Let’s face it (if you haven’t already); guys can be pretty immature and for a long time (sorry guys!). Girls usually mature faster so, it’s not surprising that some girls can be left feeling the need for more mature guys than those of their age group. However, there’s a big difference between a mature guy and an older man. To a 16-year-old girl, even a four year difference in age may be too much of a gap, especially in respect to dating. There’s a dangerous line.
In today’s society, there’s a bit of a problem concerning the matter. Some young girls seem flattered when approached by older men who certainly know better about what they are doing. When presented in fiction, it gets even harder since it’s often depicted with a certain innocence. That’s why this trend I’m about to discuss is so tricky; in the following manga, young school girls are in love with men around 10 years older than themselves and these men are truly in love with those younger girls. If one could detach from reality and think only of innocence, the following couples wouldn’t bother me so much. However, because these young-girl-with-a-grown-man couples are so innocent, I worry about the message it sends to young girls.
Take Fruits Basket‘s Kyoko Honda for example. First, let me just say that I love Fruits Basket; it’s cute, but it’s also quite deep
with well-developed characters and I’d highly recommend it. However, there is something that nags at me slightly whenever I read Fruits Basket. I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but I felt it was pushing that line of appropriate age difference with Kyoko’s relationship. Kyoko was in middle school when she met her future husband, Katsuya, a 21-year-old teacher at her school. This is tricky because nothing happens between them, but there is a mutual interest that turns into love. The age difference between the girl and man in this couple isn’t seen as “normal” exactly (the age gap is taken seriously), but that gap remains and is a little curious. If you don’t think about it too much, the oddness of these scenarios can easily be ignored (the relationship feels real and full of genuine love), but when you do stop to think, it’s a bit iffy; the fact that Katsuya is a teacher at Kyoko’s school makes it even iffier, especially in times when the boundaries between students and teachers slipping has become a real problem. While Kyoko’s relationship with a teacher turned out beautifully, in reality that is not really what happens.
Kare Kano‘s Maho is a beautiful, mature first-year in high school (which I believe is equivalent to a sophomore in American high schools). At one point, the main heroine of the story, Yukino asks Maho if she’s got a boyfriend. Without batting an eye, Maho replies that yes, she does in fact have a boyfriend, a boyfriend who happens to be a 28-year-old dentist. Just as casually as Maho told her this, Yukino thinks this is amazing. Unlike in Fruits Basket, the characters act if this is perfectly normal if not condone. Granted, I’m only part way through the anime series so maybe this issue will be addressed down the line, but I have my doubts.
Cardcaptor Sakura presents the most disturbing scenario. Cardcaptor Sakura is a children’s manga revolving around 4th grader Sakura and her friends and family. Among those friends is Rika, the mature (10-year-old) girl of the group who has a secret crush. And that crush is (drumroll please)…her teacher, Tereda! It’s a manga all about love in the purest form (between family, friends, and also boyfriends and girlfriends) so, it’s been said that perhaps one shouldn’t take this scenario too seriously, but it’s just hard not to be creeped out by it. While there are some different relationships in Cardcaptor Sakura (including another student-(assistant) teacher relationship), this one definitely crosses the boundary. Although I don’t know exactly how old Tereda is supposed to be, any adult interested in a pre-pubescent kid is just plain creepy (even though, again, it’s presented with child-like innocence). The “couple” is even engaged to be married once little Rika-chan is older. This relationship is a secret between just the two of them that not even Rika’s friends know about. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t manage to brush it under the rug in the back of my brain where all the other things that shouldn’t exist go (see my last post on Mulan II). Believe me, I tried.
As I said, I think the thing that bothers me about all of these scenarios is that they are all presented as innocent and/or as normal. Not to say that I want to see a realistic portrayal of that scenario, but these relationships are so nice people could perhaps get the wrong message from them. They could even be seen as desirable or normal…unless you really think about it in terms of reality. Cardcaptor Sakura particularly bothers me for that reason since it is a manga younger kids can read and may not think about it as much.
On a last note, this isn’t meant to turn people off any of these manga; in fact, I like all three of them generally. Also, if any of you who are reading this aren’t very familiar with manga, it should be noted that while these scenarios do happen sometimes in manga, this isn’t what manga is all about (and I don’t think this trend is limited to manga either). It’s just something that I feel needs to be addressed and given some thought to.