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Presentation of the shōjo manga

Aimed at a young female audience, between late childhood and early adulthood, shōjo manga is a very popular category in Japan, as well as in many other countries. This type of manga often uses certain specific codes and stylistic effects, and is featured in highly successful films and animated series.

Female manga or manga for women?

First of all, it seems useful to avoid certain ambiguities. Indeed, in popular Western culture it is customary to imagine shōjo manga as little pink comics, telling stories about girls.

In reality, shōjo manga is not bound by any strict code. It is simply a category of manga whose target audience is mainly girls aged 8-18. Young adult women (18-25) as well as boys and young men can just as easily find an interest in these mangas, as nothing is meant to exclude them. Just as girls love DBZ, boys can be fascinated by Sailor Moon.

Thus, shōjo is distinct from other categories of manga, which we can think of as marketing segments. Its male counterpart is shonen, aimed at boys aged 8 to 18, while its adult equivalent is josei, aimed at women over 16. Younger female readers may be attracted to kodomo, the category of manga aimed at an audience under 10, but without any gender differentiation.

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Where does the name shōjo come from?

Again, we need to adopt an open mind. Going to Japan and addressing girls and young women by calling them shōjo will not get us very far. In common parlance in Japan, girls are called "onna no ko".

In reality, the name shōjo was used in the Meiji era (late 19th and early 20th century) to refer to young girls gradually reaching marriageable age. They were associated with qualities of innocence and purity, and above all were perceived as cute. After the First World War, some Japanese girls and women began to emancipate themselves by following Western fashion, and they were called "moga", before becoming "gyaru" towards the end of the 20th century.

As for the term shōjo, it was taken over by the entertainment industry, and therefore especially Manga, to make it a real marketing object. Shōjo manga then adopted a more innocent style, attractive thanks to cute characters, highlighting a certain innocence... and then had fun subverting everything with a certain exaggerated second degree that only Japan has the secret of.

Evolution of shōjo manga

Originally, a shōjo literary trend had developed aimed precisely at this audience of young girls considered as innocent. We are talking about the very beginning of the 20th century, the first magazine, Shōjo-kai, having been launched in 1902. It was not yet manga but illustrated novels (shōjo shōsetsu) and poems. The creative movement then joined the jojōga lyrical painting and began to pour into manga for girls. The first major creative effort in shōjo manga came in the 1950s, when female mangakas such as Hideko Mizuno and Masako Watanabe appeared. Above all, these women made the shōjo manga heroine come out of her passivity to take a more active role.

Modern developments in shōjo

The shōjo category has evolved into various sub-categories, as evidenced by the assortment in our geek shop, each finding its target audience and contributing something to society. This is especially true of yaoi, a genre of manga featuring mostly love stories between young gay men. It is counter-intuitive, but the target audience of yaoi is indeed the young female audience, which makes it a sub-category of shōjo. Indeed, yaoi allows young girls to reject strict societal norms and relax their perception of gender.

Nowadays in the West, the most popular shōjo manga are Maid Sama, Fruits Basket and Ao Haru Ride. There are still many others, such as Nana, Last Game or Black Bird. Of course, we have all seen or heard of Sailor Moon thanks to the huge success of the anime series. For the older ones, it should be noted that the hyper-popular animated series in France and French-speaking Belgium, "Juliette, je t'aime", actually belongs to the seinen genre. It is a (very) westernised adaptation of the manga La Maison Ikkaku, which is indeed a seinen, and therefore aimed at a young adult male audience. Come and visit us in our figurine and merchandising shop.