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We all love a good romance anime. One with a good plot and great characters is the fuel of a romance anime fan’s existence. However, a lot of the romance anime we have all come to love is centered on heterosexual relationships. Not that that’s bad, but there are other beautiful relationships that are not represented enough in the anime community, and one of them is Shoujo Ai.
What are Shoujo Ai and WLW?
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Shoujo Ai basically means Girls Love. Its counterpart, Shounen Ai, means Boys Love. Although similar, Shoujo Ai is not interchangeable with Yuri, as many believe it is. Yuri is a whole other genre that displays love between women in a more sexualized and not-safe-for-work way. Shoujo Ai is different. It pertains to the actual romance between women or girls, pure fluff or drama without the need to sexualize it.
In Western audiences, the phrases shoujo ai and yuri are typically perceived as two distinct genres, a difference that is not generally made in Japan. As of 2009, the term yuri refers to the representation of any sexual or romantic desire between women (whether explicit or implied) in the manga, anime, and similar entertainment media, as well as the genre of tales predominantly dealing with this material. Yuri began as a sort of jargon, or fanspeak, among lovers of the media, but its popularity among authors and publishers has grown since 2005. In contrast, the term “Girls Love” is largely employed by publishers.
WLW, on the other hand, means Women Loving/Love Women which is a term that has become popular in recent years. This is also a jargon that is used by many western authors in reference to books in which the plot is centered around lovers who are both women. Now that we all understand the meaning of the terms, let’s get down to business.
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Why is Shoujo Ai Representation an Issue?
Representation is important. We live in a time where people are becoming more open to possibilities and different realities (at least the new generation is), and that should be enough to open doors to other forms of love to be more openly shown to the public, not just by the people around them, but most especially by the media that we consume.
Anime reaches a wide range of audiences, and because it has been around for quite some time, it also caters to a broad age group. Some of these audiences though are still very reluctant to accept that the world they live in is not the one they grew up in. Rightfully so, because accepting a custom you are not used to is very hard, but that shouldn’t be a barrier. If more Shoujo Ai anime is made to represent people who belong in that category, it would be a step closer to probably being able to make the world more accepting of lesbian/gay couples, which in turn, would lead to less discrimination and just more love.
However, it isn’t only the lack of representation that is the problem in the anime community. Another issue is wrong representation. Lack of representation and wrong or incorrect representation is different, but let’s not get into that.
The lack of representation is probably deeply rooted in Japan’s conservative culture, and that’s not ours to meddle with. Just that, whenever it’s possible, Anime should be an avenue where all sorts of people get to see themselves mirrored in the shows they watch, Slice-of-life and Romantic Comedy wise, that is, we wouldn’t want to be engulfed by titans.
A lot may say that this issue may not be that deep, and it generally does not need discussion, but for some, being able to watch a show that portrays how you feel at a certain point in time gives you a sense of enjoyment, fulfillment, and warmth like no show ever did, and that’s beautiful.
Does Shoujo Anime Even Exist?
Yes, it does. However, due to the lack of anime in the Shoujo Ai genre, it’s barely even talked about. If you’re here for some recommendations, we’d gladly provide them, but do note that some of these shows are hard to find, you might even sweat a little trying to find them. But, there is also a good number who are famous enough to be on Crunchyroll or at least on one streaming service.
1. Bloom Into You.
Watching this was just pure bliss. Bloom into you follows the story of Yuu Koito who has always been fascinated by romantic shoujo manga and love song lyrics. However, when she first receives a confession, she… wasn’t all that pleased. Upon enrolling in a new high school, Yuu Koito comes across the seemingly faultless student council president, Touko Nanami, who is maturely rejecting her own revelation. Yuu approaches Touko for counsel, intrigued by her graceful demeanor, only to be perplexed when the president confesses to her! Yuu swiftly finds herself in Touko’s grip, inadvertently setting herself on a journey to discover the emotion that has always evaded her.
2. Aoi Hana (Sweet Blue Flowers)
Again, another one that’s less of the fanservice and more of the plot. Aoi Hana follows the story of childhood best friends Fumi Manjoume and Akira Okudaira and their journey to finding out that beyond their friendship, there is love. Aoi Hana is like the equivalent of a coming-of-age story, except it’s for gays. It portrays the beauty of love and finding out about the complexities of falling in love with your best friend who’s the same gender. Even the reviews about this anime are amazing, so if you’re looking for a good Shoujo Ai to watch, it’s probably going to be this one.
Citrus is one of the more famous Shoujo Ai manga/anime. It also has more fanservice than the other two, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Citrus follows the story of Yuzu Aihara and her quest to not fall in love with her step-sister (she failed terribly, by the way). It’s actually perceived wrongly by many, thinking that it’s just a harem show you must watch because there’s some girl-on-girl action, but it’s a little bit more than just that. But you would need to watch the show in order to find out.
4. Strawberry Panic
It’s dubbed as a rite of passage if you really are a fan of Shoujo Ai or Yuri, it’s a classic watch. This anime follows the story of a high school student, Nagisa Aoi who just transferred to St. Miator’s Girls Academy. A prestigious all-girls institution that sits just atop Astraea Hill. Upon her entry, Nagisa encounters a student who was filled with charm and beauty so enchanting, she was left in a trance and ended up in the infirmary.
Tamao Suzumi, Nagisa’s roommate, greets her as she wakes up and eagerly introduces her to school life and social structure. Most significantly, Tamao informs Nagisa of the presence of one excellent student representative from each of the three schools—the Etoile, or “star.” Eager to meet this person, Nagisa discovers that the ethereal beauty she met earlier, Shizuma Hanazono, is the one and only Etoile herself! Not only that, but Shizuma appears to be overtly interested in Nagisa! Her interactions with Shizuma naturally make her a big subject in school, but Nagisa can’t help but question if anything is wrong.
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