Shojo Myths Debunked!

Shojo Myths Debunked!

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!

CLAMP’s X/1999 manga

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.

14 thoughts on “Shojo Myths Debunked!

  1. I totally agree with this. People get too focused on the shoujo streotypes that they assume that such shoujo ‘myths’ are actually true. Though of course, there’s always the majority and popularity… more shoujo manga (and more popular titles too) have really pretty art full of big-eyed girls, have female manga-kas… etc. I guess one shouldn’t generalize too much.

    ** I didn’t know that CLAMP’s X is a shoujo manga! (and I call myself a fan of CLAMP!! my my…) I didn’t even try to read or watch it because I assumed it was shounen… I don’t want to admit it but I thought it was shounen mainly because “the protagonist is a male”.
    Anyway, X being shounen is just one of the minor reasons why I didn’t read it. The primary reason is that X isn’t finished, yet. But now that I was informed that it is actually shoujo… what else? I’ll read now! ^_^

    1. Thank you for commenting! There have been several series I was shocked to find out there were shojo (like Banana Fish and Blank Slate) because they had male protagonists and action – it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that what manga magazine a series ran in makes it a ‘shonen’ or a ‘shojo.’

      I can definitely see why you’d think that X is a shonen, particularly since some of CLAMPs series are for boys (like Chobits and xxxHolic). Even shojo fans can generalize what shojo is because of course many girl’s series DO have flowery art, romance and big eyes. And that’s part of their charm.🙂

  2. Awesome post! I still can’t believe how widespread this is among anime/manga fans. I once had a debate over whether the Twelve Kingdoms anime (based on a book of the same name) was shoujo or shounen. This person insisted that it was shounen just because it wasn’t about romance. I was really irritated because I thought it was pretty apparent that it was made for girls/women based on how the main character was made to be relateable (is that a word? xD ) and a role model to other females. I’m also shocked at how many people call Love Hina shoujo. It’s definitely a case of cultural norms being different as it’s seen unmanly to read/watch romances in North America. Really sad, actually.

    And that last paragraph, yes, I agree! It peeves me so much when people try to make shoujo into some sort of manga ghetto as if anything good can’t be shoujo and all the crappy sappy love stuff is all women could ever want to read. Thankfully I know quite a few guys who do read shoujo and don’t look down on it.🙂

    1. It’s really hard to definitively label a series as ‘shonen’ or ‘shojo’ when it’s not a manga or manga-based. Twelve Kingdoms is one example, as you mentioned, and I remember wondering if The Story of Saiunkoku anime, which was based on a light novel, could be ‘offically’ counted as shojo. The fact that it later got a shojo manga adaptation proved my intuition to be correct. Love Hina is one that really pisses me off when people call it a shojo because the sheer amount of fanservice should be a pretty big clue that it wasn’t meant for girls. I’ve even heard people say The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a shojo because it was named after the main female character in the series.

      1. Yeah, retrospectively I should have said you can’t classify it (although I do personally feel it was written for other girls), but I remember being really bothered by what this person was implying. Basically their opinion of shoujo was “everything that is a crappy stupid love story is shoujo and I hate it” and it just irked me. When I brought up Banana Fish, they just dismissively waved it away as a rare exception. What bothered me even more was this person identified themselves as female. I’m always shocked when other females are content to sling mud on our general sex to make themselves look superior.😦

      2. Sorry for double reply: Just want to add that yeah, shoujo does have it’s fill of the shallow romances, but shounen has it’s own shallow pile of fan service manga and I feel like most of these people who attack shoujo are using double standards and want to look like they have good taste because they don’t read these “silly stories for silly girls.” Sorry for the double reply. This is something that just really bugs me and I tend to be very flustered about it. ^_^;;;;;

  3. I definitely agree with you soaringwings, shonen manga are full of their own clichés and that there is a double standard when people criticize shojo for all being the same yet overlook that this stands for shonen series as well. And I’m like you in that I get especially peeved when girls dismiss all shojo (especially since most of the time they haven’t even given any shojo series a chance), but in some ways I should expect it because the idea that products made for girls are weird or bad is just embedded in our society – and thus, girls try to disoassociate themselves from these things.

  4. Most shoujo manga do look the same but a small portion of shounen manga look alike. The drawing style for shoujo is not very creative and follows the flowery design that others have done (most of the time) while most of shounen manga have their own artist to the story. What I’m getting at is you can tell the difference of shounen manga’s artist as apposed to a shoujo manga’s artist., you can recognize a certain artist with shounen.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I didn’t want to seem hypocritical because I dislike when people say that all shojo manga looks the same, but the truth is that I personally hold the opinion that alot of shonen manga look similar. Which makes sense – both are highly stylized – it’s just that the ‘shojo aesthetic’ of frills and flowers stands out more than shonen commonalities such as wild hair (especially if you don’t like that particular style). And, as I mentioned, there actually are several shojo artists whose artwork is instantly recognizable if you’ve seen enough of it (like Yuu Watase).

  5. I am a girl but I quite like both shoujo and shounen, but I like shoujo a bit more because I grew up more by enjoying shoujo series. There are quite a few of shounen series that I like such as Cooking Master Boy (Chuuka Ichiban), Detective Conan, and Yu Yu Hakusho.

    To be honest, when I was younger I always secretly looked down on shoujo even though I enjoy many shoujo series. I was really hypocritical about shoujo back then, because I was still blinded with the fact that if you like shoujo then you’re not cool or you’re stupid. But after I get older, I started to realize on how hypocritical I was, and I tried to enjoy any series (no matter its shoujo or shounen) as long as the story is interesting and the characters are likeable.

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