Apparently I’m not keeping up with my anime and manga news as much as I should be, because Shonen Jump arrived in the mail today with a letter stating that Shojo Beat has been canceled by Viz Media!
For those non-manga fans, in Japan people tend to purchase magazine collections of serialized comics that are often categorized based on their target audience, the most common being shojo (girls) and shonen (boys). Here’s a breakdown of the most common types of manga- note that readership is not necessarily constrained by target demographic. Here’s Shojo Beat’s definition of shojo:
Shojo (show-joe) means “girl” in Japanese. Shojo manga are often characterized by a moody, abstract art style, with close-ups of characters’ faces intermingling with dreamy backdrops. In contrast to action-oriented shonen (boys’) manga, shojo manga ruminate on themes of emotion, love, identity, and responsibility that often play out internally. That said, shojo manga are by no means just for girls. Shojo stories are about aspects of life that concern everyone—boys and girls, old and young. Note: The word shojo normally appears with a circumflex or macron over the first o, as in shôjo; we removed it for the sake of simplicity and readability in the magazine.
American companies and distributors have attempted to release similar magazines in the US; earlier examples are Viz’s Animerica Extra and Pulp, and TokyoPop’s (then Mixx) Mixx-zine and Smile magazines. Smile even had the same “girls” demographic as Shojo Beat and was a home of Sailor Moon for awhile. (As a side note, back in those days I had the opportunity to interact with some of the people at Mixx, which had it’s own bizarre internal politics and public controversy that might be worth examining.) None of those magazines are around anymore, but Viz’s serialized publications eventually became Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat. Holly and I were big fans, and are pretty disappointed with the news. It sounds like others might be disappointed as well. We were automatically subscribed to Shonen Jump for the remainder of our subscription, but we canceled that; Shonen Jump has never had stories that really interested us quite as much.
This departure leaves the American serialized comics market pretty bare- the only thing we’re subscribing to now is Yen Plus, which is nothing if not diverse with Japanese, Korean and American stories for different audiences. Yen Plus has an unfortunate tendency to use their magazine for what is basically advertising- that is, they’ll show a graphic novel’s worth of stories from a particular title to try to get you to buy the graphic novel series and then drop the title. Despite that, it’s got some interesting stuff, particularly if you’ve got diverse tastes.