There’s something about a good love story that gives the romantic at heart butterflies at the pit of their stomach and leaves you on a euphoric high for days. Having always been a romantic for as long as I can remember, I naturally gravitated towards the shojo manga genre. I consumed almost any title that had a love story, an art style that my eyes couldn’t stop feasting on, or if the title came from a favorite mangaka I adored (or comes highly recommended in shojo manga reading circles).
These days, and as I have stated in a past post, I’ve lost track of the current titles in shojo manga. I’ve been content with sticking to much older and established series to complete my ongoing collection. When there’s an opportunity to check out the manga getting published these days at my local bookstore, I find myself less excited about the current generation of manga.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been out of touch with manga in general, or maybe it’s the lack of not having a magazine to keep me up-to-date with the latest titles (RIP Shojo Beat magazine). No matter what the reason is, I feel like shojo manga today is becoming less exciting, as the American market is being overly saturated with way more romance titles than the average reader can get their hands on. I look at every cover art and read the short summary for the first volume of a title I’m not familiar with and I no longer feel the excitement to want to buy the volume(s) immediately.
Shojo manga, for better or for worse, will be very predictable and cliche after reading a ton of it for years. The heroine and her love interest will start looking like every beautifully drawn character in other titles you’ve seen or read before. The story will read the same––boy meets girl, maybe they don’t like each other at first, then they later realize they are very attracted to each other, there might be a love triangle or some obstacle to keep the would-be lovers apart, and eventually they declare their undying love so they can live happily ever after. I’m aware of this, but I tend to think older titles like Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and a large portion of Yuu Watase’s catalog of work handles the telling of these predictable cliches really well.
Without the usual spark of “have to buy it now,” it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to want to take a chance on a newer shojo manga title. I’m finding myself more inclined to try out a number of shonen manga titles that are really popular, like Attack On Titan. I’m not so easily enchanted by pretty artwork and romance alone anymore. I want a really good story with characters I actually care about. If there’s a little romance sprinkled in, it’s a bonus but no longer a requirement for me. If I find myself trying to get through a shojo manga title and I feel like wanting to slap the heroine upside the head more times than I can count, I really don’t want to read any further.
My lack of enthusiasm for the new generation of shojo manga probably stems from my tastes having matured over time and my free time being really precious these days. I’m no longer the young teen girl who will grab just any shojo title with the romance stamp on it. My excitement for any title in the manga I choose to read has much higher standards and it’s really expensive to waste money on manga that’s mediocre at best. I’m also not too keen on the disturbing trend of shojo manga plots centering around a heroine who is an utter doormat and her dreamy ideal man is a degrading sadomasochist, which I’m sadly seeing in such titles like Hot Gimmick by Miki Aihara and Black Bird by Kanoko Sakurakouji. This is the high flying romances girls are into these days? If it is, then I suggest massive amounts of therapy and a lesson on what healthy relationships actually look like.
Is shojo manga getting stale? Yes and no. With most shojo mangas, what you see is what you get. Romance and gorgeous men are the norm. If you expect anything beyond that, then you’ll be disappointed. Considering manga was such a new brand of comics to enter the U.S. market back when I was much younger, the options for what you could read was very limited in my day. Now, the youth of today who are discovering and loving manga when I was their age have an endless amount of options to choose from. What looks and feels stale to me may actually be new and exciting for the next girl. Once you’ve read dozens of these titles, then you may be craving just a little bit more from your daily romance story. Luckily, there are a few gems out there, if you know where to look.
If you’re a fan of shojo manga, how do you feel about the genre these days? Do the romances seem boring to you? Do you feel there’s plenty of romance options that will never get stale?