The Demographics of Anime and Manga Defined
When it comes to Japanese comics and animation, many of the genres are the same ones commonly used throughout the rest of the world. Action, adventure, drama, comedy, suspense, mystery, horror, and romance are all genres everyone is familiar with, and one doesn't have to look far to find these themes creating the foundation for several Japanese series.
But rather than leaving it at that, many anime and manga series are part of more specific genres that stem from the list of those generally known to those unfamiliar with manga and anime; it is common for many series within one of these genres to have almost identical plots, but there is still a great deal of variety beyond these. Additionally, most anime is based on its manga counterpart, and as manga is often targeted at certain demographics it is read by much of the Japanese population, not just comic fans.
This is one of the most popular types of manga and anime. It is usually combined with another genre and since it is targeted at a young (teen) male audience, shounen series are often referred to as "boy's comics." The main character of these titles is usually a male who embarks on an action-packed adventure in which he is likely to encounter foes and extremely attractive females. The art style of this demographic is usually more angular to complement the subject matter and fanservice is common. One of the most popular titles associated with the shounen demographic is Shounen Jump, an anthology that publishes several shounen titles weekly in Japan and monthly around the world. Many artists of all genres debut in various such anthologies. Popular series include the older Dragonball series and the newer Naruto. Dead giveaways: crazy hair; action and/or violence; the underdog protagonist with huge potential and a destiny to come out on top.
This is the counterpart to shounen and is targeted at young (teen) females and considered "girl's comics." The protagonist is usually a young, teenage girl faced with idealized romance and/or a variety of problems. Again, it usually is combined with another genre and the style tends to be much softer than in shounen manga. The girls tend to be cuter or more distinguished rather than overly-sexy. The guys tend to be handsome and caring rather than extreme like shounen protagonists. Lines are rounder and sharp edges are fewer. Shoujo Beat is the popular anthology that counters Shounen Jump. Popular series include Fruits Basket and Fushigi Yuugi. Dead giveaways: huge, shiny eyes, flowery effects, the girl in love who ends up with multiple admirers.
This is essentially shounen all grown up. Intended for adult males, seinen manga and anime is usually discernible from shounen by its content, which is more graphic and likely to feature adult situations unsuitable for minors. Young Jump is a popular anthology which serializes series such as include Curry naru Shokutaku (Addicted to Curry), which is also a cooking manga, and Girlfriend, which focuses on high schoolers but features extremely sexual content. Dead giveaways: shadows under girls' breasts, panty-shots, male characters that you don't really pay attention to or care about.
This is the counterpart to seinen; it is shoujo all grown up. Josei series are made for women and generally follow the life of a woman. A combination of slice-of-life and romance, the plots of josei manga are often realistic and the style is less extreme than that of shoujo manga and anime. Young You is a popular magazine that serializes josei series such as Honey and Clover, a romantic comedy, and Love Vibes, which follows the romance between two young women. Dead giveaways: an all adult cast.
Often just called "kodomo," manga and anime of this demographic is targeted specifically at children. There tends not to be any themes or content that's unsuitable for children and the plots teach moral values. Tetsuwan Atomu (Mighty Atom or Astro Boy) and Tottoko Hamutarou (Hamtaro) are examples. Dead giveaways: an all animal cast, extreme cuteness with underlying lessons rather than weird, adult undertones.