Hoshi no hitomi ni utsuru alternative (Alternativeness that is Reflected on Starry Eyes: Focusing on the negotiation between mainstream and alternative qualities in mainstream shōjo manga)

Kyoto Seika University International Manga Research Center
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Global Manga Studies, 2015, 5 pp. 149 - 175
Issue Date:
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Shōjo manga (girls’ comics) is one of the hot topics in the study of manga. Despite this visibility, scholarly scrutiny tends to have focused on limited aspects of the category -e.g. famous works from the 1970s, and/or the ‘queer’ genres of ‘boys love’ or fighting girls. As a result, the more ‘typical’ aspirations of shōjo manga have yet to receive adequate attention. This article focuses on Miyawaki Akiko’s Kin to gin no kanon (abbreviated as K&G, 1984) in which one of the heroines -Masumi-attempts to escape from her wretched life and determines to succeed with her musical talent at any cost, leading to betrayal, deception and even murder. Through K & G, this paper argues that one of the problems attached to shōjo manga studies is an unconscious avoidance of what appear to be ‘typical’ shōjo manga, perhaps due to their ‘girlish’ aesthetics and “ultra-feminine” protagonists. For some, these might appear too supportive of normative gender roles. If shōjo manga are, as often argued, reflections of patriarchal oppression endured by Japanese women, what sense can we then make of manga like Miyawaki’s, with its significantly ambitious heroine? This manga, moreover, reflects a tradition of shōjo culture where the relationship between girls is a recurrent theme. We begin with a general overview of shōjo manga studies. In particular, we look at a recent gender studies trend in which shōjo manga studies are focused on two sub-genres; boys love (BL) and fighting girls. This approach prioritizes works that make explicit attempts to disrupt gender role stereotypes by assuming ‘masculinity’ and hence rejecting (girlish) ‘femininity’. We argue that this analysis, while important, has come to overshadow other, more ‘mainstream’ shōjo manga works with certain ‘girly girl’ emphases. To begin to address this critical gap, we examine how Miyawaki’s K & G, with an adolescent girl protagonist of highly ‘feminine’ appearance and strong sense of determination and autonomy, gainsays and even subverts this trend. Finally, we explore how such works as K & G and Suetsugu Yuki’s Chihayafuru, with their apparent crossover of conventionally shōnen and shōjo manga traditions, manifest an inclination of shōjo manga culture to continue to both reflect and influence society and its readers while keeping so-called, quintessential ‘shōjo manga’ aesthetics quite intact. Such shōjo manga works, we argue, represent a general attribute of shōjo manga culture where ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ qualities can co-exist rather than being understood via their diametric opposition to one another. In other words, the ‘mainstream’ qualities of these shōjo manga works, including their specific aesthetic styles, can operate as a form of wrapping that allows the more progressive, ‘alternative’ elements to gain social currency among their readers. In our focus on these elements within more standard, ‘ordinary’ texts, then, we direct the critical gaze towards a less considered but important area of shōjo manga.
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