Tell me Taty Polo...
it' s a shonen or a shojo, up there on the shelves?


What a good question my friends!
(-first, some basic notions as an introduction: "shonen" is used when "it" (here a manga or anime) is about boys, "shojo" about girls... but it isn't limited to manga or anime at all: it's an adjective, somehow. Take it as you wish, but they are the translations of these words!
-Other detail: I make a distinction between "manga" and "anime", everyone doesn't that's why I note it: "manga" = paper version / "anime" = "anime versione": those you will see on T.V., O.A.V., animation movies,... They are their first meaning after all!)

I've been wanting to open a page about it for a long time, because I'm fed up with reading about anything about that, rarely really true: when I began to have some interest in animation, I could easily find articles about "general topics" in fanzines, for example this one. On the contrary, nowadays, fanzines mainly are "fan-arts compilations", and "national magazines" only speak of anime that are about to be released, but nothing about this kind of detail: people don't have the "criterias" to say "I'm facing this kind of manga", and of course can't invent them: they take one for the other!
A few months ago, I had to talk about it on a French forim, where people wondered if Video Girl Ai is a shojo or shonen... I will then use the argument I used in this forum, and questions I had to answer after that. Indeed, up to me, it is a shonen, and here is why:

First of all, I want you to note that there has been this classification for a VERY long time, so, not, it wasn't something recently created, to create subdivisions, seeing the success of anime in France/Europe/world. It has been used for a very long time in Japan, and I always saw it in articles in fanzines "in the old days". These words are actualy used to say that this manga is rather "for girls" (-shojo), or "for boys" (-shonen"), in Japanese: they are used the same way in English, and sometimes translated, but that's all. Furthermore, in Japan, editors often have "their speciality", shojo or shonen, like pre-publication magazines: it gives people a first idea of the "type" of manga.

A lot of people seem to believe that the main critera is the history of the manga (people fight a lot = shonen / it' s full of love and such nicey-honey feelings = shojo), but it isn't so... would it be only because you shouldn't limit Japanese animation to "people fight / nice feelings", or you still know very little about Japanese animation!
So, to sum up: a shojo is drawn with very thin "traces", very detailed images (typical recent and famous example: Angel Sanctuary [-first page opened in tome 17, Tonkam edition, by Yuki Kaori (-to respect author rights!)] ) + "squares" aren't really definite, everything goes into everything in a same page, texts for example (-it is supposed to "speak" to the complicated mind of the girl who reads it, eh!). On the contrary, a shonen will be drawn with precise "traces", we don't bother much with the detail of the movement of hair flying in the air, and so on... + squares are much definite, we often see their limites (-a boy likes what is clear and precise, and has other stuff to do than try to understand the construction of the page of a manga!). (example of fight-less shonen: Hikaru no go, Tonkam edition, by Hotta and Hobata / example of a shonen with a lot of fights, but with detailed draws ( least in last volumes!): Bastard!!, Glénat edition , by good old Hagiwara)

Under this point of view, I think that Video girl Ai is a shonen. Of course with a lot of "I looooOOOOooove youuUUUuuu!!" and such, but, esthetically, it is mainly destined to "speak" to boys, and the way to show these feelings is typically masculine: destined to move boys. I have to say I am one of the majority of girls who don't like this manga so much... (from the same author, I really prefer D.N.A.² for example!).
Because, yes!, there are sentimentals manga for boys! Video girl Ai is an example, but there is also Ranma 1/2, and all those of that kind. a "we love each other but can't admit/say each other" kind of story is typical of such manga I think. If it was "for girls", it would be far more full of "nice little feelings", heroes admitting from the very beginning that they love each other (or at least everyone sees it, except the heroes!), of course something bad will happen to them that will prevent them from fully living their luv, but they will win over that thing, thanks to the strength of their luv, because they know that this luv is shared, and so on and so on... while, in "shonen sentimental manga", the heroes need time to 1) understand they are in love 2) understand this love is shared.

These are only "main principles" of course: there are hybrids. The most obvious and famous example among them being Clamp: one of the reasons of their success when they began, apart from the scenarii and such, was that they mixed both styles: drawn in a rather shojo style, even though "not too much", and construction of the pages rather shonen: girls and boys like it! For example, you can note all the "not so soft" fights in X, while draws themselves are definitely shojo! Clamp therefore is a special case, X being an obvious example but there are others (RG Veda,...): not really shojo, not really shonen, simply a good mix between both, with wich they build their success. And if I may add a little coment about their recent evolution, I would say it' s sad they lost this specificity with time, to make things that woud probably sell more! They come back to their origins fortunately, sometimes... sometimes...

Finally, I would like to add that you shouldn't see that as a definite frontier, but rather as an indication. Just like a book published in this collection is often a science-fiction book, therefore destined to those who read s-f books, while in that other collection it will often be a detective book. But no one will forbid someone who mainly likes s-f to read a good detective book once in a while, or the contrary. INn the same way, no one will forbid someone who mainly reads shonen manga, meaning a boy, to read a shojo once in a while, or contrary. Once again, these denominations mainly come from a constatation: this kind of manga is mainly appreciated by girls/boys. But in the end... everyone makes his own mind/choice!


(n.b.: I would have liked to add scans of V.G.A. or Ranma, as example of images of "sentimental shonen"... but the point is I'm not so interested in them: I don't have any in my appartment, and my brother's are at my mother's, who live 1h30 far from me, by train! So well they are easy to find: you can go have a look at your local library where you usually buy manga, I'm sure they will have at least one or two volumes!)


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