Introduction to Girls' Anime

A short skirt and jewelry magically appears around the body of the pure and passionate Sailor Moon. The inquisitive Miaka is magically transported to mystical ancient China. Girls take up swords and become boys, and the most beautiful of the beautiful boys fall in love with each other. And yet in this ethereal world of enchantment, every day and in every panel thousands of innocent young girls in sailor uniforms fall in love and have their hearts broken. This is the world of girls' manga (comic books) in Japan.

Tezuka Osamu, the father of shounen (boys' ) manga, was also a pioneer of the shoujo (girls') genre. His Ribon no Kishi (Knight of the Ribbon), written in 1953, was not the first series targeted at girls, but it is regarded as the first series that really incorporated many of the standard shoujo elements. This series was filled with sophisticated stories that focused on love, fantasy and drama, as were many of the series that followed. Male artists would draw what they thought would appeal to female readers, concentrating on making their stories emotional and their drawings beautiful. By the late 1950s, shoujo manga was a recognized genre, and in the early 1960s, comic magazines targeted at girls, such as Shoujo Friend and Margaret, appeared. However, it was some time before female artists started to write and draw for shoujo magazines. In the 1960s, manga magazines went from being monthy to being weekly, and there was a demand for more artists. Therefore, women artists were able to break into the field. Today, women artists dominate the shoujo manga industry.

There are many forms, styles and cliches common to shoujo manga. As a rule, shoujo manga emphasizes emotions, relationships and feelings, rather than actions or situations. There is very little ugliness in shoujo manga; everything is portrayed as sublimely beautiful, even controversial topics such as incest, intercourse and homosexuality. Careful attention is paid to little details such as the outfits the characters wear and the way their hair is styled. The eyes are also generally the most recognizable characteristic of a shoujo manga heroine; they are huge, starry and feminine. While drama and romance are two of the largest shoujo manga genres, they are not the only ones. There are many subgenres of shoujo, from science fiction and fantasy to mystery and horror. (Shoujo horror stories, as a matter of fact, dominate the horror manga market.)

There are several shoujo manga magazines that each appeal to different age groups and personalities. Nakayoshi and Ribbon are targeted towards girls under 6th grade, while Margaret, Lala and Shoujo Comic are for teenagers. Reading Hana to Yume might indicate that the reader is a bit of geek; reading Special Edition Margaret might indicate more conservative, slightly bland taste. There are also more recent magazines targeted at both sexes. One named Duo had this as its slogan: "We reached out for the same magazine at the same store, and that was our beginning - Duo, for the two of us." While in America there are very few comics specifically targeted at girls and female comic book readers are in the minority, the Japanese shoujo comics are read by most girls. There are about forty-five different magazines, many with circulations well over a million.

Shoujo manga and anime are becoming popular in the United States as well. Sailor Moon became dazzlingly popular when it was aired in the United States, and dedicated fans became a market for other shoujo titles such as Fushigi Yuugi and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Shoujo is not as popular in the United States as shounen, but this may be because translated shounen has received better distribution around the world.

Shoujo manga is ostensibly for girls. Yet after girls graduate, find jobs and get married, they often still read the same manga they read as a teenager. Also, guys enjoy shoujo, but out of embarrassment, they often read it in secret. So even though shoujo manga might seem at first glance to be sappy and overly dramatic, the appeal of a good, emotional story is universal.

-Liana Sharer Click to learn more about Liana


Frederik L. Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese ComicsKodansha America, LTD, NY, NY 1983
Gilles Poitras, The Anime Companion, Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, CA 1999

Card Captor Sakura
Sailor Moon
Fushugi Yuugi
Revolutionary Girl Utena

Matt Thorn, A History of Manga Part 3,, 1997
The Usenet Manga Glossary, 1998,

Usagi transforms into Sailor Moon, ready to fight for love and justice.



This page from Card Captor Sakura shows off one of the heroine's charming outfits.



Utena, Anthy, and Chu-Chu pose.

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The University of Michigan Japanese Animation Group
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