When I need a break from comics, one of my side hobbies is hatingÂ Twilight. It’s refreshing after a long day of hating comic books. Â But it’s not as complete a break from comics as it might be, because the Twilight series is totally based on manga. Â And, probably, on fanfiction about manga.
Many thematic parallels to crappy shojo manga are obvious. Â The heroine is a pretty and popular yet “ordinary” girl whose one (1) character flaw is clumsiness–which isn’t really a flaw, since it just makes her cute and in need of constant rescue by leggy, hot men. Â The love interest is a bishonen guy surrounded by sparkles. Â Their relationship consists mostly of the hero bossing the heroine around, insulting her, and periodically protecting her from other hot assholes, just like in every shojo manga published in the latter half of the 1990s. Â Seriously, something happened to teen-oriented shojo manga around that time. Â Shojo manga in the 1970s was feminist and transgressive, in the 1980s it got kind of apolitical but at least had spunky heroines, and then all of a sudden you had stuff like Hot Gimmick, about a girl who falls in love with a sleazy nerd who blackmails her into being his sex slave. Â (Admittedly, Hot Gimmick isÂ a hell of a page-turner, if only because you have to see how creator Miki Aihara will keep topping herself in creepiness. Â Did I mention there’s also lots of quasi-incest?)
So, yeah, Twilight has a lot in common with the more retrograde manga for girls, and in fact there are plenty of manga that probably resembleÂ Twilight more closely than the Twilight comic book will. Â I’m pretty sure Viz licensed Kanoko Sakurakoji’s Black Bird primarily to hook teen fans of vampire romance and/or domestic abuse. Â The supernatural boyfriend in Black Bird is a tengu (a birdlike Japanese monster) rather than a vampire, but he’s got the same mojo. Â Pushes the heroine around. Â Laughs at her. Â Shows off his superpowers just to demonstrate how helpless she is before him. Â Drinks her blood. Â I didn’t even know tengu did that.
Even many diehard Twilight fans hated the ending of the last book, Breaking Dawn, especially the child-bride resolution of the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle. Â In a plot twist even women wearing “Stupid Lamb” T-shirts found disturbing, Jacob the werewolf “imprints” on Bella’s half-vampire baby girl, falling instantly in love with her. Â From that point, they are destined to marry once she hits puberty. Â But even this horrible idea was executed first in manga!
It was sadder the first time, becauseÂ Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances) by Masami Tsuda starts out as a great manga, a romantic comedy about two high-school overachievers who fall in love while competing with each other. Â But in its later volumes it drifts into crazy melodrama completely at odds with its early light, slice-of-life tone. Â And it gets dumber. Â And more unsettling in its underlying themes. Â Then comes the final volume, in which the central love triangle is resolved in the same way as the central love triangle in Twilight: by having the guy who lost out fall in love with the heroine’s unborn baby, then wait for said baby to grow boobs.
Really. Â Only they’re not vampires or werewolves or anything; this is presented as a normal thing for teenagers–human teenagers–to do. Â (Yes, teenagers. Â Yukino of Kare Kano isÂ a glowing teen mom, just like Bella Swan.) Â I don’t want to go too in-depth on this, because it was already done brilliantly back in 2007, when the final volume came out in the U.S., by Erin Finnegan. Â Please do not miss the accompanying comic in which Erin chronicles her emotions while reading.
“Is this the least perverse ending you could think of?” her cartoon doppelganger rants at the artist. “Is it because you’re Japanese?” As comforting as it would be to believe this, no, apparently an author does not have to be Japanese to think this Genji/Murasaki shit is romantic. Â But the Japanese thought of it first. Â And that, Team Comics, is something Team Edward and Team Jacob can never take away from us.