Tag Archives: josei

The 2010 Great Shoujo Manga Gift Guide

A few days ago, as I was shopping at Borders, I heard my first Christmas music of the season. Now Christmas music usually makes me want to kill people, but instead of taking it out on the checkout clerk, I decided it would be a good time to start writing this gift guide instead.

Yes, I am a total scrooge when it comes to Christmas, but there are other holidays coming up and this gift guide will be useful for all of them. But before we get started, I would like to remind you that you can find out more about the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide here and also view other 2010 gift guides.

Now onto something that makes me much less grumpy…shoujo manga! (And some josei too, of course.)

The Prettiest, Shiniest Thing You Can Buy For That Special Someone Who Likes Pretty, Shiny Things

You guessed it! I’m talking about Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. Oh yes, this is 288 pages of hardcover, gold embossed shoujo from a classic master of shoujo manga. Even better, while supplies last, you can get your giftee a copy with a signed plate from Hagio herself when you order the book from Fantagraphics directly. Filled with short stories that span Hagio’s career, this book isn’t for children, but anyone from your mature older teen (if you feel comfortable with them reading about issues like abortion and suicide attempts) to adults who still love a good shoujo fix, classical manga or just something different from the norm. It makes a fantastic read and an excellent coffee table book for someone who loves manga.

For The Naughty Girl

So maybe you’re looking for a manga for that special someone who just happens to be heavily into hilarious smut. If that’s the case, look no further than Butterflies, Flowers. There are very few raunchy shoujo or josei titles that get published in English and this is one of the few that does it successfully without turning the heroine into a pawn of the men vying for her. The relationship between the heroine, Choko, and her romantic interest, Masayuki, is very give and take. Choko used to be the daughter of a very rich family where Masayuki was a servant. Now their roles are reversed as she is a poor, lowly secretary at a real estate company and Masayuki is a high-class executive who likes to sexually harass her openly. But Choko doesn’t let him get away with jack squat if he embarrasses her and Masayuki’s teases are beyond humiliating sometimes. It’s like watching that really cute couple that always makes half-joking, but pointed comments at each other in manga form.

For Someone Who Likes The Cute (or Yotsuba&!)

The obvious choice for this category would be Otomen, but if you know your giftee is already collecting that series, what do you do? They’re going to get themselves the next volume anyway and you’d like to gift something they haven’t read so you can get that “OMG I LOVE THIS MANGA! Thanks for giving it to me! Is there more?” feeling. That’s why I suggest Bunny Drop, an adorable story about a 30-something office worker who decides to spontaneously adopt his 4-year-old aunt when his grandfather dies. (That’s where the Yotsuba&! part came from, if you were wondering.) Bunny Drop is mostly about Daikichi learning the ins and outs of caring for a young, emotional child, he also takes time to connect with her and learn about her mysterious past. Rin, however, steals the show with her cuteness. And, in my opinion, Bunny Drop is the best josei to come out this year.

For The Romantic Who Wants to Be Swept Away

Stepping on Roses by Rinko Ueda is classic romance novel fodder. Poor girl needs money, poor girl meets rich man who just  happens to need a stand-in wife that he doesn’t want to love, money exchanges hands and they wind up falling in love reluctantly. I seem to be one of the few bloggers who actually likes this series, most others think Sumi is a total limp noodle. When I first read it, I too was hesitant because of what other people had said. I was surprised that Sumi wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Sure, she’s clueless about the lifestyle of her rich husband, illiterate and much more, but she sticks to her guns and takes the opportunity to learn and do her job. I felt like Sumi was an English major suddenly stuck into an advanced engineering class. She has the pep and the ability to learn, but feels lost compared to the other characters who grew up in that environment. The important part is she never really loses her resolve. Perhaps I just really like Rinko Ueda’s manga, but she creates an awesome Meiji era/Victorian romance with lots of drama, a cheery heroine and awesome (albeit historically inaccurate) fashion.

For Your Future Astronaut

Twin Spica is like a dramatic space-age shoujo manga. That’s saying a lot because Twin Spica actually ran in a seinen magazine. Still, it reminds me a lot of the shoujo classic To Terra…, without the dramatic racial politics and the super-advanced civilization, of course. With the cute school girl heroine and the competitive astronaut school drama, it’s something any shoujo manga or scifi fan can enjoy. At the same time, it’s a great gift for someone who isn’t a fan of all the normal shoujo cliches and wants something a little bit more mature and original. It’s a little bit heavy and sad at times, but if your giftee isn’t the Arina Tanemura manga type, then a couple volumes of Twin Spica will make an excellent gift.

For The Graphic Novel Purist

Got someone in your life who you want to share your passion for manga with, but they’re more about the graphic novels? Perhaps you should pair Fumi Yoshinaga’s All My Darling Daughters with Natsume Ono’s Not Simple. Both are fantastic manga that focus more on the craft of storytelling than keeping the story going like many manga do. Any woman with a mother can relate to All My Darling Daughters and Not Simple’s tragic story is intriguing. They’re both great ways to show the reluctant reader that manga isn’t all just about ninjas and magical girls, but has a lot of titles to fit different tastes.

For The Fangirl

I know I shouldn’t do this because I worked on the series… I’ve been trying so hard not to, but…Hetalia: Axis Powers. There! I said it! If your giftee doesn’t already have it, then get it for them! If they didn’t like the anime, don’t take this as a bad sign. I’ve heard tons of people saying they liked the manga way more, but hated the anime and I can see why. The anime was fujoshi-fied in order to make more money, but the manga is a lot less overwhelmingly cutesy and more about the political/historical relationships. If all else fails, TOKYOPOP has a lot of charming shoujo manga in their catalog. But I shouldn’t say anymore! NRGH, THIS IS SO HARD!!!! Seriously, they’ve put out some great shoujo in the past few years. I just don’t feel right pimping more than one recent title.

For The Shoujo Fan Who’s Read Every Single Japanese Manga You Can Think Of

Have an extensive shoujo collector to shop for? Get her started on sunjeong manhwa! There’s plenty of cute titles out there like 10, 20, 30, X Diary and Please, Please Me from Netcomics. Yen Press has a pretty substantial sunjeong manhwa catalog and TOKYOPOP has a ton of out of print manhwa that were very under-appreciated, so you can probably find some in a bargain bin somewhere. (Sadly, but at least it’s cheap, right?)

For Your Shoujo Manga Fan/Foodie

There are actually a lot of manga that fit this category out there, but I love Mixed Vegetables the best. It’s about two kids in a culinary high school who have dreams to be a pasty chef and a sushi chef, but the one dreaming of being sushi chef is the daughter of a pastry chef and the one dreaming of being a pastry chef is a son of a sushi chef! Obviously, they team up to help each other achieve their dreams, but along the way there’s a lot of romance, drama and focus on delicious sushi and pastries! Nummers. It’s a typical shoujo manga in a lot of ways, but at the same time, a bit like a shounen manga where the protagonists are fighting to reach their dreams.

For The One Who Still Stumps You

I’ll always recommend this as long as I live: gift cards. If you truly have no clue, there is nothing better than a good chunk of money (at least $25) on a bookstore gift card. Or a local comic book store gift card (assuming they have a substantial manga section) or a Right Stuf gift card. That way, your giftee will get the money to spend on whatever manga they want and you will know they will be satisfied with that next volume or two of their favorite series.

In case you didn’t find what you were looking for with this list, you can also check out my Shoujo Manga Gift Guide from last year. Happy shopping!

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Osaka Considering Regulation of Female-Oriented Manga

When I first saw Anime News Network’s clip on how Osaka is reviewing josei and boys’ love manga and other related materials for content that objectifies youth under the age of 18, I didn’t really notice it. After all, Tokyo’s been considering something similar so I figured Osaka just jumped on the bandwagon.

…Until I read Anime Vice’s post on the same subject when I realized something —Osaka is ONLY going after stuff targeted at women.

…WHAT THE HELL, OSAKA?

Imagine a world where josei did not exist for exploring female sexuality.

Now, I can understand the importance of regulating material that objectifies minors as well as the next person, whether it be shojo, josei or hentai. That’s not what I have a problem with. My problem is the fact that the Osaka Prefectural Government is ONLY going after materials that women read and NOTHING that’s marketed at guys. (Oh yes! There is a history of them ONLY going after female-oriented material!)

Excuse me, dudes, I do not think that is fair. I won’t say that the fairer sex isn’t past questionable Harlequin romances and even more questionable yaoi cliches, but I do think that dudes are a little more into objectifying minors than women are. Or, at least, most men do it with a little more frequency than most women do. If I am wrong, then I guess I’m going to hell for over-generalizing and will have to forever apologize to every guy who’s ever masturbated.

Moritheil of Anime Diet reminded me of Japan’s not-so-secretive sexism, how politicians don’t think realistically and how concerned Japan is with being able to sell anime and manga overseas, but I still have to say SHAME ON OSAKA.

I am so royally pissed at Osaka for not going after guy-oriented manga too. I know there HAS to be SOME ecchi, harem, moe-blob or hentai manga being sold in Osaka that’s objectifying minors!! Don’t tell me it doesn’t exist!

I SO wish I lived in Osaka so I could give the prefectural government there a little piece of my mind, but I am stuck with meaningless fan rage. I sincerely hope that Osaka’s government either includes scrutiny of male-oriented manga and related materials in their study or drops it all together in the sake of total free speech.

Ladies and Gents, what are you thoughts about this focus on regulating ONLY female-oriented manga?

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Why not be gender-neutral? Publishers and gender-genres

There’s a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot in the manga industry that actually bothers me quite a bit.

It goes: Girls will read stuff for guys, but guys won’t read stuff for girls.

There’s actually a fair amount of financial proof that not a lot of guys read stuff written for girls and girls read stuff originally written for a male audience, but I don’t have direct access to that kind of information and that’s not my point.

My point is that there’s some stuff that is “meant for girls” that could have a much wider appeal if marketed properly, so why don’t comic book  publishing companies take that route?

I’ll explain further: Sure, there are plenty of comics (especially manga) that are clearly of no interest to most guys. A lot of shojo and josei manga are really just about light-fluffy romance and girls obsessing over stuff that most guys wouldn’t want to understand, let alone enjoy reading about. That said, there’s plenty of really awesome titles that are billed as shojo or josei, but could almost be gender-neutral.

Example one: Basara by Yumi Tamura, published by Viz under their shojo line.

Basara by Yumi Tamura

Basara by Yumi Tamura

I’m up to volume 12 of the series and while it’s got a female protangonist and one of the major plot points is a romance between two of the main characters, the story is about a people’s rebellion under a brutral post-apocalyptic tyranny. While there is the romance, overcoming the big problem comes first, which is more of a shounen trope. Sure, the art does lean towards a shojo style, but other works by Yumi Tamura, like Chicago, remind me more of Naoki Urasawa than Arina Tanemura. (Ha, wow, comparing Arina Tanemura and Yumi Tamura is like comparing Danielle Steel to Stephen King!)

Why didn’t Viz bother to publish under a more universal line if Basara had the potential to sell well with girls AND boys?

To be honest, Shogakukan billed Basara as shojo, serialized it in Betsucomi (a shojo manga magazine) and Viz probably just rode that wave. If I was a Viz editor or someone else involved in that decision-making process, I would have shoved it into their signature line because Basara has that potential to sell well to both genders. After all, it was pretty well-received by critics when it was released. Since I decided to pick it up, I haven’t heard a fan, male or female, say a bad thing about it either. But while some fans are less discerning about their picks, most male fans are just going to see the shojo logo on the spine of the books and turn the other direction.

It’s probably very easy to point the finger at Japanese publishers sticking to their slightly more sexist, but more accepted societal norms, but that does not mean U.S. publishers have to blindly follow them.

Karakuri Odette by Julietta Suzuki

Karakuri Odette by Julietta Suzuki

Going from Basara to something more recent, a Tokyopop release by Julietta Suzuki called Karakuri Odette, which I copy-edited as an intern for them. While it’s more likely to be categorized as shojo for many reasons, Karakuri Odette also doesn’t focus on typical shojo plots. Tokyopop even labeled it as a comedy series and it was billed as an a-typical shojo by critics. Yet, the cover design is hot pink and accented with hearts. Not to stereotype, but most male manga fans aren’t going to pick that up at a bookstore unless they’re shopping for their girlfriend’s Christmas gift. If the cover had been mostly green, which is an accent color on Tokyopop’s cover design, it would have faired much better with dudes just picking it up and seeing if it was anything they wanted to read.

I’m no expert at marketing (although I find it and advertising to be really fun, I almost wish I’d gone into PR instead of journalism,) but I feel like such niche targeting is detrimental to some series. I know when I was younger, I wouldn’t have touched shounen or seinen series because I totally thought they were all like Naruto, which I dislike, and not very good. Still, I was curious and if someone had put something out there without making it look like it was shojo or shounen, I would have probably gone for it and tried to read more series like it.  I probably would have been more willing to pick up something different than pure shojo fluff.

I’m not saying the industry has to change how they categorize everything, I’m just saying that we could make SOME series gender-neutral where it fits and start lifting the stereotypes of shojo being JUST for girls and vice-versa.

Baka-Updates Manga’s genre site -This site goes into how they define each genre, which includes shojo, shounen, etc as well as regular genres.

Why Can’t Female Leads Be Happy Without A Boyfriend? -An article about the difference between comics and manga as well as shojo and shounen.

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The Manga Cliche Review: Musical Talent, Part 3

So last time I talked about La Corda d’Oro, which is the kind of much too cliched shojo manga I wish people had the foresight not to publish in Japan, let alone the U.S. Media tie-ins make a lot of money for publishers so I can see why someone did.

Still, I respect classical music a lot and I feel that manga about it must have a certain kind of intensity to it. There’s just something about the way classical music is written that, to me, feels like there is serious passion in it at all times. It’s like tasting the blood, sweat and tears of the composer. The composer worked damn hard to make that music sound like springtime for you.

That’s where my next pick comes in. It shows you that world and just how much work goes into the creation of classical music. The blood, the sweat, the tears, etc.

The Classic (al Music): Nodame Cantabile by  Tomoko Ninomiya

Nodame Cantabile

So full of passion, you can see the awesome.

Nodame is about two students at Momogaoka College of Music, Megumi Noda (Nodame herself) and Shinichi Chiaki. Both are excellent pianists, but they couldn’t be more different. Chiaki is the school’s top student, extremely well-organized and successful and Nodame is messy, lazy and extremely disorganized. Chiaki strives to perfect his music and Nodame likes to literally play it by ear.

The story starts out with Chiaki having a rough time attempting to switch majors from piano to conducting. Not only are his advisors trying to stop him, but he has a serious fear of flying, which makes it extremely tough for him to take on a new career. On top of that, he’s trying to get out of a relationship and the creepy Nodame is kind of stalking him. Chiaki winds up getting stuck helping out Nodame in class and caring for her on occasion, which begins their funny little relationship.

What I really love is about Nodame Cantabile is that it feels just like being around my school friends, particularly my anime club. Everyone has different specialties, different goals, different personalities, but we can band together around one thing and work to make it great. In my club’s case, it’s being a great anime community. In the case of Nodame, Chiaki and their friends, it’s making music.

Not to overgeneralize, but Nodame Cantabile is manga as it should be. It’s carefully paced and finely crafted to make the reader perfectly at home with the characters, even if they’re not into classical music at all. It’s just smooth like piano music. (How fitting…) The characters aren’t overly dramatic and they usually don’t stick to the usual shojo/josei cliches as they move through their lives, which is refreshing. At the same time, they have enough spice in them to keep them interesting. You want to know what makes Chiaki and Nodame tick (I am half-convinced that Nodame has a very mild case of high-functioning autism,) you want to see Mine and Masumi reach their goals (and everyone else too!) It’s just that kind of story. No one really comes close to being truly evil, lending to the human quality of the characters.

Nodame Cantabile could be read by almost anyone, unless they’re a total action junkie and doesn’t read manga without any battles.

If nothing else, it should be clear that this manga is worth reading because there’s also an anime series and two live-action movies based on the series. You don’t put down that kind of money on a series if it isn’t at least decent or the next Naruto.

That ends the first installment of The Manga Cliche Review on All About Comics! What am I writing about next time? I haven’t decided yet. I should take a trip to the bookstore…

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