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5 Female Voices in Manga Criticism

Recently, a group of critics at The Hooded Utilitarian posted part one of an article naming their picks for Best Online Comics Criticism in 2009. It’s a great read with some fantastic links to follow. Johanna Draper Carlson linked to this at Comics Worth Reading, mentioning that she hoped the next installment would include more manga and more women, because “some of the most insightful critics currently are women talking about manga.”

I agree with Johanna, of course, and it got me thinking about how many manga blogs by women I read every day and how much these women have shaped my own experience with manga. Certainly one of the things I value most about the online manga community is that so many of its prominent voices are women, and it feels like a great privilege to be able to interact with all of them so easily. More than that, though, it’s freeing to be a part of a community where women are so respected and so much a part of the community’s voice as a whole.

With that thought in mind, I bring you the following (very short) list. It is not a “Best of” or “Favorite” list of any kind, but simply a small sample of the many wonderful and unique female voices I enjoy reading online each day.

5 Female Voices in Manga Criticism

Brigid Alverson – If there is any manga blogger who does not live and breathe by Brigid’s MangaBlog, it’s certainly nobody I know. Not only does Brigid keep us all informed and connected, she also brings an aura of stunningly good sense to everything she touches. A true voice of reason on the internet… can she be real? Since I’ve met her, I know that she is, which frankly gives me hope for us all. To top it off, her reviews and commentary, on her blog as well as on the numerous other websites that regularly publish her writing (Robot 6 and The School Library Journal spring immediately to mind), are top notch, giving all of us something to strive for.

Shaenon Garrity – Possibly the most consistently entertaining manga blogger/critic/editor on earth, Shaenon Garrity is someone who could get me to read just about anything. I’d read her commentary on the phone book if she posted such a thing. I’d read her thoughts on watching paint dry. If Shaenon writes it, I’ll read it and not just for the laughs either, plentiful though they may be. She’s also consistently on point, using her power of wit for the good of all mankind. Having first encountered her writing via her awesome LJ feature, the Overlooked Manga Festival, and at Comixology, I’m thrilled to see her now at The Comics Journal as well.

Katherine DaceyManga Critic Kate Dacey is especially notable for writing some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve seen in any kind of manga criticism. Her review of Children of the Sea, for instance, is one I still think about whenever I see that manga mentioned. Not only that, she reads (and writes) from a staunchly feminist viewpoint that frequently forces me to think more deeply about the way female characters are treated and portrayed, even in the series I love most. I recently stumbled on a LiveJournal discussion that began with the assertion that conversations about women’s roles in manga simply don’t happen in online circles, and all I could think was, “This person has obviously never read Kate Dacey.” Her writing is a constant source of inspiration for me in the manga blogosphere.

Deb Aoki – Though the title, “Manga Guide,” was given to Deb by virtue of her position at, no title could be more appropriate. Both on and off her blog, Deb is guiding force for pretty much the entire manga blogging community, offering information, introduction, and assistance to anyone in need. She is widely acknowledged as the leader of the manga Twitteri, and is one of the people in the blogosphere to whom I personally owe the most gratitude. Her reviews, polls, commentary, interviews–everything she writes is perfectly crafted to educate and inform fans, both new and old. If they ever name a Saint of Manga, it will surely be Deb.

Michelle Smith – Both in her role as Senior Editor at PopCultureShock’s Manga Recon and in her blog, Soliloquy in Blue, Michelle brings a matter-of-fact, real-word sensibility to the world of manga criticism that I think is sorely needed to balance out the rest of us, or at least to balance me and all my ethereal, emotionally-driven rambling. Michelle’s pithy observations and pragmatic style provide readers with a sense of clarity not too often found, well, anywhere. She is smart, funny, exceptionally observant, and capable of boiling pretty much anything down to its bottom line when necessary. No matter how muddy and contradictory the manga blogosphere becomes, Michelle’s voice rings out clearly from the din.

This does not even scratch the surface of all the fantastic female voices in the online manga community. Danielle Leigh, Snow Wildsmith, Lorena Nava Ruggero, Erica Friedman, Lori Henderson, Connie, Lissa Patillo, Julie Opipari, Ysabet Reinhardt Macfarlane, Laura, Emily, Joy Kim, the list goes on and on, and of course Johanna, who started me off on this in the first place.

Thanks to all of these women, as well as those I failed to mention, for educating and inspiring me every single day. Women in manga, rock on!

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  1. Thanks for the shoutout, Melinda! I noticed that, too, when I came into the world of manga blogging. How very refreshing!

    I’d also like to echo what you said about Deb Aoki – I met her in person at Comic-Con last year and she is, indeed, just as helpful offline as she is online.

    • Yes, you’re right, Deb’s “guide” persona is not just a face she puts on for the internet. She’s just really that nice.

      • My fave Deb memory is the time she mentioned on Twitter that she’d obtained some Gatchaman swag at Comic-con. When I replied with some Gatchaman love, she immediately offered to send me said swag so that it might find a home with a real fan. Such unexpected and amazing generosity!

  2. Thanks for informing manga addicts like myself about more blogs, reviewers, etc. I’m always looking for more lovers of manga/manhwa, “the written word” in general.

  3. Wonderful overview of the whose who! You really captured what makes each of them so special!

  4. Wow, Melinda… you completely made my day! Thank you for your incredibly kind words, and for training the spotlight on so many great female voices. Johanna was right on the money when she named you and Brigid as two shining examples of women writing top-notch commentary on manga.

    I also wanted to second what you had to say about community; I’m always amazed at how civil the discourse is among us manga-blogging women, even when we don’t see eye to eye about individual titles. It’s that kind of friendly exchange that makes writing about comics genuinely worthwhile.

    • Well, thank you! And yes, that’s such a good point! Discussion is always remarkably civil, and I never get the feeling that it is out of simple politeness or the desire to avoid conflict. It seems to come out of genuine, mutual respect.

  5. I am truly honored to be included amongst such esteemed company!

  6. This is a lovely post, Melinda. *^^*

  7. Apologies for barging in, but may I add Anne Ishii to the list? She’s one of a few new writers at TCJ covering manga and looks to do excellent work.

  8. Wow. Thank you for such a nice write-up, and for including me with so many other writers who I genuinely respect and whose work I enjoy reading. I’m blushing!

  9. Thanks for the kind words, Melinda! You should also be on that list—I really like your reviews and your advocacy for manhwa and the other comics you love.

  10. Great article – it’s wonderful reading your thoughts on the different personalities out there speaking for manga. I’m honored you thought of me for the list too – many thanks ^^

    • Your blog is actually one of my favorites to read! Partly this is because we often disagree on whether we like a title, or even more often, even if we *do* agree, we disagree on *why*. That makes your blog really valuable to me. It gives me another perspective to think about and also reminds me that no matter how strong my opinion is, it is truly only an opinion. I think that’s really important.

  11. Aw thanks. The rest of the list is great, and I second the vote for Anne Ishii, who’s been writing great, knowledgeable stuff for since it launched.

  12. Wow. Great post, Melinda! I look forward to cuddling up with my laptop every evening, so that I can enjoy all these great female voices. The comradery among the manga bloggers is a very welcoming atmosphere, and a much needed respite from the daily grind. One that is not mind numbing but very thought provoking. That’s why I keep coming back for more. I’m awestruck that you linked me. Thank you, and all of you who keep on writing because you love it!

  13. Melinda, do you have korean novel? i’m searching at google to download one of them, but it’s too difficult to find. please help me.


  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mbeasi: New blog post: 5 Female Voices in Manga Criticism

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by calreid, Deb Aoki, PreCur, Johanna DC, Melinda Beasi and others. Melinda Beasi said: New blog post: 5 Female Voices in Manga Criticism […]

  3. […] Beasi lists five women manga critics whose work she enjoys. I’m flattered to be included on the list, and I encourage you to check out all the writers […]

  4. […] panel at SPX, so it’s not like there’s no precedent for this observation. And it inspired Melinda Beasi’s warm tribute to some of the many women who write regularly and brilliantly about comics, manga and manhwa in […]

  5. […] Comics for Kids, and I post a review of Pigling, a Korean Cinderella story… David Welsh and Melinda Beasi share links to examples of great comics criticism from 2009… Ken Haley, a.k.a. LostPhrack, […]

  6. […] the list came out, Johanna Draper Carlson noted the lack of women and manga writers, and Melinda Beasi and David Welsh compiled lists of their […]

  7. […] § A few people noticed that the Best Online Criticism list listed last week lacked much representation of manga criticism and criticism by women. Well, here’s a list on 5 Female Voices in Manga Criticism . […]

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