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  • Shōjo Across Media: Exploring "Girl" Practices in Contemporary Japan ed. by Jaqueline Berndt et al.
  • Deborah Shamoon (bio)
Shōjo Across Media: Exploring "Girl" Practices in Contemporary Japan. Edited by Jaqueline Berndt, Kazumi Nagaike, and Fusami Ogi. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, Switzerland, 2019. xx, 397 pages. $119.99, cloth; $89.00, E-book.

The shōjo or teenage girl is a major topic in contemporary Japan, intersecting crucially with concepts of modernity, gender identity, and national identity. While shōjo as an area of scholarly inquiry was ignored or marginalized until relatively recently, in the last ten years a number of book-length studies and anthologies have emerged to demonstrate the importance of this subject. Writing on the shōjo has tended to focus on girls' novels and girls' manga, as these are primary sites of shōjo cultural production. The anthologies Girl Reading Girl in Japan, Women's Manga in Asia and Beyond, and Manga at a Crossroads show that this is a dynamic and developing subfield of Japan studies.1 Adding to this scholarly discourse is the new collection Shōjo Across Media, which includes contributions by some of the most productive scholars working in this area. The strength of Shōjo Across Media, as the title implies, is the cross-disciplinary approach. In addition to shōjo manga, the collection also addresses other contemporary forms of popular culture which represent girls or have a significant female fandom. Taken as a whole, this collection shows the centrality of shōjo images and shōjo practices in contemporary Japan, as well as suggesting new approaches to analyzing these media.

In the introduction, Jaqueline Berndt begins by making the crucial distinction between the real lives of girls and the shōjo as a media image, what she calls a "character type," a "crafted concept," and a "performative practice" (pp. 1–2). This frees the argument from tiresome and reductive debates over ideological purity, whether or not pop culture representations of girls are feminist or progressive enough, or anxiety over how girls may be misrepresented or harmed by the media they consume. Instead, Berndt cites Heather Warren-Crow in claiming that girlhood is a "performative process" (p. 2) that encompasses transcultural and transmedia expressions, a locus of [End Page 255] cultural production that is important not only for girls and young women themselves, but also for the mediascape in general.2 Berndt rightly criticizes the tendency in English-language shōjo scholarship to revert to narratives of empowerment to legitimize female consumption of shōjo media, particularly shōjo manga, rather than finding value in shōjo media on its own terms or asking what meaning it has for its target audience. Berndt refers to Honda Masuko's groundbreaking work on shōjo aesthetics as the primary example of analysis that locates political meaning in the seemingly frivolous "fluttering" (hirahira) aspects of girls' culture instead of vainly searching for overt signs of subversion of patriarchal authority in girls' media (p. 4). As Berndt suggests, the most productive scholarship in shōjo studies takes girls' media seriously in its own right and looks for new methods of analyzing new media. The volume builds on previous scholarship by avoiding well-trod ground, particularly in shōjo manga, while adding significantly original topics and approaches. The volume is divided into four sections, the first on shōjo manga, the second on other media, namely novels, film, and anime, while the last two sections consider various forms of shōjo fandoms and fan practices, including fashion, cosplay, Takarazuka, and visual kei.

The chapter with perhaps the most significance for English-language scholarship on shōjo media is "Multilayered Performers: The Takarazuka Revue as Media" by Azuma Sonoko. Azuma provides a very useful summary of the scholarship on Takarazuka to date, with emphasis on Japaneselanguage scholarship, much of which has not been translated. Takarazuka is a contentious topic in English-language scholarship, with some such as Jennifer Robertson analyzing its performance and fan practices through the lens of American queer studies, while others such as Yamanashi Makiko interpret the appeal of cross-dressing in terms of prewar girls' culture (shōjo bunka) ideals of...