Unfortunately, as is the case across many industries, the field of writing and drawing manga has historically been dominated by men. In fact, this has lasted so much that even recently, female writers have released their manga under male-sounding aliases. Today, even though there are still too few female mangakas, their works consistently add new depths and views to the medium.
Some female mangakas covering a wide range of genres have found tremendous success, and their titles have become the go-to series for both new and old fans, from the epic adventures of Full metal alchemist to magical girl classics like Shortcut Sakura.
Updated March 17, 2022 by Stacie Rook: Manga written by women has a lot to bring to the art form as enduring favorites and new releases from female creators continue to shine. The best of these stories mix the verbal and visual together to do something more than the sum of their parts and immerse readers in both strange and familiar worlds.
14 Sailor Moon
A magical girl classic loved around the world, Sailor Moonwritten and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi, ran from 1991 to 1997.
It sees the protagonist Usagi Tsukino begin his journey as the hero Sailor Moon, thanks to the help of the cat Luna. Usagi then awakens a group of other sailor soldiers with their own forces, and they work together to defend the Earth against threatening forces. The most touching friendships of Sailor Moonits LGBTQ + representation and its strong art style make it a memorable read that still holds true today.
Beastarswritten and illustrated by Paru Itagaki, was serialized from 2016 to 2020 and takes place in a world full of anthropomorphic animals.
This world is sharply divided between carnivores and herbivores, and Beastars’ The story follows the wolf Legoshi, a student whose towering figure stands in stark contrast to his shy personality and those he attends at Cherryton Academy. At the beginning of the series, the murder of student Tem raises tensions between carnivores and herbivores, and Legoshi tries to find the culprit.
12 Delicious in the Dungeon
Delicious in the Dungeonalso known as Dungeon Meshiis an ongoing manga written and illustrated by Ryōko Kui, first released in 2014, focusing on cooking in a comic fantasy setting.
The story begins with a group of heroic adventurers trying to kill a dragon. Their failure results in a loss and a change in the list for the party, which mourns and worries about how they will move forward. As a way to combat their expense of digging in the dungeon, the group decides that instead of buying rations, they will kill and eat monsters they face, and the manga describes their ordeals, combative and culinary.
11 Witch Hat Atelier
Heksehat Atelier, written and illustrated by Kamome Shirahama, is an ongoing fantasy manga that began in 2016.
The story follows Coco, a young girl who wants to become a witch but who is crushed after she accidentally performs a magical feat that traps her mother in stone. Coco longs to turn this around and lives with the powerful witch Qifrey, a man with several outcast students, whom he instructs. At the same time, Qifrey is investigating a coven who wants to make use of Coco’s powers.
10 Dead Man’s Wonderland
Female author Jinsei Kataoka teamed up with illustrator Kazuma Kondō to produce Dead Man’s Wonderland in 2007, and it ran in 13 volumes until 2013.
The series is better than most shones, and the series follows Ganta Igarashi, who is falsely accused of a massacre and sentenced to execution in Deadman Wonderland Prison, which is in fact an amusement park where prisoners are forced to fight to the death. Full of super powerful people and intense battle scenes, the mysteries of Dead Man’s Wonderland will drive readers through its history.
Noragami was written and illustrated by Adachitoka, who is the pen name (and a portmanteau) of its two female creators – Adachi, who acts as the character artist, and Tokashiki, who acts as the background artist. The manga premiered in 2010 and is still running today.
After an accident causes the schoolgirl Hiyori Iki’s soul to regularly slip out of her body, she meets a lost god, Yato, and Yukine, Yato’s divine vessel. Together, the three strive to take back the things they have lost, but have to face their past along the way.
8 Blue exorcist
Both written and illustrated by Kazue Kato, Blue exorcist follows the fairy tale Rin Okumura, Satan’s half-human twin son, who must use his demonic powers to defeat the devil who created him.
To do so, this dark fantasy series sees Rin enroll in the True Cross Academy and train as an exorcist with the help of his twin brother Yukio, who is already proficient in the arts. The manga is known for its strong characters and their interactions with each other.
7 Ouran High School Host Club
Most fans of modern anime will have heard of Ouran High School Host Club, written and illustrated by Bisco Hatori. It is a romantic comedy and parody, both of the otaku culture and the shojo genre, that follows the relationship between students working at a popular host club.
The manga’s significant popularity meant that it was adapted into an audio drama series, an anime TV series, a Japanese drama series, a live-action film and a visual novel. Ouran has enjoyed sustained popularity both because of its comedy and its approach to popular character archetypes.
D.Gråmand, written by Katsura Hoshino, is an adventure series that mixes sci-fi with fantasy and follows the protagonist Allen Walker in his exploits as an exorcist of the black order. The story takes place in an alternative 19th century and often deals with moral themes.
While D. Gray man has changed publishers several times since its debut in 2004, and has faced a number of breaks, but it continues to this day and had a spin-off light novel series with the title D.Gray-man: Conversely, illustrated by Hoshino but written by Kaya Kizaki.
5 Magi: Magiens labyrinth
Along with the many anime adaptations of classical literaturemanga Magi: Magiens labyrinth is based on the stories of 1001 Arabian Nights, and features memorable tales from that collection, such as the one about Aladdin, Ali Baba, and the sailor Sinbad. Written and illustrated by Shinobu Ohtaka, the series would continue to sell over 25 million copies.
Before the end of the release in 2017, Magic was adapted into a two-season anime, which itself spawned a spin-off series. Its coming-of-age tale and interesting magic system made Magic fun reading throughout the course.
4 Shortcut Sakura
Written by CLAMP, a Japanese mangaka group exclusively for women, Shortcut Sakura is an iconic magical girl story there follows the young protagonist Sakura Kinomoto, who must use her newfound powers to retrieve a set of magic cards she accidentally unleashed on the world, where each card causes evil in its own way.
A staple of the magic girl genre, the original manga was from 1996 to 2000, but its overwhelming popularity led to a still-running sequel over a decade later in 2016, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, follows a slightly older Sakura on even more adventures.
3 Black butler
Written and illustrated by Yana Toboso, Black butler debuted back in 2006 and continues to be released today. It has been adapted into three anime series, an original video animation shown in Japanese cinemas, a live-action film and an animated film.
Black butler follows a young earl, Ciel Phantomhive, who enters into a contract with a demon disguised as a butler, Sebastian Michaelis, to take revenge on his parents’ killers in the underworld of Victorian London. Although often dark, this supernatural series nonetheless has gripping moments of comedy.
Mangaka Rumiko Takahashi wrote and illustrated Inuyasha, a story about a middle school girl from modern Tokyo transported to Sengoku Era Japan, where she meets Inuyasha, a half demon, half human warrior. Together, the main characters use their fighting skills and travel to recover fragments of a sacred jewel before it falls into the hands of evil.
Inuyasha was aired on Weekly Shonen Sunday from 1996 to 2008, culminating in over fifty volumes, and it also had two anime series. An anime-only sequel, Yashahime: Princess Half Demonalso began to be broadcast in 2020.
1 Full metal alchemist
Full metal alchemist, by author and illustrator Hiromu Arakawa, has sold over an astounding 70 million volumes. The story is a steampunk adventure and follows brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric as they chase a way to recover their bodies through alchemy, after an attempt to bring their mother back to life irrevocably changed them both.
The series has been praised not only for its darker themes, which struggled with philosophy and human nature, but also the way it developed its central characters, and the relationship that the brothers have with each other.
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