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Introduction to Shojo Manga

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Illustration of Nana Osaki from Ai Yazawa's Nana

Nana by Ai Yazawa

© Yazawa Manga Seisakusho

What is Shojo Manga?

Shojo manga translates as “comics for girls” – but it’s much more than that. Shojo manga stories can be sweet and romantic or dark and dramatic. Beside romances of every flavor, there are girls manga centered around sports, science fiction or gothic horror themes. Their moods cover the spectrum from broad slapstick humor to nuanced, emotionally-complex stories that appeal to even the most sophisticated reader.

In Japan, girls are exposed to shojo manga almost as soon as they learn how to read. There are comics for every stage of their lives -- from childhood to their teen years, through college and even well into their adult lives as mothers, wives or career women. More than half of all Japanese women under the age of 40 read manga regularly, and this figure shoots up to 75% if you only count teenage girls.

Shojo Manga Arrives in America

In the U.S., comics were a medium created by men for a primarily male audience. Comics publishers were baffled by their inability to capture the interest of female readers. This changed very quickly with the introduction of shojo comics to bookstores and comic shops in the mid-Nineties.

By placing shojo graphic novels on bookstore shelves instead of just selling them in neighborhood comics shops, publishers tapped into an often-neglected audience for comics: girls. With more and more manga available in English, American readers discovered what shojo fans in Asia and Europe already knew – that shojo manga offers gorgeous artwork and engaging stories for readers who can’t relate to superhero comics. As a result, shojo manga has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. publishing industry.

Shojo Manga Themes: Magical Girls, Vampires and Pop Idols

Contrary to popular belief, shojo manga is more than just big eyes and flowery backgrounds. While romance is the primary catalyst for many shojo plotlines, the genre offers a remarkably diverse palette of stories, moods and artistic styles.

Popular themes in shojo manga include:

  • Magical Girl (Maho Shojo) Manga
  • School Romance Shojo Manga
  • Historical Romance Shojo Manga
  • Modern Romance Shojo Manga
  • Science Fiction Shojo Manga
  • Sports Shojo Manga
  • Gothic Horror / Vampire Shojo Manga
  • Boys Love (Yaoi) Manga
  • Girls Love (Yuri) Manga

Shojo Manga Recommended Reading

Want a taste of the best shojo manga available in English today? Take a chance on these current and classic graphic novels and magazines:

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