Ever since the mid-2000s the fujoshi character has seen an increase in overall presence in anime and manga, as evidenced by my Fujoshi Files, an ongoing project where I catalogue fujoshi characters. While comparing various fujoshi characters, especially in seinen manga, I began to realize something interesting about their portrayal, and that is the fact that they are often the characters closest to how a Japanese girl would actually look: dark, straight hair, possibly wearing glasses.
There are series such as Genshiken and Zetsubou-sensei where the fujoshi characters having dark hair is not unusual given the rest of the cast also sporting dark hair. My discussion focuses on those shows where characters’ hair styles and colors tend to be the anime rainbow stereotype.
When you look at Lucky Star as a whole, you’ll see that bespectacled fujoshi Hiyori is the only female character to sport straight, dark hair. Contrast this with Konata, who is the biggest otaku in Lucky Star and her unrealistic blue hair. Patty, while a fujoshi, is an “American” character first, so she’s blonde. Again, I want to mention that Hiyori is the only example of a character with a realistic hair color and style mainly because of how much the rest of the cast isn’t. In a world where bright pastels rule hair colors, the fujoshi is the exception.
Similarly in Kannagi, Takako is also a dark-haired glasses-wearing fujoshi, though her hairstyle is arguably more unrealistic than most of the other characters. However, it cannot be argued that most of the rest of the cast, especially female characters, have hair colors that do not occur at all or much less commonly in reality among Japanese girls.
Meanwhile in Mousou Shoujo Otakukei (Fujoshi Rumi), the main character of Rumi also stands out as being much plainer than the other girl characters out there and even a lot of the guy characters. Part of this has to do with the fact that she is the main character and that this visual plainness is a part of the story being told, but it speaks to this desire to make her a more realistically accessible character even if it’s only at a shallow level at first.
“There’s plenty of characters who look like that who aren’t fujoshi!” you might be saying, and you’d be totally right. The dark-haired, straight-haired glasses girl predates the fujoshi character boom, and arguably falls into the same category as the “iinchou” class representative character. Adachi Hana from Yankee-kun to Megane-chan is a character who is actively trying to achieve that iinchou look, even going as far as to wear fake glasses. She also bears some resemblance to Asai Rumi from Mousou Shoujo. So in a sense, the author of Mousou Shoujo, Konjoh Natsumi, and the fictional character, Adachi Hana, are attempting to reach the same goal: design a character with the look of a realistic Japanese girl. The main difference of course is that the iinchou is characterized by an ultra-clean look and responsibility, while the fujoshi is characterized by being somewhat disheveled and a tad irresponsible.
You might then be saying, “Ah, but that’s really how fujoshi look.” But then I have to ask, why is it that in these shows where all other characters are not beholden to reality that the fujoshi ends up being how fujoshi “actually look?” And why is this occurring in comics targeted towards guys?
Most other character types in moe or moe-ish anime tend to be fantastic versions of possible real-life people: childhood friends, reticent girls (tsundere), little sisters, etc. Everyone knows that little sisters in anime are rarely like actual little sisters, and even if you compared the imouto character in an h-game to an actual incestuous younger sister the two images would not line up. In this sense, a fujoshi character can be as unrealistic as the others but it is often the case that a certain sense of realism is desired in fujoshi characters in a manner different from other character types.
Looking back at tamagomago’s essay for which I provided a translation, one line in particular jumps out at me: “No matter how realistic it gets, it’s still a fantasy,” or in other words, no matter how realistic a female otaku character may be, they are still just a character in fiction. What this sentence implies is that there is to some degree a push to make female otaku characters have a sense of relatable realism, perhaps more than other character types, and fujoshi fall into this category by extension.
Perhaps the answer to the question of “why are there these realistic aspects in the fujoshi design” is that having a member of the opposite sex also be an otaku makes them more accessible, gives the male otaku a glimmer of hope brighter than previous. Also, by making them a fujoshi instead of just an otaku, a useful distinction is created. And of course, if applied to actual reality with real girls, it is not in itself a realistic goal as long as the male otaku does not confuse his image of 2d and 3d girls.