It’s been a while since I’ve had more than two shoujo anime to watch in the new season. So maybe three is only one more than a couple, but it thrilled my little heart to see the previews — and now, episodes — for these series.
The stolen kiss — or more commonly, the stolen first kiss – is a shoujo trope as old as the sun. For the typical adolescent female, the first kiss is a momentous occasion; it marks her entry into the world of adult romantic relationships. Socialization has taught her that her first kiss will set a pattern for all future relationships, so it’s important that she chooses the right one for the first one. The stolen kiss is a popular yet intriguing trope since it removes the burden of choice from the female. Instead of the girl picking whom she’ll kiss, the other person makes the decision for her, hence the “stolen” descriptor.
For the three shoujo anime starting this season, all of them unsurprisingly show a scene where a character has a kiss stolen from her (or him). What are the implications of this stolen kiss to the plot? Were the characters primed for the scene or was it really a surprise? How could this stolen kiss affect the characters and the narrative later on?
Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita) is the one that I’m most familiar with, having read a good chunk of the volumes that Viz has already released in English. The anime pretty much follows the manga plot to the letter, from Nanami’s first meeting with Mikage to her trip to the spirit world to get Tomoe back as her shinshi. I don’t remember which other anime blogger mentioned the rushed pacing, which didn’t bother me at all — I really would much rather get to the rest of Nanami’s crew as soon as possible since the Tomoe vs Nanami’s snark/love fest could get tiring really quickly.
I found it almost impossible to watch this series without thinking of its (Daichi) spiritual sibling, Fruits Basket. Same setup: girl without a home, stumbles on a new possible place to live, discovers her attractive new housemates are supernatural creatures. Nanami, though, isn’t a namby-pamby housemaid. She may not know exactly what’s going on, and what exactly are the implications of her being the new earth deity, but she isn’t going to take Tomoe’s abuse lying down. She’s going to take that bull, err, fox by the horns…
Nanami stealing a kiss from Tomoe is proof of her own personal agency. Onikiri and Kotetsu told her the kiss was the only way for the earth deity to establish the contract with the shinshi. Nanami had to make her decision quickly, even with the knowledge that being with the rude and oafish Tomoe may be one of the worst decisions of her life. On Tomoe’s part, I find it interesting that such an intimate human gesture would be the act that binds him in servitude. You’d think that a shinshi who’s obtained his freedom, albeit by neglect, would be more careful where his lips are pressed against.
My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) is the one that’s raised eyebrows and ire throughout the (English-speaking) anime internet when it premiered last week. Haru needs to hire a quick-talking publicist to repair his image, stat!
Where Tomoe found himself being pulled to Nanami for a quick pucker, in My Little Monster, it was Shizuku who found herself on the receiving end of Haru’s luscious lips. From what happened in the first episode, I’m surprised that Shizuku was surprised that Haru would do something so audacious. How was it different from everything else that he’s done? Was his abrupt confession of love, despite their short acquaintance, not as shocking? Haru stealing her first kiss was perfectly in line and consistent with his personality and behavior.
Haru and Shizuku seem to me to be two sides of the same coin; where Haru projects his emotions externally and physically, Shizuku claims not to have feelings and instead hides under her mask of stoicism. They’re both socially awkward and are isolated from the bigger group. Haru recognizes these traits in her and maybe that’s why he was drawn to her from the get-go. Shizuku possibly felt the same connection, but her pride in being “Dry Ice” told her to hold back, since she might end up being hurt by him sometime down the line. After the kiss and Haru’s abrupt statement that he didn’t feel any excitement, would Shizuku’s opinion change? Is Haru worth the emotional investment?
The kiss scene in Say I Love You (Sukitte Iinayo) is the one which I felt was the most emotionally fraught. Mei Tachibana, like Shizuku in My Little Monster, has chosen to isolate herself from her peers, going years without saying a word to any of her classmates. She catches the eye of Yamato Kurosawa, the cute popular guy, who possibly has jboy-band aspirations with that snazzy hairstyle.
The initial chemistry between Mei and Yamato is really adorable. As Mr. Popular, he’s used to girls fawning on his every move, and since she’s not acting that way, he’s intrigued. He seems to think that she’s a challenge — not necessarily as a sexual conquest, but with more of an intention of finding out what makes her tick. Mei, with her limited experience with boyfriends, is at least cognizant that Yamato is interested but doesn’t know enough of the social conventions of courtship. It was so cute when she thought that he wanted to exchange cell phones with her, not getting that it was shorthand for exchanging phone numbers. I have a feeling that Mei may not be ready for a relationship right this very second, but with Yamato, she appears ready to the idea of having a relationship.
When she calls Yamato to meet her at the convenience store, a kiss was probably the furthest thing from both their minds. I’d like to give Yamato the benefit of the doubt — that he came in there wanting to genuinely help her and calm her fear from the guy stalking her — I don’t think he went in there with a calculated ploy to steal her first kiss and her heart. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. For Mei, who’s just re-learning to navigate the headwaters of social relationships, having this unexpected first kiss is like having a tsunami hit her in the face.
For all these three couples, the stolen kiss is a gamechanger. The dynamics of their relationship will inevitably change because of this event, and it’s up to the couple on how much drama they’ll have to pass before ending up in romance happyland.