One of the most popular genres of comics is called shoujo (young girl) manga (story made of pictures). Originating from Japan, there are numerous publishers of shoujo manga, which are comics targeted at young girls. Manga itself is not a new genre as shonen (young male) manga has been around for quite a while. Not just comics, these stories are an obvious sign of change emerging from what’s been a male dominated society. While previous stories from Japan stem from the book Memoirs of a Geisha, highlighting the exploitation of Japanese woman, these stories portray women quite differently. Shojo plots range from teen girls balancing school work with party time and romance, to girls trying to make an all boys basketball team and confront other gender related issues.
Opening a shoujo manga paperback, I was immediately confronted with a large stop sign that read: Unless you want to ruin the ending, don’t read any further. Apparently keeping the Japanese custom, many mangas read (as is traditional in Japan) from right to left. Each manga starts by picturing and describing each character and then gives the reader some background information on the particular plot. While each book is part of a series; you won’t miss a beat if you read the introduction where the reader is briefed on past events.
When looking through the various editions, I found differences in the maturity levels of the novels. The VIZ publishing company, for example, seems to cater to younger teens, as the main character in one particular novel was working hard to get a good grade on a test. The Tokyopop publishing company, however, made sexual references and used more adult language. Yet, it was clear that both shoujo mangas were tailored to girls. That is, I’m not sure how a guy would relate to a girl trying desperately to hide her breasts to make the all male basketball team. More than just entertainment, these comics send a positive message, that women can kick ass.
The Japanese artwork accompanying the dialogue was great. Although they are in black and white, the detail and accuracy of the emotion portrayed really enhances the comics. There are even colored hardback books dedicated to the artists of manga.
These Graphic novels (as they are categorized) can be found at any major bookstore, starting at $10. For more information on manga, or even just to look at the artwork, visit Manga.com. In this technology driven world, it’s good to know that our youth hasn’t completely given up on reading even if there are pictures.