The State of Josei Manga

Josei manga is manga aimed at women, a female audience older than the girls who read shojo. And women are always the last group targeted in comics.

(It usually goes young men -> older men -> kids (boys and girls) -> women. Some of the core male audience stays with it as they age, and then everyone starts worrying about where new young readers will come from. Targeting the adult female is an afterthought, but when that happens, it indicates a mature industry/genre/format.)

So I’m thrilled to see this many josei manga titles out these days. From Tokyopop, there are:

  • The works of Erica Sakurazawa, although the last of the six books ends in the middle
  • The Tramps Like Us romance series
  • The sex comedy Happy Mania
  • Oh, and Suppli, which I haven’t reviewed yet, but I’m looking forward to reading

Viz, which puts out more shojo titles than Tokyopop, only has two three I would put in this category:

  • Sensual Phrase, a teen-girl fantasy love story, but with plenty of sex
  • Nana, which the publisher puts out under its Shojo Beat label, but especially with a recent turn into more serious subjects, I think it’s arguably skewing older
  • Update: The just-out Honey & Clover is another borderline title

Then there’s new, female-targeted Aurora. They’ve put out, along with a couple of shojo titles, the josei Walkin’ Butterfly. But even more exciting is their Luv Luv Press line, explicit manga for women. The first book in that line is Voices of Love.

Seems to me that I’m forgetting some. Does Del Rey have any women-targeted manga? Update: Yes. Nodame Cantabile is considered josei.

And I’m still wondering what happened to CPM’s Sweet Cream and Strawberries, which has had two rounds of promotion but never came out.


  1. This depends on where you want to draw the line between shojo and josei, but how about Nodame Cantabile and Honey and Clover? The latter is definitely being marketed as shojo here, but both series were originally published in josei oriented magazines in Japan.

  2. Del Rey has the lovely Nodame Cantabile.
    Viz also has the excellent Honey & Clover.
    Tokyopop has Mihara Mitsukazu titles: Doll & Embalmer
    And Tokyopop also has the two Passion Fruit titles: Galaxy Girl, Panda Boy and Sweat & Honey

  3. Oo! I didn’t even know about “Walkin’ Butterfly” and “Voices of Love”! *adds to very short list of manga I currently want to buy*

    *screams of publishers* GIVE US MORE JOSEI!!!!!

    I think we might have to start writing letters to all these publishers to put more out. If you haven’t checked it out yet, Johanna, take a look at “darling wa namamono ni tsuki” or “Fresh Darling”:

    Actually, I like it even more than “Tramps Like Us”, but as it hasn’t been licensed yet, I can’t exactly recommend it on a daily basis. ;_; I’d die and go to heaven is somebody published it here in the US.

  4. Heh. Yeah, Yuki Yoshihara really writes some funny scenes. But it’s her SD stuff that kills… ;)

    I have read “Darling” and “Ai Suru Hito”, which are already completed in France. A third series, “Itadakimasu”, is currently being published. In Germany, Tokyopop has published “Ai Suru Hito” and is also currently publishing “Itadakimasu”.

  5. I think Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery was originally published in a josei magazine, and it’s really lovely.

    Netcomics has 10, 20 and 30 by Morim Kang, which is absolutely charming and could probably be counted in the josei category. You can read sample chapters online. There was another josei-sounding book, Talking About, in the latest Previews, that hasn’t shown up on the site yet, but it sounded promising.

    It’s technically nouvelle manga, I guess, but Kan Takahama’s Kinderbook (Fanfare) is a terrific collection of grown-up stories about women. There’s a follow-up by Takahama, Awabi, that was solicited ages ago but hasn’t shown up yet, to my knowledge.

  6. […] They’ve tried before, most notably with the works of Erica Sakurazawa, which come up in Johanna Draper Carlson’s run-down of “The State of Josei Manga.” […]

  7. […] Johanna Draper Carlson looks at the current state of josei-manga publishing in the United […]

  8. Yeah, Nodame Cantabile is an awesome Josei series. Eternal Sabbath (ES) from Del Rey shouldn’t be forgotten :)

  9. […] Draper Carlson takes a quick look at the state of josei manga at Comics Worth Reading and asks readers to suggest titles she may have missed, which makes for an […]

  10. Eternal Sabbath is seinen, actually.

    CMX’s “Canon” and Go!Comi’s “Night of the Beasts,” both by Chika Shiomi, are both josei.

    Older josei titles are “Paradise Kiss,” “Planet Ladder,” and “Petshop of Horrors,” all from Tokyopop.

    Technically, “NANA” and “Sensual Phrase” are shojo, but I can certainly see the logic of including them on a josei-esque basis.

  11. I understand that many of these designations are based on the original publication location, but sometimes, I have a hard time comprehending those decisions. Honey & Clover, for example, I’m really looking forward to reading, and from what I’ve heard it does sound like it skews a little older.

    But Nodame Cantabile? I’ve sampled that twice, and I don’t see what (internally) makes it particularly aimed at women. Maybe I’m just overreacting to not liking it much myself.

    The truncated Passion Fruit line, good reminder, thank you. But I am ignoring the “better stuff not yet translated” la la la because I am a non-other-language-reading American. (I do hope more IS to come in this area.)

    10,20,30 I was curious about — I’ll add that to the search list.

  12. Is Musashi #9 josei? I think I saw it listed somewhere but don’t recall.

  13. > And I’m still wondering what happened
    > to CPM’s Sweet Cream and
    > Strawberries…

    Has CPM put out any manga or anime lately? I don’t recall seeing anything new from them recently (though I dimly recall hearing they had some panel or something at the New York Anime Festival.)

    At this point, I’m not holding my breath for Sweet Cream, unless CPM’s apparent situation improves, or so much time elapses that rights go back to the Japanese publisher (Shodensha, according to ANN) who then tries to find someone to relicense it. None of which seems like the kind of thing that can get done quickly…

  14. Ah, yeah, I forgot Musashi #9. It is josei. :) So is Legend of Chun Hyang, come to think of it.

    I guess I’m firmly in the “it all depends on the magazine” camp, regardless of content. The lines are definitely blurry, and there’s series in shojo magazines (Nana) that may seem more mature than ones that run in josei publications (Nodame Cantabile)…

    I guess I’d be more inclined to say “Nana is definitely shojo, but would appeal to a josei audience,” rather than to call it josei.

  15. Let me correct something:

    -Sensual Phrase by Mayu Shinjo is a smutty shoujo manga of the WORST kind. It’s immature, pathetic and silly.

    -The Voice of Love is another superficial and mediocre smutty manga. It’s not josei, it’s not properly shoujo, it belongs to a new trend called “Teens Love” wich is halfway between smutty ladies comic and shoujo like those from the Cheese and ShoComi magazines. Absolutely not recommended.

    -Walkin’ Butterfly had started on a shoujo magazine by Kodansha, it was called Amie. It was NOT josei.

  16. There are a number of manhwa titles that bark and quack like josei, though they’re not necessarily being marketed that way in the US. David pointed out Morim Kang’s excellent 10, 20, and 30, but there are a number of other similar titles that feature more mature characters and subjects: Forest of Gray City (ICE Kunion/Yen Press), A Seduction More Beautiful Than Love (Tokyopop), and Real Lies (ICE Kunion/Yen) are just a few that come to mind.

    And speaking of manhwa publishers, NETCOMICS is featuring a josei title on its website: cm0. It’s a Japanese series, I believe, and is only available online.

  17. Bradley Curry

    First, thanks to Johanna for the post. I’ve been curious about josei for awhile, but I didn’t know where to start.

    Second, merumo3o, are you sure Walkin’ Butterfly started in Amie? Everything I’ve found online says it was published by Ohzora and not Kodansha…

  18. Walkin’ Butterfly is absolutely Ohzora-Shuppan; that’s why it went to US subsidiary Aurora.
    Additionally, KC Amie folded around ’97-98 or so, and given Walkin’ Butterfly is from 2004, they couldn’t possibly have intersected.

    (And I’d argue NANA is mislabeled by Viz; the age and life status of the titular heroines smacks of josei.)

  19. Uh, sorry, it was “Vanilla”, by Kodansha (the author talks about that at the end of the first volume):
    Vanilla was closed very soon after it started, and later the series has been picked up by Ohzora.

  20. If I remember correctly, in the latest Previews Honey & Clover is now being solicited as a Josei manga.

    As far as Viz goes, I think you have to look through the Shojo catalogue carefully. Mangas like Banana Fish and Angel Sanctuary seem more Josei than Shojo to me. I think Viz avoided the Josei label because it wasn’t as marketable when they initially set up their lines. If it turns out Josei starts to sell, don’t be surprised to see Viz relabel some of the Shojo books.

    Also there is Blue and A Patch of Dreams by Ponent Mon (The best mangas you can never find. That should be their new tag line.)

  21. I think I’m looking for discussions based on content, not obscure-to-the-US listings of which magazines something first appeared in. That is, let’s talk about whether something is likely to appeal to women and why as a determination.

  22. NANA, Banana Fish, and Angel Sanctuary all ran in shoujo magazines, so it’s not like Viz is labeling them incorrectly.

    One they /did/ mislabel is “Be With You,” which ran in a seinen magazine.

  23. I think shojo tends to have a more sparkly art style, with flowers, mesh-and-bubbles screentones, and large sparkly eyes. I believe that the eyes are especially huge and sparkly for comics aimed at children/tweens (e.g. Kitchen Princess, Fall in Love Like a Comic). The panels tend to be irregularly shaped and also character cutouts are used. Protagonists are typically middle and high school students, and storylines have “first love” as a theme.

    In josei manga, I’ve noticed that the art style is more “loose,” meaning that the lines aren’t completely smooth and perfect (Walkin’ Butterfly, Honey and Clover). Panels are more conservative (boxes), eyes aren’t as sparkly, and there isn’t an overload of mesh and lace screentones. Character designs are simple (Nodame Cantabile, Tramps Like Us). Actually, in terms of paneling, screentones, and general “sparkliness,” I’ve found josei manga to be similar to Yaoi (though of course Yaoi has its own stereotypes with regards to character design). It kind of makes sense because the target audience is similar.

    The characters in josei manga are older than high school age, which makes Nana a contender for this category. Storylines focus on relationships, but more subdued and more realistic: there’s less of that first love infatuation, characters have ex-lovers (Suppli), and relationships grow slowly (Nodame Cantabile, which I think appeals to women because the focus is on the characters’ feelings and relationships). The conflicts in josei manga are also more adult: work problems in Tramps Like Us and raising a child in With the Light.

    …anyway, that’s my take after having read some shojo and josei.

  24. Thanks very much for that analysis. Great job!

  25. I think I’m looking for discussions based on content, not obscure-to-the-US listings of which magazines something first appeared in. That is, let’s talk about whether something is likely to appeal to women and why as a determination.

    But if a title was picked for inclusion in a josei magazine, wasn’t that because the editors thought it would appeal to women, their audience? If you’re looking to make this less about which magazine a manga title appeared in, perhaps the terms “josei” and “shoujo” frames the discussion on the wrong note. Those terms indicate how they were marketed in Japan, so maybe the more apt question would ask which manga titles should be marketed to adult American women?

  26. There’s some more josei listed at .

    Chicago by Yumi Tamura is great too. :)

  27. I bought the first 2 Suppli’s that are out….however I am still waiting for them to be delivered. During this time, I managed to find the live action drama series called Sapuri (Japanese people dont have the letter L in their alphabet and replace L’s with the letter R). It was really good and I really liked the drama!

  28. […] a discussion here last month about josei manga, David Welsh recommended a book called Talking About that was due out in June. […]

  29. haha well i have a section on my shelf specifically for josei titles. I’ve completed tramps like us (kimi wa pet). I also have suppli, nodame cantabile happy mania, a few vols of Nana (yes, it’s josei), Embalmer, mars, Doll and honey and clover. There are also seinen titles like mushishi that is also captivating.

    Hmmm.. have you guys ever heard of scanlations? This site releases many josei titles (go to their forum to dl releases)
    and > shoujo manga maniacs released bathroom guwa (mangaka of suppli), Body and Soul, Piece of cake, tensai family company, crash and deep kiss. These titles are all josei. Entropy releases hataraki man which i found interest in as a josei anime and manga series. There are many more josei series being scanlated.

    I believe that josei has interested many people in the underground manga community, as well as the ones that only have interest in licensed titles :).

  30. […] Astro Boy” designs of Lily Franky. – Aaand over at Comics Worth Reading, we have a nice State of Josei Manga address from Johanna, who talks about what titles out in the US might fit the bill; commenters have a […]

  31. […] next issue, June’s, is due out on Wednesday. There, I am very proud of my article on josei manga as well as my review of Life Sucks. Check it out and let me know what you think! […]

  32. […] experience: instead of buying TP book 1, I buy a Viz or a Del Rey or an Aurora (when it comes to josei) […]

  33. I absolutely love the discussion that’s going on. I have bought 2 Volumes of Suppli, and I am going to keep up with it. It’s really interesting, and I think I bought it b/c of the anime Hataraki Man lol. They’re both stories about working women and their relationship drama that is second to work. Anyway I picked up quite a lot of titles that I would have prob never come across on my own, and I learned a lot about Josei manga too. Thanks a bunch!

  34. Glad you found some good reading! Happy to help.

  35. […] The State of Josei Manga […]

  36. […] manga, which is manga aimed at adult female readers, check out this 2008 overview article or this post about examples of the genre and its resulting comments, which are full of […]

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