What We Want to See More of in Shoujo and Josei Anime!
Shoujo is not strictly a genre, but more of a demographic aimed towards teen girls, while josei is usually created with adult women in mind. A manga series is labeled as shoujo also in connection to the specific magazine it is published in. Consequently, the anime series based on the specific manga is labeled shoujo, too. So, shoujo is a very broad category and can take on many different genres like romance, drama, adventure, music, school comedy, or slice-of-life. The overwhelming genre representation in shoujo is romance, drama, and comedy.
However, not as many shoujo series get anime adaptations as shounen, and when they do, they feel kind of similar in certain aspects… We think it is time for more options, and we have some suggestions!
1. The Love Interest
Romances are great but when the love interest becomes the heroine's sole purpose in life, that gets to be a bit too much. Even when we get older characters, like Sei in The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, we see her acting much younger, blushing all over and getting embarrassed about her crush like a schoolgirl. The trope feels overall stale and predictable, and we are pressed to drop the series when there are less stereotypical options out there.
2. #GirlBosses (Not)
The equivalent of the shounen MC who is special and we know from the first episode that he is going to win every fight because he never gives up (are you listening, Asta from Black Clover…?) is the female MC in shoujo. She pursues her passion no matter what, and somehow, we know she is a genius from the very first moment. It gets tiring quickly if she doesn’t look like she needs to progress at all. We understand that there are tried and tested tropes out there, however, it doesn’t hurt to have more lifepaths for our heroines.
3. Where Are the Female Protagonists?
Anime like Natsume’s Book of Friends are delightful. Where is the same vibe with women protagonists? Anime where the focus is on the main character’s development through not only trials but also through connection? And where romance is not the end goal? Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus’ Bride) is the type of shoujo we are looking for. It doesn’t have to be fantasy, strictly, but a series with a female protagonist who grows through challenges, friendship, and rebuilds her trust for the world. Similarly, Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina) focuses on Elaina’s self-development, by going on adventures, meeting different people, experiencing different social customs, and enriching her magic.
1. More Settings
We get that school settings are so common because of the intended audience's age group, but it would be really cool if we had variety. Akagami no Shirayuki-hime (Snow White with the Red Hair) is an example of a great story, not set in a school, and without having the main character portraying a schoolgirl’s life. Anime can be for young people, but young people are often fetishized through the idealization of this “golden age” of being young, falling in love for the first time, or choosing your career.
2. Romance Early On
Shoujo/josei anime have also created and cultivated specific narratives for young women. Love confessions all look the same, and that’s why we pointed out earlier that we get tired of them. However, for example, Horimiya gave us the relationship we wanted to see early on, and it was great! Also, when Hori and Miyamura had sex, it was treated as a normal part of the relationship, and it didn’t signify the peak of their story arc. More of that, please!
3. More Friendships or Even (Equal) Rivalries Between Girls
Old shoujo, like Glass Mask, did this well. The romance or pursuit of a guy was not the center of the plot, it was a side-plot, while the friendships or competitiveness were central without a hint of Mean Girls, at least between the main rivals. We think that made them more human than moe machines. Even beloved shows like K-ON! have inspired a long line of series with cute girls doing things, but with almost all of the female characters having the same moe face, only cutely expressing emotions.
In the Summer 2021 season, Kageki Shojo! succeeds in having interesting character designs—we can actually tell the characters apart and that they are teenage girls—we see their fierce competitiveness, passion, and friendships. More of that too, please!
We have a lot of thoughts about anime made to appeal to younger and older women. Are there ways to update them, keep what works and is still relevant and enjoyable, and still find fresh ways to portray women? Again, this is not an attempt to scrutinize existing anime that are popular and beloved by many, but rather to start discussing and imagining how differently shoujo series could treat their heroines, present their motivations, and portray their looks.
What do you think about shoujo anime? Is it a genre you go to or do you prefer shounen? And, what kind of changes would you like to see in anime for a female demographic? Let us know in the comments below and thanks for reading!