Thanks to one Mr. Ed Chavez I was recently informed of an unusual shoujo manga called Pochamani. It’s short for “Pocchari Mania,” which translates into something like “Chubby Chaser.” It’s a pretty rare concept in manga but especially shoujo manga where characters are generally known for being thin wisps, be they male or female. The series also earned a mention in the annual These Manga Are Great! (Kono Manga ga Sugoi!) 2014 edition, while the author Hirama Kaname mentions that her own preference for chubbier folks was the impetus for this series.
The main character of Pochamani is a chubby girl named Tsumugi who begins to date a handsome classmate who has a thing for larger ladies. While on some level wish fulfillment, the manga does a number of notable things. First, is that Tsumugi is not “fat” in the way Yomi from Azumanga Daioh or Hiro from Hidamari Sketch are “fat” (meaning visually indistinguishable from other characters in terms of weight and relying solely on text and speech to make this point), but is drawn differently from other characters. Though the art is inconsistent with how big she’s supposed to be (perhaps due to the artist being unfamiliar with how to draw such a body type?), it generally gets the point across that she’s small and round.
Second, while the manga, at least from the first volume I read, is not super progressive or tactful in every way (one of the most common scenes is the boyfriend rubbing her underarm flab with excitement), it does point out that the boyfriend is into her not simply because she’s chubby. Instead, it has a lot to do with her personality and demeanor, namely that whereas the girls he’s dated in the past have been depressed about their weight, Tsumugi is comfortable with how she looks.
Third, it covers those moments where they’re walking down the street and getting stares because people simply can’t believe that a guy like him is with a girl like her. Tsumugi is confident but not unshakable, and seeing her strength even through this is admirable.
Probably the strangest thing to come out of Pochamani is its official website, which is designed to be a fan club for people who like their partners on the large side. It has a list denoting the “charms of chubby people” and even an interview with a handsome male voice actor (seen above) about how he likes chubby girls (and also the manga of course). They also have a female Osakan comedian named Babazono Azusa as their somewhat corpulent spokesmodel. I’m not 100% behind the site because it seems to veer more towards a more simplistic fat fetishism compared to the actual manga, but I know Japan of all places is not known for its acceptance of fat as a type of beauty, so I see it as a kind of marketing decision within this context.