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BISHOUNEN – Literally means “beautiful youth”. It’s mostly a term used for beautiful men, especially those whose looks border on androgynous or outright effeminate.

Wikipedia entry on Bishounen – a short entry, but covers the origin and use of the term.

BISHOUJO – Directly translates to “beautiful young girl”. Unlike its bishounen counterpart, this description fits a young female who embodies desirable feminine traits. This usually entails large and expressive eyes, slim bodies, small frames, etc.

KAWAII (kah-wah-ee) – “Cute” in Japanese. Japan has been known for its obsession, acceptance, and adoration of all things cute. A well known and long-lived example would be the likes of Hello Kitty, and any Sanrio character. Kawaii is not limited to merchandise, nor is it only targeted to young children. You can find cute mascots on ATM cards, Police logos, Television Stations, etc. It is only seen as an inherent part of the Japanese identity.

WIRED article: Cute Inc. (Mary Roach)

The Age article: Japan Smitten by Love of Cute

MAGICAL GIRL/MAGICAL BISHOUJO – an anime or manga title that features a young female protaganist with what can only be called “super powers”. These powers are usually in the form of energy based projectiles accompanying specific names shouted out loud. A transformation sequence is usually part and parcel of this, usually of a magical nature. At times the protaganist would be a little girl, and her magical form would be of a young woman.

A typical and popular example would be Sailor Moon. While the likes of and Card Captor Sakura and Revolutionary Girl Utena have attempted to do something unique within the genre.

MANGA – Japanese comics. Unlike their western counterpart, they are printed in black and white. Most chapters (issues) of a particular title are printed out alongside other titles every month in publications the size of a telephone book.

After a certain number of chapters, a title will release its own individual manga which is pocket book sized. Distinct characteristics would include the lack of color, attention to line art, sound effects as part of the art, and interesting panel treatments.

Telophase’s Manga Analysis Series

Wikipedia entry on Manga

SHOUJO (show-joe) – Anime or manga seen to specifically target (but not limited to) the female market, usually of a younger age. Shoujo titles typically involve romance, complex relationships between people, and intricate plot developments.
The stereotype usually involves female protagonists, handsome boys, flowers, bubbles, fancy borders, exaggerated responses, tears built like diamonds, etc.

She’s Got Her Own Thing Now” (Dirk Deppy)

YAOI (yah-oy or yaw-wee) – Distinct definitions have yet to be set, but for those outside of Japan, this includes all forms of anime and manga that feature a romantic and/or sexual relationship between two males. It has an intensely large fanbase, the majority of which are reportedly heterosexual females.

Why Are Japanese Girls’ Comics Full of Boys Bonking?” (Mark McLelland)

Yaoi Ronsō:Discussing Depictions of Male Homosexuality in Japanese Girls’ Comics, Gay Comics and Gay Pornography” (Wim Lunsing)

Relatively small Wikipedia entry on Yaoi

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