February 03, 2010

Marketing manga

Trying to come up with criteria that define the various manga genres and markets in Japan will produce squiggly Venn diagrams with an awful lot of overlap (perhaps with the exception of what are called "Ladies' comics"). At the end of the day, as Matt Thorn puts it,

Shoujo [Girl's] manga are manga published in shoujo magazines (as defined by their publishers), and shounen [Boy's] manga are manga published in shounen manga magazines (likewise defined by publishers).

As is true of genre fiction everywhere, girls will read more of what boys read, and so much visa-versa. The teen male audience also overlaps the adult male market, and not so much visa-versa (boys read Sports Illustrated, men don't read Boy's Life).

"Ladies' Comics" (what they're called in Japanese) tend to focus on hard-core, explicit soap opera stories, not the kind of material you'd find in Good Housekeeping. As a consequence, Many women will instead read "down" into the crossover "Girl's" genres.

For example, the "Girl's" series Kujira no Oyako ("Mother Whale and Child") features a twelve year old girl as the protagonist, but also includes cooking recipes and lots of between-the-lines child-rearing advice, appealing to the mothers of "tween" girls as well.

My Girl is also about a widower raising a daughter (a useful plot device, as the dad can be expected to seek out advice, thus producing opportunities to "show" rather than "tell"). But the protagonist is the single dad and the G-rated series runs in a "Men's" magazine.

On the other hand, older teen males tend to read "up," and for some totally mysterious reason really enjoy their stories being interrupted by gratuitous female nudity ("fan service"), so many age-unrestricted "Boy's" comics regularly push into R-rated territory.

Akita Shoten's Champion RED is classified "Boy's," meaning it's age unrestricted at retail outlets. Mangaka Yoshiyuki Kazumi recently commented that he was asked to "cut back on the erotic content of his manga." That means trimming the borderline NC-17 material.

Similarly, you are likely to find more explicit content in Cheese! than in Margaret, but they're both classified "Girl's" because the typical protagonist is a teenage girl, although an older teen (josei) in the former, and a younger tween (shoujo) in the latter.

Then there's the yuri genre, developed for "Girl's" magazines, but re-purposed for "Boy's" and "Men's" magazines, though not always in the way you'd think. The explicit Blue Drop runs in Champion RED, while the gentle (PG) Aoi Hana is carried by Erotics F.

As Erica Friedman observes, though the manga industry thrives on targeting genres to specific audiences like a laser beam, there are manga magazines aimed at "anyone who wants to read this publication," running stories that are "varied, kind of odd and offbeat."

Not to mention the dozens of specialty manga--cooking, sports, hobbies--that fall outside of simple age/sex categorizations.

Related posts

Buying Japanese manga
Manga economics
The manga development cycle
Manga circulation in Japan

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