If you’ve been a longtime anime fan, you may have heard of shonen, seinen, or even shoujo, but rarely josei. However, the term has become more prevalent in recent times, and so you may have finally decided to look up the genre and get an answer to what does josei mean?!
In this article, we will explore the term josei, what it means, what makes any anime a josei, how it differs from other genres, and a list of must-watch josei anime series.
The Japanese word “josei” means “woman” or “female,” and it describes all those anime targeting female audiences aged 18-40 years. Since josei deals with adult themes surrounding womanhood, it’s often mistaken for a genre featuring family life rather than a demographic group.
While this does define the josei genre, there is more to this term. So, let’s take a deeper look!
What Does Josei Mean in Anime?
As stated above, josei is a Japanese word that means “woman” or “female.” It’s not a genre but a group of anime that targets a demographic range of women aged above 18 years.
This means josei features mature and realistic themes, primarily with female protagonists and their everyday struggles around their careers, relationships, hopes, and ambitions. Josei also includes detailed depictions of sexual orientations, erotica, depression, and childcare. Still, among anime demographics, josei is considered the most under-watched anime group.
Though this has been blatantly blamed on josei being “boring” or an overall “lack of interest” in anime by adult female audiences, it’s mostly because there aren’t enough josei titles to watch in the first place.
To put it in perspective, the MyAnimeList catalog features over 1000 titles for shonen and seinen each. Meanwhile, shoujo accounts for over 650 titles.
But the josie genre has barely 100 titles, including movies and OVAs.
So, women disliking josei is like claiming someone abhors certain kinds of books when they don’t even have access to those books.
Besides, adult women have shown interest in available animated series. For instance, Psycho-Pass is a seinen series with both male and female fanbases.
That said, a low number of available josei titles is often attributed to anime being primarily dominated by male artists. However, it may just be that josei was not needed as a separate domain, as shoujo pretty much-covered romance and a bit of womanhood.
In other words, the idea of modern women balancing their careers against their family lives drastically differs from what it used to be some 30 years ago. Therefore, creating the modern Josei series back then would have been impossible.
The first-ever use of the word “Josei” in relation to targeted entertainment for adult female audiences was used by the magazine named “Josei Jishin,” published in 1958.
Within years, several josei manga were published, but they sort of commercially failed.
Meanwhile, the shoujo genre flourished in the 1970s through the efforts of the Year 24 Group. But as these shoujo fans grew into young adults, they sought adult female entertainment.
This gave birth to a new kind of magazine – “Ladies Comics,” which was somewhere between shoujo and josei but didn’t emphasize romance or family life but the act of sex itself.
As Japan neared its lost decade, several manga businesses halted. And so, small publishing companies exploited ladies’ comics for their sexual nature by featuring hard-core pornography.
Consequently, ‘josei’ mistakenly became associated with porn, hindering female audiences from seeking it.
But the era also saw the emergence of true Josei magazines, including Young You and Feel Young, which featured social issues. So by the 1990s, josei cleared its reputation, and the anime industry started to adapt several josei series.
And so, Paradise Kiss in 1999 became the first-ever famous josei anime. Later, the josei genre featured masterpieces, including Bunny Drop, Chihayafuru, Eden of the East, and Princess Jellyfish.
What Makes an Anime a Josei Anime?
By definition, any anime that exclusively targets females above 18 falls under the josei category. Usually, that means an anime based on a manga from a josei-exclusive magazine.
However, josei and shoujo are often featured together in one magazine. Furthermore, targeting adult female audiences means that anything under the sun can be a topic of interest. This makes josei one of the most diverse anime groups yet to be explored.
Therefore, it’s impossible to create a stereotypical image of josei. And so, some suggest that the josei anime genre may be as diverse as a seinen with time. After all, josei can also be defined as the female counterpart of the seinen genre.
But unlike seinen which has already explored a wide range of concepts in depth, josei seems to have kept itself to certain tropes and themes.
While there is no such thing as a stereotypical josei title, certain genres are most commonly associated with the Josei theme, including slice-of-life, drama, romance, and pornography.
Now, josei was expected to feature slice-of-life because it’s bound to show life at a slow pace to make it relatable to an adult audience. After all, the pacing of frames can add frustration, contentment, or sometimes tangible desires.
But most josei anime are dramatic in nature, where ordinary women deal with their marital affairs, careers, childcare, workplace issues, feminine beauty standards, adultery, or social issues like prostitution, aging, domestic violence, etc.
These are often accompanied by romance, where a heartbroken or divorced woman thinks of never falling in love again. But her Prince Charming arrives, and she ultimately marries him.
But unlike shoujo that makes a huge deal out of sexual interactions, josei is shy about nothing. And so, this makes josei much more graphic and explicit or, say, ‘partly porn.’
However, the josei genre deals with various stigmas around sexual expressions, societal issues, music, history, and marginalized groups. So, even an explicit josei series has something worthy to offer.
But if you are new to the josei genre, here are a few series you must explore:
Josei Anime Examples:
1. Usagi Drop
While attending his grandfather’s funeral, a 30-year-old bachelor named Daikichi Kawachi comes across a 6-year-old girl named Rin Kaga, who happens to be his grandfather’s illegitimate child.
Watching the kid being treated harshly, Daikichi decides to raise her. But he must leave all the quirks of his bachelor life to become a single parent.
Growing up, Chihaya Ayase wanted to see her elder sister, Chitose, become a successful model. But things changed when a boy named Arata Wataya introduced her to Karuta and tapped into her hidden talent. However, they parted soon afterward.
Now, Chihaya has formed a ‘Karuta club’ with her childhood best friend, Taichi Mashima, to become a world-class Karuta player and be with Arata again.
3. Princess Jellyfish
Having visited an aquarium with her late mother, Tsukimi Kurashita is obsessed with Jellyfish and thinks lace-made tentacles are similar to a princess’s white attire. Though she dreams of becoming an illustrator, she lives with 5 unemployed otakus who detest men.
However, her life takes a turn when a beautiful woman helps her save a jellyfish at a pet store, only for them to grow close. But Tsukimi soon learns the woman’s secret, and now she must keep it from her roommates.
4. Honey and Clover
Three young college men, Yuta Takemoto, Shinobu Morita, and Takumi Mayama, share an apartment. Though they share a close bond, things change when two of the three men fall for the same girl named Hagumi Hanamoto, who shares a deep friendship with Ayumi Yamada.
But Ayumi loves one of the three flat-mates. As the five characters spend more time together, they get further entangled in love triangles.
5. Nodame Cantabile
Shinichi Chiaki is an arrogant, perfectionist but talented music student who dreams of becoming a world-class conductor. But he’s stuck in Japan because of his ‘Fear of Flying’ to Europe.
However, things change when he meets Megumi Noda, aka “Nodame,” a talented but messy female pianist who falls head over heels for Shinichi. But it’s hard for Shinichi to reciprocate her feelings and avoid her because she lives next door.
6. Paradise Kiss
While returning home from school, Yukari Hayasaka gets approached by a weird-looking man who intently stares at her body. This leads Yukari to run away, only to bump into a purple-haired woman wearing an odd dress and faint.
On waking up, she learns that the man was a fashion designer, and his group wants to recruit Yukari as a model for their “Paradise Kiss” brand. Though Yukari hesitantly joins, she soon learns that her true ambitions in life are much different from being an average girl.
7. Kids on the Slope
Due to his father’s career, Kaoru Nishimi, an introverted pianist, has been moving through cities his entire life and lacks friends. But on his first day in a new school, Kaoru encounters Sentarou Kawabuchi, a Jazz lover who is infamous as the school delinquent.
As Karou learns more about Jazz, the two grow closer, and a heart-warming story of friendship begins.
Josei vs. Other Anime Genres:
Josei is often confused with Shoujo which is meant for teenage girls and early adults.
The two tend to lean towards emotional themes rather than raw physical strength. However, Shoujo typically deals with life before marriage, while Josei often deals with family life after marriage.
But that’s a loose distinction because Josei may feature high school students exploring their options for future careers, and a title in the shoujo genre may feature adult people dealing with a one-night stand.
For instance, A Silent Voice is a josei that revolves around high school bullying; meanwhile, We Were There is a shoujo with mature content.
But Shoujo is usually light-hearted, while Josei may deal with complex feelings.
In that respect, Josei is much more like its male counterpart, Seinen, which targets male audiences above 18 years of age.
Since men prefer action and psychological aspects, the seinen genre deals with adult struggles around careers, family ordeals, living as NEETs, links with the mafia and drugs, etc. But Seinen only shows character growth and rarely goes into the actual healing process.
While Seinen is diverse enough to depict all kinds of problems in their tangible form and deal with male-related issues, Josei is inclusive enough to depict the emotional struggles of all genders.
For instance, Berserk is a seinen that features mature content and deals with Guts going through the trauma of being abused throughout his childhood. However, the series gives no hint of a female perspective on rape even though the series explicitly shows several such scenarios.
In contrast, Usagi Drop is a Josei that shows a bachelor raising his grandfather’s illegitimate child and growing fatherly affection.
However, Josie is most distinct from Shonen which describes anime made for boys.
A typical title in the shonen genre advocates action, adventure, and the importance of friendships. Meanwhile, Josie is mostly about women learning and growing individually from past experiences.
But certain Shonen characters grow to transition into Josei. For instance, Saiyuki, a shonen manga, was later serialized as a josei manga.
The word “Josei” means “Woman,” and in anime, it refers to not a genre but all those anime series created for adult female audiences. Josei is oriented towards the reality of life for females, typically after marriage, so they deal with mature themes, including postpartum depression.
While this makes Josei unique and diverse among other anime genres; currently, only a limited number of josei titles are available. I hope this article helped you understand what does josei mean in-depth and cleared any of the ambiguities related to it. So, share the article with your friends who also want to learn the meaning of josei!
Also Read: What Does Isekai Mean in Anime?