Josei manga are Japanese comics aimed at young adult and adult female readers. Similarly to manga aimed at girls, it mainly focuses on romance, but does not shy away from other genres, such as fantasy, sci-fi, sport, etc. It is most often published in serialized form in widely circulated weekly or monthly magazines (so called “manga zasshi”) such as Kiss, Be Love, You, Office You or Cocohana (originally Chorus). Although josei manga often includes erotic scenes, it should not be mistaken for pornographic comics aimed at women readers; this category is nowadays called ladies’ comics (redī komikku, also redīkomi) and features in magazines as Comic Amour.

Josei manga evolved from shōjo manga in cca 1980s, although the very first magazines aimed at slightly older female readership – Papillon and mimi – were published already in the previous decade, respectively in 1972 and 1975. Similarly as in the case of seinen manga, which evolved from shōnen manga as the original post-war readership grew older, the demand for manga magazines aimed at adult women was fuelled by the fact many grown-up women who became avid comics readers as young girls in 1950s and 1960s desired to continue reading it even after entering adulthood. Around the same time many shōjo manga authors embarked on creating stories which did not correspond with the traditionally conservative conventions of comics for girls: starting with Hideko Mizuno’s daring story Fire! (Faiyā!, 1969-1971) – unusually featuring a male rock musician as a protagonist – or Machiko Satonaka’s sophisticated series To be a Wicked Woman (Akujo shigen, 1977), some highly controversial topics such as sex, adultery and substance abuse started appearing in the so-far relatively tame realm of girls’ comics, and these tendencies only intensified when the members of Nijūyonengumi entered the scene and started exploring “adult” themes as sexual identity, mental disease, aging and death. All these factors contributed to the origin of new comics magazines in early 1980s, for example You (1980), Be Love (1980) or Wings (1982), later followed by OFFICE YOU (1985), FEEL YOUNG (1989), Kiss (1992), Zipper (1993), Chorus (1994) or Cookie (1999).

Manga published in josei magazines generally features older heroines (or less usually heroes) – often university students, young working women or even housewives – and focuses chiefly on their love life, careers and fulfilling of their dreams. Among popular authors belong Ai Yazawa (*1967) with her series Paradise Kiss and (Paradaisu kisu, 1999-2003) and Nana (2000-ongoing), Chika Umino with Honey and Clover (Hachimitsu to kurōbā, 2000-2006), Tomoko Ninomiya (*1969) with Nodame Cantabile (Nodame Kantābire, 2001-2009) or Nanae Haruno who authored a long-running story Papa Told Me (1987-ongoing) about a girl and her widowed father. Apart from romance or slice-of-life stories, other genres are frequently explored, for example popular fantasy series such as Loveless (Raburesu, 2002-ongoing) by Yun Kōga (*1965) or Are You Alice? (Anata wa Arisu desu ka, 2009-ongoing) by Ai Ninomiya (*1984), or historical drama Jin Ping Mei (Kinpeibai, 1993-2010) by a veteran author Masako Watanabe (*1929).

— Anna Krivankova

See Also: Nijūyonengumi, seinen manga, shōjo manga

Further Reading

  • Allison, Anne. Permitted and Prohibited Desires Mothers, Comics, and Censorship in Japan. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2000.
  • Schodt, Frederik L. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 1996.
  • Toku, Masami. Shojo Manga! Girl Power!: Girls’ Comics from Japan. Chico, [Calif.: Flume Press :, 2005.

[1] note for editors: Umino’s year of birth is not publicly known, same as Haruno’s.