PART 3: SEINEN & JOSEI
Last up are seinen and josei, which I’ve combined into one post, since they’re the two genres that I’m least familiar with. Seinen, at least, however, is fairly well-represented in the West: Some popular examples are Akira, Berserk, Hellsing, Battle Royale, and Chobits, amongst many, many others. The themes of the genre are actually often quite similar to those used in shounen manga, but one easy way to tell the difference between shounen and seinen (at least, when looking at the untranslated manga), is to check whether the Japanese characters contain furigana (small kana characters that denote the correct pronunciation of kanji), as it is usually not used in writing that is intended for older audiences. Seinen also tends to be more explicit than shounen, and often contains darker, or more complex themes.
Josei is a less prolific genre, and has a broad target demographic – readers are as likely to be teenage girls as they are to be middle-aged women (a bit like Twilight, I suppose 😉 ). Like shoujo, josei stories are often relationship-centric, but because it’s aimed at an older audience, the material is often more explicit and less romanticised, and doesn’t shy away from dark themes such as infidelity and rape. A few josei series that you might have heard of are Paradise Kiss, 07-Ghost, and Karneval.
[Please note that the following recommendations are not necessarily my favourite seinen and josei manga – but they are series that I think will make good starting-points for people unfamiliar with the genre.]
Dogs by Shirow Miwa (Ultra Jump). A dystopian series about a genetically-modified man called Heine, with a bloodthirsty split-personality called “the Dog”, who takes over when Heine is in violent or stressful situations. Heine and the three other main characters (Naoto, an amnesiac swordswoman, Badou, a private investigator, and Mihai, a retired assassin) are all searching for a way into “the Below”, this world’s sinister underground, in hopes of finding reasons for the things they’ve been through. Action-packed and incredibly violent, this series isn’t going to be for everyone. It is, however, an incredibly interesting story, full of mystery and intrigue, and which only gets darker as it goes on.
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura (Comic Beam). A series that follows a middle-schooler called Shuichi, who was born a boy, but wants to be a girl, and his/her friendship with Yoshino, a classmate in the exact opposite situation. Obviously, major themes in this series include transsexualism and gender identity, but as the series goes on, puberty also begins to play a big part. The art is beautiful, too, but the real draw of this series is the characters, who are both realistic and relatable in the way that they deal with the challenges that face them.
Loveless by Yun Kouga (Monthly Comic Zero Sum). A fairly well-known series following a young boy called Ritsuka, who, after the sudden death of his older brother, finds that he’s inherited a “Fighter” – a university student called Soubi – and is consequently pulled into a hidden world of Fighters and Sacrifices, where he begins to find some hints as to what actually happened to his brother. This series can be a little hard to follow at times, but it’s definitely worth pushing through the confusing parts. The characters and their development are both great, and the art is very atmospheric. The story also contains some surprisingly dark themes, including abuse, memory loss, and dysfunctional relationships.
Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita (Feel Young).This series follows a man called Daikichi, who decides to take in and raise his grandfather’s six-year-old illegitimate daughter. The plot follows their lives together, and how Daikichi adjusts to the various challenges of parenthood… but despite its apparent lack of direction, it’s actually a really cute story. The art is beautiful, and the characters – who are really the focal point of the series – are wonderfully realistic.