What is Shoujo?

When most Americans look at anime genres, they tend to see things at face value. Just another genre of anime and manga.  But in fact, this particular genre goes fairly deep aiming at a target-demographic”. Shoujo is popular for targeting young teen females by focusing on a female protagonist. Shoujo is set in a variety of shows. These shows can range from school dramas, science fiction, magical girls, action-adventure, building the bonds of friendship, and much more. Since shoujo tends to have a female protagonist set in a school setting, this opens up the “target-demographic”, to include things such as romance and slice of life situations. In recent years shoujo has become fairly popular and is loved by a variety of age groups, genders, and regions!

What was the first shoujo?

The first-ever shoujo manga published was in 1903, in the very first all-girls magazine which was published the year prior. The first-ever manga was called, “Shoujo Kai”. It was also known as Girls World in English. Since Shoujo Kai is over 100 years old there is not much information to be found. Even today, people argue over who the original author was. The second manga to be founded was Shoujo Sekai in 1906 and ran alongside Shoujo no Tomo till 1908. If you’re ever wondering why shoujo characters have unusually large eyes and look doll-like, this was due to the art style used in those publications during the early 20th century. Yumeji Takehisa and Jun’ichi Nakahara were the two most influential illustrators at the time. Their character creation was influenced by doll creators who used big eyes for their toys. The first mangas in 1910 were a simple one page and it wasn’t till 1930 that they became longer. 

The most groundbreaking shoujo was published in 1934 and it was called, “Katsuji Matsumoto”. This publication was also known as, “The Mysterious Clover”. It wasn’t till World War II that mangas began to take a back seat due to the world conflict. It was at this time that they were almost forgotten about. After WWII concluded, mangas started picking up in popularity again. This boost in popularity inspired many, which led to the creation of many successful works such as, “Princess Knight”. Princess Knight eventually got air time on Fuji TV from 1967 to 1968. Many of the shoujo at the time were created by men since it was controversial at the time to have women work non-conventional jobs. 

Shoujos from the 1960’s-1980’s

Most of the shoujo through the 60s had focused on romantic comedies, which were inspired by American TV shows at the time. It wasn’t till the summer of 1964 when Japan women’s national volleyball team won the gold medal and influenced a series of sports shoujo. In 1966 the first shoujo manga was adapted to its first anime, Sally the Witch. Then later on, in the 1970’s we saw some of the first female manga artists. This greatly helped transform and influenced the genre. Some of these women were: Moto Hagio, Yumiko Oshima, and Keiko Takemiya. This group of young women was known as the Year 24 group because of their age. In later years shoujo genres began overlapping with subgenres such as a slice of life, yuri, sci-fi, magical girls, and so much more.

Shoujos from the 1990’s-200’s

The Gulf War was a great influence during the 1990s and even inspired certain manga creators to create female characters who focused on protecting their community. These influences can be seen in works such as Red River, Sailor Moon, and many others of that time. During these years storytellers worked on creating deeper connections between the female leads and her friends. There was a much bigger focus on character development. For the first time, fans also began seeing deeper love connections as a result of stronger character developments.

Best Shoujo of 1990s

One of the most beloved manga and anime series of the 1990s was Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon was a massive hit in Japan and overseas. Its success was comparable to the hit Dragon Ball series at the time. In the 2000s shoujo began to explore other subgenres that weren’t stereotypical, such as dark fantasy, psychological thriller. Puella Magi Madoka Magica was a notable shoujo that broke those typical stereotypes. It is a shojo that delved deep into dark and taboo topics. Many suggest that its extreme nature helped to influence the large variety of Shoujo that you can find today. Currently, there are shoujo manga and animes that will satisfy any specific sub-genre you might be interested in. 

If you’re interested in a female protagonist, here are some shows that I recommend.

  • Ouran Koukou Host Club
  • Akatsuki no Yona
  • Ore Monogatari!!
  • Fruits Basket
  • Sailor Moon
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica
  • Natsume Yuujinchou Shi
  • Nana
  • Banana Fish


Syanka is a medical professional during the day and an anime enthusiast by night. She started early on with shows like Sailor moon, which her family would rent from the local Blockbuster. This later grew into a passion as she started reading, watching, and collecting everything anime. Syanka contributes weekly to AnimeAfar and loves anything Naruto related.