I do not like most anime targeted for guys. there. I said it.
It's not that I hate male-oriented anime series...but the truth of the matter is that I do not like action-oriented entertainment, I never really did, and I would rather watch a show about relationships that I care about.Cowboy Bebop is amaaazing and all, but at the end of the day, I feel better watching Ouran High School Host Club or Kimi No Todoke.Nothing against Spike and the gang (especially Ed, my biased favorite), but it doesn't often ring true to my aesthetics. I like the fancy, the frilly, the happy. Probably because of a million reasons, but the main reason is that I often follow the philosophy of Momoko in Kamikaze girls when it comes to watching anime: if it feels good, do it.So I watch what many call "pure fluff" as a pastime.
I consider it a rare pastime, because very few female anime fans openly admit to preferring character-driven stories without action over something with a ton of well-placed action and plot. I, however, am not scared to admit it: I like girly anime.I think a lot of girls would like it too if the most generic or popular (read, actiony enough for those into action series)anime series marketed for girls weren't the only series getting the greenlight in the US. The success of Ouran High School Host Club is a huge step, and shows that girls love to be pandered to, but they could still do better.
You know my favorite shoujo anime series? Nana. Do you know what happens in a Save-The-World or Get-The-Guy context? Almost nothing. Two women with different personalities move in together and have feelings and relationships.It is more complex than any show in the US targeted for girls right now, relationship-wise.It's so complex that some people forget that this is directed towards young girls. I literally needed this series as a teenager. I needed to know that feelings were okay, that being whatever you are is okay, and that just being a person navigating through life is a big enough adventure. I didn't need the message sent by other things I watched, that my adventure didn't start unless there was a lot of action or that I fell in love with someone.I needed to appreciate the slow burn, and I'm relishing it now as much as I can.
That said, I feel that as I get older, I have sunk into the even smaller percentage of American Josei fans. For those who do not understand: Josei is pretty much Shoujo with very realistic, almost brutally honest,portrayals of relationships. In the Josei genre, the girl doesn't always get the guy (or the girl) in the end, and nothing is as simple as "I like you". There are a few series that come in long seasons, but most of the time comics in the Josei genre are stand-alone stories or short stories that get resolved in three or so volumes.As someone posing as a Woman On The Go, Josei comics are more at my speed. I can read an entire series in one or two nights and call it a day.Despite the freedom to be noncomittal, I feel that a lot of series in the Josei genre are understandably more dense than fare targeted for Youth Culture,and you get more from the little vignette than any long Magical Girl story arc.I like that a lot, and I think that if more women in my position (too old to care about Teenage!Feelings! but still interested in sophisticated, character-driven stories about female lives) would be able to find series of that nature, there could be something very big.
I think this is a good time to share some recommendations, because what's the point of saying "People need more of this" without saying where you can find it.Anyway, here goes:
1. Nodame Cantabile-
Shinichi Chiaki, an arrogant, multilingual perfectionist, is the top student at Momogaoka College of Music and has secret ambitions to become a conductor. Born into a musical family, he is talented in piano and violin and once lived abroad in the music capitals of the world as a young boy (namely Prague), but is trapped in Japan because of his childhood phobia of airplanes and the ocean. In contrast, Megumi Noda, or "Nodame", is a piano student at Momogaoka, notorious for messiness and eccentric behavior. Despite being very talented, Nodame prefers to play by ear rather than according to the musical score; thus, she is regarded as sloppy and playful.
When they meet by accident, Nodame quickly falls in love, but it takes much longer for Chiaki to even begin to appreciate Nodame's unusual qualities. Their relationship causes them both to develop and grow. Along the way, they meet some crazy people (like Masumi, Mine, and Stresemann) and make lasting friendships. Because of Nodame, Chiaki gets the opportunity to lead a student orchestra and begins to have a broader appreciation of people's musical abilities. Because of Chiaki, Nodame faces her fears and enters a piano competition. Opportunities open up as both begin taking risks, stretching themselves far more than they ever thought possible.
This series holds a place in my heart because Nodame is the closest thing I've found to a character I've fully related with. I relate to her as an artist, a sloppy woman(her room full of garbage reminds me of my Freshman year in college where I had no idea to organize and didn't have anyone to tell me to clean up until the end of the year), an otaku (One subplot includes her learning French by watching her favorite Anime series, which is kind of the same technique that is behind my often-complimented Japanese pronunciation),and as a young woman looking for a way to do what she finds fun for the rest of her life. Yes, there are problematic elements of the show, but even the really annoying characters and plot points are done with such a real-life touch that you kind of understand where they're coming from.
Sumire Iwaya (巌谷 澄麗 Iwaya Sumire?), a journalist at a major newspaper, is a career woman in a society that does not handle successful women well, Sumire suffers from depression and anxiety. She also has hobbies that are very un-feminine, such as smoking, being a fan of pro wrestling,K-1, and shonen anime.
After her fiancé leaves her for his mistress and Sumire is demoted at work, she stumbles across a young injured homeless man in a box outside her condominium,She takes him in and becomes attached to him. As a joke, she says she wants to keep him as a pet. To her surprise, the young man agrees. She names him Momo (モモ?), after her beloved dog from childhood. Sumire provides room and board, and Momo provides unconditional love and loyalty. Sumire says there is no sex in their relationship, and she will only sleep with men who have the "three highs": higher pay, higher education and higher height (i.e. taller than her 170 cm.) Despite this, there is definite sexual tension in their relationship.
This is another series that is strengthened by it's use of an interesting, realistic cast of characters.What I like about Sumire is that she isn't your typical "tomboyish" girl. She clearly is as femenine as all the other ladies, but is too complete as a person to give up her less girly habits, and it bothers other people. I especially like that she expresses the fatigue of living as a Modern Woman without having to be placed in a super-subserviant role by some Alpha Male.Speaking of Alpha Males, I love Momo as a character for the completely shallow reason that he is just the kind of guy I would fall for.He's sweet, eccentric, and while he has a few skeletons in his own closet, he's a really nice guy without being a Nice Guy.The final thing that I like about this series, which makes it the most refreshing, is that it's about ADULTS!Not teenage prodigies, not High School Girls, not even college students (though Momo is still in school, technically). This is a show about Adults doing Adult things like having houses and working and smoking all around the house that you bought with your own money.The only reason why many people fear getting older is that we believe that once we get older and get a job, things won't be fun anymore, and we'll have to be responsible all the time. Well to hell to all that!
Princess Jellyfish centers around Amamizukan, an apartment building in Tokyo, where the only tenants are otaku women, and where no men are allowed. While each character has her own particular fixation, the protagonist is Tsukimi Kurashita, whose love of jellyfish stems from memories of her deceased mother taking her to an aquarium and linking the lace-like tendrils of jellyfish to the dresses of princesses. Tsukimi hopes to becomes an illustrator and is an awkward girl terrified of social interaction, attractive people and the prospect of formal work. The other tenants of Amamizukan are the same, being NEETs who refer to themselves as the "Amars" (nuns). Tsukimi meets the stylish Kuranosuke Koibuchi, the illegitimate son of a politician, who cross-dresses to avoid the obligations of politics and to feel closer to his mother. Tsukimi keeps the secret of his masculinity from her man-hating housemates, even as she is troubled by the intimacy of having a man in her room at times. Amamizukan's surrounding neighborhood is under threat of redevelopment, as opportunists aim to turn the quaint area into a more cosmopolitan region, with many of the buildings being demolished to make room for hotels and shopping centers. Although Amamizukan's tenants fear and loathe attractive people, they are helped by Kuranosuke who does not want to see Amamizukan destroyed.
I didn't know that Nana wasn't considered a Josei series until I looked it up. On the flipside, I thought Kuragehime, or Jellyfish Princess was a shoujo series until I read it listed under the Josei genre. Yeah, it includes (technical) adults, but everything and everyone has the exuberance and awkwardness of youth. It's as refreshing to see these women be so energetic as it is to see a series about female nerds that is written from a woman's perspective and not the men who think that the only female nerds who count are the ones who cosplay.I also like that each character is a total geek about various things, and how their obsession shapes their personality like any obsession would.I wish that Kuranosuke would be more clear about his crossdressing,though, because it's bursting with potential for commentary on gender and whatnot, and it's frustrating to see everyone involved with the series shy away from taking it seriously.
4. Anything by Yuki Yoshihara.
I don't care if her comics are considered shoujo series.No teenager can appreciate the raunchyness, the utter joy in sex, the complete fun of being two adults in love (or lust) in a Yuki Yoshihara manga. I say manga because there is no anime series or live-action interpretation of any of her series, which is in my opinion the greatest shame in entertainment. Her series just call for cartoonish motion or at least some live-action schmaltz smeared all over the screen.Yuki Yoshihara's manga series are complete guilty pleasures to me because by most assessments, they aren't really that good. A lot of the same character, and the same face, has been recycled in some of her works, and there are some problematic elements that make me very uncomfortable.I can't help it, though! It's like fried cheesecake in that you know it's really bad, but you enjoy it so much that it goes all the way to being pleasurable(?). My favorite of her series is Itadakimasu, whose summary goes like this:
Naeko is a divorced marriage coordinator whose ex-husband is her boss, who is constantly trying to woo her back and make her forget his past indiscretion. Naeko dreams of her wedding, where she remembers a young girl who catches her bouquet. Back in the present time, she meets a very beautiful young man, Ouji, who serves her tea. When she wonders what a kid he is, he kisses her to show he is not a kid but a man. Later she miraculously meets Ouji in her office, and to escape from her ex's constant pestering she declares she would marry Ouji. It turns out that Ouji is not only the girl in her dream but also her ex's younger brother who is in high school. But she has already fallen for him…
Yeah, I feel bad just for liking it, but it really does get better! Ouji is both the perfect man (boy) and a total pain in the ass, so you can kind of see where the long-suffering but immature Naeko sees in him.The best part, though, is that it ends perfectly with a fuzzy happy ending and no legal problems because I guess there have been sketchier May/December romances in shoujo series (I'm looking at you, Cardcaptor Sakura). If you can turn your brain off for a moment, and you like doing that, I would highly suggest giving Itadakimasu a try.
So there we have it, and excessively long rant and review about anime and manga. I'd never think I'd be the one to write these things, but I think it's hard to find reviews of "girly" anime and manga from the perspective of someone who likes things marketed for women.usually, any review of a girly anime series spends a lot of time apologizing for it's apparent "girlyness". "yeah, it has pink ponies prancing on unicorns, but there's a totally deep backstory and blah blah blah". For some people, they were hooked at "pink ponies on rainbows", and there should be nothing to apologize for that.