5 More Women Mangaka You Should Know for Women’s History Month

You love manga. I love manga. We all love manga. Here's five more women mangaka you should know about this Women’s History Month.

You love manga. I love manga. We all love manga. Writing about women mangaka for this month last year brought some eyeballs to the site and was fun to put together on my end, so I thought I’d bring it back again with five more. Happy Women’s History Month, here’s to more women mangaka to read and know about!

Yoshitoki Ōima

Genres: Seinen

Years Active: 2000’s-Current

Notable (Past) Works: Mardock Scramble, A Silent Voice

Works Usually Include: Emotional stories, characters questioning their morality, child characters

Yoshitoki Oima was technically still a teenager when she started working on what would become the Eisner Nominated and Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize winning A Silent Voice manga. Captivating readers and audiences globally via its animated film adaptation, the series emphasized the power of the heartwarming and equally heart wrenching powers of Ōima’s masterful storytelling that we would see in later work of hers. The manga follows the lives of Shoyo who once tormented a hearing-impaired classmate, Shoko. It is a series that newer readers of manga have not just held as a standard for positive representation of disabled characters but some of their first, via the animated version as well. I come back to this manga especially when I want to see a series dedicated to not just the consequences of bullying but the struggles that disabled children have. I especially felt drawn to the solid themes of seeking forgiveness, exploring what atonement looks like for adolescents, and the powerful, powerful reason for communication.

Ōima‘s follow-up series after A Silent Voice is To Your Eternity which she is still working on with over twenty volumes under her belt. The publisher, Kodansha, mentions that To Your Eternity “is a totally unique and moving manga about death, life, reincarnation, and the nature of love.” I remember reading the first chapter, some eighty pages, and being stunned by not only the emotional depth of the story but the engaging narrative, need for purpose, and the fragile lives of others. An immortal being takes the form of a young boy and ends up on a journey to figure out just what it means to be human and encounters many people, many experiences, and impacts many lives along the way. It is a moving fantasy and drama-centric tale on being born anew time and time again along with the brutalities, tyrannies, mercies, and joys of the human…experience. Also adapted to anime, this series has animated the fragility of life and the adventure of the lonely immortal that continues to make everyone feel everything about emotional connections.

(Watch Yoshitoki Oima drawing A Silent Voice characters for promo for Kodansha in 2016)

Women Mangaka

Moyoco Anno

Genres: Mostly Josei, Shojo

Years Active: 1990’s- Current

Notable (Past) Works: Sakuran, In Clothes Called Fat, Insufficient Direction

Works Usually Include: Work focusing on sex workers, complicated, messy women, slice of life tales, memorable stories for children

As I often say, Shojo is my first love when it comes to manga–and Josei is a close second. I shared volumes of the messy Happy Mania manga series with my friends in high school. I later read In Clothes Called Fat (the review was my first published credit!). I also adored Anno’s Sakuran years ago and wanted to read more of her work, not yet available translated in English. That title is one I often recommend for manga lovers who have a liking for manga that leans into the historical genre and that is also written by a female mangaka. There are usually a lot of glamorous takes when tackling lives of such women who become sex workers, yet this one throws in the heartbreak, the societal rules, and the varying ways of forcing women into strict gender roles that complicate the narrative.

Anime News Network lists that Anno was once an assistant of Kyoko Okazaki’s, which is a wild and amazing connection! Another famous person Moyoco Anno is connected to is her husband: Hideaki Anno, best known for Neon Genesis Evangelion, which was fun to read about their adventures of their wedding and married life in Insufficient Direction. Anno is on this list as she’s always felt like an underrated outlier in the Josei manga space–there was never enough of her work out for others to truly get a feel of her storytelling process. Thanks to publisher Cork, there are three series available to read digitally–(I’ve been reading them on the Azuki app). I can always expect glamorous women, fashionable clothes, and drama bombs in most of what I read. The women in her manga are not perfect, perhaps messier than they are redeemable, but they are women who don’t shrink and take up space. They are women who make demands of life and refuse to settle and follow their dreams or desires to the end of the road. In the stories created for children like Sugar Sugar Rune and The Diary of Ochibi, Anno crafted hilarious yet heartwarming tales adapted for anime and other forms of media.

(Moyoco Anno drawing and signing for fans at an event in 2015.)

Women Mangaka

Ichigo Takano

Genres: Shojo, Seinen?

Years Active: 2000’s–present

Notable (Past) Works: Dreaming Sun, Orange, Become You

Works Usually Include: School life stories, slice of life, romantic and drama filled stories

Best known for her manga series Orange, that recently came to an end via its English translation, Ichigo Takano is a manga artist who debuted back in high school–IF my information is correct. Starting her career in the early 2000’s, her first English language release is actually Dreaming Sun’: a manga series about complicated family relationships of high school students. It was Orange, Takano’s later series that blew up and became her biggest series in the States and a huge success in her native country and elsewhere. (See this emotional and really lovely post about an overseas trip and signing with the manga creator in Turkey.) I fell in love with this series as it proved to be a catchall of different genres and themes and plot pieces: time travel, school life, alternative timelines, and Shojo goodness.

Orange rose to new heights with more than 1.5 million copies in print with not just enough popularity for a spin off manga, but a thirteen episode anime adaptation and an animated film as a sequel. Including a live action film, the hype soon brought the manga to be picked up for an English language version (and an Eisner Award Nomination!!), much to manga fans, not just Shojo fans. This manga series follows a teenage girl named Nao who receives a letter from her adult self, urging her to save a friend who will soon die young. With her group of friends, they seek to change a timeline and rewrite their lives with a loved one, gone too soon. I devoured this series volume by volume as I felt it really pushed the envelope of the power of not just friendship, first loves, and the powerful way lives change because of (consistent and loving) communication. Here’s one of my favorite reviews of the start of the series. Ichigo Takano seems to nail writing about the imperfect lives of young adults via Shojo (and maybe Seinen) and I sincerely hope to read more of her work, translated soon in the near future.

(Ichigo Takano, illustrated the music video for SKY-HI’s single “Chronograph”)

Women Mangaka

Hinako Ashihara

Genres: Shojo, Josei

Years Active: 1990’s-2024

Notable (Past) Works: Sand Chronicles, SOS, Forbidden Dance

Works Usually Include: Short stories, romantic and dramatic stories, school life, female friendships

Including Hinako Ashihara felt like a must for this list, even though I remain extremely saddened by her recent passing and the circumstances that caused it. Working under the pen name of Hinako Ashihara, Ritsuko Matsumoto was a mangaka whose works earned her the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award for Shojo twice in her career. Some of her work was popular enough to be adapted to television via live action over the years. When I go back and look at what little manga of hers that we have translated into English, I remember that these were works that I read in my adolescent years. Her manga helped fill out my understanding of Shojo and stories about girls and women in the early 2000s when my female manga reading friends and I were being richly rewarded with manga centering girls and women.

Trigger Warning: This mangaka’s life sadly came to an end earlier this year in what many have speculated was a suspected suicide after she was found dead at her home. Ashihara had some criticisms she had expressed online about the direction and tone the live action adaptation was taking of her latest and then ongoing series, Sexy Tanaka-san. I’ve read that the manga series centers on the friendship of two women: one, a forty year old accountant who has a secret, thrilling life as a belly dancer and the twenty-something year old female coworker who stumbles upon her secret and is inspired. The mangaka seemed to be frustrated with how she was being ignored and dismissed for her concerns, not wanting a one-dimensional portrayal of her work or possibly oversexualizing the story regarding belly dancing. 

Ashihara’s death has brought lots of ire for the mishandling of the news regarding her death (Mangaka Makoto Raiku, known for creating the Zatch Bell! franchise went online about this as well) and the continued mistreatment and harassment of female creators in the manga space, online and off. Hinako Ashihara who passed at fifty years old, had a thirty-year career of creating manga with girls and women as the heroes in their own stories and lives. I am grateful for having the few titles of hers that I have read that helped shape my manga reading adolescence. I hope Hinako Ashihara’s work is respected and preserved. Lastly, I hope her death helps bring about more awareness in the manga industry and serves to be a reminder of how mangaka need protection and support from their publishers, the networks, and other entertain industry persons when working with adaptations and more. If Eiichiro Oda could be heavily involved in a live action adaptation of One Piece that globally is adored, why do we live in a world where Hinako Ashihara couldn’t?

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at 988lifeline.org. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional support.

(Shojo’s Bizarre Adventure Podcast (created by women for women–but everyone is welcomed to listen in) has a great segment on Hinako Ashihara’s work. Start at the 23:00 mark in the video)

Women Mangaka
Photo credit: © Yudai Kusano

Kaori Tsurutani

Genres: Seinen, BL

Years Active: 2020’s – Current

Notable (Past) Works:  BL Metamorphosis, BL First Crush Anthology: Five Seconds Before We Fall in Love

Works Usually Include: Slice of life goodness, admiration for Boys Love,

Kaori Tsurutani is an up-and-coming manga creator best known in the West for the English language version of BL Metamorphosis. The five-volume series is an absolute delight: it follows the sweet friendship of a high school girl who becomes friends with an elderly woman who bond over manga–BL manga, at that. Slow-paced and endearing, I kept reading to read more of this manga that gently bonded together two women in different stages of their lives. Ichinoi, a seventy-five-year-old widowed woman, accidentally stumbled upon some BL manga at a bookstore. As fate would have it, she captures the eye of one of the workers at the store – a seventeen-year-old fujoshi teenage girl. The manga evolved into a quiet yet thrilling narrative that touches on the importance of inter-generational friendships, dealing with transitional periods in life, discovery and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

According to one of my fave manga podcasts, Mangasplaining: “BL Metamorphosis won the 22nd Japan Media Arts Award, was nominated twice for the Manga Taisho Award, and was a top pick amongst Japanese manga critics in Kono Manga ga Sugoi, the annual ranking of cool manga! In short, people really, really liked this one. It’s very much a manga for people who like manga.” I really felt that the mangaka, Tsurutani, really nailed it here with the joys of sharing and reading manga–with a friend. For Urara, the teenager without much direction or friends, being able to share BL (Boys Love manga cements her as a fujoshi aka rotten woman which can be socially isolating, even within manga circles) with another feels liberating even if it is with a much older person. For the much older Ichinoi, it was super fun and enlightening to see how much manga has evolved since the days of old (she mentions Rose of Versailles manga of the 1970’s) and see her reaction to BL tropes, artist working digitally, and more recent additions to the manga industry like the Comiket events and QR for digital goodies. Kaori Tsurutani has demonstrated that her manga feature relationships that are worth reading whether they be romantic ones the way of BL or May-December friendships, and I believe many others would agree with me.

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  • Carrie McClain is writer, editor and media scholar. Other times she's known as a Starfleet Communications Officer, Comics Auntie, and Golden Saucer Frequenter. Nowadays you can usually find her avoiding Truck-kun and forgetting her magical girl transformation device. She/Her

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