Parker Peevyhouse wrote a blog entry last week about the current spate of paranormal YA romance novels.
“You’ve got girls falling in love with ghosts, vampires, dark fairies, angels, aliens… It’s all very popular right now.”
The question she raised was whether it was the thrill of danger that made these love stories so popular among girls, with teen vampires and the like representing the ultimate “bad boys.”
The question reminded me of a certain subgenre of anime/manga primarily for boys that might represent the other side of adolescent romantic wish-fulfillment fantasies. In these stories, ordinary boys get involved with girls who are aliens, spirits, robots, goddesses or the like.
Examples include Urusei Yatsura (ordinary boy becomes engaged to a flying, demon-horned, green-haired, but otherwise cute alien girl who shoots lightning from her hands whenever he so much as looks at another woman), Tenchi Muyo (ordinary boy is pursued by a half-dozen cute alien girls and a creature who seems to be half-cat, half-rabbit, and half-spaceship), Video Girl Ai (ordinary boy meets a cute girl who comes out of a video tape and she’s not at all creepy like that girl from The Ring), Chobits (ordinary boy finds a cute girl robot someone was throwing away with the trash), and Mahoromatic (ordinary boy hires a live-in maid who turns out to be a retired battle android–and of course she’s cute, too).
The boys in these stories tend to be nice guys, sympathetic, and deserving better than they’ve gotten from life so far. If dropped into a girls’ romance story, they’d end up home alone every night. But in a boys’ romance story, the perfect girl for them drops right out of the sky, or steps through a magic portal, or pulls herself out of a TV screen. Meanwhile the “bad boy” who gets so much play in girls’ romance tends to be shown up as a total jerk.
Another difference would be that paranormal romance for girls has the romantic elements on the surface with fantasy elements as flavoring. There’s a strong romantic element to the boy-centric version too but it’s buried under a huge dollop of fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, and/or adventure, like medicine spiked with sugar, because no boy is going to admit to liking a romance story.
Girls are from Mars and boys are from Transylvania, or at least their idealized versions are. Girls see boys as wild creatures to be tamed, and if they actually are vampires that’s an even greater challenge. Meanwhile boys see girls as mysterious creatures they can never fully understand, and if they actually are aliens there’s even more excuse for consternation.
So what’s the potential for taking the spec-fic romance for boys genre from anime to literature, where many boys are loathe to tread? Has this been tried before? If so, what were the results? The fact that no such titles leap to my mind is probably a bad sign…