I've been an online writer for years. I have many different interests, ranging from anime and Japanese culture to animals and art.
Josei is a genre of Anime and Manga that is targeted to older ladies. Literally Josei means "women."
The subject matter in the Josei genre ranges greatly from show to show. Sometimes you can have a story about high-school students playing a poetry card game or a show about Ancient Japanese Poetry, raising a child or about a polar bear running a cafe. There is no clear-cut direction for what a Josei anime can be about or even genre tropes as seen in other types of anime. Despite that Josei anime are fairly popular and can stand along side some of the more action anime fare.
This is a list of the top ten best Josei anime. The shows were ranked by general plot or concept, characters and general enjoyment. I try to be as objective as possible but I would be lying if I said my own bias didn’t peek in now and again, after-all enjoyably isn’t number based.
Don’t be too disappointed if your favorite title isn’t on or ranked as high as your own personal preference.
List is subject to change.
Ristorante Paradiso is a unique anime about a young woman, named Nicoletta who goes to Rome to find her mother with the intent of ruining her life, When she find her mother, Olga, she learns that Olga is married to man who runs a restaurant where only older gentlemen work who wear glasses. It’s like Ouran High School Host club but with men in their 40’s and 50’s.
It’s mostly a slice-of-life anime that is nicely slow-paced. Each character is developed well as the shows gives them all proper attention and focus.
The animation at times is a little bland but fits in with the tone of the show. It is nice to see an anime that has more European vibe to it.
Polar Bear Cafe
Polar Bear Cafe is definitely one of the the oddest anime on this list. It’s both surreal and down-to-earth as well as very charming.
It’s about a Polar Bear that runs a cafe and his friends, a Panda who is lovable, vain and lazy and a Penguin who is a Tsukkomi type character, meaning he is smarter and more reasonable that the other characters and will criticize the other characters for their mistakes, it’s the equivalent to the straight man.
The Polar bear himself loves making bad puns for reactions. There is also lots of other weird delightful characters like Grizzly Bear and a Sloth to name a few.
Polar Bear Cafe is a very calming silly show that is very endearing.
Plus there is a sloth.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is from 2016.
The show starts with Yotarou is a former yakuza member who wants to learn Rakugo from the master Yakumo Yuurakutei. Rakugo is a traditional Japanese art of comedic story-telling which is told with the person knelling.
The anime then going into a long flashback about Yakumo Yuurakutei and with training with a less sophisticated Sukeroku who has a contrasting style to Yakumo.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is full of friendship and bittersweet romance.
Paradise Kiss is about a typical high school student named Yukari who get involved with a group of fashion designers who want her to model for them.
Through their enthusiasm and passion, Yukari discovers she has not been living a life she enjoys as she tries to live up to the expectations of her mother, and she is inspired to follow her own dreams. She has has a romance with the group’s leader, George. Paradise Kiss is the name of the group’s fashion label.
Paradise Kiss is a very believable drama about people facing more or less common problems of following dreams and the pressure of becoming an adult.
The characters are all likable and interesting and it’s a very refreshing anime.
Paradise Kiss manga was written by Ai Yazawa who wrote NANA, which is a shoujo series.
Kids on the Slope
Kids on the Slope is another anime that is about high school students but what makes this anime different is that it’s set in the late 1960’s on Kyushu.
The show follows Kaoru, a typical no-nonsense honor roll student who keeps to himself. After Kaoru meets bad-boy, Sentaro, he gets immersed in the world of jazz and starts changing his outlook on life.
Kids on the Slope is a wonderful coming of age story about friendship. It has a bittersweet undertone as it has a real world outlook on love and growing up.
It was directed by Watanabe Shinichi of Cowboy Bebop and the music was by Yoko Kanno. Speaking of the music, the jazz version of “My favorite things” was a very high point in the show.
In March of 2018 there was a live-action film version released.
Princess Jellyfish is about bunch of female otaku who all live in an apartment/boarding house with a strict no male policy.
The show focuses mainly on Tsukimi, a nerdy young woman who has great passion for all things jellyfish related. One night while trying to save a Jellyfish she is fond of, known as Clara, she meets Kuranosuke, a cross-dresser.
Kuranosuke helps the denizens of the apartment try and save their home from getting demolished as well as being more fashionable in general.
Princess Jellyfish is a very light-hearted fun show but it has it’s own sense of depth. All the character are likable and interesting.
There have been two live action version made of Princess Jellyfish. One movie version release in December 2014 and the other a ten episode show that ran in early 2018.
Honey and Clover
Honey and Clover is a slice-of-life show about a group of students attending art school and living in a broading house. The show follows them coming to terms with growing up, their own transitions into the adult world and finding simple pleasures in their lives.
One thing that stands out about Honey and Clover is the art style. It has very soft lines and the quality of the colors is like watercolors. It may not to be everyone taste but it fits the show quite nicely.
Honey and Clover does great job of balancing very silly humor with the drama of growing up and becoming an adult. All the characters are fun, interesting and very well developed. It has has some bittersweetness in terms of romantic pay-offs but it’s a wonderful show.
There have been a few live-action adaptations of Honey and Clover. There has been a film and two live-action tv drama one of which was Taiwanese.
Nodame Cantabile follows students at Momogaoka College of Music. Chiaki is a talented perfectionist who wants to study in Europe so that he can be a conductor but a phobia of flying prohibits him from leaving Japan.
During his 4th year he meet Megumi a.k.a Nodame. Nodame is a slob who plays music with less than perfect technique however she make for it with much more emotion and passion than Chiaki. Chiaki and Nodame learn from each other while they try to become world class musicians.
One of the best things about Nodame Cantabile is how music drives the character development. The shows uses a lot of classical pieces to showcase characters. The character have a lot of growth and while they may start out being grating they do become likable and well rounded. The scene were Chiaki performed Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto 2 was very memorizing.
There have been two live action films, a tv show and a few video games based on Nodame Cantabile.
Usagi Drop is a very simple yet poignant slice-of-life story about a single man, Daikichi who after his grandfather’s death decides to raise his grandfather’s illegitimate six year old daughter, Rin. The show follows his struggles and joys at trying to raise Rin.
In the same vein a Honey and Clover, Usagi Drop has a soft palette of warm colors which fits the tone of the show. It’s a very cute and heart-felt show that has very likable relatable characters. The dynamic of a show about raising a child makes Usagi Drop stand out as anime.
The ending of the anime is vert different from manga, which is a good thing.
As far as premise go, Chihayafuru is out there. It follows a high school girl, aptly named Chihaya who is obsessed with the classic Japanese poetry card game called Karuta. The game involves players grabbing cards before their opponents can grab it to finish a poem that is being read out loud. Chihayafuru portrayals the world of competitive Karuta as high pace and very tactical.
In the show, Chihaya and her two best childhood friends, Taichi and Arata all love Karuta but drifted apart after Arata moves away. In high school, Chihaya tries to start a Karuta club which brings her back into contact with Taichi and Arata and she meets new friends through the club. In the club they all work to became better players.
Chihayafuru has a lot of likable characters that all get chance at development into the three dimension characters. It has stunning animation with lots of beautiful shots, whether someone is explaining the meaning of some poetry or if they are making grabs at a card in a Karuta tournament.
But at its core Chihayafuru is about the power of friendship.
Chihayafuru also made karuta popular in Japan with young people.
Chouyaku Hyaninishuisshu: Uta Koi
Chouyaku Hyaninishuisshu: Uta Koi is a historical Josei anime that takes place during the Heian period of Japan, 794 to 1185 A.D. This anime is loosely based off an anthology of 100 romanic poems by 100 poets or Hyakunin Isshu.
The anime itself has a fluid narrative flow that takes the viewer from the romantic exploits of one poet to another, like Murasaki Shikibu, author of The Tale of Genji.
The art style is quite lovely too. It has textural print which is very cool. The only thing is that the tone is all over the place and at times can feels a bit odd.
What do you like about Josei anime?
Naomi Starlight from Illinois on December 06, 2016:
I haven't seen any of these except Princess Jellyfish, but I like that one as a kind of nerdy girl dream series (similar to Ouran HS Host Club). I was wondering though, if the protagonist is not an adult, and the setting is a school wouldn't that make it not a Josei series?