Almost all manga magazines (and the stories inside them) are clearly aimed at either men or women. Age groups are sometimes unclear, but the gender difference is right there on the cover and title. (In magazines aimed at otaku [hard-core fans], it’s harder to tell: that cute girl on the cover of Asuka might be the reader’s stand-in, while that cute girl on the cover of Dengeki Daioh is more likely the reader’s fantasy.)
To Americans, this gender gap may seem old-fashioned. But although few American TV shows would openly label themselves “a boys’ show” or “a girls’ show,” advertisers know the difference, and manga publishers are merely being open about their target audience. (Superhero comics, after all, have unofficially been a boys’ club for decades.) The few manga magazines that intentionally cross the gender line, such as Wings and the short-lived Duo in the 1980s, tend to attract mostly female readers and ultimately become shôjo manga. However, the verdict is still out on recent gender-blurring magazines such as Comic Zero-Sum and Comic Blade, not to mention the androgynous shôjo fantasy magazine Asuka. In any case, the most popular manga, such as Weekly Shônen Jump and Ai Yazawa’s manga Nana (2002), are read by both genders.
Shônen (Boys’ Manga)
Aimed at boys from early elementary school to their late teens (it varies depending on the magazine), shônen manga spill over with action, sports, and battle scenes. Science fiction and fantasy elements are also common. The stories are sometimes formulaic, but the bestselling magazines, Weekly Shônen Jump and Weekly Shônen Magazine, sell more than two million copies per week.
Typical Shônen Magazines:
Dengeki Daioh (“Electric Shock Great King”) • Shônen Ace • Shônen Champion • Monthly Shônen Gangan • Shônen Jump • Shônen Sunday
Shôjo (Girls’ Manga)
The most popular subjects of shôjo manga are romance, comedy, and drama, often all three in the same story. Styles range from lighthearted magazines for elementary school students (Nakayoshi, ChuChu) to racy magazines for teenagers (Shôjo Comic, Cheese, Cookie) to more fantasy-oriented publications (Wings, Asuka). Female readers also consume a number of specialty magazines featuring mystery, horror, and Boys’ Love stories.
Typical Shôjo Magazines:
Bessatsu Friend • Ciao • Cookie • Hana to Yume (“Flowers and Dreams”) • LaLa • Margaret • Nakayoshi (“Pals”) • Princess • Ribon (“Ribbon”)
Seinen (Men’s Manga)
Seinen means “young man,” but the term describes all manga aimed at older male readers, from the respectable Big Comic series (read mostly by men from their twenties to middle age) to the trashy, sexy “young” magazines (aimed at older high school boys and college-age men). Business, crime, and the occasional political drama; historical and military adventures; and the occasional genre story give seinen manga great highs and lows.
Typical Seinen Magazines:
Big Comic Spirits • Business Jump • Manga Action • Ultra Jump • Young Animal • Young Jump • Young King Ours
Jôsei (Women’s Manga)
For college-age to middle-aged women, jôsei manga deal mostly with work, family, and romance. Outwardly the most sedate and down-to-earth of all manga, they feature some of the most sophisticated writing. The subgenre of “ladies’ comics” (redicomi) features explicit sex stories for women.
Typical Jôsei Magazines:
Be Love • Chorus • Dessert • Feel Young • Flowers • Kiss • Office You • Silky • Young You