My thoughts exactly.
Listen ye, shojo fans, to my decree. I lay it out before ye:
The Beta Couple Is Always Better Than The Main Couple
So far, this rule in life has not been challenged. Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is no exception.
It’s really not that hard to explain why this is so, at least for me. Beta couples don’t generally have to put up with the over-the-top histrionics that the main couples are subjected to for the sake of drama. Even in a lighthearted romcom like TnK, Haru and Shizuku have layers upon layers of emotional issues to deal with, and honestly it’s exhausting to watch them constantly seesaw about their feelings for each other. If you want to bullshit, fine, but don’t shove it down my throat as THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LOVE STORY EVAH.
It’s a good thing that Haru and Shizuku are more quirky together than maudlin, but the fact remains that for all the progress they make together, they fail to communicate more than they succeed. It doesn’t gel with me – and Haru’s problematic portrayal and attitude towards rape makes it worse – so it was no surprise that I found myself getting most of my enjoyment of the anime through shipping the side characters together.
I haven’t read the manga, so a lot of what I have to say is just based off observations on the anime. But since it appears the meat of Sasayan and Natsume’s development occurs in the manga, I’ve enlisted the help of uminohoshi, the coauthor of this blog, to help me out with the analysis. Even though she’s in the process of writing her thesis, she still has the time to argue about shojo manga with me. As it should be, right?
I Love Natsume Because She Is Cute
Uminohoshi: Natsume is a bit tricky, because she is socially awkward but popular at the same time because she’s just too damn cute to resist. She’s the typical anime girl that I would probably hate, except for the fact that she felt very believable, relatable even. I think this is also because she’s not the main character. Okay she had a father complex, she treats guys who confess to her as if they are invisible, but that doesn’t come off as bitchiness or being just too shy. It’s something in the middle, an in-between that could not be expressed in words because it just feels real.
Froggy: What makes Natsume so endearing to me is that she’s so realistically flawed. I see her as a tragic figure, in a way. Like anyone who desperately craves love and security, she’s also afraid of it. She wants to be liked and yet shuns those who do like her. For all that, there’s something so affectedly innocent and girlish about her behaviour that I can’t help but fall for her a little myself. You just can’t bring yourself to dislike someone who, despite her own selfishness and insecurities, has her heart firmly in the right place.
Uminohoshi: I think Natsume wants this perfect world in which she won’t have any interpersonal conflicts with other people. She sees things as black and white – if you’re a friend, you’re not a stranger, and you’re definitely not a lover. There is tension between her and Sasayan after he confesses because she doesn’t know how to classify him anymore. Same with Mi-chan – she likes him but she can’t classify him as a lover exactly, because the feelings aren’t mutual.
Froggy: Natsume… Oh Natsume… She’s the type of girl who likes falling into unrequited love, I think. There’s a kind of safety in knowing exactly how a person feels about you, whether it’s romantic love or not. She loves Mi-chan because he represents constancy to her, but she also feels comfortable in liking him so much because the relationship will never get complicated. Sasayan liking her is what’s forcing her to reevaluate so many of her prior assumptions.
Sasayan Is The Best Male Friend Natsume Could Ever Ask For
Froggy: The best thing about Sasayan is that he’s so normal. He treats Natsume like a human being, not a piece of meat. To him, she’s a friend first, not a potential girlfriend. When you think about it, Sasayan’s the kind of guy that she needs by her side if she ever wants to develop normal relationships with boys one day. Sasayan’s perceptive; he spends more time observing people instead of acting recklessly, and I think that’s his strength.
Uminohoshi: I think his social adeptness bites right back at him, though. People think he can handle everything, but he is human and of course he can’t. I think it would be going too far to say that he wears a mask, but it’s something short of that. He isn’t faking it, but that’s not the real him either. The circumstances force him to act like everything’s in control. Natsume is one of the very few people that he would willingly show his vulnerabilities because she is special to him.
Froggy: I think he’s harsh on her because he’s harsh on himself too, and he sees a bit of himself in that. I think he’s irritated with her somewhat but he can’t help but be drawn to her.
Uminohoshi: I think Sasayan is not really “drawn” to Natsume. To me, to be “drawn” to someone is a really strong feeling of curiosity, and I don’t think that’s what Sasayan feels for her. I don’t think he’s drawn to her because she’s such a complex, broken person. I think, at first, it was just a genuine platonic friendship, no strings attached, but he comes to realize that he cares for her enough to want to be there for her. I actually don’t think it’s romantic at this point – maybe in later chapters, their relationship will evolve into something deeper.
Froggy: So what do you think he meant when he said, “I like you” in the manga?
Uminohoshi: I think he meant that he doesn’t find her a bother; he accepts her for who she is, despite all her faults and insecurities. He does not dislike her. He likes her company, and I think he’s on the road to being interested in her. It could be a confession of feelings, but not a declaration of intention to start a romantic relationship. Which means, they’re on a tightrope right now.
Oh wow. Damn. “I like you” is such a vague phrase. Lol.
Froggy: tldr; Sasayan is such a bro.
Concluding Thoughts: SasaNatsu Is Not A Unique Ship
There’s a strong undercurrent in Sasayan and Natsume’s relationship that’s pretty comparable to other shojo like Kimi ni Todoke and Sukitte Ii Na Yo: Popular guy “reforms” the socially awkward girl.
What makes Sasayan and Natsume so resonant with me, however, is how down-to-earth they are as a duo. They’re unique because they’re not unique, because Natsume’s insecurities and ideals are something that everyone has experienced to a degree. And while Sasayan is a cipher, he’s not necessarily portrayed as the ideal boyfriend. He makes mistakes too. Maybe he’s not even doing the right thing by declaring his intentions. It’s hard to make judgments like his.
That’s just how adolescence is, though. In the end, there’s this sense that the world will keep on turning, regardless of where their relationship leads.
I think this is what makes shipping these two so much fun.
You really did do a shipping post~ And it’s on SasaNatsu! (At first I read it as SasuNaru and then thought that Rin might have made you intensify your yaoi ships.)
I like this post because I agree with both your and Uminohoshi’s points. It’s nice seeing how both of you go analyse these two are individually and how their interaction/relationship works. I completely didn’t think that Sawako x Kazehaya would be similar in any way but now that it’s been pointed out, I could see it! (Although, I think a lot of shojo has popular guy x unpopular girl mangas because it’s appealing to their audience)
Also, I think you two could’ve added a “chemistry” section where you’d talk about how these two would work as a couple (or not work as a couple) :3
Good point about their chemistry. I think Natsume and Sasayan would work as a couple, mostly because their traits are very complementary and they both have a sense of comfort and familiarity around each other. Even when things get a little complicated between them, it all develops in a natural way. Do you think they have chemistry?
I think they have chemistry, but for a different reason. See, in most shojous, the character’s chemistry relies mainly on their misunderstandings and how they clear them up. Natsume and Sasayan don’t have misunderstandings; they have differences but they make up in the end. Couples who fight each other but make up despite whatever caused the fight (such as their flaws or simply different viewpoints on something) would last longer than two people who are overdramatic about a small misunderstanding. Other than that, I agree with what you said too as other factors for their chemistry :3
I love this pairing! And I was sad when Natsume didn’t like him in the anime ;__;
Even if she likes Mi-chan in the anime, nothing will stop me shipping her with Sasayan! Mwaha! Thanks for the comment, by the way :)
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I know it’s an old post but I just read manga so just stumbled upon it. I’m pretty sure Sasayan’s “I like you” is definitely meant in a romantic way just from the context and his wording. He basically said that as friendly as he is, he wouldn’t have grabbed a girl’s hand if he didn’t actually have feelings for her. It’s what makes that scene funny too, because natsume just finished apologizing for assuming his intentions and he immediately confirms that she was actually right. Plus her reaction wouldn’t make sense otherwise.
I think what made that scene so different and so striking was how direct Sasayan was. He pretty much just straight out tells her his feelings rather than showing it through blushing or hesitation or whatever. It was an unusual confession scene, but one of my favourites, actually.