Shōnen manga

Shōnen manga (少年漫画), also romanized as shonen or shounen, are Japanese comics mainly marketed and aimed at a young teen male readership. These graphic novels and comics are primarily for boys between the ages of 12 through 18.[1] The age group varies with individual readers and different magazines. The kanji character 少年 (shōnen) literally means "boy" or "youth", and the character 漫画 (manga) means "comic"; thus, the complete phrase means "young person's comic", or simply "boys' comic", with the female equivalent being shōjo manga. Shōnen manga is the most popular and best-selling form of manga.[2][3]


Shōnen manga is typically characterized by high action and often humorous plots featuring male protagonists. Commonly-found themes in Shōnen manga include martial arts, mecha, science fiction, sports, horror or mythological creatures. The camaraderie between boys or men on sports teams, fighting squads, and the like is often emphasized. Notable magazines of this genre include Weekly Shōnen Jump, Jump Square, Weekly Shōnen Magazine, Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine, Monthly Shōnen Magazine, Weekly Shōnen Sunday, and Weekly Shōnen Champion.


Before World War IIEdit

Manga has been said to have existed since the eighteenth century,[4][5] but originally did not target a specific gender or age group. By 1905, however, an increase 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).[5] 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 teen boys and young men were among the earliest readers.[6] 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.[7] Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy is said to have played an influential role in manga during this period.[4][8][9] 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 teen boys and shōjo manga aimed at teen girls.[10]

The magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump began production in 1968,[5] and continues to be produced today as the best-selling manga magazine in Japan.[11] Many of the most popular shōnen manga titles have been serialized in Jump, including, Captain Tsubasa, Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Slam Dunk, Yu Yu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh!, One Piece, Hunter x Hunter, Shaman King, Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Jujutsu Kaisen, 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.[12] 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.[13][14]

Modern shōnen mangaEdit

Buronson and Tetsuo Hara's Fist of the North Star (1983–1988) and Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball (1984–1995) are credited with setting the trends of popular shōnen manga from the 1980s onwards.[15][16] In turn, both series 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).[17][18] In 2011, manga critic Jason Thompson called Dragon Ball "by far the most influential shōnen manga of the last 30 years."[16] Many currently successful shōnen authors such as Eiichiro Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo, Hiro Mashima, and Kentaro Yabuki cite Toriyama and Dragon Ball as influences on their own popular works.

After the arrest and trial of serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, who was dubbed the "Otaku Murderer", depictions of violence and sexual matters became more highly regulated in manga in general, but especially in shōnen manga.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "What Does Shounen Mean?". The Word Counter. March 18, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  2. ^ Aoki, Deb. "What is Shonen Manga?". Archived from the original on April 24, 2013. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  3. ^ Kamikaze Factory Studio (2012). Shonen Manga. HarperCollins. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-06-211547-8.
  4. ^ a b Thorn, Rachel (June 1996). "A History of Manga". Archived from the original on January 23, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Everything about Shounen (Shonen 少年) Genre". March 14, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  6. ^ Schodt, 1986, op. cit., chapter 3, pp. 68-87.
  7. ^ Schodt, 1986, op. cit., chapter 3; Gravett, 2004, op. cit., chapter. 5, pp. 52-73.
  8. ^ Eibun Nihon Shōjiten [Japan: Profile of a Nation] (Revised ed., 1. ed.). Tokyo: Kodansha International. 1999. pp. 692–715. ISBN 4-7700-2384-7.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "2009 Japanese Manga Magazine Circulation Numbers". Anime News Network. January 18, 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2013. The bestselling manga magazine, Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump, rose in circulation from 2.79 million copies to 2.81 million.
  12. ^ Perper, Timothy; Cornog, Martha (March 1, 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.
  13. ^ "Comic fans protest 'extreme sex' manga bans". The Sydney Morning Herald. Agence France-Presse. December 15, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  14. ^ "Writers, Lawyers Oppose Revised Youth Ordinance Bill". Anime News Network. November 27, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  15. ^ Jensen, K. Thor (October 2, 2018). "The Absurd, Brilliant Violence of Fist Of The North Star". Ziff Davis. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Thompson, Jason (March 10, 2011). "Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga – Dragon Ball". Anime News Network. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  17. ^ "New Fist of the North Star: Interview with Buronson". ADV Films. Archived from the original on February 18, 2007. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  18. ^ The Dragon Ball Z Legend: The Quest Continues. DH Publishing Inc. 2004. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-97-231249-3.
  19. ^ McLelland, Mark (April 2009). "(A)cute Confusion: The Unpredictable Journey of Japanese Popular Culture". Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific. No. 20. Retrieved September 15, 2021. 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).

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