Talk To Me 03: How shoujo manga has affected my reading

So what exactly is shoujo/shojo manga? According to the Wikipedia page, it is:

… marketed to a female audience roughly between the ages of 10 and 18. The name romanizes the Japanese 少女 (shōjo), literally “little girl”. Shōjo manga covers many subjects in a variety of narrative and graphic styles, from historical drama to science fiction — often with a strong focus on human and romantic relationships and emotions.

Honestly, it can range from school life (Koishi Tagari no Blue) to school life with fantasy (Fruits Basket) to all out fantasy (CLAMP works) and more. When I was younger, this was my life. I absolutely loved all kinds of shoujo manga, I would read and read and bury myself in huge eyes, flowers, sparkles, and hot dudes. I would essentially pick up any title that piqued my interest.

Most of the time, I would end up with a school life-type of story. Maybe it’s because these were normally short or one-shots so I could read it in-between my longer series. Now, while this is not true for all of the school life-type shoujo manga, let me give you a summary of what I usually saw:

A Shoujo MC arrives at her new school, and she immediately feels like an outsider. She has no clue how to start making friends, and moans about wanting to go back to her old school. All of a sudden, Shoujo MC meets Friendly Girl! Friendly Girl makes her feel at home and becomes her new BFF. Friendly Girl introduces Shoujo MC to her friends, usually consisting of The Studious One, The Goofy One, and The Hot Guy.

Hot Guy is either the super friendly type (friends with everyone, funny, etc) or the quiet one (more like The Studious One). Either way, Shoujo MC falls in love with him right away. You know because of all the sparkles and flowers around the panel depicting Hot Guy. Shoujo MC and Hot Guy become good friends and through a bazillion convenient circumstances, they have many almost romantic moments together.

But what’s this? Hot Guy has… A Girlfriend?! OH NO! She’s hot! No match for Shoujo MC! But Shoujo MC, after many panels spent laying in bed and having flashbacks, will resolve that she will either (a) win the heart of Hot Guy because Girlfriend is clearly not right for him; (b) try to remain his friend. (Note, those who try b end up failing and falling in love with Hot Guy even more).

Throw in all the gossiping classmates, the backstabbing friends, the bullying consisting of name-calling and nasty notes or locking Shoujo MC in a room overnight, etc. It’s one huge dramavalanche. It all culminates in Hot Guy rescuing Shoujo MC, dumping Girlfriend, and having a happily ever after.

After reading this type of storyline over and over, you could say I’ve become sick of it. You could say that I now seem to actively avoid school life-type shoujo manga unless it has some sort of element that really stands out to me. You could say that if I end up reading one of these by accident, my first instinct is to stop reading.

This effect also ended up carrying over to the books that I read, specifically the Young Adult books. Maybe this is why I didn’t enjoy certain books as much as I thought I would. One of these is a title that I have seen practically every other blogger rave about. It made countless “Top Ten Tuesday” lists, “Favourite Reads of 2014,” etc. Everyone else seems to love it.

I didn’t. Maybe it was because I had read so much shoujo manga that this type of storyline just does not make me happy anymore. It makes me more annoyed than interested. While I can understand the appeal, I just don’t like being buried in a school life-type dramavalanche.

Is it because I have read so much shoujo manga? Or because this type of storyline has also been very overdone?

So, what about YOU, dear reader? Let me know in the comments!

What is your experience with shoujo manga or this type of storyline? Do you find it annoying too? Do you think shoujo manga has affected how I enjoy YA books?

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22 thoughts on “Talk To Me 03: How shoujo manga has affected my reading

  1. Hmm. I don’t really read manga, but I do see shoujo anime. But i do think that a lot of story lines are the same, but I don’t always find them annoying. I think it’s more on finding your connection with the characters or whatever new thing the book has to offer. If there’s nothing new or great that really stands out, then that’s when I start disliking a certain book. I’m pretty much open with reading a lot of books though so I guess I’m not really picky. And I guess I understand that it becomes dull if it’s all repetitive so I kind of understand your distaste for some stories. I think that’s okay too.

  2. I read quite a lot of shoujo manga. But I’m weird and pretty much the sole thing I judge my manga by is the quality of the art. Doesn’t matter how good the storyline is, if the art is crappy, then I won’t read it. Yes, I’m weird haha. But definitely, shoujo manga pretty much all have similar storylines, so usually I’ll read the first arc or so, and then stop if it gets angsty and annoying. Like, have you read Kimi ni Todoke? Started off pretty well, but I gave up because it dragged on and on. Same with Ao Haru Ride (that was such an annoying manga ugh). And there are probably a hundred others I could mention, but I’ll stop here before my comments becomes an essay haha

    I don’t think manga affects how I see YA books though. Normally, it’s kind of a different type of storyline- I really don’t think I’ve read too many shoujo style YA books to be honest!

  3. I have never read shoujo or any manga for that matter. I think when it comes to YA books though the basic premise for contemporary books is often the same. Change the characters, the backstories, the dynamics and then each book heads off in a different direction but if you break it down, it is the same theme over and over. To me the authors voice and writing style makes all the difference though. If I read too much of something, I get bored which I why I prefer to mix up the genres in an effort to prevent that.

  4. Oh, shoujo manga! How I missed them. . . I used to love them, like you, they were my life. I remember when I was still in Highschool, everyday I always spend my time watching animes. :/ they were so funny, cute, romantic. But after watching tons of them, the story line became to repitative. A shy type girl fell in love with a bad boy type or two best friends, or enemies who fell in love with each other, and then a shy type girl again, so on and so forth. It was like I keep on watching or reading the same story again and again. Then, I discovered young adult books, that’s the time I really lost on mangas/animes. 😦 but, I made a promise that this year Il’ll watch or read atleast two. 😀

    Anyway, have you read Dengeki Daisy or Kaichou wa maid sama? Darn. I so love those two. 😀 If you haven’t. . Please read them, you won’t regret it! I swear! 😀

  5. I used to read quite a lot of (shoujo) manga! I absolutely loved Fruits Basket (watched the anime first though). And my favorites were the “school life-type of stories” too. All those love triangles,crazy misunderstandings/fights/making ups… Now I feel a little nostalgic. Hehe. And I’m not really interested in watching unfold these type of relationships in YA either. I guess I can stand it when I have pretty pictures to drool on, but just words is not cutting it. 😉 Or maybe I just had my fill of “drama” and now am looking for something more….
    Great post! ❤

  6. Oh my gosh, I know what you mean! Now, I don’t think I saturated my mind with as much shoujo manga/anime as you did, but maybe since I started at a later age, my threshold was already lower. Slice of life manga/anime just doesn’t really hold my interest anymore, because it’s SO ABSOLUTELY TYPICAL and I’m tired of seeing it! Go to school, join an after school club, do cute thing and talk to mysterious hot boys, etc. Yawn!

    Yeah, it definitely put a damper in my YA reading as well. Books that actually involve high school are super boring for me and I don’t want to read them, lol. I guess that’s why I gravitate toward the fantasy and sci-fi genres more, because they’re so different usually. Although I have to say, Fruits Basket will always hold a special place in my heart! I did love Clannad at first, too, but I don’t think I ever even finished it because I got bored. =/

  7. That’s true. It just seems that I have better luck with books that don’t have a similar storyline to the one I posted about. Highschool YA books may just not be my thing after all. Like Kelley, maybe that’s why I gravitate towards scifi and fantasy.

    But I do understand where you’re coming from. I mean, general plot ideas even in fantasy are similar (overthrow DA MAN, survive in a dystopian world, the epic quest to save the kingdom, etc) but the different elements surround it make it better. I’m not really that picky either but I’m wary of books with certain elements because those elements burned me before. ^^;

  8. Haha, I totally get you there. I’ve passed up certain shoujo titles because I just did NOT like the art style. My friend has passed up certain shounen titles because he did not like the art style (despite my protests that the plot is REALLY good). And OH YES, when the angst comes up I just feel like bailing. Shoujo MC, he’s just giving another girl a ride home, is that really grounds to become a sad hermit? Crazy!

    Oh, I did start reading Kimi ni Todoke. I agree, it did start well! Then… I got less interested. I haven’t heard of Ao Haru Ride though.

    Ah, so lucky. Whenever I try to read a YA book with that shoujo school life storyline, I just get burned. Usually, anyway. Haha! 🙂

  9. I totally get what you mean. I just wonder if my dislike for “new girl in school, bitchy popular girls, hot smart boy”-styled storylines is a reaction to how much this storyline was dumped on me in my earlier days. Similar plots can also be found in other genres like fantasy (quest to save the kingdom) or dystopia (overthrow the corrupt ruler), but you’re right. It’s great when the author manages to put their own spin on it.

    True, I wouldn’t want to find myself stuck reading dystopia titles over and over. Best to mix it up. 😀

  10. Exactly! That’s pretty much most of the storylines that I saw too, haha. I don’t know at what point I stopped reading shoujo manga, I just kind of lost interest after a while. 🙂 I hope you find some good ones!

    I haven’t read Dengeki Daisy but I have read a bit of Kaichou Wa Maid-sama. I read Kaichou aaaaages ago, back when I thought it was just a one-shot. Imagine my surprise when I found out there was more! :O

  11. Ah, Fruits Basket. I was the reverse, I ended up reading the manga first haha. When I first got into it, I did like those stories. However, the novelty wore off. I’m not really interested in YA books with that storyline too! It’s true, no pretty pictures, haha! Though my general dislike for the dramavalanche probably contributed to it. 😛

    Thanks, Cayce!

  12. I was TOO saturated, so saturated I could diffuse shoujo into water. 😛 Haha! I agree, slice of life just doesn’t seem to cut it for me. I suppose that’s why I went completely the other direction with Shingeki no Kyoujin, a shounen horror/action kind of series that I wouldn’t have picked up when I was younger. School life titles are indeed SO typical. Don’t forget, after school club may consist of misfits! Haha…

    I totally agree, the fantasy and scifi titles are much more interesting to me. Fruits Basket was the first series I collected and finished, so I do love it. I managed to work my way through Clannad but it does tend to drag. 😐

  13. Haha, I totally agree with this. Granted, there are a ton of shoujo manga out there that are original and pretty darn well-written, but there are a also a ton that are, well, not. And like you, I especially find this in the school-life part of the shoujo genre. It’s nearly always the same thing. Average Girl sees Hot Bishie Guy, Average Girl’s life becomes surrounded by bubbles and flowers and random drama. As a bonus, there is often also the Mandatory Mean Girl character that will endlessly annoy the reader.

    To be honest, even my favorite school-life manga don’t keep me interested every chapter. I think the only school-life manga that had me completely and utterly entranced all the way through was Ouran High School Host Club. I usually read shoujo manga like Natsume Yuujinchou and After School Nightmare, which do have teenage characters but focus on things other than hot bishies and bubbly-flowery romances. And as for slice-of-life as a whole, I think I prefer manga like Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou than manga like, say, Kaichou wa Maid-sama.

    And yes, shojo school-life manga have definitely made me appreciate YA novels like it a lot less, even less than I appreciate repetitive school-life manga. I mean, if I am going to read about a cliche, melodramatic story about school-life, I might as well have a charming hot bishie and cute blushes to go with it, right? 😉

  14. I have NEVER read mangas although I always wanted to try one! Fruits Basket?! Not sure if I’d read a book with a name like that though! 😛

    But I can definitely understand where you are coming from-I have seen this countless YA books especially paranormal ones(VERY ANNOYING) so I’m a lil more selective when it comes to the genre. This whole ‘high school dramavalanche’ is exactly why I lean towards dystopian YA books rather than paranormal YA reads. High school-ish drama in dystopian is seen very little I guess, because everyone’s too busy trying to stay alive?

    Nuzaifa @ Say It with Books

  15. I looked it up and it seems rather interesting. 😀 I hope the school life dramavalanche doesn’t show up.

    Also I hope I don’t cry. But I probably will. HAHA! Thanks, Marie!

  16. I totally agree, there are a lot that break away from this kind of plot. Ever since I was more discerning about the titles I pick up, I’ve managed to read some really good ones. 🙂 So true, Mandatory Mean Girl will torment the Average Girl until some magical moment when Average Girl saves her life or something. Then Mandatory Mean Girl *might* become a friend. But still be mean. Haha!

    Oh my GOSH, Ouran High School Host Club. I still have to get back to reading that. I watched the anime and I want to read the manga because I heard it’s so different! I haven’t heard of those other titles you mentioned, but I’ll be sure to check them out. 🙂 Thanks!

    Agreed! If I have to suffer from a dramavalanche, gimme hot bishies to ogle! 😀

  17. Fruits Basket is… Odd. Basically, it’s about this girl who comes to live with this family that has a fantastical secret. It’s so hard to explain while trying to keep spoilers at bay. It’s mostly light-hearted but oh boy, it takes some dark turns. The first one I read was Absolute Boyfriend and that was pretty cute. 🙂

    Maybe I should start getting into dystopian YA books rather than school-life ones, haha! Yeah, everyone’s usually too busy staying alive for drama to happen. Unless they’re particularly petty and the author decides that the only way to spice things up is a love triangle, haha!

  18. Shoujoooooo! I haven’t read any manga in ages but I used to absolutely love it. My first ever one was Fruits Basket – which sort of fits in with your ‘typical plot’. It’s so true though, there are so many series out there with that sort of plotline, not just in manga but other fiction too, that it gets pretty tiresome. Fruits Basket still remains a firm favourite, along with Azumanga Daioh, .hack//Legend of the Twilight and Death Note.

    Did you ever read Vampire Knight? That was an interesting one, although also a bit predictable. Oh and Absolute Boyfriend was fun =) One of my least favourites was Love Hina – talk about predictable! I totally have to go and check MyAnimeList now…

  19. The plotline does get pretty tiresome, but I did like Fruits Basket because it was the first one I actively collected. It also kind of went beyond the typical plot that I mentioned, so it’s all good. 🙂 I enjoyed Death Note too, but I watched the anime rather than read the manga.

    No, I wasn’t able to. I did want to read it, but I just never got around to reading it. Absolutely Boyfriend was a laugh and a half. It’s hilarious in its absurdity, but it’s also really sweet! I have never touched Love Hina and it doesn’t really seem too interesting to me. 😐

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