Journal – Sarah still hates romances
Why are romances always so bad?
I’ll be honest here. I am still a girl. When I’m reading a well-written story, I do ship characters, and I get pretty amped up when they’re going to kiss.
When it comes to bona fide romance novels, I always end up irritated.
I tried a dating simulator last night. Apparently that’s like, a normal thing in Japan. I had to know.
The game I picked (thanks to https://otakuandshit.wordpress.com/2019/03/25/top-5-best-free-mobile-otome/ who reviewed them and is a much nicer person and more receptive audience to this kind of thing than I am) was a phone app called Samurai Love Ballad: PARTY. Great name so far. Samurais are awesome, love is wonderful, and who doesn’t like a party?
Well I played the damn thing for an hour and there was no party.
Everything was pink or white, with sparkly things and butterflies and flowers and elegant script, which was fun. I’ll tell you what, when the Japanese market towards women, they don’t pull any punches. I actually enjoy the insane levels of over-the-top girliness when it comes to visuals. This makes me feel a combination of amused and proud. We should all embrace pink with such outrageous, steamroll-your-eyeballs pride.
(“Sent to War by one lord… Love before death demands another… your own heart.” I believe they’re trying to express the same sentiment as Eddie Izzard when he said, “Cake or death?”)
I just looked it up and the gameplay style is called a visual novel. Essentially this was an illustrated choose-your-own adventure story. It shows an image, usually of a beautiful anime guy, and displays text below. Sometimes his face will change depending on what he’s saying, but it’s all very static. This was fun, I enjoyed this format because I’m old and it reminded me of the old PC games like Might and Magic. It was more a novel than a game.
(Samurai Love Ballad PARTY: one of your potential beaux)
(Old-ass RPG: one of your potential murderers)
Here is the part I didn’t like.
The characters. Blarrgh. So I get to be a cute girl in the Sengoku era, which is fun. But for some reason, I’m an absolute dipshit. If I’m not making terrible decisions which get me in hot water, then some ugly asshole is trying to either hit me, or fondle me. My life is a bad decision hell.
Enter about fourteen handsome men, who all save my ass, repeatedly. I have never felt more useless. This is too close to period accuracy. I really don’t want to go back to those days… O_O
Every one of them has a character flaw, which is interesting. But most of them have the same character flaw, in that they’re dicks. In Japan they call being a dick “tsundere.” This translates to something like, “cold outside, soft inside.” Tsunderes are deeply insecure and express their insecurities to their significant others through verbal abuse and/or angry outbursts. Every human on the planet except me finds this behavior extraordinarily charming.
Every guy is equally beautiful so I pick the one who seems to be the least cruel and dumb. The one I picked came with a competitor, so the rest of the story is watching them save my ass and squabble with each other over who’s taking better care of me. It’s all very primal.
Every time something interesting happens, I have no power and watch myself choose the stupid thing. The only choices I get to make from here on out are subtle conversational cues about which guy’s side I’ll take in the conversation. The whole plot that I ended up with is, I dressed up as a boy and joined the army as some noble’s food taster, in order to save my kid brother from having to join the army as some noble’s food taster. I still haven’t figured out why I didn’t just let my kid brother join the army; isn’t it disrespecting him to steal his place in war? He wasn’t even going to the front lines. It actually saved my ass more than it saved his, because it got me out of a hotbed of sexual harassment at the restaurant where I worked. And it left him in a precarious position to deal with at home.
I finally got frustrated with the damn thing and turned it off because:
- I was just tapping through a mediocre novel sentence-by-sentence. As a game, it wasn’t very interactive. As a novel, it was constantly being interrupted and slowing down my reading. When it comes to the written word I CONSUME voraciously. This put me on a word diet. I had to chew my food twenty times before swallowing, ugh!
- Every twenty screens or so it’d take you to a menu and try to convince you it was a game by giving you “love passes” meaning you could read the next chapter. Apparently after 48 hours the love passes stopped being free? Or else they’re released 5 a day. This felt pandering and markety and irritating and pointless to me.
- As much fun as it is to have two beautiful anime men fight over the right to protect me from a scary old-fashioned world, it’s just not fun if I don’t respect who I am. I spent most of my life tripping over stuff. My only evident skill is making delicious fake sweet potatoes out of chestnuts. I have to admit this is impressive, but it’s not enough.
Now I understand the Japanese have different sensibilities than us, and that’s fine. But this isn’t just a Japanese thing; many American romance novels are like this too. Am I the only girl who doesn’t want to be stalked by a beautiful rich asshole?
After googling screenshots, I’m kind of intrigued again. There seems to be death/reincarnation,
and a lot of throwing up that I’m missing out on.
Also I may not have been playing right. There is also a castle section? I’m not sure it’s worth it to go back.
Anyway, people LOVE this game. It’s very pretty. I’m alone in these feelings. It must be that I’m 100% more evolved than every other woman ever… it must be that. Everyone’s crazy but me. Right.
I have another app to try called “Burn Your Fat With Me.” This is a dating simulator combined with workout app. Apparently a beautiful anime tsundere boy heckles you for being fat and shames you into doing sit-ups. I’m really looking forward to it.
I love the comparison of the “one of your potential beaux” and then “one of your potential murderers” hahaha so great! We should all embrace the girliness. Thank you for this post. I see ads and stuff for a lot of those games and I never really thought much about them, but it was fun to read about and see screenshots – a look inside the game! That is annoying that the character you have to play is a dipshit though…and sounds like it’s going TOO FAR with the “save me, prince charming! I’m a floppy and worthless woman!” lol
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It’s easier for me to disassociate from a book and say, “Wow, what a floppy and worthless woman.” But something about a video game makes me feel like I myself am doing all these things and it’s extra frustrating, haha
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“Why are romances so bad?” Indeed!
I once skim-read about 60 romances in four months. Long story how that happened — not worth telling here. The best I can say is they helped me understand (arguably exaggerated) female sexuality. Maybe. Kind of like figuring out male sexuality from studying the centerfolds in Playboy.
To me, the queen of romances is “Gone With the Wind”. Scarlett is an emotionally dysfunctional jerk and Rhett is a damn fool to give her more than the time of day. Both of them strike me as needy, emotionally dependent people putting on airs of being strong. At least half of the 60 or so romances I skimmed had characters more or less like Scarlett and Rhett.
Again for me, a real romance — a really sexy romance — is that of Gordon’s and Star’s in Robert Heinlein’s “Glory Road”. Sure, both characters are each in their own way impossible ideals, but the love Gordon discovers he has for Star seems grounded in truth. Star is a woman who even toned down quite a bit would be stunning. Strong, independent, wise, fierce, passionate, and as kind as circumstances permit her to be. What’s not to love about Star?
Only weak, needy men so enjoy saving dysfunctional women that they seek them out and pursue them through the walls of inauthentic BS that the running women fling back in their faces.
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Oh my gosh, I do love Gone With the Wind. Unlike your trash romance where everyone’s a Barbie doll, Scarlett and Rhett are both very flawed people. She had to battle for survival in a very harsh setting. When she actually figures out the difference between infatuation and love, and really falls in love, it’s closer to punishment than anything, and that’s an amazing reversal of your average love story.
I haven’t read that Heinlein book but I’ll write it down in my ever-burgeoning list of books to read…
I also love Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, it’s another love story with survival at stake. Honestly I don’t remember a whole lot but I remember it was EPIC. I need to read it again.
The Bronte sisters wrote good romances. Does Dostoevsky count? Pretty heavy handed on the Russian philosophy and politics, but The Idiot is one of my favorites and it has a love story running throughout. I’ve read some good romance manga with delightfully unique plots.
I always had trouble slogging through Austen though. Reading all the head games and rich people behaviors makes me crazy. Have you ever read her stuff, do you like it?
Also dear God reading 60 romance novels in four months… ouch. What self flagellation. The twenty minutes of thrills per book isn’t worth the six hours of rage per book!!
You lost me at ‘simulator’.
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I know right! What the heck. I love the Japanese!
I don’t know what I expected but it turned out to be just a thinly disguised choose-your-own-adventure romance novel.
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‘stalked by a beautiful, rich asshole’ 😂 Brilliant piece Sarah.
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Thanks for the support on this one! Everyone else on the planet seems to think that is romantic, heh
If I may stick up for this simulator in a few points
1. You get 5 passes daily 6 am (EST) for free
2. It’s set in the Sengoku era, not Edo
3. Your MC chooses to be a taster because she loves her brother and wants her family business to continue through his inheritance, a lady couldn’t do that back then.
4. All of the guys that are daimyo truly existed in that time as daimyo
5. Much of the storylines follow real history.
6. After you finish 1 story, many more are unlocked.
7. Sure some of them are asses, (like Nobunaga & Ieyasu) but I feel that’s part of having that sort of power. Some of them aren’t even close to being an ass. (Like Kenshin & Yukimura)
Thank you for the Edo/Sengoku tidbit. I am a fraction more educated now. Post corrected.
I hadn’t gathered that she’d joined the war so her brother could carry on the family business. It adds a little bit more motivation to her actions, though I still think she left him in a pickle.
Hey, Yukimura was the one that I picked! He seemed the nicest.