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What Are the Different Manga Genres?

Soo Owens
Soo Owens

Manga, a Japanese style of literature similar to comic books, is typically divided into genres based on the intended audience, such as young males and females and older men and women. Each of these in turn can be subdivided into even more specific genres like action and comedy. The subdivisions are not exclusive to the manga genres and often overlap between intended audiences.

Shonen is the term used to describe manga aimed at the younger male audience. It is usually told from the point of view of an adolescent male character. Common topics found in this genre primarily include action and adventure, sports, horror, and romance. Shonen differs from many other manga genres in its preference for violence and robust, alluring, and curvaceous female characters as well as a reduced focus on character and plot intricacies and character interactions. This does not necessarily mean that the stories lack depth. Cowboy Bebop and Samurai X are common examples of shonen.

Manga style boy and girl.
Manga style boy and girl.

The manga genre intended for adolescent girls is called shoujo, which means "young girl." Rather than focus on action or situational conflict like shonen, shoujo tends to concentrate more on a character's emotional state and her relationship with others. Heroines are often depicted as passionate and pure. Compared to other manga genres, everything in shoujo is rendered and presented as visually beautiful, and emphasis is placed on the character's hairstyle, eyes, and outfits. Sailor Moon is one of the most well-known examples of the shoujo genre.

Manga style girl with knives.
Manga style girl with knives.

There are several manga genres devoted to adults as well. Seinen and josei are directed at adult men and women, respectively, usually college-age individuals and up. The types of stories depicted within these genres are usually similar to their younger counterparts but adopt adult themes and contain mature content not found in the genres geared to younger audiences.

Manga style running girl.
Manga style running girl.

Other manga genres are more sexually focused. Shoujo-ai and shonen-ai, more commonly called yuri and yaoi, respectively, are concerned with homosexual relationships. Yuri portrays female to female relationships, while yaoi depicts male to male relationships. In Japan these manga genres can also refer to pedophilia in same-sex relationships.

Hentai is the name given to manga that is sexually hardcore and pornographic in nature. In the Japanese language hentai means something akin to "perversion" or "pervert." The word hentai is rarely used to describe pornographic manga in Japan, with the term 18-kin being applied to such publications instead.

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Discussion Comments


I work in a library and I am always amazed at how many different kinds of manga there are. Just 10 years ago we did not have any of this in our library and now we have many many volumes of several long running series.

I am also surprised at how popular they are. We have a few particularly enthusiastic patrons who have read everything we have and also request other titles through interlibrary loan. I have read a few of them myself and can't quite understand the appeal, but if they get kids reading I'm all for them.


@Sara007 - If you are looking for some great series for your son I would suggest ordering the first issue of Dragon Ball Z, Ninja Baseball Kyuma, Bakegyamon: Backward Game and Pokemon. All of the comics have a bit of action in them but they aren't violent and should be suitable for someone who is as young as your son.

As far as reading skills go, you may also want to get your hands on some comic books that simplify classic novels and other literature. You would be surprised at how many novels have been put into a manga format to try and reach those kids that are more reluctant to read.


Can anyone recommend some good manga series for a 7-year-old boy?

My son has recently started watching Pokemon, and while I don't mind him watching cartoons I would really love for him to start reading more, even if it is just comic books to start. I have looked through some manga and a lot of it is much more adult than I had originally suspected.

I want a series that would be fun for my son and hopefully improve his reading skills as he is a bit behind the other students in his class. I am afraid he just isn't that interested in novels or anything of substance and its like pulling teeth to get him to read.


I have been been a fan of Japanese anime for years and have just started to get into the manga. Most anime is actually taken from the comic book series and it is surprising to see how much more is in the printed series. If you look at a classic magical girl series like Sailor Moon the Japanese manga goes into a lot more.

I think that if you enjoy shoujo like Sailor Moon you would love Magic Knight Rayearth, Cardcaptor Sakura and Tokyo Mew Mew. While most anime made from manga is geared towards children, the original comic books are usually directed at an older teenage audience. You can really see the differences when you start reading.

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    • Manga style boy and girl.
      Manga style boy and girl.
    • Manga style girl with knives.
      Manga style girl with knives.
    • Manga style running girl.
      Manga style running girl.