Here at Honey’s Anime, we’ve been doing a series of articles looking at new manga coming out in 2022. Far and away the most exciting category we’ve covered is the shoujo genre – and this year, shoujo is definitely the genre to keep your eye on!
Forget the magical girls of the 90’s - the shoujo genre is crammed full of new and exciting stories that might even be better than their shounen counterparts! From reincarnated villainesses to dark romantic fantasies, the shoujo genre is poised to shake up the manga world in a big way.
Join us today as we explore why 2022 is shoujo manga’s time to shine!
Isekai With Heart!
In the last five or six years, the isekai subgenre has been booming without any signs of stopping. Even if you’ve only casually interacted with the isekai genre, you probably recognize titles like Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:Zero - Restarting Life from Zero in Another World), Overlord, or Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o! (Konosuba - God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!).
To generalize shounen isekai, these stories typically feature a male teen who is reincarnated into a fantasy world as its hero. This usually involves forming a party with beautiful girls, and facing down demons and monsters while grinding levels with some kind of RPG mechanic.
Shoujo isekai, however, offers a completely different take! A popular subgenre of shoujo isekai features girls or office-working women being absorbed into otome visual novels, often becoming the doomed villainess! Series like Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shite shimatta… (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!) offer a humorous and endearing spin on this idea, while Watshi no Oshi wa Akuyaku Reijou (I’m in Love with the Villainess) is a heartwarming yuri series about defying a videogame’s script.
Rather than focusing on empowerment and victory over the enemy, shoujo isekai tend to focus on the characters and emotions. For example, the 2022 debut series Maou Heika no Osoji Gakari (His Majesty the Demon King’s Housekeeper) features an ordinary girl without any magical powers or world-saving destiny. Instead, there’s a tighter focus on relationships and characterization beyond fan service or flashy abilities.
The shoujo genre has always been associated with romance, and that’s still true in 2022. Shoujo often takes the softer path with romance, with fewer ecchi or harem elements, and instead paints a (sometimes more painful) romantic picture. Older series like Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) or more modern series such as Shortcake Cake are well known for their soft boys and bittersweet romances.
This year, the shoujo genre is set to shake things up even more, offering darker romances that question predefined roles in society. Debuts like Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon (My Happy Marriage) are arriving on the scene, with a bleak story about an unwanted main character and a (rumored-to-be) abusive love interest.
These more mature stories offer a good counterbalance to the equally popular high school romances, proving that the shoujo genre is greater than how it was originally conceived - as just ‘girl-friendly shounen’.
Women in a Leading Role
We at Honey’s Anime love all types of genres and storylines, and we enjoy ecchi fanservice just as much as the next reader! But many shounen series have an unfortunate tendency to sideline female characters as stereotypes like the tsundere love interest, the big-boobed idiot, or the cranky badass with a bone to pick. So it makes perfect sense that stories that are written with a primarily female audience in mind - those in the shoujo genre - would offer more self-empowering takes on their leading ladies.
As with shounen, shoujo spans a wide range of different subgenres, but they almost always have a female lead - whether that be in a romantic comedy or an isekai fantasy! Here, we get to see smart women tackle challenges head-on, sometimes acknowledging and using their charm to get their way, and other times rejecting the role society has thrust upon them.
Seeing positive female representation in manga and light novels is really important to ensure that manga is an inclusive space for the next generation of readers. So we’re happy to see more shoujo with strong female leads taking to the pages!
The shoujo genre is well-positioned to tackle a wide variety of different subgenres and provide new viewpoints and tropes that haven’t already been covered by shounen.
Not only does the shoujo genre providd a place for leading female roles, but the more frequent emphasis on characterization and emotions provides a deeper and oftentimes more emotionally moving story.
Are you excited for the future of the shoujo genre? Do you have a favorite series or a new debut you’re looking forward to? Let’s talk down in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!