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 usual Japanese corporate sexism frequently keeps 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.
If OLs are in a particularly violent anime or manga series, regardless of their allegiance, don't expect them to live long.
- Ebichu's owner ('the Mistress') in Oruchuban Ebichu is unnamed, but otherwise referred to as O.L. in source material. She's also her "boyfriend"'s Chew Toy.
- In Midori Days, Seiji's sister Rin dresses like an Office Lady, although she leads a biker gang. God help the poor fool who tries to pinch her butt!
- The Punch Clock Villains in All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku aren't office ladies, but at least one of them thinks they are:
Arisa: We office ladies can get really stressed out, you know.
Kyouko: Where do you get off calling us office ladies?
Arisa: Simple, we're the Secretarial Department's Flying Column, which abbreviates down to O.L.
Kyouko: Just how do those words abbreviate into O.L.?
Arisa: I guess they don't.
- Kaneru from Doujin Work is a rather bored office lady who only finds joy in making doujinshi, even though she claims to be the owner of a tea salon.
- Wendy in the Read or Die OVA seems to be an OL, although this changes when she appears in the Read or Dream TV.
- In Kimi Wa Petto, career woman Sumire is envied by her OL coworkers.
- Izumi in Android Announcer Maico 2010.
- Found in Hotaru no Hikari
- Butterflies, Flowers: The heroine, Choko.
- Emilia Justina in The Devil Is a Part-Timer! turned from The Hero in Ente Isla to a contract worker named Yusa Emi working in a call center upon her arrival on Earth. She still has yet to give up on her quest to defeat the demon lord, who is actually living poorer than her.
- In Liar Game, one of the players who makes it to the fourth round is Mika Mikamoto, who goes by the nickname of "Office Lady". She's a follower of Harimoto's cult and thus one of his loyal minions.
- Both main characters in the Girls' Love manga Ebisu-san and Hotei-san are office ladies.
- The duties of Mai from Ghost Hunt when Naru doesn't have a case are similar to that of an office lady. She even comments that her pay is roughly equivalent to what an office lady makes - which is really generous for an after-school part-time job.
- Linna Yamazaki in Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (not to be confused with the OVA version of her character, who was an aerobics instructor and later a stockbroker.)
- The very unusual Gundam spinoff manga Gunnota no Onna combines this with Gender Flip, starring a female Char named Gunnota who tries to hide her Otaku tendencies while being in a Love Triangle with Fem!M'Quve and Man!Kycilia.
- An interesting subversion/aversion in Ghost in the Shell: Section 9 employs an army of identical androids in the guise of attractive young women who do everything from answering the phones to flying the helicopters. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex reveals that other government services have similar groups of assistants, with different designs (e.g. Section 9's wear red suits and have brown ponytails, while the mundane military's come with glasses and wear military fatigues).
- Kaya in Midnight Secretary, who takes her secretarial duties extremely seriously, and her employers acknowledge and appreciate her hard work.
- In Tokyo Ghoul, the Commission of Counter-Ghoul employees quite a few of these to handle interaction with the public. When Kaneki and Touka go to the headquarters to give false information, they are greeted by a cheerful and attractive young woman. She spends time fawning over the Tall, Dark, and Handsome Fair Cop that just transferred to their branch, establishing her firmly as one of these. In the sequel, Sasaki is introduced being fawned over by another such standard cute Office Lady.
- Kaoru from I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying works at some unnamed company. To her annoyance, she makes less money than her husband (he does web design).
- Deconstructed in Cat's Eye, where Mitsuko Asatani, an ambitious police officer with the investigative and combat skills to back it up, finds herself thrust in the role because she's a woman in The '80s' Japan, even if she has more common sense than all her squadmates put together. Her frustration with this and its influence with her wedding chances plays a large part in her short temper, not helped by her cooking having laxative and potentially lethal effects.
- Parodied once in City Hunter (from the same author as Cat's Eye above): during one arc Kaori was to bodyguard a woman, actually her long lost older sister, who, being the director of a newspaper and wishing her sister to abandon her rather dangerous life, asked her to take the role, justifying it as a cover. Kaori's attempt at using a photocopier (who hadn't the plug in place) ended with her smashing it with a giant hammer, and it was only the beginning.
- The titular character of Sanrio's Aggressive Retsuko shorts, who sings death metal internally when she gets frustrated with her life, which is often.
- Played with in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Elma mainly gets everyone tea at work, but that's only because she got a job as a programmer without even knowing what a computer was. She gets elevated to Salarywoman once she learns how to code.
- Kobayashi is also referred to as an office lady in the anime's trailer, but she's actually a senior programmer (and is described as the pillar for the entire department).
- Bijin Onna Joushi Takizawa-san centers around office employee Kyouko Takizawa and her Gag Boobs.
- Moriko Morioka quits her job at the start of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, deciding she'd rather be a NEET than be overworked.
- 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.
- 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.
- It's also Yumeria's day job in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger.
- 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.