Manga Before Flowers - A Boy's Education

So I've been thinking about how much I love shojo, how I'll give almost any shojo title a chance no matter how ridiculous its concept, how amateur its art, or how shallow its emotional content may be. I may not like every shojo title I pick up (and will often rail against the stupidity of the dull-cookie-cutter-plots I may encounter) but shojo always feels like "home" to me.

In my very first column I explained why I was drawn to shojo by telling a story that many female manga fans in their late twenties / early thirties know quite well -- Sailor Moon, that dumb klutz, is really to blame for all of this. There is, of course, a male-oriented animated parallel -- Dragon Ball Z. Sometimes I feel like those two very different gendered reception experiences have followed us fans as we've aged, or, at least, I know that my early exposure to shojo anime has greatly informed my later interests in certain kinds of manga genres & even characters.

I suppose my point today is that my shonen education is pretty light-weight to be honest -- I've read Bleach, Naruto, Prince of Tennis, Claymore, Gin Tama, Full Metal Alchemist, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Death Note, Fairy Tail (just two volumes though), Hikkatsu!!, Tsubasa, Whistle! and one volume of Kekkaishi.

My seinen education is probably a little less anemic but not exactly weighty either: Eden: It's an Endless World, King of Thorns, Lady Snowblood, Old Boy, xxxholic, ES: Eternal Sabbath, Monster, Genshiken, Parasyte, a bunch of Tezuka, and Emma (which, COME ON folks, no matter what magazine Emma first appeared in Japan it certainly isn't a very "manly manga").

If we list all the shojo I've read....well, what the hell. Paragraph length is worth a thousand words: After School Nightmare, Aqua / Aria, Beauty Pop, Cantarella, Yurara, Penguin Revolution, Mars, Fruits Basket, Godchild, Gatcha Gacha, I.N.V.U., High School Debut, NANA, Love*Com, Goong, From Eroica With Love, Hands Off!, Tenshi Ja Nai!!, Crossroad, VS (Versus), Swan, Your and My Secret, Duck Prince, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat!, Petshop of Horrors, Ouran High School Host Club, Hot Gimmick, Tokyo Boys and Girls, Here is Greenwood, Pearl Pink, x/1999, Flower of Life, Suki, Oyayubihime Infinity, Ultimate Venus, Crimson Hero, Sand Chronicles, Peach Girl, Chocolat, Kitchen Princess, X-Day, Tokyo Babylon, Wild Act, Punch!, Aishiteruze Baby, MeruPuri, Monkey High, Ultramaniac, The Gentlemen's Alliance +, Wild Ones, My Heavenly Hockey Club.....

Are you tired yet? And that is just the shojo I can remember off the top of my head. (Seriously, the fact that there are probably 10-15 titles I'm forgetting here is kind of scary...)

Yet, in spite of the fact I could probably read the same borrowed shojo plot forever and ever, a few borrowed volumes of One Piece look at me forlornly from the bookshelf. "Why don't you like me?!" they seem they say, "I'm fun and for god's sake, Pirates! That is a codeword for crazy adventures, you ninny!" (My One Piece volumes are apparently are too polite to swear at me). It isn't that I don't *like* the story about a stretchy-rubber-goof named Luffy who dreams of becoming the Pirate King. It just seems that I don't like it *quite enough*....whatever thrills me about shojo doesn't seem to carryover to adventure stories highlighting the hopes, dreams, and epic battles of the boys (and ocassionally, half-human half-demon girls in the case of Claymore).

BUT, a large part of me still wants to be inducted into the shonen manga experience that most of fandom seems to share. As proof of this I can only note that I plan to read Slam Dunk once released in its collected form in the states (I believe this title is considered one of the best shonen manga EVAR!!!!11!), but I know there are a whole host of titles currently released that may thrill me (and may not, of course)....I just don't happen to know about them.

So, tell me why Luffy & company need my love or why I should pick up your favorite story about a boy with a dream.....and if you have a question about a shojo title I've listed above that you've always wondered about please let me know...and you and I can share our loves together. This summer I'm going to "beef up" on the boyish and manly side of manga but I certainly wouldn't mind hearing where you all think I should begin my boy's education.

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