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Shotacon (ショタコン shotakon?) is a Japanese slang portmanteau of the phrase Shōtarō complex (正太郎コンプレックス shōtarō konpurekkusu?) and describes an attraction to young boys. Outside Japan, the term is used less often with this meaning. It refers to a genre of manga and anime wherein pre-pubescent or pubescent male characters are depicted in a suggestive or erotic manner, whether in the obvious role of object of attraction, or the less apparent role of "subject" (the character the reader is designed to associate with), as in where the young male character is paired with a male, usually in a homoerotic manner, or with a female, in which the general community would call straight shota.[nb 1] It can also apply to postpubescent (adolescent or adult) characters with youthful neotenic features that would make them appear to be younger than they are. The phrase is a reference to the young male character Shōtarō (正太郎?) from Tetsujin 28-go (reworked in English as Gigantor). The equivalent term for attraction to (or art pertaining to erotic portrayal of) young girls is lolicon.
The usage of the term in both Western and Japanese fan cultures includes works ranging from explicitly pornographic to mildly suggestive, romantic or in rare cases, entirely nonsexual, which is not usually classified as "true" shotacon. As with lolicon, shotacon is related to the concepts of kawaii (cuteness) and moe (in which characters are presented as young, cute or helpless in order to increase reader identification and inspire protective feelings). As such, shotacon themes and characters are used in a variety of non-erotic media. Elements of shotacon, like yaoi, are comparatively common in shōjo manga, such as the popular translated manga Loveless (which features an eroticized but unconsummated relationship between the 12-year-old male protagonist and his 20-year-old male "fighter unit"), or the young-appearing character Honey in Ouran High School Host Club. Seinen manga, particularly that aimed at otaku, also occasionally presents eroticized adolescent males in a non-pornographic context, such as the cross-dressing 16-year-old boy in Yubisaki Milk Tea.
In the anime and manga series, Shōtarō is a bold, self-assertive detective who frequently outwits his adversaries and helps to solve cases. Throughout the series, Shōtarō develops close friends within the world. His bishōnen cuteness embodied and formed the term "shotacon", putting a name to an old sexual subculture.
Where the shotacon concept developed is hard to pinpoint, but some of its earliest roots are in readers responses to detective series written by Edogawa Rampo. In his works, a character named Yoshio Kobayashi of "Shōnentanteidan" (Junior Detective Group, similar to the Baker Street Irregulars of Sherlock Holmes) forms a deep dependency with adult protagonist Kogoro Akechi. Kobayashi, a beautiful teenager, constantly concerns himself with Kogoro's cases and well-being, and for a time moves in with the unmarried man. This nonsexual but intimate adult-boy relationship in part inspired the evolution of the shotacon community.
Tamaki Saitō describes the modern shotacon dōjinshi community as having largely formed in the early 1980s and having a roughly even split between males and females. Saitō suggests that shotacon was originally an offshoot of yaoi, but when adopted by male readers became influenced by lolicon; thus, he claims "shota texts by female yaoi authors are structurally identical to yaoi texts, while shota by male otaku clearly position these little boys as young girls with penises."
Shotacon stories are commonly released in semi-monthly anthologies. Sometimes, however, manga artist will publish individual manga volumes. Many shotacon stories are published as doujinshi; Shotaket (ショタケット?) [nb 2], an annual convention to sell shotacon doujin material, was founded in 1995, apparently by a group of male creators. The 2008 Shotaket had over 1000 attendees and offered work from nearly 200 circles.
Shotacon for women is almost exclusively yaoi, and may be published in general yaoi anthology magazines or in one of the few exclusively shotacon yaoi anthologies, such as Shōnen Romance. Because of the possible legal issues, US publishers of yaoi have avoided material depicting notably underage characters. In 2006, Juné released an English translation of Mako Takahashi's Naichaisouyo (泣いちゃいそうよ?) under the title "Almost Crying", a non-erotic shotacon manga; the book contains several stories featuring pubescent male characters, but their relationships are nonsexual.
Shotacon for male readers may feature either homosexual or heterosexual relationships.[nb 3] Both gay and straight shotacon typically involve escapades between smaller, often pubescent males and young adults (older brother/sister figures), sexually frustrated authority figures (teacher/boss), significantly older "uncle/aunt" figures (neighborhood acquaintances, actual family members), or outright father or mother figures (adopted, step, or full blood relation). Outside of these tropes, stories that involve only young boys (with no older characters) are not rare, with the most common recurring theme being a classmate relation.
Shota stories may be published in (a subset of) general seijin (men's pornographic) manga anthologies or in the few seijin shota manga anthologies, such as Shōnen Ai no Bigaku, which specializes in male-male stories. Some gay men's magazines which offer a particularly broad mix of pornographic material occasionally run stories or manga featuring peri-pubescent characters.
In 2006, the seijin shotacon OVA anime Boku no Pico (ぼくのぴこ?, lit. My Pico), which the producer has described as the first shotacon anime, was released. It was later followed by three sequels. However, three years previously an OVA based on the eroge Enzai was created, featuring explicit sexual acts involving young boys.
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