Welcome to my post on what is shoujo manga.
Shoujo manga is one of the most commonly read genres of manga. The huge readership has led to the creation of subgenres in addition to shoujo such as mahou shoujo, historical, reverse harem, etc.
Shoujo manga is manga aimed at young girls aged 12 to 18 years of age and so is pretty “girly” in nature which appeals to that demographic.
As such, this makes shoujo manga one of the most easily identified genres of manga. Besides, I myself am a huge fan of shoujo manga o((*^▽^*))o which makes me kind of an expert on the topic.
However, if you are new to the shoujo manga genre, this post will guide you through the defining features of shoujo manga and give some examples of manga that display those features.
So without further ado, allow me to list and explain the characteristics of shoujo manga.
*Note that not all shoujo manga display all the characteristics stated below.
Young Female Protagonist
Shoujo manga has the main defining feature of having a female protagonist. Sometimes there are male protagonists (albeit the feminine, emotional kind) but for the most part, shoujo protagonists are young teenage girls.
As the demographic for shoujo manga are school-aged girls, the protagonist is also a young girl for relatability. In addition, the setting for most shoujo manga is at school just to add on to that appeal.
Even if the setting isn’t at school, the protagonist is still usually always young and female. In fact, some recent shoujo manga are taking place in a fantasy setting which are usually reserved for shounen manga.
This is all to mirror the young modern girl and portray her greatest fantasies, giving the demographic a chance to feel like they’re the heroine in a shoujo manga.
Even if the girl is an adult woman, they are pretty likely to read shoujo manga once in a while, just to reminisce and go back to their childhood. So the young female protagonist is also good at portraying dreams in childhood unfulfilled or a chance to get away from being an adult for a while.
Some series that fall into this category are not limited to but include Love So Life, Vampire Knight, and Ao Haru Ride
Focus on Emotions or Romantic Relationships
By far the easiest way to identify shoujo manga, there is a lot of emotional tension within shoujo manga that can make one’s heart clench.
Most people say that if the manga makes you have the feels, it’s a shoujo manga but shoujo manga need not make you cry. Shoujo manga can be identified without needing to cry I believe.
The only way to identify shoujo manga without needing to cry or to be melancholic is by seeing how emotional and deep the conversations go.
Shoujo manga touches a lot on the emotional state of the characters no matter the setting. There may be an adventure in the manga but the feelings of the cast are always mentioned — mostly in the form of an emotional monologue.
Shoujo manga is also famous for it’s over the top, dramatic romances. As a young girl, haven’t you dreamed at one point for some handsome guy to sweep off your feet? I know I have.
Shoujo mangakas will create storylines with romance as the staple while adding in the emotional and deep connections and conversations to create a shoujo manga that will definitely be a massive hit among the demographic.
Some series that fall into this category are not limited to but include Akatsuki no Yona, Nijiiro Days, and Fushigi Yuugi
Sweet Heroines aka. Doormat Heroines
This only applies to shoujo manga with female protagonists and just note that not all shoujo manga have female protagonists.
The heroine of shoujo manga is usually very sweet, kind, and sees the best in everyone.
She is made to be likeable to everyone and to be attractive to the male cast (if romance is involved). This is because young girls usually aspire to be that sweet, kind person so making the heroine like that makes her relatable to them.
In addition, the fact that this nature attracts the male cast greatly appeal to the demographic as it implies that being a kind sweet person will allow the girls to get their dream guy so they will hopefully emulate the heroine and basically follow her example lol.
In the west, sweet heroines have a tendency to be annoyingly likeable because the poor girl is so trustworthy that she becomes someone who is easily manipulated and bullied. Then, her love interest (if romance is involved) has to always save her scared butt which leads to a cute lovey-dovey romantic scene. Funny enough, this doormat heroine becomes a key identifier of shoujo manga because fans (at least in the west) always ask themselves, “why not have a strong independent woman as a heroine?” so you can be sure to tell if the manga is a shoujo one just be keeping an eye on the heroine.
But not every heroine will be a doormat. Some heroines can be pretty tough but that’s pretty rare. Nowadays, mangakas are starting to make “tougher heroines” but honestly, they are still doormats. You can’t please them all, I guess. Furthermore, this is Japan we’re talking about. Being that kind of girl is kind of an ideal for them. We may not like it but it’s their culture. I mean look what happened when Diabolik Lovers came out in anime. Huge negative reaction from fans in the west so its respective games never got localised (translated) even though it has a fanbase overseas
Some series that fall into this category are not limited but include Fruits Basket, Orange, and Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet
Seemingly Perfect Guys
Especially true in shoujo manga with romance as the main driver of the plot, the shoujo heroes are men who are seemingly perfect.
They are handsome, kind to the heroine, respecting her boundaries, and attentive to her needs. To the demographic, this kind of guy is their dream guy. And I can relate ｡(*^▽^*)ゞ When I was that age, I wanted my dream guy to be exactly like that so shoujo manga with romance as the main plot was so appealing to me.
Even if the hero isn’t outwardly kind or a bit of a jerk, as long as he is generally respectful to everything around him (including the heroine), this will appeal to the demographic greatly. In addition, it’s a major plus if the guy is a tsundere because fans are so heartened by the “actions speak louder than words” philosophy plus it’s so cute how embarrassed the guy gets over trying to please the heroine.
Some series that fall into this category are not limited to but include Kaichou wa Maid-Sama, Hibi Chouchou, and Kimi ni Todoke
Some of you may ask “What about Love Hina?”. Well, Love Hina is a shounen manga. The term “shoujo” refers to a demographic and not whether the manga has a female heroine, emotional tension or romance. The manga has to have elements that specifically target the demographic which is young girls aged 12 to 18 years.
Manga in the west tends to be misidentified as shoujo as titles like Love Hina get identified as shoujo just because there is emotional tension and romance, despite it being a shounen manga.
In fact, shoujo has a different meaning in the west than in Japan.
Regardless of the confusion, shoujo manga is extremely popular and while not as popular as shounen, there is a lot of manga that can be identified as shoujo.
In addition, the popularity of shoujo has created subgenres like historical shoujo, mahou shoujo, reverse harem, etc. which while having their own characteristics, display the shoujo characteristics overall.
I hope my dissection of shoujo manga as a genre has helped you understand a bit more about what it is.
As always, if you want to discuss the characteristics of shoujo manga that I’ve mentioned, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear it 🙂