I admit it: I'm as addicted to shoujo romance manga as spinster is addicted to Harlequin paperbacks. Though I've read a lot, I also seem to drop them like quickly, too. There is actually a good reason for that: unoriginality. Sometimes, it seems like there are several themes or plots one is required to have in order to write shoujo romance (although the same can be said for standard romance novels, too). These plot devices are then plugged into a computer to be randomly selected for the author's next chapter. This seems to be the mainstay of trite plots and characters in shoujo manga (in no particular order). To simplify, "Bob" will always be the male half of any romantic relationship and "Sally" will always be the female half of any romantic relationship.
1.) Former childhood friends/senpais/student teachers-who-were-former-tutors who are always mistaken as love rivals.
- Usually, these characters are Sally's acquaintences. They also tend to suddenly transfer in after spending years out-of-town, often for no discernable reason whatsoever. Sally generally neglects to mention her previous relationship until Bob has made a complete fool of himself. In most cases, Sally feels a mild fondness akin to a sibling relationship, while this intruder proclaims that he will steal Sally's affections from Bob.
2.) A psychotic girl who lies, cheats, and steals in an attempt to disavow Bob's and Sally's love for each other.
- These girls often (but not always) "befriend" Sally in order to get closer to Bob. Only one person, if any, knows what the d*** b***** is up to, but the others refuse to see the worst in her until it's too late. Often popular, these girls tend to see one of two fates - a mysterious change of heart, or all her peers suddenly realize her true colors and ostricize her.
3.) Love at first sight...
- ...or at least within three days of knowing each other. I understand the authors only have so much time and space to work with, but I never knew so many people found "The One" in their first year of high school. Or even during high school. I'm not dissing love at first sight or high school romance. Being 14 and knowing who you want to spend the rest of your life with, however......
4.) Student/Teacher relationships always succeed.
- Apparently, every single young teacher or student teacher in Japan has become romantically involved with one of his or her students (this might actually be a law I don't know about). This is not really a crime, even when that student is underage and everyone finds out, so long as you declare your intentions for marrying said student, and nine times out of ten, it does end in marriage. The one time out of ten it doesn't end in marriage, Bob dies but Sally still has a baby to remember him by.
5.) The Yakuza Sally falls in love with is always a "good guy".
- That is to say, Bob's group is always more ethically inclined than the other groups. Bob is also the Master of the whole group, even though they're only in their second year of high school. The whole school, except Sally, is afraid of Bob for that reason. The group itself is pretty much made up of comical Bob-worshippers who seem pretty useless and somehow aren't.
6.) Opposites always attract.
- The good girl falls into the hands of the punk. The smart guy tutors the girl who's failing. The unattractive girl always manages to catch the attention of the hot guy. The shy guy always magnates to the extrovert. The list goes on and on, and you can revise it however many ways you desire. People with similar interests rarely match up. Is there not enough conflict? I can imagine plenty of drama without opposite personalities.
7.) Nothing, but nothing, is unforgivable.
- Although Bob ruthlessly manipulated Sally, she's still happily dating him. Although Sally murdered Bob's family in front of him, he's willing to let bygones be bygones (well, ok, that one doesn't strictly come from shoujo, but you get the point). Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. We should all try to find it in our hearts to forgive. Most people, however, would be in therapy for many years instead of going back to Bob or Sally. Bob and Sally, while forgiven, might also have a restraining order placed on them to make sure they weren't tempted into doing something that would have their forgiveness revoked.
Well, my brain has been picked over for now. Maybe I'll get back to this topic another day. Peace, all! =D