For March, rather than focusing on a specific genre, I thought I would take a look at a wide range of manga created by women. Though I think many readers assume that most of the top manga creators are men, in fact there are a number of famous and important works created by women. Here are just a few examples.
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa – Featuring two main characters, one with a prosthetic arm and leg and the other a disembodied soul in a metal body, Fullmetal Alchemist is a fun series set in a world where alchemy offers practitioners the ability to transform the world around them, but not without a price. The story offers a perfect combination of a steampunk setting, compelling characters, humor, and adventure. Told over the course of 10 volumes, the story is one that has gone on to spawn two anime series, video games, and a series of Japanese novels. This is a great manga for serious manga fans and new readers alike.
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori – This classic manga series is difficult to sum up. It follows a young girl who is swept up into her new school’s host club after she breaks an expensive vase and is mistaken for a boy. The finer points of the complex plot are less important than the fact that this series is designed as a send up of many of the tropes and cliches of the shojo manga. It contains many romantic subplots, humor that occasionally breaks the fourth wall, and a focus on issues of class and gender. It spawned a successful anime series and remains a well-known and popular series.
Strobe Edge by Io Sakisaka (2014 Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens) – This manga follows 15-year old Ninako Kinoshita as she meets and falls in love with a quiet, but extremely popular boy from her school. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that the boy already has a girlfriend and Ninako has never been in a relationship. Over the course of the series, they must each confront their feelings and decide whether they want to proceed with a relationship. In addition to the manga, a movie adaptation is due to be released in Japan later this month.
Wandering Son by Shimura Takako (2012 Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens) – In Wandering Son, Takako introduces readers to two fifth graders: Shuichi Nitori, a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino Takatsuki, a girl who wants to be a boy. Full of relatable characters and humor, this book will simultaneously remind readers of their own middle school years and immerse them in the characters’ lives. Once you start reading the series, you won’t be able to put it down.
A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori (2012 Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens) – This series by the woman who also created the award-winning manga series Emma (2008 Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens), which is being reprinted later this spring, takes place in Central Asia during the 19th century. It centers around a woman who travels a great distance to marry a man who is younger than her and lives in a town that is in contrast to her own nomadic background. The series is an interesting introduction to a lifestyle and time with which many readers will be unfamiliar and has beautiful artwork that will keep you captivated throughout.
After School Nightmare by Setona Mizushiro (2008 Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens) – Mashiro Ichijo seems to have it all. He’s popular, attractive, a student at an elite school, but he also has a secret. When he is forced into a class that requires him to find a mysterious key in a dream world to graduate, he must also confront this secret, which is the fact that he is intersex. Along the way, Ichijo attracts the romantic attention of two classmates, one of whom is a beautiful girl and the other of whom is a slacker boy. Ichijo must decide on a true identity to succeed at the quest and graduate.
xxxHolic by CLAMP – Kimihiro Watanuki has a problem – he can see spirits all around him. When he stumbles upon a mysterious store, the woman named Yuko who owns it offers him the chance to wish his problem away. But, no wish comes without a price and Kimihiro ends up bound to work for Yuko to pay off his debt. Along the way, he encounters people with a range of supernatural and natural problems and watches Yuko “help” people, albeit in her trickster manner. This series is a popular offering from CLAMP, a group of female manga artists who have been working together for many years, and has been a bestseller in both Japan and the U.S.
Hopefully this list will help you to add some new manga to your reading list, but these are just a few of the great women who are creating manga. Let me know in the comments if there are others that you would add to the list!
– Carli Spina, currently reading SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki