||home / march 2002 / feature
By Danielle D'Ornellas
Itís a bird, itís a plane, it's a... shoujo anime? Don't know shoujo anime from your shoe? Listen up.
First things first - some of you may be wondering, "what is shoujo anime?" I'll try to simplify this as well as I can. Shoujo means girl, so roughly speaking, shoujo anime is girl's anime. It is anime that is created for girls to watch, and is marketed to them, far more than it is to the opposite gender. But don't let that stop you. Even if you are male, you can still enjoy these shows just as much as us females do. All those cross-dressing male Sailor Scout cosplayers canít be wrong!
The problem with shoujo is that the majority of people who know the basics about it think it's only for really girly girls. Some think that every shoujo anime is only like the really popular ones, such as Sailor Moon or Fushigi Yuugi. Most people donít really know that those are just 2 shoujo titles that exist within a huge category that houses a slew of others.
Shoujo is more than just anime for girls or anime that has 'romance' and 'cute' themes. It has its own bunch of subcategories that range from cute to romantic to action-packed and frightening. Here I have outlined for you some of the most dominant subcategories:
Magical Girl Shoujo: Shows such as Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Nurse Angel Ririka are what we would put in this category. The telltale signs that you are watching a Magical Girl shoujo anime would be: transformation sequences, fukus, magic wands, magical battles instead of physical fights, and animal mentors. These shows are fairly popular with not only young girls, but older girls and guys as well. They are fairly innocent and deal with preteens or young teens that have newborn magical powers that they use to fight evil.
Relationship Shoujo: Shows such as Marmalade Boy, Hana Yori Dango, and Kodomo no Omocha are examples of this category. Look for these things, and you'll be able to tell if its a Relationship shoujo anime: boy trouble, multiple-boy trouble, rebellious teenage girls, cold and stuck-up boys, lots of in-school scenes, and a fair amount of teen angst. Relationship animes are usually about high-schoolers and their dating woes, but can also follow the relationships of younger children. These shows are very down to earth, funny, and romantic - and you never can only watch ONE episode. These are very addictive and usually are very long.
Kick Ass Grrl Shoujo: Shows such as Revolutionary Girl Utena, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Ayashi no Ceres are animes in this category. Ways to tell that you're watching a Kick Ass Grrl anime: very independent and rebellious young women that are good OR bad, inter-gender battles, serious plot lines, comical undertones, and realistic, unique, non-cookie-cutter heroines. Kick Ass Grrl animes have better role models than Magical Girl animes, in my opinion, because these characters are usually more individualistic then their Magical Girl counterparts. There are no cookie cutters for plots in Kick Ass Grrl anime, so the entertainment value is high because the plots are unique to the story. These animes are action-packed, and luckily only a few seasons long.
Pretty Boy Shoujo: Shows such as Kaikan Phrase, Gravitation and Bronze/Zetsuai fit in this category. The line between shounen-ai and shoujo is very thin, but I believe these count as shoujo animes as much as they fit in the shounen-ai category. The VERY obvious signs that you are indulging in a Pretty Boy anime are: a mostly male cast, strong male bonds (whether friendly or romantic), bishounen (pretty boys) all around, lots of suggestive homosexual comments, and angst like you wouldn't believe. These shows are usually drooled over by rabid fangirls and have huge cult followings. The angst factor of these shows is so high at points that one cannot even imagine what will top it.
And now, the even lesser known shoujo anime...
Dark Shoujo: Shows like Brother, Dear Brother, Angel Sanctuary, and Shamanic Princess are the epitome of Dark shoujo anime. It is hard to define the telltale signs of Dark shoujo, because the only thing they really have in common is the serious and dark mood that their plot, characters, and settings have. This is definitely my favorite shoujo subcategory, as it is usually dark enough to be scary. The attention spent on Dark shoujo is little, but the titles that DO come under Dark shoujo are usually very good shows. There aren't that many, but they speak for themselves.
Those are just a few common subcategories of shoujo anime; there are more that I just donít have enough expertise in to define for you. Some of you may disagree with a few of my categories and the animes I've placed in them, but itís all how you interpret it. A lot of animes can be cross-categorized with inane subject matter, and in this article, I tried to make it as accurate as possible.
All in all, there is a huge market for sales within the whole broad range of shoujo titles out now, whether it's DVD, VHS, or merchandise. In North America, we don't have too many shoujo titles out in circulation - not compared to mecha or action anime, anyway - but itís getting there. All we need to do as fans is show others that we have an interest in these animes and the companies will be fighting over the rights. The time for shoujo anime is now, ladies and gentlemen, and us shoujo fans canít wait for it to shine.