Context and Consequence of a Stolen Kiss

It’s been a while since I’ve had more than two shoujo anime to watch in the new season. So maybe three is only one more than a couple, but it thrilled my little heart to see the previews — and now, episodes — for these series.

The stolen kiss — or more commonly, the stolen first kiss — is a shoujo trope as old as the sun. For the typical adolescent female, the first kiss is a momentous occasion; it marks her entry into the world of adult romantic relationships. Socialization has taught her that her first kiss will set a pattern for all future relationships, so it’s important that she chooses the right one for the first one. The stolen kiss is a popular yet intriguing trope since it removes the burden of choice from the female. Instead of the girl picking whom she’ll kiss, the other person makes the decision for her, hence the “stolen” descriptor.

For the three shoujo anime starting this season, all of them unsurprisingly show a scene where a character has a kiss stolen from her (or him). What are the implications of this stolen kiss to the plot? Were the characters primed for the scene or was it really a surprise? How could this stolen kiss affect the characters and the narrative later on?

Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita) is the one that I’m most familiar with, having read a good chunk of the volumes that Viz has already released in English. The anime pretty much follows the manga plot to the letter, from Nanami’s first meeting with Mikage to her trip to the spirit world to get Tomoe back as her shinshi. I don’t remember which other anime blogger mentioned the rushed pacing, which didn’t bother me at all — I really would much rather get to the rest of Nanami’s crew as soon as possible since the Tomoe vs Nanami’s snark/love fest could get tiring really quickly.

I found it almost impossible to watch this series without thinking of its (Daichi) spiritual sibling, Fruits Basket. Same setup: girl without a home, stumbles on a new possible place to live, discovers her attractive new housemates are supernatural creatures. Nanami, though, isn’t a namby-pamby housemaid. She may not know exactly what’s going on, and what exactly are the implications of her being the new earth deity, but she isn’t going to take Tomoe’s abuse lying down. She’s going to take that bull, err, fox by the horns…

Nanami stealing a kiss from Tomoe is proof of her own personal agency. Onikiri and Kotetsu told her the kiss was the only way for the earth deity to establish the contract with the shinshi. Nanami had to make her decision quickly, even with the knowledge that being with the rude and oafish Tomoe may be one of the worst decisions of her life. On Tomoe’s part, I find it interesting that such an intimate human gesture would be the act that binds him in servitude. You’d think that a shinshi who’s obtained his freedom, albeit by neglect, would be more careful where his lips are pressed against.

My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) is the one that’s raised eyebrows and ire throughout the (English-speaking) anime internet when it premiered last week. Haru needs to hire a quick-talking publicist to repair his image, stat!

Where Tomoe found himself being pulled to Nanami for a quick pucker, in My Little Monster, it was Shizuku who found herself on the receiving end of Haru’s luscious lips. From what happened in the first episode, I’m surprised that Shizuku was surprised that Haru would do something so audacious. How was it different from everything else that he’s done? Was his abrupt confession of love, despite their short acquaintance, not as shocking? Haru stealing her first kiss was perfectly in line and consistent with his personality and behavior.

Haru and Shizuku seem to me to be two sides of the same coin; where Haru projects his emotions externally and physically, Shizuku claims not to have feelings and instead hides under her mask of stoicism. They’re both socially awkward and are isolated from the bigger group. Haru recognizes these traits in her and maybe that’s why he was drawn to her from the get-go. Shizuku possibly felt the same connection, but her pride in being “Dry Ice” told her to hold back, since she might end up being hurt by him sometime down the line. After the kiss and Haru’s abrupt statement that he didn’t feel any excitement, would Shizuku’s opinion change? Is Haru worth the emotional investment?

The kiss scene in Say I Love You (Sukitte Iinayo) is the one which I felt was the most emotionally fraught. Mei Tachibana, like Shizuku in My Little Monster, has chosen to isolate herself from her peers, going years without saying a word to any of her classmates. She catches the eye of Yamato Kurosawa, the cute popular guy, who possibly has jboy-band aspirations with that snazzy hairstyle.

The initial chemistry between Mei and Yamato is really adorable. As Mr. Popular, he’s used to girls fawning on his every move, and since she’s not acting that way, he’s intrigued. He seems to think that she’s a challenge — not necessarily as a sexual conquest, but with more of an intention of finding out what makes her tick. Mei, with her limited experience with boyfriends, is at least cognizant  that Yamato is interested but doesn’t know enough of the social conventions of courtship. It was so cute when she thought that he wanted to exchange cell phones with her, not getting that it was shorthand for exchanging phone numbers. I have a feeling that Mei may not be ready for a relationship right this very second, but with Yamato, she appears ready to the idea of having a relationship.

When she calls Yamato to meet her at the convenience store, a kiss was probably the furthest thing from both their minds. I’d like to give Yamato the benefit of the doubt — that he came in there wanting to genuinely help her and calm her fear from the guy stalking her — I don’t think he went in there with a calculated ploy to steal her first kiss and her heart. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.  For Mei, who’s just re-learning to navigate the headwaters of social relationships, having this unexpected first kiss is like having a tsunami hit her in the face.

For all these three couples, the stolen kiss is a gamechanger. The dynamics of their relationship will inevitably change because of this event, and it’s up to the couple on how much drama they’ll have to pass before ending up in romance happyland.

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6 thoughts on “Context and Consequence of a Stolen Kiss

  1. Nice post – and it’s interesting that all 3 series feature a kiss in the first episode – I’m used to shojo series taking a bit more time to get that far! I’m not criticizing any of these three series because it’s something that literally every shojo series does: but it’s somewhat bothersome that the average shojo female protagonist’s a). has never been kissed before and b). her first kiss is usually stolen. At first glance it seems like an innocent cliche, but when you think about it both reinforce the female’s virginity and ‘innocence’ when it comes to sexual matters, and reinforces the idea that the male should be the partner to initiate (and control) a romantic relationship. Very rarely is it the male’s first kiss as well, since he’s usually shown to be popular with girls, which further asserts the importance of female purity.

    • great remark! The whole thing is more disappointing when you think that these manga are written from women and it makes me wonder, if this obsession with virginity on their part reflect their own personal affairs or if it’s the editor’s suggestion and thus what the industry demands, since it appears to be profitable. One could say that shoujo are written for girls that just enter the puberty and are going to start dating now. But alas, even shoujo with older girls and women continue this trend.

      As for Sukinayo I was really expecting the male lead to say sth like “I’m her brother, Is there any problem?” Wouldn’t it be more intimidating and less of a rush not to mention abrupt and spoiling the chances of a slowly developing friendship? Shoujo really lack males as friends among other things.

      • I know every person forms his or her own opinions, but even so culture still influences how you think the world should work. Since Japan still upholds traditional gender roles in many ways, I guess it makes sense even for female manga authors to reflect them in their stories. And you’re right that shojo series rarely have co-ed friendships – even the friendships that do exist usually involve a one-sided romance, or eventually evolve into romance. The most common ‘male-female’ friendship that seems to exist in shojo manga and anime is the female being friends with her boyfriend’s male friends.

  2. Kamisama Kiss sounds really refreshing. This inversion of the stolen kiss is actually making me want to watch (and read) it even more. :3

    Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – I actually decided to read it for a new feature that I’m in the process of creating and after reading the first chapter (which actually doesn’t have a kiss, maybe it comes up later?), I am really perplexed why it has such a bad reputation. Not to give too much away about what I think of it before I finish the post, but it isn’t any worse than most of what happens in other shoujo manga. If people have read or watched Hana Yori Dango, Please Save My Earth or Gakuen Alice and didn’t have a problem with what goes on in those series, I just don’t understand why they would raise such a hell for Kaibutsu-kun. All three have rather violent and rude male leads (and Haru isn’t even trying to be rude) and deal with those leads unwanted behaviours, but you don’t see people raising hell there. I’m kind of bewildered by the responses. Anyway, that’s enough out of me. I don’t want to just rewrite what I’ve been writing for my upcoming post. xD

    Say I Love You I haven’t been watching and don’t know anything about it, so no opinion.

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