I remember the moment I first discovered desire in shoujo manga.
I was reading Sailor Moon, raw, with very little Japanese comprehension, accompanied by a script translation created by a dedicated fan. There was Usagi, our charmingly naive and sweet heroine, in bed, wearing Mamoru’s shirt…and nothing else. It wasn’t explicit, but the art clearly indicated “nothing else.” And it was the morning after. Mamoru was likewise at least partially unclothed. It was obvious to anyone who could see, that they had spent the evening together and had slept together. Usagi was, at that point in the story, about 16. Objectively speaking this is not an inappropriate age for sex. But Sailor Moon ran in Nakayoshi, which was for girls 11-14. It kind of made my head explode a little.
Desire, as I once wrote in a story, is a terrible thing. It is *the* thing that irrevocably destroys innocence. Kissing, hand holding, riding off into the sunset – these are totally innocent expressions of love and marriage and happily-ever-after. But sexual desire – the recognition of desire – is the thing that changes one’s vision of happily ever after, forever.
We could see Usagi and Mamoru kissing – we knew what it meant. But we could retain a indirect innocence as long as we pretended that they didn’t *want* one another. In the middle of Sailor Moon Super S, we now have to admit that Usagi has become a woman not because she lost her virginity (we have no idea if this was their first time and indeed are lead to believe that it is not, as they are both quite natural about it,) but because we have to admit that she *felt sexual desire.* (The sad little eulogy for K-ON! from a 2chan fan who referenced his disappointment in Nagi from Kannagi sleeping with a man, is reacting to the same thing, although in a different way.)
Which brings me to Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi, which also runs in Nakyoshi. It begins with Hatsumi seeing Izumi and Mayu kissing in the forest. In effect, it begins with the loss of innocence, as Hatsumi is introduced to the idea of desire in herself and in others.
The first volume is not yet out and I will be reviewing it when I get it, but last night I read the most recent chapter and once again had my head explode. ^_^ Because I have been expecting this manga to stop being as Yuri as it is any second and in the most recent chapter, it actually *ups* the Yuri.
This series begins with Hatsumi being aware that two girls have desire for each other…then it morphs to her slow recognition of desire in herself for another girl. In this month’s chapter her innocence is shattered as she is forced to realize that there is someone who desires *her.* That’s the last straw in innocence, I think. When we confront the idea that we *want* someone else, it’s not really a loss of innocence, but when we look into the eyes of someone who *wants* us – it’s all over. We can never really see the world innocently again.
And let me be very clear here…I’m not discussing innocence as a quality that is to be admired or preserved, but as a stage of personal development. “Innocence,” in this case, is a way we perceive the world.
So, at the end of this chapter, when Hatsumi’s best friend forever kisses her, passionately, with obvious desperation and desire…it’s a shock to Hatsumi (not so much to me, as I had seen it in her all along.) What was a shock to me was how blatantly the mangaka exposed this as desire, and not something else – and how they did not shy from the expression of desire between two girls. That was the head exploding bit for me this time.
Nakayoshi is, as I said, a magazine for the pre-pubescent to pubescent girl audience. Again, objectively speaking, it makes a lot of sense that this audience would be fairly obsessed with the idea of desire. Objectively speaking, but in reality we all have screaming hissy fits at the idea here in the west. The awakening sexuality of young girls is sold heavily as titillation for men, but heaven help an actual young girl who is perceived to have sexual desire. We try to shove her back in the baby box as fast as we can.
Nakayoshi does not shy away from desire. It recognizes that 13-year-old girls are interested in things like, y’know, boys. There is less sex in Ribon and Ciao, but Nakayoshi skews, in my perception, just slightly older, more like Margaret. There’s a surprising amount of desire in shoujo magazines, which forces manga companies here to often rate shoujo as Older Teen.
I’ve got no conclusion to this essay (which I expect to ultimately rework into an article for Hooded Utilitarian) but I really just wanted to talk about Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi and let you know that you should definitely get Volume 1, because it is very, very Yuri.