In the Japanese language, the term josei literally means “woman.” However, the term “josei manga” is also used to describe the target audience of magazines that cater specifically to men’s interests, and are marketed towards a demographic of adult women between the ages of 18 and 40. The male equivalent to josei manga is seinen manga. In this article, we will bring you a list of the 20 best josei manga you need to read.
1. Honey and Clover
Original Run: June 2000 – July 28, 2006
Number of Volumes: 10
Yūta Takemoto, Takumi Mayama and Shinobu Morita study at an art school in Tokyo (based on the Musashino Art School) and share the same dormitory. One day, the art teacher Shūji Hanamoto introduces them to 18-year-old Hagumi Hanamoto, a relative of his. She is quite small and very talented and Morita falls in love at first sight. But Takemoto also has feelings for her.
2. Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku
Original Run: April 17, 2014 – July 16, 2021
Number of Volumes: 11
The series follows the awkward romantic comedy between “otaku” office workers, one of whom, Narumi Momose, is a stern fujoshi who somehow tries to hide her passions from others while her partner, Hirotaka Nifuji, is a beautiful, competent man addicted to video games who only lets go of his console to work. If they seem perfect for each other, love is still complicated for the otaku.
3. Nodame Cantabile
Original Run: July 10, 2001 – September 10, 2010
Number of Volumes: 25
Shinichi Chiaki, an arrogant, multilingual perfectionist, is the top student at Momogaoka College of Music and has secret ambitions to become a conductor. Born into a musical family, he is talented in piano and violin and once lived abroad in the music capitals of the world as a young boy (namely Prague), but is trapped in Japan because of his childhood phobia of airplanes and the ocean.
In contrast, Megumi Noda, or “Nodame”, is a piano student at Momogaoka, notorious for messiness and eccentric behavior. Despite being very talented, Nodame prefers to play by ear rather than according to the musical score; thus, she is regarded as sloppy and playful.
4. Usagi Drop
Original Run: October 2005 – April 2011
Number of Volumes: 10
When 30-year-old Daikichi returns to his grandfather’s house for his funeral, he discovers the existence of Rin, the six-year-old illegitimate daughter of his grandfather and unknown mother. This girl causes the embarrassment of her whole family and is treated like an outcast. Annoyed by their attitude, Daikichi decides to take care of Rin himself, even though he lives alone and has never raised a child.
Rin then becomes part of his life and Daikichi experiences the difficulties of a single parent. He befriends the single mother of Kouki Nitani, a friend whom Rin meets in kindergarten, and who gives him advice on raising Rin. A year later, Daikichi finds that his sacrifices for Rin were worth it. The first half of the series focuses on Daikichi’s point of view and his difficulties in raising Rin.
Ten years later, Rin is a high school student, and the rest of the series focuses on her, how she tries to come to terms with her feelings for Kouki, and her choice of career.
5. Princess Jellyfish
Original Run: October 25, 2008 – August 25, 2017
Number of Volumes: 17
Tsukimi Kurashita, a shy young girl, dreams of becoming an illustrator and has settled in Tokyo in a residence populated exclusively by otaku girls (one could translate as groupies). Passionate about jellyfish (kurage in Japanese and jellyfish in English) since her late mother promised her a wedding dress as beautiful as a jellyfish, saying that all little girls grow up to be princesses, she spends her time drawing some and visiting those of the aquarium in his neighborhood.
However, Tsukimi wonders what went wrong as she herself is nothing like a princess. Indeed, she doesn’t know how to dress, doesn’t wear makeup, is only interested in jellyfish and not shopping or boys. However, the residents, each more crazy than the other, of the Amamizu residence will punctuate Tsukimi’s life. It is then that their lives will be turned upside down by the appearance of a strange humana coquetta, Kuranosuke, who turns out to be in fact the son of a wealthy family of politicians.
And the shy Tsukimi, who felt so apart, will suddenly feel her heart beating for new passions, such as creating dresses, but also for Kuranosuke’s brother, Shu. Which doesn’t seem to be to his/her new/new comrade’s taste. Princess Jellyfish recounts the life of Tsukimi and her otaku friends, their incomprehension and uneasiness in the face of a world whose codes they do not master, their true love for the object of their passion, and the injustice of having to comply with conveniences in order to be accepted.
Original Run: April 22, 1946 – February 21, 1974
Number of Volumes: 45
The comic strips revolve around the 27-year-old Japanese Sazae Isono. She lives in post-war Japan with her father Namihei Isono, mother Fune Isono, and her siblings Katsuo Isono and Wakame Isono. First, they live in Kyushu, later Tokyo. After marrying Masuo Fuguta, Sazae takes his surname as well. They both have a son named Tarao Fuguta.
Sazae has to help her family through the post-war period and the hunger, and later on fill the various roles in the household, as daughter, wife, and mother. She also advocates women’s rights and emancipation without disregarding tradition. The stories each deal with problems of their time. In the 1940s, for example, Sazae was annoyed by the American soldiers and the family had to fight hunger.
7. Yume no Shizuku, Kin no Torikago
Original Run: May 21, 2010 – present
Number of Volumes: 14
The story begins in a village in the Ukrainian countryside where the protagonist, the young Alexandra, known as Sasha, lives. During a Tartar raid, she is kidnapped together with other women to be sold at the slave market of Caffa and here bought by Mateus Lascaris and trafficked to the Ottoman capital of Istanbul.
Mateus promises to give Alexandra the means to win her freedom and instructs her in the arts by hiring tutors and teachers of languages, literature, dance, singing, etc., for her. With the passage of time Sasha develops feelings towards Mateus until he discovers that all his dedication stems from the desire to give the girl as a gift to the sultan and close friend Suleiman, Mateus is in fact the vizier of the court and his name is Pargali Ibrahim Pasha, his intention is to cement his influence at court with an appreciated gift from an exotic slave, while also taking advantage of the benefits that can be obtained from having an ally in the harem and another person who influences the emperor.
The discovery of the intentions of the man she is in love with causes Sasha a deep disappointment and the girl promises to be able to regain her freedom promised by Mateus thanks to his strength alone but to achieve this she must become the sultan’s favorite. thus indulging the machinations of the master and the disappointment suffered.
In Suleiman’s harem, Sasha acquires her new court name Hurrem and begins to settle in the new world, discovering its dynamics and eternal rivalry between girls who compete all their lives to become the sultan’s favorite and aspire to give him a child. and heir to the throne.
Upon Sasha’s arrival at the court, the favorite is concubine Mahidevran, also known as Gulbahar, mother of the heir to the throne Mustafa, who immediately sees in the newcomer a dangerous rival for her political position, especially after Suleiman begins to show a certain predilection towards Hurren by putting the favorite in the background.
8. With the Light
Original Run: 2000 – June 2010
Number of Volumes: 10
The main protagonist of the manga is Sachiko Azuma, a young middle-class housewife living in the suburbs of Tokyo in the early 2000s. Her husband, Masato, is a salaryman who spends very many hours at work and gives little time to his family. The story begins with the birth of the family’s first child, a boy named Hikaru, in reference to the sunrise that accompanied his birth.
Soon Hikaru shows himself to be uncontrollable: he refuses to be touched, is very sensitive to noise and light, does not look anyone in the eye, cries and screams a lot, and fails toilet training despite the repeated efforts of Sachiko. Sachiko realizes that something isn’t normal and goes into medical wandering while she struggles to find support from those close to her: Masato refuses to get involved and runs off even more into work, his mother-in-law is accused of bad parenting according to the refrigerator mother theory when the other mothers in the neighborhood gossiped about her.
When a doctor starts talking about autism, Sachiko gets scared and goes into denial for a long year, before finally accepting the diagnosis.
9. Paradise Kiss
Original Run: 1999 – 2003
Number of Volumes: 5
Yukari Hayasaka, a high school student, is constantly studying for college entrance exams, not taking much time to have fun. She is in love with a boy in her class, Hiroyuki, who doesn’t seem to realize it. A chance encounter on the street with the quirky-looking Arashi and Isabella causes her to pass out. She finds herself in the workshop, where several students from the Yaz’Art fashion school are working to make clothes.
To her great surprise, they ask her to represent their ParaKiss brand, which they are trying to sell, by wearing one of their creations (a dress) and being their model for the fashion show which takes place in a few weeks, which will allow them to complete their final year. Hesitant, Yukari understands that it’s something she wants to do, going so far as to drop out of school and run away from home because her mother, fiercely opposed to her plans, refuses the proposal.
Her choice to accept is also tied to the uncanny attraction she feels for the strip’s mysterious stylist, George, who will introduce her to what it’s like to live passionately.
Original Run: December 28, 2007 – present
Number of Volumes: 48
Chihaya Ayase is a little girl who has spent most of her life supporting her sister in her modeling career. But everything changes when she meets a boy her age named Arata Wataya, a talented karuta player. He thinks Chihaya has the potential to become a great player.
While Chihaya dreams of becoming Japan’s best karuta player (Queen), she is soon separated from her friends, Arata and Taichi, as they grow up and go to different futures (Arata has to go to Fuikui, take care of his sick grandfather and Taichi leaves to go to a big school). They then promised each other to always play karuta and that they would meet again when the three of them were in class A (level in karuta ranging from class D to A then to the highest title of the player in Japan: the Master or Meijin for boys and Reine or Queen for girls).
Now in a new high school, Chihaya, who is in class B (in karuta) in her early high school days, continues to play karuta and finds there Taichi who quit karuta under the pretext that it was of no use to him since he wanted to join the football club and not karuta. But he ends up giving in to Chihaya’s demands.
Together, they will create a karuta club in their high school which will be composed of 5 members: Taichi (president of the club), Chihaya (captain of the team), Yuusei Nishida (he had known Chihaya once small and is of a rather good level), Kanade Oe and Tsutumo Komano. A year and a half ago, in Fukui, Arata’s grandfather had an operation and doesn’t remember anything, not even his favorite game: karuta. In addition, he is quite fragile.
Arata then put his dream on hold in order to take care of his grandfather. But the day of the move to class A was approaching and Arata wanted to participate in it so that he could see Chihaya and Taichi again one day. His grandfather felt he wanted to go and let him go and Arata felt like he had his memory back. But when he returned, his whole family was there and found his grandfather died while he was away.
So he quit karuta completely, thinking that this is what caused his grandfather’s death. But he will, however, resume karuta after Taichi and Chihaya go to see him. Everyone is doing their maximum to be able to reach the title of Meijin and Queen. According to Arata, Chihaya’s key card would be the “Chihayafuru” (Passionate Gods) card since it begins like her first name, hence the series’ name.
11. Legend of Chun Hyang
Original Run: October 20, 1992 – February 20, 1994
Number of Volumes: 1
The story takes place in Korea, a country with more than 300 towns and villages, all governed by the central government called “chunan”. For each town and village, the “chunan” designates a “ryanban” to govern. The governors chosen by the “chunan” are supposed to have integrity, but there is a very small village where the “ryanban” overwhelms the people with taxes and punishes with death all those who try to oppose them.
12. Shitsuren Chocolatier
Original Run: February 14, 2008 – December 27, 2014
Number of Volumes: 9
Sohta is madly in love with his girlfriend Saeko, who has a great passion for chocolate. When she leaves him the day before Valentine’s Day, he decides to go to France to become a great chocolatier. Five years later, Sohta returns to Japan and takes over the family shop to turn it into a chocolate factory: Choco la vie. He hopes to win back Saeko thanks to his creations, but when he finally finds her, she is about to get married.
13. Nina the Starry Bride
Original Run: October 1, 2019 – present
Number of Volumes: 7
Nina is an orphan struggling to survive in the slums with her friends Saji and Colin. When the latter dies of an illness, Saji denounces Nina, who was pretending to be a boy, to individuals looking for a young girl with blue eyes. She then finds herself facing Azur Seth Fortuna, the second prince of the kingdom of Fortuna, who announces to her that she will have to become Princess Alisha, who died in an accident. Nina then has three months to learn etiquette, at the end of which she must marry the heir to the kingdom of Galgada, while she develops feelings for the one who teaches it to her.
Original Run: November 25, 2005 – January 11, 2014
Number of Volumes: 17
It tells the story of Teito Klein, an orphan, and ex-slave who became the top student at the Barsburg Empire military academy due to his handling of the Zaiphon, a type of supernatural power. This ability is very rare to see, therefore it is highly appreciated. Teito is amnesiac, and only through some dreams that he has, he can find out something about his past.
After spending a year at the academy, Teito has to take the graduation exam, which 1 out of 25 students passes. The night before the exam, Teito and his best friend, Mikage, swear that they will always help each other. They both manage to pass the exam. The next day, Teito delivers some documents to a teacher when he hears a man named Ayanami, the one who killed his father in his dreams.
Teito tries to attack him, but is quickly knocked down by one of Ayanami’s subordinates and sent to prison. Mikage comes to help him escape, only to find that Teito has managed to fight off the guards himself. The two try to flee the building, but are cornered on a balcony. Teito pretends to hold Mikage hostage, threatening to kill him, and tries to escape, when Ayanami sends a Zaiphon attack, which hits Teito.
As he escapes, three bishops from District 7 take an injured Teito to the church to recover. He takes refuge in a church where, still in chains, he is mistaken by Frau for a slave. Due to the “sanctuary” law, and the church being protected by the 7 ghosts, Teito can stay in the church without fear of being found by the Empire or Ayanami. In the church Teito discovers many mysteries about himself, the church and the Empire itself.
The fact that he may be connected to the overthrown king and the mystical god rock “The Eye of Mikhael”, which is a powerful artifact from his home country, the Kingdom of Raggs. The tragic death of a loved one catapults him on his quest for revenge against the Barsburg Empire and knowledge of his past, as he becomes entangled with the gods, Verloren, and the 07 Ghost. Friends becoming enemies and rivals becoming allies, Teito begins to fulfill his destiny.
15. Pet Shop of Horrors
Original Run: 1995 – 1998
Number of Volumes: 10
Count D is the mysterious manager of an exotic pet store in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. The animals that the Count sells (gives, lends, or simply exchanges for candy), come with a contract with three important clauses. These clauses change depending on the animal sold, and breaking this contract induces (or intentionally provokes) dire consequences for the buyer (consequences always related to conflicts and problems in his life), for which the store does not accept any responsibility, although the intrinsic intent is actually to cause such events.
Individual chapters of Pet Shop of Horrors are often based on these consequences and are presented as stand-alone stories, generally introducing one or more characters in each chapter. With the exception of the main characters (Lion and the Count), it is rare for a character to appear in the anime for more than one chapter, giving the series a very episodic nature, unlike the manga, where individual stories are chained into macro-stories.
In the miniseries, Detective Leon Orcot is the nexus that ties the chapters together in an ongoing plot, usually in the form of a subplot within each chapter. He initially suspects that Count D is a criminal who uses the pet shop as a front for drug trafficking; but as he progresses through the series, he learns more about the pet shop and Count D himself, beginning an unlikely friendship between them as he tries to uncover the truth.
Original Run: April 30, 2013 – present
Number of Volumes: 6
High school student Ritsuka Uenoyama is the guitarist for The Seasons, a band consisting of bassist Haruki Nakayama and drummer Akihiko Kaji. Upon his pleas, Uenoyama becomes a reluctant guitar teacher to Mafuyu Satō (a shy high school classmate) after repairing broken strings on his Gibson ES-330. Ritsuka quickly realizes that Mafuyu is an exceptionally talented singer, and invites him to join the band regardless of his past.
17. Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan
Original Run: May 12, 2017 – present
Number of Volumes: 6
In his early 30s, Uramichi Omota hosts a TV show for preschoolers, where he joins the kids in gymnastics in the gym and teaches them lessons about fitness and life in general. But behind his smile is a cynical, depressive personality that breaks through again and again in front of the camera. Having previously been successful as an athlete, he has now given up this career. Privately, he is anything but a role model: smoker, drinker, and a nuisance for some of his colleagues who appear with him on the show.
Tobikichi Usahara and Mitsuo Kumatan impersonate the show’s two mascots in disguise as rabbits and bears. You know Uramichi from university and he bullies you. Also, singer Iketeru Daga and singer Utano Tadano, who often appear on the show alongside Uramichi, have already completed the best part of their careers and have now landed on the children’s show. For all the adults on set, the groups of young children they shoot with are as interchangeable and impersonal as their sets.
18. Love Stage!!
Original Run: July 2010 – September 2016
Number of Volumes: 7
Izumi Sena is an eighteen-year-old college student who dreams of becoming a mangaka. His entire family is in the entertainment business and therefore they believe that Izumi should also have a career in that business, but he has no interest in entering that world. However, ten years ago and due to certain special circumstances, he was part of the filming of a wedding announcement. In the said commercial, Izumi played the role of a girl tasked with catching the bride’s bouquet, whose child co-star was Ryōma Ichijō.
Now, the company behind that advertisement wants to recreate a new version with the girl and boy from back then, which means that Izumi will have to wear a wedding dress even as a boy. The boy from that commercial, now turned into a handsome idol, Ryōma, turns out to be in love with Izumi, and even after discovering the fact that she is not a girl as she had believed, her feelings do not change.
19. Midnight Secretary
Original Run: August 8, 2006 – May 8, 2009
Number of Volumes: 7
Conservative and well-dressed Kaya Satozuka, considered the perfect secretary, discovers that the director of the company where she works is a vampire; Putting aside her prejudices, she continues with her usual work and does not reveal the identity of her boss, with whom she develops a closer relationship.
20. The Window of Orpheus
Original Run: January 1975 – August 198
Number of Volumes: 18
The story begins in Regensburg, Germany, in 1903. At the Sankt Sebastian Music Conservatory there is a legend that if someone looks at a woman through a window in the school tower known as the Orpheus window, they will fall madly in love. of her, but as in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, their love will be doomed to end in tragedy.
Two students, Klaus and Isaak, meet one day in front of this legendary window from where they see a new student in the institute; Julius. But Julius is not a boy but a girl forced to pass herself off as a man in order to inherit her father’s fortune. From that moment on, the destinies of Klaus, Isaak and Julius will intersect more than once.