The differences between Shonen, Shojo, Seinen and Josei

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The differences between Shonen, Shojo, Seinen and Josei

Post by Grungie on Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:27 am

These labels tend to confuse many Anime and Manga fans outside of Japan and I'm here to clear a few things up. (This probably needs to be stickied)

First off, none of these are genres, they are the intended audience or demographic. Somehow Westerners came to thinking Shonen and Shojo as genres, and it's many people don't seem to realize that these are indeed not genres.

The intended demographics are usually separated by ages.

Shonen - males 10 to 18, though 10 and up is also okay.
Shojo - girls 10-18, though 10 and up is also okay
Seinen - males 18-40
Josei - girls 18-40

Though content wise these labels can be very arbitrary. Sometimes the only difference between, for example, whether or not a manga is Seinen or Shojo, is what magazine the manga was published in. Some series like Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star feature almost all female casts and talk about girly stuff, and feature cute moe characters are often confused as Shojo, and Seinen, but were published in Shonen mangazines, which is why they are considered Shonen manga.

Here's a basic run-down and explanations between the demographics and a description of each:

Shonen - These manga tend to focus more on action. Whether it's with fighting, or in a sport. The cast is usually all male, or mostly male, and the main character is almost always male, and young. The stories are mostly action based instead of character interactions like in Seinen. When romance is there, it's usually not the main focus, though this is not always the case. There are romance stories in Shonen manga, though these usually focus on a guy chasing a girl, or it'll be a harem. Usually in these, the story ends when the male confesses his love to the girl or realizes which girl he loves. Usually Shonen romance series tend to have obvious sexual fanservice, like panty shots. Most genres aren't Shonen specific, though usually stuff like Mecha tends to end up being more Shonen. Despite the fact that Shonen manga and anime are focused at young boys, they tend to try and market it to a larger audience, which is why Shonen manga tends to be the most popular out of the other manga demographics and the easiest to market.

Shojo - These tend to feature a female lead character, romantic subplot and the girl realizing personal growth. There are action Shojo, but along with the fighting, romance is a big factor, and there is personal growth for the main character. Shojo manga also have a lot of homosexual romances, whether it is yaoi, or yuri, or can feature all of the above. Sexual content for these manga is present, but if it tends to get "too dirty" they tend to publish those in Josei manga (though something like Shojo smut exists). Some of the romantic elements are usually displayed as: abusive boyfriends, ecstatic lovemaking, happily ever after, and or the super smoochy sweethearts romance. The art style is a little different from Shonen sometimes, with thinner lines and sparcer backgrounds. Shojo can include many of the similar genres like Shonen, like fighting and Scifi. Though some genres like Magical Girl almost exclusively Shojo.

Seinen - Within the Anime department, most of the Anime aimed at older people tend to fall into the Seinen category, since Josei rarely become Anime. Since these are aimed older audiences, they tend to have smaller numbers of viewers, and tend to be less well known outside of Japan, unlike Shojo and Shonen. These are also tend to be aired at late night hours. Since these are aimed at older audiences, the plots tend to be more sophisticated and more mature, despite incorporating the same genres as Shonen. The differences between how these are used is that Seinen tend to be more satirical, violent, or sexual in nature than the Shonen counterparts. Also another focus is based on the interactions between the characters and the plot than on action. A focus on realism is one of the big differences that separates Seinen from Shojo and Shonen. For main characters, anything goes. The characters can be male, or female and can be of any age.

When romance comes into play with Seinen, this is where people tend to confuse these with Shojo manga.
Unlike Shojo, romance isn't as idealized and focus more on realism. It tends to be less idealistic and with many greys and uncertainy like real life romance. The type of romance is very broad and anything is okay. Homosexual relationships are also okay. Though something like Schoolgirl lesbians are also a main indicator of it being Seinen. The romance is a bit more complicated than Shonen romance, since it's more complex, or different than "which girl is going to hook up with the MC?" or vice versa.

Seinen is also infamous for moe. Lots of it. Most of the fanservice that goes on in Seinen is not as sexual as the Shonen fanservice and tends to centered around moe and being kawaii like this, or this, and especially this. Along with the moe stuff, Seinen can also feature an improbably female cast, which is where the cast is all female and male characters are either incredibly not important, or almost completely left out of the picture. (see K-on). Girls can also be fans of Seinen, because like men, girls also enjoy the cuteness of moe characters, and the thoroughness in character relationships. The kawaii moe shows are confused with westerners as being aimed at little girls, unless you live in Japan and realize that these air at 3AM. With this info you might think these shows are bad for little girls to watch, but they're pretty harmless and tend to have a large female fanbase, these are surprisingly aimed at older males, and some of the subtext is adult oriented.

Josei some aspects of Josei are very similar to Seinen, like less idealistic and more realistic romantic relationships between characters. Though unlike Seinen which despite being aimed at older men, can also be targeted towards females, Josei is almost entirely female targeted. A majority of the time, these are written by women and are featured in magazines aimed at older women. The stories tend to involve everyday lives of women. Mostly those who are of working age, but high school girls aren't exempt from this. As stated above, despite sexual content being present in Shojo, Josei sexual content is usually more "R rated" for lack of a better description. Some Shojo manga can be confused as Josei, for example, like Nana. Also as stated above, Josei manga usually don't become Anime, sometimes due to not being as popular as the other manga demographics.

Here are some examples of anime/manga that tend to be confused as certain demographics:

Confused as Shojo:
Lucky Star (Shonen)
Chobits (Seinen)
Azumanga Daioh (Shonen)
K-on (Seinen)
Ichigo Mashimaro (Shonen)
Minami-Ke (Shonen)
Haruhi Suzumiya (Shonen)

Confused as Seinen:
Fullmetal Alchemist (Shonen)
Inuyasha (Shonen)
Lucky Star (Shonen)
Azumanga Daioh (Shonen)
Neo Genesis Evangelion (Shonen)
Rosario+Vampire (Shonen)
Yotsubato (Shonen)

Confused as Josei:
Nana (Shojo)
Black Butler (Shonen)
Just about anything published in Comic Zero Sum (not specifically targeted at Shojo or Josei)

Sorry for the TL;DR, but decided to share some info for the users here.


Last edited by Grungie on Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:57 pm; edited 13 times in total
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Re: The differences between Shonen, Shojo, Seinen and Josei

Post by Grungie on Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:01 am

Basic summary:

If you don't know what to label it as, look up what magazine it was published in. Usually sites like Wikipedia tell you whether the magazine is a Shonen Manga, etc and the magazines are usually demographic specific. Like all Shonen, or all Shojo, etc.
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