This is part of the anitwitter campaign for 12 days of anime posts from bloggers within the community. I can’t promise I’ll see it through to the end but I’m confident at the moment. Given the need for quantity this might not be as thorough work as I’ve done in the past so don’t go in expecting too much. This is not made to be all-encompassing.
Despite the rising popularity and cross cultural exchange between Japan the West both study and criticism of Shōjo manga remains in its infancy, with most research and commentary taking place within the last 4-5 years through new media sources.
Cardcaptor Sakura (1996-2000) by CLAMP Delivered a imaginative coming of age story while still managing to incorporate homosexuality without negative predisposition.
An initial reason for the slow adoption of the medium is likely to with stereotyping and the prevalent disregard for teenage girl culture in criticism. Typical stereotypes at the time confined Shōjo to a box of passivity, mindless escapism and vapid musing on relationships. Such categorization certainly hindered the speed of both translation and distribution given that this bland first impression does not engender want. Changes to this limited perspective did come however, only truly gaining momentum with the localization of works by pioneering authors, many of whom subverted the gendered expectations applied to any medium with a teenage girl audience. In the minds of readers passivity was replaced by daring themes, mindless escapism was replaced by tense drama and relationships were expanded to include adult conflict and different sexual orientations. What was passed over at first was now the gilding credit of the manga demographic.
Rose of Versailles (1972-73) by Riyoko Ikeda Tackled themes of political intrigue and expectations of conformity with an androgynous lead
While discovery of prominent works by mainstream audiences certainly guaranteed Shōjo manga success in the 2000’s, a more up to date vindication likely comes from the comic industry at home, which is finally beginning to demolish the bias towards male only exclusivity. Titles such as Mockingbird and Thor in 2015 demonstrate that women can be integral players in the story without pandering towards the desires of typically straight white male readers. Even with the unfortunate missteps of Batgirl in both the Batgirl of Burnside and The Killing Joke, efforts are still being pushed for to make comics a open space for men and women. Reopening the barrier for entry in the western market almost certainly revealed previously hidden doors for female readers into the eastern markets as well, as the history of the two mediums has never been far apart.
Kaze to Ki no Uta (1976-84) by Keiko Takemiya The exploration of boy's love in her manga opened up a new field and sparked interest in YAOI fiction
The steady normalization of Shōjo manga is not an unwelcome direction for the demographic defined platform and may very well hold the key to more progressive stories being conceived, adapted and officially localized for a multinational audience. While I cannot speak for more contemporary subsets within Shōjo such as horror and action-violence, the fact that such fluidity is even possible makes me very excited for the future.
Since I’ve seen a lot of articles in the 12 days series deal with anecdotes it doesn’t seem inappropriate for me to add one in with this article.
I’m not as informed on Shōjo as I would like to be but I’ve always had an admiration for it. While I strive to be open minded and give every genre or demographic the chance to shine, the cycle of seasonal releases and the push for publishers to ‘have something out there’ does have the tendency to bury your perspective with trope on top of trope. The “oh another high school rom-com” cynicism does eek after awhile, so I’m really glad I took this opportunity to explore further and see the magic that hides out of sight.
If this was at all informative or you just want to say “Hi!” be sure to leave a comment and I’ll see that I reply. Thanks.