The following are some terms you should know as a parent to keep your child from rolling their eyes at you as they try and convince you it okay for them to read the new Yaoi title their friend just got.
Shonen: (Show-nen) – Literally “boy” in Japanese. This is most often used to refer to titles that were written for boys. They tend to have lots of action, especially battles and fighting. These manga most often have a male main character that has some ability that they must learn to use and train to get better at in order to save their friends/family/city/nation/planet/universe from a great evil. These titles are very extroverted in nature with characters that once they realize their ability strive to do anything and everything they can to acheive their goal.
Examples include: Naruto, Bleach, One Piece
Shojo: (Show-joe) – Literally “girl” in Japanese. This is most often used to refer to titles that were written for girls. They tend to have lots of romance and drama. These manga most often have a female main character that is dealing with more mundane things like school, friends, family and first love. These titles are more introverted in nature, dealing with the main character’s personal problems, and finding the inner strength to overcome them.
Examples include: Sand Chronicles, Crimson Hero, Mamotte Lollipop
YAOI: (Yah-oy) – This is also referred to as BL or Boy Love. The actually word is an anagram. These are titles that are made for adults but are very popular with girls of all ages. Pornographic in nature, these titles feature two male leads, both very beautiful, and one more feminine or submissive. These titles are more like fantasy romances, with a lot of emphasis put on the relationship but also with graphic scenes depicted.
Parents of girls need to be more wary of these titles. If one is ever found in a book or comic book store, it will be wrapped in plastic, and rated Mature. I make a warning about these, as they are very popular with girls, and your daughter may try and get one past you. Please remember, these are not representative of all manga, and only are a small segment of the genre in general.
Shonen-ai: (Shown-en Eye) – Literally “Boy Love” in Japanese. This is related to Yaoi. It still involves males having feelings for each other, but it is much more subtle. It aren’t any graphic scenes. The relationships are implied but rarely acted on.
Examples: Descendents of Darkness, Antique Bakery
Yuri: (UR-EE) – Literally “Lily” in Japanese. This is the female version of Yaoi. It features two female leads having a relationship. All titles featuring female-female relationships are put into this category, regardless of explicitness. There are not as many of these titles as there are of Yaoi, though it is slowly growing.
Examples: Kashimashi, Venus vs Virus
Senein (Sen-ayn) & Josei (Joe-say) – Literally “Men” & “Ladies” in Japanese respectively. These represent the small segment of manga at the moment. They are mature titles with more sophisticated plots and writing than shonen or shojo. They can also be more graphic with violence and gore. These will always have a “M” rating, but not always wrapped in plastic.
Examples include: Blade of the Immortal, Nana
Hentai: (Hen-tie) – Literally “sexual pervert” in Japanese. This is straight out pornography. These titles are available online, and you won’t find these in brick and mortar stores. Publishers tend to specialize in these titles and not mix with the other demographics. A search of Amazon.com will bring up these kind of titles, so be aware. Please remember, these are not representative of all manga, and only are a small segment of the genre in general.