Shoujo manga typically conjures up the image of a plain, modest girl, who’s kindness makes everything better and has all the boys falling over themselves for her affection. To make it even better, the boys are handsome, rich and kind, but only to the girl, and they fall in love and live happily ever after. However, not every shoujo protagonist is like Tohru Honda (Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya) or Sawako Kuronuma (Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You by Karuho Shiina). As much as we all love the powerful, bad boy falling in love with the helpless wallflower, there are some female protagonists who are so strong and capable that they don’t need a boy to fight their battles for them. In fact, they would prefer the boys to leave them the heck alone.
Haruhi Fujioka (Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori) comes from a tragic background, with her mother dead and her father mostly absent due to work. Her family has very little money, and she has to cook and clean, as well as attend school. What makes Haruhi strong is that she never complains about her circumstances, and she doesn’t act as if pity from others is necessary. She merely blinks and shrugs, and continues as if nothing has happened, and readers just think it’s natural and that everything’s fine. Perhaps the greatest strength of Haruhi’s is that she’s incredibly intelligent, enough so that she passes the entrance exam for one of the most prestigious (and wealthiest) high schools in Japan. Even so, despite her accomplishment, Haruhi continues her life in that no-nonsense and normal perspective of hers, perhaps even bland at times. When the Ouran Host Club takes her in, she doesn’t fawn over all the beautiful boys or is even impressed by their wealth; she only cares about the debt she has to repay for the broken vase. Unlike other shoujo protagonists, Haruhi doesn’t blush or stutter or act all strange around a crush, because there is no crush. There’s only her being her normal self and being dragged into every hijink the Host Club gets into.
Kiri Koshiba (Beauty Pop by Kiyoko Arai) is a very talented, young beautician who only does makeovers for those who have self-esteem issues. Kiri is unrecognized for her talent and skills, and she prefers it that way. She likes to work in the shadows for the sake of her “clients” instead of taking all the credit. Although this mysterious method of working dates back to a past issue, Kiri is level-headed, relaxed and easy-going. She’s also very quiet, not in a shy way, but in an intelligent manner that allows her to observe those around her with a clearer eye. Even as the Scissors Project is hyperbolic, energetic and temperamental, Kiri doesn’t even blink and cares very little for their “rivalry,” in that only Narumi acknowledges the challenge. What makes Kiri a strong protagonist is that she doesn’t fall in love like the typical shoujo protagonist. Indeed, readers believe that she feels nothing at all. She went through life perfectly fine before the male lead came into her life, and continued to walk through life pretty much the same afterwards. There’s no need to change herself into someone “better” just because she’s with him.
Kanoko Naedoko (The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko by Ririko Tsujita) is a mad genius. She knows, perfectly consciously, that she is the outsider of her class. In fact, she purposely makes herself the loner so that she may observe her classmates! Kanoko, who transfers to a new school in every chapter due to her father’s job, fabricates her whole purpose in life around her position as an observer, manipulating those around her (harmlessly) for the fun of it. She is a strong female protagonists who knows her strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths and weaknesses of those around her. Reading The Secret Notes of lady Kanoko is like reading a funny criticism of every shoujo manga character in existence!
What makes these female protagonists strong is the fact that none of them really change their personalities throughout the series. They’re consistent, and don’t really need a boy or a best friend to make them better. They are already fully formed, essentially. They can fight their own battles.
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