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What Do You Mean, It's Not for Little Girls?

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Rated M for "My Daughter?"

YouTube user: Is this a children's show? If so, why is there a picture of girl mounting another girl lying on the floor?
Uploader: It's NOT a children show.
— Comments on the opening to Hidamari Sketch
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So you find a new show and it has an all female cast, lots of pastel colors, and Tastes Like Diabetes levels of cuteness. And you think "this would be a perfect show for my eight-year-old sister."

And then you discover that the show airs at three AM and has a fandom that's mostly 16 to 40 year-old males. After the initial shock is over you start to wonder why any man would even consider watching a show like this. Well, it's because men like cute girls.

That's not to say that such shows necessarily contain things that would be inappropriate for your little sister, it's just that they're not specifically intended for little girls to watch. Some of these shows do manage a female fanbase on the side. Relatedly, entertainment actually targeted to young girls, especially in the field of music, has become increasingly sexualized, blurring the lines further. The classic examples are idol singers and girl groups such as Britney Spears, the Spice Girls, and Destiny's Child. Just take a look at any Toddlers & Tiaras-type show.

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A subtrope of What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?. Not to be confused with a Subverted Kids Show, which is meant to horrify, or a show that is for little girls but also has an older male fanbase.

See also Moe, Girl-Show Ghetto, Testosterone Brigade and Values Dissonance. Can be a problem if a Moral Guardian shows this to a child and it's a Yuri Genre show. Compare with Multiple Demographic Appeal.

Again, note that all that is actually required for this trope is that the work is aimed at an older audience, not that it has any overt child-unfriendly content.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • It's Happy Bunny looks like a cute cartoon character but is associated with insulting slogans.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Strike Witches might seem to be for girls judging from the cast, but any of the promotional art should make it clear, from the skimpy outfits and aerial combat, that it is filled with Fanservice all the way through.
  • When you first hear that Kiss Players is about Transformers powering up by getting a kiss from a human girl, you might think that the series is aimed at young girls. But then when you see the blatant, unrelenting sexual imagery, you think different.
  • Inverted for Hime Chen Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri, while it is for girls, it is also for a more open market then just young girls due to Telecom's Past Productions.
  • The trope is actually inverted by Sabagebu!. The anime especially looks like moe seinen incarnate, complete with fanservice, but the manga is in fact shojo.
  • Chi's Sweet Home is about a cute little kitty cat and it's in a... seinen manga magazine. What makes this worse is that in Italy, the anime aired on preschool channel JimJam alongside such fare as Hello Kitty and Angelina Ballerina. There is nothing actually inappropriate for young kids in the series though, so how the heck a manga as child friendly as this ended up in a seinen magazine will be a Riddle for the Ages. (Fridge Logic suggests that the staff of the magazine probably thought Chi's Sweet Home would serve as a palate cleanser for the readers in case the seinen mangas got too violent for their taste).
  • Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, while slapsticky, was aiming for the otaku audience from the start. Some of the things Twenty does are a big enough giveaway.
  • Bamboo Blade: It's about a group of high school girls who are in their school's kendo club. And the manga is serialized in a... seinen manga magazine.
  • Yuru-Yuri might be about cute middle-school girls, but it has plenty of yuri and it's clearly for a male audience.
  • Chobits, a fanservicey pseudo-harem where the adorable Robot Girl is a clumsy metaphor for someone who isn't asexual being in a relationship with someone who is. Or something. It was adored by teenage and preteen girls at the Turn of the Millennium anime boom, probably because their parents glanced at the covers and thought it must be innocent and girly.
  • Sasami: Magical Girls Club is a Cute Witch anime that superficially looks a lot like Ojamajo Doremi. It aired at 1:30 am.
  • A Little Snow Fairy Sugar is an extremely cutesy show about a young girl who hangs out with cute little fairies who create the weather. It aired at Otaku O'Clock and the manga adaptation was shonen. This is a very odd example, noting that the show itself is very G-rated.
  • Hidamari Sketch: See the quote. It is relatively clean, but it's aired in Otaku O'Clock with a seinen Demographic, with spots of Les Yay here and there.
  • In fact, majority of "cute girls doing cute things" shows are targeted towards the Seinen Demographic. Case in point: Is the Order a Rabbit?, Kiniro Mosaic, A Channel, Kanamemo, Yuyushiki, and Hanayamata are all serialized in the same magazine (Manga Time Kirara).
  • Although Non Non Biyori is relatively clean and can be enjoyed by little girls, this show aired at around 2:00 AM.
  • Also from Studio Shaft is Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It has the same character designer from Hidamari Sketch, and the show itself starts off innocently enough; but by the end of Episode 3, it becomes a dark and deconstructive take on the genre more suited to an adult audience. The fact that Gen Urobuchi is heavily involved is also a big tipoff to anyone who knows his Signature Style. The third movie invokes this even more; it starts out by thrusting the characters into a stereotypical Magical Girl series setting, and then cranks up the horror.
  • Wandering Son is a Slice of Life centered around kids aging from elementary to high school. The anime has a watercolor style as well. Despite all this it's a seinen, and its content delves deeply into gender and growing up in a way more common in works for teens and adults. It's less graphic than a lot of the mangaka's other works though.
  • Bokura no Hentai has a very cute, almost simplistic art style and the protagonists are mostly middle schoolers. Marika is very much The Cutie with an idealistic viewpoint who basically thinks she's in a 70s shojo manganote  ... But it's a rather dark seinen series dealing with anything from puberty to sexual abuse.
  • Girl Friends focuses a lot on fashion, cosmetics, and other typically girly things, giving people the impression that it's a Shoujo manga. Even the fact that it's a Yuri Genre series doesn't prevent this, since Yuri Genre is popular amongst females too so people just assume that it's meant for a LGBT conscious young adult audience considering how realistically it handles the issues of a budding sexuality. Thus, people tend to be surprised when they discover that it ran in Comic High, a seinen magazine.
  • Subverted with the Pretty Cure Franchise. It actually IS a franchise meant for little girls... yet at the same time, official marketing papers have 16-40 year old men as a main demographic at the same time. This explains that compared to most other Magical Girl shows (And even other Magical Girl Warrior shows) why it tends to have physical punching and kicking in its fight scenes on a level that would make most Fighting Series blush with jealousy.
  • Yuki Yuna is a Hero and the rest of Yuusha De Aru are a seinen Magical Girl Warrior series with Slice of Life elements and a cute art style. It has some fanservice that would be unusual in a series for middle school girls, but it's mostly tame. The series revolves around girls helping people out and has a huge flower motif. A little over halfway through the series it takes turn for the worst that gives Madoka a run for its money. The girls are less Kid Heroes and more Child Soldiers meant to be sacrifices to the World Tree in a slow, agonizing manner. One of the characters even attempts suicide on-screen, and it's said she attempted it over ten times.
  • School-Live! is a cute looking manga about high school girls surviving a Zombie Apocalypse on their own. It contains a large amount of Nightmare Fuel, a fair share of gorn, and a truck load of general despair.
  • Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai sounds like it's something out of a shoujo manga. It's about a somber middle school girl who is befriended by the eccentric New Transfer Student who thinks she's a mermaid. There's a lot of hand-holding between the two and the light novel has moe, brightly colored artwork. But with a title like A Lollipop Or A Bullet you shouldn't expect cute fluff from the manga. It's anything but. Umino is severely abused by her father and in a truly Tear Jerker of a Bittersweet Ending she ends up brutally murdered by him.
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear is a show about a group of girls who fight with the power of music, but the fighting outfits that they wear a Fanservice tad revealing, and the show is much darker than it seems (think Puella Magi Madoka Magica). Just in the first episode alone, there is death and blood.
  • Mao-chan is basically a Moefied Evangelion (minus the more disturbing elements). The "transformation sequences" are more technological than magical and are stylized like military uniforms. Of course, it was written by Ken Akamatsu, so that should come as no surprise.
  • For that matter, Akamatsu's next work after that, Mahou Sensei Negima!. "Cute 10-year-old boy genius ends up as a teacher at an all-girls middle school" sounds like the premise for a Slice of Life or Romantic Comedy series. Then the first sneeze comes and you realize it's going to be that kind of series. Then you reach volume 4 or so and you realize that it isn't; it's actually a shonen action series (or more accurately, a seinen action series since the fanservice never really goes away) that was designed as a Harem Anime comedy for a couple of volumes because Akamatsu had been pigeonholed by Love Hina and needed to disguise his true intent from his editors.
  • From the perspecitve of an American, Show by Rock!! isn't tonally any different than any other series about a girl band, a la Jem or Josie and the Pussycats. The truth is that this is actually an attempt by Sanrio to market to young men, and it shows on Otaku O'Clock. The mobile game it's based on, however, has a wide and diverse audience (in Japan, at least).
  • Sanrio also brought us Aggressive Retsuko, despite the characters looking no different from any other cutesy Sanrio critter, it's squarely aimed at adults and has some content inappropriate for kids. Unlike many examples, it's aimed at adult working women rather than men, however.
  • Place to Place is a very cutesy, relatively clean slice of life show about a schoolgirl's first crush. Despite this, its manga runs in a seinen magazine, and the anime aired at 1:25 a.m. on TBS.
  • Magical Play would be easy to mistake as a children's magical girl series, considering its artwork prominently features its young cast and it's categorized under "Kids & Family" by distributor Sentai Filmworks. However, the DVD is rated TV-14, and the show is, in fact, a magical girl parody with fanservice-based humor and some surprising violence.
  • Rozen Maiden is a fairly colourful, seemingly Magical Girl-esque manga about seven living dolls in various styles of Elegant Gothic Lolita clothes... and rated seinen, because it contains life-or-death battles, themes of abuse and Parental Neglect, and generally offers a surprisingly bleak outlook seeing how the dolls eventually have to kill each other because There Can Be Only One. There is however, a shojo spinoff called Rozen Maiden: Dolls Talk, but it's a Lighter and Softer comedy series.
  • A movie theater listings website for New York City listed the BanG Dream! 5th Live delayed viewing under "Family", when the series in question is actually aimed at otaku.
  • Chihayafuru is a series about a high school girl who gets into competitive karuta (a type of card game). It's often mistaken for a shoujo but was ran in a josei magazine.
  • GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class is a light-hearted 4-koma Manga about 5 art school girls, with an almost childishly simple Puni Plush art style and virtually no real conflict or drama. Its demographic is listed as Seinen.

    Comic Books 
  • Barbara Slate's Angel Love comic book series of the 1980s, having rather cute cartoonish artwork, yet dealing with serious topics such as drug abuse, abortion, critical illnesses, and incest.
  • Zig-zagged with The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. The series was originally promoted as if it was aimed at hard-core comics fanboys who were reading it for the character's Ascended Meme status and the many jokes about obscure Marvel continuity, but it has become very popular with actual preteen girls, with enthusiastic support from Marvel-fan geek parents who are happy that their daughters have a Marvel comic to read that is optimistic and morally-uplifting in its tone and not full of sexual Fanservice, graphic violence, and depressing Black and Gray Morality and Downer Ending-filled plotlines. It helps that the fanboy in-jokes aren't obnoxious about rubbing it in non-fanboy readers' faces that they're missing out on anything. Ryan North and Erica Henderson have made it clear that they are completely happy about this and deliberately intended the comic for both demographics.

    Literature 
  • Warriors is often associated with young girls due to its cat protagonists. It's a unisex series that pushes its Middle Grade Literature rating with the amount of mature content it contains, meaning it's not recommended for kids under 10.
  • Magical Girl Raising Project looks like a normal Magical Girl series but is a Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction where the Magical Girls must kill one another to survive.
  • Jade Green generally appears on YA book lists nowadays, but for a while in the early 2000s, teachers often recommended it to middle school girls due to its short length and the author's other books (notably, Shiloh ). The plot centers around the ghost of a teenage girl whose 40-year-old adopted brother raped her, cut her hand off with the cleaver she was trying to use in self-defense, and left her to bleed out on the attic stairs. The book is set three years later and there's no graphic flashback, but still not exactly PG fare.

    Live-Action TV 

    Music 
  • There's a video of a five-year-old girl singing the "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" line from Labelle's "Lady Marmalade." Presumably the train of thought was "It's about dancing, right? Girls love dancing!" Too bad it's not about dancing, it's about a prostitute, and the line translates to "Do you want to sleep with me tonight?"
  • One of the group Mosaic.wav's most well-known songs is the ending theme to the very much for little girls Mamotte! Lollipop. So the show's target audience (and their parents) might be a little shocked to find out the band who did the ending theme is mostly otherwise known for doing themes to eroge.
  • Denpa Song in general is this trope as a musical style. Sickeningly cutesy vocals, ultra happy melodies, and high BPM are all staples of the style, making it seem like the target audience is young girls, but with a few exceptions like the above mentioned Kyun Kyun Panic and some songs from PriPara, denpa is made by and for adults in the otaku subculture, and some contain lyrics inappropriate for kids. And, unfortunately, some even have inappropriate lyrics about kids. There is of course some crossover appeal, especially with more mainstream acts like dempagumi.inc.
  • The Spice Girls. It's hard to tell exactly how much of their "Girl Power" theme was serious, and how much was self-parody, but their lyrics make it clear that it was at least about sexual liberation... to the dismay of the parents of the 8 year olds who would parrot the lyrics.
  • Back in The '90s, "Barbie Girl" by Aqua was all the rage with young girls... Despite containing lyrics like "undress me everywhere". Mattel did end up making a Bowdlerized version for their Barbie commercials, however.
  • Oingo Boingo's 1981 track "Little Girls" is indeed about them... but from a certain point of view.
  • Melanie Martinez dresses in sweet lolita-style attire in soft colors. Her voice is sweet sounding and she has songs with names like "Teddy Bear", "Sippy Cup", "Milk And Cookies", and "Dollhouse". She must be kid friendly, right? Nope. For example, "Dollhouse" is about a dysfunctional family trying to keep the facade of a happy family despite the fact the dad cheats, the son uses drugs, and the mom drinks to ignore her husband's infidelity. Even her most PG songs like "Pity Party" are about stuff like having a breakdown because no one came to your birthday party. Most of her songs have heavy amounts of Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Due to being a Disney popstar for years, Miley Cyrus continued to be popular with tweens even after she went Hotter and Sexier.

    Theatre 
  • There are a lot of little girls who love Waitress, despite it having cursing, sexual scenes, and adult themes that would go over a kid's head. An example of this would be the song "Bad Idea", which is centered around the results of Jenna's pregnancy test.

    Toys 
  • Little Apple Dolls might be popular with more Nightmare Fetishist preteens, but probably it probably something for your six year old. The protagonists are all little girls, but they're Dead All Along and creepy. The dolls are also expensive and made for collecting.
  • Living Dead Dolls is a brand of horror dolls aimed at a 15+ audience. The dolls have been banned in Greek and were almost banned in both Ireland and Singapore because people thought they were aimed at kids.
  • Not all Barbie dolls are aimed at little girls. It has multiple dolls aimed at teenage and adult collectors.

    Video Games 
  • The iDOLM@STER:
    • A cute game about pop stars! With catchy songs, cute dresses and tons of accessories to dress up. But the target audience is otaku, with overpriced DLC no young girl (or most adults) can afford. Worth noting though is that Bandai-Namco attempted to get girls into the series with articles about Dearly Stars in girls magazines and the addition of a boy band, but it never really caught on. Once their other idol game series actually intended for young girls, Aikatsu!, became popular, they stopped trying to market iM@S to girls. Or at least LITTLE girls.
    • The male-focused spinoff game THE iDOLM@STER: SideM is targeted at girls... Teenage girls and young women, though, not little girls. It's an Idol Game with Otome Game elements.
    • The anime series that adapts the games also falls under this too. Of note is THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls, which notably has an episode in which had an entire episode's plot be set off by the producer getting Mistaken for Pedophile for following around three idols and gets sent to a police box, causing the trio and Chihiro to try and search for him.
  • Story of Seasons was originally aimed at a gender-neutral audience, but you wouldn't know it by its mainly female fandom. The first few games had male-only protagonists but eventually they added females, either in a Game-Favored Gender manner (women couldn't play past marriage) or in their own Distaff Counterparts. Modern games always have an option to chose your gender. Starting with Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility, incarnations of the game have began to look a lot more Bishoujo than before, with things coming to a head in Story of Seasons (2014).
  • You'd be surprised at how many clueless parents get Neptunia games for their young daughters. You'd think the Cleavage Windows front and center and the T (M in the case of mk2) rating would be enough... Though it's much more understandable with re;birth 1 and Producing Perfection, which feature modest costumes and very bright colors on the box.
    • What makes Producing Perfection all the more troubling is that alphabetically it is placed right next to the still T-rated (3+ in Europe) but more family friendly Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA games in store displays. Considering Hatsune Miku has a lot of young fans, all it takes is a confused parent who has a child that's into Vocaloid and difficulty remembering long game names seeing two vita games with an anime Pop Idol on it, pick the wrong one and give their ten-year-old girl a game that gives you points for upskirt shots, has risque dialog pushing the envelope, and even has nude scenes. Not to mention, a lot of parents dismiss T ratings in rhythm games due to "family" games like Rock Band having the same rating. That's not to say that the ten-year-old wouldn't enjoy the game.
  • Arcana Heart features an all-female cast, and some of the cover and promo art would not be out of place for a cheerleading sim. It's a Fighting Game franchise that rivals Guilty Gear and BlazBlue in complexity and SNK in difficulty.
  • Touhou is a Video Game series about little (looking) girls firing colourful dots, arrows and lasers at each other, with almost the whole cast being some kind of Elegant Gothic Lolita (if only as far as clothes go in most cases). Except the games are one of the most famous examples of Bullet Hell Shoot 'em Up, even if Cute 'em Up is in full swing. Suffice to say, despite the bright and cheery appearance the games have loads of complex characters, comparatively difficult plots and are just Nintendo Hard through-out, so they are definitely not for little girls. Even the various manga and other literature tend to be rather dark and depressing despite the initial appearance, sometimes even going as far as being outright scary or visibly violent. That said, despite all this, the series has a huge Periphery Demographic of children (both boys and girls), although many of them don't play the games. Many kids attend Reitaisei with their parents and ZUN once received a hearfelt fan letter from an elementary school girl.
  • Medabots is a kid friendly franchise. When it was announced they were making a game called Medabots Girls Mission fans thought it was a female-aimed installment aimed at little girls. It's actually a Hotter and Sexier 15+ rated game with Clothing Damage on its female protagonists and lots of blatant fanservice.
  • Most Atelier games have teenage female protagonists in a Slice of Life story with a moe aesthetic. This contrasts greatly with the gameplay, which is that of a hardcore JRPG with a brutal difficulty curve if you fail to master the deep and complex Item Crafting mechanics, which might leave younger players frustrated, bored and/or confused. And that's not getting into the large amount of Fanservice (of both the male and female characters) in the later games, such as Panty Shots, DLC which lets you change the characters into bathing suits, and a Beach or Hot Springs Episode in most games, which should be enough to prove that the target audience is much older than you'd think, and surveys held in Japan revealed most of the players are women.

    Webcomics 
  • minus is a brightly-colored cute-looking webcomic about an omnipotent little girl, albeit with a ton of Fridge Horror, but if TV Tropes is anything to go by, most of the people who read the comic are men.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
  • Making Fiends is actually a relatively dark cartoon about attempting murder with demons, and the colors are anything but bright, pastel or pink. But the two main characters are young girls. The original web animation was for a neutral demographic, but the daughter of a Nickelodeon producer loved it, and so Nick made a deal with Amy Winfrey to turn it into a cartoon. If you look at any of the message boards for Making Fiends, you'll see that male fans are extremely rare, though the show has gotten positive reviews from many male critics. Considering Nickelodeon only aired six episodes of the show back in 2008, it could just be that people in general, male and female, haven't had a chance to see it.
  • Steven Universe has a majority female cast, is all about family and friendship, has quite a bit of romance, and uses bright colors (even the protagonist has a pink theme, though he's male). The creator Rebecca Sugar has been quoted saying that the show is predominantly aimed at 6-to-11 year old boys (and it has a TV-PG rating in America), but the show itself actually has a Multiple Demographic Appeal. It's aimed at an unisex audience and contains quite a few Shout Outs to older works (such as Magical Girl anime) that younger fans probably wouldn't pick up on.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil is a Magical Girl parody but it's aimed at an unisex demographic. It also contains themes, such as Fantastic Racism and moral dilemmas, which are rare in shows aimed at young girls.
  • Dora the Explorer often gets lumped into the idea of being a "girl's show" because its protagonist is female. It's a unisex edutainment show. It eventually became more female-oriented with time but it was always aimed at a unisex audience.
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