“We’re high school girls. That’s the brand most likely to succeed from Japan.” High School Girls, Anime by Yoshitaka Fujimoto
This bad-sounding term refers to a trend of Japanese popular culture and consumption, known as “shoujoization”, meaning the new “power” of the adolescent girl (shoujo). Shortly, it refers to a new consumption trend leaded by young middle and high school girls, who dictate a large part of the Japanese popular culture.
This can be originated in one major and well-known book, Kitchen, by an even more famous female novelist, nicknamed as Yoshimoto Banana, daughter of an equally famous Japanese post-war intellectual, Yoshimoto Takaaki.
Different trends can be identified from the miscellaneous “shoujo” subculture: “lolita”, referring to Nabokov famous novel, “kogyaru” or kawaii. All these trends are as usual firstly defined by their look, their clothing style. But also it has influenced all the Japanese popular culture, especially mange and anime, through a typical brand, known as “shoujo” manga. If it originally meant a girl’s manga, all of its canons have been transplanted to the vast shoujo subculture and mode of consumption.
However this isn’t only directed to young girls but also to young women and even boys. The references of the kawaii and kogyaru culture is also shared by some young males and women that progressively adopt language, consumption modes and cultural trends of the “shoujo”. Indeed many of the young women, around 15 millions of female Japanese, according to Jean-Marie Bouissou (2003), are consuming products referring to that “shoujo” subculture.
Critics and “moral panic”
Opposed to the traditional role of women, the “shoujo” are deliberately refusing the word, as it is normalized through gender and social categories. Critics frequently arise to criticize their exacerbated individualism, their way of life, exclusively turned to consumption and pleasure and denying “traditional” or not ways to behave in society, such as being a working woman or founding a family and having children. Furthermore, some of them are also refusing “racial” categories, as it has been and still is nowadays dictated by the Japanese power, by adopting a artificially darken skin for example. (Jean-Marie Bouissou, 2003)
- Bouissou, Jean-Marie, Quand les sumos apprennent à danser. La fin du modèle japonais, Paris, Fayard, 2003 - Gomarasca, Alessandro (dir.), Poupées et robots. La culture pop japonaise, Paris, Autrement, 2002 - Treat, John W., Contemporary Japan and Popular