5 of the Most Overrated Shoujo Anime
Like any other demographic, shojo manga and anime titles are designed with their specific target audience in mind – in this case, primarily teenage girls and young Japanese women. It therefore frequently focuses on the genres and tropes typically associated with its largest market – notably drama and romance – well-known and beloved classics such as The Rose of Versailles and Sailor Moon to more contemporary works including Kimi ni Todoke, Ouran High School Host Club and Yona of dawn.
While many shojo manga and anime are very crowd-pleasing, they can also have their downsides. For example, while some works may feature complex characters and sophisticated relationship dynamics, others may seem overly simplistic or lack subtlety. Additionally, some shojo titles are guilty of portraying emotional and sexual abuse between partners as romantic, or downplaying the power imbalances that occur between partners with significant age or experience gaps. In that sense, the popular shojo franchises below all have something in common beyond their core demographic.
Boys on Flowers (1996-97)
Tsukushi Makino comes from a modest middle-class background but attends the prestigious Eitoku Academy, whose students are all wealthy and have high social status. In particular, four young men from Japan’s wealthiest families, known as the Flower Four or F4 – Doumyouji Tsukasa, Hanazawa Rui, Mimasaka Akira, and Nishikado Sojirou – run the school. When Tsukishi inadvertently gets on their bad side, they relentlessly harass and bully her in an attempt to get her to give up. However, she is just as determined to fight back, and eventually, strong romantic feelings form between her and Doumyouji.
Also known as Hana Yori Dangothe Boys above the flowers manga was serialized in shojo magazine Daisy from 1992 to 2008 and is listed as one of the best-selling manga series of all time, selling over 60 million copies. Unfortunately, he and his anime adaptation are riddled with problematic tales and romantic tropes, such as Tsukimi’s love interest slapping her, drugging her, insulting her, and publicly humiliating her – all of which are seen as being in Tsukimi’s best interest or like Doumyouji simply trying to be “nice” and not quite sure how to go about it. Needless to say, their relationship is far from healthy despite Boys above the flowers billed as a romantic comedy.
Aspiring singer Shuichi Shindou is aiming to become the next Japanese hit with his band, Bad Luck. However, with studio deadlines looming and Shuichi struggling to finish his lyrics, things don’t go so well. When the lyrics he’s been working on are blown away one night, they’re picked up by a handsome man who describes them as trash. Both angry and intrigued by this stranger, Shuichi soon discovers that he is the famous novelist Yuki Eiri – and over time their feelings for each other turn from mutual annoyance to something much. more intense.
Considered a sort of “gateway” boy love/yaoi series for people dipping their feet into the subgenre, the Gravitation manga, originally published in shojo magazine Kimi to Boku from 1996 to 2002, was particularly successful in North America. However, neither it nor its 2000-2001 animated adaptation holds up well today. Yuki is constantly verbally abusive and controlling, with much of his “prickly” and “brooding” behavior excused because of his traumatic past. He very rarely expresses himself to Shuichi in a positive way, and for his part, Shuichi is often afraid to express himself openly for fear of angering Yuki. Meanwhile, their sexual relationship falls into stereotypical seme/uke power dynamics, defining each clear dominant/submissive roles in the bedroom and fetishizing queer romance for the public’s whims.
Fruit Basket (2001 and 2019-21)
Honda Tohru, an orphaned high school student, finds herself in a tent in the woods when her grandfather’s house is being renovated. When his tent is buried under a landslide and his situation is discovered by Sohma Yuki, the “prince” of his school, and his cousin Shigure, they invite him to stay with them instead. However, Tohru soon discovers a secret: Yuki and the other Sohmas each transform into one of the zodiac animals if hugged by someone of the opposite sex. Now, the benevolent but determined Tohru is determined to break that curse – as well as free them from the hold that the Sohma family’s leader, the mysterious Akito, seems to have over them.
It is no exaggeration to say that Fruit basket is one of the most popular manga and anime franchises of all time, both in Japan and the United States. His original manga from 1998-2006, published in Hana to Yume, has sold millions of copies worldwide and its two anime adaptations have both gained popularity. Nonetheless, the characters and relationship dynamics leave a lot to be desired. Tohru is desperate to please and does all the household chores, illustrating her as the perfect stereotypical female love interest. Conversely, Yuki is self-centered while Kyo is brash to the point of becoming violent, and even the older Shigure is explicitly manipulative. None of this sounds conducive to a healthy life situation or relationship, but everyone still earns their apparent happiness with relatively few questions asked.
Vampire Knight (2008)
Although seemingly opposites, the lively Yuuki Cross and the brusque Zero Kiryuu are close friends and members of Cross Academy’s disciplinary committee. Their role: to ensure order between the day class and the night class when the two groups of pupils carry out their daily rotation. What the Day Class doesn’t know is that the Night Class consists only of vampires, led by Kaname Kuran, who saved Yuuki from a vampire attack 10 years ago. Her feelings for him are complicated, but not those of Zero, who passionately hates all vampires and doesn’t believe the two races can ever live together in peace. Unbeknownst to him, a secret from his past threatens to destroy the peace not only of the academy, but of everything the characters hold dear.
When it comes to vampire shojo romance, vampire knight is often at the forefront of people’s minds. Originally serialized in LaLa from 2004 to 2013, the 2008 anime adaptation is poorly paced and melodramatic to the point of being an unintended comedy. However, both versions of the story have Dusk-esque creepy levels that the narrative tries to pass off as darkly sexy. Yuuki is constantly depicted as being so overwhelmed with emotion whenever vampires – all of whom are portrayed as unimaginably beautiful – are involved that she is essentially useless at her job. Worse, the love triangle between her, manipulative Kaname, and woe-to-me Zero is hollow at best and downright disturbing at worst thanks to its explicitly incestuous themes, sexual assault, and child grooming.
Wolf Girl and Black Prince (2014)
Peer pressure prompted high schooler Shinohara Erika to lie about her romantic exploits, claiming she has a boyfriend. When her clique asks to see a photo of this mysterious man, she takes a photo of a random stranger who turns out to be none other than Sata Kyouya, the most popular boy in their school. Realizing that she has no choice but to explain herself to Kyouya to continue the charade, Erika discovers that he is far from the generous and respectful person he introduces to the world. He agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend, but only if she becomes his “wolf girl” in exchange. Even so, the two begin to develop feelings for each other, causing them to question everything they thought they knew.
Originally serialized in Marguerite Bessatsu from 2011 to 2016 and adapted into an animated series in 2014, the wolf and the black prince (Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji) is proof that not all problematic romantic tropes go away with time. Erika’s relationship with Kyouya is initially based solely on her lies to impress her so-called friends and her resulting blackmail. Although their fake relationship eventually evolves into a real one, her behavior never improves throughout the story, with him constantly belittling and criticizing her and at one point even breaking her phone in half for daring. talk to another man. Their relationship is the very definition of toxic, with Kyouya’s actions and very character not only seen as romantic, but also glorified as suitably masculine, protective, and yes, “loving.”