This may not come as a surprise to most of you, but I spend a lot of time thinking about women in manga, both behind the pen and on the page. As I was pondering a topic for this week’s 3 Things, it occurred to me that I might like to pick out some of my favorite female leads from this year’s batch of new manga. What surprised me when I got down to it, however, was the realization that very few of my favorites this year come from the pages of shoujo manga.
While I’m not sure exactly what that says about me or the newest crop of shoujo, I’d certainly be interested in the discussion. In the meantime, lets take a look at three of my favorite heroines from the pages of this year’s debut series.
3 favorite heroines debuting in 2010:
1. Yukiko | All My Darling Daughters | Fumi Yoshinaga | Viz Media – Perhaps “heroine” is not quite the right word for Yukiko, but as the manga’s various stories are all threaded through her, I’ve decided she qualifies. In any case, I can’t let her go unrecognized.
What’s wonderful about Yukiko is that she’s entirely ordinary, in a way that makes clear just how individual “ordinary” actually is. She’s got average looks, an average job, an average relationship, and even a pretty average outlook on life, and yet both her story and her personality are just as intriguing as any “ordinary girl” who wins the love of a dashing hero, accidentally attains superpowers, and/or saves the world.
Yukiko’s a real everywoman. And every woman is awesome.
2. Asumi | Twin Spica | Kou Yaginuma | Vertical, Inc. – Asumi is a heroine after my own heart, mainly because of her skyward dreams and her rich inner life. She reminds me of myself as a young girl, though with a kinder heart and a much more tragic past. I’d like to have been strong enough at her age to reach out, without fear, to someone in need, even if that person was unfriendly to me, as she does with her deeply damaged classmate, Marika.
What’s especially enjoyable about Asumi’s journey, too, is that, though her ambitions are no less daunting than those of most fantasy heroines, she isn’t granted any special powers in order to achieve them. Her path entails numerous mundane obstacles, like scientifically-heavy schooling and real-world financial difficulties. Asumi is an idealized version of my young teenaged self, yet real enough that I can pick out exactly the ways in which I could have become her, with just a little more bravery and genuine self-awareness.
3. Shurei | The Story of Saiunkoku | Sai Yukino, Kairi Yura | Viz Media – Though Shurei’s happy-go-lucky attitude and strong sense of civil responsibility make her an ideal shoujo heroine, there’s a sense of deep intelligence and real mystery about her that somehow defies the norm.
Not that the norm is bad, mind you, but it’s refreshing to encounter a current shoujo heroine who has more on her mind than romance or the standard determination to “do her best!” Shurei does her best, all right, but she’s not necessarily forthcoming about what that is. She’s smart, she’s capable, and she’s every bit as interesting as the male characters who surround her–something that is not quite as common in girls’ manga as a reader might hope.
Chi | Chi’s Sweet Home | Konata Konami | Vertical, Inc. – I don’t cheat often in this column, but Chi is a kitty who demands special treatment, and who am I to refuse?
She’s cute, she’s fearless, she’s defiant when necessary, and she understands the value of good meal. What more could one ask for in a manga heroine? Though lately she’s been hanging with a questionable crowd, her love for her family shines through, even if they are too dense to understand her half the time.
With her bright, wide eyes and spunky personality, who could resist a cat like Chi?
So, readers, who are some of your favorite heroines from this year’s crop of manga?
Eric Rupe saysDecember 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm
Agree with your first two picks though I would reverse them as I like Asumi better but both her and Yukiko are great characters. I having a tough time coming up with a third choice off the top of my head and Nicolette from Ristorante Paradiso or Rin from Bunny Drop are the only two I can think of and I’m not entirely sure they would count.
“With her bright, wide eyes and spunky personality, who could resist a cat like Chi?”
For the record, that would be me. Chi’s Sweet Home did absolutely nothing for me beyond some nice parts in the art.
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm
You have no soul.
But to address your first point, you know, I wasn’t really putting them in any order, and it’s possible if I had to choose, I’d say I liked Asumi better. They’re kind of apples & oranges, though, so it’s hard to say. :)
Thanks for coming by today!
Eric Rupe saysDecember 2, 2010 at 6:19 pm
That’s cool. Anytime I see a numbered list I tend to assume it is a ranked list as well.
David Welsh saysDecember 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm
“What surprised me when I got down to it, however, was the realization that very few of my favorites this year come from the pages of shoujo manga.”
You know, that’s an excellent point. If this were 2009, I’d have no trouble stacking the deck with shoujo heroines, but in 2010, my favorite new shoujo title has a male protagonist, and other big debuts (like Library Wars) didn’t exactly sing for me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pick three new heroines:
Sunyool from “There’s Something About Sunyool,” which I know is only new in print, but that’s just how I roll.
Aoba from “Cross Game,” for being an awesome, unapologetic tomboy.
Rin from “Bunny Drop,” who’s admittedly a very guarded heroine, but I think she’s awesome just the same.
And since you cheated, I will too and give an honorable mention to Olga, the neglectful mother from “Ristorante Paradiso,” because if you have to have a neglectful mother, she should at least be worldly, indulgent, and hilarious.
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm
Oh, these are great. I was having trouble thinking of a lot of heroines I liked this year, but I’d forgotten both Rin and Sunyool, who could easily be on my list as well. And though I might not have included Olga, I can’t possibly argue with your reasoning. :D
Michelle Smith saysDecember 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm
I was wondering whether Shurei would make your list! While I can certainly name quite a few awesome shoujo heroines—Sarasa, anyone?—it’s harder when limited to new 2010 titles.
I’m not sure she belongs in the top three, but Alice in Alice in the Country of Hearts is surprisingly competent and level-headed, so I definitely appreciate her.
I’ll also echo the praise of Aoba in Cross Game. A strong, sympathetic character.
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 2, 2010 at 9:45 pm
Honestly, part of why I *did* limit it to 2010 was just to narrow the field a bit. :)
lys saysDecember 2, 2010 at 9:21 pm
I first had to figure out which series started this year—January seems like so long ago! Ooh, Rin is a good pick—Bunny Drop is such a lovely series. But to pick three of my own… I think I have to mention the heroines of two CMX series from the beginning of the year—I found Souka (My Darling! Miss Bancho) and Shinobu (Stolen Hearts) to be totally charming and sweet, heroines who do a good job standing up for themselves when they need to. Both girls are typically “girly” but I don’t think their girliness is presented as weakness, and as a sparkly-frilly-flower-loving shoujo manga reader, I appreciate that. Reading and remembering their stories makes me happy even now! (of course, it’s a little bittersweet with the series’ current lack-of-publishing-status.) I also really, really love Rinna from Dragon Girl (disclaimer: I lettered the series for Yen). She’s fun and awesome and fearless! It may be a little silly, but I’ve taken to wearing star-shaped earrings like hers whenever I want an extra boost of courage or energy :D
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm
I had that problem too! I’m worried I may have left off someone I’ll really kick myself for later, simply because January *was* so long ago! :D Nice to see some appreciation for those quiet little CMX manga series. *snif*
Kris saysDecember 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm
Hurray for Shurei! She would absolutely be my pick of the year, as well.
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm
Sara K. saysDecember 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm
Truth is, I haven’t *read* enough 2010 manga to make a list of 2010 heroines. However, I like your choice of Yukiko as an everywoman (I have read All My Darling Daughters at least). Sometimes it seems that in order for a female to be respected like a male, she has to act like a male, and that’s not cool. I like tomboys – okay, I love tomboys – but these days I find myself more moved by girly heroines simply because they are heroines on their own un-masculine terms.
So for my non-2010 list, a heroine must be
a) more girly than Yukiko (as an everywoman, she’s a good benchmark)
b) a leading character, if not *the* leading character
c) a character I’m fond of
Without further ado my choices are
* Mikan from Gakuen Alice – she gets here because she manages to be a heroine in an epic fantasy (okay, it hasn’t quite reached the epic phase, but I think it’s going to get there eventually) by having good cheer and being good and bringing people together – and without dominating anyone (when she tries domination, she fails)
* Mokuren from Please Save My Earth – I love how she is powerful because of her kindness and introspection, not her wrath
* Nana Komatsu from Nana – I’m one of those people who like Hachi a lot more than Nana O, so go figure
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 2, 2010 at 10:49 pm
I’m a Hachi fan too! :)
Chargone saysDecember 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm
pretty sure I’d have to go with Rin from Bunny Drop and Holo from Spice & Wolf…
of course, at least partly that’s because they’re the only new series from 2010 i actually read <_<
they both totally deserve that spot anyway, though.
if you expand it out to more than just 2010 and you get a tie between Kyoko from Skip Beat!, and Yotsuba if i'm only allowed three. give me more than four and you start getting most of the cast who could possibly count as 'heroines' from Emma (including the side stories, and sort of including Shirley, which isn't actually Emma at all, but same author, same idea, near enough), Oh, My Goddess, and Genshiken … and if i had enough slots for all of Them to fit and some left over you start getting the women of Black Lagoon show up.
yes, my tastes are all over the place :P
oh, and Chii Totaly deserves that honourable mention ^_^ it's on my list of 'things to buy when i catch up with all the other things ahead of it on the list and am not broke' <_<