Conveniently Rich

You never would’ve guessed that Usui’s rich, huh?

As played out as the Prince Charming trope is, it’s still going strong well into the 21st century. Oh, won’t someone save me from such terrible living conditions? Won’t someone sweep me away? Cinderella, of course, wins her prince not by hard work, but through “graciousness:”

Moral: Beauty in a woman is a rare treasure that will always be admired. Graciousness, however, is priceless and of even greater value. This is what Cinderella’s godmother gave to her when she taught her to behave like a queen. Young women, in the winning of a heart, graciousness is more important than a beautiful hairdo. It is a true gift of the fairies. Without it nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything. — Perrault’s Cinderella


In a lot of Asian media, the fairy tale has been subverted a tiny bit. No longer are women winning their Prince Charming’s through grace and beauty (but they’re still beautiful). Instead, they charm their wealthy suitors with a little spunk and gumption instead. Misaki of Maid-sama! is anything but gracious.

Tsukushi of Hana Yori Dango is also hardly gracious.

The girls of shoujo aren’t always the kick-ass, name-taking types though. Nodame Cantabile demonstrates that these heroine can sometimes be clumsy and a little offbeat.

When the Japanese shoujo isn’t impressing you with her propensity for elbow grease, she makes up for it with immense talent; in Nodame’s case, her incredible piano-playing skills wins us over.

Even so, these ladies all share a couple common traits. First, the heroines are almost always of very modest upbringings. Secondly, there’s usually a wealthy bishounen around the corner who’s just absolutely tired of the spoiled girls he meets everyday. Naturally, nothing intrigues him more than a normal woman, such a strange and mythical creature that she is.

From broken houses to quaint families in the countryside, these Asian Cinderellas don’t exactly have a fairy godmother to give them that nebulous gracious quality. They only know a good ol’ fashioned work ethic. But if hard work and determination is all we need, what’s with the rich boy then? Is this the shoujo’s idea of bootstrappin’ her way to the top? Be the most wholesome you can be to win your very own ticket out of the lower classes? These stories seem to imply that hard work can only go so far for young women in Japan — certainly not enough by itself to transcend social classes — , but with some luck, these young women might catch the eye of someone willing to pluck them out of squalor. Perhaps this is why these stories resemble fairy tales so much. Or maybe I’m just imagining things.

One final related thought: these rich boys are always incredibly cool and talented, but surely neither of these two qualities require wealth. Hell, we had no idea Usui was rich and we never would have assumed as much. He just conveniently is.

Other Bits & Pieces

I don’t know what’s lamer than a pat on the head. In fact, I would dislike it. I would find it incredibly patronizing and so would my girlfriend. For me, a pat on the head is what parents do to calm down their crying children. You can thus imagine my skepticism when this particular trick worked twice in the tenth episode of Maid-sama! I think my girlfriend would troll me a good one if I tried patting her on the head after she’s had a hard day. A hug maybe, but a pat on the head?

Sakura: “The next time I fall in love, I’ll make sure he’ll be someone who’ll pat me just like this.”

But hey, maybe that’s just another cultural difference between East and West.

I was a little disappointed with the apple scene; sometimes an apple is really just an apple.

13 thoughts on “Conveniently Rich

  1. 2DT

    These stories seem to imply that hard work can only go so far for young women in Japan

    Mmhmm. Unfortunately it’s a reflection of how it really is.

    Pats on the head really annoy me too! But it happens so often (without anyone being told to buzz off) that I have to assume it’s like patting the shoulder between the sexes.

    1. E Minor Post author

      Pats on the head really annoy me too!

      When I was a kid, what I hated the most about my mom’s lecturing was how she always pointed her index finger so close to my head. When she was really pissed, she’d directly jab me over and over with it. I hated it. Maybe I’m just biased against head pats!

  2. gorgeglish

    I thought it was clear that he was rich. There was this one episode about him playing chess with other rich kids and the entire episode, he had a “Just when I finally left that place, I’ve gotta go back” look on his face. He also ended up being excellent at chess, and the ED shows him look back at a preppy shota version of himself. So, I took at him running away to escape that culture. But I’ve only seen 3 or 4 episodes, so if your opening sentence was sarcasm, I failed.

    I feel like if his hand was lower on the back of her head, as if he were going to pull her in, it would be less insulting. Is this a worthless distinction?

    1. E Minor Post author

      he had a “Just when I finally left that place, I’ve gotta go back” look on his face.

      It must have slipped me when I was watching that episode. And, I dunno, you don’t have to be rich to be good at chess.

      My opening sentence was sarcasm, actually, but more “I’m not surprised at all he’s rich” instead of the “it’s so plainly obvious he’s rich.”

      I feel like if his hand was lower on the back of her head, as if he were going to pull her in, it would be less insulting. Is this a worthless distinction?

      Well, I’ve deleted the episode already, but I distinctly remember a patting motion. I might have been imagining things, but Misaki’s friend directly mentions patting too and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The only other explanation is that the translators got it wrong, which is possible. But like I said, it’s probably just a cultural thing I don’t get.

      1. gorgeglish

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to make a correlation to wealth. Rather, combined with the melancholy I got from his face all episode, the chess scene felt like Usui was saying, “You idiots have no idea that I was at the top of this society before,” rather than, “You idiots have no idea that I’m great at chess.”

        And I haven’t seen 10, so I have no idea what I’m talking about. I just find that a guy putting his hand on the back of a girl’s head is more sentimental than patting it on top. Maybe that’s just me…..

  3. adaywithoutme

    Ouran High Host Club technically falls under this, too, although I think the fact that Haruhi herself never goes into sparkle-shoujo mode over the guys helps. And the fact that we see the ‘real’ people behind the personae that the guys portray does a lot for it, too – Haruhi knows they are far from the princes they make themselves out to be to their clientele. They’re still good guys ultimately, but they’re more flawed and quirky than someone such as Usui apparently is.

    So, maybe its better to say that Ouran High is a better subversion of the entire fairy tale trope than the small subversions represented in shows such as Maid-sama.

    1. E Minor Post author

      I was going to mention Ouran, but… I thought my feelings on it were too complicated for this post and so I’d be digressing too much. Long story short, I just don’t think very Ouran successfully deconstructs typical gender mores as well as people give it credit for, but that’s for another post and another day (if ever).

      1. Sy

        Well, I hope you do one day write that post on Ouran, because I think it’s worth thinking about. I have lost count of how many times Ouran has been called a parody as well as satirical (granted, I used to believe it myself too when I first watched it) but now I think that people are giving it credit where it isn’t deserved on that (in my opinion)

        But back to topic post, I also happen to find the ‘patting on the head’ to be condescending. It’s a action that is typically performed by parents to their children, or owners to their pets, it isn’t normally used by people to others that they regard as their peer. This probably ties back to your earlier post on females and being in a second place position, where the female is typically in a position of, well, I wouldn’t say inferiority per se, but always in a position where they worship/admire the male bishounen and his talents (regardless of how talented the heroine may be for whatever else) or his nature/personality/kindness/etc

        I dunno, there are probably other gestures that could have fit, such as holding of the hand, or patting her on the shoulder instead?

        1. E Minor Post author

          Well, I hope you do one day write that post on Ouran, because I think it’s worth thinking about.

          I don’t particularly like revisiting old anime, which reminds me of something I find sorta amusing. Some people think this blog is all about hating moe (I literally spent five seconds brainstorming the name) and all about hating K-On!, but I can’t remember the last time I mentioned either of those two topics.

          1. adaywithoutme

            Damn, you better fix that.

            I think Ouran has its problematic moments as well – in particular I remember being irritated by the beach episode when all the guys got mad at Haruhi for telling off some jerks on the beach since she’s really a girl and who knows what they could’ve done. Since, y’know, Haruhi has just seemed so terribly incapable of taking care of herself previously…

            When it gets down to it, very few series are going to be top-notch about subverting sexist tropes. Or about deconstructing sexism at all. Even Rose of Versailles screws up on that count.

            I would only be down with the head-pat if it was really a head scratch, because getting your head scratched feels so gooood.

  4. KizukuKanshi

    TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. Then again, Tropes Are Not Bad. Tropes Are Tools….(I was gonna try and make a full paragraph out of the titles, but I don’t feel like it anymore.)


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