Clichés have an unjustified reputation for being tedious and monotonous. Funny enough, josei anime are often wrongfully accused of the same crimes. Though some tropes may be tiresome, with exceptional execution, they become classics instead.
All the best josei never shy away from pertinent topics. They tackle conflicts head-on, even if they don’t lead to positive outcomes. Be it convoluted love polygons, the stark awakening of growing up and facing the real world, or an inspiring yet incredibly relatable journey of self-exploration, josei anime always lets its natural worldbuilding take the wheel. Some of the best character developments in anime are from josei series, and there’s no reason to hide from this clichéd association.
10/10 Paradise Kiss Amplifies Every Character’s Emotions Tenfolds
In Paradise Kiss, Yukari opens her life to the fabulous world of fashion. Prior to modeling for ParaKiss, Yukari was an introvert satisfied with her reclusive lifestyle. Focused on finding her path post-high school, she stumbles upon passion, purpose, and love in the form of eccentric designer clothes and gorgeous pairs of pumps.
Paradise Kiss leans into classic josei tropes to add some spark to the series. Evolving from a timid little girl to a powerful femme fatale, Yukari leaves behind her cynicism for an abundance of self-love. She learns to prioritize herself amid toxic relationships, inspiring Paradise Kiss viewers to do the same.
9/10 Orange Adds Sci-fi To A Tear-jerking Coming-Of-Age That Spotlights Mental Health
Sans time travel, Orange is a mesmerizing slice-of-life that has its audience glued to the screen. With mental health taking center stage, Orange tackles topics pertinent to today’s sociopolitical climate. It’s a beautiful josei that should be on everyone’s watch list.
Orange sprinkles in comedy to lighten the load of an incredibly heavy topic. Its hilarity never diminishes the urgency and pertinence of characters battling depression and suicidal thoughts. The high school anime is mature, messy, and immensely relatable. Like any spectacular josei, Orange balances its serious plot points and laugh-worthy jokes splendidly. All in all, the green-blazered crowd stars a grounded and wholesome group of friends that has every member of its audience yearning for a bond just like theirs.
8/10 Nodame Cantabile Takes The Hardest Possible Route With Every Relationship
Every couple in Nodame Cantabile screams josei. Both Miki-Mine and Noda-Chiaki are exemplary cases of “opposites attract.” Miki is a drama queen, while Mine is a strict, classical violinist. Noda is free-spirited and takes no crap from anyone, while Chiaki is rigid and excessively critical of everything.
Neither relationships take the easy route. Every other facet of their lives juxtaposes the other. Frankly, it’s a miracle both couples ever happened in the first place. Despite the emotional rollercoaster ride, both pairings manage to foster healthy relationships until the very end. Outside of being a tastefully dramatic romcom, Nodame Cantabile expresses ambition, drive, and conquering fear with dignity and maturity.
7/10 Gokusen’s Premise Is A Cliché
Gokusen enforces a relatively formulaic plot. It follows a teacher taming a class full of juvenile delinquents, expected to bring them out of their rowdiness to fulfill their potential. The twist is Kumiko Yamaguchi leads a double life, teacher by day and leader of a Yakuza Clan by night.
As a hothead raised in a hostile environment, Kumiko learns to tone herself down in order to play the maternal role of mentoring her students. She struggles with her double identity, but she grows holistically as a person along the way. Gokusen isn’t massively popular, but it’s cliché nonetheless.
6/10 Honey And Clover Stars One Of The Realest Characters Anime Has Ever Seen
Put five angsty artists together, and there’s bound to be drama. Put three of those five in the same living space, and it’s a guarantee they fall in love. An anime rife with love triangles, devastating heartbreak, contrasting personalities, and painful personal growth, Honey and Clover is as josei as it gets.
The anime portrays the theatrical lives of artists in college elegantly. Driven by hormones and the heart, Honey and Clover emphasizes just how torturously melodramatic young adults can be. Yet, the warm and inviting feel of the show reserves it for the mature audience. Plot-wise, Takemoto’s struggles with his unknown future are highly relatable to the demographic. Honey and Clover is filled to the brim with clichés, but the impeccable performance makes it a josei classic.
5/10 Golden Time Doesn’t Have A Conventional Josei Plot, But Embraces Its Clichés Nonetheless
Featuring an amnesiac adjusting to a new life, Golden Time is bursting with identity crises. The not-so-well-known anime takes a unique approach to self-growth. Presented with an empty slate, Banri faces immense emotional turmoil, his past and present constantly battling for the projection of his identity.
Down to cinematographic details, Golden Time is unapologetically josei. It’s a compassionate story that highlights evolving characters, flourishing relationships, and inner peace. With scenes of grand love declarations on bridges and earnest farewells, Golden Time is a heartfelt josei that welcomes its tropes with open arms.
4/10 Kids On The Slope Is Sadly Realistic
Bon and Sentaro’s deep bond has its audience drenched in envy. This is why it’s extremely heartbreaking to watch their friendship slowly shatter with each episode. Along with Nana, Kids on the Slope demonstrates one of the saddest and most realistic destructions of friendship in anime.
Undeterred by the high school setting, the relationships fostered in Kids on the Slope are as mature as any other. Ironically, immature high school students letting love get in the way of a strong friendship speaks to how realistic the anime is. It doesn’t provide viewers with light-hearted escapism, but rather a stark awakening that sometimes even the best friendships don’t last. Opposites attract, harsh awakenings, and rocky relationships are the hallmarks of every other josei in existence.
3/10 Natsuyuki Rendezvous Headlines A Supernatural Love Triangle
Natsuyuki Rendezvous uses a ghost ex-husband to illustrate a riveting love triangle. To dampen the unrealistic element of a late husband’s spirit getting in the way of love at first sight, Natsuyuki Rendezvous focuses on Rokka relearning self-love.
Death is always a heavy topic. The irreversible tragedy leaves a lasting scar. Grasping onto the memory of her late husband, Rokka lets grief, loss, and heartbreak engulf her whole. Meeting Ryousuke is the best thing to ever happen to her, not because of all-encompassing love, but because he helps Rokka heal from the heartbreak and grief of losing a loved one. Natsuyuki Rendezvous embraces its clichés to be an outlet of comfort the audience can turn to in a time of need.
2/10 Say “I Love You” Is About Piecing Trust Back Together
Mei, the outcast of her cohort, has a barrage of childhood trauma in Say “I Love You.” Getting into the minds of naive high schoolers, the herd mentality behind an entire batch of students hating on Mei for allegedly killing the class pet makes complete sense. Ostracized, Mei shuts herself off from the world, but that all changes when Yamamoto waltzes into her life.
Yamamoto and Mei’s relationship develops slowly. They help each other unpack every trauma they have on deck. Say “I Love You” touches on vicious bullying and distorted self-images. The show underlines its repercussions on an individual’s mental health and how deeply it snowballs. Just like Mei, Say “I Love You” is often overlooked in spite of the clichés ingrained in it.
1/10 Yuri!!! On Ice Defies Josei Clichés By Having One Of The Healthiest Relationships In Anime
Yuri!!! on Ice is a heartwarming series with one of the best love stories in anime. The yaoi couple may not have moved heaven and earth for their happy ending, but prominent josei tropes shine in other parts of the show.
Firstly, Yuri is a remarkably relatable protagonist. Despite being on top of the world, Yuri was the poster child for low self-esteem and anxiety. An expert in self-sabotage, Yuri’s crusade back to the big leagues brings viewers on a real journey of self-exploration. Falling in love with Victor was a bonus, but their beautifully organic dynamic is truly palpable. The classic rising-from-the-ashes anime confronts harmful mental health stigmas with astonishing depths of character development. Yuri!!! on Ice is a well-crafted anime that champions its clichés in all its glory and is a must-watch.
NEXT: 10 Best Romance Anime That Embraced Its Clichés