Shonen is the big thing in the English-speaking world, by far. So what is it that makes its gender counterpart so niche?
I bought the first volume of Kenka Bancho Otome’s manga Koi no Battle Royale recently. However, as I was reading it afterwards, it occurred to me that it was the first item in my collection and first manga that was outright shoujo (sure, I have some stuff from Boueibu, but that’s…complicated to categorise). Now, the bookstore that I bought the manga from had volumes of Anonymous Noise, Takane and Hana and The Water God’s Bride but the rest of the shelf was mostly shonen, so…why is it that shoujo always gets overlooked for shonen?
First of all, as I’m typing this, I’m in the middle of a shoujo manga high, mostly between Hana-Kimi and Nana. However, those are known to be big hits of the genre so generally, shoujo doesn’t have as much break-out hits as shonen does. The trend I’ve found from reading all this shoujo manga at once is that they tend to be easy reads because they have similar plotlines: “this guy’s cheating on this girl”, “this guy’s actually in love with this girl but she isn’t aware of it”, so on, so forth. That’s not to say they haven’t got differences between them. It’s just that they’re cut from the same mould more than shonen are, so it’s easy to dismiss the genre as “once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”.
Furthermore, since so many shoujo manga focus on romance or attractive dudes (or attractive dudes in romances), it’s easy to be deterred from buying them or picking them up in general. A lot of them also tend to involve pink on the cover for some reason or other, especially when they get put through the wringer of being redesigned for an official release, which only adds to the problem. To add to that, shonen has multi-demographic appeal whereas shoujo does not, because shonen doesn’t have the heavy focus on one genre or another.
Additionally, it might be expectations of gender as they are stereotyped that may be getting in the way here. Even though it’s more socially acceptable to be a tomboy these days than it used to be (and it’s more socially acceptable to break stereotypes full stop), there is still the idea in Japan of ryousai kenbo (“good mother, wise wife”) – that women become devoted to their husbands, do all the chores, take care of the kids and encourage their family from home. Since this idea hasn’t really gone away ever since its origins in the period after World War II, it thus stands that this stereotype influences the media that the future generation of ryousai kenbo adherents would consume…in a rather paradoxical fashion. In other words, it’s traditionally shameful for a guy to read shoujo manga but 100% okay for a girl, the idea of which carries on throughout one’s life and then is taught to the next generation. In fact, a manga has already beaten me to the punch in regards to commenting on this point – Otomen by Aya Kanno, about a guy who’s good at judo and kendo but into shoujo manga and other cute things. Then again, Otomen is shoujo (his relationship is with a tomboy), so I’m kind of nullifying my own point here by mentioning it…
So, do you think reading shoujo manga is shameful, or should people take pride in the variety of manga that they read? I’d like to hear about your thoughts, especially from the guys.