Aya Kanno’s Otomen challenges the dandy trope in anime along with commenting on metrosexuality in Japan. It’s more common in Japan than you realize.
The reason why metrosexuality and Otomen are brought up in the first place is because of Shojo Beat magazine. Back in January of 2009 Otomen was previewed, it was advertised on the cover as “a metrosexual drama.”
Metrosexuality vs. Dandy
Metrosexual is defined as “a young, urban, heterosexual male with liberal political views, an interest in fashion, and a refined sense of taste.” Sound familiar? In anime, there’s a trope with characteristics similar to these ones called “The Dandy.” The dandy is also typically a male who is concerned by his appearance, flamboyant, and doesn’t like to exert themselves. Examples include Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club, Yumichika Ayasegawa from Bleach, and Ayame Sohma from Fruits Basket.
Whenever you picture a dandy, they are typically a hyper feminine man that attract a lot of female attention from their beauty. Dandys also love to upkeep their appearance, and tend to be the center of attention. They also tend to bring a lot of comedic lines and actions as part of their character. Otomen on the other hand breaks all of that down.
Otomen Manga Overview & Dandy Trope
Otomen is about a high school student named Asuka Masamune, who is captain of the kendo club. Asuka is known to be the manliest man out there with his tall stature, messy hair, and stoic presence. Behind closed doors on the other hand, he has secret passions such as baking, sewing, and everything cute. He has to hide these interests from his mother because his father left them at a young age. Asuka’s father said as he left that he always wanted to become a woman. Because of this, his mother wants her son to be nothing but manly. Asuka doesn’t want to let down her mother or his classmates, so he goes along with the act but still practices his hobbies in secret.
Asuka is far from fulfilling the dandy tv trope. The dandy trope states that “…his main pursuit is his comfort and lots of pretty things.” Asuka does not have a flamboyant personality, doesn’t engage or flirt with lots of girls, or looks at all feminine. On the outside, Asuka is the manliest man there is, and is admired by all the boys at his school. He keeps a stoic personality so that he can keep his classmates at arms length away from him. In private, he is a quiet, shy boy. He even likes to read shojou manga and dream about romance.
Metrosexuality in Japan
Even though this may sound like a played out storyline, metrosexuality in Japan was on the rise during this time. The Washington Post did a whole piece about this phenomenon back in 2010 called “Japan’s young men seek new path.” It touched upon how Japanese men back in the 1980s were more rugged. They were ambitious, frequent money spenders, and eager to fool around with ladies on the first date. Meanwhile, Japanese men today like to save their money and would rather spend it on cosmetics and trendy clothing. Japanese metrosexuals don’t aren’t eager to date, get married, or work a lot of hours in their job. The Japanese metrosexual male are called “herbivores” meaning that they’re “gentle and cautious.”
Asuka is seen as gentle and cautious, making him the type of character that is very relevant in Japanese culture. They even introduce other men in the series with girl hobbies. Examples include Juta Tachibana being a shojou mangaka in secret, Hajime Tonomine being a rival kendo player with a passion for makeup, and Kitora Kurokawa having an undying love for flowers.
OtoMEN & Wrap-Up
Even the title Otomen is a combination of the word otome, meaning young lady, with the word men. Meaning, Asuka is a man with young lady interests. Metrosexuality doesn’t involve sexual orientation in the slightest, meaning Asuka and the other men in the series prefer girls. In fact, the manga’s driving plot line is that one day Asuka meets a transfer student who is a skilled martial artist, Ryo Miyakozuka . Asuka runs into Ryo defending students from bullies, and realizes that he’s fallen in love with Ryo at first sight. She’s also girl version of Asuka. Beautiful and cute on the outside, but inside she is very physically strong, fearless, and is a terrible cook.
Otomen is a wonderful manga that challenges gender stereotypes with the usual follow your dreams no matter what message. The manga is beautifully drawn with engaging character development and story. It also strengthens the trend that young Japanese men today value different things than what their fathers. The Washington Post article says that 50 percent of Japanese men in 2010 between the ages of 20 to 34 identify themselves as herbivores.
If you like beautiful boys coming to terms with their girly hobbies while looking adorable and inspiring, Otomen is the shojou manga for you.