Office Lady

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A Gratuitous English Japanese term — often abbreviated to "OL" — for a low-level female employee in a corporate setting. Although she may have higher aspirations, the misogynistic atmosphere of the usual Japanese corporation frequently conspires to keep her fetching coffee, fending off sexual harassment, and forever clinging to the bottom rung of the office ladder. The Western equivalent would be the "glass ceiling".

Traditionally, the "office flower" was selected for being attractive and gracious to clients and expected to work for only a few years (just long enough to meet a nice young executive to marry), so it was not considered a "real" career. Some companies have OLs on separate career tracks to their "real employees" (who would generally be expected to stay with the company for their entire working life, and progress up the corporate ladder accordingly) — and give female hires a choice of which track they want to be on.

Generally treated as the expected employment path for a respectable young woman, Office Ladies are often used as shorthand for an employed, responsible adult woman (in contrast to the teenagers who populate most manga).

In works for teenagers, the Cool Big Sis or the one taking care of her younger siblings is likely to be an OL, while in josei (women's manga), it's a likely career for The Protagonist. In seinen (men's manga) there is also often a titillating aspect to OL characters, since OLs are traditionally supposed to be good-looking, attentive to men and unmarried, so it's a likely choice for Ms. Fanservice or the Love Interest. She'll also likely worry about trying to find a husband and having children.

Office Lady characters played straight are a bit more common in dorama (Japanese "soap operas") than they are in anime, although Punch Clock Villains and female Mooks are sometimes depicted this way.

In Speculative Fiction Series, OL characters are frequently employed as Bridge Bunnies.

If OLs are in a particularly violent anime or manga series, regardless of their allegiance, don't expect them to live long.

Compare Girl Friday and Plucky Office Girl.

Examples:

Anime and Manga Literature
  • An interesting take on the trope in the allegedly autobiographical novel Fear And Trembling: Westerner Amelie Nothomb moves to Tokyo and takes a job as an OL in a large Japanese company, but finds herself completely out of her depth in the harsh corporate environment and makes blunder upon blunder.

Live-Action TV
  • Kamen Rider Faiz features the creepy Smart Lady, representative of the Smart Brain company run by the villains. She never has a name beyond that and her role seems to be to cheerfully welcome guests and cheerfully threaten Orphenochs who turn down the Monster of the Week gig.
  • Shomu Ni is a Work Com centered around a group of office ladies designated to do the company's menial tasks, but the natures of these girls lead them into situations that result in them getting tangled up in much bigger plots.
  • Yoko Yagami/Pink Racer of Gekisou Sentai Carranger is one of these.

MMORPGs
  • Gaia Online's Meredith, a cute, young, redheaded bank teller who in the old days taught new users how to set up trades and transactions.

Video Games
  • One level in Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan has Sachiko, the overworked secretary. She is forever being bullied by a group of three other office ladies. The cheerleaders help to get her work done so she can go to the company's anniversary dance and win over the company president's son.
  • Two OLs meet a very disgusting end in one of the Bible Black shorts, by way of cleverly-applied shotgun.
  • Appears as a trainer class in Pokémon Black and White.


Alternative Title(s): OL

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