Recap: As she walks toward school, Miki is ambushed by her best friend and classmate Yumi, who quickly drives the conversation towards boys, specifically, which one(s) Miki is interested in. Miki claims that she’s not interested in any of them, and that she doesn’t need them.
“Look, Miki, no offense, but truth and excellence and all that junk can only take you so far. At the end of the day a girl without a boyfriend is just…sad.”—Yumi
“Miki, you are waaay too picky. I mean, look at me and Kazu. He’s far from my ideal, but you know what? It beats being alone.”–Ditto
I’m a reasonably big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve seen the entire series, read some of the comics, and enjoy partaking of the discussions it generates on the internet. It’s far from my favorite show, but I like the it fine, particularly in its earlier incarnations.
One of my favorite characters in earlier seasons of Buffy was Cordelia Chase, the popular Sunnydale high alum who served as Buffy’s archnemesis in that particular realm. While her more noticeable role was that of comic relief, she also self a deeper purpose: if Buffy was a character who in existing served to invalidate (some) traditional gender norms, Cordelia existed to enforce them. Where Buffy tried to reconcile the masculine (vampire slaying) and the feminine (her desire for a “normal” life and all that entailed), Cordelia stayed at the sidelines arguing that it was impossible: real, successful women were those who embraced sexist norms.
In her introductory scene, Yumi serves much the same role as Cordelia, without any of the things that made Miss Chase fun to watch. While she doesn’t share her concern with popularity or class status, she makes up for it in her belief that Girl’s path to fulfillment can be found only via Boy. Not The Boy or any that would make her happy, even, just Boy. Any boy. Love the one you’re with, even when that guy is a sleazeball or goes catatonic every time a girl makes eye contact with him, as Miki describes guys who Yumi suggests she should hook up with.
And that would be fine, if it ended there. Yumi is perfectly entitled to her beliefs, no matter what I personally or anybody else thinks of them. They only become problematic in her insistence that her ideas are universal, and that any others are literally laughable. It makes her intolerable in my eyes, and while she does get scenes where we find that this is not all she thinks, they are not enough to wash away the bad first impression this scene creates.
What’s more, I’m not entirely sure what the book thinks I should be taking from this scene. While Cordelia and her ideas exist to be proven wrong, the same can’t really be said of Yumi’s. After all, Miki’s thoughts will eventually come to focus on a boy, and the whole series is about how said boy brings her life to a tailspin. We never do see how Miki has “plenty going on” (her words) without boys: while she’s single for half the series, she’s only really happy insofar as her friendship with her love interest goes well. At best, what one can take from this scene is that Miki is fooling only herself, and that while she can’t be happily single, other people can*, proving Yumi wrong in general if not in the specific. At worst, the book believes what Yumi believes: women need a relationship–any relationship–in order to be truly happy. And while I don’t believe that second one is actually the case, just the fact that it may be so depresses me.
* At least, if the idea of happy single people weren’t arguably contradicted in the third volume, for reasons I will get to then.