You know when you see a plot device, a character, or even a plot that you’ve probably seen many times before? That’s called a trope. However, what happens when all of these tropes become predictable? That is the point when a trope becomes a cliche, and let us tell you, cliches are not your best friend.
Shoujo manga is notorious for its cliches that lack innovation and tend to lean towards boring. How many manga have you come across that seems like any other? There are a lot. Sometimes it becomes so predictably boring that you have to amuse yourself by playing a game of “Guess Which Cliche Comes Next.” If you’re looking for shoujo manga cliches, we know them. Today, here at Honey’s Anime, we are talking about the top 10 shoujo manga cliches you come across!
Beware, there will be spoilers!
10. Tragic Death or Accident
More often than not, to progress the story along or to put an end to a love triangle, shoujo mangaka will throw in a tragic death or accident. Sometimes, they are even the main plot of the story like in the shoujo one-shot, The Flower That Blooms in You by Mitsuya Omi. The tragic death usually puts one character into a state of shock and fear, and puts a relationship at risk as the partner may feel indebted to someone who saved them or feels guilty for defying their parents, or whatever! There are many scenarios who use this trope and sometimes it’s great, and sometime’s it’s predictable!
Take a look at Kitchen Princess, when Najika seems to be getting close to Sora and not Daichi, her actual prince, Sora ends up in a tragic accident which renders Najika unable to taste food anymore, and eventually leads to her ending up with Daichi. This tragic accident allowed the mangaka to create drama in the story and end a love triangle. In Ikeyamada Go’s Moe Kare!!, Hikaru’s romance with Takara is cut short when a girl who loves Takara saves him from being hit by a car. This allows Arata’s story to be opened up instead. Tragic accidents are basically the only plot device used in Shinjo Mayu’s Haou Airen, where Kurumi’s best friend tricks Kurumi into hating Hakuron, she gets raped multiple times or kidnapped/molested, and the shock causes Kurumi amnesia, and Hakuron to be killed. Yeah, there’s a lot of tragedy in here and there is only so much we can handle!
9. Childhood Friend/New “Friend”/Rival
Second on our list of shoujo manga cliches is the inclusion of a childhood friend (male or female) or a new friend. These characters tend to be the gentle souls that our main characters enjoy spending time with outside of their relationship. And you guessed right, they try to steal our lead from their romantic partner! Or perhaps they always loved them and challenge our lead.
This shoujo manga cliche can be used multiple times to create conflict in the story by creating a romantic rival for either of our main characters. Heck, it can be utilized for both sides of the coin in so many different ways! Just as you feel at peace, you find that there’s yet another romantic rival.
Look at Renai Shijou Shuji by Minami Kanan where several guys challenge Tamaki’s position as Seri’s boyfriend throughout the entire series! Then there’s Watashi ni XX Shinasai! by Ema Toyama where Akira challenges Shigure’s love for Yukina because he has always loved Yukina. Let’s not forget how they brought back the teacher that emotionally scarred Yukina to pose as a potential love interest, only for that to fall flat once it became known that he had a girlfriend. Talk about unnecessary.
A funny shoujo manga to consider would be Heroine Shikkaku whose main character considers herself the lead of her own shoujo life and declares her childhood friend as her fated lover, so she never pursues a relationship with him because she knows, in the end, they will get together.
8. The Ex/Arranged Fiance
Speaking of love interests, what about the old love interests or the arranged fiance who wants to get their partner back? Usually, it’s an ex-girlfriend or female fiance, and the love interest is a very popular guy who makes the girl feel inferior. This cliche usually leads the main character to question how she looks with her boyfriend, and can potentially lead to her running away so that her boyfriend “can be happy” with someone better than her. And as the cliche goes, her boyfriend comes back and tells her how she’s so much better and claims her as his. Or sometimes that ex-haunts the main character and puts a barrier in the relationship.
This is an extremely popular cliche as many manga heroines tend to be timid or self-conscious (Aren’t we all as teenagers?). This is utilized in Yuki Obata’s Bokura ga Ita where Motoharu’s ex-Nana haunts their relationship and makes it difficult for Nanami to get close to Motoharu. Even Motoharu’s former relationship with Nana’s sister creates a rift between him and Nanami. Yoshizumi Wataru, the mangaka of Marmalade Boy, wrote Datte Suki Nanda Mon, a shoujo manga about Megu who falls in love with Masato, a boy who only likes girls with boyfriends. This brings about a lot of exes who want to get Masato back. For a trope, this one is a bit overused that no wonder it’s on our list of shoujo manga cliches!
7. Bishoujo Prince
Speaking of other characters, we cannot forget that some shoujo manga has to have a bishoujo prince type. You know, she’s that one character who is so handsome that girls fall to her feet. Yes, she’s the one who is practically a bishounen and even has a fan group. Why? Why not? When manga can have that effeminate male character who can dress in girls’ clothes, why can’t a girl be so handsome that they can dress as a prince? And usually, they like it.
While Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun makes fun of this shoujo trope, there is no shoujo manga more perfect than Ai Ore! by Shinjo Mayu. Ai Ore! is a shoujo manga about a band of super hot bishounen, except they’re all girls!? It’s really strange to see these reverse traps acting the same way innocent high school girls would. However, some people really enjoy the gender bender genre.
6. Possibly Siblings
One shoujo manga cliche that really gets to us has to be the plot twist where the male and female lead might possibly be siblings! Thus, they cannot be boyfriend and girlfriend. This is supposed to be a plot device used to create conflict in a shoujo manga, but sometimes, it becomes so irritating as a cliche. How often can you read about potential incest?
Desire Climax by Ayana Ukyo utilizes this as a conflict in its plot by creating a conflict between the leads’ parents, but considering it’s a smut manga, is a little disturbing for many Western readers. It’s also extremely cliche. Even Marmalade Boy uses the same plot device and creates this rather shallow conflict that is resolved so quickly that you wonder what the point of it all was.
5. Crappy Best Friend
This is a lesson we all learn as we grow up, but it’s pretty cliche in shoujo manga. Yes, we’re talking about crappy best friends. In shoujo manga especially, the best friend is usually the one who spreads rumors about the main character, tries to steal the boyfriend, and only hangs out with the main character because it makes her feel better. If the best friend doesn’t do any of these things, they usually aren’t used in the plot except for brief plot points, although Ushio from Shinshi Doumei Cross (The Gentleman’s Alliance) is one of a few exceptions.
One mangaka who absolutely seems to love this shoujo cliche is Watase Yuu. From Fushigi Yuugi to Zettai Kareshi, many of the romances feature a best friend who is evil (although Yui from Fushigi Yuugi is manipulated and brainwashed) and wants the main character’s boyfriend. In Alice 19th, it was the sister! Essentially it makes most of the characters around our female lead awful people, and there’s no one else worthy of being in her life aside from her boyfriend.
4. Clumsy/Clueless Shoujo Heroine
Then there’s the stereotypical shoujo heroine who is clumsy and completely clueless. This can lead to courtship being extremely extended because she never realizes a boy’s feelings or it can lead her to make friends with people who clearly want to steal her away. This also makes the heroine in need of a protector or someone required to help her. Sometimes, it makes her easy to take advantage of, especially in smut manga, where she is just forced into some sort of relationship and develops feelings over time.
Hikari from Special A by Minami Maki is extremely clueless, which makes it extremely difficult for Kei to express his feelings, but the characters mock her all the time. Hikari may be smart but she causes a lot of trouble due to her cluelessness. Kyouko from Skip Beat! by Nakamura Yoshiki is just as clueless, which creates conflict between her and Ren, as well as not understand why a lot of the characters do the things that they do. Then there’s Haine from Shinshi Doumei Cross who is so clueless that thinking hard about things gives her a fever!
3. Rain Scenes
Alright, so this is probably the biggest romance cliche EVER regardless if it’s manga, anime, Western movies, or dramas. Every time something bad happens, it has to be raining. Every time a couple has a falling out, it’s raining and they have to chase each other in the downpour. Sometimes it ends with a kiss and sometimes it ends with the character standing out, staring at where their partner left, crying in the rain. Just look at Arina Tanemura’s Full Moon wo Sagashite when Meriko flees from Mitsuki after remembering her past life where Mitsuki’s grandmother was her best friend and stole the love of Meriko’s life.
Let’s not forget the additional use of rain to bring our characters closer! This refers to the times when characters may be brought together because of a fear of lightning or that cliche umbrella scene. You know that umbrella scene; the one where the girl wants to share an umbrella with her love interest so they can stand close together. So yes, rain can bring characters together or drift them apart. Either way, when it rains in a shoujo manga, there’s a reason for it.
One of the funniest shoujo manga cliches that is ultimately mocked in many anime and manga alike is the kabedon. It refers to the sound a character’s hand makes when they slam it on the wall, pinning someone to the wall. It’s extremely popular amongst girls and they tend to think it is moe, so much so that there was a kabedon cafe in Japan!
While we won’t name every manga that utilizes this cliche, it’s extremely popular and it’s rare to find a shoujo manga that lasts longer than one volume that doesn’t have this cliche. They use it in Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji by Ayuko Hatta, Shinshi Doumei Cross, Kaichou wa Maid-sama by Fujiwara Hiro, Fruits Basket by Takaya Natsuki and so much more. It’s not exactly good at driving the plot, but it does create a moe scene for readers and can help the heroine understand the lead’s feelings.
1. First Kisses
And finally, our last shoujo manga cliche: the first kiss. The first kiss seems to be akin to virginity and if you lose your first kiss to someone, it seems to be the end of the world in shoujo manga. There’s more emphasis to a first kiss in the heroine’s life than even losing her virginity! For some reason, all of the girls are constantly talking about their first kiss too.
There’s a one-shot by Minami Kanan where the main character goes to tutor someone and he rapes her, and all she does is try as she might to protect her first kiss. It’s only when someone else steals her first kiss that she breaks down and cries. This is repeated in other one-shots by many different mangaka as well. There’s just something about a first kiss which really seems to be important!
Shoujo manga can be horribly full of tropes and cliches, but some of the best use the tropes with skill, while others wield them into cliches. Regardless, you either love them or hate them in shoujo manga. Now, tell us your favorite and least favorite shoujo manga cliches. Which manga utilized them well? Which used the cliche to death? Feel free to share below!