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History of Women in Manga

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See also: History of Women in Comic Books and History of Women in Comic Strips

The first significant successful female manga artist was Machiko Hasegawa, creator of the family-oriented Sazae-san, launched in 1946 and running in the newspaper Asahi Shinbun for decades.

Comics directed at girls (shōjo manga) have had a long history in Japan, and began to grow out of magazines directed at girls and teenagers throughout the 20th century. These were lifestyle magazines with romantic short stories and fashionable illustrations, supervised by a male editorial staff.

In 1953 the "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka published his classic Princess Knight, with a longer, more complex storyline and a genderly ambiguous protagonist. The long-running monthly magazines Ribon and Nakayoshi did both appear already in the 50's, and the weeklies Shojo Friend and Margaret appeared in 1963, so in the 50's and 60's, there were already several comics aimed at women, but most of these were written by men, and failed to attract a bigger audience, due to their mostly passive and uninteresting characters. Tezuka's own Funny magazine featured primarily female mangaka, but ultimately failed along with the bankruptcy of Tezuka's production company.

In the 60's, one woman artist in particular, Yoshiko Nishitani, created works featuring glamorous teen girls in lead roles, with once-taboo romances as a central theme. This helped pave the way for a great wave in the late 60's-early 70's when a loose connection of women, later given the name Year 24 Group, merged Tezuka's "story manga" narratives with the romantic art style from the girls' lifestyle magazines and, in the process, revolutionized the genre, both in visual experimentation (including montage-like page layouts) and story subjects. This loosely-defined group experimented with content and form, earning the long-maligned shōjo manga unprecedented critical praise. Other female artists of the same generation, such as Riyoko Ikeda, Yukari Ichijo, and Sumika Yamamoto, garnered unprecedented popular support with such hits (respectively) as Berusaiyu no bara (ベルサイユのばら, The Rose of Versailles), Dezainaa (デザイナー, Designer), and Eesu wo nerae! (エースをねらえ!, Aim for the Ace!).

Some other Year 24 mangaka, such as Keiko Takemiya and Moto Hagio, wrote stories featuring young gay male lovers involved in tragic relationships. These stories proved immensely popular and gave birth to the yaoi/boys' love (BL) genre, still very popular. Takemiya also later made the popular sci-fi Toward the Terra. Since the mid-1970s, women have created the vast majority of shōjo manga.

Year 24 mangaka have also been credited with revolutionizing the format, being the first to radically vary their panel shapes and sizes and page layouts for emotional and dramatic effect. Symbolic images (such as flowers) also came into greater use in female-created shōjo manga. [1]

Josei manga (then called Ladies' Comics, or Ledikomi) began to appear in the 1980s, during a boom period in manga, when the girls who had read shoujo manga in the 1950s and '60s wanted manga for adult women. The first ladies comic magazine, Be-Love, was printed in 1980. At the end of 1980 there were two ladies' comics magazines, at the end of 1989 there were over fifty. Early ladies' comics were sexually free, and the comics became more and more sexually extreme until the early 1990s. Manga branded as "Ladies' Comics" has acquired a reputation for being low-brow, and "dirty", and the term josei was created to move away from that image.

Girl comics have been a flourishing scene, which, in general, has both been created and read by women, has had a notable part of the market, and, as manga is becoming increasingly popular abroad, more and more is making an impact on Western countries.

Later popular artists include the highly prolific and successful Rumiko Takahashi and rising star Akira Amano (both drawing primarily shonen stories for boys) as well as the female collective CLAMP. The latter, together with other artists such as Vampire Knight's creator Matsuri Hino brought comics targeted for a female audience into different genres; expanding to include adventure, mystery and the supernatural, although romance still features as a strongly prevalent element in much of their works.

Many of the artists working for this market have gained wide recognition among the alternative comics scenes in USA and Europe, including artists such as Hiromu ArakawaKiriko Nananan, Moyoco Anno, Kazue Kato Junko Mizuno and Kan Takahama.

SourcesEdit

  1. Gravett, Paul. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese comics, London: Laurence King Publishing, Ltd, 2004. pp.79
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