Love Isn’t Fun Without Three

Love triangles are a common romance plot device in almost all shojo mangas or animes. Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of one series that doesn’t have a love triangle worked in there somewhere. You either have two guys vying for the affections of one girl or two girls vying for the attention of one guy.

Why have love triangles in shojo? The answer is simple, it adds drama and it caters to every girl’s or guy’s fantasy of being that one person everybody wants.

Marmalade Boy's Yuu, Miki, & Ginta

Having just one guy wooing a girl isn’t as interesting or exhilarating as adding a third person into the equation. The girl who thought no guy would want suddenly captures the attention of the popular guy in school or the guy who secretly admires her from afar but doesn’t have the guts to admit it until that same popular guy goes after her affections. Then you have a story where both guys need to bring up their A game if they want to be the winner of the main character’s heart by the end of the series.

I should be tired of the usual plot devices like this one. Most of the time a series becomes pretty predictable after reading one or two volumes of a series. You can already tell who will end up with who, and who will get their heart broken. Yet, I still find myself wanting to read further even if I already have an idea of where the romance is going. Personally, I love imagining myself in the main character’s situation. Who doesn’t want to have to fend off gorgeous men who declare their absolute love for you? Real life just isn’t as exciting as the life of a shojo heroine.

Going back to the drama part of love triangles, your heart skips a beat when either guy is trying to show the girl with actions as well as words why he may be the best candidate for her love. Sometimes it can be with a small gesture such as buying a stuffed animal the girl has been eyeing at the store but didn’t have the money to buy. Or it can be a grand gesture such as the guy grabbing the girl and kissing her on the lips in the heat of the moment. I can think of lots of examples from shojo manga and anime that does the surprise kiss move.

Alice 19th's Alice, Kyou, and Mayura: May the best girl win

Sometimes you may find more than one love triangle is going on at once in a series. Yuu Watase’s Alice 19th is a good example of this. The main heroine Alice finds herself part of or at the center of a love triangle. She is part of a love triangle involving her sister Mayura and a boy they both love named Kyou. Then you have another love triangle that forms where Alice is at the center and Kyou and another character named Frey are battling for her love.

Or make that let the best man win: Frey (left), Alice (center) & Kyou (right)

Love triangles do add something to a story. It adds conflict as well as flirts with the idea of being someone’s heart’s desire. We can’t help but get sucked into these overused plot devices because it works! Love triangles will always have one character a reader or viewer will believe the hero/heroine should end up with. It doesn’t matter if the canon couple is already set. What matters is we get to place our bets on who is most deserving of the main character’s heart. For better or for worse, love triangles let our imaginations run wild and we can pretend we are the character on the receiving end of all the attention. The high emotions, confusion, and the eventual revelations are my favorite parts about a love triangle. I’m not sure if I ever want to experience a love triangle in real life, but it makes good fiction for the readers and viewers.

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13 thoughts on “Love Isn’t Fun Without Three

  1. I admit that I’m pretty addicted to love triangles in love stories, particularly in anime. Some of my favorites off the top of my head include Hana Yori Dango, Peach Girl, Bokura ga Ita, and NANA. There are tons more wonderful ones out there, so it’s hard to narrow them down. Like you say, there’s that pleasure of more than one person acknowledging the main character’s attractiveness, and if you can relate with the character, it’s almost like they’re flattery extends to you the viewer.

    As fun as the drama is in anime, however, it’s not so desirable in real life. Obviously I wouldn’t blame something like watching shoujo romance for some relationship issues I’ve had, but the addiction in the anime translates pretty well to some situations I’ve experienced. Sometimes, romance almost feels boring without the added thrill of competition–the negative effects of which hurt more and last longer than what you usually see in an anime.

    1. That’s the thing. Anime and manga tend to portray the lighter side of a love triangle. A choice always has to be made by the main character and the one he/she didn’t choose ends up heart broken, accepting, etc. but then they move on as if it’s something to shake off. Or they conveniently find another person to fall in love with.

      To be at the center of a love triangle would be flattering, but painful in the end. It’s a horrible feeling to have to break someone’s heart.

  2. I certainly like a good love triangle even though some people consider love triangles to be cliche. I tend to enjoy love triangles when they are highly unpredictable, which is rare – the main example I can think of is of course Hana Yori Dango, or I also enjoy them when several of the characters involved are friends because they tend to be more complicated and emotionally moving, such as in Kimagure Orange Road. I also agree with you that it’s great when series develop more than one love triangle – Marmalade Boy is definitely the queen this! Still, I’ve noticed that my favorite series tend to start off with complex love triangles then move on to developing the main relationship and showing how they ‘mesh’ as a couple – I like this because I can still enjoy the love triangle without it feeling dragged out.

    1. Unpredictable love triangles are hard to find. Most follow the same formula in the long run without any real surprises you can already see a mile away.

      The more emotional and complicated the love triangle is the better it gets in a story. I tend to find myself more invested in these kinds of love triangles. Marmalade Boy definitely has some really complex ones. You almost need a chart to keep track of all the triangles going on in that story.

  3. Love triangles are definitely a lot of fun, although they tend to be hit or miss with me. Sometimes if they are dragged out too long or it’s super obvious who ends up with who and the tension is low, I get bored or I don’t find it too interesting, but if done right and resolved at the right time, they are a lot of fun. :3 Also I’m a firm believer in it’s not the premise that matters, but how you write it, so even if something is super cliche, it can still be really interesting and fresh via execution. Or if I really like the chemistry between the ones involved, I can also get really vested in the whole thing. That and it feeds into my shippy side. xD

    1. I feel the same way too. You can have overused cliches or plot devices but if an author presents it in such a way that makes it different or interesting then it’s easy to get into a story. Well created characters with chemistry is a plus for sure. I know I have read series where I got tingly inside when I would read scenes between my favorite characters. It gives you the urge to root for your favorite couple in the end.

  4. Oh love triangles! Definitely one of my favorite parts of shojo manga! Well, most of the time anyway. Usually I mainly enjoy it for the second helping of handsome male character! Haha!
    Honestly, I didn’t realize just how often the love triangle scenario occurs in shojo manga until I read your post. It got me really thinking about shojo manga I have previously read and damn, the list is really short when it comes to the ones that didn’t have a love triangle! It also made me realize just how much Yuu Watase loves using love triangles too…(Alice 19th is one of my favorite mangas from her, btw!)
    The last thing I realized (I swear, it’s the last), was when it comes to love triangles where it is two guys fighting over one girl, I almost always want the guy who will definitely NOT get the girl to win! I don’t know, but I usually gravitate more to them than I do the actual ‘winner’, so to speak.

    1. I think all the series I have read so far always had a love triangle. It would be interesting if I read one that didn’t have a triangle!

      It’s awesome to find another person who loved Alice 19th. 😀 It’s one of my faves too. I used to reread it a lot when I had the time back then.

      There have been a few instances when I would root for the other guy instead of the canon couple. Those times have been Vampire Knight, Absolute Boyfriend, and Ayashi no Ceres. Probably futile to root for the other person, but everyone will have their faves.

      1. That’s actually kind of creepy… Vampire Knight, Absolute Boyfriend, and Ayashi no Ceres are also places where I have strongly rooted for the ‘other man.’ Okay, no, in Ayashi no Ceres, I think I just really liked Yuhi and wanted him all for myself! A man who wields chopsticks as a weapon AND he can cook! Perfect!

      2. Wow. Our thoughts and likes seem to be in tune with each other. Crazy!

        I always loved Yuhi more than Toya. Not that I didn’t like Toya, but Yuhi definitely does it for me than Mr. Broody any day. 😛

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