Shōjo Manga Expert Uses Statistics to Reveal 'What Girls Truly Want'
posted on by Eric Stimson
Midori Makita can rightfully call himself a manga expert — he's read thousands and thousands of pages of manga over many years. But he works as a statistical analyst and approaches manga from an analytical point of view, collecting data from each series he reads to reveal what it says about the larger manga-reading audience. So far he's mostly focused on erotic manga aimed at a male readership, but last year he turned to shōjo and josei manga to find out what themes and characters drive female interest. He's published his findings in a dōjinshi, Ren'ai Tōkei ("The Statistics of Romance"), which is available at Comiket and online.
Makita's work analyzed 356 works (totaling 12,580 pages) published in 2016. He consulted four magazines for children, eight for a general audience, 13 for teenagers and four for adults. As such, his study is skewed towards girls' magazines, although he draws conclusions about the pressures of womanhood.
Makita found that the object of the protagonists' desire is usually a "high-spec" boy: one with talents, dashing looks, and fame. 55% of male love interests in teen manga are talented, as are 54% in children's manga and 34% in general manga. Meanwhile, the protagonists are often burdened with an inferiority complex: they aren't good at their job, they're hassled by their parents, they're poor, they're fat, they lack self-confidence, etc. Although a minority are good at their work, their talents only isolate them and they are "not seen as women." Makita found that 70% of female protagonists in children's manga had inferiority complexes, as did 67% in general manga and 53% in teen manga.
"Troubled heroines are a reflection of reality," Makita says. "In modern society, being a woman is a handicap. Wages, promotion, marriage, childbirth...... the issues heroines have are the ones readers hope to solve."
Makita also noticed that boys are more likely to praise the protagonist (or flatter her, or tell her "I love you") as the story progresses. In his view, this reinforces the pattern of highly skilled boys falling for unremarkable heroines. "By being loved by talented, popular, high-status boys, you feel like you might be recognized by society as well," he explains.
A graph of the frequency of praise as the story progresses
Throughout, Makita points out that the heroines are passive while their love interests are active. 93% of love interests in adult manga court the protagonists, while 89% do so in teen manga, 82% do so in children's manga, and 76% do in general manga. This pattern is further reflected by analyzing hugs: 44 to 81% of girls are hugged by boys, while only 12 to 24% of girls do the hugging. Makita also points to the kabe-don trope whereby boys (sort of) pin girls against a wall. It shows that girls want to be "wanted (loved) so much they're a bit shocked... but the one who loves them has to be good-looking," of course.
For girls who aren't interested in these tropes, there's always BL (or yaoi) manga. Makita has also analyzed these in his 2015 book BL Tōkei ("The Statistics of BL," seen above), and found that the uke (feminine partner) in the relationships depicted in these manga is more likely to take the leading role — 54% versus 39% for the seme (masculine partner). He also found that stories take place from either partner's perspective (unlike shōjo manga, which are almost always from a female perspective) and have a greater variety of personalities and relationships than shōjo manga. Makita doesn't think readers necessarily see themselves reflected in the characters; rather, they are happy being "the wall in the room where the couple is. They're safe stories without any connection to [the readers]."
So what determines which type of manga girls gravitate to — shōjo or yaoi? Makita thinks it depends on their reaction to the stress they feel while negotiating the modern world. "Women's romance manga get close to the source of stress in a patriarchal society — a man of high social status. BL [manga] runs away to a world without women. Women who like BL need an escape from the toils of being women."
Source: withnews: Akemi Harada