!!Spoilers for Tokyo Boys & Girls!!
Despite all my complaining about romance, I seem to read a lot of it. As a result, I’ve run into dozens of trends, seen one scenario done over and over, and observed how people portray romance, both the good parts and the difficult parts. Years ago, before I was typing away on Gagging on Sexism, I came across Tokyo Boys & Girls, a manga created by Miki Aihara, better known for her hit, Hot Gimmick, at my local library. Now, Aihara doesn’t have the best track record for making manga with particularly forward-thinking and healthy relationships, but I didn’t know that when I read Tokyo Boys & Girls. What did I think of it? I was thoroughly irritated by it. So, years later, I had thought to do a scathing review, but I had to stop my eager fingers. Upon refreshing myself with the story, I found it not quite as bad as I remember, but I still have some things to say about some issues surrounding the heroine and her romance.
The story opens with Mimori Kosaka, your average peppy and cheerful heroine who wants only a couple of things out of her high school years; to wear a cute uniform, become cute, and to snag a boyfriend. Education? Pssh! When have girls ever been interested in knowledge? Anyway, Mimori’s third wish just might come true because not one but two studs have stepped up as potential love interests. Yeah, I know. One of them is a playboy and the other one is a long-lost childhood friend turned guy-out-for-revenge against Mimori for unknown reasons (Haruta), but obviously, these boys truly like our lucky heroine. I mean, with guys like that after her, can anyone say, “jackpot?” So, there is our lovely love triangle.
All sarcasm aside, obviously this story gets off to a troubled start. This was one of those romances where I just wasn’t impressed with the potential love interests. Both are jerky toward Mimori at some point and Tokyo Boys & Girls plays right into the old cliché that the heroine ends up with the one that comes off as mean toward her initially. I also had a problem with why Haruta is not-so-nice to Mimori at first; back in elementary school the two had been friends and Haruta had a crush on Mimori. Mimori, however, only saw Haruta as a friend and was completely oblivious to his feelings for her and to add insult to injury, years later in high school, Mimori doesn’t even recognize him. This understandably hurt his feelings, but the way the story plays it, this makes Haruta justified for being a jerk. When Mimori realizes all this later, she feels she had been a selfish person to have not realized Haruta’s feelings all those years ago. I felt this was over the top. The situation Haruta and Mimori faced in elementary school happens all the time and while it’s not fun and feelings may be hurt, that doesn’t make the oblivious party an awful person and certainly doesn’t give the hurt party reason to be a jerk.
The other big thing that bothered me with this manga was a certain incident that occurs in the later half, when Mimori and Haruta have started dating. Haruta is still insecure about his relationship with Mimori and afraid that his former rival in love is actually still very much a threat. Propelled by these fears, Haruta confronts her about her feelings and her relationship with his rival. Unable to simply take Mimori at her word (or her actions) that she wants to be with him, he demands that she prove she’s really Haruta’s by having sex with him. Frankly, Haruta’s inability to believe in the relationship and his jealous nature made for an unstable relationship in my opinion, but this particular bit had red flags flying. Mimori is understandably scared by his behavior and rejects him. Haruta jumps to the conclusion that because she wouldn’t have sex with him then and there, Mimori really didn’t love him and would rather be with his rival-in-love. This paranoia and aggressive behavior just screamed abusive relationship to me.
Mimori asks why he always has to be so malicious before running out. Readers are left with Haruta by himself, saying, “Why? Why do you think? Because I love you!” Riiight, because malicious behavior toward someone always equals love. He goes so far as to break up with her because she becomes a little scared of him after that incident, believing she simply has something against him in particular touching her.
I also felt like Mimori’s later reactions to all this is plain terrible. She connects her obliviousness to Haruta’s feelings back in elementary school to her more recent rejection of his pressure to have sex. She feels terrible because in her mind she’s been thoughtless of Haruta twice and hurt him twice. Mimori doesn’t do everything right over the course of the story, but that episode was not one where she should take blame. And after all, Haruta wasn’t thinking of Mimori’s feelings when he demanded that she prove herself by having sex with him. What does this say to readers? It reminds me of situations where someone is in an abusive relationship and they twist things in their own mind until they believe they did something wrong, and that’s the last thing I want to see in stories promoted toward teenagers.
The conclusion of this argument saves it from being completely rotten. The two make up, both realizing they were causing problems in the relationship; Mimori tries to be more honest with her feelings with Haruta and Haruta vows not to rush her with sex and never to do anything that would make her afraid of him again. Having them both realize their mistakes and having Haruta finally make it clear that he understands he did something wrong by pressuring her made me feel better about the story as a whole. I still feel it presented confusion and unhealthy messages regarding relationships, but it wasn’t a total flop.