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Bishōjo (美少女?, literally, "beautiful young girl", also spelled bishoujo) is a Japanese term used to refer to young and pretty girls, usually below university age. Bishōjo is not listed as a word in the prominent Japanese dictionary Kōjien. A variant named biyōjo (美幼女?) refers to a girl before the age of adolescence.
Bishōjo in manga and anime
Bishōjo characters are seen in almost all genres of anime and manga, especially in dating sims and visual novels, known as bishōjo games, and so-called harem anime and manga. It is distinguished from the similar sounding shōjo demographic by referring to the gender and traits of the characters rather than that of the audience. Although bishōjo is not a genre but a character design, series predominantly featuring such characters such as "harem" or visual novels are sometimes informally called "bishōjo series". Since one of the main draws of these series are typically the art and the attractive female characters, the term is occasionally perceived negatively as a "genre" solely depending on its marketability of cute characters rather than its content or plot.
A beauty pageant, the Japan Bishojo Contest, has been run since 1985. Singing star Aya Ueto first became famous through this contest televised at the age of twelve. Model and actress Ryoko Yonekura also won a bishōjo contest in 1992.