Discussion: Why do readers shun shojo?

Flowers, sparkles and pretty boys. Is this all shojo is about?

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about people’s dismissive and insulting attitude towards shojo manga in the past few weeks. I can honestly say, I sort of understand why shojo gets dissed a lot. While there’s plenty of really awesome shojo out there, there’s also a lot of it that just repeats the same story with other characters and variations of theme. When you compare them to older, more experimental shojo manga like that by Moto Hagio and her peers, the difference is rather vast.

Despite all this, I love shojo manga. In fact, lately I’ve been feeling a little starved lately for it. It’s not that other types of manga are bad, but shojo is the reason I got into manga in the first place. Perhaps this makes me girly…but I am a woman, aren’t I? Why do I have to prove that I’m manly when I’m not a man in the first place? I’m OK with being swept away by romance and a few tired cliches every once in awhile. And there’s plenty of great shojo in English out there that avoids a lot of the cliches AND goes unappreciated.

So readers, I’d really like to know how YOU feel about shojo. Do you love it? Hate it? Why do you feel that way about it and what shojo manga do you enjoy? Why do you think some readers shun shojo for other types of manga?

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54 Comments

Filed under manga, opinion

54 responses to “Discussion: Why do readers shun shojo?

  1. miz

    I don’t mind reading shoujo. It’s just another version of romance novels to me. Just pretty picky about what I read and do read. I am really not a fan of Watase Yuu ones, but others like Arina Tanemura I enjoy – if you saw my post on Anime Diet.

    There are a lot of similarities with shoujo manga, that can turn a lot of people off. At times I think the angst gets to me. But the drawings for many of them is quite beautiful or cute.

    • That’s where you and I differ, I guess. I much prefer Yuu Watase, unfortunate tendency towards rape scenes and all, over Arina Tanemura, whose manga just seems too light and fluffy to me.

      Of course, you’re also part of the target shojo audience. :3 I think for people outside the demographic, pretty/cute isn’t as important as action and whatnot.

      • miz

        I like action as well as light and fluffy. Cute is also a great thing for me! Since I am a woman.

        Watase manga gets too dramatic for me.. so I don’t believe that is realistic.

        Am devouring shoujo manga from the library like a snap of the fingers. ^_^

        • I like light, fluffy and cute just as much as the next lady, but Tanemura just takes it too far for me sometimes. It’s like soap operas and my tastes just don’t lean that way. (I know from Twitter that yours might, however, and that’s fine. To each their own.)

          I certainly enjoy things that get a bit more dramatic than Tanemura’s manga. It seems like half the time the drama she creates winds up being some “misunderstanding” in the end. Not for me!

  2. Yan

    First and foremost, I’m a dude. And not just any dude. I try my best to be as “alpha” as possible.

    With that out of the way, I have to say that I enjoy a number of shoujo titles. However, the ones that fully appeal to me tend to have a gratuitous amount of humor and misunderstandings. Doesn’t really matter if there’s any action (double entendre) or not. One of my favorite shoujo titles happens to be Dengeki Daisy. I think it’s a good representation of my style. If the title lacks those elements, I’m hard-pressed to actually pick it up.

    As to why people shun shoujo, I’d have to say it probably has to do with the fact that said people are uneducated about the specific demographic titles and assume that sappy, boring stories are found in all of them. Quite silly since I believe there’s something for everyone under “shoujo”.

    • I believe there’s something for everyone too. For example: one of my favorite shojo manga is Basara, which is action-focused instead of romance-focused. Yes, there is romance, but half the time the romance isn’t the important part. (There’s a lot of political drama and fighting going on in it.) I honestly can’t see why shonen fans wouldn’t like it other than the fact that it’s out of print and not really on any bookshelves anymore.

      At the same time, you can have a perfectly cliched shojo manga and still have it be funny. (Like Otomen or High School Debut or LoveCom.)

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  4. Oliver

    This is news to me. I don’t read a lot of Shoujo-although I do read some-because I dislike romance. I wish to read Shoujo that don’t focus much on this subject. Also, I find that when I read a volume of Shoujo manga, I’ve had my fill, and I’ll read the next one when enough time has elapsed because I feel I have to try harder to read it. It’s more emotionally and conversationally (?) involved than the simple straightforwardness of Shounen.

    However, denouncing Shoujo seems like another attempt to thwart anything that girls and women find appealing. Shounen has its faults, too. It can be way too hyperactive/masculine, and they’re always super-long cash grabs (except for One Piece where the author strives to write a fresh and good story).

    • Well, it’s very simple: girls are more likely to read shojo and shonen, whereas boys are less likely to dip their feet into shojo because it’s “girly” and “romantic.” This has pretty much been a given thing for years, both here and in Japan. I also agree that shonen has it’s faults and that we should stop denouncing media aimed at a female demographic. How do you think we can turn around people’s attitudes about shojo manga?

      Do you find it off-putting that you have to try harder to read it? How much do you read outside of manga and other comics? I’m curious to know because there are definitely some people who are into comics, but not into reading and that may be one part why you dislike shojo. I’d like to recommend Basara by Yumi Tamura to you. It’s out of print, but it’s a fantastic action story that’s also considered shojo. There’s definitely less focus on romance in that manga than most shojo.

      • Oliver

        To change peoples’ attitudes about Shoujo has got to start by changing those ultra-girly covers. All the Shoujo Beat covers are incredibly girl-centric. Tokyopop, I think, offers more unisex covers like Gakuen Alice and pretty much everything else. It has to start with marketing.

        I don’t find Shoujo off-putting, but rather I just have to read less of it because it is too much. I only read manga. Shoujo can be very text/emotion-heavy, so that’s why it takes longer. I also have to pay attention, otherwise I’ll miss everything. I would try Basara if it wasn’t so surrounded by newer titles. Also my money, like everyone else’s, goes to new manga. It’s very difficult to start a long, older series, but I would try Swan again if it were re-licensed.

        • Ok, that’s going to be REALLY hard to do, you know. Publishers are pretty much stuck with using the Japanese cover image and if that image is super-girly, what can they do? Pretty much nothing. Some of Tokyopop’s covers are really phenomenal because they don’t have much to start with in the first place and designers have to build something interesting out of it. If you look at the Japanese covers for Gakuen Alice and Karakuri Odette? They’re really really simple. At the same time, Viz has something of a thing for “lines” of manga. Basically, they’re thinking more like a Japanese publisher by putting their manga together based on demographics, shounen, shoujo, seinen, alternative, etc. It actually helps them get brand recognition when readers are looking on the shelves. Sure, you may be turned off by Shojo Beat titles, but you know exactly which ones are Shojo Beat by just looking at them. I doubt that they’re going to change that very easily. (And for some of their series like Otomen and Butterflies, Flowers, why would they go any direction BUT super-girly? It fits the story.) I can think of plenty of Shojo Beat titles that don’t have girly covers either. Honey Hunt has a very minimalistic, design-y cover, Rasetsu has something befitting it’s supernatural themes.

          I’m glad you would try Swan, although I’m going to warn you, it’s really emotionally heavy, text heavy, hard to read sometimes and SUPER GIRLY. It’s about ballet for fuck’s sake. Maybe it’s just me, but I find reading older titles just as rewarding. They’re harder to find, which is part of the excitement when I get my hands on a copy of a volume I don’t have yet. Reserving it for new manga is all well and good, but I like a bit of a mix. The newer titles will still be easy to find for a good while yet, so I know I can still read them easily for now.

          • Oliver

            *gasp* You swore!! Lol. To respond to the “Publishers are pretty much stuck with using the Japanese cover image”, I would say not really. Cover’s have been known to be changed from the J original like Moyasimon (whose covers actually look better than the J ones). And Tokyopop, I think, has been known to raadically redo the covers with heavy graphic design, so I think it is possible to change them. I admire T-pop’s efforts to keep their covers gender-neutral because they sort of keep all their manga under one brand, rather than several, as well boys don’t have to be ashamed of reading them in public like with SB books.

            PS. I know Swan is of the “super-girly” variety (no it’s not, I hate that descriptor), but I don’t go seeking out Shoujo if it must have Shounen elements like “Basara”. I rather prefer slice-of-life. Plus, Swan is ballet 100% which is nice. You don’t see much Shoujo where the heroine has a goal other than to get the boy’s attention.

            • I’m just going to forget that you cared about the fact that I swore on my own blog and move on.

              Frankly, Moyasimon is an awful example. I’m assuming you’ve seen the first volume’s cover? There isn’t much to work, it needed something flashier to sell. And while Tokyopop changes the cover images of its manga radically that’s because their original covers are just the images in a REALLY boring box. That box wouldn’t sell either. In Viz’s case, I honestly don’t think half the covers for SB are as bad as you think. If you’re ashamed to read them in public, that’s you’re problem, but you probably won’t get as much flack for reading them as you think unless you’re reading Black Bird in the subway (horrible book in my opinion and inappropriate for reading in public) or if you’re reading on a school bus in front of all your guy friends. (All of the girls would think you’re cool because you read shoujo.) Only fans of manga are going to really call you out on it. Trust me. The rest of the world will just give you shit for reading comics period.

              Anyway, what I really meant earlier is that American pubs need to submit the covers for licensor approval. And if they want to use color art, they usually have to stick with what the original tankobon has. In that sense, they’re stuck with the original art a lot of the times.

              I’m going to call it like it is having read Swan. It’s got the strong female protagonist fighting for her dreams (very modern shounen trope), but the comparisons to anything manly stops right about there. The female lead and other women in the series faint at the drop of a hat, the art is super-shoujo-y (it being a classic 70s shoujo manga) and it’s about ballet (not traditionally a cool thing for men to get into.) That doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s a kick-ass manga, I’m just being honest with how I feel about it. Swan is girly as hell and I love every second of it. :3

  5. Sheentaku

    Heres a interesting case I am a dude and I absolutely love Shoujo anime like Ouran High school host club, Lovely complex, Maid-sama, Kimi ni todokei, Special A, Kimi boku and Fruits basket.

    Manga though I absolutely loathe..even if its one of the series above. Main reason is how the Panelling and page layout is. I find it very hard to read, I cant tell when somebody is saying something or thinking. I get lost in the panels I.E I real read them in the wrong order. Panels tend to blend into each over and it just becomes a pain.
    Basically I have to concentrate on the layout of the manga to be able to read it. Unlike lets say a Shonen Jump title where the panels are nice and bold and very rarely merge into each over.

    Basically it comes to readability, I dont want to ever focus out of the story and art while I am reading.

    Also perfect male tsundere leads kinda piss me off, but that’s because I am imperfect and just jealous

    • If only more dudes loved it. There’s definitely a stigma that men can’t like shojo for no really good reason. There are shojo out there that would suit mens’ tastes just fine.

      I honestly have no problem with how shojo manga flows, but that may just be me. You kind of have to trust that the mangaka is directing you the right way and be fine with potentially reading things in the wrong order. That said, I think there are plenty of shojo manga that aren’t as confusing as you’d make them out to be. Keep reading, you’re only going to get more adjusted to it the more you read it.

      I’d really love to do a post on how shojo portrays men, but as a guest post from a male author… It’d be a fascinating discussion, don’t you think?

  6. I love Shojo. From magical girl to whatever you call the normal kind. To tell the truth I read a lot of shojo titles because those seem much more interesting to read compare to stuff that Shonen titles. Look at my bookshelf and you see Gentlemen Alliance, Shugo Chara, Chobits, From Me to You and etc.

    Shojo just interest me more. You have a moving plot that isn’t repeated a lot often or drags on like Shonen does too many times. Most of the time I find them funnier and entertaining. The only problem I have with Shojo sometimes is that misunderstandings are painful to watch since that keeps the story from moving on.

    I think one thing that at least keep the men away from Shojo is that they think they are ‘yaoi’ and that there is always a yaoi pairing or something.

    • Woah, woah, woah. Back up. Chobits isn’t shoujo. It’s a seinen manga, it ran in Young Magazine.

      I feel like shoujo does repeat plots sometimes, but a lot of things get switched up. There’s a lot of repeats of jealousy-related plots for example. Girl is jealous of boy’s closeness to Female A. Female B is jealous of girl’s closeness to boy so she tries to break them up, etc. I think the two genres just have different ways of repeating themselves, but at the same time, shoujo is more focused on events that could actually happen sometimes. In your standard relationship, there’s definitely a chance that someone might get in between you and your partner and make one of you jealous. Or at least, that’ scenario’s more likely to happen than some of the adventure-like stuff that shounen focuses on.

      That shoujo is perceived as yaoi is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard so far. At most, shoujo manga parodies BL tropes like Ouran High School Host Club does. (The twins who pretend to be gay for each other, but actually have feelings for the main (female) character.) Ouran aside, the most I usually see is women oogling hot guys who are standing nearby each other and imagining things. (Which I dare say that most straight women do anyway. What they imagine, however, is entirely up to them.)

      • Didn’t know Chobbit wasn’t Shojo. Always seem like one to me. Makes me wonder what else on the shelf I have that I thought was Shojo….Please don’t tell me From Me to You isn’t Shojo! haha

        Then maybe I just find the appeal that it is just more down to earth. You have the fact that Main Character A is dealing with saving the world while also wondering what guy she wants to pick or that things are just much more simpler. I can see things repeating over and over again but it doesn’t feel repetitive. Then again maybe I am just picking Shojos that are different everytime I pick up a new manga.

        Then maybe people who don’t like Shojo don’t like the fans. They don’t like the extreme fangirls that hover over the page ogling some hot guy and daydream about all the potential yaoi that could be there.

        • You mean Kimi ni Todoke, right? That one’s definitely shoujo.

          There’s definitely repetition with the whole “main character A is dealing with saving the world” too though. I think, however, it helps that the repetitive romance plots bring the character down to human level. That’s the appeal of shoujo over shounen to me. The kids in shounen aren’t necessarily poorly written, but the things that make them relatable are their relationships to others and their feelings more than their crazy fights and adventures.

          If they don’t like the crazy fans, I’m pretty sure shoujo isn’t the place they’re going to find them. There are more fans squeeing over Naruto, Death Note, etc than there are over Otomen or even Fruits Basket. TRUST ME. There are plenty of guys in shoujo, but there are definitely more in Naruto, Bleach, One Piece and other such manga and girls are definitely oogling those boys more than the ones in shoujo manga. You’re confusing BL with shoujo. Perhaps this is a problem with other guys too. (Please educate them.)

          • Yeah, I meant Kimi ni Todoke. That is just one of the titles that I can’t for the goodness of me pronounce much less spell.

            Well I wasn’t confusing BL with shojo haha. I think I have read enough shojo to know that by now (and if I haven’t then something must be serious wrong with my noggin haha) It just that I was trying to figure out the reasoning why some guys may not like Shojo or the common misconceptions that average guys may not like it.

            Still it could be that better to relate to the character that draws fans to Shojo. Helps with the repetitive storyline that is commonly seen.

            • That’s OK. As long as we’re talking about the same series.

              But seriously, over the many years I’ve been a fan, I rarely see squealing over shoujo as much as shounen. If it is shoujo, it’s usually only the super popular series like Ouran or Otomen. That’s why I said you might be confusing the two.

              It depends, but I guess guys have a hard time relating to girls. You rarely see female protagonists in shounen. There are some great shoujo manga with male protagonists, so maybe those are some places to start.

              • ZeroSD

                I did see an article from a shounen writer (I think Akamatsu) on how things are changing, and you’re starting to see more female characters in some Shounen genres because (1) the audience is learning to relate to them more, and (2) more girls in Japan are reading manga and watching anime.

  7. I became a manga fan because of a shoujo title (Sailor Moon,) and I’m as likely to pick up shoujo as anything else. In fact, of the four gender/age splits, I’m least likely to pick up shounen books, but I split my time pretty equally between shoujo, seinen and josei.

    That having been said, I strongly dislike stories where girls do nothing but focus on boys, and put up with crap just to be with a boy (whether he is good or bad.) I’m not a soap opera fan, either. I like stories where something else is driving the series – and I prefer my shoujo heroine to have more to her than just “want to be with/impress him.”

    Right now, my absolutely favorite shoujo series in English is “Karakuri Odette” which stars a robot. Because she is not human, while there is a “what does love mean?” subplot, there is also a “what does taste mean?” subplot and a “why is planting bombs bad?” and a “what happens to dead kittens?” subplots as well. It’s about being human…not just being a girlfriend.

    In Japanese, I’m reading the following series:

    From Nakayoshi: Heartcatch Precure and Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi

    From Ribon: Blue Friends

    From Ciao: Waza-ari Kiwami-chan

    From Margaret: Bushido Sixteen and Maria-sama ga Miteru

    In fact, if anything, I’m thrilled to have an excuse to get the shoujo magazines again – they come with the best stuff inside. :-)

    Cheers,

    Erica

    • I enjoy shoujo manga that’s also focused on other stuff too. I like Kimi ni Todoke because it’s also about a girl overcoming her shyness and Rasetsu because there’s the whole paranormal stuff going on (although there’s also a lot of attention paid to the main character’s love life due to a plot point.) Et cetera…
      I’ve found that I tend to drop a series that focuses solely on the romance, which a few exceptions where characters have totally won me over. For that reason, I find myself falling out of love with manga like Special A.

      Karakuri Odette is one of my favorite too. I just like how Julietta Suzuki writes her characters and I’m hoping more of her work is brought into English, especially Akuma to Dolce.

      Shoujo character goods are so awesome. I wish we had more of them in the US, but it would be expensive and unsustainable. :<

      Thank you for the comment, Erica!

  8. Sheentaku

    I do love old titles like the La Rose de Versailles and Onii-sama E, mainly because it was really manly and the plots didn’t always revolve around men. Sailor moon is another love of mine due to the magical girl aspects and the love story is not so grating.

    I do wonder though alot of modern Shoujo relies to much on love. I do understand that Shoujo mainly is targeted at young girls/women but there is more to life than love/romance. Manga thats targetted at women that is not about romance is mainly josei. One of my favourite titles is Hataraki man and while there is some romance elements its mainly about the working life of a adult women.

    One interesting aspect is how Neo Shonen has a huge female demographic, I mean every Reborn fan is female and it runs in a Shonen magazine. Other Shonen Jump titles also have a huge female demographic, look at all the yaoi.
    So while Shonen can appeal to both females and males (cute boys, beating the crap out of each-over ala Saint Seiya) Shoujo is mainly stuck to the demographic of girls.
    We need more stuff like Utena which had a appeal to both.

    In alot of Shonen we are starting to see strong female characters who kick ass, Tokine Yukimura from Kekkashi, Medeka from Medeka Box ect. I feel these characters are characters girls can like and kind of want to be. (examples are interchangeable first two series that came into my head)
    In Shoujo again we are stuck with characters that do not appeal to men at all, Ok Tuxedo mask was a bad ass but lately?

    Also their the age old gender roles thing, girls can be tomboyish and like things men like, but if a guy likes “girl y” things he will be made fun of and have homophobic insults come his way. People need to grow up.

    • Woah, what? Josei’s just as bad as shoujo on the romance front! Have you ever read Butterflies, Flowers? That’s almost pure romance and it’s josei. And might I add there’s a lot of smut in josei. Sure, there are working-life series like Suppli and Hataraki Man, but even those include romance. Oh man, I can’t even count the number of manga pretty much solely focused on dating/getting married on my hands AND my toes.

      Neo-shounen has such a female following because there’s lots of cute boys. If there weren’t lots of cute boys, well, I doubt they’d flock to it as much. It seems to me, however, that most shounen mangaka prefer drawing boys over girls, so there’s plenty of fodder for the average fujoshi. Sadly, there IS stuff that appeals more to both genders, but it never sells as much as it should and thus publishers don’t bring it over as much. If we could support them more on manga that isn’t just about romance-filled shoujo or adventure-filled shounen, we’d probably get more stuff to our tastes. But would it sell as much as Naruto or Bleach? Probably not. However, if we could make such titles at least mid-level sellers, the pubs will probably support them more.

      It is a bit heartening to see some progress with strong females in shounen, but I don’t think it’ll become the standard anytime soon. Just like boys liking girly things without being called “gay” probably won’t happen real soon either. (Very sadly.)

      • Nhu

        I’m going to note here that originally, shojo was written by mostly male mangaka, until I believe the late 70s-80s. By around the 90s, shojo mangaka were largely female. I find that vastly interesting. At the time, classic shojo rely on romance but also has great elements of familial dynamics and reaching for your dreams, etc, often set in the Western world. Perhaps the new set of mangaka then filled the more escapist/romantic slice-of-life void, and that has continued on until today? But the latter is a guess on my part.

        Interestingly, there’s a rising number of shonen female mangaka (especially published in America). Maybe that has to do with the rise in strong female characters in shonen. But perhaps it’s just a part of the reaction the backlash in shonen, and a bid to be “original”. It certainly is the case in shojo, where I notice shojo manga (either that or publishers who decide what gets to America) are choosing more strong heroines or reversed stereotypical dynamics, (though certainly some “strong” heroines are better at being “strong” then others. Look, being 1-D strong is no better than 1-D weak. I want you to be a well-developed character! I mean, is Tohru Honda “fiesty strong heroine”? But I love her anyway.)

        • Tohru isn’t fiesty, strong, but she doesn’t exactly back down when she believes something either. She’s strong in a quiet way and she’s very very kind and helping. You make a good point about what U.S. editors choose. I know my mentors (both women) at Tokyopop probably prefer their shoujo heroines to be more than just a ditz. American women overall are just more empowered than women in Japan can be, I think.

  9. Nhu

    I think one of the main attractions of shojo for me is what turns people off. That is, The Feelings.

    In this case though, not romance (though that IS a big part of it), but the complex characterizations. I think it can be universally agreed that shojo as a loose genre focuses on the emotions of the characters involve. At its worse, the conflict is unnatural, and melodramatic, between caricatures I am not invested in. At its best, it is a poignant human drama (this is true whether it’s a slice-of-life, action, sci-fi, or political shojo), involving breathing characters coming to realizations about themselves and their world. I think it’s why shojo to me is so much more compelling than many shonen. After all, both shojo and shonen tend to tell bildungsroman stories (in varying degrees), due to their audience, but BECAUSE shojo emphasizes exploration of character emotions, it feels more real and more successful in that role.

    Others have commented they find reading shojo draining, and I’d bet that aside from the admitted less clear-cut artwork, it’s probably the highly dense word count, inner monologues and emotions that does that. More taxing than the forward plot progression and clear-cut motivations of popular shonen today. Of course, I’m making large generalizations here about the genre, and there are always exception. Hikaru no Go, for example, is an excellent example of a shonen “sports” competition manga who somehow still managed to engage me, due to its successful and (emotionally) realistic story of a boy reaching for his goals and both respecting and also striving to beat his rivals and teachers.

    But Hikaru no Go pretty much confirms to me why it is I adore shojo. And why others don’t, as it doesn’t have that much traction in the US (probably because it’s such a different shonen. It’s popular in Asia, though). But if this is the major reason, I can accept it. Certainly not everyone adores the thoughtful tone and pacing, and human drama like I do. Shojo’s less linear, more character interactions, but it IS generally less exciting, and more side stops & meandering.

    Other reasons I can think off: the escapism elements of shojo, the “female” fantasies, if you will. Women more readily accept these male fantasies aspect in shonen and elsewhere in society. Males do not. The pretty boys, which has long been an Asian tradition, but the word “gay” could easily be used on both them and their male readers (or female readers. I’ve been scoffed at for liking effeminate men). And the still-standing literary tradition where you have to point out a book is good DESPITE its female author, or where calling a “highly acclaimed” book “girly” or written from a “female perspective” is thought of as insulting, even when it does benefit from having a feminine viewpoint.

    Odd how the major problems in mainstream lit and our society manifests itself in shojo, huh?

    • You’re right on all your points, taste is subjective obviously…

      I think the biggest problem though is the last one. People, men AND women put shoujo and other “girly” media for being “girly.” Yeah, the demographic is female, but does that automatically make it bad? Apparently to some people. I think that’s the real reason why I make this post… I wanted to know what the heck was so bad about being girly sometimes.

  10. Nan

    I love shojo manga, Sailormoon and Rayearth being my first love. I love the beautiful and attractive art, the amazing layouts that dared to break out of grid layouts and the fact that these are comics created by females for females.

    However I think I can understand why some readers may shun shojo. Most shojo (but not all) tend to have a sort of visual sameness where characters seem to look all the same – the same lithe body build, the same facial features, the same boring prettiness and the only way to differentiate them is by hairstyle (Arina Tanemura, I’m looking at you.). No one in shojo-land is ugly looking, not even the “ugly” shojo protagonist. Whereas with shonen there’s a great variety of facial and body shapes, most of the time anyway.

    Shojo backgrounds also tend to be lacking or generic looking with artists over relying on screentones. Pages may often be very cluttered with flowers and screentones and whatever. Shonen layouts may be simple, but there are more dynamic backgrounds and use of perspective. The backgrounds in Hikaru no Go were just amazing and you can always tell where the characters are. I haven’t come across many shojo manga with meticulous detail to backgrounds like that.

    As much as I love shojo’s unconventional panel layouts, frankly the box and grid layouts of shonen is a lot more easier and comfortable to follow. There is more visual clarity with shonen, whereas certain readers may struggle when they try to read shojo and find that it takes too much effort. It’s also very interesting to compare Yuu Watase’s shojo works (say Absolute Boyfriend) to her shonen stuff (Arata Kangatari). Her shonen pages are less cluttered, with none of that screentone abuse that plagues her and so many other shojo artists’ works and flows so much more better in my opinion.

    My 2 cents.

    • And thanks for your two cents. They were very well-thought out. :3

      There are shoujo artists that do have unique character designs, more solid panels, detailed backgrounds, etc., but you’re right that a lot of shoujo mangaka tend toward the generic. I see it even in storylines and I’ll drop super-generic series pretty fast unless they have some other outstanding features.

      Still, I find shounen has such generic stories, cliched characters and whatnot that I can almost predict what’ll happen in a given chapter. A lot of shounen character designs just look “fancy” and very very overdone to me. I personally can’t stand that and it’s why I don’t read much shounen. Plus, there’s series like Bakuman with really awful sexism or other ridiculous depiction of women. Sure, shoujo likes to really idealize guys, but usually only the romantic lead (and not always.)

  11. ZeroSD

    I got my manga start in large part on shoujo- Kare Kano, Fruits Basket, Mars, etc..

    However, I don’t read it very much nowadays, and there’s one simple reason. The art. I hate to say it but the normal shoujo style in titles like Otomen there isn’t very appealing to me, and it makes a lot of them blend together in my head since I identify series and characters based on the art a lot. I can normally tell whether I’ll like a non-shoujo series from the art, but lacking that tool I’m kinda lost on searching for ones to my taste.

    Also I find how relationships develop to be pretty similar too, in many shoujo (the exceptions being some of my favs). The specifics of the situation change a lot, but the whole will-they-won’t-they dance … shoujo writers love it and like to play it out, I don’t :) So I only read the ones where the outside situation draws me in and entertains me too, like Ouran Host Club or Fruits Basket.

    Especially since it’s usually clear who’s going to fall in low with whom fairly early on.

    I want to love shoujo more than I do, but art and similarity of relationship development keep me out. I still love the ones I read but they’re few and far between.

    • Yeah, I can see that being a problem. (Although with Otomen? I feel like the artist has a relatively distinct style…)

      I get a little sick of the dance too, but at the same time, I think people are forgetting more unique titles like Rasetsu or Honey & Clover and just looking at stuff like Special A or Gentleman’s Alliance Cross. And those titles are totally vapid to me…

      It’s not like there aren’t titles out that break away from the mold, but sweet jesus do they ever get ignored by the buyers!

      • ZeroSD

        -Yeah, I can see that being a problem. (Although with Otomen? I feel like the artist has a relatively distinct style…)-

        Yea, maybe not the best example.

        -I get a little sick of the dance too, but at the same time, I think people are forgetting more unique titles like Rasetsu or Honey & Clover and just looking at stuff like Special A or Gentleman’s Alliance Cross. And those titles are totally vapid to me…-

        To me, looking at Rasetsu screams ‘destined romance where I’ll know how it ends up after a few chapters,’ (in a more unusual setting than most, to be fair) while Honey & Clover’s descriptions look more interesting but I’m turned off by the art.

        I did try GAC for a few volumes but dropped it for similar reasons to you.

        -It’s not like there aren’t titles out that break away from the mold, but sweet jesus do they ever get ignored by the buyers!-

        This kinda goes back into the art thing: If I look at shounen or seinen, I can tell what the more unique ones are by how they look in general. Mold breakers normally have their own looks.

        • Are you seriously that turned off by the art? I think you should give Honey & Clover a real try. Sure, the art is bubbly, but it’s such a good story… You’d probably love it. Also, yeah, you can kind of figure out where Rasetsu’s going… after a few volumes, but it’s still got a more shounen feel to it. There’s lots of action and, well, sometimes the chase is better than the destination. (Guys can understand that right?)

          And really, I wouldn’t pin everything on the art. I’ve gotten into a number of manga, comics and webcomics even though I wasn’t TOO fond of the art. Look at LoveCom (great characters, pretty generic shoujo art!) High School Debut, Kimi ni Todoke, even Kare Kano has really generic art… Comics worldwide aren’t just about ART, they also involve storytelling! You should try Karakuri Odette or Mad Love Chase as well. Good stuff, both series.

          • ZeroSD

            After reading through several with the stereotypical shoujo style? Yea, I am. Art’s part of the storytelling too, it can make the difference between getting into a story or not, the faces and action are what’s conveying the emotion after all. It’s also a means of finding good series that stand out.

            Art’s only part of it though, the cliche of how the relationships tend to develop is the larger part (a lot of the time, if the chase isn’t interesting enough I’ll quit, first or second volume. Got a big pile of started out then quit shoujo on my shelves).

            Also in stories I really love it once the romance happens and how it develops from there (part of why Kare Kano is a fav), much much more than the chase. I assume some have a good payoff in that section, but it’s pretty hard to tell which do so and if the chase is cliche I don’t expect much there.

            I will mention I’m often jaded about lots of genres, I tend to reach my saturation point after being a fan for a few years :)

            • Ah, well, taste is subjective… Still, I think it’s a poor reason not to get into a series. I’ve gotten into so many things where I didn’t like the art at first. (which I might have said before.) There’s only one thing I could not get into specifically because of the art. :P)

              I like stories that work on the established relationship too, but sometimes the chase can be quite funny and entertaining. Have you ever read LoveCom? Basara’s a good one too. The chase in both are prolonged, but they’re either funny (LoveCom) or dramatic (Basara) and probably in ways you wouldn’t expect. I imagine you’d probably hate the art. :P

              • ZeroSD

                Like I said, the art isn’t everything (if something’s really out-there in story I’ll check it out), but it’s a factor. It adds to the same-ness feel of the situations and such.

                Anything that makes it hard to not get into a story is a good reason not to get into a series IMO. If you’re not involved in the series, you’re not involved, whether it’s for art, dialog style, or story. Sounds like you’re more writing focused than me.

                Reading the descriptions of LoveCom, it looks like it’s a well-written example of a story type that I don’t really have interest or patience for following for 17 volumes.

                Hm, that reminds me, I *do* still read series that are only one or a few volumes long. Limited space drastically limits how much circling around characters can do.

                Oh, and I like Korean shoujo series more, probably because they have a different style to them.

                • I am more writing focused than you. My career and this blog are writing-based! XD

                  I don’t have much to say other than: series like LoveCom are worth it, but that’s just me. I’m more invested in shoujo after all. But I usually don’t like the look of Korean shoujo (sunjeong.)

                  • ZeroSD

                    I’m an amateur artist ^^ So art matters a lot to me. So does writing, which just balances out to limiting the series I like.

                    -But I usually don’t like the look of Korean shoujo (sunjeong.)-

                    Anything in particular?

                    I tend to like them more as the protagonists tend to be more willing to talk about their situation or otherwise be more proactive than Japanese shoujo. I think I like how Korea handles relationships a bit more.

  12. Emi

    I pretty much only read shoujo. Out of my 4200 volume collection, a little over 3200 volumes are shoujo or josei. The remaining 1000 is fairly evenly split between shounen, seinen, and yaoi. I just can’t get into shounen series as much, and even less with seinen series.

    I love romance. I am perfectly happy even when the story is all about the girl trying to get the guy, or, even better, when her biggest problem is trying to decide between two or more guys :) Of course, I am also happy when it’s about other stuff too – such as the awesome Legend of Basara, or everything in A Drunken Dream, but simple romance plots don’t turn me away.

    I guess I have a very high tolerance for things that may annoy others (silliness, cliches, sappiness, melodrama, etc). I embrace and celebrate every shoujo cliche, the more ridiculous the better, and love it when I find a book that manages to pack as many of them as possible into one story. So far my favorite is a romance involving a girl and a guy who is pretending to be her boyfriend as a favor. He is not only her homeroom teacher in disguise, he is also her new step-brother! Man, if only he was an idol singer too, it would have been perfect! There’s another series where the girl’s love interest is her science teacher who also happens to lead a secret life outside of school as a rich nightclub owner. He does eventually go on to become a popular acting idol too… ^_^;;

    Anyway, I love all things shoujo :)

    • You are like the shoujo manga librarian. ^_^

      I find that I’m OK with most shoujo too, but sometimes it’s just a little too ditzy for my liking. I’d love to read some classic shoujo that perhaps use different themes and cliches than shoujo manga now. ^_^

      Those two manga you described sound awesome. Can I borrow them sometime? :D

  13. I tend to read shoujo manga more than any other genre, probably because I started with Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Magic Knight Rayearth, as well as some of the Yuu Watase stuff. :)

    I can agree that stories and even character types seem pretty cookie cutter sometimes and whenever I find that I can predict what happens before it happens, I will probably drop the series. Plus the stories where the girl is so completely focused on winning the boy she’ll do anything or try to change herself does bother me some.

    But my favorite titles are my favorites because the main girl is awesome in one form or another. (Kimi ni Todoke, High School Debut, Love Com, Skip Beat!)

    • I’m the same way. It it’s too vapid for my tastes, I’ll stop collecting, but even with manga focused on getting the guy or relationships (like LoveCom and others.) I usually like characters with awesome quirks, so I like a lot of manga that people usually don’t like. :3

  14. I’m not a giant fan of a lot of recent shojo. I think the fluffy cutesy stuff is fun, but ultimately boring and forgettable, if not just stupid. It may be that I’ve grown out of the demographic, but then I’ll go back and reread Mars and LOVE IT. And while I don’t go out and read every shojo, I’ll flip out when a new volume of Nana or Sand Chronicles comes out. Maybe I just lean more towards the dramatic than the sugary?

    I’d say people shun shojo because they think it’ll be too sugary. Also, more people lean towards shonen because it’s “okay” for girls to like boy stuff but not vice versa. Same with being younger and reading “mature” stuff versus being older and reading “kid” stuff.

  15. Pingback: Happy 1st Blogoversary, All About Manga! « All About Manga

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