All of them. Every single game. Final Fantasy’s target demographic is “young male”, as in middle to high school boy. We can see this in the manga they have:
- Final Fantasy XII: the Manga
- Final Fantasy Type-0
These mangas are shōnen because ALL Final Fantasy games have the young male in mind. So what is a shōnen?
Shōnen, shonen, or shounen manga (少年漫画 shōnen manga) is manga aimed at a young male audience. The age group varies with individual readers and different magazines, but it is primarily intended for boys between the ages of 8 to 18. The kanji characters (少年) literally mean “boy” (or “youth”), and the characters (漫画) mean “cartoon” or “comic”. Thus, the complete phrase means “young person’s comic”, or simply “boys’ comic”; its female equivalent is shōjo manga. Shōnen manga is the most popular form of manga.
Sure, this is what a shōnen is, but what makes all of the Final Fantasy games a shōnen?
Shōnen manga is typically characterized by high-action, often humorous plots featuring male protagonists. The camaraderie between boys or men on sports teams, fighting squads and the like is often emphasized. Main characters may also feature an ongoing desire to better themselves.
Sound familiar? Except for the “sports teams” (oh OK, blitzball in Final Fantasy X) Final Fantasy games follow this structure perfectly. And don’t forget, Final Fantasy Type-0’s manga was first printed in Shounen Gangan.
Of course, this doesn’t mean females can’t play Final Fantasy. Of course not. Older fans can play these games as well. There’s nothing wrong with a person of any age, race or gender playing and getting enjoyment out of Final Fantasy. But females, just like older male fans, are playing games designed for young males (read: boys).
But there are at least five demographic titles in Japan. Couldn’t the Final Fantasy games have targeted other audiences? They could have been, but they haven’t yet. The manga does not comprise a style or genre, but rather indicates a target demographic. This is why Final Fantasy isn’t content to remain in the strict notion of “medieval fantasy” genre anymore. Let’s list the other four here:
Shōjo, shojo, or shoujo manga (少女漫画 shōjo manga) is manga aimed at a teenage female readership. The name romanizes the Japanese 少女 (shōjo), literally “young woman”. Shōjo manga covers many subjects in a variety of narrative styles, from historical drama to science fiction, often with a focus on romantic relationships or emotions.
Shōjo is for girls; that is, “young female readership”. The closest Final Fantasy came to a shōjo could have been Final Fantasy XIII’s trilogy. Obviously because of the female leads, but it also deals heavily with the same melodramatic emotions some fans found disgusting. Otherwise, Final Fantasy deals with the exact same themes as most shōnen manga. And it’s not uncommon for shōnen to have female leads
Seinen manga (青年漫画) are manga marketed toward adolescent boys and men old enough to read kanji. In Japanese, the word “seinen” literally means “youth,” but the term “seinen manga” is also used to describe the target audience of comics like Weekly Manga Times and Weekly Manga Goraku which are aimed at men from their 20s to their 50s.
“Aha! Right!? Final Fantasy isn’t a shōnen, Gary. They’re seinen because
I’m older than 25 they’re obviously marketed towards mature audiences. Like, they contain blood and death and stuff. Sometimes cleavage and legs. Tidus and Yuna totally did it together with each other in that one scene, so they’re mature.”
Well, not so fast…
A common way to tell if a manga is a seinen is by looking at whether or not furigana is used over the original kanji text: if there are furigana on all kanji, the title is generally aimed at a younger audience.
I’m pretty sure Final Fantasy Type-0 manga contains furigana, a Japanese reading aid printed next to kanji. Even if it doesn’t, Final Fantasy Type-0’s manga is still a shōnen. The game itself is [M] for “mature”.
We distinguish two different ideas for the term “mature”: content and concepts. Final Fantasy rarely deals with either in a mature way. Yet they still manage to make good stories. Type-0 comes close. Close.
The female equivalent to seinen manga is josei manga.
Oh? What’s josei?
Josei manga (女性漫画, lit. comics for women, pronounced [dʑoseː]) are Japanese comics aimed at women in their late teens on into adulthood. Josei manga is distinguished from “shōjo manga” (少女漫画) for younger girls on the one hand, and “ladies comics” (レディースコミックス redīsu komikkusu) or “LadyComi” (レディコミ redikomi), which tend to have erotic content on the other. Readers can range in age from 15 to 44. In Japanese, the word josei means simply “woman”, “female”, “feminine”, “womanhood”, and has no manga-related connotations at all.
Oh. Right. Next…
Josei comics can portray realistic romance, as opposed to the mostly idealized romance of shōjo manga, but it does not always have to be. Josei tends to be both more sexually explicit and contain more mature storytelling, although that is not always true either. It is also not unusual for themes such as infidelity and rape to occur in josei manga targeted specifically more towards mature audiences.
There, now we can move on. I think you see why the developers cut Lunafreya’s abuse scenes from Final Fantasy XV’s “shōnen” presentation.
Children’s manga (子供向け漫画 Kodomo-muke manga) and children’s anime (子供向けアニメ Kodomo-muke anime), are Japanese terms which literally mean “manga (or “anime”, respectively) directed towards children”. Children’s manga are also known by the word “Kodomo”, or “child”. These stories are often moralistic, teaching children how to behave as good and considerate people and helping them to stay on the right path in life.
No. None of them. Not even close. Well, maybe the Chocobo series. But not even Final Fantasy IX in its original conception as a spinoff title was a Kodomomuke. Zidane’s cheerful attitude and self-righteous moralizing come very, very close (“Virtue. You don’t need a reason to help people.”). But that’s just a leftover to earlier times. Otherwise, Final Fantasy IX is an introspective shōnen that appeals to all, even one that middle-aged men can like and appreciate. And there’s nothing wrong with that…
I repeat: there’s nothing wrong with playing Final Fantasy at any age or gender.