Sitting in a tree

In the discussion of that list of the 25 greatest super-hero romances over at Robot 6, Tom Spurgeon makes a good point about one of my favorites, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch:

“The initial Scarlet Witch romance worked for about 50 issues of subplots in some pretty good Avengers comics from back in that time, including the intrusion of the Swordsman’s hooker girlfriend, Mantis. I’m not sure anything about the marriage worked even a tenth as well as the initial “can you really fall in love with a robot” stuff did, though.”

I think that’s true for any couple in serial fiction, at least in serial fiction with no anticipated end point. It’s the same in daytime dramas; the build-up is always more interesting than the tear-down, and the tear-down is inevitable, I think. Happy couples are more sustainable in comedies than dramas. Serial fiction is a furnace that needs to be fed, and when that fiction is predicated partly or even wholly on romantic pairings, you can’t maintain a status quo for too long. It’s why soap characters marry and divorce so often, and why Spider-Man seems like such a player on the aforementioned list.

That’s one of the advantages of romantic pairings in manga, which generally has a designated end point. There are closing credits, and right before them, the couple can gaze into one another’s eyes and ponder their wonderful future together. Since it’s over, neither you nor the manga-ka need to dwell too much on the unpleasantness that can follow “happily ever after.”

Which brings me to my favorite manga romance, Yukari and George from Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss (Tokyopop), but I’ll save further discussion for after the jump, because I’m headed into spoiler territory.

Unlike many of their fictional peers, Yukari and George are pretty much doomed from the start, not because they’re incompatible but because they’re so very much in transition. Yukari is finally shaking off the good-girl expectations that have defined her life up until the beginning of the series. George is realizing the depth of his ambition and the scope of his creative abilities as a fashion designer. Yukari is his muse, and George is her mentor in independence and non-conformity. They exert a powerful influence over each other, but it isn’t sustainable.

And that’s the beauty of their relationship, at least for me. It’s as intense and mercurial as it is genuine, but Yazawa never really paints it as being about the rest of either character’s life. It will certainly influence the rest of both of their lives, and anyone who wants to be with either Yukari or George will have to accept that. But there’s no “happily ever after” factor; there’s barely a “happy right now” factor, to be honest. George is to narcissistic and Yukari too frantic to enjoy moments so much as be caught up in them. That feels absolutely true and right to me.

4 Responses to Sitting in a tree

  1. It’s so interesting to me that your favorite manga romance would be one with no hope of long-term success (as is obvious from the beginning, I think). I love Paradise Kiss, but I admit I’m too hung up on happily ever after (or at least happily for the foreseeable future, which admittedly is not always as long as one might hope) for me to truly love their *romance*. On the other hand, I completely agree that it feels incredibly true and right for them as characters, and one of the things I love about Ai Yazawa in general is that she isn’t afraid to let people be messy and broken the way most of us are at least a little bit.

    I’m not taking issue with your choice, please don’t get me wrong. I just find it really interesting. 🙂

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    Oh, I’ve got plenty of “happily-ever-afterers” on my list of favorites. I know it’s one of her more marginal titles in terms of popularity, but I melt over Tanpopo and Koki in Yuu Watase’s Imadoki! But I do have a weakness for bittersweet endings.

  3. thirstygirl says:

    I adore Paradise Kiss and its bittersweet romance. It’s so perfectly balanced that it would have been ruined if they had stayed together or if it had been any longer.

    I really respect Ai Yazawa- she seems to have the self-discipline (and respect for the story and characters) to know where the line is and not cross it.

  4. I appreciate your perspective and agree. Our culture is much more interested in the heady high of falling in love, and less so in how love works out.

    But look around you. At least here in the US, love is rarely easy or follows through on any happily ever after. Relationships have drama – they go up and down – there are plenty of falling in love all over again moments. To me? That’s my challenge in writing a serial fiction and the beauty when it actually happens.

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