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In our final section of our series, we take a look at shojo manga in North America.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Origins of Shojo Manga
Part 3: Riyoko Ikeda (Part 1)
Part 4: Moto Hagio
Part 5: Keiko Takemiya
Part 6: Interlude: The Rose of Versailles Franchise
Part 7: Riyoko Ikeda and The Influence of The Rose of Versailles, 1990s
Part 8: Riyoko Ikeda and The Influence of The Rose of Versailles, 2000s

Shojo manga (and the animated adaptations of these manga) have had a strong cultural impact on recent generations of fans in the United States and Canada. During the past fifteen years, fan discussions and fannish artistic production have nourished diverse interests in Japanese cultural products, which are beginning to exert a stronger influence on mainstream geek media.

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Screen cap of Steven Universe of a desk with a copy of a Sailor Moon manga on it. Although the lamp is supposed to be the character Cookie Cat, it has a striking resemblance to Luna the cat from Sailor Moon and Chibiusa’s balloon “Luna P.”

 In 2002, the now-defunct manga publisher Tokyopop launched a program it called “Global Manga,” which was kicked off by the Rising Stars of Manga talent competition. The winning entries were published in a volume of the same physical dimensions as the publisher’s Japanese manga titles, and there were eventually eight volumes of The Rising Stars of Manga, with the last appearing in the summer of 2008. During this time, certain winners were encouraged to submit proposals to Tokyopop, which published their work as OEL, or “original English language,” manga. Because Tokyopop’s bestselling titles where shojo manga, about half of their OEL manga were characterized as shojo as well.

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Cover art of M. Alice Legrow’s Bizenghast, with an image of Dinah as a violin playing herself.

One of Tokyopop’s most commercially successful original OEL manga titles was M. Alice LeGrow’s eight-volume series Bizenghast, which, like Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, is a shojo story with shonen elements. LeGrow’s story takes the adorable mascot creatures, monsters-of-the-week, cute costumes, adoring and beautiful young men, and powerful female villains of Japanese manga for girls and transplants them into the small Massachusetts community of Bizenghast, which becomes an Edgar Allan Poe-ified Gothic wonderland after dark. The art style combines the huge eyes and wide panels of fan-favorite shojo manga like Cardcaptor Sakura and Fruits Basket with steampunk Art Deco motifs and Edward Gorey-style line etchings. The artistic and narrative conventions of manga and the stylizations of Western fantasy are so blended and intermixed that it’s impossible to tell whether Bizenghast is a manga with American influences or a graphic novel with Japanese influences.

As Tokyopop began its decline in 2008, an imprint called Yen Press rose to fill the void. The publisher’s magazine Yen Plus solicited reader contributions, which resulted in both one-shot and continuing OEL manga appearing within the pages of the magazine. These titles were written and drawn by women and featured clear shojo stylizations. In addition, Yen Press’s parent company Hachette began releasing manga adaptations of some of its biggest young adult properties, including Gossip Girl, Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate series, and Twilight. All of these manga adaptations are imbued with a strong shojo feel.

What Yen Press seemed to be jumping on was the idea that manga could reach an audience of young women (and young-at-heart women) who may have felt excluded from traditionally male-centered genres like action comics and science fiction. These female readers increasingly came equipped with access to online and in-person fandom networks, which could help ensure the longevity and profitability of any given franchise, as was famously the case with Star Trek and Harry Potter.

As a result of the creation and growth of an audience for shojo manga in North America, it’s easy to see a definite shojo influence on mainstream entertainment media. One of the most interesting incarnations of this trend is Cartoon Network’s animated television series Adventure Time, whose producers have actively scouted young talent from places like comic conventions and fannish art sharing websites such as Tumblr. A number of these artists are women from the generation that grew up reading and watching shōjo series such as Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, and easily identifiable references to these titles occasionally pop up in the show. As a result, Rebecca Sugar, a former storyboard artist for Adventure Time, was given a green light by Cartoon Network to create a magical boy show, Steven Universe, which features all manner of references to anime, manga, and video game culture. Since its first season aired in 2013, Steven Universe has received an overwhelming amount of support from both Adventure Time fans and the enormous shojo anime and manga fanbase on Tumblr.

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Promotional image for Steven Universe with Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl–and Steven!

Seeing better representation of diverse female characters in shojo manga has encouraged more young women outside of Japan to seek careers in comics and animation. In the future, we will probably see an even stronger embrace of shojo-related narrative influences, art styles, and fandom cultures as the members of the Adventure Time and Steven Universe generation start coming out with their own work. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of shojo manga, which continues to be as vibrant, appealing, and supportive of a diversity of female and gender-nonconforming identities as it was in the 1970s.   

This panel and series of essays is copyright Kathryn Hemmann and L.M. Zoller 2015-16 and was originally presented as the panel “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga” at Geek Girl Con 2015.

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I have seen so much of Michael Douglas’s ass in the last month. Why is this happening.

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Poster for Fatal Attraction: Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher holds Glen Close as Alex Forrest; the image is torn as if a photograph ripped in two

Fatal Attraction (1987) is not as laughably bad as Basic Instinct, but it’s still bad: stereotypes about “crazy” ex-girlfriends, women having no chill in affairs or casual sex, and “women amirite.” However, my favorite part of the movie is Ellen, the small and adorable gender-nonconforming child. Faculty of Horror made fun of this child for being “gender confused,” but Ellen, along with Quincey the Dog and Whitey (yeeesh) the Rabbit, are obviously the best part of this movie, and don’t deserve the garbage their dad and Alex heap upon them.

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The remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show aired yesterday on Fox, and though I haven’t seen it yet, I wanted to share this piece from Bitch Media about the complicated relationship between the queer community–particularly bi+ and trans folks–with this film.

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Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-n-Furter, who has just left a rainbow lipstick mark on the “screen” of the image. 

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Although I’ve been focusing a lot on film this Halloween season, let’s shift gears today to horror audio fiction. Alice Isn’t Dead is a serial horror/suspense podcast by Joseph Fink, co-creator of Welcome to Night Vale. Deliciously creepy, Alice Isn’t Dead is the story of a truck driver searching for her not-dead wife, the titular Alice, on a surreal road trip through the U.S.

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Image: Logo for Alice Isn’t Dead: a design of a truck with the mirror image of a stylized skull driving on a black road with an orange sky and yellow sun behind the truck”

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Image from The Witch website: a dark image with a goat; text is overlaid on the image: “GOAT: The He-Goat’s two horn’d crown doth reign / Through blackest Nature, His domain.”

The genre of horror doesn’t exist in a vacuum: what is scary isn’t the same throughout time or space. For example, my idea of a great scary story*:

On a hot and sunny day, your intrepid blogger was blindfolded and forced to attend a gender-reveal party for a baby.** Watch as they encounter…

Misgendering! [cut to “Well, hello, there, miss!”]

Cissplaining! [cut to “They/them aren’t real pronouns!”]

The very concept of binary genders assigned based on in-utero pics of baby’s genitals! [cut to BLOGGER, confused: “hamburger?! turtle?! are we speaking English rn does the ultrasound now tell you folks’ pronouns now?”]

Ruining cake with the arbitrary and artificial gender binary! [cut to CAKE oozing pink or blue]

Regrettably, being marginalized usually means folks are afraid of people like me: queer and genderqueer/gender non-conforming (though the brunt of that falls on trans women). Cultural fears, particularly about the marginalized gaining power and influence (or, self determination even), drive horror films. The vampire as a queer woman or a (somehow also queer) Eastern European; the serial killer as bisexual or trans; zombies as a metaphor for racial Others; and, among many others, witches. Witches are conflated with everything from the fear of ethnic Others (Roma, Creole, Latinx, African) to the generalized fear of women, including but not limited to women having rights to their own bodies, property, money, sexuality, and self determination.

Which brings me to The Witch, a horror film for Puritans by Puritans. (more…)

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Season 3 of Carmilla just came out and I am attempting to watch in between work, writing, and travel, so I’m only halfway through. (It is magical and lovely so far, even if Season 0 was a bit over the top.) But buckle in, creampuffs and Silas alums, because next year we’re getting a MOVIE.

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Image: Screenshot of Carmilla Season 3 trailer, featuring Natasha Negovanlis as Carmilla Karnstein and Elise Bauman as Laura Hollis.

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IMDB has one of the most accurate but unintentionally hilarious descriptions for The Hunger (1983): “A love triangle develops between a beautiful yet dangerous vampire, her cellist companion, and a gerontologist.” Some spoilers (major one marked below).

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Screenshot: Miriam, who has wavy blonde hair and is wearing an understated black skirt suit, plays “Lakme” on the piano for Sarah, who is in a white t-shirt and trousers. Sarah asks, “What’s that piece you’re playing?” screenshot from here (NSFW)

Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John (actual bisexual vampire of my heart David Bowie) are a vampire couple getting along fairly well until John starts aging rapidly. Apparently eternal life and eternal youth aren’t the same thing. Oops.

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