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4-koma Sex Comedies, Female Leads and “Perfect” Girls

Posted by Author | 4-koma, Anime, Anime Review, B Gata H Kei, Commentary, Manga Review, Raphael, manga, seitokai yakuindomo, yamato nadeshiko | Tuesday 3 August 2010 12:01 am

Until a while ago, I (naively) thought that all 4-koma manga series were sweet, clean, slice-of-life comedy affairs. You know, like Working!!, Hidamari Sketch and Azumanga Daioh; the medium just seems so well suited to this. But the past seasons of anime have featured two 4-koma adaptations that are a far cry from the cuteness of K-on!. B Gata H Kei (which I’ll abbreviate to B Gata here) aired from April until June earlier this year, and focuses on a 15 year old girl known only as Yamada, who aims to accumulate 100 casual sex partners. This season, we have Seitokai Yakuindomo (which I’ll abbreviate to SYD), which centres around an almost all-female student council. It’s a comedy propelled largely by sexual innuendo and even totally unveiled sexual references.

What’s interesting about these two shows is that the sex humour contained within them is driven pretty much entirely by the female characters. In SYD, the male lead acts almost exclusively as a straight man for the girls’ zaniness, and in B Gata, male lead Kosuda falls into a similar role, although he goes along with all the insanity much more willingly. Suffice to say, this isn’t exactly an unusual concept in anime – the guys being bland and the girls being stars. But these girls are in no way your typical female leads: they’re unashamedly perverted and sometimes crass, and they think about sex as much as society seems to only expect from boys their age.

In essence, these girls may be beautiful, but they in no way fit the ideal of the yamato nadeshiko: the traditional Japanese concept of the “perfect woman”. From Wikipedia: “known as an ideal Japanese woman per Confucianism, [the concept] revolves around acting for the benefit of the family and following instructions or acting in the best interest of patriarchal authority figures. Virtues include: loyalty, domestic ability, wisdom, and humility.” Although the yamato nadeshiko concept hasn’t entirely persisted into the modern day, the idea of a creating a perfect woman seems to pervade the anime world. Moe series star girls who aim to appeal to men with either their perceived perfection or their charming fallacies, and a trope for every possible kind of “perfect woman” has sprung up. Whether you believe the yamato nadeshiko, ojou-sama or even the tsundere or dojikko is ideal, anime and manga will cater to you.

So how do SYD and B Gata fit into this? The girls these series focus on are loved by their peers. In SYD, the trio of main girls – Shino, Aria and Suzu – are all presented as stunning and/or extremely intelligent, and they do their jobs excellently; in B Gata, Yamada is seen as gorgeous and desirable by her classmates, and her rival Kanejou is rich, talented and beautiful. But look even a tiny bit beyond the surface, and you find “perversions” (Shino, Aria and Yamada’s sex obsessions; Kanejou’s obsessive, romantic love for her older brother) or surprising personality traits (never, ever call Suzu a ‘little girl’). Even the leads’ younger sisters in the two series, who seem to fit the ‘cute little sister’ trope to a T, are remarkably sex-minded. Essentially, none of these girls have been created with perfection, or at least the traditional sort, in mind.

And I find that refreshing. Even though they’re only so sex-crazed for comedic purposes and arguably lack depth, these girls are independent and strong. While all of them have their fair share of moe traits – Yamada in particular – they aren’t ruled by them, and (it certainly seems like) they haven’t been created just to meet certain archetypes. In addition, it’s great to see girls at the helm of sex comedies. Indeed, if the leads’ genders in the shows were reversed – i.e. guy seeking 100 casual sex partners; single girl joins otherwise all-male school council and has innuendo thrown at her – the results would almost certainly be utterly, utterly awful.

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