This might have been the first year in a long time that we started to see some movement as far as josei licenses. Not only did we finally get Princess Jellyfish in print, but Viz managed to slip a really good josei series into their Shoujo Beat line that deserves a lot more attention.
EVERYONE'S GETTING MARRIED (Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu), by Izumi Miyazono. First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2016.
Asuka Takanashi is a successful realtor, but her real dream is to get married and become a housewife. This is proving difficult, as her boyfriend of five years just broke up with her and most of the guys she meets are turned off at the idea of a woman who wants to settle down. Things only get more complicated when she meets handsome newscaster Ryu Nanami. He's coming out of an affair that ended badly and wants nothing to do with marriage, but there's an undeniable spark between the two. Can these two every make things work, or is their relationship doomed before it starts?
Now THIS is the kind of josei I want Viz to be licensing! I've had my fill of smutty supernatural romance. Give me a story about actual adults dealing with actual problems that doesn't trade in a lot of the same old stupid romance tropes!
Despite what this premise might suggest, Everyone's Getting Married might be one of the most feminist-friendly manga I've come across in a long time. I love that Asuka's desire to be a homemaker is entirely her choice. She's not being forced into it because she's bad at her job or her higher-ups harass her or fears that she's going to be an old maid by her mid-20s. She simply wants to recreate the happy home life she had as a child with a family of her own, and it's not an easy choice. It tends to turn off a lot of prospective partners and a lot of her coworkers view those sorts of women negatively, so it becomes a surprisingly brave act for her to decide to settle down.
Meanwhile, I appreciate that Ryu has a lot more nuance than one usually sees in these sorts of romantic foils. It would have been easy to make him just another flippant playboy and end it there, but Miyazono doesn't take the easy way out. We see that like Asuka, he's still nursing the wounds from a recent break-up. We also see how much of his playboy schtick is just an act, and that underneath he is both a more casual and caring guy but also a very hard-working one. The only concession he makes to romance convention is that he's prone to starting make-out sessions when he's groggy.
A lot of josei takes its relationship cues from romance novels, and in doing so replicates a lot the problems that come with that genre. Everyone's Getting Married largely avoids them, and those it can't avoid it handles maturely. While Asuka and Ryu do fight occasionally, they mostly get along. Hell, Ryu is one of the few people who is completely supportive of Asuka's dream. She in turn gets him to open up about himself. It's easy to see why these two would get along most of the time and be attracted to one another, even if Ryu tries to deflect his attentions through teasing. On the rare occasion he pushes things too far, Asuka makes her anger plain and Ryu actually listens to her and stops. Do you know how rare it is to find a romance with adults where the couple doesn't fight or snark at each other all the time? Or one where the guy keeps pushing at the girl's boundaries until she submits to his seduction? Finding a manga series like this feels like finding a unicorn and I wonder if burying it in the Shoujo Beat line is actually doing it a disfavor. People might presume that it's just another tawdry romance when in truth it's anything but that.
They also might get that idea because Miyazono's artwork doesn't look all that different from a lot of shoujo and josei. The characters are drawn very much in the shoujo tradition where every girl is big-eyed and cute and every guy is generically handsome, despite their Dorito chins. Still, there's a nuance to their faces and movement that isn't so common and it goes a long way towards communicating just how Asuka and Ryu feel. It also doesn't trade in the sort of excessive sparkles and screentones that a lot of similar manga use. What little is there is unostentatious in its use, and overall there's an air of simple elegance to the panels and pages.
If you want to see more josei that isn't just a bunch of lame smut or simply enjoy a well-written modern romance, then you owe it to yourself to read Everyone's Getting Married. It's got a maturity and a charm that is far too uncommon in romantic manga and it deserves to be a bit hit.
This series is published by Viz. This series is ongoing in Japan with 6 volumes available. 3 volumes have been published and are currently in print.
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