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Josei manga (女性漫画, lit. "women's comics", pronounced [dʑoseː]) are Japanese comics catered specifically to women's interests, and marketed towards older teenage girls and adult women demographics who are able to read kanji without the aid of furigana. Subgenres of josei manga include "ladies' comics" (レディースコミックス, redīsu komikkusu) or "lady-comi" (レディコミ, redikomi). Readers can range in age from 18 to 45.
Unlike shōjo manga, which is aimed at young girls, josei manga often portray realistic romance, as opposed to the mostly idealized romance of shōjo manga. They tend to be both more sexually explicit and contain more mature storytelling than shōjo manga, although this is not always the case either.
Some of the most popular josei manga have featured female protagonists and/or mostly female main cast, and the female characters are often quite compassionate toward other women. Although some josei manga can contain plots and characters influenced by shōjo manga, others tell action-packed stories and lack the romantic and slice of life elements associated with shōjo.
The Western approach to josei has all but ignored some of its more recent trends, such as an increase in shōnen-influenced series. Although there are housewife-, family-, and young mother-themed josei manga published in Japan, very few josei series are licensed for Western publication. Anthony Gramuglia, a reviewer for CBR, argued that josei is the most underserved demographic of anime and manga, stating that since they are "targeted at mature women," they are often overlooked by those in "mainstream anime fandom," and pointed to successful titles within the genre, like Paradise Kiss, Princess Jellyfish, Usagi Drop, Eden of the East, Chihayafuru, and My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, along with anime like Aggretsuko.
Josei manga (then called "ladies' comics" or "lady-comi") began to appear in the 1980s, during a boom period in manga, when the women who grew up reading shōjo manga in the 1950s and '60s wanted to read works aimed at adult women. The first ladies' comics magazine, Be Love, was printed in 1980. There were only two ladies' comics magazines being published in Japan by the end of 1980; however, there were over fifty by the end of 1989. Early ladies' comics were free of sexual content, and the comics became more and more sexually extreme until the early 1990s. Manga branded as ladies' comics have acquired a reputation for being low-brow, and "dirty", and the term josei was created to move away from that image.
In a strict sense, the term "josei manga" refers to a manga serialized in a josei manga magazine. The list below contains past and current Japanese josei manga magazines, grouped according to their publishers. Such magazines can appear on a variety of schedules, including monthly (You), bi-monthly (Melody), and quarterly.
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, below are the circulations for the top-selling magazines in other categories in 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|
(Source for all circulation figures: Japan Magazine Publishers Association)
|magazine=(help) Note: The publication, which relies on information provided by publishers, categorizes the magazine Cookie (with a reported circulation of 200,000) as josei; however, Shueisha's s-manga.net website clearly categorizes that magazine as shōjo, and it is therefore not included here.