“Manga is sexist. The way it treats women is horrible!”
“I just can’t get into it. It’s only for teenage boys.”
“It all looks the same.”
“It’s fine for the kids, but I can’t stand it!”
Listen, listen. You’ve been reading the wrong stuff. Do you think I sit here, in my precious free time, and read Attack on Titan or One Piece? No way!
Here’s the secret about manga, that most of the industry doesn’t tell you, because it’s not the big booming business of the high octane shonen titles: there are infinite genres and categories that encompass as wide a variety as any fiction section in your library. Most of what our students read is what’s directed at them. The list I’m about to share with you is either not appropriate for your school library, or just wouldn’t circulate very well. I’m going to introduce you to some of my favorite series written for adult women (as a target audience… dudes, you can and should read these titles too!). Largely, these are josei titles, but some aren’t. It’s my belief that anyone can enjoy manga, because it’s so diverse. As an example of how granular it can get, I collect (mostly in Japanese) cat manga. So, manga about cats. Raising cats, playing with cats, cats’ daily lives. But, I don’t just read cat manga. I also read…
Title: Ex-Enthusiasts: MotoKare Mania
Mangaka: Takinami Yukari
Yurika Namba is hung up on her ex… well, at least the idea of him. After she broke up with Makochi five years ago, she dated a bunch of less-ideal guys, and realized that he might just be the best she’ll ever get! So, she instead becomes fixated on the Makochi in her head, who’s super supportive and sweet and never lets her down… Until she gets a job at a real estate agency and winds up working alongside her ex! At the first opportunity, he… shows her a real estate listing he thinks is perfect for her?
Ex-Enthusiasts is incredibly hilarious and in many ways relatable. Yurika is even aware that she’s fixated on an idea, and is hurt to realize Makochi has changed in unexpected ways. There’s a lot of women’s anxieties carried in this title, with little of the “doki-doki” type of love scene. It’s wacky and awkward, kind of like real life.
Title: Is Kichijoji the Only Place to Live?
This title is a recent discovery of mine, and is excellent in so many ways. It’s an episodic manga wherein the Shigeta twins take young women looking for apartments to neighborhoods that aren’t the highly desired Kichijoji (actually one of my favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo). Each episode is an insight to a different woman’s life and personality, as well as providing deeper insight into the lives of the twins. It also is an amazing insight into various neighborhoods in Tokyo and their attractions. Every place visited in the manga exists. Also, and this is pretty remarkable, the women are drawn the way women actually look, with different body shapes and styles that reflect their personalities. It’s a casual and enjoyable read.
Title: Hotaru’s Way
Mangaka: Satoru Hina
Before I met my husband, I was a himono onna (干物女) like Hotaru. Himono means “dried fish”, so himono onna is a “dried fish woman”. It’s a term for women who are not interested in dating or having children. They put on a perfect face at work, but go home and laze around. Hotaru’s Way is a great title that explores Hotaru’s anxieties and what’s led her to lead her life as a himono onna, as well as the stress of switching from living life solely for yourself to taking on a dating life and all of its messiness. It’s funny, but also heartfelt and sympathetic. It’s an older title, which definitely paved the way for titles that deal with the topic of single life with care.
Title: Magus of the Library
Mangaka: Mitsu Izumi
This is one of only two books on this list that aren’t josei titles. This title, honestly, is just a great manga for librarians! Magus of the library is a high fantasy about the core elements of librarianship: collection, access, curation, preservation. The main character is a young boy named Theo who isn’t allowed in his town’s library because he is poor and different. This all changes when Kafna and her fellow librarians come to town. It’s a tale of what it means to be a librarian, guided by some of the core philosophies of our profession, and you should ABSOLUTELY read it.
Title: Tokyo Tarareba Girls
Mangaka: Akiko Higashimura
This is a josei masterpiece, written by the mangaka for Princess Jellyfish. The story is of Rinko, a 33 year-old woman who has sworn to get married by the time the Olympics roll around in 2020. She finds that this task might be more cut throat than she ever imagined! It’s a hilarious series, with depictions of realistic women. Society’s expectations weigh heavily on Rinko and her friends, in a way that is all too relatable. I highly recommend it- and if you’ve noticed that 2020 is this year, you should know that Kodansha is publishing the sequel series this year.
Title: Cats of the Louvre
Mangaka: Taiyo Matsumoto
Cats of the Louvre is a manga published… by the Louvre. It’s a gorgeous fantasy tale that jumps through the artwork in the museum. And it has CATS! It’s a little dark, a little weird, and incredibly emotional. To describe it is to potentially ruin it, but it’s well-worth an exploration.
Title: Will I Be Single Forever?
Mangaka: Mari Okazaki
This is a collection of stories about women weighing whether being single is as terrible as society is telling them it should be. This is, honestly, a pretty feminist work. It depicts real women’s lives with sensitivity and honesty. Even better- these women don’t need marriage to find happiness. It’s refreshing and different.
Note: A lot of these titles are digital only. As such, you may have difficulty finding them at the public library.