Shōnen manga

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Shōnen, shonen, or shounen manga (少年漫画, shōnen manga) are manga marketed toward young teen males. The age group varies with individual readers and different magazines, but it is primarily intended for boys between the ages of 12 and 18. The kanji characters (少年) literally mean "boy" or "youth", and the characters (漫画) means "comic". Thus, the complete phrase means "young person's comic", or simply "boys' comic"; its female equivalent is shōjo manga. Shōnen manga is the most popular and best-selling form of manga.[1][2]


Shōnen manga is typically characterized by high-action,[3] often humorous plots featuring male protagonists. Commonly-found themes in shōnen manga include martial arts, robots, science fiction, sports, horror or mythological creatures.[2] The camaraderie between boys or men on sports teams, fighting squads, and the like are often emphasized. Protagonists of such manga often feature an ongoing desire to better themselves,[2] and often face challenges to their abilities, skills and maturity, where self-perfection, austere self-discipline, sacrifice in the cause of duty and honorable service to society, community, family and friends are stressed.[4][5]

None of these listed characteristics are a requirement, as seen in shōnen manga like Yotsuba&!, which features a female lead and almost no fan service or action; what defines whether or not a series is shōnen is the official classification of the magazine it is serialized in.[6]

The art style of shōnen is generally less "flowery" than that of shōjo manga, although this varies greatly from artist to artist, and some artists draw both shōnen and shōjo manga.


Before World War IIEdit

Manga has been said to have existed since the eighteenth century,[7][8] but originally did not target a specific gender or age group. By 1905, however, a boom in publishing manga magazines occurred, and began targeting genders as evidenced by their names, such as Shōnen Sekai, Shōjo Sekai, and Shōnen Pakku (a children's manga magazine).[8] Shōnen Sekai was one of the first shōnen manga magazines, and was published from 1895 to 1914.


The post-World War II occupation of Japan had a profound impact on its culture during the 1950s and beyond (see culture of Post-occupation Japan), including on manga. Modern manga developed during this period, including the modern format of shōnen manga we experience today, of which boys and young men were among the earliest readers.[4] During this time, shōnen manga focused on topics thought to interest the typical boy: sci-tech subjects like robots and space travel, and heroic action-adventure.[9] Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy is said to have played an influential role in manga during this period.[7][10][11] Between 1950 and 1969, an increasingly large readership for manga emerged in Japan with the solidification of its two main marketing genres, shōnen manga aimed at boys and shōjo manga aimed at girls.[12]

The magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump began production in 1968,[8] and continues to be produced today as the best-selling manga magazine in Japan.[13] Many of the most popular shōnen manga titles have been serialized in Jump, including Dragon Ball, Captain Tsubasa, Slam Dunk, One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, and others.

With the relaxation of censorship in Japan in the 1990s, a wide variety of explicit sexual themes appeared in manga intended for male readers, and correspondingly occur in English translations.[14] However, in 2010 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed the controversial Bill 156 to restrict harmful content despite opposition by many authors and publishers in the manga industry.[15][16]

Modern shōnen mangaEdit

Buronson's Fist of the North Star (1983–1988) and especially Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball (1984–1995) are credited with setting the trend of popular shōnen manga from the 1980s onwards.[17][18] In turn, both manga works were influenced by the martial arts films of Hong Kong action cinema, particularly 1970s kung fu films such as Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon (1973) and Jackie Chan's Drunken Master (1978).[19][20] Manga critic Jason Thompson calls Dragon Ball "by far the most influential shōnen manga of the last 30 years."[18] Many currently successful shōnen authors such as Eiichiro Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo, Hiro Mashima and Kentaro Yabuki cite Toriyama and Dragon Ball as an influence on their own now popular works.

After the arrest and trial of serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, depictions of violence and sexual matters became more highly regulated in manga in general, but especially in shōnen manga.[21]

Women's roles in shōnen mangaEdit

In early shōnen manga, men and boys played all the major roles. Of the nine cyborgs in Shotaro Ishinomori's 1964 Cyborg 009, only one is female, and she soon vanishes from the action. Even some more modern instances of shōnen manga virtually omit women, e.g. the martial arts story Baki the Grappler by Itagaki Keisuke, and the supernatural fantasy Sand Land by Akira Toriyama. By the 1980s, however, girls and women began to play increasingly important roles in shōnen manga. For example, in Toriyama's 1980 Dr. Slump, the main character is the mischievous and powerful girl robot Arale Norimaki. Discussing his character Lisa Lisa from Battle Tendency, the second story arc of the manga series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, author Hirohiko Araki stated that at the time female characters in shōnen manga were typically cute and designed to be "a man's ideal woman." He said readers were not interested in realistic portrayals of women, but rather the type of girl "that giggles during a conversation" with heart marks next to her. He believes this made the warrior-type Lisa Lisa feel fresh and "unheard of" in both manga and society in general and said it was exciting to challenge people's expectations with her. Araki also said that the supernatural basis of the fights in his series evened the battlefield for women and children to match up against strong men.[22]

The role of girls and women in manga for male readers has evolved considerably since Arale. One class is the bishōjo or "beautiful young girl."[23] Sometimes the woman is unattainable, and she is always[citation needed] an object of the hero's emotional and/or sexual interest, like Shao-lin from Guardian Angel Getten by Minene Sakurano or Belldandy from the seinen manga Oh My Goddess! by Kōsuke Fujishima.[24] In other stories, the hero is surrounded by such girls and women, as in Negima! Magister Negi Magi by Ken Akamatsu and Hanaukyo Maid Team by Morishige.[25] The male protagonist does not always succeed in forming a relationship with the woman, for example when Bright Honda and Aimi Komori fail to bond in Shadow Lady by Masakazu Katsura. In other cases, a successful couple's sexual activities are depicted or implied, like in Outlanders by Johji Manabe.[26] In still other cases, the initially naive and immature hero grows up to become a man by learning how to deal and live with women emotionally and sexually; examples of heroes who follow this path include Yota in Video Girl Ai by Masakazu Katsura and Train Man in the seinen manga Train Man: Densha Otoko by Hidenori Hara.[27][28]

However, since the 1980s, there has been an increase in female protagonists in shōnen manga, although they remain lesser in number than male protagonists. They are often portrayed as central characters or characters with important roles in manga. Some examples include Fullmetal Alchemist,[29] Urusei Yatsura, Inuyasha, Attack on Titan, Ranma ½, Fairy Tail, Gunslinger Girl, WataMote, Nisekoi, Strawberry Marshmallow, School Rumble and Soul Eater.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Aoki, Deb. "What is Shonen Manga?". Archived from the original on 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2015-08-23.
  2. ^ a b c Kamikaze Factory Studio (2012). Shonen Manga. HarperCollins. p. 8. ISBN 9780062115478.
  3. ^ "Short anime glossary [Краткий анимешно-русский разговорник]". anime*magazine (in Russian) (3): 36. 2004. ISSN 1810-8644.
  4. ^ a b Schodt, 1986, op. cit., chapter 3, pp. 68-87.
  5. ^ Brenner, 2007, op. cit., p. 31.
  6. ^ 雑誌ジャンルおよびカテゴリ区分一覧 [Magazine genre and category category list] (PDF) (in Japanese). Japanese Magazine Advertising Association. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  7. ^ a b Thorn, Rachel Matt (June 1996). "A History of Manga". Archived from the original on 23 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "Everything about Shounen (Shonen 少年) Genre". 14 March 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  9. ^ Schodt, 1986, op. cit., chapter 3; Gravett, 2004, op. cit., chapter. 5, pp. 52-73.
  10. ^ Eibun Nihon Shōjiten [Japan: Profile of a Nation] (Revised ed., 1. ed.). Tokyo: Kōdansha Intānashonaru. 1999. pp. 692–715. ISBN 4-7700-2384-7.
  11. ^ Schodt, Frederik L. (2007). The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 978-1-933330-54-9.
  12. ^ Schodt, Frederik L. (1988). Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics (Updated paperback ed.). Tokyo; New York: Kodansha International. ISBN 978-0-87011-752-7.
  13. ^ "2009 Japanese Manga Magazine Circulation Numbers". Anime News Network. 2009-01-18. Retrieved 2013-11-30. The bestselling manga magazine, Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump, rose in circulation from 2.79 million copies to 2.81 million.
  14. ^ Perper, Timothy; Cornog, Martha (1 March 2002). "Eroticism for the masses: Japanese manga comics and their assimilation into the U.S.". Sexuality and Culture. 6 (1): 3–126. doi:10.1007/s12119-002-1000-4.
  15. ^ "Comic fans protest 'extreme sex' manga bans". The Sydney Morning Herald. Agence France-Presse. 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2015-08-23.
  16. ^ "Writers, Lawyers Oppose Revised Youth Ordinance Bill". Anime News Network. 2010-11-27. Retrieved 2015-08-23.
  17. ^ Jensen, K. Thor (2 October 2018). "The Absurd, Brilliant Violence of Fist Of The North Star". Ziff Davis. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  18. ^ a b Thompson, Jason (March 10, 2011). "Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga – Dragon Ball". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  19. ^ "New Fist of the North Star: Interview with Buronson". ADV Films. Archived from the original on 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  20. ^ The Dragon Ball Z Legend: The Quest Continues. DH Publishing Inc. 2004. p. 7. ISBN 9780972312493.
  21. ^
    "One result was a new regime of self-regulation among manga producers and distributors who began to reign in the more violent and sexual images that characterized some genres, particularly manga directed at shōnen (male youth)."
  22. ^ Araki, Hirohiko (August 18, 2015). JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 Battle Tendency. 2. Viz Media. p. 365. ISBN 978-1-4215-7883-5.
  23. ^ For multiple meanings of bishōjo, see Perper & Cornog, 2002, op. cit., pp. 60-63.
  24. ^ Guardian Angel Getten, by Sakurano Minene. Raijin Graphic Novels/Gutsoon! Entertainment, Vols. 1–4, 2003–2004.
  25. ^ Negima, by Ken Akamatsu. Del Rey/Random House, Vols. 1-15, 2004-2007; Hanaukyo Maid Team, by Morishige. Studio Ironcat, Vols. 1-3, 2003-2004.
  26. ^ Outlanders:
  27. ^ Train Man: Densha Otoko, Hidenori Hara. Viz, Vols. 1-3, 2006.
  28. ^ Perper, Timothy and Martha Cornog. 2007. "The education of desire: Futari etchi and the globalization of sexual tolerance." Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and Fan Arts, 2:201-214.
  29. ^ Thompson, Jason (2013-06-06). "Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga – Fullmetal Alchemist". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2015-08-22.

External linksEdit