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Feminism in Shoujo Manga: Introduction July 3, 2006

Posted by Naughty Ninja in Feminism, Shoujo.

The representation of the female in shoujo manga has at times been misinterpreted or dismissed as anti-feminism fodder. This is despite the fact that most content is created by a large number of female mangaka (numbering in the hundreds), and is meant for a significantly large female audience. This affinity between creator and consumer almost guarantees the production of beautifully crafted stories brimming with honesty, depth, and respect towards the female condition.

In an interesting article entitled American Girls’ and Women’s Comics : White Space, Rachel Nabors covers what others have already recognized as the gap in the comic market, and encourages women to become creators and be more vocal in their opinions of female representation. A part of the article includes (bold emphasis my own):

Q: Isn’t shoujo manga enough?
A: Sure, if you don’t mind subtly throwing away all the feminist ideals our mothers fought for in during the Women’s Liberation Movement. Japan is not what you would call “female friendly.” In Japan, it is acceptable for a man to grope a teenage girl on the train. I recall reading that a hideously large percentage of young women only go to college to seek husbands then drop out when they get married. Women are still considered inferior in business and the glass ceiling is more like a brick wall.

This chauvinistic attitude is visible in Japanese comics. Even in stories like Kare Kano that seem to champion strong young women, the females inevitably give up their own will, dreams and hopes in favor of adopting their sweetheart’s.

I imagine Nabors’ intent is to enjoin women to throw off the dependence on manga (shoujo or otherwise) as a proxy means to fill the female gap in comics. Perfectly understandable, but it doesn’t quite justify her sweeping generalizations, and outright fostering of misconceptions.

While I strongly admire the intent of her message I feel inclined to educate her on the baselessness of these misconceptions, but such well-intentioned commentary would be doomed to appear as bitchy nitpicking. Perhaps as the overeducated otaku, I should understand how a Westerner would look at us Asians so strangely, especially since so many of the books she owns are written from that Western-stranger perspective.

I discussed the matter at length with Samurai Tusok, and he has an amazing way of bypassing the geek babble and insulted sputtering, and distilled it into the following, in the form of a comment on MangaBlog:

First of all, [Nabor’s] dismissal of shoujo as counterfeminist pabulum is based on a picture of shoujo manga that is filtered entirely by whatever gets exported to the U.S., as if that were somehow representative of shoujo in Japan itself.

That’s like drawing conclusions about the value systems of independent filmmakers based solely on films distributed by Miramax. But the fact is that manga distributors seem to focus on a ya-lit audience of pre-teens and up, an audience that they’ve concluded to not be interested in manga featuring something more than counterfeminist pabulum.

Oh, and to say that “In Japan, it is acceptable for a man to grope a teenage girl on the train.” is two hundred fifty six shades of problematic. That train molesters are rampant is not the same as being ’socially acceptable’.

At any rate, Ms. Nabors has compelled me to actualize an idea that’s been brewing in my head for the last few days: a series of articles discussing the various feminine values found in shoujo manga. To be specific, those that make their way outside of Japan.

I won’t stand to see a perfectly wonderful art form like manga and its shoujo genre to be written off as uniformly counterfeminist, moreso by someone who reduces it to nothing but the product of a culture of Asians-as-Patriarchal-Savages.

As such dear readers, I shall endeavor to do everything within my power to showcase the ideological plurality to be found in manga, and that feminist messages can indeed be found in your local bookshelves.



1. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » In other news… - July 3, 2006

[…] Bento Physics is going to take a look at a subject that I’ve always found fascinating but too broad to tackle in a blog post: The attitudes toward women that are expressed in shoujo manga. Their inspiration is this livejournal post by Rachel Nabors, on the dearth of comics for women, which is an interesting commentary in its own right. […]

2. sethjohnson - July 4, 2006

If you’re going to write about shoujo manga and feminine values, please write about Ai Yazawa manga. =p

3. Naughty Ninja - July 4, 2006

Seth, how dare you read my mind! Nana is the first one I’m planning to write about, and Paradise Kiss in the near future. Would you have anymore titles to recommend from her or any other author?

4. Arachne - July 5, 2006

I can not wait for these articles. This is my main academic focus, and actually presented at the National PCA conference this year on the problems of Western feminists blindly attacking shoujo…

5. Naughty Ninja - July 5, 2006

Arachne, that is absolutely amazing! Such a fantastic topic 😀 I’d love to read your stuff on the subject.

6. sethjohnson - July 5, 2006

Sadly I haven’t actually read much of Yazawa’s manga; just seen anime adapted from it. Other than those two, the only one I’ve seen any of that I can recall is Gokinjou Monogatari, which from the two episodes I caught would probably be less useful.

Other titles…hold on *checks various books on shelf*

Well. Again, haven’t read any of the related manga where they actually exist, but I think an often cited example for pro-active shoujo representations in anime are any of the big Miyazaki films. I’m pretty sure there’s a manga for Nausicaa. I heard that he actually wanted to portray obedience in children as a virtue in Spirited Away though. Heh, that just means his work is a good discussion topic!

7. sethjohnson - July 5, 2006

Oh! And Ouran.

8. punkednoodle - July 6, 2006

Well… shoujo manga is a deep cave to enter in as it has a lot of dimensions in it. A LOT OF DIMENSIONS. And what I say here is but bit and parcel of the entirety of shoujo mangas! There are titles that are clasically shoujo in nature, deep in love, drama, moments of humor and tragedy (Nana and Fushigi Yuugi, among few.). There are titles that are trying to see something in between without pulling the classic shoujo trump cards (Ouran and Koukou Debut). Then there are those that are written for the excitement found in sex and basically shows the fun part of what it takes to be ‘the popular/hot girl’ (anything written by Mayu Shinjo, Get Chuu/ Get You, and maybe Love Monster). And there are those who redefine the shoujo heroine (Yawara, Nausicaa, Nodame, and Happy!). I haven’t even included yet the Yaoi line, which IS also a shoujo genre by nature. ^___^ And that’s another set of subclusters to choose from.

It is not as easy shounen manga wherein the world is much simpler. Hence, I find this a brave venture and wish you the best. Will keep on reading. ^_~

9. Oyce - July 6, 2006

Hi! I just stumbled here, but I saw this and had to comment. I’m so greatly looking forward to anything on feminism and shoujo manga!

I do have some problems with the gender roles in a lot of shoujo, but then, I also have issues with Nabor’s generalizations, and would love to see anything focusing on these topics in greater depth.

Also… Yazawa Ai! My favorite mangaka ever!

I also just ran across a series called Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ugawa, and nearly fell over in surprise when I found that the first few pages reference the glass ceiling in the workplace, the double-standard that the heroine faces, and feminism.

10. Naughty Ninja - July 6, 2006

Khursten: I know that shoujo is this huge immense genre, and I think that’s why I’m so excited about this. I’m annoyed that most girls write them off as the “equivalent of the trashy romance novel” when I know shoujo is just so much more!

Also, I’m trying to “limit the study” (naks, hindi study naman talaga eh) to concentrate on shoujo titles that find there way to America (since we’re dependent on their releases) or Singapore (when I can find my way there once in a while). An by concentrating on feministic reading, I think that should help me bring focus to the future articles.

We’ll still have to see where it really goes though! As of now, I’m still working on the first article, haha. I sorta see this going from anywhere between 6 months (with hopefully an article every week) or even 1 year. 2 years? Something like that, for sure.

I’d appreciate any opinions you have to offer in the future, since I value your educated view point 😀

Oyce: I’m glad you found your way here! Comments are always nice, they make me smile and feel all mushy. (Instead of me feeling like I’m talking to a brick wall here, hehe)

I’ve only read three titles from Yazawa Ai, but her stuff seems absolutely fab! From the art style, to the humor, to the deep emotions…she tells fantastic stories.

Tramps Like Us seems interesting! Ever since I started bringing this up with people, I’ve been hearing about great manga. Another excuse to run to the book store and let the meager money I have flow like water through my hands, haha. Thanks for the recommendation, I shall surely be picking it up asap.

11. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Playing catch-up - July 8, 2006

[…] I’m hoping that Bento Physics will resolve some of these issues with their series on feminism in shoujo manga. […]

12. Riyuen - July 9, 2006

(Came here from manganews and was compelled to comment.)

Not to get into a labelling war or anything, but it might be useful in your discussion to include a definition of what you’re putting under the shoujo label. For example, Nana is marketed as shoujo in America, but is marketed in Japan as jousei manga, and is serialized in a jousei magazine. So would you include jousei as a subgenre of shoujo, or compare it to shoujo? IMHO, jousei has quite different themes and issues involved, (Tramps Like Us is also jousei? ) even from what little I’ve seen of it. But if you define shoujo simply as comics aimed at the female half of the population, jousei of course fits! @_@

However, this sounds like it will be an interesting discussion, and I look forward to seeing it!

(And as for manga to discuss, whenever feminism+manga comes up I can’t help but think of Hot Gimmick – it and various Shinjo Mayu manga are like a hand guide of How to Be a Gutless Heroine TM and are really quite apalling in the balance of the relationships.)

13. Naughty Ninja - July 9, 2006


Thanks for your fab insight, I was actually pondering on the different classification of Shoujo outside of Japan, and inside of it. NANA definitely has more adult themes, and I know Ai Yazawa usually tells stories for a more mature audience.

So for now, Samurai Tusok and I will be sticking to what is labeled as “shoujo” for non-Japanese audiences, everything marketed here for a female audience. I honestly think it would be difficult to keep labels intact across the two cultures. What the English-speaking world understands to be “yaoi”, “otaku”, etc, is entirely different from how the Japanese use it. Rather than trying to have these two worlds of definition coincide, I think I’ll be sticking with the one I’m intimately familiar with.

Though I’d like to include posts dedicated to the culture of Japan that creates this shoujo, such as how manga by women for women first came about, and the wealth of sub genres available. We’re only getting a handful of the good stuff here, right? 😀

Hahaha, I feel that Hot Gimmick will be one hell of a challenge to write from the feminist perspective. I haven’t read other titles from Shinjo Mayu…but are ALL her heroines like this? I see Hot Gimmick as some sort of strange fantasy world, that doesn’t quite coincide with reality. It’s just so incredibly out there! I can only suspend my belief so far, haha.

Thanks so much for your comment, it’s helped me further apply focus to the articles, and it totally appreciated 😀

14. Riyuen - July 9, 2006

Glad I could help ^___^!

Honestly, I think as the market and number of titles expand, the categories known amongst non-Japanese audiences will start to be carried along too, because they’re convenient. I mean, in the very early days of the industry, was there even the basic divide of shoujo and shounen? And Tokyopop didn’t used to publish its titles under different categories (I didn’t find a definition of Tramps Like Us as being anything in particular, shoujo or jousei or whatever!) but then they’ve opened up the BLU publishing line to define their BL titles. But yeah, I completely agree, it’s definitely confusing when you get the japanese categories, and then how the majority of English-reading audiences interpret them; so defining which you’re going to use when discussing these kind of things is really useful for clarity’s sake.

However, in the article you’re rebutting, and the link they gave as back up for their point: http://www.mangapunk.com/articles/women_and_sexism_in_american_and_japanese_comics
they really do seem to be discussing shoujo as it’s defined in Japan. (They pulled examples from Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket, Fushigi Yuugi and Mars; heavy weights as far as examples go – they’re probably four of the most popular/well known shoujo manga.) Pulling out more positive examples from technically jousei series may not help push your argument. While I agree that classifying shoujo manga as counterfeminist is a gross generalization, there is a strong trend for heroines with lives that do revolve around purely males/love interests. It’s quite easy to think of examples.

(I’m a little bit behind on Kare Kano, but I was purely confused about the comment on it. Which characters give up their dreams for their love interests?)

But if you’re examining the English-reading manga industry, I think Samurai Turok’s point that it is distorted is a very good one to keep in mind. Also, what about OEL/global manga – while it’s still early days, and hard to tell, are any “better” feminist values being expressed generally? (I mean, romance novels have been around for quite a while, and a lot of the time the values expressed in them are..-__-;;)

Hot Gimmick is….really like a train wreck. And about Shinjo Mayu, basically, if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Different settings (yakuza, devils, show biz, high school, etc etc) but the characterization is always the same >_

15. Naughty Ninja - July 9, 2006


Ah, such delightful discussion! This is good fun *rubs hands in glee* XD

I’m not too familiar with the history of the manga industry in Manga. By the time it reached our Philippine shores, they already were offering clear delineations between the genres. I really will have to research more on the cultural distinctions between labels, and like you said, clarity is never a bad thing. Thanks so much for that insight.

Actually, the very reason I wanted to start writing about this was specifically because people were bashing shoujo titles like Fruits Basket and MARS. I simply don’t agree with such shallow reading of the female leads, nor the ridiculously limiting nature of what entails a “strong” female lead. I’m in the middle of forming my thoughts on these titles, because well, there’s about 15+ volumes for each one, so I’ve been going back and reading eeeeeeeeeeeverything and taking down nooooooooootes and double checking feminist theory and yeaaaaaaaaaaah. It’s taking a while, haha!

But my initial reading usually follows the questions of “Why are we so quick to judge the soft-spoken female lead?” I’m not sure if it’s a western perspective (please enlighten me if this isn’t the case) but Asia’s view of women doesn’t rely on outspokenness or an aggressive nature. Tohru Honda for instance, seems to be the only person capable of breaking the Sohma curse. A curse that has plagued the family for generations, and has been unchallenged for all of time. She is surrounded by larger than life characters who are completely helpless against the curse, but she continues to strive to break it. I have more thoughts I’m finalizing in my excited head, but I’m convinced that Tohru is one of the emotionally strongest high school girls I know of ;D

Anyway, I went along with NANA first, as a small number of volumes have been translated by Viz for now. I want to hopefully release an article every week, so I’m trying to look for short shoujo titles to go in between the bigger shoujo giants.

I’m just a few volumes behind Kare Kano, but I honestly don’t see how the characters are giving up their dreams for their love interests. I really, really don’t. I see two people in a relationship coming together to find a future with each other, really. And yes, dammit, Kare Kano is another giant (and ongoing, sob) title I’ll be working on soon.

I’m also just finally treading the waters of OEL/Global manga. I was scarred for life by Marvel’s nasty Mangaverse and other lame attempts, that I’ve unfairly judged all OEL manga to be bad…fortunately Scott Pilgrim showed me the light, and I’m looking forward to discovering other titles. Would you know of any titles with a distinct shoujo flair? I’d love to have an initial comparison between OEL shoujo and Japanese shoujo.

If anything, I wonder if this romance novel culture is encouraging a lot of counter-feminism people seem to find in manga. Haha, that’s another topic all together though.

I used the train wreck metaphor for Hot Gimmick too! How incredibly apt. Also, trying to envision Yakuza and devils with a similar story line is totally messing up my head D:

(btw, your devart gallery rocks my socks.)

16. Shadow_FD - July 10, 2006

Go for it, Naughty Ninja! Write that counter-article about shoujo manga and manga in general being ‘counter-feminist’.

Personally, I’ve never found an anime or manga that’s counter/anti-feminist. I find this very interesting, as there are plenty of titles in the shoujo area that actually enforces female-empowerment or feminism, which counters Rachel Nabor’s point.

I can only think of Fruits Basket, but that’s because I don’t read a lot of shoujo manga much. (ha ha) But I have read a lot of non-shoujo manga where such things like female-empowerment and feminism, or ideas of ‘women standing on their own two feet’ gives a consistant message that ‘women CAN do it’.

It is kind of insulting to Asians and to all manga fans with what Rachel Nabor said. I mean… I’m Asian, and I know there are a lot more women who are excellent as business women than men. I mean, the president of Kodansha right now is a woman, Ms Sawako Noma. (Check at http://kodanclub.com/ ) That HAS to count for something, right? CLAMP and Naoko Takeuchi are women whose works are considered to be among the best right now, and both are accomplished artists.

But KareKane being anti-feminist…? From a man’s perspective, I never did see that. I’m actually impressed by Miyazawa Yukino’s motives of wanting to become No.1 in her school… It takes dedication to do something like that. It takes courage to even stand up to the male teachers (they were all male, right?) when they didn’t approve of Yukino and her boyfriend’s relationship and that Yukino didn’t want to break up with her boyfriend.
All in all, I never did see/conceived/picked up/got the idea/ the bit about Yukino giving up ‘everything, her hopes and dreams’ for her boyfriend.

And never… NEVER… have I ever heard of asian high-school girls dropping out of school the moment they find a husband. I know so, ’cause I lived in the Philippines, and even though everyone was poor (DIRT POOR!) I know no one who actually has done that.

Not only is Nabor insulting manga fans and manga artists, but she just insulted Asians in general.

Oh. Naughty Ninja, you Filipino?

In any case, I approve of where Naughty Ninja stands!

17. Riyuen - July 10, 2006

Nothing like a good (and civil!) discussion! I’m also playing devil’s advocate in some aspects, because you’re arguing your side quite well already. ^___^

(The Phillipines? I assume you get your manga in English, since you seem to be discussing English-licensed works, but is any available in Filipino? And out of curiousity, what is the availability of manga like generally throughout asia and in what languages? I’ve been trying to find manga in japanese in Melbourne, Australia and it’s like pulling teeth. All I’m turning up is Chinese manga libraries and I can’t read Chinese ):0 ) As far as I know, most of the early stuff was shounen/seinen, (DBZ, Akira, and so on) so there wasn’t really a need for labelling. The only earlier release I can really think of from shoujo is Sailor Moon. And I suppose Card Captor Sakura, but I think that was a little later on?

I’ll admit to having only a shallow (most shallow!) knowledge of feminist theory; having only covered it in a short period in a course that actually was looking at legal history and philosophy. And that was last year. And it made my head hurt, tool of the patriarchy that I am XP. So correct me if I’m wrong in my theory, but one of the points from the course that comes to mind, was that women are often portrayed as having lives that revolve around their men. Shoujo’s ‘plots’ are usually centered around love interests and romance; contrast that to shounen which is usually about growth and adventure and one’s own strength. The themes do cross over; growth and coming of age also feature quite heavily in shoujo, but usually through the romance. Whereas shounen stories bring them about through coming into (physical? magical?) strength. Or: why is that the love interest is pretty much always a vital character in shoujo? Why is it normally, even though other types of relationships may be featured, the romantic relationship is the pivotal one to the storyline? (The only shoujo series that’s currently springing to mind as not having a romantic relationship as its ‘heart’ (bad pun I know) is Aishiteruze Baby. And interestingly, the main character is male.) Why is there a subgenre for romantic stories in the shounen genre, but it pretty much occupies the whole of the shoujo genre? Actually, that’s the main crit. I have of shoujo as a genre – romance is nice, but complex other relationships are just as nice!

…..Actually, trying to think of other shoujo manga that don’t centre on romance; would you consider manga like Saiyuki as shoujo? Although that edges into both the shounen and BL conventions, so maybe not. I know BL is a subgenre of shoujo in being aimed at girls, but it’s treatment of women is completely different from shoujo most of the time.

I sympathize with your difficulties in sorting through 15+ volumes of manga ^___^. It’s a tough job reading manga, but someone’s got to do it!

I always never did quite understand the outspoken=strong thing. But it’s easier to understand quiet/not speaking up=no backbone=weak I think. It may be a more prevalent western attitude, particularly compared to Japan where a lot more is normally left unsaid, and stereotypically there’s a lot less directness in communication. (Like never refusing someone directly because it’s ‘impolite.’) I find thinking about things like this a little confusing, because while I’m of asian descent, my upbringing has been largely western. But not completely.

I’d like to discuss what makes a heroine strong more because it is fascinating, (and I look forward to your articles on it) but I think I need more time to mull it over. Furuba and some other shoujo does niggle me a little, because it shows those girls as being talented pretty much within only traditional feminine roles. And why are so many shoujo protagonists so very bad at school? Granted, shounen also has its share of dumb protagonists, but they have that enormous strength to compensate, and get them out of any scrapes that said stupidity might lead them into. Also while I agree that a lot of the bashing of the characters in Furuba and MARS doesn’t consider all parts of the character, if certain things are being picked up even in a shallow read they must be broadcasting pretty strongly. But agreement in the emotional strength and stability of Tohru (although I find it a little creepy at times too ^^;.)

Kare Kano, complete agreement! That’s part of what I enjoyed – that Yukino does have ambitions and concerns other then Arima, but they’re still together.

Um, I enjoyed some Marvel titles when I was younger and had access to issues through my brother, but their “manga” I am very wary of. I’ve heard some good things about Scott Pilgrim – I really have to get around to reading it. With OEL, I’ve really just read a few of Tokyopop’s lineup; I don’t particularly see any patterns thus far.

Because a train wreck is such a fitting comparison for Hot Gimmick!

As for storylines where yakuza and devils are interchangeable, it goes something like this: Heroine is already bullied and helpless in her own world, when she suddenly meets Dashing Lead Bishounen with Very Narrow Eyes who sweeps her off her feet. Usually into his own world where he is embroiled in INTRIGUE but is Very Powerful. Foes/rivals try to use her against him, he gets to demonstrate his powerfulness against his foes/rivals, and he always wins in the end. And is very posessive and controlling of her. And there’s sex. Lots of it. …Usually within the first chapter or volume, which is also where I wander off, turned off by the characterization. Maybe I’m doing Shinjo Mayu a disservice because I haven’t read complete series, but I have persevered with one or two, and they don’t seem to change. If the storyline’s like so with the first couple of volumes…

(Why thank you! The first time I commented, I had to re-write because I didn’t fill in all the forms (I figured no one actually clicks those links, really!) and pressed submit, and then was very frustrated at losing what I’d written. But you actually clicked the link!)

And on the whole Asian bashing thing, I really don’t know. Things are changing, and anecdotal evidence is all very well, but looking at the very language use in Japanese as is ‘proper’ there’s definite power inbalances between the genders. Also, should it really be remarkable, or ‘count for something’ that there is a female president of a company? Why aren’t 50% of presidents female? How many women are in higher ranking jobs? I have read a few studies and stuff about the japanese workplace, where as Nabor said there is a really thick glass ceiling for women, and the majority are stuck as OLs, but honestly I don’t know how current the studies were.

18. Samurai Tusok - July 11, 2006


If I’m not mistaken, Fruits Basket gets the most negative criticism for its protagonist, Tohru Honda and while I’m not completely sold on it as a manga, I believe the knee-jerk assertions of her counterfeminist value are a lot less sophisticated than they should be and accord the character less examination than she deserves One of us will talk more about that in an actual post.

19. Suri - July 11, 2006

If you’re looking for shoujo with strong females, Crimson Hero is a must. And of course, how could anyone forget Revolutionary Girl Utena?

Also, someone mentioned that NANA is published in a josei magazine, so I just wanted to point out that it is not. Cookie treads very close to being josei, but it’s aimed at high school/junior high students and is considered shoujo.

Tramps Like Us, the Sakurazawa Erika books, and Tokyopop’s Passion Fruit “line” are really the only josei in English that I can think of. Barring yaoi/BL, of course, which is actually what the vast majority of josei is.

20. Svamp - July 11, 2006

Utena? I fail to see what makes her a strong character… I’d rather pick Rose of Versailles if we’re going off on that tangent.

21. doinkies - July 12, 2006

Indeed, Cookie (the magazine Nana runs in in Japan) is not josei, it’s considered shoujo – Shueisha, the publishers, even classify it as shoujo.

I have to agree with Riyuen about Shinjo Mayu’s works. It’s always Wimpy Doink Who Falls In Love With Bishounen Doink Who Uses Her And Boinks Her In Every Chapter, and the characterization is very cookie-cutter. The only good thing about her works is the art, but otherwise…yeah, they are doinky.

I’m looking forward to Naughty Ninja’s next article about feminism in shoujo manga – hopefully these articles will prove once and for all that not all shoujo heroines are wimpy doinks, unlike what Rachel Nabors says. And I also agree with Shadow about KareKano…

22. punkednoodle - July 12, 2006

Definitely Rose of Versailles over Utena ANYTIME. ANYTIME!! It’s classic shoujo that has basically made every fall in love over and over and over again. GOD!! I just have to remember Andre and Oscar and everything just rolls in my head and tears well in my eyes. Oscar is one of the best shoujo heroines ever written! Definitely unforgettable.

@Riyuen = I think she hasn’t read far, but I think she believes that Yukino gave on being number one in her class because to her, it’s important to be with Arima instead. I do not consider this thing something bad for Kare Kano, as the series showed that this is all in all, a part of ‘growing together’ which I think was something fairly new to read in manga at that time. It is a manga about HIS AND HER circumstances, so it’s a manga about them and not just about Yukino’s dreams.

@Naughty Ninja – Hot Gimmick is not at all difficult to understand. On a feminist note you can take Evelyn Reed’s understanding of the woman’s role and the struggle of the main character of Hot Gimmick. If you can get a chance on reading something about Japanese femininity, then it is more understandable. Hot Gimmick is one of the more ‘popular’ titles out there, although it really still has a weak grasp of story on my end. However, this is a lesser evil compared to Parfait Tic and to me… Hachiko’s story in Nana. >_>

23. punkednoodle - July 12, 2006

Oh drat, pressed enter too early.

About Nabor. She comes from a different place and has an entirely different perspective hence I see where she is coming from. I’m an Asian reader and although I completely disagree with her opinion with regards to shoujo mangas (I believe this is because she has read mainly OEL mangas, which in my case, the shoujo list is still very based on the popular mangas rather than THE GOOD mangas), I completely understand where she’s coming from and respect her on a venture that completely caters to the Western palate.

Do note that the Japanese mangaka never really thought of writing mangas thinking that the rest of the world will read it. The fact that its first language is in Japanese already confirms that this is for the Japanese reader. Any onlookers to it are free to enjoy it, granted that you do understand that by reading it, you are entering a world that is not yours and requires a bit of cultural recomposition. Knowing that the Japanese logic is VERY different, despite its modernity, compared to the Western perspective, I completely understand Nabor’s inability to really appreciate the world of shoujo manga. If she manage to read it in Japanese, if not grab a title more commendable than those published, along with a little Japanese culture class, then maybe her understanding would be a bit different.

I’m not saying she’s incompetent, I’m just saying she’s a person with strong beliefs and morale and she views the world differently.

On another note, with regards to Naughty Ninja’s use of a feminism perspective would be REALLY difficult on her part because the idea of feminism in Japan is very different. In western ideals, that of Reed’s and Firestone’s feminist ideology, the Japanese shoujo heroine fails in character. There are some that might fit in Reed’s definition of femininity, but the rest are really just… a complete failure. Even the best of them, such as Oscar, fails as one who is truly feminine in nature. Maybe Reed would be a little ‘accomodating’ to the likes of Oscar, nonetheless, for Firestone, she is a failed woman.

To tackle shoujo in this manner is quite problematic, but choosing the right titles will give people some light to things.

24. Love Manga » Blog Archive » Foolishly Optimistic - July 14, 2006

[…] There are lots of variations on the topic from the mediocrity of the female in manga to whether manga is feminist or not. But overall the central theme running through all these discussions is the representation/role of females in manga. […]

25. Arachne - July 21, 2006

Wow- this is what I get for not responding earlier. Hopefully I’ll remember everything I wanted to comment about.

As for the outspoken=strong and quiet=weak, this is a perfect example of the counterfeminist assumptions.

Many of the attacks on shoujo are coming from a 2nd wave feminist point of view. Which I personally feel is the big issue here. This 2nd wave perspective limits the ways female characters can be feminist. Think of the 80’s “supermom” or at least the horrible power suits women wore and that gets you in the right frame of mind to see the logic of these attacks. This perspective demands that women be strong and loud and even masculine (but not too masculine- any hint of butchness and they’d turn on ya). Which of course isn’t a bad thing. The problem was with any female character that didn’t fit the mold would automatically be not feminist. This perspective takes one look at Sailor Moon goes on the attack- usually about the costumes, and totally misses the point of the series, being the importance of female friendship.

This limits the types of strength that are “allowed” to be feminist, ruling out quieter or more subtle strengths, while at the same time attacking the notion that women could find any entertainment value from violence- leading to the denouncement of strong ass-kicking or even violent female characters. Quite a contradiction, hm?

2nd wave feminism was important. We would not be enjoying the rights we have today without it. However there is a reason 3rd wave feminism exists, both as social theory and as literary/ film/ television theory.

As for the Asian thing, these kinds of criticisms are used on Hermione and to a lesser extent Buffy.

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox and just say personally, I would love to see an article on either magical girls or CLAMP. And two older titles I would recommend are Basara and especially Red River, which can be read as the anti-Fushigi Yuugi.

26. Arachne - July 21, 2006

And crud, I sent it too early.

The comment about Hermione and Buffy should read: these kinds of criticisms are also used on Hermione and to a lesser extent Buffy.

And I’d love to let you read my paper, but I’m actually in the progress of transforming it from a conference paper a.k.a. a speech, into an actual paper.

27. Naughty Ninja - July 21, 2006

Arachne, those were really good points you brought up. I’m honestly still familiarizing myself with as much feminist theory as possible, since it offers such a wealth of standpoints, and as you put it, contradictions. But I believe this to be a good thing, since it stands to say the female condition can’t be a simple subject by any means.

Your discussion on the 2nd wave vs. 3rd wave is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to find words for. While reading on how people saw shoujo to be counterfeminist, they seemed to be clinging to outdated concepts of what feminism really entailed. So you’ve totally nailed that on the head for me.

I’ll definitely look up the older titles you’ve recommended…and I’m open to anything that can be described as the “anti-Fushigi Yuugi” 😀

Also, CLAMP provides a wealth of reading…I’m currently trying to narrow it down. I’d like to discuss their subversion of the hentai game format that was Chobits, their reinvention of the magical girl in Card Captor Sakura, among other titles. And just the fact that they’re a creative powerhouse in manga, and regularly feature amazing female characters, draw from the female experience, subvert gender roles, and still communicate beyond to an audience made up of both men and women. In essence, CLAMP should deserve an entire paper unto itself, I’d say.

I’m truly looking forward to your paper, and am sure it will be worth the wait 🙂

28. My - July 25, 2006

Sweat & Honey by Mari Okazaki and the 6 oneshot volumes (Between the Sheets, Angel, Angel’s Nest etc) released by Erica Sakurasawa is really worth taking a look at. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the articles! Good job on analyzing Nana.

29. Leona (Canada) - August 11, 2006

I happened across this site in my Google wanderings, and I encourage you completely to explore the feminism inherent in manga. Intelligent articles are welcome over fangirling squeals of “liek, omg!” (which all of us are apt to fall prey to), and I look forward to reading what you have to say.

My only hope, however, is that you explore as many different specturms of manga and their representations of women as you can. While there are quality shoujo manga titles such as Nana and Kimi wa Petto, which are crafted with a conscious awareness of the society in which Japanese women live, there are others which seem to perpetuate the “romance” of female passivity. They are also written by female mangaka, and the two which come to the forefront of my mind are Aihara Miki and Shinjo Mayu. I think it is incredibly important to disprove the counterfeminist perspectives haboured by Westerners encountering manga, but we should also be aware of titles that feed those perspectives.

Good luck to you, and I look forward to your articles!

Leona (Canada)

30. Cree - February 4, 2007

Well i stubled apon this while looking for great new shojos to watch that i havnt seen befor and i found a couple so thanks, but i would also like to put my two cents in. In my opinion shojo shouldnt be about feminism, its about girls and guys enjoying great stories made by even greater artists. As much as some people would love to think that all girls are huge feminists, i would just like to tell you to get real ,there not. Yea there are some girls who are huge feminists and there are those that arent. So dont you think that shojo artists should write books about all types of girls and guys? In all truth i would love to ask 100 girls what they think about most or what they care about most. Believe me im a 16 year old girl and girls my age arent thinking about being feminists they are thinking about life, love, and surviving high school. Thats what i love about shojo is that it tells about all that with great art with it. And for those girls who love to dream and hear about magical worlds and super hero girls they have that to. Did Rachel Nabors really think over what she was writing about? Americans write shojo as well not just Japanese. The ideas just didnt come out of no were, these are real people mostly women writing these shojo that she thinks are so unfeminist. Its what real women think. Yea there are some great shojos about feminist girls and there are some great shojos about other girls as well. In my opinion i think its fine that shojo isnt all about feminist girls. You people shouldnt have to prove that shojo isnt anti feminist just because one women said it isnt because apparently she has no clue what she is talking about. To me i would rather read about girls falling in love with great guys that dont treate there girl friends like shit. Most shojo seems to be aimed at teen readers, and the real things that teens do are way worse than shojo animes. We all no what really happens with alot of the teen population, and i would take a shojo romance over that anyday. So i think that Rachel Nabors should be thinking and writing about the lack of feminism in real life befor she starts complaining about feminism in artistic stories.

31. Cree - February 4, 2007

sorry there are a few typos in that lol and if any one is looking for awesome shojo to watch like i was try peach girl. And i agree with the other girl great analizing Nana that ones a great shojo along with Paradise Kiss.

32. alida - May 4, 2007


33. alida - May 4, 2007

Helo, I am a gret fan of manga, are you.
I hawe a dog he´s names is Leo

34. surveyork - February 10, 2008

Hi there. I think Rachel Nabor got it all wrong with Kare Kano. Either that or I read a different manga with the same title :).

Yukino, the female protagonist in Kare Kano, has a professional goal and works hard for it. Arima, her boyfriend, completely supports her and she does the same with him and his goals. The other girls in the story, including Yukino’s sisters, eventually end up doing what they want to do. I didn’t see “women giving up their own will dreams and hopes in favor of adopting their sweetheart’s” anywhere.

Leaving that aside, I would like to add that I recently read shoujo manga with smut and it left me a bit shocked. Although the emphasis is put on romance, there were strong sex scenes. They weren’t as explicit as the ones you can find in hentai but some of the scenarios where similar: boy blackmails girl into sex and she likes it, boy “rapes” girl and she likes it, girl rapes boy (!), male student VS private female teacher, male teacher Vs female student… I even found a title featuring a 3rd year elementary school girl madly in love with her teacher! That was quite shocking, honestly.

35. Prepare for Trouble » Blog Archive » Chronicle of a Hiatus Foretold - May 27, 2008

[…] Feminism in Shoujo Manga, an introduction & Feminism in Shoujo Manga: NANA – From the sadly defunct anime blog, Bento Physics, which I have recently discovered. I say sadly because the articles in it are awesome! The series on shoujo manga never went too far, but it contains these two articles which are great reads. […]

36. Michael Tim - March 1, 2009

I love your site!

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