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Josei manga (女性漫画, lit. comics for women, pronounced [dʑoseː]) are Japanese comics aimed at women in their late teens on into adulthood. Josei manga are distinguished from "shōjo manga" (少女漫画) for younger girls on the one hand, and "ladies comics" (レディースコミックス redīsu komikkusu) or "LadyComi" (レディコミ redikomi), which tend to have erotic content on the other. Readers can range in age from 15 to 44. In Japanese, the word josei means simply "woman", "female", "feminine", "womanhood", and has no manga-related connotations at all.
Josei comics can portray realistic romance, as opposed to the mostly idealized romance of shōjo manga, but it does not always have to be. Josei tends to be both more sexually explicit and contain more mature storytelling, although that is not always true either. It is also not unusual for themes such as infidelity and rape to occur in josei manga targeted specifically more towards mature audiences. Some other famously popular josei series include Yun Kouga's Loveless, Ai Yazawa's Paradise Kiss, and the award-winning works of Erica Sakurazawa.
Josei, being targeted to older audience, often differs in style and tone from shōjo manga, which is aimed at younger girls. For example, in recent years, the most popular josei series have featured male protagonists and a main cast of nearly all men and the male characters of a josei series are often quite compassionate toward other men. Although some josei manga can feature plots and characters influenced by shōjo, others feature action-packed stories, and lack the romantic and slice of life elements typical of shōjo.
The josei series that become anime are often noted (and criticized) for their tendency to feature homoerotic themes, often because of a large misinterpretation of the demographic origin. It has come to a point where it is sometimes mistaken for shōnen when adapted to an anime. Series such as 07-Ghost, Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, or (most recently) Karneval are josei series that seem to attract a large amount of discussion from audience members that are unaware of the meaning of a josei status.
The westernized approach to josei has all but eclipsed its most recent evolution toward shōnen manga: subdued yaoi hybrid insinuations. Yaoi, as a genre geared toward the same audience as josei, is the sole homosexually oriented manga represented in the west. As such, the blanket conception of yaoi as a singularly outlying interest for the "strange" josei audience remains to be a popular assumption, when in fact, most mainstream josei is neither akin to shojo, nor akin to graphic yaoi.
The very celebrated josei comic magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum features the most popular series that are readily attributed to the status of a josei work. These include Makai Ōji: Devils and Realist, 07-Ghost, Loveless, Karneval, Are You Alice?, and +C: Sword and Cornett, three of which have been turned into anime, all of which are leading examples of josei's unique characteristics.
The reported average circulations for some of the top-selling josei manga magazines in 2007 are as follows:
|Magazine title||Reported circulation|
|Romance White Paper Pastel||150,000|
For comparison, here are the circulations for the top-selling magazines in other categories for 2007.
|Category||Magazine title||Reported circulation|
|Top-selling shōnen manga magazine||Weekly Shōnen Jump||2,778,750|
|Top-selling seinen manga magazine||Weekly Young Magazine||981,229|
|Top-selling shōjo manga magazine||Ciao||982,834|
|Top-selling non-manga magazine||Monthly The Television||1,018,919|
Josei manga (then called Ladies Comics, or Redikomi) began to appear in the 1980s, during a boom period in manga, when the girls who had read shōjo manga in the 1950s and 60s wanted manga for adult women. The first ladies comic magazine, Be-Love, was printed in 1980. At the end of 1980 there were two ladies comics magazines, at the end of 1989 there were over fifty. Early ladies comics were sexually free, and the comics became more and more sexually extreme until the early 1990s. Manga branded as "Ladies' Comics" has acquired a reputation for being low-brow, and "dirty", and the term josei was created to move away from that image.
- Children's (Kodomo): intended for younger children
- Shōnen manga: intended for boys
- Shōjo manga: intended for girls
- Seinen: intended for adult men
- List of Josei manga magazines
- Yaoi: homoerotic stories about men in love for female audiences
- Frederik Schodt. 1996. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Stone Bridge Press. p. 124
- Ito, Kinko (2003). "The World of Japanese Ladies' Comics: from Romantic Fantasy to Lustful Perversion". The Journal of Popular Culture. 36 (1): 68–85. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00031.
- Jim Breen's online Japanese-English dictionary entry for josei. Accessed 21 September 2012.
- Tangorin online Japanese-English dictionary entry for josei. Accessed 21 September 2012.
- http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-01-08/japanese-comic-ranking-december-24-30 - see rank #18 and #22
- http://www.jappleng.com/culture/articles/anime-manga/156/josei-genre - in reference to genre elements of Josei
- http://anilinkz.com/karneval-episode-3#comment-868418427 - in reference to Karneval
- http://anilinkz.com/karneval-episode-3#comment-868354087 in reference to Karneval
- http://anilinkz.com/k-episode-1#comment-671753799 - in reference to the series K (anime)
- Japan Magazine Publishers Association Magazine Data 2007. The publication, which relies on information provided by publishers, categorizes the magazine Cookie (with a reported circulation of 200,000) as josei, but Shueisha's "S-MANGA.NET" site clearly categorizes that magazine as shōjo, and it is therefore not included here.
- Matt Thorn What Shôjo Manga Are and Are Not
- O'Connell, Margaret (September 8, 2008). "Comics for Grown-Up Women, Part 1". Sequential Tart. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Aoki, Deb. "Josei Manga — Ladies Comics". About.com. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Aoki, Deb. "2008 Readers Poll: Best New Josei Manga". About.com. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
- Brenner, Robin E. Understanding manga and anime. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-59158-332-5.
- Aoki, Deb. "2007 Readers Poll: Best New Josei Manga". About.com. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Kai-Ming Cha (April 25, 2006). "Kind of Blue: The Josei Manga of Nananan". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
- Fusami Ogi, 2003: "Female Subjectivity and Shoujo (Girls) Manga (Japanese Comics): Shoujo in Ladies' Comics and Young Ladies' Comics". The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 36, Issue 4, pages 780–803. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00045.
- Gretchen Jones, 2003: "'Ladies' Comics': Japan's Not-So-Underground Market in Pornography for Women", US-Japan Women's Journal English Supplement, Volume 22, pages 3–30.
- Deborah Shamoon, "Office Sluts and Rebel Flowers: The Pleasures of Japanese Pornographic Comics for Women", in: Porn Studies, ed. Linda Williams, 2004.
- Gretchen Jones, "Bad Girls Like to Watch: Writing and Reading Ladies' Comics", in: Bad Girls of Japan, ed. Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley, 2005.
- Jonathan Clements, "Living Happily Never After in Women's Manga", in Manga & Philosophy, ed. Josef Steiff and Adam Barkman, 2010.