Oh, So Tropical: The He-Can’t-Love-Me Woman

In a lot of ways romance animes are some of the dumbest on the air.

I mean, seriously? You have Person A and Person B and everyone knows they will be in luv L-U-V by the end of the show and you have to make TWELVE FRICKIN’ EPISODES out of that. More if the audience likes those two clowns. How many episodes was Ranma 1/2? At least that one had a gimmick …

One way to keep tension in the story is to have one or the other of them be oblivious to the romantic dynamic, and since you have Person A and Person B, you can take your pick.

In typical boy/girl romances, particularly harem stories, you can make the boy stupid. Well, maybe stupid is too strong a word. How about oblivious? Sure, all those women (including the one we all he likes) are throwing themselves at him, and he just doesn’t notice.

The girl in boy/girl is a bit harder, I think. I mean, remember that, broadly speaking, the target market for anime is teenaged Japanese boys, right? I mean, there are anime that target other audiences, but for the most part it’s Japanese boys.

So if you make the Boy in Boy/Girl stupid, it works with the male audience. They can look down on him, right? They can say, “Well, I’d take that one with the great personality and hot body and we’d be out doing IT (you know what I mean) all night long. And he just sits there! What a fool!”

Problem: You can’t treat the girl that way. I’m pretty sure that teenaged Japanese boys are conditioned to avoid stupid girls, right? Let’s face it, stupidity is not an attractive trait in a mate. And since the teenaged Japanese boy viewer sees himself in the role of Boy, he sees Girl as a potential mate.

So there has to be something else that keeps them apart.

Right, okay, how about this: For REASONS she can’t or won’t believe he can love her.

Yeah, that’ll keep them apart.

You can use an old psychological principle called the “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” to keep the story going in that condition. The way the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy works is that you have a person who doesn’t believe something can happen, so they don’t do the things they need to do to make it happen. And then, of course, it doesn’t happen. You see? You said you couldn’t do it so you didn’t try, and sure enough you didn’t do it.

When the Girl doesn’t believe the Boy can love her, she doesn’t make any effort to do whatever it takes to get him to, and since she hasn’t, she doesn’t believe he could. So when he acts as though he loves her, she doesn’t notice or attributes it to something else.

You see? As long as Girl doesn’t believe the Boy can love her, the show can go on.

Tsukimi Kurashita: He can’t be in love with ME??

Of course, there has to be a reason why she doesn’t believe Boy can love her, and there can be a lot of ways to set that up. For instance, you can make her Faye Valentine and give her a back story where she’s been badly burned by people she trusted, so badly she can’t really trust anyone.

Right? That’s Faye’s story and she’s sticking to it. But when she falls for the sax player Gren and he takes her home with him, instead of necking (Will that do as a euphemism?) furiously with him, she pulls a gun on him!

One easy and common way to make the Girl not notice the Boy’s interest in her is to give her the self-esteem of a peanut.

Now she doesn’t notice that Boy likes her because she doesn’t think ANYONE can like her. BOOM. That takes care of that.

I mean, you can see this woman all over if you look for her. Tsukimi Kurashita (Princess Jellyfish) is exactly like that. Asuka Langley Soryu (unlike her reinvented incarnation Asuka Langley Shinkinami) ACTS tough, but she is so insecure with love that she can’t even love herself. The angels break her down TWICE because they sense that. Sawa Nakamura from The Flowers of Evil not only doesn’t like herself, she HATES herself, so she’s ultimately unable to respond to Kasuga’s love. (Of course, The Flowers of Evil isn’t really a romance story.)

Usagi Tsukino, Sailor Moon her own self, right? At least at the start of her story, where she’s mooning (pun intended) over the boy in the video shop, right? But she can’t make herself tell him…

But it’s a cute gimmick in a couple ways. First, while our teenaged Japanese boy isn’t repulsed by this Girl, since she’s not stupid, well, self-esteem comes and self-esteem goes. It’s not a deal breaker.

And well, you know what else?

Just like he can laugh at the Boy for being stupid, he can laugh at the Girl for being, well, for lack of a better word, weak. Or silly. Whatever. Just like he’s superior to the Boy, he’s superior to the Girl.

Yeah, it’s a subtly nasty trope. Then again, just about anything meant to make teenaged boys feel superior to others has the potential to be subtly nasty. And I’m not sure that’s limited to teenagers or boys when you think about it.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

4 thoughts on “Oh, So Tropical: The He-Can’t-Love-Me Woman

  1. I’ve seen a few of the more recent slow-burn romantic comedies, and I can see this tension in all of them between progressing the relationship and drawing it out. None of the anime adaptations I’ve seen have had anything close to the characters themselves realizing where they are, even though the audience does. But you just have to wait for season two or keep reading the manga, right? I can take that if it’s done well, but I can’t stand all the stupid back-and-forth you get in harem series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? Because if you’re in the anime/manga business, “keep reading” is the main goal! I greatly prefer something like Spice and Wolf where the circumstances are keeping them apart instead of their personalities.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Romance flicks, the biggest hit-or-miss in anime IMO. Mainly because more often than not the outcome is so apparent but the writers have so much wiggle room to maneuver how it could go, and often convolutes things. Another bad example I see is the “childhood friend” trope, where said character is in love with the MC but never works up the courage to tell him, but by then it’s too late.

    Nisekoi is another blatantly bad example of the shows you describe. Raku (male lead) is shoehorned into a relationship with Chitoge (female lead), and they spend so much time bickering with each other that how they end up (or are supposed to be) getting married required so much goalpost moving that I’ve never seen before. Meanwhile you have Onodera who he would be soooooo much better with in personality and chemistry but nope – they had to not only discard that but throw in random girls to frustrate things. Like what the heck man…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And for some reason they make make that same plot over and over – as you were telling about Nisekoi I heard myself thinking Ranma – and people keep watching.

      Along with Childhood Friend, there’s also the Lovers Fated to Meet, usually across time in some way 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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