Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Valentine Day Special: The Ubiquitous Chapter

Imagine this scenario: a snow-covered school yard with the faint peals of the afternoon bell ringing through the crisp winter air. A young boy exits the building, his scarf wrapped tightly around his neck as he furrows his brow in contemplation. Suddenly, he feels a tug on his sleeve. He turns around and beholds a young girl standing behind him, with a beautiful heart-shaped chocolate in her hands, her cheeks red from a mixture of the cold and embarrassment. She takes a deep breath, as if to prepare herself for a mighty confession...when from out of nowhere, an elephant stampedes across the yard, grabs the unfortunate piece of chocolate, and hustles out the gate, leaving the boy still expectantly waiting for the now-chocolate-less girl to say something.


Sound familiar? It should, as it is what happens in many shoujo manga during Valentine's day. Though instead of the elephant, mangaka tend to use SLIGHTLY more realistic diversions (such as a horde of rabid fan girls), Valentine Day chapters in manga tend to be the most roundabout and complicated chapters in which the act of giving chocolate to a chosen target is drawn out to the nth degree. I've almost come to believe that manga editors include a little clause about this in the contracts with their authors: "You must draw a chapter about Valentine's Day. And you must make it as convoluted as possible. Maybe even make up characters specifically for that chapter. Or include blue aliens."

I suppose the danger lies in the inherent nature of Valentine's Day in Japan. If you've been drawing a 30-something volume long series and you've had the characters dancing around each other in the typical shoujo fashion (you know, where both of them like the other but don't think the other likes them back) Valentine's Day presents a threat to the longevity of your series! Confessions are made in the giving of chocolate; you can't spin that as something ambiguous that could be taken as mere friendship! Thirty volumes of work could be resolved in this one day if the two main characters met and exchanged chocolates!


That's where the confusion (and, I'll admit, the fun) of Valentine Day chapters come in. While no closure is actually reached for the two people in love, these chapters ARE entertaining. And since it is Valentine's day, the author makes sure to throw a bone to all the readers with a cute moment near the end that ALMOST is a confession...but not quite.

Anyway, for all you manga lovers out there, Happy (Belated) Valentine's Day from Manga Meditation!


PS: Credits to mangafox and the series "Valentine Nanka Kowakunai?!" by Ikeyamada Go

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