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What you need to know about the Shonen Genre
Japanese Culture :: Anime & Manga
What you need to know about the Shonen Genre
Anime & Manga
Published Time
Shonen [少年], sometimes seen written as shounen, is the term given to manga and anime whose target audience is male readers. The kanji for shonen can be literally translated into "few" or "little years". This is appropriate because the shonen age group consists of boys ranging from eight to eighteen years old.

Shonen manga are often considered to be the opposite of shojo. Nonetheless, both types of manga can be read and enjoyed by readers of all ages and genders.

Manga had its first basic appearance in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It wasn't until the late nineteenth century that manga began being published in magazines (zasshi) [雑誌]. At that time, the manga featured in magazines were short, spanning only a few pages in length. These stories were drawn for young children, but did not target a specific gender. A shift in emphasis from gender neutrality towards gender-specific manga came about in 1902 with the publication of a magazine called Shojo Kai [少女界], translating to "Girl's World" in English. It was later in 1959 that two magazines, Weekly Shonen Magazine [週刊少年マガジン] published by Kabushiki-gaissha Koudansha [株式会社講談社] and Weekly Shonen Sunday [週刊少年サンデー] published by Shogakukan [小学館], were released.

At the time of their first publication, the manga in these weekly issues comprised no more than 40% of the magazine. However, it was not long before publishers realized that the number of subscribers would increase with the addition of more manga and soon enough more than 50% of these magazines were occupied by manga.

It was in 1968 that a new weekly shonen manga was released, one that would become very successful: Weekly Shonen Janpu[週刊少年ジャンプ], also known as "Shonen Jump" in the Western world, released by Shueisha [株式会社集英社]. Today, Weekly Shonen Janpu has become most popular magazine in Japan and an agreement between Shueisha and VIZ Media has allowed a Shonen Jump magazine to be released monthly in Northern America.

Shonen manga generally fall under the action and adventure genres. They often contain elements of violence, though the level varies between specific manga, and can be graphic and contain mature themes. Many shonen manga portray a male team, whether a sports team or a fighting squad, working together for a common goal. Humor is also a common characteristic of shonen manga, as is the presence of attractive female characters, sometimes called bishojo [美少女]. In terms of style, shonen manga are commonly less "flowery" than the average shojo manga, though the style of drawing used depends entirely upon the mangaka [漫画家], the creator of the manga. It is important to note that none of these traits are a requirement for a shonen manga, and most often the only sure way to determine whether or not a manga is shonen is to know whether it was originally published in a shonen magazine.

Today, shonen manga are extremely popular not only in Japan, but also in the Western world, and, as mentioned previously, Shueisha's Shûkan Shonen Janpu is now being distributed monthly in Northern America. Some popular shonen manga series are Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto, Akira Toriyama's Dragonball, and Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa.

Notice: All articles written for the Culture section have been researched, and written by Staff. We do our best by referencing various books, videos, testimonials and other sources to write these articles, however history tends to change and we try to accommodate this by revising our publications when necessary. Teachers and students may feel free to use our articles for educational purpose and website authors may quote us with link backs. Revision requests may be completed by clicking the "Request Article Improvements!" link underneath.
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This article has been updated: July 10, 2014.
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