Toshokan Otaku: LoVe iS In tHe Air

Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound

And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes.  (John Paul Young)

Ah yes, the winter holidays.  A time for family, no school, shopping, and love.  Love you say?  Yes, indeed, lurv.  At least in Japan.  ^_~

While the “western” winter holidays center on religion and/or family, Christmas time has quite a different connotation in Japan.  Though Christmas has been celebrated there for hundreds of years, it has developed quite a tradition in the last few decades…as a date night!

So, this week it’s all romance manga.  Seeing only one genre would be boring, so I’ve included titles from shojo, boys’ love, and josei manga.  Something for everyone, sort of.

I’d be the first to admit that shojo manga kinda creeps me out, but taken in small doses it can be an emotionally fulfilling experience.  Also, rather than reading the same high school drama over and over, it is fun to find the titles that *tweak* the formula, if only a little.  My best rec’s are as follows:

Skip Beat! – I cannot emphasize enough how “anti-romance” this title is.  And yet, there is the feeling of inevitability between the two main characters, if they can work out their individual internal issues.  Kyoko, our intrepid heroine follows her crush to Tokyo only to hear him dissing her.  Heartbroken (and rather scarily enraged and possessed) she determines to become an even bigger star than he is as her revenge. 

Kyoko on a rampage

Ridiculously talented, while fairly socially inept, Kyoko manages to get a spot at a talent agency but her bad intentions (re: bitter heart) spark the interest of the president, who forms a special unit for her (Love Me) emotional reformation.

There are many sight gags, silliness, love triangles and lots of angst in this story, but ultimately it is the story of Kyoko’s maturation and finding her own place in this world…which may or may not include one of the fellows.  🙂

Captive Hearts is a nicely angsty (and short at 5 v.) entry in the supernatural shojo category.  Do you really love me or are you just indebted to me? kind of a thing.  Nice artwork (from Vampire Knights’ Matsuri Hino) and interesting characters will keep your attention.

B.O.D.Y. offers a slightly different perspective from the normal teen romance.  When Ryoko finds out the strong and silent boy she likes is actually the member of a Host club, she becomes determined to know him and keep his secret.

Other titles of interest:  Black Bird, S.A., and Ouran High School Host Club, which deserves its own blog entry, but ain’t gettin’ it today!

For a more “mature” romance, from josei, another story with a twist – Stepping on Roses.  “A rags-to-riches romance! Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition–he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi pull off fooling high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth it to give everything up for this sham of a marriage?”  Can’t really add much to that.  It’s interesting to me because it’s historical (1890s) and she’s dealing with these crazy situations while pining for someone else.  Love it.

Other josei titles:  suppli, office girl romance (with explicit content, fyi) and Nana, rockstars romance!

For a dramatic but fairly innocent friendship, that just might become more – La Esperanca.  This is one of my favorite mangas, that kind of defies description.  Technically in the yaoi category, there is little actual “romance” to be had here.  Instead, there is mystery (George’s past), questioning faith (Robert), a bratty nobleman (Freddy) who seems to have designs on George, tons of gossip (all the other characters), and familial epiphanies.  George and Robert are each compelling characters and the author has a lot to say about religion, society, commerce, and prejudice.

This story is complete (7 v.) and well-worth the read.  The artwork is incredibly detailed and not your typical manga fare (partly because it has a European setting, but still).

Other BL titles:  Time Lag (think missed connections) and Kizuna, lovey dovey time interrupted by uncouth family, ouch. 

There you have it.  Some of my favorite romances.  There are more, of course, so check out our awesome new catalog and see what you think.  Remember, you need to create a username on your first vistit.

Let us know if you have your own faves or recommendations for us to add to the library’s collection.

The Beacon Hill Anime Club will be meeting on Tuesday, December 14th.  Please come and join us.  I promise, no romantical episodes, unless you really want them!

Ja ne,  Rae

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