In checking my pingbacks this morning, I found I’d received one from Daniella Orihuela-Gruber’s wrap-up of this year’s Great Manga Gift Guide. In it, she describe my 2010 gift guide as being, “full of great choices for the manga-loving ladies on your list.”
While I do think of my blog’s primary audience as being adult women, this comment surprised me. “I’m an omnivorous reader,” I thought. “Surely my gift guide is more diverse!” I then rushed right over to take a look, certain my heterogeneous tastes would be plain for all to see. And though I wasn’t exactly wrong, I was indeed surprised by what I found.
Though my suggestions were spread over several major demographic categories (seinen, josei, shoujo) and numerous genres within those categories, the one thing that really stood out when I took in the collection as a whole is that a full 16 out of the 18 suggested gift ideas were written by female mangaka. They’re a pretty diverse group of artists, writing for a range of different audiences, so it would be inaccurate to describe my guide as a list of books for women, but I can’t deny that it’s strongly dominated by female creators. And It’s probably worth noting that the remaining two series feature female leads.
Now, I enjoy work by many male artists (several of whom are certain to appear on my “Best Of” lists for this year), and certainly I don’t consider the gender of the writer when I’m looking for something to read. Still, the guide is pretty revealing, and I suspect the facts speak for themselves.
So, with this discovery fresh in my mind, I thought I’d use this week’s 3 Things to talk about three of my favorite female mangaka.
3 Female manga artists to admire and adore
1. Fumi Yoshinaga – As the only mangaka (to date) to have received a week-long celebration of her very own here at Manga Bookshelf, did anyone doubt she’d make this list? With an impressive body of work that I’m pleased to say actually is mainly written for women, and some of the warmest, most charming dialogue ever to grace the printed page, Yoshinaga is the ultimate kindred spirit for female readers like me, who crossed over from our youthful obsession with prose and somehow never looked back.
It’s difficult to choose a favorite of her works, though they are favorites of mine in several genres. I think it’s possible that Ichigenme is my favorite yaoi manga of all time, while Antique Bakery and Flower of Life fill me with pure, pure shoujo joy. And though she tends to draw a lot of men, she also shines in All My Darling Daughters. Yoshinaga is a gem. It’s that simple.
2. Natsume Ono – I’ve had a rockier road with Natsume Ono, beginning with Not Simple, which was not a tremendous favorite, but she’s won me over completely with books like Ristorante Paradiso, Gente, and (most of all) my beloved House of Five Leaves, another of my favorite series of the year.
There’s a deep melancholy running through Natsume Ono’s work, but not one that begs for unwarranted attention. Instead, it simply offers a muted, gray background that allows her richer colors to display their true beauty, like vibrant autumn leaves against an overcast sky. That sounds terribly trite, I know, but I hardly know how else to describe it, except to say that there’s a surprising beauty to Ono’s work, peeking out between the sketchy lines of her unique, unmistakable art style. Now, if only someone would license her BL titles, my adoration could become complete!
3. CLAMP – This may seem like an obvious (and perhaps overdone) choice, but I simply can’t deny my love for CLAMP, whose work was perhaps the strongest influence in shaping my tastes as a beginning reader of manga. Series like xxxHolic and Tokyo Babylon contain imagery so deeply embedded into my emotional core as a reader that I can call them up in my memory at any given moment, as clearly and as viscerally as if they were sitting in front of me on the page. There’s a visual clarity to CLAMP’s work–their solid lines, the heavy use of black–that conveys an absolute certainty about the story they are telling. It’s mezmerising, truly.
Though some of their series have been aimed squarely at female readers, most of their current catalogue is serialized in magazines for boys and men, which is something I find quite interesting, given their enormous female fan base here in the US, and the strong homoerotic subtext in much of their work. Of course, my only wish is that they’d stop teasing, and finally write some official BL. :D
It pains me deeply not to be able to include Ai Yazawa and Hiromu Arakawa on this list as well. Though I am, of course, cheating simply by mentioning them at all. *sigh*
So, readers, who are three of your favorite female mangaka?