(i'll just add what I was going to here.)
I work a Tuesday to Saturday (sometimes Sunday) gig at the event space I help coordinate in San Francisco. Busy job but the long hours allow me to catch up on the manga weekend esepcially on Tuesday's when I start my week. As soon as I punch in every Tuesday I can look foward to two things in the world of manga:
1) The New Manga Release List from our hero Charles LePage at the NCRL
2) Another engaging article on manga from Publisher's Weekly's Kai-Ming Cha.
This week Kai-Ming digs into a world that is not often touched in the North American manga-sphere. And to be completely honest, a demographic that North American publishers are finding hard to get into. The irony here is that while they have been publishing josei manga for quite a while (and some would argue that BL a part of this world) more often than not it is not being marketed to women. Even less is it marketed as "for women, by women" like BL has.
Let me run down a quick list of what is josei before jumping into this piece:
888 (DrMaster/Gentousha - Girls Collection)
ALICHINO (TOKYOPOP/Sobisha - eyes Comics)
Aquarium (CPM Press/Jitsugyo no Nipponsha - MB Comics)
Beautiful People (TOYKOPOP/Shodensha - Feel Comics)
Call Me Princess (CPM Press/Jitsugyo no Nipponsha - MB Comics)
Diabolo (TOKYOPOP/Sobisha - Crimson Comics)
Doll (TOKYOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics)
Dahlia the Vampire (Studio Ironcat/Akita Shoten - Horror Comics)
Dark Water (ADV Manga/Kadokawa Shoten - Horror Comics)
Erica Sakurazawa (TOKYOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics)
Darkside Blues (ADV Manga/Akita Shoten - Ponita Comics)
Genjyu no Seiza (TOKYOPOP/Akita Shoten - Horror Comics Special)
Hamster Club (ComicsOne/Aoba Comics - Aoba Shuppan)
Happy Mania (TOKYOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics)
Harlequin Series (Dark Horse/Oozora Shuppan - Emerald Comics Harlequin Series)
Haunted House (TOYKOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics)
BowWow Wata (Gutsoon!/Coamix - Bunch Comics)
Gorgeous Carat Galaxy (Digital Manga/Gentousha - Girls Collection)
IC in a Sunflower (TOKYOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics)
Juon (Dark Horse/Kadokawa Shoten - Horror Comics)
Just a Girl (CPM Press/Jitsugyo no Nipponsha - MB Comics)
Knock Your Heart Out! (CPM Press/Shodensha - Feel Comics)
Labyrinth Circus (Studio Ironcat/Bunkasha - Comics Horror-M Series)
Made in Heaven (TOKYOPOP/Gentousha - Girls Collection)
Mantis Woman (Studio Ironcat/Bunkasha - Comics Horror-M Series)
Legend of Chun Hyang (TOKYOPOP/Hakusensha - Ladies Comics)
Miss Me? (CPM Press/Jitsugyo no Nipponsha - MB Comics)
Mourning of Autumn Rain (ComicsOne/Hakusensha - Ladies Comics)
Musashi #9 (CMX/Akita Shoten - Kirara 16 Comics)
My Husband is a Foreigner (Digital Manga/MediaFactory - MF Comics)
Night of the Beasts (Go!Comi/Akita Shoten - Kirara 16 Comics)
Nodame Cantabile (Del Rey/Kodansha - KISS KC)
Nurse Call (ComicsOne/Aoba Comics - Aoba Shuppan)
Over the Rainbow (CPM Press/Oozora Shuppan - Missy Comics)
Paradise Kiss (TOKYOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics)
Passion Fruit (TOKYOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics GOLD)
Pet Shop of Horrors (TOKYOPOP/Oozora Shuppan - Missy Comics)
Planet Ladder (TOKYOPOP/Sobisha - Crimson Comics)
Popcorn Romance (CPM Press/Jitsugyo no Nipponsha - MB Comics)
Princess Prince (CPM Press/Jitsugyo no Nipponsha - MB Comics)
Project X (Digital Manga/Oozora Shupan - Project X Comics) ** for parents to give their kids **
Reiko the Zombie Shop (Dark Horse/Bunkasha - Comics Horror M Series)
Ring Series (Dark Horse/Kadokawa Shoten - Horror Comics)
Sengoku Nights (TOYKOPOP/Sobisha - Crimson Comics)
Shigehoshi (TOKYOPOP/Shodensha - FEEL Comics)
Sweet Cream and Strawberries (CPM Press/Shodensha - Feel Comics)
Ten-Ryu (CMX/Akita Shoten - Ponita Comics DX)
Tori Koro (DrMaster/Houbunsha - MangaTime KR Comics)
Tramps like Us (TOKYOPOP/Kodansha - KISS KC)
Wedding Eve (CPM Press/Oozora Shuppan - Missy Comics)
And a few others that many would call josei but are in transition imprints:
A Perfect Day for Love Letters (Del Rey/Kodansha - Bessatsu Friend KC)
Antique Bakery (Digital Manga/Shinshikan - Wings Comics)
Comic Party Anthology (CPM Press/Oozora Shuppan - Twin Hearts Comics)
KI-ME-RA (ADV Manga/BiBLOS - Zero Comics)
Imperfect * Hero (DrMaster/Gentousha - Birz Comics)
Twilight of the Dark Master (Digital Manga/Shinshokan - Wings Comics)
So as you can see there is josei manga out there but how many of you thought 888 was? How about all those old CPM titles? Weren't they marketed as shojo? Why is BL "for women by women" when the majority of josei titles are also. Would it have hurt TOKYOPOP do reprints of Paradise Kiss under their proposed After Hours line, instead of just killing the idea altogether?
Anywho, I guess my point in the end is that while I know some publishers like the idea of just publishing manga without labels, sometimes the labels can work. Look at Shonen Jump or Yaoi Manga (for Viz and DMP respectively). With more exposure to more josei, it might be about time to start specifically targetting that market.
While the manga market is dominated by shojo (girls' comics), Nananan sets herself apart stylistically by aiming at an older female reader. Nananan is a Japanese manga-ka (writer and artist) who creates josei manga, or titles geared toward young women rather than teenage girls. Her work is virtually unknown in this country. That may soon change. Her first book, Blue (Fanfare/Ponent Mon), was released earlier this year and is distributed to the retail market by Biblios. Two of her short stories have been posted on the manga scanlation site lililicious.net. This month, Nananan's newest release, Sweet Cream and Red Strawberries, from Central Park Media, may bring the artist out of obscurity.
"It's life in the city," says CPM director of marketing Ali Kokmen of Sweet Cream, "but it's not Candace Bushnell. It's realistic and melancholy but life-affirming in a certain way." Nananan was introduced to American readers in Secret Comics Japan, an anthology from Viz Media released in 2000. The stories central to Sweet Cream focus on two women growing to hate one another, although a good part of her popular work deals with women falling in love.
Interesting take on this. The point that there is more realism is something that is common to josei. Good examples are Antique Bakery and Nodame Cantabile, while these stories have their sense of fantasy in regards to setting and social class issues, the stories are quite real. They are almost slice of life stories that move at a pace that people can relate to easily.
Nananan's work stands out in other ways as well. While most yuri manga take place in a fantasy world or have magical elements, Sailor Avalon of lililicious.net notes, "Blue is almost painfully realistic." Avalon, who translated the Nananan story "Water and Color" for the site, says Nananan manages to portray love as a mostly positive thing without sugar-coating it. "Rather than adopting the popular 'love conquers all' sort of mentality," says Avalon, "there is acknowledgement in [Blue] that sometimes love isn't enough, that relationships don't always last forever."
Glad Kai-Ming mentioned yuri. Lots of people that are not familiar with josei tend to see yuri elements in josei and mis-characterize it. This is about relationships. This is about love. But it is not fantastic... not typically. There are moments for that as well, as found in some elements of horror. Just like there are elements of shotacon in josei (like a running joke found in Shuiesha's Gokusen). However, the relationships are the critical point here. And as we can see in TOKYOPOP's Passion Fruit those relationships can be as intense as those found in any BL title or even seinen title out there.
Stylistically, Blue also stands out from other josei titles because of its graphic simplicity. "It's got an understated, sublime cover," says Christopher Butcher, manager of The Beguiling, a comics bookstore in Toronto, Canada, and a popular comics blogger (comics.212.net). "You can tell from the design that it's going to be something different. [Nananan] doesn't use any screen tones, it's blacks and whites and delicate lines. The work is really well balanced. It's very different stylistically."
I pointed this out because this is one of the biggest turn offs I find around josei. Look at Happy Mania and most people say "UGLY!!" Nodame Cantabile has some delicate line work but its nothing like what you might find from ShoComi or Hana to Yume. Gokusen has very minimalistic artwork simply is the norm for josei. That doesn't mean you will not find big eyed frilly manga in Shuiesha's Chorus or Oozora Shuppan's Missy Comics but the focus is not the art it is the character play.
So viva, josei!! I have long said it is the final step before finding out if manga has made it here. Not just releasing it but properly marketing it. And if CPM and others try to get that point across, I seriously don't see how this train can be stopped. Manga will have a voice for everyone. A flavor for every pallate. So from that point on it would be easy to see yanki manga, sports manga, magical girl manga and so on because the manga creep would cover it all.
Man now I need to buy some Gokusen!! (I also need to bribe someone to license that!!)