Years Active: 80’s- 90’s
Notable (Past) Works: Helter Skelter and Pink, which I covered here!
Works Usually Include: Manga Centering Women, Women with Sexual Agency
Upcoming Releases: English Translated Version of 1994’s River’s Edge
Kyoko Okazaki is one of my favorite mangaka when it comes to Josei. Her work is perhaps most notable for presenting the complicated lives of girls and women on page. She is considered one of the mothers of the modern Josei genre from the 80s and 90s on. She lived like a rock star and started her career with genre blurring work, some erotic natured comics too. Some of her best-known work that has been translated in English are manga that act as social commentary on capitalism (Pink) and the fashion industry (Helter Skelter).
Her manga creating days may have ended after a life altering car accident that happened in 1995 but her work lives on. As a mangaka, her work has received live action film adaptations (as recent as 2018, 2019, and 2020!), at least one fashion collab, and her past works are still being reprinted. I’m so happy that come later this year we’ll finally have an English translated version of her 1994 work, River’s Edge, which focuses on a group of teens and their tangled, complicated relationships when they discover an unknown corpse near the river. Here’s a link to a short but superb piece on her manga by one of my favorite writers of the medium here.
Years Active: 1999-current
Notable (Past) Works: Full Metal Alchemist, Silver Spoon, Heroic Legend of Arslan manga adaptation
Works Usually Include: Fantasy Adventures works, works detailing on the horrors of war and corruption
Upcoming Releases: Daemons of the Shadow Realm (Spring 2023)
Hiromu Arakawa as a mangaka is perhaps best known for Full Metal Alchemist, a shonen manga that stands out as one of the most impactful of its generation that spawned not one but two anime adaptations, animated and live action films, light novels, video games, and more. I have personally believed that she has the range from her work: I have enjoyed reading about the political strife in her manga adaptation of the long running Japanese fantasy novel series written by Yoshiki Tanaka. I’m also very intrigued by the manga inspired by her life–Silver Spoon that came out of her upbringing near and proximity to a dairy farm and different people from her childhood who worked in the agricultural industries. Her newest series, Daemons of the Shadow Realm focuses on twins: a brother and sister who are separated from a young age and unaware of the truth of their birth, and they must fight to make their way back to each other, claim their birthright, and save the world!
A fun-fact that I remembering hearing about years ago was that Hiromu is reportedly a masculine pen-name she started to use in order to avoid putting off shonen readers early in her career and eventually kept it. It is not uncommon for mangaka to jokingly created a drawn version of themselves that may be a cartoony version of an animal or object to leave in the author notes and margins of their manga. Hers, famously is a bespectacled cow and is one of my favorites of all of manga. She is also a mother of three children. Hilariously, after the birth of her youngest child, she uploaded a short comic updating her website with the caption: “Human Transmutation Accomplished.” Full Metal Alchemist fans sure, must get a laugh out of that one. A great recap of her life, nerdy interest and body of work can be found here, and it’s worth reading!
Genres: Alt-manga for sure, would be of interest to fans of older Josei
Years Active: 1960’s -1980’s?
Notable (Past) Works: Talk To My Back
Works Usually Include: Manga Centering Women, Unique Art Style
Yamada Murasaki is a mangaka who popped up on my radar just recently with her English language debut of Talk To My Back in 2022. The collection of work is a brilliant look at motherhood, not romanticized through a suburban woman’s middle-class setting. Raising two little girls who grow more independent each day, the main character ponders and lives through questioning her marriage, her own autonomy, and her role in what she keeps defining and redefining as her family. The manga serves slices of stories that range from vulnerable to hilarious and thought provoking. I am happy to see in older manga centering women, created by a woman. Murasaki, known as a feminist manga creator, essayist, and poet, may have passed back in 2009, but I am very impressed with the handling of this work. I’m so glad to have read this, perhaps inspired by the mangaka’s own reflections of life as wife and mother.
I can’t say that I know much about alt-manga, alternative manga–manga that is generally pushed outside the more commercial space (for its art style and narrative themes, which usually is more darker and more mature), but I am elated to have Murasaki’s work as one of the first books in my education. Especially since Murasaki is considered one of alt-manga’s most important female artists and most of what I know about the movement and notable manga that I read is by male creatives. As a mangaka, her work is profound, incredibly relevant–even today. This review of Talk To My Back has additional commentary about the mangaka’s work in the movement and how extraordinary the main character, the housewife, is framed by her family and shifting desires for more.
Years Active: 90’s-current
Notable (Past) Works: Dorohedoro
Ongoing Popular Work: Dai Dark
Works Usually Include: Darker imagery, Horror & Post-apocalyptic genres
Truthfully, I don’t know a whole lot about the mangaka we know as Q Hayashida. Outside of Dorohedoro, there’s not much of her work translated outside of Japan. I do know that she started making manga sometime in the late 90s, and her well-known published series is Dorohedoro. I passed up the manga the first few times I saw it, as initially, I was put off by the art and I wasn’t reading much Seinen at the time. But jokes on me, I was missing out on a manga with an incredible story that fans of dark humor will love. The visceral gore and body horror will certainly turn off some folks, yet I was really taken with how weird and the alternative (comic) vibes it gave me. This series follows Caiman, who wakes up one day as an amnesiac and also…a lizard head. With the help of his good friend Nikaido, they seek out the one responsible and uncover a underworld of sorcerers, magic, and shenanigans.
Q Hayashida rightfully gained a spot on this list not just because we don’t get enough exposure to women working in the Seinen genre, but also she has it: the spark, the talent, whatever you want to call it. She got it! Dorohedoro is like nothing that I’ve ever read before, and I’m starstruck by the mangaka because of it. I was not expecting this gritty, bloody, outlandish manga series to be so comedic and so thoughtfully laid out in regards to world-building. I wasn’t expecting so much of what I was reading to acknowledge why we need strong friendships and community. Or why retribution can go hand in hand with revenge. Receiving the anime adaptation early during the pandemic has been a godsend for folks looking for some optimism and a way to find an escape from the real life chaos in their lives like this piece here. For those not super familiar with her work, here’s a spectacular piece on her work as a whole touching upon her unique art-style which I think is a must read.
Years Active 2010’s- current
Notable (Past) Works: Shortcake Cake
Works Usually Include: Beautiful, polished art style, More Modern Feel to Shojo in their works
Ongoing Popular Work: A Sign of Affection
Upcoming Work: Like a Butterfly Manga (Summer 2023)
In the modern age of Shojo, suu MORISHITA is one of the hardest working and most relevant creators in the game. Not one person but actually two: the manga creating duo originally met in high-school and were classmates. I have read that “Makiro creates the storyboard/layouts (writer), and Nachiyan illustrates the story.” I have really adored their polished art style of their books and the very engaging, layered stories of their characters. I just feel that they absolutely nail it when it comes to how complicated young adults can be in the genre they create in these realistic, modern day settings. I always really, really like the focuses on equals parts friendships and romance in their work. Their adorable avatar/ artist self-portraits are grains of rice, a version of a character named “Soboku-kun,” that Nachiyan created when they were in high school. Their latest ongoing manga and also my favorite series by them is A Sign of Affection.
A Sign of Affection is a shojosei genre blurring manga that follows the slow burn-ish romance of new college student Yuki, who is deaf, and the jet-setting, world curious Itsuomi when they meet at the same college. Yuki communicates mostly through Japanese sign language, and Itsuomi happily starts learning. The result is a blooming, beautiful relationship that I cannot get enough of. The manga is simply one of the most thrilling, yet intimate series to hit the Shojo genre in such a long time. I also credit this manga with partially inspiring me to relearn ASL during the pandemic, which I had mostly forgotten from my childhood. Here’s a short but informative interview of these two creators on the Kodansha website that is greatly required reading to learn more about their latest work. They also have the highest honor of being one of my favorite (active) mangaka to follow on Instagram!
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**Updated May 2023: Updated cover image and changed Hiromu Arakawa’s artist image from an widely circulated photo of voice actress Romi Park (Edward Elric’s Japanese voice actress) that was incorrectly credited as the mangaka. Thanks to our Facebook fans who pointed it out!