NONSENSE FROM THE NOOB: How Strict Is the Shonen/Shojo Divide?

Topic started by No_name_here on May 10, 2010. Last post by ZombiePie 4 years, 3 months ago.
Post by No_name_here (871 posts) See mini bio Level 11
 I'll hazard a guess that this is shonen, for sure.
 I'll hazard a guess that this is shonen, for sure.

So how strict is the whole shonen/shojo divide? Does every anime/manga get assigned a sex-specific label, or is it reserved only for the polar extremes? Even before I started this “deep sea diver” exploration of the Japanese pop culture ocean, I was always intrigued by the notion that Japan had such specific labels for boys and girls entertainment. You can make an argument that say, IRON MAN 2, is made for guys, but it doesn’t exactly have a “GUY MOVIE” stamp pressed on its poster.  There’s no “CHICK FLICKS” section in the video store for TWILIGHT, either.

Then again, like I’ve said before, what I’ve enjoyed about looking at Japan’s entertainment business is the perspective it’s given me on America’s. I’m reminded of this time I read a British journalist’s column (his name escapes me, at the moment) regarding the differences between news outlets in the US and the UK. He said that, while people accuse, say, the New York Times of being a liberal newspaper and Fox News of being a conservative station, they both keep claiming that they’re politically neutral. In the UK, however, the major newspapers and stations wear their politics on their sleeves, and actually put “Liberal” and “Conservative” in their titles.

Now, I’ll reiterate that that’s a half-remembered hearsay I got from a column. Even if it isn’t true, it still inspires a way at looking at this gender divide. That is, IRON MAN or TWILIGHT might not come out and say what their target audiences are but, if you go to Toys R Us, you’ll have no doubt what they are after looking at which sections their toys are stocked in. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

So I’d really like to hear how this breaks down from you, the lunatics in the Anime Vice community. How strict is this labeling? Is it only reserved for more kid-oriented stuff ( DBZ’s shonen, obviously, and CLANNAD is shojo) while more mature stuff like Miyazaki’s work is general neutral? Is Eva shonen or shojo? And have you ever, um… felt embarrassed about enjoying something designed for the other sex? Give me some answers, here. Educate me!

-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Studios and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. Pre-order the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover now on

Post by metalsnakezero (698 posts) See mini bio Level 16
I never really took the time to think if a anime I'm watching is Shonen or Shojo so for me at least it not very strict about the labeling. It also not embarrassing to go and enjoy something designed for the other sex.
Post by FLStyle (424 posts) See mini bio Level 12
I loved the shojo anime Skip Beat when Gia had a deal with Crunchyroll to stream it here on this very site. At Anime Vice we don't feel embarrassed about liking shojo or girls liking shonen. that's why we're here. I feel no less embarrassed about watching a shojo show than watching any soap opera that's on the TV. The only difference was that shojo anime is a lot better.
Post by Chengy (1,711 posts) See mini bio Level 17
Clannads a kids program? what ?
Post by Kris (130 posts) See mini bio Level 7
Clannad has a HUGE male following.  If you look at Wiki, it's labeled as Shonen/Seinen.  The manga versions were published in Dengeki G's Magazine (a bishojo magazine), Comi Digi + (a seinen magazine), and Comic Rush (shonen).  I'm just using the example you gave.  All the evidence says Clannad isn't shojo, but it does appeal to females, even if it's original target was males (the game it's all based on is, of course, a dating sim/visual novel).
In America, you have only to look at the sales numbers for Viz Media's Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat magazines.  Shonen Jump's subscriber base was at least twice that of Shojo Beat's.  The consensus being that females bought Shojo Beat AND Shonen Jump, but males did not also buy Shojo Beat.  Given that (and the bit I know about Japan as well), females are more likely to cross the divide into the "male comics" genre, than the other way around.  Shonen (or other male genre comics) also sell a LOT better than shojo (or other female genre comics).  They dominate the NY Times seller list repeatedly, and while "shojo" titles often make it on there, they don't have the same staying power.  
The main title Evangelion manga, by the way, is published in Shonen Ace/Young Ace (shonen and seinen magazines, respectively).  If the term "seinen" is not familiar to you, it's a genre geared toward young men ages 18-30 (traditionally) and up.
I don't have any problems exploring both genres.  The gender lines for the basic stuff are pretty blurred.  It's really only when you start going into the more niche areas that it becomes more clear cut.  Like yaoi being written for women, and gei comi/bara is a subset of that written for gay men.  I don't think I know many (if any...straight anyway) guys who read yaoi manga.  But the basic genres: shonen/shojo, seinen/josei...I think there's a lot of crossover there in terms of who really reads it.
Post by Oishi_47 (221 posts) See mini bio Level 8
I believe that Hokuto no Ken is a seinen series. Wooo, more ambiguous genres. 
Post by No_name_here (871 posts) See mini bio Level 11
@Kris:  Huh, go figure about CLANNAD. I just figured since it had a mostly female cast and was more of high school comedy that it'd be shojo. Then again, John Hughes movies aren't really gender-specific either.
The thing about girls being more apt to buy guys' stuff too definitely applies in America, from my own experiences.
Hadn't heard of seinen before you mentioned it, but I can see what it applies to.  
Anyway, I was just curious about this along the same lines as I was curious about "fan service" before.  Just for the fact that there's whole lexicon of terminology for audience-target entertainment.
Post by daotherkenji (48 posts) See mini bio Level 4
It more of a marketing thing in America to me. The bigger the audience the more money there is to make. I went to Iron man with my 4 sisters and they liked it more than me. I think the labeling is much more clear in Japan just with the character designs. Boob size is a great indicator. Trust me it has never failed. If you look at how big the boobs are on the female characters or if they are recognizable at all its probably a shonen or seinen  show. 
I dont really tell ppl I know that I really like Skip beat, even enjoyed S.A., and currently keeping up with Maid-sama. I really like good comedy so I'll watch a funny show even if its shojo like Clannad and Kimi Ni Todke. But I do confess I watched and enjoyed Ef a hardcore romance. I know here in the US they like to cross over into all the areas to reach bigger audiences. Like hip hop, growing up it was for a cultural thing fast forward to 2010 and hip hop is treated like pop. 
Post by jlanzer (117 posts) See mini bio Level 16
@daotherkenji said:
"Boob size is a great indicator. Trust me it has never failed. If you look at how big the boobs are on the female characters or if they are recognizable at all its probably a shonen or seinen  show."
examples where this doesn't work: Saki and Sailor Moon.  don't tell me sailor moon is shonen and trust those boobs are most definitely there.  But yeah you can expect certain things to pop up... more often in certain genres.
That brings up my point in saying that even though shonen means boy and shojo is girl it really is saying something else.  Shonen more specifically suggests a male lead where he has a special power, ability, talent and really focuses on how he kicks ass or develops said ability.  Shonen is the equivalent of action/adventure and sci fi in the american genres.  Shojo depicts a female lead with a character either put into a special situation or with similar abilities, powers, talents.  These would just be your romances, magical girl, and teen drama stuff.  So yeah its gender specific and it says boys should like this and girls should like that, but america does that too with barbi dolls and nerf guns.  We should just look at it like its a description for the type of anime and ignore the gender implications.
as for me a guilty pleasure of mine dipping into the shojo world was card captor sakura.  would be even more guilty if i still watched it. Koro-chan!!1one
Post by spongbros (5 posts) See mini bio Level 1
To clarify: In the examples that you cited, Dragon Ball Z is shōnen, Clannad is seinen, Hayao Miyazaki's works are shōjo and Neon Genesis Evangelion is shōnen. 
To answer your question, the shōnen/shōjo divide is pretty strict. But that doesn't mean that you have to like one or the other.
Post by FekketCantenel (47 posts) See mini bio Level 5
To me, shonen/shojo is just a lazy way to come up with a series, to outline it and make it, and to market it. This doesn't just apply to manga/anime; in America, we call it 'genres' (fantasy, sci-fi, chick flicks, guy movies). In Japan, it might be more of a cultural or traditional thing, but it has the same effect.
You can tell that an industry is going down the tubes when it's not enough to just try to make a great story with interesting characters and an original setting; the makers sit down and say 'We want to make something for girls this week. It'll have to be pink, feature girls talking about makeup and boys, and preferably have 'Unicorn' or 'Pretty' in the title'. Or, as we've been seeing in the past few years with anime, 'Most of our money-spending audience is otaku in their twenties who have been culturally conditioned to be obsessed with fanservice, moe, and big robots. Let's give them what they want'. 
Take Lord of the Rings, considered by many to be some of the best literature of the 1900s. Is it shonen (battles, cool warriors, mostly male characters) or shojo (beautiful settings, elves, the love story subplot, Frodo and Sam not being typical warriors and yet becoming the main characters)? It's neither; it's an epic. It's not trying to market to any audience (during his lifetime, Tolkien actually hated LOTR's success); it just tries to be awesome in its own right.
Post by eldiax (130 posts) See mini bio Level 14
I recommend simply ignoring shoujo/shounen labels. I'm currently watching Kimi ni Todoke, which is apparently marketed toward female viewers and I'm having much more fun watching it than some shounen series. (Don't question my sexuality.) Seriously though, by restricting yourself to only one side of the divide you're going to miss out on a lot of good anime.
Post by Supermutant (7 posts) See mini bio Level 4
I don't care if Shojo or Shonen.  As long as it's good and not like yaoi or hentai then I will watch it.
Post by No_name_here (871 posts) See mini bio Level 11
@spongbros:  Eva isn't seinen? It seems more sophisticated than DBZ to me.
Post by No_name_here (871 posts) See mini bio Level 11
@FekketCantenel:  Interesting points. LOTR's definitely an anomaly on a levels. Tolkien was really a hobbyist writer, not a professional. He breaks all kinds of "rules" about story structure in the series, yet it was an enormous hit.
Post by FekketCantenel (47 posts) See mini bio Level 5
@Tom_Pinchuk:  I'm glad you put "rules" in air-quotes. I love to see writers break them. In fact, I think that ultimately not paying attention to expectations and genres is what made early anime so popular, and that adhering so desperately to them is what's killing it.
Come to think of it, the last few anime I really enjoyed (Noein, re-watching Rurouni Kenshin, and Baccano!) had no clear genre, either. Re-watching Yu Yu Hakusho, I found that it often stepped outside the shonen genre. All these were recommended not as part of a certain genre, but as 'this is good, you should watch it'.
Now, @Supermutant brings up a good point: There are usually tastes one wants to avoid (yaoi, hentai, moe, fanservice). However, with the possible exception of yaoi/hentai, these are not genres but components, and should be judged on a per-show basis. So if you dread fanservice but are recommended a modern shonen series, look at the box cover and maybe play one or two episodes before you judge.
Post by Fillanzea (1 posts) See mini bio Level 2

Nearly every story manga is published in a manga magazine that is targeted either at men or women. That doesn't mean that men and women don't read across those lines! The huge female fandoms of Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach, Naruto, Prince of Tennis, etc, clearly speak to that, and I wouldn't be surprised if Shounen Jump (in Japan) has more female readers than some of the smaller shoujo magazines like Princess. And you get some interesting cases across those boundaries: Escaflowne was first conceived as a TV series, then as two manga versions -- one shounen, one shoujo.

Post by ZombiePie (862 posts) See mini bio Level 15
Bump to unstick this. I have no idea what those terms mean.
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