The Aesthetics of Girls’ Culture in Japan

Passionate FriendshipShōjo manga are romance comics for teenage girls. Characterized by a very dense visual style, featuring flowery backgrounds and big-eyed, androgynous boys and girls, it is an extremely popular and prominent genre in Japan. Why is this genre so appealing? Where did it come from? Why do so many of the stories feature androgynous characters and homosexual romance? Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girl’s Culture in Japan, by Deborah Shamoon, answers these questions by reviewing Japanese girls’ print culture from its origins in 1920s and 1930s girls’ literary magazines to the 1970s “revolution” shōjo manga, when young women artists took over the genre. It looks at the narrative and aesthetic features of girls’ literature and illustration across the twentieth century, both pre- and postwar, and discusses how these texts addressed and formed a reading community of girls, even as they were informed by competing political and social ideologies.

“In this engaging account, Deborah Shamoon forwards an innovative argument for taking the long view of girls’ culture. Rather than focusing narrowly on prewar or postwar production, she convincingly demonstrates the connections in theme, image, and tone that produce a genealogy of the Japanese girl (shōjo). With a keen eye to the visual representations of the shōjo, she points to the ways graphic artists express interiority, affection, and a frankly charming girlishness. She at the same time guides readers through the debates over readers’ and writers’ intentions, alleged subtexts of repression, and disparities in Western and Japanese critics’ approaches to shōjo display and fandom. Passionate Friendship is a remarkable contribution to the growing field of Girl Studies.”—Jan Bardsley, University of North Carolina

March 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3542-2 / $27.00 (PAPER)