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3 Things Thursday: Ladies to look up to

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?

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  1. Not in any particular order:

    Hayashiya Shizuru – Hayate x Blade, Sister Red are out in English. She’s been doing action comedy since forever and I love her work, her sensibility and the light Yuri coating she gives everything she does.

    Nakamura Ching – Gunjo in Japanese, only. I “met” her online only 2 years ago, but her work has profoundly affected me.

    Rica Takashima – Rica ‘tte Kanji!? in English. To say that we are eerily similar is a massive understatement. I adore her work, I adore her, and I thank the gods that we met. She is my favorite alien and a very dear friend.



    • I’m so pleased to see you respond on this question! I’ll have to look into Rica ‘tte Kanji!? I’ve felt like Hayashiya Shizuru’s work might not be to my taste, but I’ve never checked out Takashima at all.

  2. It’s funny. I think this was the cultural wall comes into play for me. I don’t know Japanese names all that well, so you could literally point to a title on my shelf and I may or may not know if the creator is male or female. Compare that to the American comics and it’s rather startling.

    Aside from CLAMP (who dragged me into current manga when I discovered “Wish” one afternoon), the other two I’d come up with are:

    Kaoru Mori: manga-ka for Emma with her intricately detailed artwork. She also wrote hysterical comments/feedback sections.

    Setona Mizushiro: I discovered her with the short X-Day and then later with After School Nightmare. She reminds me of Natsume Ono in one sense because her faces/eyes are so distinctive, I can recognize her artwork easily.

  3. My choices for this year are (and most my choices would come from Japanese only titles. OTL. At least you can watch Jelly Princess?)

    Akiko Higashimura: Author of Jelly Princess/Kuragehime. Her work in Morning, Himawari and Omo ni naitemasu is just one of my favorite titles running in that magazine. Her style is like a ‘castella’ cake, it’s soft, fashionable, filling, light-hearted but very satisfying.

    Asumiko Nakamura: Perhaps one of the most brilliant mangaka I’ve read in a long while. Both BL and on-BL works are fantastic! Her works can range from bubblegum BL love stories to dark gothic SM themes. Brilliant writer. Brilliant artist.

    Yuki Yoshihara: I think in the US, her butterfly story’s already out. But the length of her work is just as funny but might be too raunchy for the english-reading audiences. ^^;;

  4. Fumi Yoshinaga, of course. :) I share your love for her. I’m slowly gathering every book of hers published in English. Right now I’ve got all Antique Bakery, Lovers in the Night, all currently published Ooku books, Not Love But Delicious Foods, Solfege, Don’t Say Anymore, Darling; Ichigenme, Garden Dreams, The Moon and the Sandals, and 2 of the 4 Flower of Life books. So, I’m getting there. That’s nearly her entire catalog.

    Yoshiki Nakamura. Skip Beat! still remains one of my favorite titles, and I’m still holding on to a desperate hope that when it’s over, Viz will pick up Tokyo Crazy Paradise. Please, please, PLEASE.

    I don’t really have a third favorite. I like Kaori Yuki, Natsuki Takaya, Bisco Hatori, and Ai Yazawa. But they really can’t compare to my fervor for Yoshinaga and Nakamura.

  5. Well, I’ll have to pick mangaka who made at least two works I love (because otherwise I might as well pick the manga itself if it’s the only one from that creator that I love). However, because I’m feeling a little sneaky, instead of naming the mangaka I’m going to name the most obscure (to the English-speaking world) manga that I love from them.

    Dear Brother
    Tower of the Future

  6. You stole some of mine (including Yazawa and Arakawa), but I seem to have no shortage of runners-up:

    Rumiko Takahashi: I know her long series are great and all, but I love her short stories best, collections like Rumic Theater and Rumic World.

    Fuyumi Soryo: One of my absolute fixations is creators who do both shoujo and seinen series, and Soryo is maybe one of my favorite representatives of this overlap. ES is so great.

    Moto Hagio: I hug my copy of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories and tell it it’s beautiful and am generally sickening and unhelpful in that regard. Nothing to be done about it.

    • I will have to try to read ES again. I tried once and it didn’t grab me with the first volume. Then Deb Aoki loaned me the series, which I never had time to read before I sent it back to her (after, like, a year). I must find a way to read this that doesn’t include me holding anyone’s books hostage. :)

      Also, thank you so much for including Moto Hagio.

      • I hope you give ES another try! I had the same experience with it: I picked up the first volume, said “meh?” and didn’t continue. On my second pass, however, I got hooked, reading the entire series in an evening.

  7. I share David’s love for Rumiko Takahashi and Fumi Yoshinaga. I’m also very partial to Yellow Tanabe and Aki Shimizu’s work; Qwan, in particular, deserves a second chance here in the US. (It’s been in limbo for a while.) Josei-wise, I like Yayoi Ogawa and Mari Okazaki, and would love to see more of their work available in English.

  8. NAtsuki Takya- I have read and reread Fruits BAsket four times and get something new each time what strikes me most is the quit humanism of the story along with the simple artwork wich fits the story with out distracting from it

    Clamp- I am an unrerpentent Clamp fan I even ran a clamp fan blog at one point planing to review everything they ever did but it proved cost prohibtive what I love about Clamp is they can do almost anything from stright up sweet Shojo (Suki) fan sevice heavey but intelectul Senein (Chobits) and even shonen torunement ( Angelic Layer) and make it all work and not feel forced in short it’s their fluidity between generes that impresses me most and finaly their’s the o.g. of Shojo manga Moto Hagio the only thing I can say is if someone can write something like The Heart of Thomas in their 20s that’s it close shop youve done more than enough for one lifetime but no she goes and gives us Poe Clan A, A, and finally the amricans get Drunken Dream seriouslly her art work is like poetry and her words are like music why dont we have more of her work? it’s a crying shame

  9. Yazawa Ai, Hiwatari Saki, Tamura Yumi have already been mentioned, but definitely top my list as well. Not mentioned yet are Kawahara Kazune (unknown in the US except for High School Debut, but she has a ton of other awesome works in Japanese), Yoshizumi Wataru, Mizusawa Megumi (a hugely prolific shoujo/josei author whose works are entirely unavailable in English except for a handful of scanlations), and Shimura Takako (whose Hourou Musuko is probably the best series with trans characters I’ve ever read).

    There are more as well, but I tried to limit it to just those I’ve read multiple works by.

    • I would love to see more from the author of High School Debut. Though I would say that series didn’t engage me fully all the way to the end, I loved most of it. Also, I am just generally having Japanese-envy here. I wish I could read everything you’ve talked about.

  10. I tend to like shonen manga written by female creators, particularly Yellow Tanabe’s Kekkaishi and Hiromu Arakawa’s FullMetal Alchemist, because they tend to give more character development to the female characters in their series than male mangaka do (despite the fact that neither series has female leads.) Of course, this isn’t true of all female mangaka who write shonen manga (Arata by Yuu Watase has a one-dimensional female sidekick character who annoyed me in the chapters I read, and Rumiko Takahashi doesn’t tend to give *any* of her characters development in her long shonen works, though that might be because she tries to keep things funny).

    Shojo and Josei titles tend to be written by women, so choosing a favorite is hard. Since I love comedy, I really enjoy it when I find a funny shojo mangaka that hits the stereotype that “women aren’t as funny as men” right in the funny bone! So I love Ai Morinaga (author of the hysterical reverse-harem parody “My Heavenly Hockey Club” and the gender-bender “Your and My Secret”) and Aya Nakahara, author of “Lovely Complex,” which I found so funny that I don’t care that the plot ran out of steam at the end-if she had released 17 *more* volumes with those characters antics, I probably would’ve read them all! :)

    Here’s hoping that the rest of Morinaga’s “Hockey Club” gets released by Kodansha USA and Nakahara’s other works get liscensed (I don’t know what else she’s written, but if they’re even half as fun as “Love*Com”, they deserve licensing by default!)

    • I definitely favor shonen written by women, though that’s not something I realized until just recently. But again, it’s one of those situations where the facts speak for themselves. :)


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