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Japan Life!
Chapter: 10 Lesson: 0 - What is Shoujo / shojo and everything you need to know
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Lesson added on: January 1, 1970 12:00am
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Shoujo Genre

Shoujo (少女)
, sometimes written as shojo, are manga that target a particular female age group. Shoujo is most often defined as 'girl', but can more accurately be translated as 'young woman'. While there is no definite age range, shoujo is targeted to girls as young as seven to ten years old to those as old as eighteen. For this reason, they can include anything from innocent girls' stories to those containing stronger material advised for more mature readers.

Manga written for older females are called josei (女性漫画), redisu (レディース), or redikomi (レディコミ), and the male counterpart of shoujo manga is shounen (少年), boys' manga. Nonetheless, shoujo manga and anime does not only appeal to female readers, but is also often read by boys and men.

The creation of shoujo manga began during the late nineteenth century, when manga was first published in magazines (zasshi / 雑誌). At that time, there was no separation between manga for boys and those for girls. These magazines typically had cartoons that were only a few pages in length, which were written by apprentices who wished to gain experience in order to later draw political cartoons for newspapers.

It was later on, in 1902, that a clear division in gender for manga appeared, when a magazine known as Shoujo Kai (少女界), "Girl's World", was published. The wars that soon followed created changes in manga, ultimately resulting in the longer, more detailed stories that we have today.

Finally Kodansha Publishing released Shoujo Friend in 1963, while Shueisha Publishing released Margaret; both magazines dedicated to shoujo manga.One of the first mangaka (漫画家) to draw a manga with a female, teenage main character was Nishitani Yoshiko (西谷祥子). The theme of romance was also prominent in her work; a feature that had been unthinkable for children's magazines at the time.

Today, the drawings and stories of Nishitani Yoshiko are considered to have created the basis of what are now popular high-school romance shoujo manga.For many, shoujo manga have come to represent manga that are based upon romance and contain little adventure or action, this is not necessarily the case. Shoujo manga can cover a broad range of genres and is not limited to those that may be considered more feminine, such as fantasy or romance.

Moreover, there are many popular shoujo manga that contain just as much adventure or action as other genres.There are a few key stylistic details that differentiate shoujo manga from other types. One of these is the presence of bishounen (美少年) characters, literally "beautiful boy" characters.

Bishounen may be characterized by a male with an effeminate appearance, sometimes causing them to be mistaken for females, though this is not always the case.

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The designs and layouts of shoujo manga are also distinctive. Often times, the backgrounds in a given panel within the manga are filled with abstract shapes and designs, used to accentuate the emotions of the scene.

For example, backgrounds mimicking flowers create a light atmosphere, those that can be viewed as "shining" or "glittery" are used when speaking of romantic details, or those composed of darker lines can represent pain or sadness.The settings of shoujo manga can also be quite diverse. Some shoujo manga may have a setting outside of Japan, most commonly in Europe.

There are, nonetheless, many shoujo manga that take place within Japan, and a foreign setting is not a necessary requirement for a manga to be considered to a shoujo. In fact, there are no set requirements for shoujo manga, and they have diversified over the years to cover a broad range of stories; therefore, there are shoujo manga that have only one or even none of the aforementioned stylistic traits.

There is, however, one trait that is a key part of almost all shoujo manga: the emphasis on portraying feelings and emotions of the characters.

Click to expand

The characters' emotions and interpersonal relations are key aspects. For some, a particular shoujo manga may be able to evoke strong emotion due to the reader's ability to associate with the characters. However, in the end, there is only one true way to know whether a manga is shoujo, and that is by knowing what magazine it was originally published in.

Simply put, a manga is a shoujo manga when it is published by a shoujo magazine.Today, shoujo manga are abundant not only within Japan, but the number of English shoujo manga has increased over the years. The Ribon magazine, published by Shueisha, is currently the most popular magazine for shoujo stories, with a circulation of over one million subscribers per month. Shoujo Beat, released by VIZ media, is yet another such magazine that is distributed monthly.

Shoujo manga released in the form of tankoubon (単行本), paperback versions of series that have been serialized, are also increasing in numbers. The past few years have also seen a large number of manga translated into English, as manga became more and more popular in the Western world.

Popular series that have been licensed and published in English include Fruits Basket (フルーツバスケット) by Natsuki Takaya (高屋 奈月) and Fushigi Yugi (ふしぎ遊戯) by Yuu Watase (渡瀬 悠宇).
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