the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)
[personal profile] the_sun_is_up
Prompted by the MG Project, I've been buying and reading a lot of shojo manga lately. This is unusual for me because I usually approach reading shojo with the same caution I'd use when defusing a bomb. However the Magical Girl genre tends to be on the friendlier, less brain-bleach-necessitating side of shojo, and indeed I've been enjoying myself a lot as I plowed through assorted volumes of Sugar Sugar Rune, Shugo Chara, Sailor V, and Mermaid Melody.

Then I read Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne and I was like "Oh yeah, that's why I hardly ever read shojo. BECAUSE IT IS FREQUENTLY HORRIBLE."

I picked up this title because I'd heard that Arina Tanemura's work tends to be among the more angsty, dark, and subversive in the Magical Girl genre, and KKJ in particular had some later plot twists that really intrigued me. And Tanemura's art is quite good, even if her art style is the most terrifying goddamn thing I've ever seen. It's like shojo on steroids. THE EYES. THEY ARE TOO BIG.

Having finished the series, I find KKJ frustrating because it's such a mixed bag. In fact, I'll break it down:

As a Magical Girl story, it's quite good.
As an epic womance between a magical girl and her muggle bff, or between a magical girl and her mascot mentor, it's also pretty good.
As a het romance, it is freaking awful.

At this point, I'm going to dive into spoiler territory because I can't rant properly otherwise.

While Chiaki aka Kaitou Sinbad is a far cry from the Bastard Boyfriend archetype, he's still a pretty crappy love interest for two big reasons:

1) He has difficulty understanding the word "no." This never gets into rape attempt territory, but there are a lot of scenes where he'll be invading Maron's personal space or kissing her or attempting to kiss her, and she'll be going "No, stop, knock it off, geroff me, etc" and trying to push him away, and it's clear that the author wants us to see this as cute and sexy rather than gross and creepy.

2) About a third of the way through the series, he reveals a crazy-possessive streak that sets off all kinds of "DO NOT DATE THIS GUY" alarm bells. For example, he catches sight of Maron walking and chatting with her new male teacher, and she's looking uncharacteristically happy and giddy. In response to this, Chiaki grabs her and slams her against a wall, and this conversation ensues:

Chiaki: Who is he?!
Maron: Chiaki!
Chiaki: The new teacher... what is he to you?!
Maron: W-what are you talking about?! He isn't anything to me... other than a teacher!
Chiaki: Oh yeah?! Then what was that I saw — a private lesson?!
Maron: W-what, Chiaki, are you jealous?!
Chiaki: That's right! Otherwise I wouldn't be asking!
Maron: Y-you and I aren't even dating, so you have no right to ask me!

Yeah, that's right. They're not even dating when this happens. And even if they were, Chiaki's behavior still would have been over the line.

It gets even worse in a later scene when they're actually being pretty cute together, but then Maron mentions that during her recent time-traveling excursion, she got some unexpected help from Noin, a demon who previously tried to rape her. Chiaki flips out at this.

Maron: Really, you should be grateful to Noin!
Chiaki: N-Noin?
Maron: Yeah! He helped me escape from the soldiers and protected me from the tornado...
Chiaki: *grabs her wrists and pins her against the floor*
Maron: W-wait, Chiaki! What are you doing?!
Chiaki: You're mine! And he can't have you!! *forcefully kisses her*
Chiaki's Mascot: *intervenes by smacking Chiaki with a paper fan and telling him to knock it off*

Shojo, I strongly question some of the things you choose to be. Why must you insist on being so damn creepy?!

There are some other icky relationship moments that just pour salt on the wound, like when Chiaki has this conversation with Yamato, a classmate who also has a crush on Maron:

Yamato: sure do force yourself on her a lot! Aren't you scared [that she'll dislike you]?!
Chiaki: Well, sure. But it's Maron, so I know it's okay. She thinks she's been alone for most of her life, right? So she's unable to be cruel to anyone who carries a torch for her and clings to her like velcro!

Uh.... what I got from that was "Maron's parents deserted her at a young age, so she's grown up so starved for affection that she's willing to put up with pretty much anything from her love interest, including rapey behavior." GROSS GROSS GROSS.

And then there's this bit after Chiaki rescues Maron from being raped by Noin, and after he goes home, his mascot asks why he didn't stay with Maron:

Access Time: What a dope! A real man would've taken her in his arms. Don't you know anything?
Chiaki: It's better this way. If I'd taken Maron in my arms while she was in that fragile state... I don't know if I'd be able to control myself.

Right because seeing your loved one being all upset and traumatized in the wake of her near-rape experience = total turn-on. WHAT IN THE FUCK.

Speaking of, I should probably talk about that attempted rape. Because you can't have a pulpy shojo manga without attemped rape! Noin is this bishie demon guy who was in love with the original Jeanne D'Arc back when he was a human, and he has some trouble understanding that Maron a) isn't the same person as Jeanne and b) doesn't remember him. He explains to Maron that her powers are tied to her purity, which he interprets as sexual purity, so the only way for him to free her from her obligation to God and therefore have her all to himself is to sex her up, whether she wants him to or not. And of course Maron doesn't have her transformation item within handy reach and of course her mascot tries to bring it to her but instead gets captured by Noin's lackey, and so of course Chiaki has to be the one to rescue her and I hate this trope I hate it I hate it I hate it rage rage rageragerageragerage

But to my extreme displeasure, this is not the last we see of Noin. He and Maron get sucked back in time to the evening before Jeanne D'Arc's execution, so they end up working together to save her. Which I wouldn't mind, except that they also have to spend the night together, which leads to this:

Noin: Here, cover yourself with my cape. You'll get cold in that outfit.
Maron: You're not planning on pulling anything weird again, are you?
Noin: *blushes* N-no, I promise!
Maron: Pfft! Just kidding! I trust you. I'll even forgive you for that last time. Since you were blinded by love. But there better not be a next time!!
Noin: Really?

The tone of this scene so creepily light-hearted, it's like she's scolding him for trying to steal a cookie from the cookie jar. *shudder*

Maron: Furthermore, I don't really think you intended to carry it out, did you? Because if you were really serious, you had the advantage while I was sleeping at your house, right?

Uh, I'm pretty sure the reason he didn't rape you before was because he didn't want to prematurely blow his cover, since you still didn't know he was a demon when you slept over at his house. And judging by Noin's demeanor during the attempted rape scene, he was absolutely going to go through with it.

And then he wraps his cape around her and she falls asleep in his arms. Which would be really cute and all if, y'know, he hadn't tried to rape her that one time.

By this point, it seems like Noin's gotten the message that Maron =/= Jeanne and that he should stop trying to put the moves on Maron... until Chiaki abruptly starts dating Maron's muggle bff (it later turns out they're both being controlled by demons), and Noin finds Maron angsting about it, and this happens:

Maron: *crying*
Noin: Maron... *tries to kiss her*
Maron: S-stop it! Don't! Noin!! Don't... please... I don't want to forget Chiaki's kiss.
Noin: *grabs her and kisses her anyway*
Maron: *slaps him*
Noin: .... I'll make you forget. You need to. *embraces her*
*end of scene*


In short, the het romance portion of KKJ is up to its eyeballs in everything I absolutely despise about shojo, which really soured the whole experience for me.

This post is getting long, so next time I'll talk about all the things that KKJ does right, especially in the vein of Dark And Subversive Magical Girl Narratives and Ladies Talking To Each Other And Being Ambiguously Gay.
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