What Is Josei?

Josei (女性) is a manga genre made for older teenage females and adult women. It features texts written in kanji without furigana. The average age of readers is 18 to 45 years old. Most josei manga has a more realistic depiction of romance compared to the idealized romance found in shojo manga. The art style is also different as characters looked more simple than glamorized. Male protagonists are depicted as very compassionate towards male companions. The cast also consists of older characters. There are some titles consisting of an all-male cast such as 07-Ghost. Josei manga may also contain sexually-explicit themes, homosexual relationships and other taboos in society. Some of the common themes found in josei manga are house life, sisterhood, romance in the workplace, raising children or pets, pastimes and hobbies, personal journals, real-life problems, conflicts with the mother-in-law, and inescapable horror. The other more serious themes in josei manga are infidelity and rape. Despite all these stories or themes being prominent in josei manga, it is not always so. There will be variations from the expected josei tropes. Some of the most read josei manga in the past decades are Futari Ecchi, Gokusen, Honey And Clover, Loveless, Nodame Cantabile, Paradise Kiss and Usagi Drop.



The kanji 女性 has two etymologies. The first etymology dates back to the Meiji period. Its first spelling was repurposed from “nyoshou”. The kanji consists of 女 (jyo) or girl, and 性 (sei) or gender. The second etymology came from the Middle Chinese term nǚxìng or female gender. Oftentimes, the first etymology superseded the second etymology when it comes to the literal meaning. The second etymology is considered dated and rarely used today.


Brief History

According to the academic paper “Mazohizumu no mon: Masochistic and Sadistic Representations of Women in Japanese Exploitation Films and Reidissu komikku.” by Emerald King, josei manga first appeared in the 1980s. Female authors wanted a more adult-oriented manga for women. Those authors grew up reading shojo manga during the 1950s and 1960s. The first josei manga magazine published by Kodansha was Be Love. Working women and housewives love the empowerment that josei manga has given to them. They can enjoy manga stories that cater to their interests.  (レディースコミックス) Ladies comics or (レディコミ) “LadyComi” is a more adult-oriented and sexual manga for female readers. LadyComi later appeared after the growth of josei manga. Sometimes, josei manga gets mixed up with LadyComi because of their near similar tones. Since LadyComi is less refined and more on arousing readers, authors use the term josei to distance itself from LadyComi. Josei manga may have started having two magazines in the 1980s, but by the end of the decade, over fifty josei manga magazines have been published.


Josei In Modern Times

Josei manga is a good palate cleanser for shojo manga readers. It has more mature and grounded stories that anyone can relate to. Modern josei manga today includes action-adventure stories with less romance and slice of life moments involved. It is no longer limited in romance. Successful josei manga series such as Gokusen, Honey And Clover, Loveless, Nodame Cantabile, Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu, and Usagi Drop got their live-action adaptations.

Pixiv Encyclopedia, https://dic.pixiv.net/a/女性漫画, Retrieved 3 February 2020
Ito, Kinko , “Japanese Ladies’ Comics as Agents of Socialization: The Lessons They Teach,” International Journal of Comic Art 5/2 (2003): 59.
King, Emerald, Mazohizumu no mon: Masochistic and Sadistic Representations of Women in Japanese Exploitation Films and Reidissu komikku, Retrieved 3 February 2020


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