For other uses of the word "shōjo", see Shōjo.

The term shōjo, shojo, or shoujo manga (少女漫画 shōjo manga?) refers to manga marketed to a female audience roughly between the ages of 10 and 18. The name romanizes the Japanese 少女 (shōjo), literally: "little girl". Shōjo manga covers many subjects in a variety of narrative and graphic styles, from historical drama to science fiction - often with a strong focus on human and romantic relationships and emotions.[1] Strictly speaking, shōjo manga does not comprise a style or a genre per se, but rather indicates a target demographic.[2][3] Examples include Cardcaptor Sakura, Fushigi Yuugi, Sailor Moon, Romeo x Juliet, and Tokyo Mew Mew.


File:Shoujo November 1910.jpg
File:Nazo no clover page 7.jpg

Japanese magazines specifically for girls, known as shōjo magazines, first appeared in 1903 with the founding of Shōjo kai (少女界?, Girls' World), and continued with others such as Shōjo Sekai (少女世界?, Girls' World) (1906) and the long-running Shōjo no tomo (少女の友?, Girls' Friend) (1908).[4][5]

Simple, single-page manga had begun to appear in these magazines by 1910, and by the 1930s more sophisticated humor-strips had become an essential feature of most girls' magazines. The most popular manga, Katsuji Matsumoto's Kurukuru Kurumi-chan (くるくるクルミちゃん), debuted on the pages of Shōjo no tomo (少女の友) in 1938.[6][dead link] As World War II progressed, however, "comics, perhaps regarded as frivolous, began to disappear".[7]

Postwar shōjo manga, such as Shosuke Kurakane's popular Anmitsu Hime,[8] initially followed the pre-war pattern of simple humor-strips. But Osamu Tezuka's postwar revolution, introducing intense drama and serious themes to children's manga, spread quickly to shōjo manga, particularly after the enormous success of his seminal Ribon no kishi (リボンの騎士 Princess Knight).[7]

Until the mid-1960s males vastly outnumbered the handful of females (for example: Toshiko Ueda, Hideko Mizuno, Masako Watanabe, and Miyako Maki) amongst the artists working on shōjo manga. Many, such as Tetsuya Chiba,[9] functioned as rookies, waiting for an opportunity to move over to shōnen (少年 "boys'") manga. Chiba asked his wife about girls' feelings for research for his manga. At this time, conventional job-opportunities for females did not include becoming a mangaka.[10] Adapting Tezuka's dynamic style to shōjo manga (which had always been domestic in nature) proved challenging. According to Thorn:

While some chose to simply create longer humor-strips, others turned to popular girls' novels of the day as a model for melodramatic shōjo manga. These manga featured sweet, innocent pre-teen heroines, torn from the safety of family and tossed from one perilous circumstance to another, until finally rescued (usually by a kind, handsome young man) and re-united with their families.[11]

These early shōjo manga almost invariably had pre-adolescent girls as both heroines and readers. Unless they used a fantastic setting (as in Princess Knight) or a backdrop of a distant time or place, romantic love for the heroine remained essentially taboo. But the average age of the readership rose, and its interests changed. In the mid-1960s one of the few female artists in the field, Yoshiko Nishitani, began to draw stories featuring contemporary Japanese teenagers in love. This signaled a dramatic transformation of the genre.[12][13] Between 1950 and 1969, increasingly large audiences for manga emerged in Japan with the solidification of its two main marketing genres, shōnen manga aimed at boys and shōjo manga aimed at girls.[1][14]

Between roughly 1969 and 1971 a flood of young female manga artists transformed the genre again. Some, including Hagio Moto, Yumiko Oshima, and Keiko Takemiya, became known as the hana no nijū yon nen gumi (花の24年組, Year 24 Group, so named from the approximate year of birth many of them shared:Shōwa 24, or 1949). This loosely-defined group experimented with content and form, inventing such new sub-genres as Shōnen-ai, and earning the long-maligned shōjo manga unprecedented critical praise. Other female artists of the same generation, such as Riyoko Ikeda, Yukari Ichijo, and Sumika Yamamoto, garnered unprecedented popular support with such hits (respectively) as Berusaiyu no bara (ベルサイユのばら, "The Rose of Versailles"), Dezainaa (デザイナー, "Designer"), and Eesu wo nerae! (エースをねらえ!, "Aim for the Ace!").[1][4][12][13][14][15][16]Script error Since the mid-1970s, women have created the vast majority of shōjo manga - notable exceptions include Mineo Maya and Shinji Wada).

From 1975 to 2009 shōjo manga continued to develop stylistically while simultaneously branching out into different but overlapping subgenres.[17] Major sub-genres include romance, science fiction, fantasy, magical girls, yaoi, and "Ladies Comics" (in Japanese, redisu レディース, redikomi レディコミ, and josei 女性).[18][19]

Meaning and spelling

As shōjo literally means "girl" in Japanese, the equivalent of the western usage will generally include the mediumScript error: girls' manga (少女漫画 shōjo manga), or anime for girls (少女向けアニメ shōjo-muke anime). The parallel terms shōnen, seinen, and josei also occur in the categorisation of manga and anime, with similar qualification. Though the terminology originates with the Japanese publishers, cultural differences with the West mean that labelling in English tends to vary wildly, with the types often confused and mis-applied.

Due to vagaries in the romanization of Japanese, publishers may transcribe 少女 (written しょうじょ in hiragana) in a wide variety of ways. By far the most common form, shoujo[citation needed], follows English phonology[citation needed], preserves the spelling, and requires only ASCII input. The Hepburn romanization shōjo uses a macron for the long vowel, though the prevalence of Latin-1 fonts often results in a circumflex instead, as in shôjo. Many English-language texts just ignore long vowels, using shojo, however this is sometimes discouraged[by whom?] due to potential confusion with 処女 (shojo, literally: "virgin") as well as other possible meanings. Finally, transliteraters may use Nihon-shiki-type mirroring of the kana spelling: syôjyo, or syoujyo.

Western adoption

Fans in the West have adopted a wide range of Japanese anime and manga terminology, however the strong stylistic and thematic similarities between a sector of shōjo works has led to regarding them as a genre or style, sometimes with an attempt to assign it by degrees. This has led to western fans classifying a wide variety of titles as shōjo, even though their Japanese creators would label them differently. Anything non-offensive and featuring female characters may class as shōjo, such as the light seinen comedy manga and anime Azumanga Daioh.[20] Similarly, as romance has become a common element of many shōjo works, any title with romance, such as the shōnen Love Hina[21] or the seinen Oh My Goddess! tend to get mislabeled. In addition Westerners often declare that particularly violent, gory, or sexually explicit works "cannot possibly" be shōjo,[citation needed] or disbelieve that the producers of shōnen-ai titles target a market of girls rather than homosexual men.[citation needed]

This confusion also extends beyond the fan community; articles aimed at the mainstream also widely misrepresent the terms. In an introduction to anime and manga, Jon Courtenay Grimwood writes:

'Maison Ikkoku' comes from Rumiko Takahashi, one of the best known of all 'shôjo' writers. Imagine a very Japanese equivalent of 'Sweet Valley High' or 'Melrose Place'. It has Takahashi's usual and highly-successful mix of teenagers and romance, with darker clouds of adolescence hovering.

Grimwood, Jon Courtenay , "Every Picture..." , Books Quarterly, (Issue 19, 2006). p. 42

Takahashi has become a famed shōnen mangaka, but Maison Ikkoku, one of her few seinen titles and serialised in Big Comic Spirits, aimed at males in their 20s. Matt Thorn, who has made a career out of studying girls' comics, attempts to clarify the matter by explaining that "shôjo manga are manga published in shôjo magazines (as defined by their publishers)".[3]

Publishers and stores have problems retailing shōjo: unsure of the "right" way to spell the word. Licensees such as Dark Horse Comics have misidentified several of the seinen titles, and in particular manga and anime aimed at a younger audience in Japan is often considered[by whom?] "inappropriate" for minors in the US.[22] In this way licensees often either voluntarily censor titles or re-market them towards an older audience. In the less conservative European markets, content that might be heavily edited or cut in an English-language release is often present in French, German and other translated editions.

As one effect of these variations, US companies have moved to use the borrowed words that have gained name-value in fan communities, but separate them from the Japanese meaning. In their shōjo manga range, publisher VIZ Media attempt a re-appropriation of the term, providing the definition:

shô·jo (sho'jo) n. 1. Manga appealing to both female and male readers. 2. Exciting stories with true-to-life characters and the thrill of exotic locales. 3. Connecting the heart and mind through real human relationships.

Nasu Yukie , Here is Greenwood 1 , San Francisco, California: [1996] 2004. VIZ LLC. ISBN 1-59116-604-7

The desire to disassociate the word from its meaning, "girl", seems largely driven by fear of putting off potential new readers, particularly male ones.

Manga and anime labeled as "shōjo" need not interest only young girls, and some titles gain a following outside the traditional audience. For instance, Frederik L. Schodt identifies Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida as: of the few girls' manga a red-blooded Japanese male adult could admit to reading without blushing. Yoshida, while adhering to the conventions of girls' comics in her emphasis on gay male love, made this possible by eschewing flowers and bug eyes in favor of tight bold strokes, action scenes, and speed lines.


Such successful "crossover" titles remain the exception rather than the rule, however: the archetypal shōjo manga magazine Hana to Yume has a readership 95% female, with a majority aged 17 or under.[24]

The popularity of romantic shōjo manga in America has encouraged Harlequin to release manga-styled romantic comics.[25]

Circulation figures

The reported average circulations for some of the top-selling shōjo manga magazines in 2007 included:

Title Reported Circulation First Published
Ciao 982,834 1977
Nakayoshi 400,000 1954
Ribon 376,666 1955
Bessatsu Margaret 320,000 1964
Hana to Yume 226,826 1974
Cookie 200,000 1999
Deluxe Margaret 181,666 1967
The Margaret 177,916 1963
LaLa 170,833 1976
Cheese! 144,750 1996

For comparison, circulations for the top-selling magazines in other categories for 2007 included:

Category Magazine Title Reported Circulation
Top-selling shōnen manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump 2,778,750
Top-selling seinen manga magazine Young Magazine 981,229
Top-selling josei manga magazine YOU 194,791
Top-selling non-manga magazine Monthly The Television 1,018,919

(Source for all circulation figures: Japan Magazine Publishers Association[26])

Shōjo magazines in Japan

In a strict sense, shōjo manga refers to a story serialized in a shōjo manga magazine (a magazine marketed to girls and young women). The list below contains past and current Japanese shōjo manga magazines, grouped according to their publishers. Such magazines can appear on a variety of schedules, including bi-weekly (Margaret, Hana to Yume, Shōjo Comic), monthly (Ribon, Bessatsu Margaret, Bessatsu Friend, LaLa), bi-monthly (Deluxe Margaret, LaLa DX, The Dessert), and quarterly (Cookie BOX, Unpoko). Weekly shōjo magazines, common in the 1960s and 1970s, had disappeared by the early 1980s.[citation needed]





Akita Shoten

  • Princess
  • Princess Gold
  • Petit Princess
  • Mystery Bonita
  • Susperia Mystery
  • Renai MAX

Kadokawa Shoten

Web magazine


Shōjo magazines outside Japan

Viz Media

  • Shojo Beat, a shōjo manga magazine published in North America from 2005 to 2009

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Toku, Masami, editor. 2005. "Shojo Manga: Girl Power!" Chico, CA: Flume Press/California State University Press. ISBN 1-886226-10-5. See also Accessed 2007-09-22.
  2. Thorn, Matt (2001) "Shôjo Manga—Something for the Girls", The Japan Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 3
  3. 3.0 3.1 Thorn, Matt (2004) What Shôjo Manga Are and Are Not: A Quick Guide for the Confused, last modified December 18, 2006
  4. 4.0 4.1 Script error
  5. The Kikuyō Town Library 菊陽町図書館. Meiji - Shōwa shōjo zasshi no goshōkai (明治〜昭和 少女雑誌のご紹介?, "Meiji - Shōwa: An Introduction to Girls' Magazines") Retrieved on 2008-09-15.
  6. Thorn, Matt (2006) "Pre-World War II Shōjo Manga and Illustrations"
  7. 7.0 7.1 Schodt, Frederik L. (1983) Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, Kodansha International
  8. Yonezawa, Yoshihiro, ed. (1991)Kodomo no Shōwa-shi: Shōjo manga no sekai I, Shōwa 20 nen - 37 nen (子供の昭和史──少女マンガの世界 I 昭和20年〜37年 "A Children's History of Showa-Era Japan: The World of Shōjo Manga I, 1945-1962") Bessatsu Taiyō series. Tokyo: Heibonsha
  9. Thorn, Matt (2005) "The Moto Hagio Interview" The Comics Journal #269.
  10. Toku, Masami (2007) "Shojo Manga! Girls' Comics! A Mirror of Girls’ Dreams" Mechademia 2 pp.22-23
  11. Thorn, Matt (2008) "The Multi-Faceted Universe of Shōjo Manga", presented at Le manga, 60 ans après..., Paris, March 15.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Yonezawa, Yoshihiro, ed. (1991)Kodomo no Shōwa-shi: Shōjo manga no sekai II, Shōwa 38 nen - 64 nen (子供の昭和史──少女マンガの世界 II 昭和38年〜64年 "A Children's History of Showa-Era Japan: The World of Shōjo Manga II, 1963-1989") Bessatsu Taiyō series. Tokyo: Heibonsha
  13. 13.0 13.1 Thorn, Matt (2005) "The Magnificent Forty-Niners" The Comics Journal #269.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Schodt, Frederik L. 1986. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo: Kodansha. ISBN 978-0870117527.
  15. Gravett, Paul. 2004. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. New York: Harper Design, pages 78-80 ISBN 1-85669-391-0.
  16. Lent, 2001, op. cit., pp. 9-10.
  17. Ōgi, Fusami 2004. "Female subjectivity and shōjo (girls) manga (Japanese comics): shōjo in Ladies' Comics and Young Ladies' Comics." Journal of Popular Culture, 36(4):780-803.
  18. Gravett, Paul. 2004. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. NY: Harper Design. ISBN 1-85669-391-0. p. 8.
  19. Schodt, Frederik L. 1996. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 978-1880656235.
  20. Azumanga Daioh mistakenly identified as 'shōjo comedy' on the MIT Anime Club website, last modified August 19, 2004
  21. Chobot, Jessica Shojo Showdown, defending choice of Love Hina as #5 in the 'Top Ten Shōjo Manga', IGN, December 2, 2005
  22. Shojo Update:Your Comments and Our Answers, ICV2, August 23, 2001
  23. Schodt, Frederik L. (1996) Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga - Japanese Comics for Otaku. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-23-X
  24. Script error
  25. Harlequin Ginger Blossom manga
  26. Japan Magazine Publishers Association Magazine Data 2007. The publication, which relies on information provided by publishers, categorizes the magazine Cookie as josei, but Shueisha's "S-MANGA.NET" site clearly categorizes that magazine as shōjo, hence its categorization here.

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