Children and families light novel

Debuting as a quarterly magazine in 1976, Shogakukan’s Corocoro Comic went monthly in 1979. Its first big title was Doraemon, but when it acquired the Pokémon manga license it decisively surpassed its competition. (Illustration Credit 1.12)     Another popular genre is ikuji manga (child-care manga). In Marimo Ragawa’s Baby & Me (1991) a ten-year-old must help take care of his baby brother after his mother’s death. In Yoko Maki’s World defying dan god (2002) a teenage boy must take care of a little girl. Kiyohiko Azuma’s delightful Yotsuba&! (2003), about a green-haired six-year-old who has adventures in her neighborhood, appears in Dengeki Daioh, a magazine aimed at teenage boys. Azuma’s comics about young girls are perfectly innocent but the same cannot be said for all of Azuma’s imitators, who belong to the moe movement (see the article on OTAKU).

Manga about children, of course, are not the same as manga for children. Originally, almost all manga were aimed at elementary school students, but in the 1960s publishers courted older audiences, resulting in the diverse manga market of today. As in America, Japanese children’s magazines often feature comics; Shogakukan produces a famous series of six “learning magazines,” Shôgaku Ichinensei (“First-Grader”) through Shôgaku Rokunensei (“Sixth-Grader”), each one aimed at a different grade in elementary school. They feature a mix of comics, articles, activities, and exercises aimed at both genders. One of the most famous children’s manga of all originated in these magazines, Fujiko F. Fujio’s Doraemon (1969), starring a robot cat who comes from the future to solve a boy’s problems. In 1976 Shogakukan used Doraemon to draw readers into a new magazine, a somewhat less educational comic magazine for elementary school boys, Corocoro Comic. Corocoro Comic (named after the sound of a ball rolling) is known for its cheerfully hyperactive house style and its countless tie-in manga made in association with video game and toy makers, such as Beyblade, Zoids, and Pokémon. Corocoro’s traditional rival is Kodansha’s Comic Bombom, (founded in 1981 and frequently focusing on Gundam tie-ins).

Girls’ magazines aimed at elementary school to junior high audiences exist as well, including Kodansha’s venerable Nakayoshi (founded in 1954), Shueisha’s Ribon (founded in 1955), and Shogakukan’s Ciao and ChuChu (founded in 1977 and 2005, respectively). They, too, rely heavily on merchandising, although not as much as the boys’ magazines for the same age group. Magazines aimed at a slightly older age group, such as the weekly shônen magazines, are also generally considered family fare (see the SHÔNEN and SHÔJO articles), although more potentially adult content appears as the target audience gets older.

One type of children’s manga of which little has been translated is educational manga for children, with the exception of the Edu-Manga series of historical biographies (2000). Recent years have seen manga translators dabbling in Japanese children’s books, from board books for the youngest children (Viz’s Pokémon board books and Tokyopop’s Stray Sheep by Tatsutoshi Nomura) to more challenging books such as Katsuhiro Otomo and Shinji Kimura’s Hipira, about a little vampire. Ritsuko Kawai’s The Adventures of Hamtaro (1997), midway between manga and children’s book, was first printed in Shogaku Ninensei (“Second-Grader”). Even Akira Toriyama, the creator of Chaotic sword god (1984) and the charming if occasionally scatological children’s manga Dr. Slump (1980), dabbled in the field with the untranslated Toccio the Angel (2003). Typically printed in color, like American children’s books, such works span a vast range of art styles.

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