Types of Manga – Categories, Genres, Themes

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Key Takeaways

  • The five main demographic categories (and the main types) of manga are shōnen, shōjo, seinen, josei, and kodomo-muke (also known as kids manga).
  • Manga has genres the same way movies have. Genres can be action, romance, comedy, adventure, etc.
  • Manga also has themes specific to Japanese comics, such as isekai, iyashikei, and mecha.
  • Shōnen and kodomo-muke are the most popular types and categories of manga.
  • The most popular manga of all time, according to MyAnimeList, is Berserk.
  • Manga is usually published before anime, and thus, if manga becomes popular enough, it usually sees anime adaptation.

Demographic Categories of Manga

Manga has five main demographic categories, also known as editorial categories. These categories are often mixed with genres. The five main categories define the demographic for which the manga is best suited. Some mangas are best suited for kids, which is what the kodomo-muke category exists for, and some categories, like seinen, are more aimed at adults.

Shōnen Manga

manga-shounen-example-1
Shingeki no Kyojin
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One Piece

Shōnen manga is a type of Japanese comic targeting adolescent boys. It is one of the five primary categories of manga and is published in dedicated magazines for the shōnen demographic group.

Shōnen manga is known for its focus on action, adventure, and fighting against monsters or other forces of evil. However, the category includes many genres and subgenres, such as comedy, crime, romance, a slice of life, and sports.

While it primarily targets young males, its readership extends beyond this group to include all ages and genders.

Shōnen manga originated from Japanese children’s magazines at the turn of the 20th century and gained significant popularity by the 1920s. It is the most popular category of manga in the Japanese market.

Examples of popular shōnen manga:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Bleach
  • Shingeki No Kyojin (Attack On Titan)
  • Kimetsu no Yaiba
  • Dragon Ball
  • One Piece
  • Naruto
  • Fairy Tail
  • Chainsaw Man
  • Jujutsu Kaisen

Shōjo Manga

manga-shoujo-example-2
Ao Haru Ride
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Maid-sama!

Shōjo manga is a type of Japanese comic targeting adolescent females and young adult women.

Shōjo manga originated from Japanese girls’ culture and began to formalize as a distinct category of manga in the 1950s. Female artists emerged and eventually dominated the category in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to significant creative innovation and the development of more complex stories.

Shōjo manga is not a specific style or genre but rather indicates a target demographic. It is associated with certain visual and narrative conventions, such as focusing on human relations and emotions, characters that defy traditional roles and stereotypes surrounding gender and sexuality, and depictions of supernatural and paranormal subjects.

Examples of popular shōjo manga:

  • Nana
  • Nichijou
  • My Love Mix-Up (Kieta Hatsukoi)
  • Horimiya
  • Orange
  • Snow White with the Red Hair
  • Maid-sama!
  • Ouran High School Host Club

Seinen Manga

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Berserk
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Tokyo Ghoul

Seinen manga is a category of Japanese comics aimed at young adult men, marketed towards men’s interests and catering to a demographic of young adult men between the ages of 18 and 40.

It is distinguished from shonen manga, which is for young teen boys and can focus on various themes such as action, politics, science fiction, fantasy, relationships, sports, or comedy.

Seinen manga has a wide variety of art styles and subject matter. Common indicators that a manga is a seinen include the absence of furigana on all kanji and the word “young” in the magazine’s title. Some examples of seinen manga include Berserk, Vagabond, Vinland Saga, AKIRA, and Golden Kamuy. The female equivalent of seinen manga is josei manga.

Examples of popular seinen manga:

  • Monster
  • Kingdom
  • Vinland Saga
  • Berserk
  • Hellsing
  • Tokyo Ghoul
  • One Punch-Man
  • Ghost In The Shell
  • AKIRA
  • Zetman

Josei Manga

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Usagi Drop
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Paradise Kiss

Josei manga is a category of Japanese comics marketed towards adult women, contrasting shōjo manga which is marketed towards girls and young adult women. It emerged in the 1980s and is traditionally printed in dedicated manga magazines specializing in specific sub-genres such as drama, romance, or pornography.

While josei dramas typically tell the stories of ordinary women, romance josei manga are usually melodramas, and pornographic josei manga shares similarities with manga for a heterosexual male audience.

The distinction between shōjo and josei is often tenuous, and a third editorial category, young ladies, emerged in the late 1980s.

The category gained greater artistic legitimacy in the 1990s as it shifted towards social issue-focused stories and has been regularly adapted into anime since the 2000s.

Examples of popular josei manga:

  • The Net Generation Teacher
  • You’re My Pet
  • Usagi Drop
  • Paradise Kiss
  • Otona ni Nattemo
  • Koneko-Chan, Kocchi ni Oide
  • Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
  • An Incurable Case of Love

Kodomo-muke (Kids) Manga

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Pokémon Adventures
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Doraemon

The history of anime and manga for children began in the late 19th century with the production of short manga designed to encourage literacy among Japanese youth.

Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy is considered a significant milestone in the popularity of anime. Children’s anime and manga can be divided into four categories: adaptations of Western stories, adaptations of Japanese media and original works, anime and manga aimed at young girls, and franchises with connections to video games and toys that have the greatest commercial success.

Popular kodomo manga magazines, such as CoroCoro Comic and Comic BomBom, primarily target young boys, with some targeting young girls, and are often accompanied by merchandise.

Examples of popular kodomo-muke manga:

  • Chi’s Sweet Home
  • Doraemon
  • Dinosaur Hour
  • Pokémon Adventures
  • Yotsuba&!
  • ChocoMimi

Shōnen, seinen, shōjo, josei, and kodomo-muke are demographic categories of manga and not genres, even though they include genres like action, adventure, or romance.

Smaller Manga Demographic Categories

  • Gekiga (also a theme): Discussing serious topics and is geared toward mature audiences.
  • Seijin/Ero Manga: Manga for adult males.
  • Redisu/Lady’s Manga: Manga for young adult females.
  • Silver & Golden: Manga for older readers.

Manga Publishing Types

One-Shot Comics

A one-shot in comics is a standalone work consisting of a single issue or chapter, as opposed to a limited or ongoing series that includes multiple issues or chapters.

One-shots may be published as single comic books, parts of anthologies, or online. They may also be used as promotional tools that tie in with existing productions in the marketing industry.

In the Japanese manga industry, one-shots are called yomikiri and are often written for contests, with many popular manga series beginning as one-shots, such as Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Berserk, etc. One-shots in the United States are labeled with a “#1” and are sometimes subtitled as “specials.”

Doujinshi

Doujinshi, also romanized as dōjinshi refers to self-published print works, such as manga, magazines, and novels, in Japan.

These works are often created by amateurs and are derivative of existing works, although professional artists may also participate. Doujinshi artists refer to themselves as a sākuru (circle), and the main method of distribution is through doujinshi conventions, with the largest being Comiket held in Tokyo.

Creators who base their materials on other creators’ works normally publish in small numbers to avoid legal action.

Light Novels

A light novel is a style of young adult novel primarily targeting high school and middle school students. The term “light novel” is a Japanese term formed from words in the English language.

They are often called ranobe or LN, and the average length is about 50,000 words, published in the bunkobon format. Light novels are commonly illustrated in a manga art style and are often adapted into manga and anime.

Some light novels have their chapters serialized monthly in anthology magazines before being compiled into book format. Light novels are subject to dense publishing schedules, with new installments being published in 3-9-month intervals.

Genres in Manga

There are currently 16 different genres that you can find in manga comic books. Manga comprises both demographic categories and genres that influence its tone and content. Manga genres include comedy, action, adventure, and others. The romance genre is the most popular in manga.

Genres you can find in manga books:

  • Action
  • Adventure
  • Comedy
  • Sports
  • Drama
  • Slice of Life
  • Erotica
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Psychological
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Yaoi
  • Yuri

Themes in Manga

Below is a list of the currently known themes in manga:

  • Adult Cast
  • Anthropomorphic
  • CGDCT
  • Childcare
  • Combat Sports
  • Crossdressing
  • Delinquents
  • Detective
  • Educational
  • Gag Humor
  • Gegika
  • Gore
  • Harem (boy is surrounded by girls)
  • High Stakes Game
  • Historical
  • Idols (Female)
  • Idols (Male)
  • Isekai
  • Iyashikei
  • Lolicon
  • Love Polygon
  • Magical Sex Shift
  • Mahou Shoujo (Magical Girls)
  • Martial Arts
  • Mecha
  • Medical
  • Military
  • Music
  • Mythology
  • Organized Crime
  • Otaku Culture
  • Parody
  • Performing Arts
  • Pets
  • Psychological
  • Racing
  • Reincarnation
  • Reverse Harem (boys surround a girl)
  • Romantic Subtext
  • Samurai
  • School
  • Shotacon
  • Showbiz
  • Space
  • Strategy Game
  • Super Power
  • Survival
  • Team Sports
  • Time Travel
  • Vampire
  • Video Game
  • Visual Arts
  • Workplace

Conclusion

Manga and anime both share the same genres, themes, and demographic categories. In the manga industry, there are a few different publishing types, such as one-shot comics, doujinshi, and light novels, on top of traditional manga publishing.

Popular manga series are often brought to the screens as anime series, which further grows the manga’s fanbase.

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