There are lots of companies out there publishing manga now. It’s become one of the fastest growing segments of the publishing sector, with major publishers getting in with the specialty publishers. So it can be overwhelming when looking at the manga section in a Barnes and Noble and see all the logos on books and not know if they are appropriate for you child.
Most manga have rating for the ages the publisher feels the title is most appropriate for based on the content. There is no set standard at the moment. Publishers do this of their own free will. It’s to their advantage as well as to parents to rate their book by age-appropriateness. While not all publishers use the exact same standards, there are some basic guidelines they all follow. Manga titles will, in general, be broken down in the following manner:
All Ages/Everyone – These are books that can be read by children up to adults. These titles don’t tend to have complex story lines. The violence is kept to a minimum, through some might have some fighting elements. At the moment, there are not a lot of titles in this range available.
Teen/13+ – These are books that will appeal most to tween/teens. The plots in this range are more complex, bringing in elements of romance, and more sophisticated conflicts. These titles can have a lot of fighting and blood. Moral choices also start to showing up in the plots. This is the range with the largest selection, as teens have been the biggest market.
Older Teen/16+ – These are books with content that is more appropriate for young adults. Language and content is more explicit in these titles. The plots can be very complex, and moral ambiguity becomes more prominant. They walk the line between teen and adult.
Mature/18+ – This age group is a little bigger than the all ages, but not by much. These titles contain content and/or art that is considered too explicit for younger audiences. Titles in this range can be very bloody, violent or disturbing. Hentai and Yaoi are also in this category.
Some companies use very rigorous standards to come up with their ratings. Tokyopop has touted their 42-point standards to come up with their ratings. Yen Press, along with the rating will give specifics such as language and violence on the back cover with rating so you can see specifically what gave it it’s rating.
Viz, as well as the rating, break up a lot of their titles by branding them. Shonen Jump titles tend to for be all ages and teens. Shonen Jump Advanced if for older teens. Shojo Beat is also for older teens, but are more romance/drama titles directed at girls. Viz Media are also for older teens, and tend to be titles that don’t fit into Shonen Jump Advanced or Shojo Beat. Viz Signature is for Mature, with a lot of horror, sex and violence.
Dark Horse as far as I can tell, is the only company that does not put age ratings on their titles, leaving it up to comsumers and retailers to figure it out. Since most of their titles are shrink wrapped, it isn’t too hard to figure out, but they have some teen titles and should do more to let people know about them.