Genres of Manga/Anime
Shojo are written with a female (mostly teens) audience in mind and traditionally deal with a romance between a young man and woman. Kare First Love, a manga by Miyasaka Kaho, is 10 volumes long and fits the previous description given. The story revolves around an awkward teenage girl beginning high school who meets a teenage boy and they fall in love. What follows are the typical ups and downs of first love. A manga that is considered shojo but does just depend upon the romantic aspect of the story is Fruits Basket created by Natsuki Takuya. The series is 23 volumes and is one of the most popular stories in Japan and the US today, and 26 anime episodes were also created based on the story. The protagonist is Tohru Honda, a 16 year old orphan, who ends up living with a boy in her class, Yuki Sohma. Through various comical circumstances, Tohru learns that the Sohmas are cursed by turning into the 12 animals of the zodiac when they are hugged by members of the opposite sex. The creator of the series choose to highlight character development over the romantic aspect of the series. Although it is still a shojo manga at its core, it is also part of the newer trends of making more shojo that deal with activities and every-day problems young women may face. For example, in the US the magazine Shojo Beat was released in 2005 and follows the style of many shojo magazines in Japan. The magazine consists of several pages of advertisement, fashion tips, interviews of popular pop stars and manga artists, and other pop cultural news. However, the bulk of the magazine is divided into 6 ongoing series that deal with everything from the stereotypical romances to volleyball and magical shops that grant wishes. It is released monthly and is usually around 300 pages long, much longer than more traditional American comics.
The most famous and popular genre of manga are shonen. Shonen are geared toward boys and young adult males. The more stereotypical shonen will have a boy or young man as the protoganist who, for various reasons, wishes to become stronger and goes through various battles where he physically and mentally matures. Rurouni Kenshin, written by Nobuhiro Watsuki, is about a swordsman during the meiji era who was one of the most deadliest figures in the battles of the Meiji Restoration. After the war, Kenshin refuses to kill and wants to live a life of peace. The series shows how he struggles with his belief against taking another life and the various battles he is forced to engage in for the sake of the Japan’s peace. The series became so popular after it was serialized in Shonen Jump that 95 TV anime episodes were created in addition to movies and an OVA. Like the shojo manga, there are more stories that shy away from the stereotypical battles and choose to focus on daily activities that might interest boys. Shonen Jump is the largest manga publisher in Japan since its creation in 1968. It has been the site of many manga that go on to become top sellers and have stories that focus on activities and events boys would be interested in reading about. In 2003, an English version of Shonen Jump was released in the US and quickly rose up to becoming the top-selling comic book in the US.
The next genre, Hentai, consist of pornographic anime and manga. The target audience are adult males and the stories deal with a wide scope of sexual situations. Some hentai will feature characters from other well known anime/manga engaging in sexual activities. The artists within this genre are known to compete with one another to create more interesting and bizarre situations. Hentai are known for altering perceptions of reality and have their characters placed in questionable positions or activities. In yaoi manga, the protoganist are two young men in a romantic relationship. The term yaoi, is usually reserved for manga that are more sexual in nature, like My Sexual Harassment by Kazuma Kodaka, which deals with a young men who prostitutes himself in order to become a successful businessman. However, the term shonen-ai is used to refer to manga that deal with the more romantic aspects instead of the sexual ones. The manga, Loveless by Yun Kouga, revolves around a young boy who becomes partner to a friend of his dead brother as they search for the truth behind his brother’s death. The manga is still being serialized in Japan but 12 anime episodes have already been created.
Mecha manga/anime consists of large robots who are either controlled by humans or function independently. When the robots have pilots, the story will usually focus on the human pilots and their interaction with the mechanical robot and/or other pilots. The most famous series in this genre is Gundam. The Gundam series began in the 1970’s and has gone through various incarnations throughout its long life. Another genre is the harem manga/anime. This genre typically consist of a male protagonist who, through various circumstances, finds himself living with a group of women. As the story progresses, it is revealed that the man has fallen in love with one of the woman but most of the women have fallen in love with him. An example of the harem manga is Ai Yori Aoshi by Kou Fumizuki where Kaoru Hanabishi is reunited with Aoi Sakuraba, the young woman he has been betrothed to since their childhood. Kaoru and Aoi are forced to keep their engagement a secret from the other women in their household, and the other girls eventually fall in love with Kaoru. The series was originally serialized in Young Animal, a magazine that targets young men so that the series is generously riddled with sexual fan service where many of the young women are often depicted in the nude.
However, not every series needs to necessarily fit into one of these categories neatly. One series can often be classified across many of the genres and contains elements of many. The series Fushigi Yugi by Yuu Watase is typically considered shojo and was originally serialized in Shojo Comic from 1992 to 1996. The protagonist of the series is Miaka Yuki, a young girl who is transported into ancient China through a book. In order to return home, Miaka needs to find seven warriors who can help her summon Suzaku. The story can be considered a reverse-harem manga because Miaka is eventually surrounded by seven male warriors, some of whom fall in love with her. However, it contains many shojo elements when Miaka falls in love with one of the men and the story shows the progression of their romance and the series also has enough battles to soothe the shonen soul. The manga went on to inspire 52 TV anime episodes and an OVA. When a manga is sufficiently successful it will often lead to the creation of an anime.
Commercialization of MangaThe conversion of a manga into an anime or an anime into a manga are all part of the commercialization of the industry. The success of a series can often be measured by the amount of merchandise that litter the shelves and the merchandise also heavily contributes to the success of the series. For example, Inuyasha, created by Rumiko Takahashi, consisted of 167 episodes and 4 movies and is still widely popular in Japan. This is reflected in the merchandise that is based on the series. There are anything from plush toys in the image of one of the characters, to trading cards, to calendars and video games. Another series that reflects this widespread popularity is Pokemon. In the US, the show was marketed to children but in Japan it has a much larger teenage and young adult male audience. This is due in part to the manga and anime having been based on the video games that came out first. The anime is 500 episodes long and is still ongoing and a new video game was recently released that introduces much more Pokemon. There are many toys that are made in the image of many of the Pokemon, T-shirts with their image emblazoned, and even ring tones with the songs for cellular phones.
Manga in Foreign LandsManga and anime have not just influenced the Japanese market but have also influenced other countries. In the US, American comics are beginning to become more heavily influenced by the illustrative techniques of manga. In Dreamland Japan, Frederick Schodt gives a brief description of the differences between an American comic book and a Japanese manga. He believes that manga are more willing to use silence on the panels to focus on the emotion behind the scene being depicted. Although this claim can be considered to generalize the American comic book and does not take other aspects of the comics into account, there is some evidence that American comics are using less text on their panels. For example, in the 1990 Classic X-Men (#42), the death of Jean Grey as the Dark Phoenix is shown and her lover, Cyclops, verbalizes his internal thoughts in detail. However, it cannot be said that scene lacks emotion because of the dialogue but it does seem that the authors felt they had to explain the reason behind the emotion. In a much more recent Ultimate X-Men comic (#78), the death of Professor Xavier is presented. In the two to three pages where the discovery of his body is made, the panels lack any dialogue. Instead, the characters are shown reacting to the scene by either leaning on one another or covering their face in sorrow. It is difficult to point to one comic as being more emotional than the other but latter comic can be said to be slightly influenced by the manga industry, as Schodt describes. Again, whether or not this claim is true or not is up to the reader to decide. The manga industry has also influenced other countries into creating their own set of animations and manga. Korea is the 2nd largest producer of the manga-style comics and manhwa can be seen on many shelves in American bookstores among the Japanese manga. Most of the manhwa are from South Korea and there is always debate between the fans as to whether the Japanese manga or the Korean manhwa are better.