Romantic Adventures in Prose: Ren'ai Shõsetsu (Romance Novels) by Yuikawa Kei

Publication year
U.S.-Japan Women's Journal

The sense in which these novels fit the definition of "romance novel" is explained like this:

In short, Yuikawa's works are written, like many romance novels, from a feminist perspective. At the same time, like ren'ai shõsetsu in general, they naturally possess the core elements of romance novels as defined by Romance Writers of America: "a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending." It is, however, cultural tones of " Japanese-ness" that distinguish ren 'ai shõsetsu from other subgenres of romance fiction. Although love is, for example, a key factor in ren'ai shõsetsu, Japanese romance writers offer a different interpretation of such love-based themes as "love will conquer all," depicted by their Western counterparts. As Janet Shibamoto Smith, anthropologist and translator of Harlequin books, explains:

In Japanese novels, it's not the burning passion that clears the path but rather friends, family and suitable circumstances help the couple overcome the obstacles to a happy ending.

The "burning passion" is, more often than not, only implied, as are the "happy" endings. Another characteristic of ren'ai shõsetsu is therefore that few have the kind of definitive closure that romance novels in the West practically guarantee. Suggestiveness seems to be the key in this subgenre, so couples embracing or riding off into the sunset in the last scene are not the norm. Instead, ren 'ai shõsetsu conclude with heroines content with their decisions, even if that means being alone, and with the feeling of self-satisfaction they enjoy emphasized. The final implication is that all will be well, thereby providing the positive tone required of romance novels and confirming Krentz's assertion that "there is a deep-rooted optimism inherent in romance novels that crosses cultural and political boundaries." (89)

I wonder if it's closer to chick lit, so although that term isn't mentioned in the article, I've added it as a topic below.