We all have encountered this scenario in shoujo anime: Girl falls in love with Problematic Guy. Nice Guy falls in love with Girl. Girl still chooses Problematic Guy. I happen to be one of those people who want to smack Girl in the head and tell her, “Why can’t you just choose him?”
Classic example: Makino Tsukushi of Hana Yori Dango. She used to have crush on Hanazawa Rui, F4’s, well, Nice Guy. That is, until F4 leader and resident Problematic Guy, Domyouji Tsukasa, set his eyes on her.
Anyone with half a brain would hesitate to get involved with a guy as self-centered and, more importantly, violent, as Tsukasa. To be fair to Tsukushi, she doesn’t really want to at first and has been doing a great job avoiding the F4 altogether, but well, things happen. She doesn’t really throw herself at him in the “I’m willing to bear your child!” sense, but rather, the “I don’t care who you are, you’ve crossed the line, therefore I’m going to beat the shit out of you” sense.
And the rest is history – Tsukasa does everything in his power to make Tsukushi suffer and get rid of her, an unwanted weed (yes, pun intended), by forcing her to quit school. He rallies the whole student body to bully her and pull all sorts of pranks, most of which have gone overboard.
But she never gives up, and he ends up falling in love with her.
Tsukushi falls in love after Tsukasa plays hero and martyr, and maybe even upon seeing his human side. There you go. Girl falls in love with Problematic Guy. I have no qualms at all if those things somehow redeemed Tsukasa after everything he’s done, but to fall in love with him is stretching it. Wouldn’t one normally feel traumatized? I guess Tsukushi isn’t normal for fighting him in the first place, but still.
As for Rui, well, I didn’t really watch the anime or read the manga, but as far as the dramas are concerned, he likes Tsukushi at best and cares for her at the least. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. If I were Tsukushi, I’d dump Tsukasa in a flash and go for him. She used to like him, anyway. And what’s not to like about this guy when compared to Tsukasa? Okay, he’s got quite a disorder himself (I can’t be bothered to check its name), but who cares? He’s always there for her when she needs him, offering a shoulder to cry on, and he’s kind and gentle and just nice. And he doesn’t hurt her. He treats her the way she deserves to be treated. Being with him is a whole lot healthier of a relationship than with Tsukasa.
And yet, being the ‘other’ guy,’ Girl doesn’t choose him.
I can name three more series with a similar scenario or variations of it – Bokura ga Ita, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, and the fourth season of Mirmo Zibang. For the first two, Problematic Guy has serious personal issues to deal with – Yano can’t trust women, Haru has violent tendencies, etc. In the case of the third, I guess the love triangle permutation can be broken down into this (because the characters aren’t really fleshed out): Girl is fixated on Guy. Better for her Guy likes her. Girl still chooses Guy. Setsu might as well be dating a book rather than real girls. Takeuchi, Yamaken, and Koichi are so much better than these guys!
Now, back to Tsukushi. Why does she choose to be with Tsukasa and put up with all those trouble when she clearly deserves someone better like Rui? Why are Nanami, Shizuku, and Kaede all like that? It’s easy to say, “If I were her,” just like what I did earlier. It’s easy to come up with a litany of reasons to be with the ‘other guy.’ It’s easy to say things like, “she should know better.” But the thing is, you really just can’t know better when it comes to love. It happens even in real life – Girl falls madly in love with Jerk or Douchebag or something. That’s romance for you.
When anime heroines fall in love, they don’t consider what kind of relationship they are going to have with a person they like. It is oftentimes about the person: I like this guy because he’s blah blah blah, and not, I like this guy because I’m going have this blah blah blah relationship with him. It’s the person that comes first, and then the relationship. That’s how it goes.
To them, liking a guy doesn’t always mean looking for positive traits – he’s handsome, he’s smart, he’s kind – sometimes, it’s a matter of getting drawn to a guy. And boy, Problematic Guys really draw people. They may have a lot of issues on their hands, but they show people that they are capable of loving a person, of caring for another human being, no matter how they may be struggling with their own feelings or circumstances.
I’m not saying that it’s okay to just fall blindly in love with a total asshole and endure a dysfunctional relationship. But we can’t really blame Girl for her choice. Try putting yourself into her shoes: do you think you can honestly tell yourself to just go for the other guy, no matter how much better for you he is, when you know you are clearly interested in someone else? It’s like falling in love with flawed anime, like Froggy said.
I do think this article is an excellent analysis of Male Shojou protagonist. Yet it strikes me that such main male protagonists are quite rare in it’s opposite counterpart, the harem anime.I find this one of the more intriguing differences between genres in modern anime. I can’t actually name a harem story with a Male Shojou protagonist. And I really wonder how a harem play out with a Male Shojou protagonist, such as you have illustrated here.
That’s a really interesting idea, having this stereotypical problematic male as the central character of a harem anime. I mostly associate harem to shounen romcom (and some with a teeny bit of ecchi), but having this a guy with lots of issues as the protagonist kind of makes things serious. I think there’s going to be a lot of maturer situations. But with so many females going after him, uh, I can’t even begin to fathom what’s gonna happen. Maybe an anime version of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood?
That frustrated feeling is why I always end up getting invested in love triangles when I know they’re just trying to egg me on. Usually there’s just this downright stupid awful unpleasant stinky person and this is the person that the one in the middle has to like. What is with love and stupid logic?!
I can’t help but think the effect is intentional. Better to have some reaction at all than to feel apathetic about a love triangle. I always end up shipping the pairing that will never happen :(