Midori Makita is a statistical analyst by trade and is a manga expert on the side. He reads hundreds of manga a year and takes an analytical approach while reading, collecting various data so he can paint a picture of the intended audience.
Image via With News
While he usually focuses on erotic manga (it’s legit art!), he spent 2016 analyzing shoujo and josei manga to discover popular female fantasies. Makita put his finding in a doujin titled Ren’ai Toukei.
Makita read and analyzed 356 different shoujo and josei manga that were published in 2016. Since he is interested in modern trends and fantasies, he didn’t look at older works. The breakdown of the works included 4 magazines for children (kodomo demographic), 13 for teenagers, and 4 for adults.
The most popular fantasy is falling in love with a “high-spec” boy: someone with good looks, talent, fame, and money. Turns out, 55% of male characters in shoujo manga are high-spec compared to 34% in other types of manga. In ways, this is the inverse of the male manga fantasy of a submissive and “pure” female love interest.
Wolf Girl and Black Prince © Ayuko Hatta / Shueisha Inc. / TYO Animations Inc. / Wolf Girl and Black Prince Production Committee
Makita also discovered that female leads tend to have inferiority complexes, have body image issues, are poor, and are hassled by their parents. 70% of children’s manga follows this trend as does 67% of general manga. Interestingly, only 53% of shoujo manga had a female lead with some sort of inferiority complex.
The inferiority complexes, Makita argues, is a “reflection of modern society.” He says, “In modern society, being a woman is a handicap. Wages, promotion, marriage, childbirth…these issues heroines have are the ones readers hope to solve.”
This character trend feeds into passive female leads. According to Makita’s study, 93% of romances in josei manga are started by the male characters compared to 89% in shoujo and 76% in general manga. 82% of physical contact is also initiated by male characters.
Kimi ni Todoke © Karuho Shiina / Shueisha Inc. / Production I.G., Inc.
This confirms that the wallflower trope is extremely popular in shoujo and josei manga. Wallflower characters are shy, quiet, and lack self-confidence. Despite their negative self-image and super passive personalities, they are able to draw the attention of a high-spec boy and fall in love.
Makita comments, “By being loved by talented, popular, high-status boys, you feel like you might be recognized by society as well.”