Manga Resolution for 2015: All about Josei

A display of Taishou Romantica by Odawara Mizue in Tsutaya.
As I was writing down my favourite reads of last year, I sat back and wondered, how much attention did I give to josei that year? I remember writing last year about the silence on josei but did I even make an effort to tackle josei, let alone understand this genre which I have claimed to have personally appreciated? 
I kinda did but I kinda didn’t. I didn’t walk the talk on josei. At the very least, I read a number of josei works but I didn’t, in any way, give some thoughts on josei. I hardly even talked about the titles I read! And I keep mumbling about josei this and josei that but what do I even mean when I say josei? Am I referring to the genre? The writers? The audience? 
In the last year, I’ve struggled to find answers for this because I didn’t know where to stand or even where to start. Am I raising some kind of orientalist feminist banner that demands attention for josei writers and the genre because they epitomise feminist cool? More so, on whose feminist lens am I reading josei? More so, is it just josei? Can I neglect the contributions of Yoshinaga Fumi with What did You Eat Yesterday or even Nakamura Hikaru with Saint Young Men simply because these titles run in a seinen magazine? What about the likes of Cuvie who write eromanga? And the countless of artists who draw the likes of TL and Ladies comics which has been conveniently identified by people as meaningless and senseless smut. Are these josei also meaningless? Will I read only those that are meaningful? How do I even define what is meaningful in josei?
I’ve given myself a headache over these questions until I’ve lost track on what was really clear about the entire thing: I don’t really know so much about josei. To be precise, I don’t fully comprehend the extent of what female Japanese comic artists write.
The truth is, as readers, we’ve been educated by countless of books on manga on which female artists mattered. Think Takemiya Keiko, Hagio Moto, or Ikeda Riyoko. I am not saying they don’t matter. All these ladies have contributed amazing things to manga but the problem lies in how attention to these women trapped us non-Japanese readers to think that these authors, and works similar to theirs, are the only ones that matter. It ticks me when people say “I only buy the manga classics like Tezuka because it’s only the good manga.” This attitude narrows the whole world of manga because there’s still a lot of manga out there, many of them vibrant, many of which are written by women.  
Hence, this year, for this blog, I will make an effort to discover more about the world of women’s manga. I will read more manga written by women, from genres spanning from shoujo, to actual josei, to BL, TL, and even doujinshi and eromanga. I’ll also do my best to share some of the awesome texts written about women writers I’ve crossed in my research.
It’s all about the women in manga in 2015! I can’t help but feel excited! From time to time, I’ll still be sharing some things about other genres but yeah, I’m refocusing my fujoshi lenses by adding a josei grade. It should be fun and if you’re interested, let’s josei up this year and read as many titles written by women!  

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10 thoughts on “Manga Resolution for 2015: All about Josei”

  • Random but I had to look up TL manga genre (I know it means Teen Love, but it’s barely used in the English hemisphere) and this blog post showed up~

  • Great points–and honestly I think I would buy more josei if more was available in English. I particularly loved Helter Skelter and, even more so, Pink but then I read on Vertical’s blog a bunch of comments about how they simply weren’t selling. I’ve reached a point where I now only really go through spurts of interest in manga (largely because I just am so busy now–grad school etc–but also because so few of the titles coming out interest me. I guess finally now that I’m in my thirties I’m starting to outgrow titles about teenagers 😛 ) but I do try to keep up to date with josei releases.

    However, I kinda wonder where you are seeing this constant discussion of Hagio and Takemiya and no one else? Cuz I wouldn’t mind joining that group– 😛 I mean it’s not like publishers are bending over backwards to translate their stuff (scan groups may be different but I really have zero knowledge of that world).

    I have started reading and buying more French manga translations and they seem to be doing a somewhat better job with josei. Among my faves right now is Umimachi Diary (wait, is that josei?) which I admit, while a big hit I gather in Japan (there was a film anyway) I only discovered when doing a French manga search and seeing if they had anything by Akimi Yoshida (back as a young teen in the late 90s, Banana Fish was my manga obsession–of course even that title I think was not a money maker for Viz).

    • And I realize in hindsight a sound a bit obnoxious–I guess I mean, being somewhat outside of the fandom culture for the past 5 years, I haven’t experienced a lot of that.

      • Hey Eric! Don’t worry about it! And I don’t find it obnoxious at all. XD In fact, some people might find my own post as obnoxious even if that was not my intention.

        I totally understand what you mean with regards to finding great titles in English. I tend to read Japanese texts rather than in English mostly because they have more for me to read. But I know that’s my privilege as a Japanese reader. I think tapping French translations is good too because they have more titles printed!

        And I do understand what you mean about teenage narratives and yes, somehow reaching 30 changes my own patience for narratives with younger characters. These days, I read it mostly out of entertainment. Josei titles tend to be closer to my own reflections about my life and relationships.

        As for discussions on Hagio and Takemiya, I think it’s not as constant as it used to but there are blogs (mangablog, matt thorn’s) that still keep some discussions on Moto and Takemiya. There are also a number of tumblrs that feature old shoujo work (ex. vintageshoujomanga)

        AND YAY FOR UMIMACHI DIARY FAN! Yes, it’s josei. XD And I love the series. I hope she has more titles in French for you to read but I’m definitely loving this work so much. If you also have a chance to read a Nemu Youko or a Asakura George title, those are worth looking into as well.

        Thanks a lot for your comment. I tend to enjoy reading lengthy ones like this. Like a proper conversation. 😀

        • Hey, thanks for the quick, and considerate reply! Funny, I’ve been going through past pages here, and just saw Umimachi as one of your picks for 2015–after posting this. I admit at first I was a bit disappointed that it seemed lacking the homoerotic-angst angle, but Akimi Yoshida is one of my top faves so I delved in anyway–and glad I did (actually I think vol 5 might be out in France now–I should get on that…) It wasn’t until I was doing school in Montreal and saw how much French manga there was that I realized there might actually be another use for being bilingual. I was lucky to track down a used copy of the hard to find, and long out of print French translation of Yoshida’s super-angsty Lover’s Kiss a while back too. Otherwise, I admit her top ten status for me is solely based on how strong an affect BF had on me as a teen, and reading some of Yasha online (but, as I implied, I don’t do well with scanlations–partly for moral reasons but also I just find reading comics online hard… I know, I know).

          ANd this is why I need your help! 😛 I honestly had never heard of Asakura George or Nemu Youko before–aside from some BL authors, I’m fairly out of touch unless it’s a manga-ka I got into when I first was obsessed with manga. I see that Asakura’s A Perfect Day for Love Letters was translated and Amazon still has cheap copies so I’ll have to check it up. And in French there are 15 volumes of “A fleur de peau” which looks intense (which to me is a good thing). Nothing yet from Nemu, however.

          Yes, that’s pretty much how I feel about reading josei vs shoujo, for example (obviously that doesn’t apply to all titles). I do still read a few of the soapy teen storylines, but less and less. Of course I came into manga just when shoujo manga was still being printed (Hell, I can remember being *amazed* to find Four Shojo Stories when it came out) so for a while there I was buying *everything*–perhaps I just ODed–and that wouldn’t be possible anymore even if I didn’t start to find too much of it formulaic.

          I used to correspond with Matt but haven’t for a few years or been on his blog–I suppose I should check it out. I did only recently discover though how much those classic shoujo artists do pop up on tumblr (honestly, it kinda surprised me–did I mention I’m out of touch with current fandom? I still remember when it was next to impossible to find any info on them online that wasn’t in Japanese). I misunderstood you, as well–I thought you were implying, for some reason, that the publishers were jumping at the bit to publish Hagio, Takemiya and, for that matter, Ikeda. (For the record France is not too much better there–they do have all of Rose of Versailles of course and I also have a collected edition of Oniisama E, but both, especially Oscar were huge TV hits there so that’s no shocked. Absolutely nothing translated from Takemiya that I can find and as for Hagio they have Heart of Thomas–which seems to be actually adapted from Matt Thorn’s translation–and a really well packaged two volume box set which contains 3 story overlaps from A Drunken Dream but otherwise stories that haven’t been out in English including the kinda awesome They Were 11 sequel, which I think I prefer as well as two very well written academic essays on Hagio).

          I enjoy the conversation as well 😉 Cheers.

          • You know, there’s a character in Lover’s Kiss who is also in Umimachi Diary. The first boyfriend featured of one of the middle-sister (not the afro-sister nor the nurse sister! XD) is the guy in Lover’s Kiss right? I haven’t read Lover’s Kiss but I’d give it a shot. I’ve read Yasha, California Monogatari, and of course, my gateway to her world, Banana Fish, which remains as one of my favorite titles.

            I wish I could rec more but I’m not sure who among the josei authors I enjoy have been translated. Asakura George was a recent addition to my faves when I read her work Oboreru Knife which is perhaps, one of the most gripping stories I’ve read in shoujo manga recently. If you do have a chance, do try Nishi Keiko (who wrote for 4 shoujo stories) who also writes melodramatic romances. Another personal favorite is Setona Mizushiro who also has a couple of her shoujo titles in English. There’s also a lovely title by Aya Kanno (of Otomen fame) who is currently writing Requiem of the Rose which is currently translated. While these authors are not of the older crew, I find that these new authors also have interesting, at times progressive narratives.

            Hopefully that’s not too much for your shopping list!

            • I actually didn’t make the connection between Umimachi and Lover’s Kiss but you’re absolutely right.

              I’ll check out all of your recommendations–thank you! I’ve long loved the Nishi Keiko stories that were translated (in Four Shoujo Stories and in a separate volume) but haven’t followed her career otherwise. Moody stuff, which is just up my alley.

              I still love Banana FIsh as well (I really should invest in re-reading it all–it’s probably time again).

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