Shojo Anime - Magical Girls, Romance, Butlers and Ducks!
At the most basic level, shojo anime is Japanese animation that is specifically intended for young girls. It can cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from idealized romantic relationships to girls who fight crime and monsters with their magical powers. The animation style that is typically used in shojo anime is very pretty, and many shojo anime tend to use the "big eyes, small mouth" convention of art. The truth is that even though shojo anime is aimed at young girls between the ages of eight and thirteen, it is actually a genre that can be enjoyed by fans of any ages. For instance, Sailor Moon was one of the very first anime imported and widely distributed in America, and it has a cult following that covers fans of every type!
When looking at shojo anime, you may be a little bit surprised at the diversity of topics. For instance, one common type of shojo anime is the magical girl story, where a young girl realizes that she has magical powers and must use them to fight evil and to save the world. Sailor Moon is one anime that falls neatly into this type, though there are certainly others. Another common theme that you might see is a more realistic story about a young girl who deals with romance and friendship in a familiar setting like a junior high school. One example of this type of anime includes Hana Yori Dango, also known as Boys Over Flowers, where Makino Tsukushi, a working class girl, attends an elite academy and must deal with both bullying and her first real relationship.
Interestingly, some anime do not deal with girls as main characters at all, and are merely directed at young girls. One example of this would be Kuroshitsuji, or Black Butler, which is set in Victorian England and features the adventures of a young boy named Ciel, who investigates crimes for the queen and is assisted by his demonic butler.
Though each anime is different, and though there are exceptions to every rule, shojo anime tends to be focused more on emotions and feelings over action. There is special emphasis on how the characters behave and what they think, and though all of the series listed above have action sequences, there is a fair amount of time spent on what those actions mean and what the consequences might be.
One terrific example of a great shojo anime is Princess Tutu, which tackles love, relationships, responsibility and fairy tales! In this anime, a small duck called Ahiru is granted her wish to become a girl and to dance with the "prince," a beautiful silent boy named Mytho. She realizes that his heart has literally been shattered and that she must restore it, which can she can do by touching an amulet and becoming Princess Tutu. The story takes place at a animai girls ballet school, and Ahiru slowly learns that nothing is as it seems, and that the ones she originally believed were enemies are nothing of the sort.