Women are a market of reader that publishers are always trying to court, but many struggle to really ever really find. Comics especially are always trying to figure out how to get more ladies into the fold. The discussion exploded this summer back when a lone young women stood up at the San Diego Comic-Con 2011 panel and asked the DC Comics all male creators, "Where are all the women?". What began from there is a deep look into the gender balances of the DC staff. With their coming September relaunch of their "DC New 52" reboot. They are going from 12% female staff to as low as 1%. This sparked both confusion and outrage. The issue was well covered by Sara 'Babs' Lima of Comic Vine in her article, "DC Responds to Concerns over Lack of Female Comic Creators". It was after seeing these numbers, I began to think about something. The women working for DC were mostly in writing, coloring, and editing. How many are actual original creators of the series they work on, and how does this differ from manga and anime? I went into research, and these were some of my findings.
The influence of women is huge in the manga/anime industry. They are a high readership, and they even have two specific genres directed to them, Shojo (少女) and Josei (女性). Shojo are mainly aimed to a young female reader. Josie are for more mature women. Best described as being close to the sort of "trashy romance" novels you may often see at the grocery store. Yaoi also has a large female following, and falls into the Josei series. Are there any genres in comics targeted specifically for women? DC has often been strong in targeting women readers with titles such as Birds of Prey, Catwoman, and Gotham City Sirens. Marvel has been more clunky in their "Sex in the City" parody title, Marvel Divas.
The shonen genre may not be specifically targeted to women. That certainly hasn't stopped female readers from being a factor. One of the series that's popular in Japan is Fullmetal Alchemist. The anime adaptations have often had good ratings even among the Adult Swim audience. This is a shonen action series with a deep story, rich characters, and an extremely wide appeal. What may be a surprise to many is that the original creator, author, and artist is one woman. Her name is Hiromu Arakawa. She's well known for being a bit reclusive and illustrates herself as a spotted-cow wearing glasses in each volume. She describes herself as not being able to walk into her favorite bookstore without walking out with a big stack of random books. She is also the writer and artist for the series Hero Tales and several other manga series.
You can't talk about women in this industry without mentioning CLAMP. This is a team of all women writers and artists. They are a powerhouse in manga and anime. They have created a number of series such as Cardcaptors Sakura, Chobits, Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, and XxxHOLiC. CLAMP also designed the characters of the 2006 hit Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. These ladies are a team you call when you want your characters designed. The incredibly popular Black Butler series was created by Yana Toboso. Sailor Moon was created by Naoko Takeuchi to really popularize the magical girl concept, and Ranma 1/2 was created by Rumiko Takahashi. Rumiko is credited as one of the best selling female comics artist in history. Over 170 million copies of her works have been sold since February of 2010.
Many light-novel series can go on to inspire manga and anime adaptations. Light-novels are generally targeted to the junior high and high school readers, but main characters are quite frequently young girls. The Suzumiya Haruhi series is one of the more famous to the West. The writer is a man, Nagaru Tanigawa; but the character designer and artist is Noizi Ito, who also designed the characters for Shakugan no Shana. GOSICK is a period murder-mystery written by Kazuki Sakuraba and illustrated by Hinata Takeda. Both are women. Zero no Tsukaima, Spice and Wolf, and Okamisan are all romantic themed series targeted toward women with female leads, but each are written by men. This just reflects the influence of women in the light-novel market. They are very much sought after.
When talking about the industry, we can't forget to bring up voice actors. It's these people who are responsibly for giving life to the characters. Easily, the top five biggest Shonen series of heroes in the past ten years in Japan are Naruto Uzumaki, Edward Elric, Monkey D. Luffy, Ichigo Kurosaki, and Conan Edogawa. What all these characters have in common are that they're all young males, but out of all the voice actors behind these heroes. Only one of them is a man. In America, only Edward Elric and Ichigo Kurosaki are voiced by men. Mayumi Tanaka has voiced Luffy in nearly 500 episodes,11 movies, and the series is only just nearing the half way point.
I'm not trying to give some impression that the manga and anime industry is more gender friendly in Japan than it is in U.S. comics. At the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, a panel was held to discuss this very issue of women in manga. During the discussion, Layla Aker, a senior editor with VIZ Media, talked about how opportunities are much slimmer in the publishing fields in Japan, and pointed to a gender bias when it comes to genres. She said, "People assume you work with shojo manga.". She described women as being more open minded as readers, and went on to cite data that showed VIZ's Shonen Jump magazine has a 40% female readership.
Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, a then senior editor with Tokyopop, attributed the growing female audience of manga to it being brought out of dark and often unwelcoming atmospheres of comic book stores and into the average bookstores. Robin Brenner, a graphic novel reporter and author, found in her research that more women are asking about manga as they have spread in the library system. What all the panelists seemed to agree on is that manga and anime needs more female fans. The fans of today, can go on to create the series of the future. Much in the same way that Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball went on to inspire Eiichiro Oda to create One Piece. One Piece having some of the widest appeal across every gender and age group that Japan has seen. Women and men, Girls and boys read this series openly. Isn't that what we all really want? Something everyone can relate to despite our genders, share, and talk about.
I know I'm dancing in a minefield being a man talking about women's influence in any industry, but I want to try and begin a conversation. Show the readers and those just curious how important women are to the series we enjoy and spend so much time with. It wouldn't be nearly the same without them. This is NOT a boys only club. Women are just as welcome. These are my thoughts. What are yours?
Source: SDCC 2009 - Women in Manga Panel (ANN) - HERE