Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Archetype: The Doubtful Romantic

Keito is 6'4"--he has mixed parentage.
Hajime is 5'3".
The doubtful romantic is such a common archetype in manga, I'm not sure that it is so much an archetype as a cultural condition.

Doubtful romantics are common to all romance. In manga, the doubtful romantic's shame is not rooted in the doubts themselves (I'm unattractive, I'm unappealing, I'm bad at my job) but, rather, to being in a state of doubt to begin with. It goes back to the idea that the Japanese aren't proponents of mental illness as a fallback position.

In fact, it inevitably turns out that all characters in manga are doubtful, even the so-called popular kids (see the popular girls in Dengeki Daisy and Kare First Love). Doubt haunts the medium.

In Cafe Latte Rhapsody, Hajime questions why tall--if awkward--Keito with his handsome face and university attendance and cosmopolitan background would be interested in him. But when he goes to confront Keito, Keito runs away! Why? Because he is afraid Hajime has come to break up with him due to his deficiencies. 

Last Portait: Good relationships
eschew pedestals.
In fact, in almost all cases of an interfering third party, the third party is inevitably more outwardly confident and aggressively assertive than everyone else. Until, of course, the third party gets his or her own manga and we discover that he or she has had doubts all along. In Tateno's A Murmur of the Heart, third-party Tuono seems utterly confident and even sardonic . . . until A Waltz in the Clinic in which Tuono is thrown for a loop by Ichii--the sardonic confidence turns out to be far more wry and self-effacing than we readers suspected.

Doubts are usually overcome not by outside affirmation (the Western approach) but by the main character resolutely deciding, "My doubts aren't doing anyone any good. If this continues, so-and-so would be justified in breaking up with me."

Consequently, in manga as divergent as Library Wars and Only the Ring Finger Knows, temporary doubts are considered positives since handling or overcoming them corrects the protagonists' selfish behavior and brings them in harmony with the group and ultimately the beloved.

Since romance is the name of the game, the break-up doesn't happen. Affirmation still occurs. But only because the other party acts out of love, not obligation. Unlike in Western romances, nobody has to love anybody (though wouldn't it be nice it they did).

Too much doubtful romantic does get irritating after awhile. But when handled with honesty and sweet intentions, it can be quite enjoyable. And in manga, refreshingly self-responsible.