajimemasu by Kanan Minami

Anime? Yes Volumes of manga: 10 Status: Ongoing

My rating: Ick

Premise: Old-fashioned girl is targeted by popular playboy for aggressive sexual teasing with the intent to drop her like a hot potato when she falls for him. Instead, she becomes fascinated with him and convinces him to come back to her, so she can be nearly raped by rivals and revenge-seekers, not to mention our "protagonist" repeatedly. She is pressured by friends to throw away her virginity or risk losing her boyfriend. Do I have to explain why I hate this?

Honey x Honey Drops by Kanan Minami

Anime? Yes Volumes of manga: 8 Status: Complete

My rating: Ick

Premise: High school is forcibly made the servant of a rich student who sexually and physically harasses and uses her (but is presumably her romantic lead). In return, her tuition is paid. If she quits, she's expelled. Ah, young love. Again, if I don't see why I would have to explain why I hate this.

Ai wo Utau Yori Oreni Oborero by Mayu Shinjo

Anime? No Volumes of manga: ? Status: Complete

My rating: Ick

Premise: A feminine-looking boy, "princess" of his all boy school, joins a girl band where he aggressively pursues the tall masculine-looking lead guitarist (the "prince" of her all-girl school). Both are additionally pursued by members of their own school sexually. The prince not only uses the admiration of the boys in his school to manipulate them to do whatever he wants, he is also somewhat brutally pursuing the innocent and ineffectual female lead who is apparently weak as a daisy. (I'm fine with role reversals, but girly-looking sexual predator is not less creepy than a masculine-looking one. Seriously.).


  • Jeff King

    It sounds like you put a lot of time and effort into this, so I willing to see what there all about.
    I hate stories about women who are abused or mistreated, give me a strong and independent woman any day.
    But it’s worth a read, I think.

  • Relax Max

    How can you make a contest radioactive?

  • Stephanie Barr

    Retroactive. And you can just refuse it, RM. No obligation. No shipping and handling.

    Just a thanks for saying "hi" once in a while.

  • soubriquet

    What you describe here is precisely why I don't like manga.
    Whilst I've met and liked quite a few japanese people, I find their society's acceptance of violence, bondage, pain, coercion, paedophilia, and rape to be very disturbing. What little I've seen of manga seems to oversexualise barely pubertal girls.

    It's just nasty. And yet, these are the people of the tea ceremony, of zen gardens. How can they produce things of such great beauty and peacefulness, yet harbour such bestial cruelty?

    I'm sure you'd tell me that manga's not all like that. Maybe not.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Soubriquet, if it were all like this, I would not be a mangamaniac. That these unflinchingly promote concepts I find disgusting are why they are labeled as I've labeled. I can name a number of Western books, however, that would be on the same list for exactly the same sort of reasons (many of which are considered part of the mass market, no questions asked). No one corners the market on hentai (perverted). Hence the ick.

    I've read dozens of manga now, though, and I find things that I like better (and things I like worse) than Western literature in many of them. In some ways, I've found Japanese manga less accepting of those things you mention and promoting notions far more noble than I tend to see in Western literature. It's one reason I'm so enamored. Their characterizations tend to be nuanced, judging is far less prevalent, and redemption is common.

    And one could make a good argument, just looking at crime statistics, that we're a lot more accepting of actual violence than they are. At lease we US folks.

  • Kanerou

    I think the premise of Ai Ore had promise; I also enjoy a good role reversal now and then. The development, however, was horribly disappointing. I didn't get very far into it before abandoning it in irritation. The "predatory male on weak, crying female" dynamic is no more original or interesting with a boyish girl and a girlish boy; I dare say that makes it even more disappointing.

  • Stephanie Barr


    I like role reversals, too. My first short story (which became a novel) was all about a kickass gal rescuing her kidnapped husband (he was kickass, too, though). Personally, I find squandered potential and/or waste of a cool concept far more irritating that mediocre stuff from a standard premise.

    However, when one of our "protagonists" tried to use rape to attack a rival, I was done. Blick.

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