Since we published our series of articles on the shojo phenomenon and launched our Grow with Shojo promotion (see below), we've received numerous comments on both. Most were complimentary, but a few raised questions that we wanted to address.
First, the spelling. Some took us to task for using 'shojo' instead of 'shoujo.' Both spellings are extant, and we were aware of both when we began the series. We couldn't find anyone that could tell us a definitive reason why one spelling was superior to the other, so we chose the shorter version, noting that Manga, Manga used the 'shojo' spelling. It turns out that the 'shoujo' spelling is more common. A Google search turns up around 12,000 web pages containing 'shojo,' and nearly 68,000 containing 'shoujo.'
Jim Flanagan, the editor of Viz's Animerica Extra, was able to shed some light on the subject. The variation results from different methods used to romanize Japanese characters. Either is correct; shoujo is probably more common because it is the typical output of a Japanese word processor romanizing the relevant Japanese character. We still stand by shojo as the spelling we will use; it is a correct spelling and is less prone to mispronunciation.
Next, the titles chosen for inclusion -- some commented that not all of the titles included in the free p.o.p. materials met the definition of shojo. Dark Horse's Blade of the Immortal was one title specifically mentioned in a couple of comments. The publisher responds that while this is a title best sold to consumers sixteen years old and up, it is sold predominantly to female consumers and the most important characters are female.
This brings up an important distinction between the Japanese and North American markets--the North American markets skew older relative to the Japanese audience for the same content. This is primarily due to a higher Japanese tolerance for violent or mature content in children's titles. For example Banana Fish, a property relegated to Viz's adult anthology Pulp in the U.S., is included in an anthology targeted at a middle school audience in Japan. So a shojo title that meets the definition of having been marketed to girls in Japan might be inappropriate for a juvenile audience in North America.
It's become clear to us that not all of the titles included in the Grow with Shojo promotion would meet all definitons of shojo. Some would argue that shojo titles are only those that originally appeared in an anthology directed at girls in Japan (whether those titles would carry a 'mature' label in North America or not). It's worth noting that comics for girls and comics for women are two different things in Japan, and that comics for women, which tend toward psychological thrillers and other story-lines rooted in the real world, have not made their way in translated form to North America yet.
That makes the properties hardest to categorize those that were directed at girls in Japan but are appropriate for an older audence in North America, and those that appeal to a female audience and/or feature prominent female characters but did not appear in a girls' title in Japan. We lean toward a position that would define properties by how they're marketed in Japan, regardless of the target audience here, but are willing to acknowledge that others may feel differently. The important thing is that retailers match products to customers, and the female customer is an under-served market in pop culture stores. Finding products to better serve that audience will increase sales over-all.
These comments have raised an important issue, however, which is that retailers need to be aware of the contents of the titles being displayed and take the usual precautions to prevent titles directed at older readers from falling into younger hands, reflecting the standards here, rather than in Japan where the titles were originally published.
For an overview of the 'Grow with Shojo' promotion, including info on how to get free p.o.p. materials, see 'Retailers--Grow with Shojo!'
For info on the Grow with Shojo display contest, see 'Grow with Shojo Display Contest.'
For an analysis of the shojo phenomenon in Japan, see 'Shojo Manga and Anime -- Big Business in Japan.'
For an enlightening interview with California retailer Joe Field on how to effectively sell shojo, see 'How To Sell Shojo.'
And you may not have known it, but a shojo title is actually the best-selling manga title in bookstores. See 'Sailor Moon Graphic Novels Top Bookstore Sales.'