Japanese popular media is an interesting beast. Unlike in the US, teenage girls are still seen as a viable audience, and there is a huge volume of work aimed at them. Through shoujo manga and anime, teenage girls are able to explore complicated feelings and issues, or just escape from the oppressively conformist Japanese society. However, as in all media, manga and anime reflect the world and culture in which it was created; in this case, a culture with extremely rigid gender roles. Anime and manga have attained a worldwide reach, much of it consumed by young men and women at an extremely impressionable age. We owe it to young girls to critically examine the messages conveyed in media, both aimed at them and not, do that we can create a world where girls and young women are allowed to be who they are, instead of being forced into roles where they never truly feel comfortable.
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