Monday, May 24, 2010

Girls and Boys are Different, So Are Their Comic Books

I wish I had more to show for the hour I spent in the Kyoto International Manga Museum. But, unfortunately, I have very little. For one thing photography is forbidden, and also I got in trouble for trying to do even a few simple sketches. I’m going to post one of the pictures from of the museum’s website, just to give you a better idea of what the place is like, since my sketches are pretty elementary.

The museum was almost overwhelming, with three floors of nothing but manga, some of it dating back to the early 1900’s. I could go on and on for pages about the history of manga, but really I was more interested in the separation of boy and girl comics (shonen and shojo respectively). Boys got the first floor, girls the second. I knew about the different types from perusing the manga section at my local bookstore, but I never knew how different they are until I was politely directed by the woman at the font desk to go to the second floor for my gender’s manga.

Comparing the two, I think I prefer shonen, but that’s because I like adventure stories over shojo romances. But as far as the art goes, I think that my tastes lean towards shojo. Shojo manga is much more focused on realistic, delicate art with a lot of detail and sparkles around almost everything. Shonen art, on the other hand, is far blockier and stylized. Only the female characters are delicate in any way shape or form, and they are few and far between. Instead of sparkles, every page is jam-packed with action lines.

I think this says a lot about gender expectations here. Girls are supposed to want sweet, dainty romances that they can immerse themselves in, while boys are meant to enjoy stark, masculine comics that are focused on action. But I wouldn’t read too much into it: both sexes were equally represented on both floors, so I don’t think that anyone’s expected to conform to the stereotypes that manga presents.


  1. Interesting observations! The separation by gender seems to be a reflection of Japan's extremely high masculinity score on Hofstede's five dimensions of culture scale. I like your sketches - how did you sneak them in? Or did you draw based on memory?


  2. I ended up having to do the sketches from memory. What I had from before they stopped me from drawing was pretty illegible, so I decided I'd do some sketches specifically for the blog.