Please Tell Me! Galko-chan and Portrayals of the Nerd/Bombshell Romance

When the anime for 3D Kanojo (aka Real Girl) first started airing, my review of the manga by Nanami Mao would see an influx of hits. The story of an otaku boy who ends up in a relationship with a girl with a reputation for dating around, it’s a charming romance where two people genuinely connect on a deeper level. However, in response to that review, I’ve been getting the same question over and over again: “Is the girl, Iroha, a virgin or not?!” The answer is “most probably not,” but the fact that viewers feel so strongly about Iroha’s virginity saddens me a little. Part of the appeal of 3D Kanojo in the first place is that it eschews that whole obsession with virginal purity and the girl having to be someone’s “first,” something that permeates not just Japanese society but much of the world too. The message that audiences of 3D Kanojo should be taking away is “it doesn’t really matter if Iroha’s a virgin or not if they love and care for each other.”

It’s my hope that the idea gets across to viewers and readers, especially to those who judge a woman’s worth by their sexual behavior. But if it isn’t clear that virginity isn’t the be-all, end-all, a different (and perhaps unexpected) manga provides an interesting perspective on this type of virgin nerd/experienced babe relationship: Please Tell Me! Galko-chan by Suzuki Kenya.

Galko-chan is primarily known for its attractive female characters talking frankly about sexual topics which they actually have no idea about, but there’s at least one character who’s extremely, unabashedly sexually active: Galko’s big sister. College-aged unlike the teenage Galko, the big sister isn’t afraid of getting down and dirty, to the extent that she’ll even “borrow” Galko’s school uniform for some guy she’s dating. However, while she’s comfortable sleeping with lots of guys, the most recent storyline in the manga concerns a burgeoning romance between Galko’s sister and the otaku brother of Galko’s best friend Otako.

What starts out as Galko’s sister wanting to rock some nerdy virgin’s world for kicks turns into something greater. Galko’s sister agrees to go on a date with Otako’s brother, and during it makes her intentions crystal clear. She directly brings up the topic of sex and even nibbles on his ears during dinner. But as much as Otako’s brother wants to sleep with her so very badly, he doesn’t want to be treated like a mere conquest. Instead, he wants their relationship to be something special, and if he’s just another tally for the “virginities taken” box, then he wants no part of it.

This hits Galko’s sister harder than she expects, because she genuinely began to fall for him, and realizes she took the absolutely wrong approach. Which is to say, lust and love certainly overlap, but they’re not the same thing.

And then Galko’s sister tries to show her feelings for Otako’s brother by letting him in on a secret—that she has athlete’s foot—which in turn causes him to get visibly turned on. Romance successful! That’s Please Tell Me! Galko-chan for you. I said it provided an interesting perspective, not that it’s ultra-classy.

I think the big takeaway here is that the struggles between Otako’s brother and Galko’s sister on their date don’t come from the idea that Galko’s sister should have been a virgin, or that virginity should matter all that much for men or women. Instead, it’s about what sex means to each of them, and coming to a mutual understanding of what it takes to make their relationship potentially work. It’s sweet, it’s hot, and it displays something unique for this classic nerd/beauty trope.

“Otaku Couples: Threat or Menace?” The Otaku Diaries and Relationships

In Part 7 of the Otaku Diaries, the Reverse Thieves tackle dating and relationships, topics that are stereotypically divorced from anime fandom and geekdom in general.

One of the questions asked of its participants was how necessary it was for the people they date to like anime, and the majority said that they would at least see it as a plus, while no one said it would detract from the dating experience. I’ve seen anime fans online talk about how they would never date another anime fan, that stance is usually born out of the idea that being an anime fan entails being host to a variety of negative traits that don’t necessarily have to do with anime. They’ve just created an image in their heads that otaku are physically unappealing, loud, obnoxious, and simply unattractive. However, rarely does it have to do with the actual love of anime. In the end, who wouldn’t a companion with whom you could comfortably share your hobbies and passions if even a little? Japanese has a term for an otaku relationship: “otaple,” or “otaku couple.”

One thing that I want to take into consideration is the history of anime fandom in the west, particularly the fact that in the earlier days of anime fandom in the US, anime was primarily a men’s club, and the idea of girls being into anime and manga in large enough amounts that guys could find a girl to share in their love of anime was a far-off dream. This is a typical scenario for pretty much any sort of geekish hobby. And then people discovered that girls were capable of enjoying comics, and we got to see the reaction that happens any time a new group enters an existing fandom, whether it’s girls coming into anime, new people on an internet forum, or those rascally Star Wars fans entering the established world of science fiction: “They’re liking my hobby, but not the way I expected/wanted them to!” It’s possible at that point to wake up from the dream disgusted, but it’s also possible to see opportunity. Of course we are about a decade removed from that initial occurrence, but it still happens time after time, when the image we’ve built up in our heads does not match the reality.

In the eyes of anime fans the otaple status can be considered a Holy Grail or a Pandora’s Box, and from what I’ve seen it largely has to do with how they view the concept of the otaku relationship. Getting together with someone just because you share a hobby makes for a weak and flimsy foundation for a relationship. This is the source of the more negative view of otaku relationships, the idea that you ignore the flaws of the other just because they “like anime,” even when you are not actually happy about it. But when mutual love of anime is a vehicle for connecting on a deeper level, when it is used to support the foundation without being the foundation, that is when the otaple succeeds.