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.