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Road map à la shoujo manga world of amazement…

Pardon me for chuckling when I saw a search for “classic shoujo cliches” here ^^

I chuckled, because I have been down that route a long time ago too, when I just got lured into the fascinating world of shoujo manga….! Anyway, I wasn’t exactly sure what particular (genre) I was looking for, or what to expect from any mangaka’s work back then. It was pretty much like a “trial and error” stage, where I just got my hands on as many shoujo manga I could get and then drew my conclusions as I went along…

I should have known that, there were in fact different manga magazines available, catered for different kinds of “manga appetites”. Even though I might not have an easy access to read those magazines, the fact that I could have at least found out which manga/mangaka serializing under which magazines, hence the kind of storylines – I suppose that alone could have helped me streamlining my super long “manga read-list” back in those days ^^.

Then again, that’s probably just an “easy to say than done”!

Recently, I happened to bump into the “List of manga magazines” in Wikipedia; at a quick peek at it, “Wholly Molly!” I thought…. Has anyone seen the list? I have lost count of it now but on top of my head, I am guesstimating there were >20 magazines on the shoujo “genre” alone, i.e. not accounting the josei, yaoi, etc….

I know the manga magazine industry in Japan is HUGE! But that list, assuming it’s accurate/ up to date, is staggering! Imagine myself entering into the amazing and colorful shelves of manga magazines….. I would be puzzled, not knowing which to pick and start from if I had none of those shoujo manga reading experiences from previous!!!

Well, I do not live in Japan, so I can be forgiven for the manga puzzlement.

From what I gather (only recently), albeit the manga demographics keep “evolving” in Japan, there are some basic parameters which the magazines editors would draw to define some boundaries. Below an example of the shoujo manga market demographics in 2003 (From “編集会議” Editors Review(?), April 2003. Note the year – information may be out of date!)

Basically, the market was divided into four “quadrants” by two axis:

– Horizontal (blue) axis defines the readers’ “purchasing power”, i.e. readers further to the right are richer or more willing to spend…

– Vertical (orange) axis defines the “characteristics” of the readers; basically the further down south (of the axis), the  “dreamier” the readers become, and hence their shoujo dreams to the infinity and beyond…..!

Quadrant 1 (NorthEast quadrant) – this is the world of josei as we know it! Magazines mainly catered for housewives, family-orientated, etc, who are more acceptable to “fairy tales” that are combined with adult horrors, for instance. Magazines include: YOU (e.g. Gokusen), Kiss (Nodame Cantabile), Be Love (Seito Shokun! – Kyoushihen), and etc. Other slightly “dreamier” josei/shoujo magazines include Chorus (Pride) and Melody (Tenkuu Seiryuu).

 Q1 type magazines – Chorus and Melody

Moving downwards to the quadrant 2 (SE quadrant) whose target audiences are not shy to to stretch their imaginative minds. Magazines include Flowers (Akatsuki no Aria) which sits closer to the shoujo boarder side, as well as WINGS (T.E.Lawerence). Further “down south” is where the BL magazine groups locate, including BExBOY,  Hanaoto and June.

Q2 – Comic Crimson,  Nemuki and flowers

Moving onto the 3rd quadrant (SW) – I call this the “origin” of traditional shoujo manga! This is also where we find Japan’s three biggest shoujo manga magazine groups targeting for young girls (of 9–15 years old) – they are Ribon (りぼん), Nakayoshi (なかよし) and Ciao (ちゃお). Personally, I am more familiar with Hana to Yume and Lala for their mangakas (hence the red circle ^^). Other magazines in this quadrant include Princess (Ouke no Monshou) and ASUKA (Cantarella).

Q3 – Ribon, Nakayoshi and Ciao

Princess, Hana to Yume, Lala and ASUKA

Moving upwards onto the last quadrant (NW), where many “passionate shoujos” can be found.  Stories under this category share a common theme of “love is above all”, or “absolutely sweet sweet love”. By saying “love” here, smuts are also often involved (especially the further “up north” it goes….) Magazines include, Betsucomi (Hot Gimmick), Cookie (Nana), Bessatsu Margaret (Cat Street), Bessatsu Friend (Mars) and Sho-Comi  (Boku wa Imōto ni Koi o Suru). Not surprisingly, their storylines often about high-school romance, or of heroines/ protagonists around the same age as their target readers.

Q4 (from left to right): Dessert, Shō-ComiShōjo Comic Cheese!, Bestsucomi, CookieBessatsu FriendMargaretPetit Comic, and Bessatsu Margaret


So what is the purpose of this “analysis”, hence this post?

Well, I guess it’s like the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do“, i.e. see which categories of shoujo stories would fit/ suit you most, then start digging from there….. If you were like me who started like a manga dump with absolutely anything, chances are it might take quite a long time to sieve through the amazing world of shoujo.

But I am not complaining of course.  : )

**** Further information about shoujo manga magazines ****

-> Manga Magazine Guide with extensive information!


-> Emily’s Randon Shoujo Manga Page


-> List of manga magazines, Wikipedia


-> Publishers information (and official websites):

Akita ShotenHakusenshaKodansha, ShinshokanShodenshaShogakukanShueisha


Pls. also refer to Matt Thorn’s interesting blog mentioning the roles of shoujo magazines:

-> “What Are Shoujo Manga? – Matt Thorn”


-> What Japanese Girls Do With Manga, and Why – Matt Thorn




4 thoughts on “Road map à la shoujo manga world of amazement…

  1. Wow, a mighty chart, isn’t it ?
    Only one thing. I guess the horizontal axis probably means the purchasers’ ages. Of course, the matured readers tend to be willing to spend more. So, the purchasing power is linked. (But the younger group is bigger in number of members.)

    Posted by mattari | January 12, 2012, 1:08 am
    • Hi mattari, welcome back 🙂
      yes. the x-axis would most likely reflect the demographics of audience, as it is common knowledge that those magazines such as Betsassu Friend and Sho-Comi are hugely popular amongst the young teenage girls.
      Having said that, if they label the axis as demographic/ age group only, it’d propbably risk offending older readers like me who,d sometimes (though rarely) buy those magazines as mentioned above. Meanwhile, magazines such as Petit Comic has also received increasing number of younger female audults (as opposed to teenagers)despite of its lower “purchasing value” compared with its more mature counterparts.
      I guess the graph, and the x-axis in particular, can also be used to reflect the “quality” of the contents in those magazines?
      The way I look at it: those towards the left rear of the axis would propbably tend to contain more fast-food types of stories which would provide quick entertainment for their audiences. As these stories would typically be serialised, audiences would more likely to be lured-in and return to purchase these magazines on a short and frequent basis, hence less pricing but higher sales volumes on these magazines? (NB. I have not tested this against any official stats, i.e. I can be wrong here and so please don’t hold against me on that!!!!!)

      Posted by xkazemg | January 12, 2012, 8:31 am
  2. You’re really a keen observer and a stylish writer, xkazemg. I like your “fast food” metaphor. That’s sizzling! 😀
    But I think the upper east end group in the chart, the “neighbor’s rumor” circle, is also a very quick entertainment.
    In general, while excellent story-tellers (IMHO e.g. Hagio Moto) can hold the readers without making any roller-coasters nor smuts on purpose, there are the opposite ones, regardless their works are serialized or one-shot.

    Posted by mattari | January 14, 2012, 2:17 am
    • Thank you for the compliment, mattari…. your lovely words definitely made me sizzled! lol!
      Please keep comments coming – love reading others’ thoughts : )

      Your comment actually made me re-think about what i wrote – It was indeed unfair for me to directly correlate the x-axis/ demographic to “quality” of stories, as I risked myself committing the very crime of “generalising”! ^^”

      As a matter of fact, I was pondering whether or not one could use this chart as a shoujo-manga reading guide… So the point I was trying to raise earlier, was that both rears of the x-axis reflect the types of market, for instance the left represents magazines with high sales-volumes (low prices), thus the kinds of “protocol” those contents would mostly likely follow suit in order to generate sales.

      In the meanwhile, as the consumers become more price-sensitive (see markets at the right rear of the axis), they may also become more “picky” in their reading choices. But of course, despite of the price-sensitivity, there is still a variety in consumer demands as demonstrated by the upper/ lower ends of the vertical axis (or “y-axis”). Nonetheless, on the right side of the chart, one would still expect to find magazines which are published on a less frequent basis (compared to those on the left), and/or most likely contain stories created by the more experienced mangaka already established with a loyal and strong fan-base – all of which have led me into thinking that, the longer publication lead time of those magazines might have helped their mangakas maintaining the “quality” of their stories too…..???

      Please keep your comments coming – let your thoughts/ opinions be heard! : )

      Posted by xkazemg | January 16, 2012, 2:37 am

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