Animefringe Cover Story:
Sex and the Single Anime Hero
Part 4 - What are the Normal Guys Doing?
By Dave Baranyi
When I first started to consider the trends in anime sex that I've written of in my previous articles, the thought did occur to me that maybe what I was seeing was a "time dependent" phenomenon. After all, "Urusei Yatsura" was created in the early 1980's, while "Maison Ikkoku", "Tenchi Muyo" and "Ah My Goddess" were all created in the late 1980's or early 1990's. Had popular tastes or morals changed in Japan during the intervening years? A recent, very popular show, "Love Hina", suggests that the "wimp as a hero" formula is as alive and well in today's anime as it was 10 years ago.
"Love Hina" is another variation on the situation of a low-key guy caught up in a circumstance where he is thrown in with a bevy of beautiful and available young women. Like Godai in "Maison Ikkoku", Keitaro, the hero of "Love Hina" is a 20 year old "ronin". In this case, Keitaro takes on a part time job as janitor in his grandmother's old boarding house, which is now "girls only". And what a collection of babes the tenants are. But there is a bit of a different "spin" on the story in "Love Hina" - the girls don't immediately fall for Keitaro, as do the girls in Tenchi. Instead, a relationship slowly builds between Keitaro and one of the tenants, Naru, who may or may not be the long lost childhood sweetheart who made Keitaro promise to go to Tokyo University with her when they grew up. But despite his growing interest in Naru, and the appearance of the beautiful and ever-willing Mutsumi as a rival to Naru, Keitaro still doesn't even kiss any of the girls, let alone consider sex. And "Love Hina" was a late night broadcast aimed at the college crowd.
So is there sex in anime for teens outside of cheap hentai shows? Yes, and lots of it and with somewhat more "normal" guys too. But this doesn't occur in the types of shows that I've been mentioning up until now, but in anime for girls instead of anime for guys. Let's look at a couple of recent examples.
The hit show from 2 years ago, "Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou", ( "His and Hers Circumstances" ) was a witty, fast-paced romantic comedy from the folks who brought us "Evangelion". The heroine of "KareKano", Miyazawa Yukina, is a bright, aggressive and pretty 10th grader who wants to be top of her class, at any cost. She is well on her way to achieving that, when into her life steps the handsome and equally bright Souchirou Arima. They become an "item" and start spending more and more time together. Eventually, they both get caught up in each other, and after a number of very erotic, but not "dirty" scenes, they eventually do go to bed with each other. This comes over as something that is natural and expected and they experience no guilt or worry over it.
The more recent "Ayashi no Ceres" ( Watase Yuu's sequel to "Fushigi Yuugi" ) is even more direct. The 16 year old heroine, Aya, becomes infatuated with the enigmatic Tooya immediately upon being rescued by him. That same night she goes to bed with Tooya, and later on in the series not only goes to live with Tooya but becomes pregnant by him. Tooya is cool, strong, dependable and irresistible to Aya, and he doesn't resist her in return.
This isn't a case of "adult sex" like I described in the previous article. Granted, Tooya is somewhat older than Aya, but Souchirou and Yukino are both 10th graders. In neither case are the guys "afraid" of the girls. In fact, in one episode of "KareKano", we even get to see Souchirou's perspective on Yukino and why he got interested in her in the first place. It is all very realistic and believable. What is common to both shows is that we don't see any "anime wimps" the way we do in anime for guys.
So, to an extent, I'm back where I started. There still seems to be a cultural message about sex in anime, but it is different for different audiences. Shows for guys send out the message that it is alright to have pretty and willing women around, but they are only available as marriage partners, not as sex partners. At the same time, shows for girls send out a message that handsome and noble guys are available for sex at the heroine's command, and with the right "hero" it will lead to a true romance. So to an extent, our Tenchi-type wimp heroes are not "getting any" because they aren't ready for it and haven't reached the stage where they will be able and willing to commit to their future partners so that they become desirable to the girls as are Tooya or Souchirou.