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?