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Shōjo, shojo, or shoujo manga (少女漫画 shōjo manga) is manga aimed at a teenage female target-demographic readership. The name romanizes the Japanese 少女 (shōjo), literally 'young woman'. Shōjo manga covers many subjects in a variety of narrative styles, from historical drama to science fiction, often with a focus on romantic relationships or emotions. Strictly speaking, however, shōjo manga does not comprise a style or genre, but rather indicates a target demographic.
Japanese magazines specifically for girls, known as shōjo magazines, first appeared in 1903 with the founding of Shōjo kai (少女界, Girls' World) and continued with others such as Shōjo Sekai (少女世界, Girls' World) (1906) and the long-running Shōjo no tomo (少女の友, Girls' Friend) (1908).
The roots of the wide-eyed look commonly associated with shōjo manga dates back to shōjo magazine illustrations during the early 20th century. The most important illustrators associated with this style at the time were Yumeji Takehisa and particularly Jun'ichi Nakahara, who, influenced by his work as a doll creator, frequently drew female characters with big eyes in the early 20th century. This had a significant influence on early shōjo manga, evident in the work of influential manga artists such as Macoto Takahashi and Riyoko Ikeda.
Simple, single-page manga began to appear in these magazines by 1910, and by the 1930s more sophisticated humor-strips had become an essential feature of most girls' magazines. The most popular manga, Katsuji Matsumoto's Kurukuru Kurumi-chan (くるくるクルミちゃん), debuted on the pages of Shōjo no tomo (少女の友) in 1938. As World War II progressed, however, "comics, perhaps regarded as frivolous, began to disappear".
Postwar shōjo manga, such as Shosuke Kurakane's popular Anmitsu Hime, initially followed the pre-war pattern of simple humor-strips. But Osamu Tezuka's postwar revolution, introducing intense drama and serious themes to children's manga, spread quickly to shōjo manga, particularly after the enormous success of his seminal Ribon no kishi (リボンの騎士 Princess Knight). Sally the Witch —being the first magical girl genre anime—may (even more broadly) be the first shōjo anime as well.
Until the mid-1960s, men vastly outnumbered the women (for example: Toshiko Ueda, Hideko Mizuno, Masako Watanabe, and Miyako Maki) amongst the artists working on shōjo manga. Many male manga artists, such as Tetsuya Chiba, functioned as rookies, waiting for an opportunity to move over to shōnen (少年 "boys'") manga. Chiba asked his wife about girls' feelings for research for his manga. At this time, conventional job opportunities for Japanese women did not include becoming a manga artist. Adapting Tezuka's dynamic style to shōjo manga (which had always been domestic in nature) proved challenging. According to Rachel Thorn:
While some chose to simply create longer humor-strips, others turned to popular girls' novels of the day as a model for melodramatic shōjo manga. These manga featured sweet, innocent pre-teen heroines, torn from the safety of family and tossed from one perilous circumstance to another, until finally rescued (usually by a kind, handsome young man) and re-united with their families.
These early shōjo manga almost invariably had pre-adolescent girls as both heroines and readers. Unless they used a fantastic setting (as in Princess Knight) or a backdrop of a distant time or place, romantic love for the heroine remained essentially taboo. But the average age of the readership rose, and its interests changed. In the mid-1960s one of the few female artists in the field, Yoshiko Nishitani, began to draw stories featuring contemporary Japanese teenagers in love. This signaled a dramatic transformation of the genre. This may have been due to the baby boomers becoming teens, and the industry trying to keep them as readers.
Between 1950 and 1969, increasingly large audiences for manga emerged in Japan with the solidification of its two main marketing genres, shōnen manga aimed at adolescent boys and shōjo manga aimed at adolescent girls. These romantic comedy shoujo manga were inspired by American TV dramas of the time. The success of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and the gold medal won by the Japan women's national volleyball team, influenced a series of sports shoujo manga, such as Attack No. 1. In May 1967, shoujo manga began being published in tankōbon format.
Between roughly 1969 and 1971, a flood of young female manga artists transformed the genre again. Some, including Hagio Moto, Yumiko Oshima, and Keiko Takemiya, became known as the hana no nijū yon nen gumi (花の24年組, Year 24 Group, so named from the approximate year of birth many of them shared: Shōwa 24, or 1949). This loosely defined group experimented with content and form, inventing such new subgenres as shōnen-ai, and earning the long-maligned shōjo manga unprecedented critical praise. Other female artists of the same generation, such as Riyoko Ikeda, Yukari Ichijo, and Sumika Yamamoto, garnered unprecedented popular support with such hits (respectively) as Berusaiyu no bara (ベルサイユのばら, The Rose of Versailles), Dezainaa (デザイナー, "Designer"), and Eesu wo nerae! (エースをねらえ!, Aim for the Ace!).[volume & issue needed] During that era, women's roles in Japanese society were changing, and women were being elected to the National Diet, and publishers responded by employing more female talent. Since the mid-1970s, women have created the vast majority of shōjo manga; notable exceptions include Mineo Maya and Shinji Wada.
From 1975 shōjo manga continued to develop stylistically while simultaneously branching out into different but overlapping subgenres. Meiji University Professor Yukari Fujimoto writes that during the 1990s, shoujo manga became concerned with self-fulfillment. She intimates that the 1990–1991 Gulf War influenced the development of female characters "who fight to protect the destiny of a community", such as Red River, Basara, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Sailor Moon. Fujimoto opines that the shōjo manga of the 1990s depicted emotional bonds between women as stronger than the bonds between a man and a woman. Major subgenres include romance, science fiction, fantasy, magical girls, yaoi, and "Ladies Comics" (in Japanese, redisu レディース, redikomi レディコミ, and josei 女性).
As shōjo literally means 'girl' in Japanese, the equivalent of the western usage will generally include the term: girls' manga (少女漫画 shōjo manga), or anime for girls (少女向けアニメ shōjo-muke anime). The parallel terms shōnen, seinen, and josei also occur in the categorisation of manga and anime, with similar qualification. Though the terminology originates with the Japanese publishers and advertisers, cultural differences with the West mean that labelling in English tends to vary wildly, with the types often confused and mis-applied.
Due to vagaries in the romanization of Japanese, publishers may transcribe 少女 (written しょうじょ in hiragana) in a wide variety of ways. By far the most common form, shoujo, follows English phonology, preserves the spelling, and requires only ASCII input. The Hepburn romanization shōjo uses a macron for the long vowel, though the prevalence of Latin-1 fonts often results in a circumflex instead, as in shôjo. Many English-language texts just ignore long vowels, using shojo, potentially leading to confusion with 処女 (shojo, literally: 'virgin') as well as other possible meanings. Finally, transliterators may use Nihon-shiki-type mirroring of the kana spelling: syôjyo, or syoujyo.
Western fans classify a wide variety of titles as shōjo, even though their Japanese creators label them differently. Anything non-offensive and featuring female characters may classify as shōjo manga; including the shōnen comedy Azumanga Daioh. Similarly, as romance has become a common element of many shōjo works, any title with romance, such as the shōnen Love Hina or the seinen Oh My Goddess! tend to get mislabeled.
This confusion also extends beyond the fan community; articles aimed at the mainstream also widely misrepresent the terms. In an introduction to anime and manga, British writer Jon Courtenay Grimwood writes: "Maison Ikkoku comes from Rumiko Takahashi, one of the best-known of all 'shôjo' writers. Imagine a very Japanese equivalent of Sweet Valley High or Melrose Place. It has Takahashi's usual and highly successful mix of teenagers and romance, with darker clouds of adolescence hovering." Takahashi is a famous shōnen manga artist, but Maison Ikkoku, one of her few seinen titles and serialised in Big Comic Spirits, is aimed at males in their 20s.
Matt Thorn, who has made a career out of studying girls' comics, attempts to clarify the matter by explaining that "shôjo manga are manga published in shôjo magazines (as defined by their publishers)". However, English publishers and stores have problems retailing shōjo titles, including its spelling. Licensees such as Dark Horse Comics have misidentified several of the seinen titles, and in particular manga and anime intended for a younger audience in Japan often contains violent or mature themes that would be targeted toward an older demographic in the US. In this way licensees often either voluntarily censor titles or re-market them toward an older audience. In the less conservative European markets, content that might be heavily edited or cut in an English-language release often remains in French, German and other translated editions.
As one effect of these variations, American companies have moved to use the borrowed words that have gained name-value in fan communities, but to separate them from the Japanese meaning. In their shōjo manga range, publisher VIZ Media attempt a re-appropriation of the term, providing the definition:
shô·jo (sho'jo) n. 1. Manga appealing to both female and male readers. 2. Exciting stories with true-to-life characters and the thrill of exotic locales. 3. Connecting the heart and mind through real human relationships.
The desire to disassociate the word shōjo from its meaning, "girl", seems[original research?] largely driven by fear of putting off potential new readers, particularly male ones.
Manga and anime labeled as "shōjo" need not interest only girls, and some titles gain a following outside the traditional audience. For instance, Frederik L. Schodt identifies Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida as:
...one of the few girls' manga a red-blooded Japanese male adult could admit to reading without blushing. Yoshida, while adhering to the conventions of girls' comics in her emphasis on gay male love, made this possible by eschewing flowers and bug eyes in favor of tight bold strokes, action scenes, and speed lines.
Such successful "crossover" titles remain the exception rather than the rule, however: the archetypal shōjo manga magazine Hana to Yume has a 95% female readership, with a majority aged 17 or under. The popularity of romantic shōjo manga in America has encouraged Harlequin to release manga-styled romantic comics.
The reported average circulations for some of the top-selling shōjo manga magazines in 2007 included:
|Title||Reported circulation||First published|
|Hana to Yume||226,826||1974|
For comparison, circulations for the top-selling magazines in other categories for 2007 included:
|Category||Magazine Title||Reported Circulation|
|Top-selling shōnen manga magazine||Weekly Shōnen Jump||2,778,750|
|Top-selling seinen manga magazine||Young Magazine||981,229|
|Top-selling josei manga magazine||You||194,791|
|Top-selling non-manga magazine||Monthly the Television||1,018,919|
(Source for all circulation figures: Japan Magazine Publishers Association)
In a strict sense, the term "shōjo manga" refers to a manga serialized in a shōjo manga magazine. The list below contains past and current Japanese shōjo manga magazines, grouped according to their publishers. Such magazines can appear on a variety of schedules, including bi-weekly (Margaret, Hana to Yume, Shōjo Comic), monthly (Ribon, Bessatsu Margaret, Bessatsu Friend, LaLa), bi-monthly (Deluxe Margaret, LaLa DX, The Dessert), and quarterly (Cookie BOX, Unpoko).