My Favorite Josei Manga

Juggling comics, books, TV shows, games, anime and manga is difficult. So I came up with a “hack”. I try to put more focus on one thing at a time. A few years ago it was comics. I read a lot of old stuff and got into ongoing series. I’m now at a comfortable place, and pace, with comics.

At the end of 2013 manga took over. It wasn’t even a decision like comics was, it just happened. When it came to manga, I stayed in the shallow end of the pool. I read a few things here and there, but never consistently. There’s so much out there I felt lost and didn’t know where to start. Which is the same feeling I had with comics. I think part of me knew that it would consume my life, so I wanted to make sure I had time to swim in the deep end.

My newfound manga obsession is all ‘Nana’s’ fault really. I started watching the anime, and after a few episodes I decided to stop and switch to the manga instead. Now it wasn’t that I didn’t like the anime, I did, and that was the point. Since I knew I liked ‘Nana’ a lot already, I figured it was a great place to start as far as manga go. After ‘Nana’ left me hangin’ I needed to fill that hole she left in my heart. In order to figure out what to read next I went on My Anime List to look up recommendations based on ‘Nana’, then recommendations on those recommendations.

Now dozens of josei manga later, I have this lovely list of some of my favorite of the genre manga. Have any manga suggestions you’d like to share? Comment below! I’m always looking for new manga to read.

 

Nana

Genre: josei, romance, drama, music, slice of life

Mangaka: Yazawa, Ai

Status: Forever Ongoing (84 Chapters)

Synopsis: Nana Komatsu is a young woman who’s endured an unending string of boyfriend problems. Moving to Tokyo, she’s hoping to take control of her life and put all those messy misadventures behind her. She’s looking for love and she’s hoping to find it in the big city.

Nana Osaki, on the other hand, is cool, confident and focused. She swaggers into town and proceeds to kick down the doors to Tokyo’s underground punk scene. She’s got a dream and won’t give up until she becomes Japan’s No. 1 rock’n’roll superstar.

This is the story of two 20-year-old women who share the same name. Even though they come from completely different backgrounds, they somehow meet and become best friends. The world of Nana is a world exploding with sex, music, fashion, gossip and all-night parties. [Source]

Why I Love It: Why don’t I love it is the real question. This is my all time favorite josei and probably in my top 3 favorite manga period. The friendship between Nana and Hachi is so strong and dynamic. All of the characters have depth are and really interesting. I stayed up ‘till the early hours of the morning reading Nana. I was so obsessed. The only bad thing is that sadly Ai Yazawa got sick and wasn’t able to complete Nana. Now she’s all better (yay!), but she hasn’t announced any plans on finishing it. For more about Nana, check out my blog post ‘Doki Doki: Anime & Manga Helped Me Get Over A Heartbreak’.

Read This If You Like: mangas about music (punk specifically), fashion, friendships, opposites attract, soap opera romances

 

Paradise Kiss

Genre: josei, romance, drama, fashion

Mangaka: Yazawa, Ai

Status: Complete (48 Chapters)

Synopsis: Yukari wants nothing more than to make her parents happy by studying hard and getting into a good college. One afternoon, however, she is kidnapped by a group of self-styled fashionistas calling themselves “Paradise Kiss.” Yukari suddenly finds herself flung into the roller-coaster life of the fashion world, guided by George, art-snob extraordinaire. In a glamorous makeover of body, mind and soul, she is turned from a hapless bookworm into her friends 22 own exclusive clothing model. [Source]

Why I Love It: ‘Nana’ and ‘ParaKiss’ are must reads for josei manga. Ai Yazawa is the shit. This was another one of my obsessions. Paradise Kiss is like a soap opera with a fashion focus. You’ll go through the ‘motions reading this but it’s totally worth all the stress and frustration.

Read This If You Like: fashion, modeling, soap opera romance, glam, makeovers

 

The One (manhua)

Genre: josei, romance, drama

Mangaka: Lee, Nicky

Status: Complete (110 Chapters)

Synopsis: Cane Lele was born into the fashion industry. Her mother, Ye Feii, was Taiwan’s top model, and her father was also a model, until a tragic airplane crash left Lele without parents.

Therefore it is no surprise that Lele hates the industry, thinking it superficial and unnecessary. Raised by her paternal grandmother, Lele reaches seventeen before she is sucked in by her mother’s sister, Ye Feihung, a fashion agent (and former model) who “convinces” the reluctant Lele to pose. Lele is adverse to the whole idea, until she sees a photo shoot of popular American model Angus Lanson, and she begins to see modeling as an art form.

When Aunt Feihung’s magazine editor invites Angus Lanson to a meeting of all the top fashion ambassadors, Lele is invited along and is curious to meet Angus. She does not know that Angus’ twin elder brother, Eros Lanson, is secretly accompanying his brother. This obviously leads to confusion and is the start of a charming story of Lele’s goals: Fashion in New York city, becoming a top model, and love? [Source]

Why I Love It: If you love ‘Paradise Kiss’ and ‘Nana’ then you might like ‘The One’. The art is similar (long skinny legs and arms and big old eyes) and it’s about the modeling industry. Oh and there are sexy twins! But beware; there are some twincesty things that turned me off for a while. :/

Read This If You Like: ‘Paradise Kiss’, ‘Nana’, modeling, fashion, twins

 

& (And Okazaki Mari)

Genre: josei, romance, slice of life

Mangaka: Okazaki, Mari

Status: Complete (45 Chapters)

Synopsis: Aoki Kaoru is a 26-year-old woman who has never had a boyfriend. Normally unattached and unmotivated in her own life, Kaoru decides to start up a nail salon as a side business in addition to her regular job as a medical clerk. Although having a severe adversity to physical touch, she is forced to confront that fear when she meets a man who can’t help but touch others. [Source]

Why I Love It: I’m in the middle of this manga but I really dig it. This is probably the most shoujo-like of this list. I like how Aoki started her own business and is independent, but at the same time very naïve about love and relationships since she’s never been in one.

Read This If You Like: older man/younger woman relationships, first love, ‘Cousin’

 

Futago

Genre: josei, romance, drama

Mangaka: Iketani, Rikako

Status: Complete (25 Chapters but only 20 chapters easily available in English)

Synopsis: Yukari was enjoying her single life when her elder twin sister, Ayaka, suddenly pays her a visit to ask her for some strange advice, and brings along a guy she met in Hong Kong with her! This is a story about a set of mismatched twins. [Source]

Why I Love It: I love Futago so much; it’s such a great story about sisterhood and friendship. They are both strong in their own ways and as their bond grows, they both change a little for the better. Futago is by the same mangaka as ‘Bitou Lollipop’ and ‘Six Half’ which I talk about in My Favorite Shoujo Manga post.

Read This If You Like: ‘Nana’, stories about sisters, opposites attract, ‘Kabocha to Mayonnaise’ (Pumpkin and Mayonnaise)

 

Cousin

Genre: josei, romance, comedy, slice of life

Mangaka: Ikuemi, Ryou

Status: Ongoing (27 Chapters)

Synopsis: Tsubomi Shirakawa, 18 years old, has graduated from high school, but while her circle of friends have already found jobs or started college, she has decided to become a “Freeter,” and begins part-timing at a local rental video store. Meanwhile, she finds out that her cousin Noni, whom she has not met from as long as she can remember, has debuted in show business.

Tsubomi may have a chubby figure but was uninterested in beauty of figure or form. However that is about to change when, a coworker, Shiro, brings her to visit a bar where she falls in love with the owner, Nasukawa. [Source]

Why I Love It: I was hooked from the start, which is good since I usually only give manga one chapter to woo me. I love how the story deals with serious issues like self-esteem and weight and lighter stuff like crushes.

Read This If You Like: older man/younger woman romance, body and self-esteem, ‘&’ (the manga)

 

Love Vibes

Genre: romance, drama, josei

Mangaka: Sakurazawa, Erica

Status: Complete (7 Chapters, 1 Volume)

Synopsis: Shouji has a girlfriend but is seeing Mako on the side. Unable to continue pretending she feels less for him than she does, she breaks it off with him. Shortly before that happens, Mako is hit on by Mika, who tells Mako that she’s interested in both men and women. Mika wants to pursue a relationship with Mako, but is Mako’s relationship with Shouji really over? [Source]

Why I Love It: I really loved the art, realism and complexity of the relationships.

Read This If You Like: LGBT love stories, love triangles, simple art, ‘Nana’

 

Blue

Genre: josei, romance

Mangaka: Nananan, Kiriko

Status: Complete (10 Chapters)

Synopsis: The life of high school student Kayako Kirishima is altered forever when she meets the class outsider Masami Endo. The two quickly form a close friendship, and as time goes by that friendship turns into deep love. But as personal traumas of Endo’s past conflict with Kirishima’s future, their love is put in jeopardy. [Source]

Why I Love It: Kiriko Nananan is becoming one of my favorite mangaka. She manages to make complex subjects feel light because her art style is so delicate. ‘Blue’ was no different. This was the story about the challenges that come with young lesbian relationships in a society that isn’t accepting of them.

Read This If You Like: LGBT love stories, young love, simple art

 

Kabocha to Mayonnaise (Pumpkin and Mayonnaise)

Genre: josei, slice of life

Mangaka: Nananan, Kiriko

Status: Complete (10 Chapters)

Synopsis: Ten stories about the everyday life of Sei, an idealistic songwriter, and Miho, the young woman who struggles to support the both of them. [Source]

Why I Love It: The beauty of the art is in its simplicity. I really liked how realistic and “slice of life” this manga actually felt.

Read This If You Like: complicated MC’s, josei slice of life

 

Anata no Koto wa Sorehodo

Genre: josei, drama, romance

Managka: Ikuemi, Ryou

Status: Ongoing (2 Chapters)

Synopsis: A fortuneteller once told her, “Marry the second man you fall in love with.” Medical clerk Miyoshi did just that. However, upon leaving a drinking party, she bumps into her first love, Arishima. Feelings reignite between the two, yet Arishima is married and Miyoshi already has an amicable husband… [Source]

Why I Love It: I like how problematic the main character is. She’s not inherently good, but you don’t really dislike her for it, but you still don’t like her either. This is the same mangaka that did ‘Cousin’.

Read This If You Like: Futago, complicated MC’s

 

Cappuccino

Genre: josei, drama, romance, slice of life,

Mangaka: Yoshizumi, Wataru

Status: Complete (7 Chapters)

Synopsis: A bittersweet love story about the life of Kojima Ari and Fujitani Sousuke as they live together in a de facto relationship (without marriage) in modern-day Japan. [Source]

Why I Love It: It’s short and simple but its realism about the challenges that come with relationships is what hooked me. It manages to tell a five year story in seven chapters without feeling rushed.

Read This If You Like: realistic relationships

 

Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly

Genre: josei, horror, psychological

Status: Complete (9 Chapters, 1 Volume)

Managka: Okazaki, Kyoko

Synopsis: If you are aware of fashion in Japan, you must have seen Liliko’s face. For the last few years, she has been at the top of the modeling world, with her face and body promoting the biggest brands. But as everyone who is in this world admits, staying on top is a constant and never ending battle. There are always new faces introduced to the public. Younger models and new looks are brought into the fold every season. And keeping that position means learning to adapt and learning to cope with change.

To maintain her position Liliko has decided to under the knife. This is not her first go with this service. It is yet another round of plastic surgery, all done to keep herself looking young and vibrant. However, in this case just a little nip and tuck was not enough. Liliko is bent on undergoing a full body makeover. From head-to-toe, every inch of her will undergo cosmetic surgery, and thus begins her madness. [Source]

Why I Love It: The premise reminds me so much of a Chuck Palahniuk story. Liliko is such a sick and terrible character. But the story doesn’t rely on Liliko’s cruel actions alone, the entire story is interesting and the ending is one of my favorites.

Read This If You Like: fashion, modeling dark stories, twisted MC’s, simple art, ‘Heart O Uchinomese’

 

Heart O Uchinomese (Knock Your Heart Out)

Genre: josei, drama, romance

Mangaka: Asakura, George

Status: Complete (10 Chapters)

Synopsis: No matter how many times she sleeps with Arai, Negishi realizes that neither her nor Arai’s feelings were being conveyed. Their sex felt “like” love, but only feeling “like” something wasn’t the same thing as having it. What is Negishi supposed to do in order to get Arai to understand her true feelings?

Why I Love It: It’s dark with an interesting art style. It’s the opposite of the squeaky clean and cute shoujo romances, which is what attracted me to it. It’s actually pretty fucked up.

Read This If You Like: dark romances, Inio Asano’s manga, ‘River’s Edge’, ‘Helter Skelter’