Kiss Kiss Fall in Love: Love in the World of Manga

Books and films give us an escape from our everyday life and manga are no exception. The reality of romance is that it can be frustrating, but manga is a medium that lets us experience our fantasies—and the possibilities are endless! It can be as simple as sharing an umbrella with your crush or as crazy as living in a house with 15 other people, all of whom have a crush on you. And there is an extensive vocabulary dedicated to these romantic reveries. Manga artists seem to have perfected the art of slowly building tension in their stories using romantic gestures. We hope for a grand slam kabedon or to be gripped tightly in an ude gui.

The world of manga contains many unique genres so you can always find what you’re looking for. From action to slice of life, magic, and of course, romance! There’s nothing like your first love, and high school manga capture that mood the best. With emotions and hormones at their peak, the romantic antics are always an engaging read. High school manga like Ouran High School Host Club take romance to the extreme!

“Sailor Moon would have not been complete without Usagi and Mamoru’s true love overcoming all obstacles.”

Slice of Life manga capture the highs and lows of everyday life, and that includes relationships. Manga like Nana balance the storytelling with friendships, struggling to “make it” in the world—and love. Shoujo manga also incorporate romance into their narrative. Sailor Moon would have not been complete without Usagi and Mamoru’s true love overcoming all obstacles.

But how do these stories get us so hooked? Like novels and comics, manga have their own tropes that entices readers and gets them to invest in the relationship. There are a number of romantic gestures that are synonymous with romance in manga, some more outrageous than others. In a survey of Japanese manga readers by Anime News Network the atamapon or head pat proved to be the most popular. A gentle ruffle of the hair is apparently enough to get your heart rate up.

Another simple yet effective gesture is the asunaro daki (a hug from behind) affectionately named after the character Asunaro Hakusho from the manga of the same name. Then there is the ude gui, another romantic gesture high on the list. Grabbing someone by the arm shows possessiveness and dominance—but in a cute way!


Image courtesy of lilyginnyblackv2 via Tumblr.

Finally, we have the most manga-esque gesture of all, the kabedon. If you’re unfamiliar with this sexy power move, it involves one person leaning against a wall, while another slams their hand against that very wall while leaning over them. The kabedon has been parodied to death with variations such as the ashidon (slamming the wall with your foot) or ryote-kabedon (slamming the wall with both hands). Okay, so at first it may not seem like the most romantic gesture but it really gets the blood pumping!

But there is an obvious divide between these tropes and real life couple interactions in Japan. Pop culture reflects an idealised life and manga is no exception. It provides a fantastical escape so perhaps it’s no surprise the most romantic gestures are ones that involve simple touch. Maybe you think that these romantic gestures aren’t that romantic at all. Some of them could be too forward, like the ude gui. Others like the kabedon are straight up over the top. But the differences in opinion could lie in the differences of culture.


Image courtesy of Learn Japanese with Anime.

Connection through physical touch is not an intrinsic part of Japanese culture. When people part ways after meeting up, they say their goodbyes in a circle or give a high touch while in the West we hug or “bro hug” (seriously though guys, just use both arms). Touching is generally reserved for a romantic partner, and even then it is rare to see couples holding hands. You may have heard of cultural phenomenons such as cuddle cafes where you can pay to cuddle a cute girl. Some places in Japan even provide a rent-a-partner service. These activities seem to be straight out of the lonely otaku handbook, and are definitely not a part of mainstream culture. So, while we indulge in these lovey-dovey, and sometimes comical scenes in the 2D world, for some it’s the closest they’ll get to a physical connection—intimate or otherwise—in the 3D world.


Manga has a wealth of genres and each has their own unique tropes. Gestures like atamapon, ude gui and kabedon have been used time and time again in manga for romantic effect. And the fans can’t get enough! But these fantastical tropes only play out in the world of manga because real life romantic gestures happen behind closed doors and not in your local cafe or high school. Manga, in Japanese culture, are actually one of the only ways that you can see public displays of affection. So, if you ever find yourself in desperate need of a hug from behind, maybe you should hit the local manga cafe instead.


Written by Choom.
Featured image courtesy of Comic Book.

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