Anime/Manga 101: Genres

Hello everybody! I’ve only written two 101’s until now so I thought it’s about time for a  third one. If you’ve read my reviews on anime and manga, you’ve seen me writing about genres. But what do those genres mean? Well, if you read further, you’ll find out!

Anime and manga are usually indicated by two categories: Demographic Aim and Subject. Demographic Aim says something about for which public the manga/anime is written. Subject speaks for itself I guess. I will discuss Demographic Aim and Subjects with subcategories and examples below.

The kodomo anime Hamtaro

Demographic Aim:

  • Kodomo: Kodomo means children. These are anime and manga for the younger public. Kodomo often has a moralistic message. Examples are Pokémon, Hello Kitty.
  • Shonen: Shonen is anime and manga aimed at teenage boys. It has lots of action and humor, and often has a male protagonist. It often emphasizes friendship and rivalry. It is said that this is the most popular genre. Examples are Naruto and Dragon Ball.

Dragon Ball Z is a shonen anime.

  • Shojo: Shojo is aimed at teenage girls. It often focuses on human relationships and emotions and has a girl protagonist, but it can have action too. Examples are Sailor Moon and Vampire Knight.
  • Seinen: Seinen is aimed at adult men. Plots can more complicated, more violent or more sexual than Shonen. Examples are Steins;Gate and Berserk.
  • Josei: Josei is aimed at adult women. It often has a female protagonist and the focus is often on relationships and emotions. Plots are more complicated or sexual than shojo. Examples are Chihayafuru and Bunny Drop.

The Josei manga Natsuyuki Rendevouz

Kodomo, Shonen and Shojo often take place in a fantasy world or a fantasy version of this world. Shojo and Seinen tend to be more realistic, but this is not a rule. In my experience, your age and gender don’t say much about your preferences. I’ve never liked Shojo much and my boyfriend is a fan of Sailor Moon. Anime and manga that appeal to both genders are often categorized under Shonen or Seinen, whereas typical girl anime are always Shojo or Josei.  So don’t be ashamed if you like something that isn’t aimed at your gender or age group! Demographic Aim gives information about the complexity and intensity of the plot and on what the main characters will probably focus.


There are way more subjects than I can discuss here and a lot of them speak for themselves (like sports, supernatural, comedy, drama, etc.). Here I will discuss some of the less obvious ones and ones that are typical for Japanese media.

  • Magical Girl (mahou shoujo): In Magical Girl anime/manga, a group of girls receive magical

    The magical girls from the shojo anime Sailor Moon

    powers. Each one often has a unique power and together they form a group of super heroes who must save the world.This genre is often used in shojo. Examples are Card Capter Sakura or Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

  • Mecha: Giant fighting robots often controlled by humans. Often used in Shonen or Seinen. Examples are Gundam or Robotech.
  • Slice of Life: An anime or manga that shows the everyday life of someone or a group of people. It often concerns a high school club or a working environment.


    Characters cope with everyday problems and relationships. Examples are Gin No Saji (Silver Spoon) and Genshiken.

  • Harem and Reverse Harem: In harem anime, the guy protagonist is surrounded by female supporting characters and in reverse harem it’s the other way around. The focus is on romance and the protagonist has to chose someone at the end. It’s often based on visual novels or dating sims. Harem is aimed at boys and reverse harem is aimed at girls. Examples are the World God Only Knows and Ouran High-School Host Club.
  • Ecchi, Smut, and Hentai: Ecchi comes from the English term ‘on the edge’. Expect losts of panyshots and sideboobs. It is mostly used as a comic relief. Shonen can be ecchi. Smut goes one step further. There is kissing and groping, sometimes an actual boob, bare butts and heavily censored sex scenes. Hentai is porn. This must not be confused with ecchi or smut. The aim of hentai is to get the audience aroused, just with ‘normal’ porn, whereas ecchi and smut are subordinate to the actual story. There are different genres and intensities in hentai, but I’m not going to elaborate on that. Fun fact: It is forbidden to show genitals on Japanese media, which results in censoring specific parts of genitals in official hentai.
  • Bishonen and Bishojo: Bishonen means beautiful boy and bishojo means beautiful girl. It’s a way to describe a character and not really a genre on its own.
  • Shonen-Ai, Shojo-Ai, Yaoi, and Yuri: Shonen-ai means ‘boys love’ and shojo-ai means ‘girls love’. The first focuses on romantic relationships between men and the last on romantic relationships between women. Shonen-ai is aimed at women and Shojo-ai is aimed at men. The emphasis is on the development of the relationship and emotions of the main characters. Yaoi is gay porn (or a story that focuses more on the physical part of the relationship) aimed at women and Yuri is lesbian porn aimed at men. Male gay porn aimed at men is called ‘Bara’ or ‘Gei Comi’ and female gay porn aimed at women doesn’t seem to have a specific term (if you know it, tell me).

    The bishonen protagonists of the shonen-ai anime Sekai-Ichi Hatukoi

To get rid of some prejudices: Shonen-ai and shojo-ai are a common phenomenon in Japanese media since Japan is a lot less homophobic than the US. Western people often associate it with porn, but as I said before, shonen- and shojo-ai focus more on the emotional part of relationships. Shonen-ai is often created by female mangaka and shojo-ai by male mangaka. Shonen-ai is often about accepting who you are and has a deep romantic plot. There can be ‘physical action’ in shonen-ai, but it’s not the main focus (unlike yaoi). Fun fact: In yaoi and shonen-ai, one man in the relationship is the ‘uke’ or ‘bottom’ and the other a ‘seme’ or ‘top’. An example of shonen-ai is Sakai-ichi Hatsukoi and an example of shojo-ai is Strawberry Panic!.

I realise now it looks like all anime and manga have sexual themed genres but these are just the genres that aren’t common in western media or need some extra explanation. Like I said, there are of course also genres like action, drama, adventure, supernatural, comedy, horror, etc. But those don’t need an explanation. Also, it’s important to realise that one manga/anime can have multiple genres and that there are a lot of grey areas.

So, I hoped you learned something because this was a long read! Until next time!


About Tekira

26 year old psychologist, on the quest of finding a job, loves anime and games.

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