First things first, Monday means manga minis at Manga Recon, and I have one review there, for the second volume of Lay Mitsuki’s Yggdrasil from publisher Go!Comi. It’s one of those titles that could end up being incredibly good and packed with meaning, but it’s hard to tell at this point. Now on to the main topic.
Something I chose for a quick read yesterday evening, was volume 1 of Matsuri Hino’s Captive Hearts, a collection of three manga short stories (the first of which I believe will be continued) about love, or more accurately, obsession. I dug into Captive Hearts without having read anything about it, though if I’d actually paid attention to the cover art, which features a couple donned in wedding attire and chains, I might have been less surprised about the content.
The title story involves a teenaged boy named Megumi, who, thanks to a curse placed on his family many years ago, is unable to control his impulse to serve Suzuka, a young lady who is the sole remaining member of the family Megumi’s family has served for generations. Please understand that in this case, “to serve” means that he must prostrate himself at her feet, and that were she to give him an order, he would be compelled to follow it, even if it meant his own death. It also apparently means that he must stalk her at school, keep all other men away from her, and smother her to the point where it seems that she is more chained to him than the other way around.
Suzuka, being a sweet, unassuming young lady who has been raised out of the country, is horrified by Megumi’s predicament, and spends much of the story attempting to force freedom upon him. Things become complicated, however, by the fact that they fall in love, which means that deep down, neither of them really wants to be free of the forced bond between them, no matter how much they protest.
This story could have been interesting, actually, if it had really delved into the ramifications of the relationship, and its inherent unhealthiness for both characters. After all, the “curse” seems obviously to be a metaphor for obsessive love, in which one or both parties are so afraid of losing the other, that they would seek out a way to imprison the other under the guise of kindness or protection. The characters fall in love too suddenly to seem real, but that could have been forgiven if the author had taken the opportunity to really say something about the horror of this kind of “love.”
Unfortunately, what really happens is that the situation is portrayed as mainly humorous and terribly romantic, and at the end, when Suzuka is finally able to say, “I don’t want to be your master, Megumi. I just want to be Suzuka,” and he replies, “I’d rather you be my lover,” she dismisses all her own concerns with, “It’s fine, because I love you.”
Captive Hearts is published by Viz under the Shojo Beat imprint, and I have to admit that I find it disturbing that a book that suggests that obsessive love between teenagers is a wonderfully romantic thing is being specifically targeted to teenage girls.
The second story in the volume, “Real Storm,” involves a shy high school girl who confesses to her male teacher. He initially rejects her, making clear that a relationship between a teacher and student is inappropriate, but is later encouraged to pursue the relationship by a female teacher who suggests he try dating younger girls. The story ends with the teacher asking his student, “Is it okay if I keep you all to myself and stay by your side and protect you? Even if underneath this mask of a teacher, I’m really the big bad wolf?”
I don’t even know what to say about that, honestly. I hope it speaks for itself. Both of these two stories provided an opportunity for the author to say something real about the relationships presented, and in both cases, they end up being played out as standard romances. In the case of the second story, the girl, Ayase, has a stalker who terrifies her, and who she ultimately threatens with a knife in order to save herself. Given her history, there is a lot that could be explored here, regarding the reasons she would seek out a relationship with an possessive older man, and what the ramifications of that might be for both of them. Yet in the end, the author surrounds the couple with flowers as the teacher reaches to embrace her.
The third story is, I suppose, the most “normal.” It features a girl, Ayu, who secretly kisses her childhood friend, Yuji, when he’s asleep, because she can’t tell him how she feels about him when he’s awake. Her feelings for Yuji feel very authentic for her age, and though she wishes deep down that she could stay snowed in with him in their school’s infirmary forever (he’s about to go away to college), she doesn’t actually attempt to manipulate him into staying. In the end, he asks her to come with him to Tokyo, which might not be the smartest thing for her (who knows?) but is at least presented as a real choice which she may freely make. This story is, however, the shortest of the three by far, and presented as a bit of an afterthought.
Both the art and writing are serviceable, and though the relationships move along too quickly to feel real, the characters are well-defined, both visually and emotionally.
Overall, I see Captive Hearts as an unfortunate addition to manga for teens. It is presented with quite a bit of humor, and hopefully its lightness will help keep its messages from being taken too seriously by young readers.
ann saysJanuary 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm
Oh, *ick*. I was totally grossed out by your description of the first story, and then I read on — the student/teacher romance sounds ridiculously appalling.
I find it disturbing that a book the suggests that obsessive love between teenagers is a wonderfully romantic thing is being specifically targeted to teenage girls.
YES. Twilight, I’m thinking of you.
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 19, 2009 at 1:18 pm
I was *seriously* appalled. And though I get the idea that teacher/student romance is somewhat less taboo in Japan (if manga can be any indication, which I don’t know if it can), but *still*. This was just really appalling.
Hee. I wondered if you’d see this entry, and if you’d mention Twilight. :D *sigh* Exactly.
Grace saysJanuary 20, 2009 at 12:04 am
I don’t think you can say it’s less of a taboo from reading manga any more than you can make similar assumptions about western culture from reading Snape/Harry fic… XD
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 20, 2009 at 6:58 am
See, I don’t think that argument works unless Snape and Harry got together in the books. After all, I’m not talking about doujinshi here. :)
That said, I’m not actually making the assumption. I’m only making an observation.
Grace saysJanuary 20, 2009 at 7:09 am
Hmm, idk. I meant, student/teacher fantasies are just as common in the west as Japan. It doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable behaviour. Part of the whole appeal of the fantasy is the forbidden love thing, and that’s obviously clear in manga.
What I think is more acceptable in Japan is writing stories for kids that are not morality lessons. If you had a line of romance novels specifically marketed towards teens in the US, you wouldn’t get a lot of teacher/student relationships, not because the fantasy is any less common in the US or the reality is any more acceptable in Japan, but because the US is super uptight and “zomg think of the CHILDRUUUUN” about everything.
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 20, 2009 at 7:39 am
I definitely think that you have a good point here. I think it’s entirely possible that the Japanese are more willing to portray these kinds of fantasies in a romantic light, regardless of demographic.
Just to be clear, though, the fact that one of the relationships portrayed in this book is between a student and a teacher is really not why I have a problem with it.
StephA saysJanuary 20, 2009 at 11:46 am
“I dug into Captive Hearts without having read anything about it, though if I’d actually paid attention to the cover art, which features a couple donned in wedding attire and chains, I might have been less surprised about the content. ”
OK, I laughed at that. Hee.
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 20, 2009 at 12:59 pm
I aim to entertain. :D