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10 Feminist-Friendly Manga You Should Read

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  • Anonymous

    Rose of Versailles has never been available in America.

  • Helen the Dreamer

    Erm, who licensed the Rose of Versailles manga? I looked around, since I know the anime is super hard to find these days, but ANN doesn’t list anyone and I couldn’t find any English language versions on Amazon either so I’m a little confused. And you might want to note that some of the series (like Emma) are out of print (in Emma’s case because the publisher doesn’t exist anymore) so the volumes can be a bit hard to find outside of a local library.

  • Dan Roth

    Great list!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t make one recommendation of my own.  Wandering Son by Shimura Takako is a gorgeous slice-of-life story about two trans kids at the cusp of pubescence and how they deal with their gender variance.  It’s heart-felt, humorous at times, and doesn’t rush the story which I think is so rare.  Three volumes have been released stateside so far and they are truly some of the best fiction I’ve read in any genre.  I would recommend it to anyone regardless of whether or not they are trans.  After all, who doesn’t struggle with the societal expectations of gender at least a little, right?

  • Anonymous

    Hm, I’ve found a few library listings saying they have a copy in english! Weird.

  • Anonymous

    I made this list keeping in mind that folks would find a way to read it if they wanted. :]

  • Anonymous

    Definitely! Didn’t include it because I’ve recommended that series like twice on this site already lol, once in the anime section and once in a list of cool queer characters :P Love Wandering Son

  • Noel Kirkpatrick

     Entirely possible it’s a Japanese reader version that Schodt did in the 1980s. But I don’t think it’s ever been officially licensed in the U.S. I mean, Amazon doesn’t even turn up English editions at all.

  • Aunna Terrell

    Only the first two volumes were translated back in 1983 by the American branch of Sanyusha.

  • Carolynn C

    Nobody has mentioned Nana yet? Nana is the MOST FEMINIST. Shin’s awesome breakdown of the madonna/whore dichotomy? Two young women struggling for autonomy and identity, figuring out who they are and trying to find definition outside of the dudes in their lives? Narrative complexity, emotional depth and powerful storytelling? Seriously. Just go read Nana now. You won’t regret it. Read the entire series, weep about the sad sad unfinished pseudo-ending, and then read the whole thing again. It’s seriously the best.

  • Helen the Dreamer

    Twitter has just told me that there were two bilingual volumes published in North America, although it sounds like those were a while ago.
    And, to nitpick some, the subtitle of the article is “that are licensed in America!” so it seems a bit odd that you made a list knowing that people would have to really hunt around to find some of the titles.

  • Noel Kirkpatrick (Ed’s very reliable.)

  • Joy P

     Gotta second the NANA recommendation, one of the best manga series I’ve ever read about the friendship between two women. Its freaking amazing and OMG the Shin breakdown is awesome and should be posted everywhere because it was spot on. Plus it’s not only the two Nanas that are interesting Reira’s story is also wonderful. Excellent manga that spawned two live action movies and an anime series. You must check it out you will not be disappointing.

  • Noel Kirkpatrick

     And I think the nit you’re picking is justified. There may have been a disconnect between Ms. Foxx-Gonzalez’s aims when writing the article (highlighting feminist-friendly manga series) and whomever got a hold of at the copy desk and determined the headline for SEO purposes (happens all the time on Web writing). But your point remains regardless of the process.

  • Anonymous

    So I make a mistake on 1/10 regarding its availability in physical form and suddenly the entire article is moot?

  • Anonymous

    Love NANA! Great rec :]

  • Anonymous

    In any case, I made a note of it in the slide. My apologies. 

  • Georgia Manry

    Skip Beat Skip Beat Skip Beat Skip Beat. Also Nana!

  • Noel Kirkpatrick

     Absolutely not, and I don’t think anyone even tacitly suggested that. I’d even point out that I made a plausible reason as to why you found library copies when there aren’t any officially licensed versions available, based on my limited information on the subject.

    The list, as it stands, is great. There’s a range of decades, tones, and styles represented, with all sorts of different stories. I wouldn’t dispute a single item on it.

    The complaint was that the (now previous) headline (though it still exists in the Page Title field as I’m typing this) was simply incorrect, which in turn made your article incorrect. Your list ending up being poorly contextualized by its headline.

  • Bel

    I’d also recommend Utena (probably obvious), Teppu (about a cocky female athlete who is just too good at everything and joins MMA to find something she’s not amazing at) and Gokusen (a yakuza princess becomes a teacher at a school for delinquents and turns their lives around), though I don’t think the last two have been licensed.

  • Terence Ng

    Not to overload on CLAMP, but I would also include Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth, which have recently been re-released.

    Also, what I love about the Sailormoon manga is that it showcases Sailormoon’s ability to defend herself, her friends, and her lover with strength, courage, and intelligence, rather than the anime’s near-constant use of Tuxedo Mask as the rescue interlude (flying roses and whatnot). One of the best moments is during a battle with the Dark Kingdom when Tuxedo Mask catches her and she realizes how dangerous the situation is for him to be involved in. She tells him to run away and let her handle it and quickly returns to battle. Awesome and one of those great mature moments that you don’t see all that often in the anime.

  • Anna T.

    Since volumes of Emma may be somewhat difficult to obtain now that CMX has closed shop, might I suggest A Bride’s Story (published by Yen Press), also by Kaoru Mori, as a possible alternative.

  • Rose Jones

    I’m a history junkie so “Emma” was a treat to read and so lovely to see the Industrial Revolution–from the Crystal Palace to the puffy gowns–through manga illustrations.

    Another manga I recommend is “Kitchen Princess” with a hard-working heart-laden heroine. Najika uses her super sense of taste and culinary skills to bring joy, healing, and comfort to others. I’m not sure if other people would consdier it  100% feminist manga (Najika is searching for her “Flan Prince” from her childhood) but she learns a lot along the way and may be helping her “Flan Prince” without knowing it. She gets bullied a lot but always holds her ground.

  • Anonymous

    Another thing that’s interesting about Azumanga Daioh is that if memory serves, it was initially written for a primary audience of young boys, and serialized in a shonen title. The ostensible purpose being to humorously sympathize with boys of that age who are puzzled to no end by how girls are amongst themselves.

  • Anonymous

     I second the Teppu recommendation, it is seriously the best.

  • Thalia

    I’ve read your article and find it helpful and interesting. I definitely plan on reading more of these manga, now. However, I have some issue with the liberal way in which “queer” and “feminist” are being thrown around.

    The article seems to have an agenda: to use hot button terms like the ones above as often as possible….Even if it’s not relevant. Is every work that portrays women as real people “feminist”? Or is it something “various kinds of people who identify with feminist beliefs” would LIKE? I don’t know how a text can be deemed “feminist” if that was not, at least in part, the express intent of the work. To say that a text is feminist just because it has realistically-rendered female characters, and women are free to feel and think, is incorrect.  Maybe “Rose of Versailles” DID want to write a “feminist” tale, purposefully addressing feminist doctrine and dogma.  But how do we know? Lack of evidence does not evidence make.

    The same goes for talking about “queerness.”  For Tezuka and the “queerly gendered” princess: maybe he did have an agenda in “Princess Knight.” But I don’t think it’s whatever you’re describing as “queer” there.  Perhaps his agenda was just to show that women can do what boys can do, and giving the lead character a “male heart” (in this case a “male spirituality”) was the way to explain it at the time. But how do we know? Could he not be just trying to write a text that explains a certain folk tale? A tale that’s less “queer” and more a humanist one that describes masculinity and femininity of the culture it comes from?

    In the “Rose” portion of the article, you mention “queering up” the heterosexual relationship. There are very different things this might mean, but to label it like that does an injustice to the term, and to people who pursue/identify with homosexual relationships/lifestyles. Remember–queer (homosexuality) is not queer (odd) to the people who have always been that way—in fact, it is very normal to them. So why is an article supposedly “supporting the queers” so quick to label it as otherness?

    Just to clarify–I did in fact like the article, and I am glad this website is outspoken about issues. But to be outspoken and proud and positive to a cause is not the same as throwing around terms, often incorrectly or vaguely, just to hear them spoken.

  • anna paratore

    how is the Revolutionary Girl:  Utena not on this list! 

  • anna paratore

    How isn’t Revolutionary Girl Utena not on this list!

  • Edward Sizemore

    Actually, Azumanga Daioh was written for men and appears in a men’s magazine as does Azuma’s current series Yotsuba&!

  • Bel

    They’re not using the terms incorrectly just because they haven’t gone and researched authorial intent.  Why should that matter if the product is feminist anyway?  And how is “women being treated like people” not the most fundamental distillation of feminist?

  • Cara Arcuni

    I adore Skip Beat.  It’s a story about a girl who navigates the pain of heartbreak through professional achievement, and discovers self-respect.  It doesn’t deal explicitly with same-sex attraction though, so if alternate-relationship styles are important in this list, I don’t think it fully qualifies.

    I’m also a huge fan of Nana, and recommend that as well.

  • Konomi

    What about the manga series “Claymore”?  It’s about girls who are taken into “the Organization” and made into warriors who fight deadly monsters while trying not to turn into monsters themselves.  (It sounds like a monster-of-the-moment type of story line, but it does get fleshed out and becomes something bigger than that.)  One of my favorite things about this series is that these are girls that I can believe are battle-hardened warriors.

    Also, unlike most manga/anime series that feature warrior women, the armor for Claymore girls isn’t revealing or stupidly skimpy.  It’s pretty much like Roman armor.

  • Peter Lisiecki

    Its not really nitpicking, the author states: Plus, they’re all legally translated and available on Amazon, and probably your local bookstore.

  • Sarah M

    Agree! Revolutionary Girl Utena is my favorite feminist manga. It tackles SO MANY ISSUES.

  • Amber Stone

    Almost any CLAMP stuff can be recommended. I also want to toss in an out of print collection called simply “Four Shojo Stories”. You can read about it here:
    It includes 2 everyday stories that are excellent and 2 woman-centric sci-fi stories that are great. Good luck finding it, but it’s worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Great recommendations. Though it’s been years since I’ve read it, I remember Magic Knight Rayearth had great lessons about courage, loyalty, and friendship and perhaps most importantly the girls had to learn how to cope with the far-reaching consequences of their actions. 

    And of course, a million times yes to Sailor Moon. I was (very pleasantly) surprised when I read the manga and Tuxedo Mask didn’t save them every single time. 

  • Claudia M Ribeiro

    Hey, why Utena is not on the list?

  • Chris Adamson

    Can I get a second for “A Bride’s Story” or “Sand Chronicles”?

  • Chris Adamson

    Maybe it fails the “available at your local bookstore” test from the third paragraph? The Utena manga came and went a long time back. Come to think of it, was the manga _ever_ available in the US, or is it only for the pirates?

    Anime’s another story: a few episodes on YouTube from Nozomi/RightStuf, who did a beautiful bunch of box sets last year.

  • Beth Winter

     For people conversant in French, last year’s collected edition in three giant phone book-sized tomes is excellent :)

  • Merav Ulyansky

    I was definitely a bit disappointed that Nana wasn’t on this list. I’ve only seen the anime, unfortunately, but I’m probably going to start reading the manga soon.

    Great story, and an absolutely great dissection of women’s role in society.

  • Anonymous

    To add to this list, I have to sing the praises of Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita. Badass android girl who stumbles through some truly fucked up adventures, holding her own despite a lot of trauma, all the while never being sexualised? Oh yes. 

  • Myst

    Princess Knight isn’t bad if you can find it subbed…. I remember watchin it a little bit. Reminds me of Saint Tail w the old looking art.

  • Maiasaura

    I don’t know if it would be considered feminist or not, but my favorite manga was always Fruits Basket.  That was, like, my favorite thing in high school.  The art is adorable, the characters are great, it’s funny and touching, and it’s a well-told story.

  • Anonymous

    NO SEEDS? This is a travesty.

  • Valerie McDonald

    I would recommend Beauty Pop, although it is aimed at younger readers. I’ve never seen a female lead quite like it has in any other manga. She’s completely cool and relaxed all the way through the story and basically unswayable. She sets a great example for young girls.

  • Leah

    I’d categorize Oscar and Andre as heterogamous but not heterosexual. And there’s some definite attraction between Rosalie and Oscar (more on Rosalie’s end) and Antoinette and Oscar; Oscar seems to be attracted to and attractive to both women and men, but falls in romantic love with two men. I’d say Oscar and Andre have a non-heteronormative relationship–they may be different sexes, but they’re the same gender.

  • Jennifer Joy Johnson

    I’d say ‘Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne’ also counts. It nicely subverts ‘virgin power’.

  • Anonymous

    Host Club’s satirization of gender roles – and its strong female protagonist who rejects traditional gender in favor of being a human being  first and foremost – is a fun read.

    My big issue with Sailor Moon is its presentation of queer characters – nearly all, if not ALL, of the queer males are villains, and the queer females are presented as aloof, unlikeable, and capable of caring only about each other. Still, the strength of its characters is a huge draw, and the rerelease is certainly exciting!

  • Anonymous

    Host Club’s satirization of gender roles – and its strong female protagonist who rejects traditional gender in favor of being a human being  first and foremost – is a fun read.

    My big issue with Sailor Moon is its presentation of queer characters – nearly all, if not ALL, of the queer males are villains, and the queer females are presented as aloof, unlikeable, and capable of caring only about each other. Still, the strength of its characters is a huge draw, and the rerelease is certainly exciting!

  • Sarah Pin

    This list suffers from a troubling lack of:

    Basara, by Tamura Yumi – Post-apocalyptic fantasy about a girl whose people’s misogynistic misunderstanding of a prophecy forces her to dress up as her dead twin brother to Save The World. This is considered a classic, and you can see its influence in a lot of other manga. The Tamura’s currently-running 7 Seeds, about a group of teenagers chosen to be put in cryonic suspension to wait out the apocalypse, is also very good, but it’s tragically not available in English through entirely legal channels.

    Hayate x Blade, by Hayashiya Shizuru – Hilarious martial arts comedy set in an all-girls high school. You need to go buy the current run immediately to convince Seven Seas to get the license for the rest. (It switched publishers in Japan after volume 6.) It is notable that Hayashiya is an out lesbian, and her last series, the excellent but as-yet-unlicensed Strawberry Shake, was a lesbian romantic comedy.

    Claymore, by Norihiro Yagi – Women with big swords fighting stuff and swearing eternal loyalty to one another and being stoic and cold-blooded. And at one point a blind nun rescues a bunch of guys from a tentacle monster. I don’t know what more you people want.

    Teppu, by Oota Moare – An antisocial perfectionist high school girl gets involved in MMA because she wants to beat up a girl she doesn’t like, and finds that she enjoys it. This is both funnier and psychologically more thoughtful than it needs to be. Unfortunately not yet licensed.

    If you’re willing to extend the definition of manga to include Taiwanese comics, there’s Divine Melody, about an immortal girl who has to choose whether to become a man. If you’re willing to extend it to include things that are painfully poorly drawn, there’s Vampire Game, which is a bit like if Bella had decided to use Edward to destroy her enemies.

  • Orihara Kaoru

    Dude. Duuuude. Story of Saiunkoku (translated by Viz). It is amazing. It’s a story of a 16-year-old girl who is the first woman to take the exams to be a royal palace administrator (the setting is like AU ancient China). And it’s about how awesome she is and her overcoming all sorts of sexism. It’s not kind of feminist or obliquely feminist. It’s REALLY REALLY feminist.

  • Orihara Kaoru

    Gokusen is amazing and I worship it (especially as a teacher (though not a yakuza princess :p))

  • Orihara Kaoru

    Well, to be fair, there aren’t a lot of men in Sailormoon period /besides/ the villains. And their queerness isn’t what makes them evil. In fact, for a few of them, it’s part of a redeeming part of their personality.

    As for Haruka and Michiru being unlikable? I’d have to disagree there as well.  I agree that they were aloof when first introduced (with good reason), but adopting Hotaru and having a family life with her really humanized them, I thought.

  • Sharna

    YES YES YES YES! I love this manga and anime so much!

  • Sharna

    Basara was an amazing manga!

  • Alexis the Unicorn

    I’d like to recommend Tokyo Mew Mew as a Sailor Moon back up. It’s aimed at younger girls, but it’s got all very different girls of different ages (ranging from 17 to 10) all fighting against aliens trying to take over the world via monsters that infect the local wild life. They spend most of the series fighting off this villains alone with out aid from men (like Tuxedo Mask helped the sailor scouts for most of their series) except for their few partners who work at home base perfecting their powers. and later one alien male who fights along side them. It’s a very good manga for children, and really anyone who likes Sailor Moon style manga.