I thought I’d write about some of the more common misconceptions people have about shojo. Some of these only fans who are unfamiliar with the genre believe, while others even those who are fans and have been reading and watching shojo for years believe. So I hope this will be informative and help counter some of the preconceived notions about shojo that exist.
All shojo manga authors are female. It’s certainly true that the majority of shojo manga-ka are women, and that the most famous shojo artists, such as Yuu Watase and Ai Yazawa, are female. However, there are actually more male shojo authors than people realize. The shojo manga market was actually founded by the ‘god of manga’ himself, Osamu Tezuka. Other male shojo manga-ka include Tanaka Meca, author of Faster Than a Kiss, and Mineyo Maya, who created Patalliro!
The main protagonist is always female. While outsiders may believe this to be true, fans familiar with shojo manga have come across at least one series with a male protagonist. CLAMP’s dark fantasy series X has male main characters, while authors such as Aya Kanno (Blank Slate, Otomen) and Kaori Yuki (Angel Sanctuary, Godchild) specialize in creating works centered on male characters. And the shonen-ai genre, which is a sub-branch of shojo, typically has main male characters – after all, it’d be kind of hard to have a ‘boys love’ story without the boys.
All shojo focus on romance. While most contemporary shojo manga highlight romantic relationships, many of the earliest shojo featured stories about orphaned children or mother-daughter relationships rather than romantic entanglements. Because shojo is a marketing demographic, there are actually several genres within shojo – horror shojo, mecha, slice-of-life, fantasy, magical girl, and many more. Even today, there are prominent shojo without romantic themes, such as Baby & Me, which follows brothers Takuya and Minoru after their mother dies.
Love Hina is shojo. Or Ah! My Goddess or Maison Ikkoku. I’ve seen many people mistakenly deem series as shojo just because they have romance or a main female character. However, shonen series often feature romance as well – there are many shonen romantic comedies and harem series that play to male audiences’ fantasies. More than romantic plots or female characters, what really determines if something is shojo is what magazine it ran in during its publication in Japan. More famous shojo magazines include Nakayoshi (Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura), Ribon (Marmalade Boy, most of Arina Tanemura’s works), Margaret and all its spinoffs (Boys Over Flowers, Kimi ni Todoke) and Hana to Yume (Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club).
The characters all look the same. This is a stereotype of shojo that really bothers me. Some people criticize shojo for using ‘flowery’ art where all the characters have big eyes and look alike. But I find this to be hypocritical – there are many shonen series that have similar artstyles as well – it’s just more noticeable in shojo because shojo tends to be extremely character-centric. Besides, there are plenty of shojo artists who have very distinct styles – Ai Yazawa’s sharp, realistic designs look nothing like Arina Tanemura’s long-haired damsels.
Guys can’t enjoy shojo. There is a belief that all media made for women, not just manga, are ‘inferior’ to more male-oriented stories. Thus, there are many men who won’t watch or read something just because it was meant to be consumed by women. Some people criticize shojo without even giving it a chance – they let their prejudices get in the way of many of the great strengths of shojo: relatable plotlines and fully-rounded characters that can be wonderfully emotional and addictive. Plenty of guys I know have enjoyed shojo series, because ultimately, a good story stands above all else.