Are shonen manga anthologies moving away from their traditional "boy-centered" content?

Almost half the titles published in a recent Shonen Magazine issue are considered “romantic comedies”, which made netizens wonder.

In Japan, there are three top weekly manga anthologies intended for boys: Shonen JumpShonen Sunday, and Shonen Magazine. These magazines are called “shonen”, or “boy”, magazines because they have traditionally featured stories about young, typically school-age boys that center around themes of manliness, coming of age, and getting strong. Most are action-packed sci-fi, fantasy, sports, or adventure stories, and many times, when female characters are included, their existence is centered around the male characters in a “harem” where all of them lust after the main character, or they are drawn as big-breasted beauties with regular gratuitous cleavage and pantie shots. Some popular shonen titles include Dragonball, One Piece, Detective Conan, and Great Teacher Onizuka.

▼ Remember classic harem manga Love Hina?

But things appear to be changing. Nowadays, it seems as if shonen manga anthologies are featuring more independent female characters, and are moving away from their traditional “manly” or at least “boyish” content. They’re also publishing stories that might appeal to a wider audience. In fact, Shonen Magazine‘s most recent volume includes, in addition to the still ongoing Hajime no Ippo and several other standard shonen titles, 11 manga that are considered “romantic comedies”. That accounts for almost half of Shonen Magazine’s weekly serialized titles.

“Romantic comedy” of course means comedic stories about love, which is not entirely unusual for shonen manga, but the latest comedy titles in shonen magazines do not include harems, and even lack fantasy elements like time travel or alternate universes. Two of Shonen Magazine‘s rom-com stories include Domestic Girlfriend and Fuuka, both of whose main characters are male, but which are most definitely love stories, set in modern Japan. Tsuredere Children, which is a series of stories about young love, is also another example that doesn’t have any of the twists of a typical shonen story.

Domestic Girlfriend

And Shonen Magazine is not the only anthology whose content is changing; Shonen Sunday and Shonen Jump have recently also featured more neutral or even more “shojo” content. Slice-of-life stories, which are traditionally led by female characters and thus are typically considered more shojo fare, appear to be taking the reins in all three shonen magazines, but with a male lead instead. For example, Dagashi Kashi and Silver Spoon from Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine‘s Seitoukai Yakuindomo are centered around school life, building relationships, and growing up, which are themes that would typically be combined with some kind of sci-fi or fantasy element in a shonen manga, or at least with a “manly” sports theme.

Stories with female lead characters like Shonen Jump‘s The Promised Neverland are becoming increasingly common, and while shonen titles are typically written by men, Shonen Sunday even features several female manga artists, including Yu Watase, an iconic shojo writer of Fushigi Yugi fame

▼ This clip of Seitoukai Yakuindomo looks nothing like your standard shonen story.

These aren’t entirely new changes, but rather an evolution that seems to have occurred slowly over time. A list of Shonen Sunday’s best-selling titles revealed that some of the most popular manga published in the magazine over the last several decades included romantic stories, and some of the manga mentioned above have been serialized in shonen magazines for several years. This could be the reason why they have been gaining more and more female readers over the years, but could it be the opposite? Perhaps the publishing companies have been responding to increased demand from female fans instead.

Either way, it seems like the differences between shojo and shonen manga are becoming smaller and smaller. In the eyes of some fans it may not be a good a thing, as the traditional tropes of shonen manga and shojo manga don’t always match up. But if you really think about it, the tropes, themes, and stories from each genre really aren’t that different.

Besides, the terms “shonen” and “shojo” are really referring to the target demographic, and not the genre, and since “shonen” publications seem to be aiming to include the female demographic now, there may not be that many differences between “shonen” and “shojo” stories after all.

Source: My Game News Flash
Top Image: Pakutaso

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