I’m not in love with you…wait am I?

A good number of the shojo I watch or read tends to feature clueless main characters who don’t realize they in fact like or are in love with the main hero/heroine. I don’t know if there is a trope for this, but it’s a common and very predictable plot device. It becomes really obvious when a character may have more feelings of like/love than they like to believe. I’m going to break down the following characters who fall into this category.

Tamaki of Ouran High School Host Club: Tamaki is the loveable, but idiot leader of the Ouran High School Host Club. Oftentimes, Tamaki considers himself the “father” of the club members, and bestows the honor of “mother” to Kyoya.

When Haruhi joins or is forced to join the Host Club to work off her debt to them, Tamaki fusses over her like a surrogate father. In dramatic flourishes he says things along the lines of, “Daddy wants his daughter to wear this,” or “Daddy does not accept this.” There are a bunch of similar sounding declarations all throughout the series. When it comes to him actually questioning what his feelings are for Haruhi, he still insists on viewing her as a father who loves his daughter. I haven’t finished reading the manga series itself, but from the summaries I have encountered, this family role-play Tamaki does is later explained in the manga as him trying to cope with his own childhood trauma stemming from his parents’ forced separation. As he tries to move past the trauma, his feelings of love for Haruhi is absolutely blocked out. In time, he does realize what he feels for Haruhi is a love a man and a woman feel for each other and not one that is familial.

Tamaki is a great example of a hero not aware of his feelings for the heroine until a moment of clarity happens. Once Tamaki gets it, he is able to properly act on them instead of denying how he really feels, and confusing his romantic feelings for one of fatherly love.

Tanpopo of Imadoki!: Tanpopo is similar to Tamaki. They are both characters with innocent, almost childlike personalities. Tanpopo comes to Meio Academy with the intention of making friends and to make her high school experience in the big city memorable. When she encounters the cold and aloof Koki Kugyo, she makes it her absolute goal to make him her friend. Once the friendship gets established between these two, Tanpopo is still a bit slow at catching onto the fact that she has started to develop feelings for Koki. She tries to rationalize her feelings as care and concern for a friend and fellow club member.

It doesn’t take the whole entire series for Tanpopo to realize she does have feelings for Koki like it does for Tamaki with Haruhi. She discovers after a while (and with some prodding from her own friends) that what she has for Koki is no longer friendship, but strong feelings of love.

Syaoran of Cardcaptor Sakura: Syaoran starts off as Sakura’s rival for the Clow Cards. He’s a bratty and annoying kid who keeps trying to hamper Sakura’s efforts in collecting the Clow Cards. And if the Clow Cards aren’t enough, both him and Sakura are rivals for Yukito’s affections!

Eventually, Syaoran’s feelings toward Sakura and Yukito are sorted out, and he realizes Sakura is the girl he has come to love. This realization comes with huge amounts of blushing, stumbling, and uncertainties of how to act around Sakura and his new found feelings for her. Syaoran always thought what he felt for Sakura was an intense dislike for her when in reality he truly found himself caring for the fair cardcaptor. I am quite glad Syaoran wakes up and realizes he wants to be with Sakura. The ensuing courtship and stolen glances are just too cute not to watch.

Haruhi of Ouran High School Host Club: I know I have selected another character from Ouran, but in this case, we have two main leads who are in denial of their feelings for the other. Both Haruhi and Tamaki rationalize their feelings in ways which obviously avoids the “L” word. Tamaki arrives at his feelings of love for Haruhi a lot sooner than Haruhi herself.

Based on the summaries I have read about the rest of the volumes in the series, Haruhi takes a frustratingly long time to admit she has come to love the dramatic king of the Host Club. Most of the time she dismisses her affections toward Tamaki as him being a hopeless idiot that just gets on her nerves. For better or for worse, this series does take its time to have the two main characters give into their feelings for one another. The series actually takes its time to develop the relationships and friendships of these characters, and makes their interactions with each other feel natural and believable. Of course, it drags out the epiphany moment for the main heroine to accept she has fallen for the main character, and how she deals with those feelings afterwards. Most other shojo series don’t take this long to arrive at this point.

What a lot of these characters I have selected seem to have in common is their goals or misunderstandings about their feelings for their potential love interest get in the way of actually realizing their true romantic feelings, which has always been residing deep within the recesses of their hearts. Something keeps them from properly coming to the conclusion a lot sooner. Tamaki has to deal with his past family trauma, Tanpopo has always been set on making strong friendship bonds that she doesn’t even think of the possibility of a romance with anyone she becomes friends with, Syaoran is focused on collecting the cards for himself and is intensely drawn to Yukito’s innate powers that it muddies the connection he gradually builds with Sakura (whether he willingly wants to or not), and Haruhi is more concerned with strictly seeing Tamaki as the silly idiot she has to deal with on a daily basis that she doesn’t open up her mind and heart to the possibility of romance.

The clueless hero/heroine may be a common plot device in shojo, but how they handle the awakening of their feelings is a journey that becomes rife with watching these characters try to step into territory that is uncertain and new to them. Love is complicated, but it also shows how rewarding it can be when your heart is open to the possibilities.

Are there other characters who you feel fall into the category of clueless hero/heroine who doesn’t realize they are in love with their best friend/rival/club member? Do you enjoy watching these characters realize their true feelings while you already knew it was obvious from the start what their feelings actually are?

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8 thoughts on “I’m not in love with you…wait am I?

  1. Yeah, you’re right, it is a very common “trope”. I can think of a few examples off the top of my head as well, both Kyoko and Ren from Skip Beat adamantly deny they have romantic feelings and both for reasons of past trauma. Sarasa from Basara denies for quite a while that she is in love with Shuri. Again because she feels love would conflict with her goals. Shuri comes to realize his feelings very quickly though. Kimiko from Gokusen takes practically the whole series to admit she love Shin. Shin takes a while too, but he arrives at it a lot sooner than Kimiko. Admittedly, being his teacher and being older than him probably made her refuse to knowledge anything for a long time. There are also a few others, but these are just off the top of my head.

    1. I suppose when you have characters who take a long time to realize that they do love the main character, it usually has to do with the fact that there are obstacles in their path that keep them from confronting their true feelings. The examples you provide just prove what I said about clueless main characters in shojo. Though, Kimiko being in love with Shin is an exceptional case because of the whole teacher-student thing. XD

      1. haha, yeah, but it actually works really well~ And this is coming from someone who usually doesn’t like the whole student/teacher set up. It is a josei series though (and josei romances tend to be better overall because they tend to go for realism). :3

      2. Josei? I actually never heard of the term before. But to be quite honest, as much as I enjoyed Gokusen (I watched the Jdrama series), a romance between teacher and student makes me uneasy. Such things are really wrong and creepy in real life.

      3. Josei is the term for woman’s manga. :3
        I haven’t watched the drama, so no opinion on that, but like I said, it worked really well in the manga because the romance was really slow and felt very natural. And perhaps I was a bit partial to it because it finally flipped the age thing around. I haven’t seen many manga (aimed at females) where the woman is actually older, so I appreciated that about it as well. The student/teacher thing just felt like it was there but never really used to shape the romance. It did shape it a bit in the sense that they couldn’t date while she was his teacher, but it never felt like Shin like Kumiko because she was his teacher and vice versa. It was never a point to be stressed by either of them. Whereas, it is always stressed in other student/teacher manga I’ve read and it seems to be stressed as a sort of forbidden fruit thing and for titillation purposes. That’s why I was ok with it as a set up here. Hope that makes sense. 🙂

      4. It does make sense. Actually, what you described is the same sense I got when I watched the Jdrama version of Gokusen. They didn’t focus too much on the fact that they were a teacher and student. I think half the time I almost forgot that the only thing keeping them from fully acting on their feelings was because they have that boundary in place. This is a series that at least makes the teacher-student romance thing bearable for me.

  2. I think as long as the character’s confusion doesn’t last too long it’s fine. There are several series where characters take way too long not only to realize their own feelings, but the feelings of their crush – Mizuki is like this with both of her love interests in Hana-Kimi! The age of the characters also impacts my opinion as well – a 10 or 12 year old taking a long time to realize they’re in love is not only more plausible than if the character was in high school, but it’s also adorable to watch unfold. Mikan from Gakuen Alice, Sana from Kodocha and Sakura are all good examples.

    1. I didn’t think about the ages of the characters until you pointed it out. It makes sense for a 10 or 12 year old to take a little longer to figure out that they may be in love because those types of feelings are quite new to them. At that age, you are in the process of moving away from being considered a child. To have to face adult things like love and relationships would be quite scary and unusual to confront.

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