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Posts Tagged ‘shōjo manga’

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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Image: Princess Knight (リボンの騎士) manga cover. Tink, dressed in a green tunic and cap, whispers in Princess Sapphrie’s ear. Sapphire has short black hair and is wearing a big hat with feathers in it and a puffy-sleeved tunic.

Part 1: Introduction

Origins of Shojo Manga

Manga historians tend to identify the prolific and influential artist Osamu Tezuka as the creator of shojo manga, but the true origins of the genre are somewhat more complicated – and interesting!

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My co-panelist and friend Dr. Kathryn Hemmann of Contemporary Japanese Literature and I teamed up again at Geek Girl Con 2015 to give an improved version of our “Crossdressing in Anime and Manga” panel as well as a brand-new panel, “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga,” originally presented Oct. 11, 2015. We are pleased to present a multi-part series based on the latter panel on this blog. We’d also like to thank not just our readers and panel attendees but the awesome section of teens who sat in the front row and squeed at all our pictures, especially Oscar’s.

Panel description

Shojo manga, or manga for young women, is at the center of a thriving comics publishing industry in both Japan and the United States. The legacy of shojo manga is readily apparent in contemporary media from Sailor Moon to Steven Universe, but where did it all begin? This panel offers a glimpse into the classic works that shaped the genre and still inform international fan cultures. Join us to learn more about graphic novels filled with romance, political intrigue, and tons of gender trouble. We’ll introduce you to the work of legendary artists such as Riyoko Ikeda, Moto Hagio, and Keiko Takemiya while celebrating the appeal of illustrated explosions of flowers that rival the flowery speeches given by fascinating characters.

Kyoto Manga Museum

Kyoto International Manga Museum [image: ceiling-to-floor shelves of 1980s manga, with each shelf labeled by year at the Kyoto International Manga Museum]

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Part 4: Gender Trouble and Phantom Femininities

In the final thematic section of our essay, we’re going to move on to some of the more serious issues surrounding cross-dressing, specifically those involving social consequences and identity construction. We’ll begin by focusing on men who habitually crossdress as women before focusing on queer and transgender issues in manga involving characters cross-dressing against sex instead of gender. Part 3 here.

Content warning: this section contains discussions of transphobia, transmisogyny, and sexism. 

 

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