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Manga / Marmalade Boy

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The immensely complicated love story between two step siblings.

Miki Koishikawa's parents pull her aside one day after school to announce to her that they're getting a divorce. It seems that they met another couple on their recent trip to Hawaii, and hit it off so well that both couples want to divorce their current spouses, swap partners, and remarry. Even more incredibly, the four want to all live together in one household... and the other couple have a boy Miki's age, the handsome Yuu.

Miki is dead set against the plan, but Yuu says that he's okay with it which makes her even more upset. The following day, Yuu enrolls at Miki's school. Miki has an accident in PE class and faints, and as she lays in the infirmary pretending to be unconscious, Yuu comes to check on her... and abruptly kisses her. Romantic Comedy-Drama ensues from then on, as Miki is confused over her feelings and Yuu doesn't exactly help with his behavior, while other suitors of them try to break off their bonds, and for worse they have to deal with both their budding "love" as well as handling their parents' eccentric behaviors.

Marmalade Boy (ママレード·ボーイ Mamarēdo Bōi) is a unique shōjo manga by Wataru Yoshizumi that focuses on a very large Love Dodecahedron, with our two main characters in the center of both that and their parents' unusual antics. It was published by Shueisha in the magazine Ribon from May 1992 to October 1995 and collected in eight tankōbon volumes. The series was adapted by Toei Animation as a 76-episode anime television series which aired on TV Asahi in 1994 to 1995, followed by a theatrical anime prequel movie in 1995, showcasing Yuu's reaction to the divorce and the first time he saw Miki. A Game Boy game and Super Famicom game based on the anime were both released in 1995, with both being Dating Sims focused around Miki ending up with Yuu, Ginta, or (in the Super Famicom game), Kei.

The US licensing rights to the manga, the anime, and the prequel film were bought by Tokyopop, with the company proceeding to release the series for an American audience. The English version of the manga was published from 2002 to 2003, and is known for being the first of Tokyopop's manga series to use the original Japanese orientation, going as far as to include the written "sound effects". The anime and the movie would later find their way to the US in 2004, dubbed in English under licensed DVD volumes of the entire series. Around the same time, the series was adapted as a 30-episode live-action television series that was broadcast in Taiwan in 2002.

From 2013 to 2018, a Sequel Series titled Marmalade Boy Little was published in Josei mangazine Cocohana, with the series following Miki's and Yuu's half sister and brother, Rikka Matsuura and Saku Koishikawa going through a love-triangle similar to their own. In 2018, the original series was even adapted into a live-action theatrical film produced by Warner Bros. Japan.

Individual tropes should go to their Character Sheet.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: To fit the main plot into a 2-hour+ movie, the live-action film removes and edits several key roles and events from the story.
    • Both Arimi and Satoshi still play key roles in the story, but are largely Demoted to Extra and disappear once their main purposes have been filled, meaning that Arimi and Ginta never meet each other, let alone start dating, and the same applies to Satoshi and Meiko.
    • Ginta's forceful kiss on Miki is turned into an Almost Kiss moment for the pair, as Miki cautiously backs away once he realizes that he was serious.
    • Meiko's relationship with Namura isn't heavily explored compared to the manga and anime, which results in a Time Skip where the two are suddenly married.
    • Lastly, characters like Tsutomu, Suzu, and Kei are completely cut from the movie.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The anime adds additional characters, some of whom where created by Yoshizumi herself, and changes the order of many events to expand on them. One example is how Miki and Yuu spent their time home alone once their parents go on another vacation. In the manga, it takes place during the Christmas season, while in the anime, it takes place around Yuu's birthday while the Christmas season in that continuity focuses more and the tensions between Miki and Kei and Anju's hospital crisis.
  • Against the Setting Sun: The scene that gives us Miki and Yuu's first mutual kiss, though it cases them to both catch a cold in the next episode.
  • Age Lift: Downplayed for the characters in the anime. In the manga, Miki, Yuu, and most of their peers are high school freshmen (in the 10th grade by Japan's standards), which would make them around 15-16. In the anime, Miki states that her junior year is already starting, which would make them around 16-17.
  • All There in the Manual: The manga reveals some of the birthdates and/or astrological signs of many of the main characters, showing us that Namura was born in early 1968 which makes him more than 8 years older than Meiko. Meanwhile, Satoshi was born sometime in November or December of 1975, Yuu, Tsutomu, Arimi and Meiko were all born throughout 1976 in that particular order, and Miki and Ginta were both born in 1977. This made Ginta the youngest of the main characters until Kei (1978), and Suzu's (1980) introductions.
  • Amicable Exes: Miki's and Yuu's parents after their divorces and remarriages. Arimi and Yuu walk a really thin line here— while Yuu didn't keep in touch with Arimi after he switched to Miki's school, he's pretty chill about seeing her again and doesn't really argue about maybe hanging out again. However, Arimi wants to get back together with him, which causes some strain.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: The fashionable and popular Arimi is the Beauty, the booksmart and calm Meiko is the Brains, and the sporty and emotional Miki is the Brawns.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Kijima, as mentioned. His wife Rei becomes Miki's Big Sister Mentor as well.
  • Big Fancy House: The Matsuura's and Koishikawa's new house. And Meiko's, which is so big that Miki and is all starstruck when she goes spend the night there. Also, Satoshi and Suzu's houses: justified as their dads are very well-known architects and quite well-off, so they likely built their own homes.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: They do that a number of times. Quite unusual for a shojo manga.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Yuu finds out that he and Miki are half-siblings and breaks up with her, but they eventually decide to get married anyway, with the caveat that they will never have children. Then Yuu finds out he was wrong about who his father was again and they're Not Blood Siblings after all.
    • Squared in the last episode when each new set of happily-married parents announces they're pregnant, adding half-siblings to the completely un-blood-related Miki and Yuu; worthy of note that these future half-siblings are not at all blood related to each other. And you thought polygamists had it bad.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Yuu is mostly a cool and collected guy, but sometimes he's prone to quite the bouts of depression. When this happens, Miki attempts to comfort and understand his reasons so she can help him out. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it does't.
  • The Cameo:
    • The manga has a very brief mention and image of Mio Hagiwara from Handsome Girlfriend, an earlier manga series by Yoshizumi.
    • In the anime, they even got her voice actress from the single episode OVA to reprise her role.
  • Class Trip: The one to Hokkaido, where Arimi and Ginta start their Operation: Jealousy.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: If you go after either Yuu or Miki, it's highly likely you'll team up with someone else... and you guys will eventually fall in love between yourselves. Just ask Arimi and Ginta!
  • Clingy Jealous Girl - Crazy Jealous Guy: Lots. There's Miki and Yuu around eachother, Suzu, Jinny, Arimi around Yuu. Kei, Ginta, and Michael around Miki. Satoshi around Meiko, etc.
    • This is taken up to eleven in Miki’s case a few times. When she believes that Satoshi is having a secret relationship with Yuu and when she starts to believe that even Michael is a better match for Yuu than she is.
  • Cool-Down Hug: Miki to Yuu as he turns to leave, angry at her avoiding him. She does this again while he takes comfort in her embrace, thoroughly shaken up by the dead-end search for his real father.
  • Crossdresser: Just once, but it's memorable: Yuu has to crossdress for a TV commercial with idol Suzu Sakuma and he hates it. No one outside of Yuu and Suzu's social circle knows Yuu is "the tall girl"; Ginta even openly comments on how attractive "she" is in front of Yuu.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: As demonstrated by Yuu and Miki's huge circle of friends by series' end. It comes with the bonus that sooner or later said defeated romantic rivals end up meeting their perfect matches.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Miki gets sent to the infirmary after getting hit in the face with a basketball. Yuu goes to check up on her and kisses her on the lips out of nowhere. Subverted, as Miki was pretending she was unconscious when this happened, hoping Yuu wouldn't tease her for such an embarrassing accident. It obviously backfired, and it's later revealed that Yuu realized she was faking it.
  • Education Mama: Both of Kei's parents. This drives him to stop playing the piano and run away from home.
  • Elaborate University High: Toryo High School not only has a huge college-like campus, but it also has a system that apparently allows its students to easily get into its university.
  • Exotic Extended Marriage: Yuu and Miki's parents. After they swap partners, everyone lives together as one happy, extended family. Essentially, both sets of parents are a "One True Foursome". It's not quite Polyamory, but probly as close to it as the author could get way with.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Anju Kitahara used to have long hair as a pre-teen girl, but when we see her for the first time, she's already keeping it much shorter. Also, Meiko has straight hair, but she starts perming it after she starts going out with Namura.
  • Five-Man Band Concert: Yuu and Kei, romantic rivals for the love of Miki, the female lead, are enlisted to help in a five-man band, along with Satoshi, the student council president, and two unnamed extras. All goes A-OK until Kei (who, by the way, is a piano prodigy) starts improvising just to show off. Luckily, the other members of the band react surprisingly well.
  • First Girl Wins: Subverted: Anju and Arimi were actually are first girls who knew Yuu from before he met Miki, yet Miki is presented first in the series and she ends up winning.
  • First Kiss: What Yuu took away from Miki in their Dude, She's Like in a Coma moment.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: The point of the whole series.
  • Forceful Kiss: Ginta on Miki in episode 3, and later Michael on Miki too, in episode 58.
  • From Roommates to Romance: Justified in Miki and Yuu's case, being the result of the two being step-siblings living under the same roof with all of their divorced/re-married parents. They eventually start dating each other.
  • Handshake Substitute: Early in the live-action movie, Miki and Ginta are shown to have a special parting fist bump.
  • Happily Married:
    • Subverted in the 13-years-later sequel Marmalade Boy Little (2013), the legendary couple Yuu and Miki have been together for over a decade and a half but have been too preoccupied with their work and siblings to get married, although they might as well be. This changes when Satoshi points it out and gives a mild lecture to Yuu about responsibility. Yuu proceeds to think seriously about it immediately and ends up proposing to Miki, who cries.
    • Jin and Chiyako, Youji and Rumi. Even before they swapped partners, the couples seemed to be fairly happy. More than that: they're quite happy to, all four plus the respective children, live together in the same house, and spend their free time together. And they even refer to themselves collectively as the parents of Miki and Yuu. Miki may be just a touch more savvier than she lets on; after she warms to the spouse-swapping, she is heard calling her parents' new spouses "Chiyako-mama" and "Youji-papa" in the subtitled version.
    • As unconventional as the Koishikawa/Matsuura marriages are, they seem to be the only one shown in-series to be happy. (The weddings of Namura and Meiko, and Yuu and Miki, in the series finale, notwithstanding.) Meiko's parents are shown to be unhappy and unfaithful (and for added drama, Mrs. Akizuki is a Lady Drunk), and Satoshi's father's chronic philandering seems to have put noticeable strain on his marriage (not to mention his relationship with his son).
  • Hopeless Suitor: Quite a few.
    • Rokutanda to Arimi. She has negative amounts of interest in him, just in general, but she's in love with Yuu, and later she's gotten together with his cousin.
    • Kei to Miki. Miki views him as a younger brother at best, and even when he sabotages her relationship in the hopes of her running to him instead, slapping him gets most of her anger out and she switches to scolding him like a parent would, about going back to school and practicing the piano.
    • Satoshi Miwa to Meiko. Meiko has absolutely no romantic interest in anyone except Namura.
  • Hot-Blooded: Cousins Ginta and Rokutanda are the Slice of Life Shōjo version of this.
    • Also, the two Grant brothers. Michael is more of a Keet, tho.
  • Hot for Student Mr. Namura and Meiko are among the very rare cases where this situation is portrayed sympathetically.
  • Important Haircut: After their big misunderstanding over her love letter, Meiko jokely suggests that Miki invoke this right before it is revealed that Ginta cut his hair to apologize to Miki. After Yuu dumps her, so does Miki to try get over herself: her shoulder-length hair becomes a bob that same day.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Subverted. The older fanbase would often state the level of similarities between Bill and Brian's character design to Hiyama and Morikawa's own persona, but this is coincidental. Interesting to note though, this pair's relationship is by far the closest in resemblance to the seiyuus themselves.note 
  • It's Not You, It's Me: Invoked by Namura, when he leaves Meiko since he'll just stunt her life and by Yuu, when he dumps Miki believing they're half siblings. There's a major difference, though: the first straightforwardly says "this won't work so please move on and be happy", while the other Cannot Spit It Out.
  • Japanese School Club: Several, actually. Satoshi's the class representative of his class and his classmate, Furutachi is in the broadcasting club. Miki and Ginta are members of their school's tennis teams and so is Tsutomu, Meiko is in the literature club, and Arimi is the star of her school's track team.
  • Jerk Jock: Brian, in his first appearance. But soon, Defeat Means Friendship and he becomes a Hot-Blooded Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arguably, the majority of the cast qualify for this (albeit with varying degrees of "jerk"). Notable exceptions include Jin, Rumi, Youji, Chiyako, Akira, Anju, Yayoi and Kijima (who omit the "jerk") and Meiko's parents, as well as Satoshi's dad (who omit the "heart of gold").
  • Just a Kid:
    • Miki discards Michael because she sees him as a little brother at best. Michael does NOT approve. This is also how Kei feels Miki is starting to treat him, scolding him for being immature, nagging him to go back to school, and in the anime, slapping him when he goes too far.
    • Miki herself, due to her own personality and appearance, gets looked down upon by some of the other characters, particular ones that are older than her. In Yuu's case, it's one thing he loves about her.
  • Karma Houdini: Mr. Miwa, Satoshi's famous architect dad. Notorious for womanizing, he not only exhibits little shame about his chronic unfaithfulness, but has the gall to grouse about not being able to nail Yuu's mom.... while his own son is sitting in front of him. And the deal is borderline Played for Laughs in The Reveal moment itself, Face Fault and funny faces included.
  • Leitmotif: "Moment," by Miki's very own seiyuu. The series' music of choice for moments of tension, catharsis, and romantic drama. Frequently, the last piece of music in an episode.
  • Lethal Chef: Miki's mother Rumi is infamous for her bad cooking.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: Miki and Yuu try this in the anime, when he goes to the USA. It... doesn't work.
  • Love at First Sight: Miki falls in love with Yuu the instant she sees him, but forces herself to focus on trying to stop their parent's plan to remarry. Him not caring about the situation slightly turns her off though.
    • If the kiss in the infirmary didn't make it obvious enough, it's revealed in the prequel movie that Yuu fell in love with Miki the instant she saw her, while she was practicing tennis.
  • Love Dodecahedron: So many love triangles it's confusing. Aside from the Americans, this image constructed from the Super Famicom game best sums everything up.
  • The Minnesota Fats: Miki and several of her love rivals, specially Arimi and Suzu.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • Hilariously done with Satoshi and Yuu. Satoshi spends some episodes pretending to have the hots for Yuu, to cover up their investigations about their possible common past and Satoshi's own feelings for Meiko; it works so well that Miki sees Satoshi as another rival for Yuu's affection, and at the same time Meiko seems to ship them a bit.
    • Bill, who spends most of the last third of the anime thought to be a Straight Gay, but ends the series dating Jinny. So yeah, he's somewhat of a Camp Straight instead..
  • New Old Flame:
    • Miki and Yuu's parents, for each other. Jin (Miki's dad) dated Chiyako (Yuu's mom), broke up with her, married Rumi (Miki's mom) and they had Miki, then divorced her in friendly terms and got back together with his old girlfriend. Exactly the same case with Youji (Yuu's dad) and Rumi. (Except for Chiyako's miscarriage with Jin.).
    • For some real recursion, some fanfics, set pre-series, actually start with Jin and Rumi, and Youji and Chiyako, as couples before the "original" couples formed.
  • New Transfer Student: Michael, Yuu in regards to the Americans.
  • Noodle People: Especially in the anime.
  • Only Six Faces: Several characters have pretty much the same features.
  • Pair the Spares: Ginta and Arimi, Kei and Suzu.
    • The anime takes this to dizzying heights. In addition to the above, we have: Tsutomu and Yayoi, Ryouko and Akira, Brian and Doris, and Bill and Jinny. In addition, Michael and Anju are heavily hinted at. The only character who ends the series alone, amazingly, is Satoshi (although, to be honest, it's hard to imagine him having trouble attracting interest).
      • And Satoshi is married and has a daughter in the sequel manga, surprising just about no one.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Much of the tennis themes shown throughout the series were influenced by Yoshizumi's own experiences being a part of her high school's tennis club.
  • Romantic Fake–Real Turn: Ginta and Arimi pretended to be dating to get Miki (Ginta's crush and best friend) and Yuu (Arimi's ex boyfriend) back, respectively. However, they ended up falling in love with each other and hooking up for real.
  • Say It with Hearts: Parodied. Miki's parents announce "We're getting a divorce! ♥" and she is absolutely pissed that they could say that with a heart mark.
  • Secondary Character Title: While Miki is the series' protagonist, our title character is the deuteragonist Yuu, the boy who Miki compares to a jar of marmalade early on in the series.
  • Secret Relationship: Meiko and Namura until word gets out that they had been found an apartment together. Yuu and Miki's relationship is also forced to be this way due to not wanting to complicate things with their parents, not that they mind, as the series finale has shown.
  • Sentai: Brilliantly parodied in The Movie with the Gastamen, made up of five young boys pretending to be such, while labeling themselves by colors and Greek letters (Alpha, Beta, Zeta, Omega, and their leader, Gamma). Miki eventually gets in on the act by playing the role of the "Towel Monster".
  • Shipper on Deck: Suzu, in the manga. She didn't want Yuu for herself there, but wanted to hook him with Meiko. Possibly a Shout-Out to Yoshizumi's earlier shipping plans.
    • By the end of the anime, literally the entire supporting cast ships Yuu and Miki.
    • Also, Miki and Yuu ship Namura/Meiko. Though their deal is quite more complicated: Yuu found out first and wasn't impressed but still became their Secret-Keeper, but Miki found out only when their cover was blown to someone else and had an Heroic BSoD since it deeply shook Miki's faith in Meiko due to her not trusting Miki enough to tell her.
    • Tsutomu, once he stops being Arimi's Dogged Nice Guy, openly supports her and Ginta. In the anime, he goes as far as giving a What the Hell, Hero? speech to Miki when Gint and Arimi have a fall-out due to Ginta neglecting his girlfriend to support the very distraught Miki (to be fair, Miki does have pretty good reasons to be depressed, though Tsutomu doesn't know), so it's up to them and Yayoi to fix it.
  • Shōjo: Arguably, one of the defining examples of the romantic comedy variation of the demographic.
  • Short Film: The Movie is the length of a regular episode.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The magazine that Ginta borrowed from one of his middle school friends was a copy of "Jump", as in the famous Shonen Jump, Shueisha's shounen counterpart to Ribon. The Tokyopop version even adds that Ginta's friend wanted to read One Piece.
    • Yuu decideds to watch a scary movie with Miki in episode 10. The movie in question? "Elm Street on Friday."
    • In the manga, the movie tickets for the double date Miki, Yuu, Meiko, and Satoshi go on feature a logo that's clearly supposed to be the logo for the first Jurassic Park movie.
    • The live-action movie has a little girl specifically named Sana celebrating her birthday in the same room where the Koishikawas meet the Matsuuras. She's likely named after Sana from Kodocha, another Ribon series.
  • Shrines and Temples: The New Years episode.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: The series constantly proves that Yuu and Miki are unable to look at anyone but each other.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Yuu and Miki started like that. Suzu and Kei are once or twice hinted to possibly end up like this, and they end up dating each other in the sequel
  • Soap Opera: The series rather closely resembles one in its convoluted romantic plots.
  • Spoiler Opening: The very first shot is of Yuu and Miki kissing. Gosh, I wonder who she's gonna choose!? The scene later in the sequence of Miki standing between Yuu and Ginta, looking adorably confused, does not help.
    • Arguably worse were the Spoiler Eyecatches. Almost every triangle on the show showed up in at least one, complete with the final resolution, and they almost always showed up long before the actual resolution took place.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Yuu to Miki, following her around before even meeting her in the anime, and in the manga constantly popping up where she is, especially while she is avoiding him due to hurt.
    • Kei's rather possessive of Miki, as she's one of his very few friends, and he does some serious work towards isolating her from Yuu. Anime only characters Michael and Jinny arguably qualify, as well as anime!Suzu. Satoshi is a more gentle version of this trope in regards to Meiko.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: In the anime, the resident Butt-Monkey Tsutomu meets Yayoi and ends up dating her.
  • Title Drop: Miki makes a comparison between Yuu and a jar of marmalade, noting how the two have a bitter core concealed by a sweet exterior and thus calls him "marmalade boy". This joke is repeated in Game Boy game, and is expanded slightly in the live-action movie, as it's the first time we notice Miki starting to fall in love with Yuu in that continuity.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Ginta is this to Miki, just as Anju, and to a lesser extent, Arimi are to Yuu. Tsutomu fills this role towards Arimi, though whether Arimi considered him a friend at the time is rather dubious.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Subverted: Miki only thought her love was unrequited, because of the Love Letter Lunacy detailed above. Ginta actually loved her all along, but she got over him after the whole mess.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Miki and Yuu's parents are completely happy-go-lucky and usually act more like older siblings rather than actual parents. Not that Miki and Yuu aren't slightly immature themselves at times, but both sets of parents often tease or embarrass their kids, go out without letting the kids know ahead of time, and support some of the abnormalities that occur in the series without batting an eye (such as Meiko and Namura's relationship, Suzu kissing Yuu, or even their own children's relationship). Of course, their decision to remarry and move into a large house together is the main reason, directly or otherwise, why a lot of the events in the series happened.


Video Example(s):


Miki's Analogy

Two episodes in and Miki gives us the only instance of the series' title used in the story.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / TitleDrop

Media sources: