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Josei manga (女性漫画?, lit. comics for women, pronounced [dʑosei]) also known as "ladies" (レディース redīsu?) or "ladies' comics" (レディコミ redikomi?, lit. "LadyComi") is a type of manga created mostly by women for late teenage and adult female audiences. Readers range from 15 to 44. In Japanese, the word josei means simply "woman", "female", "feminine", "womanhood" and has no manga-related connotations at all.
Josei comics can portray realistic romance, as opposed to the mostly idealized romance of shōjo manga, but it does not always have to be. Josei tends to be both more sexually explicit and contain more mature storytelling, although that is not always true either. It is also not unusual for themes such as infidelity and rape to occur in josei manga target specifically towards more mature audiences. Some other famously popular josei series include Yun Kouga's Loveless, Ai Yazawa's Paradise Kiss, and the award-winning works of Erica Sakurazawa.
Contrary to popular belief, josei, geared toward an older female audience, has taken a turn deviant from its shōjo manga counterpart and cannot readily be said to share most of shōjo's most defining characteristics. Josei does not always, and often does not, center around an outgoing female protagonist. In recent years, the most popular josei series feature male protagonists, and a main cast of nearly all men. The male characters of a josei series are often quite compassionate toward other males. And although josei can also feature a more closely influenced shōjo storyline (as described above), many popular and recent josei series are geared toward an older female audience that enjoys entertaining, action-packed stories that may even lack the romantic or slice of life innuendos.
The josei series that become anime are often noted (and criticized) for their tendency to feature homoerotic themes, often because of a large misinterpretation of the demographic origin. Josei has come to a point where it is often mistaken for shounen when adapted to an anime. Series such as 07-Ghost, Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, or (most recently) Karneval are josei series that seem to attract a large amount of banter from audience members that are unaware of the meaning of a josei status. 
The westernized approach to josei has all but eclipsed its most recent evolution toward Shōnen manga: subdued yaoi hybrid insinuations. Older josei series, such as Nana, featuring the classic, more mature shojo approach, remain to be the only licensed examples of the demographic, thus the popular misconception of modern josei. Yaoi, as a genre geared toward the same audience as josei, is the sole homosexually oriented manga represented in the west. As such, the blanket conception of yaoi as a singularly outlying interest for the "strange" josei audience remains to be a popular assumption, when in fact, most mainstream josei is neither akin to shojo, nor akin to graphic yaoi.
The very celebrated josei comic magazine, Monthly Comic Zero Sum features the most popular series that are readily attributed to the status of a josei work. These include Makai Ōji: Devils and Realist, 07-Ghost, Loveless, Karneval, Are You Alice?, +C Sword and Cornett, 3 of which have been turned into anime, all of which are leading examples of josei's notably unique characteristics.
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, here are the circulations for the top-selling magazines in other categories for 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)
|This section requires expansion. (March 2011)|
Josei manga (then called Ladies Comics, or Redikomi) began to appear in the 1980s, during a boom period in manga, when the girls who had read shoujo manga in the 1950s and 60s wanted manga for adult women. The first ladies comic magazine, Be-Love, was printed in 1980. At the end of 1980 there were two ladies comics magazines, at the end of 1989 there were over fifty. Early ladies comics were sexually free, and the comics became more and more sexually extreme until the early 1990s. Manga branded as "Ladies' Comics" has acquired a reputation for being low-brow, and "dirty", and the term josei was created to move away from that image.
- Children's (Kodomo): intended for younger children
- Shōnen manga: intended for boys
- Shōjo manga: intended for girls
- Seinen: intended for adult males
- List of Josei manga magazines
- Yaoi: homoerotic stories about men in love for female audiences
- Ito, Kinko (2003). "The World of Japanese Ladies' Comics: from Romantic Fantasy to Lustful Perversion". The Journal of Popular Culture 36 (1): 68–85. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00031.
- Jim Breen's online Japanese-English dictionary entry for josei. Accessed 21 September 2012.
- Tangorin online Japanese-English dictionary entry for josei. Accessed 21 September 2012.
- http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-01-08/japanese-comic-ranking-december-24-30 - see rank #18 and #22
- http://anilinkz.com/karneval-episode-3#comment-868418427 - in reference to Karneval
- http://anilinkz.com/karneval-episode-3#comment-868354087 in reference to Karneval
- http://anilinkz.com/k-episode-1#comment-671753799 - in reference to the series K (anime)
- Japan Magazine Publishers Association Magazine Data 2007. The publication, which relies on information provided by publishers, categorizes the magazine Cookie (with a reported circulation of 200,000) as josei, but Shueisha's "S-MANGA.NET" site clearly categorizes that magazine as shōjo, and it is therefore not included here.
- Matt Thorn What Shôjo Manga Are and Are Not
- O'Connell, Margaret (September 8, 2008). "Comics for Grown-Up Women, Part 1". Sequential Tart. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Aoki, Deb. "2008 Readers Poll: Best New Josei Manga". About.com. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
- Aoki, Deb. "Josei Manga — Ladies Comics". About.com. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Brenner, Robin E. Understanding manga and anime. — pp. 36. ISBN 978-1-59158-332-5
- Aoki, Deb. "2007 Readers Poll: Best New Josei Manga". About.com. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Kai-Ming Cha. (April 25, 2006). "Kind of Blue: The Josei Manga of Nananan". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2009-10-13.[dead link]
- Fusami Ogi, 2003: Female Subjectivity and Shoujo (Girls) Manga (Japanese Comics): Shoujo in Ladies' Comics and Young Ladies' Comics, Volume 36, Issue 4, pages 780–803
- Gretchen Jones, 2003: "Ladies' Comics": Japan's Not-So-Underground Market in Pornography for Women, US-Japan Women's Journal English Supplement, Volume 22, pages 3–30
- Deborah Shamoon, Office Sluts and Rebel Flowers: The Pleasures of Japanese Pornographic Comics for Women, in: Porn Studies, ed. Linda Williams, 2004
- Gretchen Jones, Bad Girls Like to Watch: Writing and Reading Ladies' Comics, in: Bad girls of Japan, ed. Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley, 2005