Oct 16, 2018

Milk Morinaga’s Secret of the Princess: Easily Circumventable Trauma

Secret of the Princess, by Milk Morinaga, is an easy fiction. An easy fiction, is an untruth that soothes, that rewards the audience with an inspiring comfort. Secret is the kind of easy fiction that kids, and sometimes adults, need.

Easily Circumventable Trauma
Milk Morinaga’s Secret of the Princess
Pop Medicine
Travis Hedge Coke

Tradition dictates that queer first love stories go dark, go tragic. The world and its microcosms are set against a new couple, definitely the protagonist, whether they come out at thirteen or thirty-nine. This is an anglo tradition, but since this is a Japanese comic (translated into English), let us be clear that it is as well a Japanese tradition. And, in our cynicism and carefulness, we might consider that a most realistic portrayal, a reflection of callous and homophobic society, family expectations, social negotiations. But, Secret is not a reflection of reality. It’s a demonstration of anxiety designed to relieve it.

By and large, the young couple find that their school handles the queer aspect of their relationship without much troubles. The servants in the wealthier student, Fujiwara’s household are enthusiastic, if not entirely cognizant of what their relationship is. Our protagonist, Miu’s mother is ecstatic that she’s dating an awesome girl. The coming out is slow, as the characters, themselves, are not fully aware of their feelings, their sexualities. But, the slowness is not rooted in an uncaring or homophobic world, so much as internalized feelings of worthlessness or flaw. They’re not good enough to date one another, only to pretend to date one another.

The difference, and why it makes a difference, is that self-criticism can be overcome without external changes. If the witch in Snow White just went at Snow with an ax, it would be much harder for a prince’s kiss, or a bear knocking apple from her throat, to bring her back to life. Poison from a witch, is an easily circumventable trauma, because you only have to apply more magic to solve the problem. Fairytales are, by and large, easy fiction.

As adults, reading, these easy fictions can be frustrating or sometimes boring, but I think we can use the reminder that things can be easy, if we need it less often than children and teens. We have life experience to draw on, a cache of days and nights that followed other days and nights to remind us that the world does not completely end even when things go somehow unpleasantly. Young people have less life experience and the world does feel like it might easily end, that humiliation or exhaustion could be the end.

There are students jealous of Miu and Fujiwara's relationship, there are societal barriers, but the societal hardship bars in Secret are set at a level both girls can jump if they want, and they do. The internal struggle is given greater weight, it has the more serious effects, but it, too, can be, and is circumvented. It has to be, for the purposes of the comic. Fujiwara must acknowledge her nerdier hobbies do not need to be kept private. Miu has to acknowledge she is not only valuable for her eventual achievement as someone’s bride.

Even with drama and things to fight past, Secret is here to facilitate some charming date scenes, to let the girls hold hands and admire each other’s clothes, to make zombie-themed lunch boxes and share secrets that to an adult would seem frivolous but to a teen are possibly world-enders. The comic is here as reassurance, and it is a kind of reassuring that even its neighbors on the shelf might not provide.

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