Japanese

What Does JOSEI Mean in Anime?

If you’re into anime, then you’ve no doubt come across plenty of words that just don’t exist in English. This will tend to happen even when you’re watching it in English dubs!

One of those words that you’ll run into often is the Japanese word josei, spelled in kanji as 女性じょせい. Just what does josei mean in anime? And how about in the Japanese language for that matter?

It’s time to learn some anime-speak!

The Meaning of Josei

The word josei literally means woman or female in Japanese, but when it comes to anime it isn’t talking about the sex of the characters, but rather it is talking about the genre of the story.

I talked before about the anime genre shojo, which is primarily focused on young girls as the audience and the sorts of stories that they tend to prefer – that is, stories that center around the interpersonal relationships of the characters, and the emotional aspects that go along with them.

Well, josei anime is basically the same thing, but for girls and women who are no longer in high school. The typical reader of josei manga (or josei anime) is a woman who is somewhere between her late teens and early forties.

One of the main aspects that distinguish it from shojo is that josei will typically portray a realistic romance, with all the struggles and problems that come with one, as opposed to the more idealistic romances that are usually found in josei.

But that one thing certainly isn’t a requirement for it to be considered josei.

Unfortunately, josei isn’t really a genre that has gained much popularity in Western audiences, and so most of them tend to remain untranslated and only in the original Japanese.

So a short summery (if you really wanted to simplify it) is that you could say josei is either:

  1. The grown up version of shojo
  2. The female version of seinen

Still… these generalizations tend to miss out of the unique parts of the josei genre. Things such as family issues, being a female in the male-dominated work environment, and complicated relationships.

If you’re a female and you’re not looking for an escape from reality, but instead looking for life from another woman’s point of view, then josei might be exactly what you want.

But I’m sure guys can enjoy it as well. I myself haven’t delved too deeply into these kinds of anime, so if you know of a good one, let me know in the comments.

How Often is the Word Used in Japanese?

When it comes to learning Japanese, you can greatly accelerate the speed at which you attain fluency by focusing on learning words that are used in normal conversation, each and every day.

That means learning words like “I enjoy pizza” first, and not learning words like “the pancreas secretes enzymes” until much later on… if ever.

So how often does the Japanese word 女性じょせい get used? What would you guess its rank is in the top 3,000 Japanese words?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s pretty dang common!

Click to See the Answer

This is according to the Japanese frequency dictionary that I happen to have, and considering how low that number is, you will definitely want to learn it if you are studying Japanese.

But learning a new word in isolation can be a little hard since you memory doesn’t have a lot of context to help remember it with. So let me give you some real life examples of how it might be used to assist you in learning it.

  • ​彼女かのじょ​素晴すばらしい女性じょせいだ。
    She is a wonderful woman.


  • ​私わたしはその女性じょせい​全まった​知らない。
    I don’t know that woman at all.


  • 戸口とぐちにいる女性じょせい​誰だれですか?
    Who is the woman at the door?


  • ​私わたし​課​男性だんせい7人ななにん女性じょせい4人よにんです。
    There are seven men and four women in my section.

So, just remember that while 女性じょせい means woman or female in Japanese, it also brings with it the connotation of that “late teens to early forties” age with it. The word “young woman” might be a good way of thinking about it.

Why So Many Words?

It’s pretty interesting that Japanese is such a precise language in that it has a word specifically for young girls, and a different one for that next age group above it (女性).

You could go still higher than that, as the Japanese word for “old woman” is おばさん (obasan). This is also the word for “aunt” in Japanese.

Wow, how would you like to be called that by your nieces and nephews every time?!

Some people find it tiring to have to keep learning new words in Japanese like this, since in English we typically keep the noun the same and then just tack on a different adjective, but I think that this aspect of the Japanese language is one of the things that makes it really cool to learn.

What do you think?

Do you like the precision of the Japanese language? What about the josei genre? Do you have a favorite anime or manga in this category?

Let me know with a comment below!

2 Comments

  • christopher

    Hey, Nick! Your website continues to fascinate me as I look through it. The word Josei seems to be one of those words that we have to string together a bunch of words in English to describe.

    I like how this genre of anime is not an “escape from reality” but another woman’s perspective. Hopefully, we can have more of these real life scenarios vs. the make-believe romance novels. 

    You literally have thousands of articles to write, as each article can be about one word in the language. I find that amazing. Keep it up, man!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Haha, yeah I kind got lucky that the Japanese language is so different from English that it actually makes sense to write a short article that only goes over a single Japanese word. I find that (for me at least) when you have a deep understanding of the word, it tends to stick in your memory better.

      Plus, there were so many times when I was getting started where I would learn a word and say, “but I thought that you were supposed to use this other word for that… what’s going on?”

      If someone had just said, “It’s a different level of politeness” or “you use this word in these certain types of situations” then it would have alleviated a lot of frustrations. 

      So I try to provide the information and distinctions that I wish I’d had when I was new to Japanese.

      Anyway, glad you like the site! Thanks! 

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