Love of Kill Continues a Troubling Shojo Storytelling Technique

Love of Kill is a unique shojo anime in the Winter 2022 anime lineup, and in many ways, this intriguing new series blurs the line between the shojo and seinen genres while still remaining true to conventional shojo storytelling methods. However, this is not always for the better.

Love of Kill does many things right, from its exciting action sequences and the intriguing mysteries surrounding the two main characters to the Mr. & Mrs. Smith-like tension between Chateau Noble and her suitor, Ryang-Ha. However, Chateau is defined mainly not by her own abilities, but by her reliance on Ryang-Ha, and this is a troubling trend in shojo stories.

Chateau's Reliance On Ryang-Ha In Love Of Kill

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Chateau Noble is a rookie bounty hunter who has demonstrated some remarkable skills in combat, from using firearms to unarmed combat and even the use of a Taser, plus some solid driving skills while under fire. Rarely does Chateau get the job done alone, however, and she often doesn't get the job done at all. True to its shojo roots, Love of Kill portrays its heroine relying heavily on the male love interest, Song Ryang-Ha, to protect her and provide guidance. He's almost more like a protective big brother or father than a lover who stands by Chateau's side as an equal.

Shojo anime makes use of many storytelling elements, some of them healthier than others, and one of the less flattering ones is the paradigm of the female lead who insists that she's self-sufficient, only to rely heavily on her male lover after all for protection, and that can sabotage some of shojo's more empowering messages. It's true that any action hero sometimes needs help or protection from an ally, regardless of sex/gender, but shojo series such as Love of Kill take this to an extreme and imply that characters like Chateau can't get anywhere without a man backing her up every step of the way. In just four episodes of material, Chateau has been overpowered by a male villain twice and needed Ryang-Ha's help both times, and even her own boss is starting to doubt her abilities and suggest that she switch jobs.

Of course, it's normal for any protagonist to suffer early setbacks so they can grow as a person while overcoming their weaknesses and past failures. However, shojo series such as Love of Kill, Maid-Sama! and others take it one step further and suggest that any girl who tries to face her problems alone is doomed to fail, no matter how tough or self-reliant she believes herself to be. The most cynical interpretation of this trend is that the demographic is telling girls, "You can't look after yourself -- get a man to handle it for you." Time and again, shojo heroines get themselves into trouble, and they can do little more than cry out for help and wait for her white knight to arrive, such as Song Ryang-Ha or Usui Takumi. Fortunately, other shojo series steer clear of such messages, with Fruits Basket being a major example.

Still, many shojo series, prominent and obscure alike, portray heroines like Chateau as someone who needs her hand held, and that's the opposite of empowering or inspiring. Chateau's character arc involves her clinging to Ryang-Ha for dear life whether she likes it or not, powerless to get anything done on her own. Her track record, so far, is poor.

How Love Of Kill Can Improve Chateau's Character Arc

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As of this writing, Love of Kill is only four episodes in, and in any story's early phases, the protagonist tends to be at their weakest and most vulnerable, regardless of genre or demographic. Shojo and shonen heroes alike still have a long way to go after just four episodes of action, with plenty of time to learn new skills, gain self-confidence, score important victories and more as their character arc progresses. This is Chateau Noble's chance to shake off the shojo curse of "You need a man to protect/save you at all times."

Chateau's character has ample opportunity going forward to reverse her position from a hapless rookie bounty hunter into a confident, inspiring and self-reliant shojo action heroine who views Ryang-Ha as a trusted partner and an equal, and not as a protective big brother. Right now, Chateau is more like a child who often ends up as a damsel in distress, but after experiencing these early mishaps, she may become inspired to push herself harder and acclimate herself to these unexpected challenges, thus growing stronger.

Chateau already has experience and training as a combat heroine, and with another push, she can become an action star on par with Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Princess Leia and many other powerful women who need just one person to save the day: themselves. No doubt Ryang-Ha will be very impressed when and if that much-needed turning point in Chateau's character arc arrives.

Tengen drinks sake in honor of his fallen siblings in Demon Slayer
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