I've been watching anime for a couple of years now but reading manga for only a number of months. Needless to say, there are some notable storytelling differences between the two media, not the least of which is how sexually explicit a series can be on-paper versus onscreen - so the deeper I delved into manga, the quicker I was sucker-punched by *points to the subject title* that aforementioned notable difference.
(Note: I'm also including yaoi when I say "shoujo manga", by the way! I am probably not correct in doing this, but I'm referring to the elements both genres share and are primarily found in shoujo.)
This is not to say there isn't rape in anime either, certainly not - but it's definitely not as easy to find as it is in shoujo manga. I've read enough titles to notice that it's not unusual for the offense to be easily forgiven, justified as some awfully warped expression of love, or in other ways slipped noiselessly under the mangaka's moral radar. They aren't isolated incidents, either; rather, it's a trend.
"Personally, I don't care how much of a trend it is; if I see it, I'm quitting the series." This was once an easy conclusion to make. But!
The trend comes with a spectrum. I've found instances of "Rape is Love" (as TVTropes puts it) in both crappy series and series that are otherwise very wonderful and not demeaning about its female characters in any other way. This trope isn't something against which I can measure a series' worth anymore. Instead, as a reader, I am torn: the mangakas' morals come into question, and so do the genre's, and then so do my own.
The typical shoujo rape case is easy to dismiss, no question about it. When I say this, I mean something along these lines: girl/girl-boy and boy in a relationship, boy is too horny, girl/girl-boy is too weak, rape ensues, girl-boy is tearfully upset but apparently not enough so to break off the sexual relationship. My hatred for this case is not one I would ever, ever doubt.
So what makes a conflicting rape case, apart from a series' otherwise feminist-positive nature? From my experience:
(Example: the two characters aren't sexual after the incident at all.)
It isn't representative of any imbalance of authority in their relationship either. Rather, it's the author's method merely to explore the characters' (particularly the rapist's) rather skewed psychological states.
You can probably tell that the (one) case I have in mind is deeply psychological, with some complicated circumstances tied to it. (*points at number 2, which honestly I am still shaky about including*)
For anyone feeling adventurous and curious about the series I'm referring to, it's Please Save My Earth, and I'm talking about Mokuren and Shion and his regrettable loss of control. Their deal to sleep together wasn't even part of their developing romantic relationship in the first place, despite its massive impact; it was under the pretense of busting him out of confinement, whereas their mutual romantic affection was incidental. The fact that Shion's actions descended into rape are evidence of his seriously messed up psyche and resentment against Mokuren's kind, not just a gross exaggeration of his affection.
Despite being rape, it doesn't undermine nor contradict Mokuren's strength as a woman, or her control over their relationship, nor does her Kiche (which symbolizes her innocence) disappear. The act of rape was a manifestation of Shion's own personal demons, and what he thought was an act against "the Sarjalim [god] who blessed everyone but him" rather than Mokuren, the woman he loves. It wasn't about exerting his intentions as a male over her resistance as a female; it was, however, an explosion against everything else Shion has ever hated. This is not any better than harming Mokuren in the present, but viewed in this light at least it is not counter-feminist.
I'm not asking if the action is forgiveable - I'm a teenage girl, how can I - but is the story? If the situation is too complicated for it, can we still look at the instance of rape and pin it as counter-feminist when the relationship continues?
Presently, I've determined to swallow the bile, continue reading past these incidents, and form conclusions with the rest of the characters' circumstances in mind, instead of closing my mind because of the instance by itself. Nonetheless, if I like the series, there's too much risk I'll subconsciously rationalize the instance of rape and forget the larger picture: it's still rape. In fact, when I read the above listed, I feel like that is exactly what I am doing.
How do the rest of you react to any conflicting rape cases? Do any of you believe that such a case (in manga) isn't possible? If it fits the listed criteria, is it still counter-feminist or can it be treated just as another instance of gritty psychological exploration? Do you have a different criteria for what might be a conflicting rape case? Am I a terrible female for posting something like this?
And a question for the mods: What's your spoiler policy? I would like to provide the title of the manga I based my questions on (if not here, then in the comments), but it'd result in awful spoilers for anyone still reading the series. Some info: it's an old title, long-finished, but also quite popular, so there's a chance it still has new readers.
Anyway, I look forward to your insights and hope posting something like this isn't too heavy-handed. ^^;; If the whole first-impressions thing is right, then I'm sunk.