This list of the best josei manga will have you addicted from the very first chapter. They’ll make you laugh, cry, and warm your heart. Most importantly, you’ll love reading every page!
If you’re tired of the unrealistic romances of shoujo manga, in which a meek high school girl falls for the resident bad boy, it might be time to try Josei Manga.
The term josei translates to “young woman,” so these comics cater to the interests of older women. Josei manga covers more mature topics than shoujo manga.
This type of manga depicts realistic romances and relatable characters. These mangas frequently focus on the difficulties that women face when attempting to find their place in the world. Many examine the bonds between family, friends, and lovers.
If this is your first time reading a josei manga and you’re unsure where to begin, we’ve got you covered.
About Josei Manga
I am very excited to share everything I know about josei manga with you. I was a manga fan before I knew what josei manga was.
While it is no secret that I enjoy horror, fantasy, and action manga, those titles are usually classified as shoujo (also spelled shjo).
I began reading manga shortly after discovering Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Inuyasha. I’ve always thought that manga had a better selection of books centered on women and femmes.
Josei Manga’s History
Manga began as a very male-centered medium. The majority of the characters, creators, and stories centered on men and young boys, but there was a female manga readership.
Only a few publishers were producing what was previously known as girl or lady comics in the early 1980s.
Josei Manga versus Shouju Manga
The simplest way for me to explain the distinction between josei and shouju is to think of it as YA versus general fiction.
Young Adult lit, like shouju, is written for teenagers, whereas josei is written for new adults and contains more mature content.
That doesn’t mean it has explicit content (though it may), but the characters are older and the stories tend to reflect adult women’s interests and lives.
Which People Should Read Josei Manga?
Everyone can read josei manga! If you prefer your manga to be female-centered with mature themes, josei manga is for you. If you enjoy Aggretsuko on Netflix, you should also read the Aggretsuko comics and other manga.
Here are our picks for the top ten best josei manga of all time!
Wash Day by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith
Who doesn’t like a slice-of-life story about the daily beauty rituals of having Black hair? You follow a young woman named Kimana in Wash Day.
Kimana goes through the process of washing her hair on Sundays and her hair is thick! She spends a lot of time detangling, moisturizing, and conditioning her natural hair while living with her best friend, who also happens to be her roommate.
Nana, Vol. 1 by Al Yazawa
Nana is considered a classic josei manga by some. It’s the story of two Nana girls who meet on the train and become friends.
One Nana is a musician, whereas the other, who is more feminine in appearance, wish to live a simple life with her boyfriend.
This is a long series, and subsequent volumes explain how the girls’ various personalities and lives complement one another. You’ll enjoy this manga if you liked the animated show Tuca & Bertie.
Happy Marriage?!, Vol. 1 by Maki Enjoji
Another classic josei manga. In this manga, a young woman is forced to marry a wealthy man who just happens to also be her boss.
I’ll also add some trigger warnings to this title as well because it has typical sexist tropes, and there is mention of rape by the main character.
Midnight Secretary, Vol. 1 by Tomu Ohmi
A lot of josei manga centers on romance and while this one does too, it also adds some fantasy and vampires into the mix.
Kaya is a secretary who takes pride in being a good employee. She will do almost anything to impress her boss.
While her feelings for him grow stronger, she doesn’t realize he is a vampire, and unlike any vampire you’ve ever read about. Kaya is a strong heroine and the romance is a slow buildup.
Everyone’s Getting Married by Izumi Miyazono
This is another one of my favorite josei manga because it involves a woman named Asuka who has established herself as an independent individual.
After she breaks up with her boyfriend, who didn’t want to be overshadowed by her career achievements, she meets a popular media personality named Ryu. Ryu wants no part of marriage while Asuka thinks marriage is the icing on the cake that is her life.
Yakuza Lover, Vol. 1 by Akuza Lover, Vol. 1 by Nozomi
If you want to start your josei journey with a brand new title, you’re in luck. Yakuza Lover is a romance manga wrapped in a crime story.
It follows Yuri, a college student who randomly meets a crime boss. The two fall in love with each other. The romantic scenes are steamy, and it’s fun to watch Yuri bring the softness out of her bad boy.
Happy Mania, Book 1 by Moyoco Anno Shirley Kubo
This josei is just messy, and I, for one, live for it. Shigeta is obsessed with finding the perfect man.
No matter who she dates, he’s never good enough, and even though she seems to be living in her own head about what romance is, she leaves behind a trail of men who just don’t fit the bill.
Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga
If you want a josei that’s more than contemporary romance, you should try this manga inspired by history and politics.
To top it off, there’s an interesting reversal of the harem trope that will make you want to continue reading the other volumes.
Aggretsuko: Metal to the Max by Daniel Barnes and Brenda Hickey
If you enjoy this Netflix series, you will enjoy the comics and manga. Retsuko is a soft-spoken red panda who performs a usual 9 to 5 job.
She only wants to be well-known on social media, fall in love, and eventually please her mother. When Retsuko becomes frustrated, she transforms into a raging metal-punk singer who vents her rage through music.
Gokusen by Kozueko Morimoto
There is a lot of romance in josei manga, but every now and then, you will come across an action-packed josei with a badass protagonist.
Yamaguchi Kumiko, the next yakuza clan boss, is the protagonist of Gokusen. Instead of joining the deadly clan, she decides to pursue her passion for teaching.
Kumiko completes her studies and begins teaching math at an all-boys school. She’s been assigned a class full of students who are notorious for causing problems for teachers.
As she tries to conceal her true identity, the undercover gangster instills in the students a newfound appreciation for school.