Man, I’m only doing this to meet my shoujo quota for the season. Akatsuki no Yona doesn’t count, ’cause I actually want to watch that show. Anyway…
— Erika complains that her two “friends” went out and did things with their boyfriends over the summer. She, on the other hand, had done nothing but loaf around her house. But again, it’s all about keeping up with the Joneses. In the process, she ends up insulting her best friend — y’know, her true friend — because Ayumi was also hanging out with her. That’s kind of sad. I’m just saying… if she was having such a miserable time, why didn’t she just go out on her own, then? It feels like she’s only complaining because she constantly feels the need to compare her life to other people’s lives. And sure, to a certain extent, we should have a healthy dose of competition with our peers. But not to the point where we inadvertently insult our best friend. But of course, Ayumi has infinite patience with Erika.
— Erika also half-complains that she hasn’t gotten a single email from Kyouya all summer. It’s the 21st century, girl. You can send him an email if you want to talk to him. Now, I don’t know why you would want to do that, but hey, just sayin’. I hate how courtship continues to be so one-sided. Why should the guy always make the move? Besides, she even admits that she was expecting him to boss her around all summer. Well, him not contacting her is no big loss then, right? But I’m sure he’s about to reach out to her any minute now.
— Erika: “I don’t love him in the slightest!” I should hope not. But of course, I really wish they would just translate it as “like” instead of “love.”
— Hm, they don’t even animate the girls talking to each other like normal. Instead, their heads pop up as if I’m playing a visual novel.
— Naturally, Erika makes up a tall lie again and claims that she and Kyouya had gone to the mountains. Is it so bad if they know you didn’t do much this summer? It’s like I’ve been saying this entire time. No friend would ever go, “Wow, you went nowhere? We’re not friends anymore!” You can argue that she’s just ashamed. She’s not really afraid they’ll stop being friends with her. She just feels bad that she has no cool story to share. Okay, but then that’s an even worse reason to lie, because it makes her seem even more shallow. At least the fear of losing your friends is a bit more legitimate.
— It turns out Kyouya’s been dealing with a cold. Erika’s response? “No way. That guy catches colds?”
What is he, a mythical beast? Of course he can catch colds.
— But oh my god, you guys… she gets to go to his house and see his room!
— Kyouya tries to send the girl home after receiving his stuff at the door, but he goes and passes out before he can even get back inside his apartment. Welp, you can’t get out of this obligatory “See your (fake) boyfriend’s room” cliche.
— The girl’s nice enough to try and whip him up a bowl of rice porridge. You mean congee, right? I always had congee when I was sick as a kid. But it’s just not the same without the fried dough. Anyway, the guy’s still a huge jerk, so he tries to throw her phone away to discourage her. Man, how the fuck do you fall in love with someone like that? Hell, I have an easier time understanding why Bella fell in love with Edward.1
— Like most male love interests nowadays, Kyouya doesn’t have a close relationship with his family. His dad works late, his mom doesn’t live with them, blah blah blah. Basically, he’s emotionally vulnerable because he is literally isolated from his support system. As such, it’s up to the heroine to throw herself at him despite his slings and insults. She will be the one who saves this diamond-in-the-rough, and in doing so, she will receive… ~true ruv~ There’s an easier way to find true love: date someone who isn’t a jackass. The funny thing is, relationships are hard either way. Even if your boyfriend isn’t a jackass, your relationship will still run into trouble from time to time, because two different people are trying to make their lives work together. You’ll still have misunderstandings, petty disagreements from time-to-time, etc. Since relationships are already hard enough, why make it even harder by going for someone so utterly flawed as Kyouya?
The idea, of course, is that once you “fix” a bishie like Kyouya, it’ll be smooth sailing for there on out. The relationship will just be eternal bliss, because you’ve already put in the hard work of fixing him. But I’ve just told you how Kyouya’s mother no longer lives with him and his dad. Obviously, people don’t get married and just live happily ever after. In fact, every time I watch one of these fucking series, the male love interest’s family is often in shambles. Look no further than last season’s shoujo anime! Dude’s mom divorced his dad, then she went and got herself a terminal illness! My point is, even shoujo anime acknowledge that adult relationships are fraught with peril. And yet, the shoujo heroine continues to stack the odds against herself by getting with the guy who treats her like dirt. “B-But deep down, he really likes me!” Uh-huh. Sure he does.
— He continues to insult her even though she wants to help him. But try as she might, she just can’t stop thinking about him. So she returns the next day! With more printouts! And more shoujo good intentions! Erika even says, “Listen to me. When you’re in bad shape, you need to let people dote on you unconditionally.” Meh, she was going to do it anyway. But it gets better: “But you can at least let down your guard for me. I’m your dog.”
I love how the background turns all pink and shit as she says this. This is a romantic moment, folks. This is supposed to be a romantic moment. Don’t you just feel all fuzzy inside when your girlfriend calls herself a dog?
— So he finally lets her dote on him, and the girl’s eyes just widen with anticipation. Yes! I get to fetch him some fruit! And of course, fruit is not all he gets.
— When he wakes up, he demands to know what Erika wants. She can’t believe he would think so poorly of her! After all, she merely lies to people to get them to be her friends! She’s just using him to keep up with the Joneses. So golly, how dare he cast aspersions on her character? She’s such an upstanding shoujo heroine!
— Erika returns for the third day in a row, so our black prince finally chokes out a reluctant “Arigatou.” Neato. I hope it was all worth it. You’re well on your way to marital bliss. Just look at how many facial expressions the anime feeds us, though:
It’s like they couldn’t pick just one, so let’s just do all of them.
— Ah, Kyouya is a charmer through and through: “I hate girls who push kindness on me so much it makes me want to die.” Still, he thanks her because he finally realized that she isn’t doing all these nice things for his love. She just wants to help him. But that’s the funny thing, isn’t it? She might not have ulterior motives, but the story as a whole has ulterior motives. The entire point of this subplot is to get him to fall in love with her. So what difference does it make? It’s like when the shounen hero walks in on a naked girl, and starts apologizing profusely. Yo, he totally didn’t want to see the haremette in the nude… but at the same time, the scene only exists so that he can see her in the nude. Again, what’s the fucking difference?
— Eventually, Erika runs home with her heart racing. The bishie just has this magical effect on her! The very next day, Kyouya adds: “It’s a dog’s job to risk life and limb for its master, right?” Is her heart still racing now?
— Naturally, her best friend can read her like a book. Try as she might, Erika has already fallen in love with Kyouya. It’s only the third episode, too. We’re ahead of schedule, I’d say. What are we going to do for the rest of the season? Watch the “dog” somehow manage to tame the “shrew?”
— As they’re walking home from school, Erika is astonished to see Kyouya treat a dog so nicely. Oh, I can see it now: “Wait, he likes dogs! Ergo, he really likes me!” Go ahead, girl. You just think that.
— She suggests that he just get a dog. You can already see where this is going. He once had a pet, but it died so he doesn’t want to relive that moment. He also adds, “Besides… I’ve got this big dog now.” Ahaha, so funny. But does this anger Erika? Nope. She just blushes like an idiot. Wow, I’m a dog!
— And as the guy walks away, she just insists to herself that she has to confess to him one day: “I don’t want a fake boyfriend. I want to be his real girlfriend.” Nah, didn’t you hear? You’re already his best friend.
— So later, she drops by his place with some apple pears. I’ve always called them Asian pears, but it doesn’t matter.
She sees a woman leave his apartment, but she forces herself to confess anyway. Needless to say, it’s the third episode, so he can’t accept or return her feelings. He doesn’t just reject her, of course. Rather, he accuses her of deluding herself, arguing that she doesn’t really like him. So she runs off crying, and we’ve thus entered the second phase of the story…
1 The basic appeal of Twilight is that it has a strong female protagonist — I know you’re already scoffing at the idea that Bella is strong, but bear with me for a moment — who is simultaneously physically weak and not terribly rich. That alone upsets some types of feminist. Throw her in a relationship with an older, physically stronger, rich-ass, culturally conservative guy and Tumblr readies its dashboards. But then to top it off, this physically weak girl gets off on lightly-coded BSDM, and that’s when you get all the freaking out about abuse, and Mormon cultism, and “Bella lets herself get raped,” blah blah blah. The liberal outcry is understandable in some respects, since the series is very obviously about this tension between Edward’s ‘dom’ preferences and his privileged social status. It’s a subgenre of vampire horror for a reason. But again, the appeal is that Bella manipulates her way through this situation to get what she wants. The relationship between Erika and Kyouya, on the other hand, lacks this sort of dynamic.
If you look at the kind of male characters who get fanfiction’d by women, you often see terrorist madmen (e.g. Heath Ledger’s Joker), or emotionally damaged rich guys (e.g. Edward Cullen, The ‘Onceler’). The broad appeal is, on the one hand, translating the Joker’s terror — arguably motivated by political love — into love for a particular individual, and, on the other hand, playing a system that is disproportionately against you to your advantage. Of course, you have to go into the nuances to determine whether a specific case is good or not. I mean, this is roughly the same reason women send love letters to serial killers in prison. Years ago, I read a book on psychology and dreaming (can’t recall the name anymore). In one of their examples, a woman relates a dream where she is attacked by a man. The man in the dream pins her down and attempts to rape her, but he turns out to be entirely impotent. Failing completely, he falls off of her and begins to cry to himself. The woman, taking pity on her attacker, kneels down to embrace him… and they end up making love. That’s Twilight in a nutshell.