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.
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.
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.
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.