Why are relationships between characters still not recognized and taken lightly in light novel and manga?


  • Premium Member

    One thing that has been bothering me, well always bothering me, is how the authors of light novels and manga write their stories in a way that the main character is oblivious to the fact that they have people who want to be in a relationship with them. I’ve always wondered why this is so hopefully some of you can explain this to me.

    Why is it that we have so many characters across so many stories that just don’t get it? One really good example is of course “Bakarina”, I’m going to try to stick to JNC titles to make this easier, but that is the classic comical harem troupe and I get that. But then you have characters like Veight who isn’t a clueless idiot who clearly likes his female counterpart but is just unwilling to admit it to himself outright. Then you have Asuta and Ai Fa from “Cooking with Wild Game” which is a semi-cute and semi-abusive relationship, all of the abuse going towards Asuta of course. But why is it we have so many stories that continue along these seemingly hard-core relationship lines.

    Now at long last we do have some stories in which relationships are openly expressed and accepted like in “Realist Hero” and “Smartphone” which I think makes for a more enjoyable and interesting read. Granted these are both the harem genre again but at least relationships between characters is accepted and expressed which is still not widely used in the light novel and manga scene.

    My ultimate question is why haven’t the stories evolved into ones where relationships are understood and accepted and why do we still see an abundance of titles where they just aren’t? Any ideas?


  • Premium Member

    I've always believed authors like to tease possible routes without committing themselves in case the eventual lead chosen is not to taste of some or all readers and thus alienate them.

    Their are some big examples where this has happened recently and in the past, cough cough Oreimo.

    So usually 2 routes happen. No one is chosen and everything is open ended, or it is chosen at the last minute.
    Sadly, it is usually the former and why harem series feel awfully empty after reading.


  • Premium Member

    A big part of it is that it is convenient. Light novels and manga are both really short and a harem style set up makes it really easy for the author to move around the pieces. Why was character C in the same town as the MC and character b? Because they were jealous and spying on the two. Boom, easy. No need to set up some complex series of events or converging motivations.

    That also feeds into the second part of this which is most LN and manga are done by amateurs and then picked up later to be edited and reworked. Since it is a super easy troupe to work with, a lot of the newbie authors and have it in their works so they can write something week to week and really aren't yet good enough writers to be able to propel the stories using my nuanced or intricate writing.

    It's also popular. If you have many girls/guys interested in the MC then to an extent everyone is happy that their best girl/boy has a shot/relationship with the MC. In some series, it is kind of gross, in others less so, and there are probably enough people that just like the power fantasy of the harem as well.

    So as to why they make the MC ignorant of the feelings is just to be able to use that setup. If the MC knew and picked a single person, suddenly all that popularity and convenience would be gone and the writers would have to think up less contrived ways to make the pieces move, and that might be too difficult for them.


  • Premium Member

    I have known (and been, at one point) incredibly dense persons regarding romantic interest. Personally, it doesn’t strike me as terribly unrealistic.


  • Premium Member

    Light novels do exaggerate things, for both comic and dramatic effect. But those things have to exist before you can exaggerate them.

    One of the things involved in safety training is getting people to recognize a problem, so they can deal with it. Humans tend to ignore what they aren't looking for, even when it seems obvious to others.

    "Childhood friend" trope happens often enough in real life. One side misses the transition from "friend" to "love interest", while the other not wanting to risk break up the friendship.

    "Sudden popularity" also happens often enough in real life, where someone becomes popular because one person of the opposite sex took an interest in her/him, and the others want to find out what they missed.

    Combine the two, and it can look like a harem trope.


  • Premium Member

    I think that the trope is popular because it’s a form of wish fulfillment. If we assume that the MC in a story is (at least sometimes) intended to be an avatar of the reader, or at least we are supposed to empathize with them. Imagine back in the day when you were in high school: maybe shy, likely awkward to a degree. Wouldn’t you love for the tables to be turned? The idol of the school, and hime-sama, and your childhood friend, and the tennis star...were all interested in you? You wouldn’t worry about getting up the nerve to ask whoever out, she’d be pursuing you. And if the MC was aware of his (or her) popularity, they wouldn’t be as relatable or sympathetic. Now, if that density doesn’t change, if the MC doesn’t grow as a person, if relationships don’t evolve...readers will grow to empathize less with the MC and get frustrated with the story. And we have infinite stratos



  • I recently read an interview about the isekai light novel/manga series Seijo no Maryoku wa Bannou Desu and there's one question rather related to this:

    ── Within the iseikai genre, what differences do you feel exist between works primarily targeted for men versus those for women?
    K: Men tend to like the set up of one hero with a lot of heroines, whereas I get the impression that women like for the love interest to be set in stone and for the process of how they got together to be depicted in great detail, even if there are a lot of attractive men in the story. This doesn't just apply to iseikai. Men's and women's comedic romance follows similar trends...

    Bakarina is more shoujo so it's rather an exception, but could it be this belief in the industry causing many titles aimed at male readers to endlessly waver in the relationship department? (Regardless of whether or not it's a founded assumption concerning the fans' attitude). We can see JNC Heart titles like Marielle Clarac, Bibliophile Princess or Can Someone Explain What's Going On? has a fixed love interest early on, so the drama doesn't lie in which character is going to end up with MC, but the ups and downs in the relationship.



  • The situation itself of having multiple potential love interests is what's actually interesting about "harem" stories, not the development of a relationship. When done well, the different characters become literary foils, ways of reflecting different aspects of the main character, or potential themes of the story, or the make the reader question their own perceptions, etc...


  • Premium Member

    What other said about keeping all route open to tease potential relationship and give everyone some hope for their best boy/girl to win, is true, but doesn't cover all cases.

    Like in a lot of series the (potential) relationship is only between 2 characters, but one of them is the one driving the story forward, so you need them to stay focus on that for the story to advance at a comfortable pace.
    For example in Undead Adventurer there's no harem, no other real candidates beside Lorraine, but if they were to settle together and Rent focus on their relationship it would likely take away from his drive to become a mithril-class adventurer. And being even less focus is really the last thing that series need.

    There's also series where the situation or characters personalities doesn't let much place for serious romance, like in Grimgar where between 2 mind rapes or near-death experiences, the characters probably don't really have the right mind to go through with their feelings.
    Same in "Defeating the demon lord is a cinch" where Ares is just too overwork to give anything else time, or "So I'm a spider, so what!?" where being the pawn of a sadistic god doesn't let much freedom.

    To put it simply, to me, it seems like romance just isn't the focus of a lot of series, authors incorporate some to their story because it help attracted customers and can help make the reader feel more attached to characters, but they keep it at a level where it won't interfere with the story.


  • Premium Member

    Not all LN employ this trope, but it is certainly quite common, particularly in certain genre. My guess is you read a lot shounen power fantasy and wish fulfillment type series? These types of stories usually don't really focus on romance and will tend to go the harem root or provide one or two waifu bait characters that like the MC but for whatever reason can't or won't develop any sort of deeper romantic or interpersonal relationship with them. The waifu are basically just there as additional wish fulfillment gravy or to maybe serve as a MacGuffin or damsel in distress that must be saved.

    If you are looking for works with much more serious and realistic explorations of interpersonal relationships then look into josei and to a lesser extent seinen and shoujo series. Shoujo stories will tend to place greater significance on relationships between characters than shounen, but also tend to be more idealized, fluffy and less nuanced than josei.

    Shoujo romances tend to involve stories of first love and in general move a lot more slowly than josei or seinen romances. For this reason they are also prone to various stalling tropes such as the MC failing to notice either their own feelings or those of their suitors. It's generally not as bad as you see with shounen stories, but since these stories are intended for younger audiences the romantic elements tend to be a bit tamer and more innocent.

    When looking for genre you should look for tags and descriptors such as drama and romance if you are interested in stories that take relationships more seriously.

    If you want an example of manga that take interpersonal relationships very seriously then try checking out Pun Pun, March Comes In Like A Lion, A Silent Voice, After the Rain or Rakugo.

    For romance specifically, titles like Your Lie in April, Scum's Wish, Nana and Spice and Wolf are solidly written and don't just treat the relationships as a tacked on after thought.


  • Member

    Harem stories has to go with that way. IF the MC understands whats going on, she could interested to someone. So end of the harem. In internet ppl goes crazy. Team Edward, Team Jacop. In bakarina,will she choose the prince or her brother?or same gender and goes with her bff. Or more than one? Rem or Emilia? Sure niku likes her master but will he end up with Rokuko our foot fetishist friend will find someone else?

    If MC doesnt understand, he/she cant do anything about them. So as a reader, we can imagine what will happen next. End of the LN, she will marry with the prince. No no no, her brother will find a way and he will make her notice him. Nah, man...Our shy sister will get what she want and her brother will marry with Katarina.

    If Katarina ends up with the prince in volume 2, author had to find new way to tell finish the volumes.

    As a realist reader(not talking about the novel), i hate dense characters. I can agree depends on writing but most of the time writers are not that capable.

    Also not just isekai genre either. I got bored and start reading romantic novels in JNC.

    Bibliophile Princess: Prince and MC make an arrangement and they have a "fake" engagement. But prince actually loves the MC so story goes on. But our MC dense as ever. Why prince wants to marry me? Im not beautiful, not good, not worth of marry with a prince.

    Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?!: Nobility guy and MC make an arrangement and they have a "fake" wedding. End of the vol, the guy fall in love the MC but of course our MC dense as ever. Why prince(i dont remember guy's tittle so i go with prince) wants to marry me? Im not beautiful, not good, not worth of marry with a prince.

    The Tales of Marielle Clarac: This one is little different. Powerful, handsome, prince's best friend and right hand man wants to marry with low level noble girl. Girl of course fall in love with the guy but she thinks its a sham marriage. Why prince(i dont remember guy's tittle so i go with prince) wants to marry me? Im not beautiful, not good, not worth of marry with a prince. Ofc in this one, guy talk with the MC and tells her that he really loves her and all the misunderstanding goes away but genre writing is all the same.

    If you wanna go with pop culture isekai, you have to 5 main things in your story.

    1-)You have to re-draw Kirito with little changes.
    2-)Create really OP MC
    3-)MC has to be best hearted person in the world. He cant say no to anyone even if he will ends up dead. Ofc he wont die but still.
    4-)Needs harem.
    4.5-)They need to be tsundere loli, a girl with huge breasts and falls in love the MC right in the moment and never let him go. Shy loli. And lastly a semphatic girl which is naive as ever loli or she has medium size breats.
    5-)Has to be a Demon lord.

    These are the elements. For isekai genre.

    As for your question which i answered but i wanna answer again end of my comment. Harem and dense MC sells and helps to story for going.


  • Premium Member

    @hopebestman said in Why are relationships between characters still not recognized and taken lightly in light novel and manga?:

    If you wanna go with pop culture isekai, you have to 5 main things in your story.
    1-)You have to re-draw Kirito with little changes.
    2-)Create really OP MC
    3-)MC has to be best hearted person in the world. He cant say no to anyone even if he will ends up dead. Ofc he wont die but still.
    4-)Needs harem.
    4.5-)They need to be tsundere loli, a girl with huge breasts and falls in love the MC right in the moment and never let him go. Shy loli. And lastly a semphatic girl which is naive as ever loli or she has medium size breats.
    5-)Has to be a Demon lord.
    These are the elements. For isekai genre.

    And this is exactly why Bookworm is the best isekai I've ever read. It has none of the above elements. Except for #2, except nobody figures that out until about 5 volumes into the series.


  • Premium Member

    @hopebestman I really don't think "Can someone please explain whats going on" is an example of the MC being dense. Its more that Viola doesn't feel the same way as her husband and he is currently in the process of trying to win her over and due to her circumstances she has no choice but to put up with him.


  • Member

    @Eternal-Wanderer idk man. It was my third at that day. I finished Marielle, Biblo. Princess and Whats goin... so they all looked same to me. Maybe you are right. I just got bored reading "similar" stories over and over again. Especially if its not isekai :D


Log in to reply