Female Pioneers of Shōjo: 西谷祥子 Nishitani Yoshiko.
As I’ve been digging deeper into the female shōjo artists of the 50s/60s/70s, I have found so many incredible women who ultimately helped grow the medium from a niche industry to a mainstream cultural mainstay. Unfortunately, there is very little written about many of these artists. Yet, I find tons of articles about their male publishers and peers.
NIshitani Yoshiko is another pioneering female shojo artist. I haven’t been able to learn very much about her life and thoughts. Like many other artists I’ve covered here, she was overshadowed by her male peers. However, her name comes up time and time again as an artist that influenced generations of aspiring manjaka. According to Matt Thorn (a high profile manga historian/curator), Nishitani "more or less single-handedly invented the school campus romance that remains the mainstay of shôjo manga today.” She also revolutionized the kinds of characters we see now. Previously, the female protagonists of shōjo tended to be aristocratic, fantastical, perfection in all ways. She filled her stories with real, actual teenage girls. Her protagonists had families, friends, worries, and crushes. Manga scholars agree that her serial Mary Lou introduced the concept of relatable, girl-next-door protagonists. Readers loved this new approach. Her success—and use of more relatable, realistic characters—drew more female artists to the manga industry.