How can you spot a retro shoujo girl? What are the characteristics? By the end of this list, you will be an expert.
Fluffy, delicate blond hair. The curlier and more exotic, the better. Even if the heroine does not have blond hair, she may still be depicted that way on the cover. This was most likely done to cash in on the "exotic" trend.
They tend to live in an exotic (to the Japanese reader, anyway) setting, be it on a farm in Iowa or a waterside estate in France. Foreign girls ruled the roost in old school shoujo, it seems. They were everywhere, and their stories were dominated by passionate romance and dramatic tragedies. Many of these young ladies ended up losing a family member, or somebody that they were falling in love with, to sickness or a horrible accident; their pillows had seen their share of tears, that is for certain. Nowadays I see a shift to fictional, magical worlds as opposed to simply outside Japan (not that girls from magic lands didn't exist then, either). Mayme Angel (1979), right, depicts stories of love and loss on the treacherous American pioneer trail. Ouke no Monshou (1976), below, stars an American named Carol, who, by way of magic, is sent back to ancient Egypt; Candy Candy (1975) stars an orphan named Candy who grew up near Lake Michigan; Swan (1976) does not star a foreigner but features many, from a Russian ballet instructor to a passionately hopeful British student.
Of course, we can't forget about the gooey, starry eyes that plague so many of the girls. Aside from the curly blond hair, the glittery eyes are the biggest and most obvious clue as to what decade a series came from (or is parodying in later decades). I am not quite sure where and why this started, but I would love to learn more at some point. I think this is supposed to represent the "spark" of youth, or perhaps add emphasis to the incredibly dramatic storylines. Hikami no Koibito-tachi (1975), left, gives us an example. Viva! Volleyball (1970), Kanaduchi no Kisetsu (1973), and Seifuku no Mune ni Kono Ai wo (1971), below, also present a unique take on this notable trope.
This recent makeup ad perfectly showcases what makes a retro shoujo girl. Notice the defined lips, sparkly eyes, curly hair, and finger touching the lips. Though mostly for parody purposes, old school shoujo is still active in some form in Japan - you just have to look for it!
MORE COMING SOON!