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Anime, like everything else in the modern world, is targeted towards specific audiences, both implicitly by the creators, and overtly by the marketing. Though categories are associated with specific sex and ages, this is not a bar on the anime being enjoyed by people who don't fit into that band. Not only do crossover titles exist, but also categories have a considerable following outside their main demographic. This does not invalidate the usefulness of marking a title as one of the categories, they just give a broad impression of an anime, rather than indicating specific content. Discussion on these issues can be found in this forum post.


Note: The descriptions on this page (and others) should be taken with a pinch of salt. These are very wide demographics, used by large publishers, and resist being too closely defined.

18 Restricted

This isn't really an "Audience".

While some anime might feature sexual content they still might not be porn. Thats what this "audience" was added for. Only use it when the content is clearly not intended for minors.

Josei 女性

A subset of anime and manga created mostly by women, for late teenage/adult female audiences.
The stories tend to be about everyday experiences of women living in Japan. Though there are some that cover high school, most cover the lives of adult women in Japan. The style also tends to be a more restrained, realistic version of shōjo, keeping some of the wispy features and getting rid of the very large sparkly eyes. There are exceptions in the style described above, but what defines Josei is some degree of stylistic continuity of comics within this particular demographic (the same is true with different different demographics that have different stylistic tendencies).
In addition, unlike Shoujo, it portrays realistic romance (as opposed to idealized romance). A subset of josei comics are comics that are aimed at women about homosexual male relationships, called yaoi. Josei is also known for a very sexual edge; many of the magazines have some of the raunchiest porn produced in Japan.
The male equivalent to josei is seinen.


Kodomo 子供

For small children. This should be a very clear distinction in most cases. Simple language and animation, vaguely educational themes, and absolutely nothing objectionable.

Mina 皆

For 'the family'. Anything that is deliberately targeted at as wide a range of people as possible. Most common for cinematic and other high budget releases that require a very large audience to be financially viable. Think Ghibli.

Shounen 少年

A style of anime and manga intended for boys. Shounen anime and manga is characterized by high-action, often humorous plots featuring male protagonists. The camaraderie between boys or men on sports teams, fighting squads, etc. is often emphasized. Unrealistically attractive female characters are also common (see fanservice), but are not a requirement—Dragon Ball Z for example has only a few unremarkable female characters. The art style of shounen also tends to be less flowery than that of shoujo, although there is significant variability by artist.
In contrast to shounen, anime and manga for men (college age and up) is called seinen. Despite a number of significant differences, many Western fans don't make a distinction between shounen and seinen. This is due to the fact that very few seinen manga have been published outside of Japan. On the other hand, many older men in Japan read shounen magazines because of their ease of reading during commutes to and from work on trains. Consequently shounen magazines (including Shonen Jump) are the most popular manga magazines in Japan.


Shoujo 少女

A style of anime and manga intended for girls and may have some crossover appeal to boys as well.
Typically, "pure shoujo" manga revolves around love stories and strong female protagonists, however, some "shoujo anime/manga" are more plot/action oriented to attract a wider audience. For instance a lot of older salarymen were drawn to a manga called Banana Fish for its hard edged yakuza action (which is more often found in seinen manga). What kept female audiences interested in this work was a gentle relationship between two gay bishōnen lovers amongst all the violence.
Shoujo anime and manga often contain elements of shounen-ai or even yaoi (sexual relationship between male characters) not to mention shoujo-ai and, recently, yuri (sexual relationship between female characters). The aesthetic of the bishounen is very prominent. Another very popular genre is Magical Girl of which the famous series Sailor Moon is part of.


Seinen 青年

A subset of anime or manga that is generally targeted at a 18 - 25 year old male audience, but the audience can be much older with some comics aimed at businessmen well into their 40s.
Sometimes it is classified as shojo or shonen, but it has distinct features, usually classified by a wider variety of art styles (particularly in manga) and more variation in subject matter, ranging from the avant garde to the pornographic.
The female equivalent to seinen is josei.


How to find the 'target audience'

The readership of the manga

A lot of anime is made off the back of a successful manga - as well as providing the material for story it guarantees a fan base. Obviously it would be possible to take an original work and make a completely different anime out of it, but in practice this doesn't happen as the captive audience is part of the reason it's worth taking the large financial risk. As most successful manga is serialised in magazines aimed at particular demographics, the easiest way to find the target audience for an anime is to see what publication the manga it's based on ran in. If it's a Shounen Jump manga, you can be pretty sure that the anime can be labelled 'Shounen' as well. One possible exception I'll raise here. The Rurouni Kenshin manga was serialised in Shounen Jump from 1994 to 1999. The tv series and movie released from 1996 to 1998, despite being pseudo historical and somewhat more serious than other adventure anime, are quite clearly shounen too. However the ovas, released from 1999 to 2001 seem clearly aimed at the Kenshin fans who, having been reading the manga for 5 years, are perhaps now more interested in the maturer themes, and would be more accurately marked as seinen.

The content of the anime

Basically this is *the* way to tell, but can be deeply misleading if you're not familiar with the conventions. You often see westerners saying seinen must be shoujo, because it has romance in it, or shoujo must be shounen because it's got loads of action, or shounen must be seinen because it's too ecchi for younger boys. In short, a good indicator, but make sure there's some discussion on the off chance you've got the wrong end of the stick.

The 'genre' on anidb, ANN or other english fansites

Generally suffer from the problem indicated above of judging on content, so some kind of discussion is still probably helpful. Though perhaps not always, going by the wikipedia seinen talk page...

Adding an audience category to AniDB

Audience should be considered a strict category - that is, the sum of the ratings of all the leaves should not exceed three stars. So, if you add Shounen as ***, there should be no other audiences set. This is because a full rating is saying that an anime is absolutely part of that demographic (remembering that the definitions themselves are loose). In the case of 'cross over' titles, set ratings that add up to no more that three stars in total

What to do when unsure

If the anime is based not based on a manga, or you can't find out much about the magazine, there are not always obvious indicators. If you have a vauge idea, add a star or so, it's then clear to later editors that changes might be appropriate. However, feel free to get on the IRC channel at irc:// and ask around.

What to do with stuff that doesn't fit

Easy. Don't add anything.

Useful links