Lovefool 02.14.11 | Jane Austen Is My Valentine

Love is in the air! Celebrate your Valentine’s Day with the inaugural edition of Lovefool, our new weekly column exploring the world of comics romance.

 

 

 

 
Oh, February! The first warm days of spring start arriving, the days last a little longer, the stores are filled with hearts and flowers and gooshy declarations of love and everyone seems a little twitterpated. We here at the comics section of PLAYBACK:stl are no different and some of us (and by "some of us" I probably mean "me") may go ahead and decry Valentine’s Day as a silly little holiday but only because we feel that way year-round. We’re so in love with l’amour that we’ve decided to start a weekly feature about comics and romance, and what better day than today to do so? What better writer to helm this column than me, probably the only one of us to ever non-ironically buy a Harlequin manga and then regret nothing about the purchase? So I’m Erin Jameson and I’m your Lovefool.
 
I have to admit that I came around to sweetie gooshy comics the roundabout, semi-shameful way. I spent my teenage years as a rabid Sailor Moon fan but, in my twenties, it took me a few years to finally nerve up and request one of those squishy pink shojo manga. When it came in, there was a decidedly uncomfortable moment between me and the clerk, who had previously admired my resistance. No matter, though. I eventually managed to resolve myself to the fact that I could love Transmetropolitan and Venus in Love. After all, Transmet had Spider and Yelena and Venus in Love portrayed some pretty realistic collegiate concerns. 
 
As I delved deeper into the world beyond the clever, harder-edged comics I’d started out with, I started to see more and more similarities between the manga I was reviewing and the literature I loved. I know I’ve mentioned Jane Austen in both my reviews for Ooku: The Inner Chambers and the first volume of Butterflies, Flowers, but I didn’t really start thinking about it until my editor pointed out that I talk about her a lot. Of course I’ve mentioned Jane Austen in manga reviews—Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. Austen’s most famous heroine, Lizzie, lives in a world of maternal maneuvering, arranged marriages and elaborate social rituals. She’s witty and smart and, ultimately, makes the right moves for everyone and wins the day. The two "good" Bennet sisters wanted nothing more than to assist their family in a time of difficulty. Japan was, and still is to an (admittedly decreasing) extent, a world of familial loyalty, arranged marriages and elaborate social rituals. Add in modern mangakas who have grown up reading Pride and Prejudice, just like the rest of us dreamy-eyed girls, and you get her influence seeping in everywhere from manga set in feudal harems to books featuring working girls getting their first spot in the secretarial pool.
 
Of course, manga isn’t the only comic form that carries Jane Austen’s legacy on. Marvel has published a faithful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that left me fairly cold, and I reviewed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for this site and my thorough denouncement of that will go down in history. No, Jane is best served by Japan, who seems to understand that the Bennet sisters are not glossy hardbodies with shiny pouts or maybe even not suited to direct comic adaptation at all. Would Lizzie and Darcy’s witty repartee be well-adapted by round-eyed manga sweethearts and angular heroes? I’m not sure. I am sure that the subtle references I occasionally run into typically surprise and delight me.
 
Why? Because I’m still that silly sighing girl deep down, which is why we’re going to have so much fun with this column. There’s going to be charts and advice and reviews and the occasional meandering week like this one. Maybe even an interview here and there. We’ll talk about love and not-love and all sorts of stuff. Got any ideas? Anything you’d like to hear about? Feel free to get in touch with me at twitter.com/PBstl_lovefool.
 
In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day. | Erin Jameson

 

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