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Introduction to Shoujo I’m Scared Of

Hi everybody! My name is Phillip and some of you will know me from writing on my site Eeeper’s Choice for the Manga Movable Feast and also for writing for Otaku News. Melinda has kindly invited me to write a monthly column on Manga Bookshelf, after I read and replied to her call for contributors.

The column is being called “Shoujo I’m Scared Of,” and it refers to a problem I’ve been having reading manga for a few years now. On my own site I once declared that I would read anything, that nothing was out of bounds. But in my heart of hearts, I wasn’t telling the entire truth of the matter. I should have said I would read anything that was recommended to me, but if left to my own devices I wouldn’t seek certain titles out. Some of the those titles are shoujo titles. While shoujo enjoys and continues to enjoy a mix of male and female readers, I have always been put off by shoujo, partly because I was nervous about taking on huge franchises of shoujo properties, and partly because I think I didn’t want to like them. If I did, then my more manly genre favourites would be put by the wayside. Plus I was deathly afraid of screwing up in front of the internet. In short, I was scared of shoujo and didn’t know how to approach it.

This, dear readers, is not how a grown man should act. After reading Melinda’s request, I began to think of an idea that I could pitch. After rejecting a few dozen ideas, I started to realise what I could write about. I remembered some of Kate Dacey’s coverage and reviews about Sailor Moon’s forthcoming re-release in North America. Sailor Moon has always scared me. The title alone was always marketed in my neck of the woods as just for girls, and the fanbase was made it sound like the story was the greatest thing ever.

In my mind, Sailor Moon represents the best example of shoujo that I can think of. If I could get through every volume of Sailor Moon (I checked and there are 13 volumes of the Japanese editions) and give it an honest, balanced, take-it-apart view, I reckoned I stood a pretty good chance of curing my irrational fear of the genre. But I don’t plan to tackle just Sailor Moon. Codename: Sailor V lurks by the stage curtains, as does Princess Knight and a few others. While I’m still afraid of messing up, I reason that the best place for me to be if it does happen is doing something I enjoy doing. I hope you enjoy me trying to justice to the titles I’ll tackle.

I do have a request of all the potential readers of the column: if you know of any shoujo titles that are available in English, I want to hear from you even if they are out of print. I’ll add them to the pile of things to do. Please note, I’ve only got a limited income so if I don’t get around to your recommended title for some time, then I apologise in advance and ask that you be patient with me. If you have any comments or questions please send an email to me at eeeperschoice -at- gmail -dot- com

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About Phillip Anthony

Phillip Anthony is 30 years old and still not dead. After discovering anime in the mid 90's, he kept up an on-again, off-again love affair with the medium until 2006 when he read an article in Newtype USA about something called a podcast. After that, his life never really got back on track. He now semi-podcasts about the anime and manga industry on his website. His work can also be found at Otaku News, where he attempts to not get fired from being a news reporter and reviewer. When he's not crying over the latest VIZ drama manga, you can find him on Twitter discussing how awesome ARIA is, and why Masters Of The Universe might be the greatest 80's movie ever. Phillip lives in Dublin, Ireland with his family.

Comments

  1. I dare you to read … Sensual Phrase. It’s not a personal favourite, but it’s the “scariest” shojo I can think of right now which has been published in English. Wait a minute, I just thought a scarier title … From Eroica With Love. And that one *is* one of my favourites.

    My dad always claimed that he couldn’t get into shojo precisely because he was male, though to his credit, he would still *try* once in a while. Finally, he admitted that he couldn’t take shojo, not because it was too girly, but because really good shojo broke his heart, and he didn’t like having his heart broken (not his words, but that’s the gist of what he said).

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Hi Sara,

      I’ve never heard of Sensual Phrase but I’ll add it to the list. I always thought that From Eroica with Love was a yaoi title for some reason. Whoops on my part. On the list.

      Thanks,
      Phillip.

  2. Hee~ don’t worry. I can imagine how scary shojo can seem to guys. It’s like, there are shojo, and then there are SHOJO. Maybe you should start out less “ambitious” with a title like Basara. It’s much less fluffy and much more heady. Or if you insist on magical girl genre, try Cardcaptor Sakura instead. Short & (enough to not overdose you with the) sweet.
    Most shojo though are specifically designed to hit certain fantasical spots for girls, such as dating a hot guy, becoming extraordinary, and dating a hot guy :D which is why I suspect they’re not on the same wavelength for guys to begin with.

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Hi Ham ( I don’t know what else to call you :)),

      Basara? I’ll check it out and get back to you on the next review with an update.

      Little tiny spoiler: I’ve got Cardcaptor Sakura waiting for me to review. It’ll be coming for March’s column.

      I do get that there are different “strata” to shoujo and that it isn’t just magical girl titles that make up the genre. I will be getting to more and more but it will take time for me. Thanks for all the help!

      - Phillip

    • Well, I sometimes *really* enjoy stories about boys trying to get with hot girls, even though I’m not interested in girls that way myself. So if I can enjoy tales of boys getting teh hot girls, I think guys ought to be able to enjoy stories about girls getting teh hot boys. I do recognise that guys have to unload more cultural baggage than I do to enjoy such work as described at http://www.charlieglickman.com/2011/05/the-performance-of-masculinty/

  3. Personally, I was not able to get through the first volumes of “Sailor Moon” and “Princess Knight”. I didn’t not feel that these series were good and viewed them more as historical documents. I fear that if you start with these two series, all your fears of shoujo will be reinforced. I suggest that you start with some more contemporary titles as a way to enter shoujo. My husband who has a fear of shoujo is currently enjoying “Oresama Teacher”. In the past he liked “Wild Ones” (“Arakure” is the Japanese title). I also know a lot of guys like “Ouran High School Host Club”.

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Hey Jen!

      I decided on Sailor Moon because it’s the easiest to get hold of since it’s in new editions. I also picked it because it’s the hardest to tackle given it’s stature within the fans picks. I won’t be tackling just Sailor Moon but since it was the most difficult one to approach it’s getting the yearly treatment. Princess Knight, I picked because it’s the granddaddy (grandmother?) of shoujo and in order for me to understand where shoujo fits, I’ve got to understand where it came from. At least, that’s how I’m seeing it at the moment.

      Tell your husband, I hope he keeps fighting to cure his fear of shoujo. I will be rooting for him and you!

      Phillip.

  4. Great idea for column!

    I won’t give you any titles to read, at least not yet, since I guess you’ll be flooded with suggestions anyway. I’ll just second Jen B’s suggestion that you try something more contemporary in addition to the classics. There’s lots to choose from in Viz’s current series and some real gems in the catalogues of the defunct publishers like CMX.

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Hey Rij,

      I’m taking yours and Jen’s suggestions about more modern shoujo on board and I’ll be introducing a modern title review in April. Have to wait to see what it is!

      Regards,
      Phillip

  5. Ooooo….. OK, get ready (not knowing what you’ve already read):

    Fruits Basket
    Sarasah
    Goong
    Saikano
    Skip Beat
    Angel Sanctuary
    We Were There
    The Story of Saiunkoku
    Card Captor Sakura
    Bride of the Water God
    Godchild
    Itazura na Kiss
    I Hate You More Than Anyone
    Library Wars
    Ouran High School Host Club
    Paradise Kiss

    You know, just to get you started.

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Kris,

      I’ve read….none of those! I have my eye on Saiunkoku and Paradise Kiss. I know Kiss is OOP so probably the royal lady will be my first pick from your list!

      - Phillip.

  6. While I love Sailor Moon and it’s probably the most known shojo series (at least in America), it’s certainly not the best shojo. I think Nana would be a great series to ease you into shojo because it’s so realistic and engrossing that anybody can relate to it, not just females. Same thing goes for We Were There. Or you could try to tackle all 36 volumes of Boys Over Flowers, which is the bestselling shojo in Japan and my personal favorite. And if you want to try shock-therapy, you could also try Peach Girl – if you can handle all of the drama in that series, then you can probably handle any girly manga out there.

    • Holy god, Peach Girl. I can’t even handle Peach Girl.

      • Hence why it’s shock therapy. :D There are also several comedic shojo series that would be great for non-shojo fans like Love*Com and Kodocha – after all, everybody likes to laugh.

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Hi Maria!

      I consider NANA to be a personal goal of mine to read since I did like what little of the anime I have seen. It’s on the definite to do pile!

      Peach Girl? Is a TP title? I’ll have a look for it but from people who have reviewed the anime, I know it’s broken them. I hope I know what I’m doing!

      • Peach Girl is a TOKYOPOP series, and it’s also 18-volumes so it may not be easy to find. It’s definitely a love-it-or-hate-it series, and while it’s not my favorite shojo series it’s certainly a guilty pleasure.

  7. I’ve skimmed, and I realize I’m repeating some of what others have recommended, but maybe a second vote will push you to read them:

    Mars
    Ouran High School Host Club
    Paradise Kiss
    Cardcaptor Sakura
    Kimi ni Todoke
    Kamisama Kiss
    Nana

    I think you have a decent chance of find, eh, half of them through your library. I’ll put extra emphasis on Mars, since it’s so fantastic, and a bit more serious than some others.

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Hiya Angela!

      NANA, Cardcaptor, Paradise Kiss and Ouran, hmmm? There seems to be a consensus growing here, :). As for Mars, I’ve never heard of it but I’ll check it out.

      And for the record, my local library thinks one, ONE single volume of .hack counts as the pinnacle of manga, I cannot order new ones in and they can’t take in my unused manga.

      It’s that bad, here.

      - Phillip

      • I second Mars. It was the first shojo I ever loved. Though now … I think I might love the TV show more than I love the manga, though that is partially for personal reasons which would be irrelevant to a general audience. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is possible to get DVDs of the TV show with English subtitles.

  8. Honestly, I don’t care for a whole lot of shoujo. It takes something really special for me to even give it a decent score. I’m biased- I admit it. And it’s a demographic that I was once part of. Some that I’ve really enjoyed – some quite surprisingly- are
    Fruits Basket (I admit it- I really don’t like the anime. I love the manga)
    Kieli
    Skip Beat!
    Gakuen Alice
    Miracle Girls (this one would be the hardest to get a hold of if you decided to read it- it’s a super-old title by Tokyopop)
    NANA (this I prefer far more than Paradise Kiss. ParaKiss was okay, NANA is a masterpiece)
    Ouran Host Club
    They Were 11 (virtually unknown in the US, and published in Four Shoujo Stories that came out mid-1990s. But the best I’ve read, I think)
    Lovely Complex

    …though, thinking on it, Miracle Girls is perhaps the most subjective of my favorites. Lots of childhood nostalgia in that one. The rest are fairly popular, thank goodness. I just wish I could name NG Life, which is in my top 3, but I’m really not sure it’s a shoujo. It’s usually listed as a shounen, but has enough shoujo elements, that I think it could go either way.

    • Katherine Dacey says:

      I’d just like to second two of Sweetpea’s recommendations: Moto Hagio’s “They Were 11″ (published by VIZ in the 1990s in floppy form) and “Love*Com,” which is funny and charming (and not too sparkly).

      • Phillip Anthony says:

        17 volumes of Love*Com? Hmm, that’s more manageable. I don’t want to sound like I can’t buy double digit volumes of a series, it’s just that logistically and financially it’s easier for me to buy smaller series.

        Thinking more on They Were 11, I think I’ll schedule Drunken Dream for May. It’s time I tackled that book and gave it a good going over. (I remember falling in love with the artwork when I got it from the book shop on the bus ride home.)

    • NG Life is definitely shoujo! (and a very good series!) It ran in Hana to Yume, the same magazine that serialized/s VB Rose, Kamisama Kiss, Fruits Basket, Skip Beat!, Gakuen Alice… (etc).

      And I’ll just recommend two of my favourite shoujo titles—Kaze Hikaru (historical!) and Please Save My Earth (sci-fi! though a bit out of print). I think both of those could be more approachable for male readers than a more all-out-girly shoujo series.

      Good luck with the column, and with your shoujo manga reading going forward! I admire your willingness to try new things and I look forward to reading about your experience!

      • Phillip Anthony says:

        Hi lys,

        I was just looking up Kaze Hikaru on Amazon the other night. Yeah, I think it would fit my “Modern” requirement.

        Hopefully, I won’t let you all down with my eventual choices!

        - Phillip

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      I’ve seen Skip Beat, the anime and I liked it but another thing that puts me off from some manga are the length of series. I will put Skip Beat on the maybe pile simply because of the 29+ volumes.

      They Were 11 is one of my favourite animated movies and it’s a film that really doesn’t get as much love as it should. It’s also the reason why I own A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. I really love Moto Hagio and I’ve got that Four Shoujo Stories on my eBay search lists for over a year now. When it comes down to a price that I can afford, expect a purchase and subsequent review from me on it!

      Lovely Complex I think I read in Borders at one point. I don’t know why I didn’t buy it, as I clearly remember liking it. I’ll look in Hodges & Figgis as soon as I sort out my money.

  9. Maybe something by Arina Tanemura like Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne? Connie wrote up a nice piece about Tanemura recently, and it seems to contain some of the things you fear. http://slightlybiasedmanga.com/2012/01/21/artist-spotlight-arina-tanemura/

    Antique Bakery might be an interesting one for you to look at, too, if you haven’t already. 4 volumes.

    • Phillip Anthony says:

      Hey Moon!

      Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne looks nice. I’ll add it to the list plus I think Short-Tempered Melancholic will be easier for me to pick up in terms of stocking issues.

      Antique Bakery, I’ve heard mentioned again and again. It’s only a matter of time before I encounter it.

      - Phillip





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