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Why are manga and anime romances so slow?

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Koori-Zokusei-Danshi-To-Cool-Na-Douryou-Joshi-wallpaper-1 Why are manga and anime romances so slow?

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. We won’t deny that the manga industry is predominantly concerned with hooking readers and getting them to buy issues regularly.

There’s certainly a market for romance one-shot manga, but for magazines like Bessatsu Margaret, Comic Yuri Hime, or Bessatsu Shoujo Comic, they need to sell their weekly or monthly issues and hopefully get you to buy bound tankobon for additional commentary. and bonus comics. Romance anthologies have certainly gained momentum recently, particularly for Girl’s Love (yuri) works, such as the popular Syrup and Èclair anthologies. These collections showcase a wide variety of mangaka and are great for short, short romance stories.

As stupidly capitalist as it may sound, the publishers get a better bang for their buck if you’re interested in whether Komi and Tadano fess up in Komi-san wa Komyushou Desu. (Komi Can’t Communicate) or see which of the cool student council members breaks first in Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai – Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen (Kaguya-sama: Love is War).

But this doesn’t really explain why romance manga and anime are slow. Surely you could create an equally enjoyable romance story that also incorporates the dating process. Why does our favorite series turn into a big confession and then end just as things start to look up?

The answer lies on the opposite side of the cultural barrier, and it all starts with a language lesson.

Koori-Zokusei-Danshi-To-Cool-Na-Douryou-Joshi-wallpaper-1 Why are manga and anime romances so slow?

At Honey’s Anime, we publish articles primarily in English, so we make certain assumptions about you, the reader. Assuming you clicked on this article with the same question about Japanese romance, you’re probably from a Western culture.

In American or Western cultures, dating is the “starting point” of a relationship. Confessing your feelings after just a date or two is a significant faux pas, but dating in the West does involve a fair amount of physical contact: you’ll probably hold hands or work your way up to a kiss. Some more exciting action isn’t that uncommon, especially once you’re dating as an adult!

Saying “I love you” is an important milestone in a relationship, but it’s just another step along the way.

The same absolutely cannot be said for Japanese dating – a common mistake for foreigners and a source of confusion when it comes to romance stories!

Koori-Zokusei-Danshi-To-Cool-Na-Douryou-Joshi-wallpaper-1 Why are manga and anime romances so slow?

Japanese is a famously non-individualistic language, where personal pronouns are used sparingly. The Japanese language is remarkably efficient, with informal speech sometimes dropping subjects and verbs entirely.

As Metro Classic Japanese’s Kyoto Ko says: “The goal of English conversations sometimes seems to be clear.” Japanese can sometimes seem quite the opposite, with Ko saying that “speaking in full sentences is not expected and is discouraged.”

This also includes romantic confessions!

Anyone who watches anime with Japanese audio will recognize the phrase “suki” (好き), which literally translates to “like,” but under the right circumstances, that simple verb can convey your love for someone.

There is a literal “I love you” in the form of “aishiteru” (愛してる), but as the brilliant Kokoro Media tells us, “this word conveys deep and serious feelings.” For an English speaker, think along the lines of a passionate vow, the kind of thing you’d only say very rarely.

There are other ways to express how much you like someone in Japanese, such as “daisuki” (大好き), a typically handy conjugation of the word “big”, “dai” (大) into “suki.” Westerners may understand that phrase as the somewhat adolescent term for saying that you “like” someone.

So if “I love you” is such a big deal, how do Japanese couples know when, well, when they’re a couple? That’s where our new friend “kokuhaku” comes into play!

Koori-Zokusei-Danshi-To-Cool-Na-Douryou-Joshi-wallpaper-1 Why are manga and anime romances so slow?

Once your high school days are behind you, the concept of “fess up” sounds embarrassing and a bit childish. But in Japan, “kokuhaku” (告白) is an extremely important part of romance; in fact, nothing can happen before this!

On the brilliant language-learning site Tofugu, there’s a full analysis of kokuhaku, but the key takeaway is that confessing your love is the start of a real relationship. You might call this becoming a “serious” couple in the West, but in Japan, you may have only been friends before this point.

Remember that physical contact in Japanese culture is also very different.

A goodbye hug wouldn’t be a second thought in the West, but even among friends in Japan, hugging or holding hands is rare, and not something to be taken lightly! Tofugu quotes a young Japanese woman who talks about a friend who confessed her feelings to him: “She hugged me from behind and then confessed her love to me. Before I realized it was her confession, I felt really threatened.”

Getting your kokuhaku right is also important! If the confession goes wrong, your entire relationship could be ruined, perhaps your reputation and the reputation of the person you love!

We’re all pretty familiar with the expression “saving face,” but did you know that the expression only entered the English language after encountering Asian cultures in the 19th century?

English has always held a concept of “prestige” or “honour”, but that is something that could be applied quite broadly. “Saving Face” is much more about one’s personal humiliation. In Japanese culture, however, “face” is not just about oneself, it can also be concerned with how another person feels.

In manga and anime, we often see our characters stutter and stutter, struggling to express their emotions or being reluctant to admit how they feel. That’s partly because of the “kokuhaku” we mentioned earlier, but also because the Japanese don’t want to offend anyone by expressing their feelings inappropriately.

That may seem strange to Westerners, but as Asahi Weekly reports, “face” is something many Westerners struggle with in Japanese office and social settings. If you disagree with someone publicly, it’s called “mensu wo ushinau” (メンツを失う), “losing face” or, more accurately, causing the other person to be humiliated.

On the other hand, Japanese culture gives you a safety net with “kao o tateru” (顔を立てる), to “show your face.” While it may seem strange at first, this is basically like building someone up, or if you’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, it’s phrasing your words so there’s another interpretation you can claim!

So if you’re headed for a “kokuhaku” and you’re not sure it’s going to work, it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan that will defuse the situation, and that’s a pretty common trope we see in romance manga. and encouraged!


final thoughts

Koori-Zokusei-Danshi-To-Cool-Na-Douryou-Joshi-wallpaper-1 Why are manga and anime romances so slow?

Author: Brett Michael Orr

I’m a manga and light novel writer, gamer, and reviewer from Melbourne, Australia. When I’m not creating a new world, I’ll be engrossed in a good JRPG, watching anime, or reading up a storm.

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