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Manga for Girls Catches On in America (March 28, 2006)

The December 2005 edition of Shojo Beat (VIZ Media, LLC)
In the United States, the latest trendy Japanese import is shojo manga (girls' manga). As its name suggests, this is a genre of comics for and about girls and young women. Japanese manga and anime already claim legions of fans throughout the world. However, most of these comics are aimed at male readers, such as the famous Dragon Ball and Yu-Gi-Oh!, which gained worldwide popularity in the 1990s. A manga featuring ninja, titled Naruto, is a current favorite. Manga for girls and women, however, have arrived relatively recently on US shores and are now beginning to make inroads.

Harry's New Rivals
An example of the current boom for girls' manga is Shojo Beat, published by VIZ Media, LLC, a magazine that began publication in the United States in 2005 through a partnership between Japanese publishers Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Hakusensha. Shojo Beat carries such well-known Japanese hit series as Nana, written by Yazawa Ai.

The growing popularity of girls' manga was highlighted in the summer of 2005 by a US-based news website that ran a story titled US Teenage Girls Prefer Japanese Heroes. Similarly, when Shojo Beat first appeared, it caused a sensation on par with that of the release of the latest Harry Potter title.

US book retailers, which until just recently had never carried manga, are now having to clear more and more shelf space to make way for the comics from Japan, according to the same website and Japanese newspaper reports.  What is more, much of the sales growth is coming from girls' manga. In 2005, a girls' manga titled Fruits Basket, written by Takaya Natsuki, climbed high up the best-sellers' chart for manga of all types.

The US craze for manga is increasingly being supported by teenage girls and women in their twenties, many of whom grew up with Japanese cultural imports of previous years, such as the Pocket Monsters anime series. This makes them especially receptive to Japanese manga.

In shojo manga, the heroes are often girls and young women, much like the readers themselves, with real-world problems. The complex storylines portray subtle human relationships and psychological characterizations. American comics, by contrast, regularly feature male-oriented heroes with a strong sense of morality.

The Mecca of Manga
Another thing regularly portrayed in manga from Japan is the trendy Tokyo district of Harajuku, which is quickly gaining a reputation as a center of pop culture among American girls. The most enthusiastic fans head to Japan to see Harajuku for themselves. Many also visit Akihabara, a hangout for otaku, Japan's brand of geeks, and Otome Road, a concentration of shops specializing in girls' manga, which is in the Tokyo district of Ikebukuro. Some also go to experience some of the hot-spring resorts featured in the comics.

Other developments in the United States include the regular appearance since January 2006 of a girls' manga series, Peach Fuzz, on the pages of the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, Tokyopop, a manga publisher based in Minato Ward, Tokyo, includes works by an American writer, even though the heroine features big, saucer-shaped eyes, a hallmark of Japanese girls' manga. 

With so many exciting developments taking place, it is clear that girls' manga has firmly captured the hearts of its young American fans.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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