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Long work days, life troubles, and (un)lucky lovers —
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Josei is a demographic category of manga, anime, and other Japanese entertainment aimed at female audiences aged 18 to 40. Like its Spear Counterpart Seinen, Josei is notable for more realistic, less idealized portrayals of romance and life than in works for young girls.

It typically uses a more realistic artistic style than Shoujo manga, though it retains some common traits like sparse use of ink and detailed character designs. While they often still look invariably gorgeous, they're more "hot" than "cute": the men tend to edge more into Pretty Boy territory while the women look more mature. Stories typically portray everyday life for young Japanese women — usually adults, but occasionally high school age.

Common settings include the workplace (often featuring surly businessmen and confident or put-upon Office Ladies if it's an office), city nightlife, university campuses, and other mundane areas. Like its younger counterpart, historical dramas remain as popular a topic to write about as the modern day: the tales of hardened warriors and the daily struggles of the people both have room to flourish. Horror is also no stranger to this demographic — acclaimed horror writer Junji Ito even wrote some of his stories for women's horror magazines. Romance is more nuanced here than the Shoujo style of "never been kissed", with its heroines often either unlucky in love, working through relationship troubles, or generally experienced. On the flip side, its more blue offerings (known as "Ladies Comics") can get steamier than even the most borderline Teens Love — harems getting sexual, pent-up coworkers, women with "pet"-like subordiates — with a subgenre even dedicated to adapting Harlequin romance. More mature and explicit works in the Yaoi Genre also tend to be published for this demographic.

There is some overlap with Shoujo fans, as there are writers that put out content for both demographics and magazines that cater to both at the same time. While the overlap with Shounen and Seinen isn't as pronounced, works like Michiko & Hatchin or Servamp carry some of the same themes those demographics are familiar with, and some anime can even air alongside them in the West.

Josei manga get adapted into anime far more rarely than other demographics, more often getting live-action TV series if they make it to television at all. However, Fuji Television's noitaminA anime block is notable for focusing on this demographic.

Compare Seinen, which is aimed at men in the same age range; and Shoujo, which is aimed at a younger female audience. Shounen is aimed at a younger male audience.

Popular Josei Magazines

  • Cocohana
  • Cookie
  • Dessert
  • Monthly Comic Zero-Sum (intentionally made to cater to both josei and shoujo markets, in an odd case)
  • You


Series sometimes mistaken for josei:

  • Chi's Sweet Home is a cute series about the domestic life of a family as seen through the eyes of their pet cat, which would seem to make it prime Josei material, but it's actually Seinen.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers: Very close, but the involvement with Comic Birz pulls it closer to the seinen category. Though now it's closer to Shōnen thanks to the involvement with Shonen Jump.
  • Nana, which is really close to a josei, but it's a Shōjo.
  • Black Butler seems to be a mix of Shoujo, more so in the anime, and Seinen, more so in the manga. As such it is often thought of as a Josei but it's actually a Shounen.
  • Comic Zero Sum is a magazine targeted at women of all ages. This often leads to confusion as to whether a work is shoujo or josei. These include Amatsuki, Loveless, 07-Ghost, Karneval and Dazzle.
  • Works by Mayu Shinjo like Sensual Phrase, Haou Airen, Love Celeb or Akuma na Eros, due to the extremely high sexual content that often includes Sexual Harassment and Rape Tropes. The melodramatic storytelling and the fact that the protagonists tend to be girls in their late teens, however, sets them as full-blooded shoujo.
  • Hataraki Man, due to featuring a female protagonist and written by Moyoco Anno, who is well-known for writing Josei manga. It actually runs in a Seinen magazine, however.
  • Bitter Virgin is about a boy who finds out his classmate was raped by her step-father and became pregnant. It delves into topics like abortion, molestation, miscarriage, and teen pregnancy but is not a josei or even a shoujo manga. It's seinen.
  • Life (2002) is on the thin line between seeming shoujo and seeming josei. It's about a bullied high school girl that cuts herself and has a fair amount of graphic sexuality and violence to the point where Tokyo Pop upgraded the rating from "Older Teens" to "Mature". Still it's a shoujo manga.
  • Emma: A Victorian Romance is a female-lead romance about an ordinary maid with three gorgeous men interested in her (though she's only interested in one of them). It seems a lot like a josei series, but it's actually seinen.
  • Wandering Son. It's a calm Slice of Life about kids going through elementary to college. It delves with topics like bullying, gender roles, growing up, and other topics more common in female geared works. Its anime adaptation has a watercolor look and aired on noitaminA. Signs point toward josei, maybe shoujo, but it's really a seinen series.
  • From Five to Nine tends to be mistaken for josei since most of the characters are adults who deal with adult problems, but the manga ran in the shoujo magazine Cheese!. The live-action drama adaptation, however, is aimed at adults and aired late at night.