6 Contemporary Female Mangaka and Graphic Novelists We Love

We’re commemorating some of the women shaping the manga and graphic novel industries. Learn about six female creators you’ll want to have on your radar.

Book Culture Comics & Graphic Novels Female Authors Graphic Novels LGBTQIA+ Reads Pop Culture Recommendations Young Adult
Writer Alice Oseman next to three miscellaneous manga and graphic novel covers, on a pastel background with grayscale skyscraper graphics.

Some of the most iconic characters and stories in today’s nerd culture were created by women. That’s why we’ve gathered six of our favorite contemporary female artists within manga and graphic novels. Read on to see if yours made it on the list!

Hiromu Arakawa

After an award-winning debut, Hiromu Arakawa took the world by storm with her shonen phenomenon Fullmetal Alchemist (2001-2010). For many fans, the series was their gateway into manga and anime, making Arakawa a mainstay in the industry.

Image of mangaka Hiromu Arakawa wearing a black beret and a collared blouse, posing by her work desk with a manga pen.
IMAGE VIA THEMOVIEDB.ORG

Not wanting to deter her target male demo from her work, she initially went by the masculine pen name “Edmund” Arakawa before landing on “Hiromu,” which derives from her real name, “Hiromi.”

As a storyteller, Arakawa has proven to be both compelling and versatile. Apart from the fantasy genre of Fullmetal Alchemist, she’s successfully dipped into slice-of-life with Silver Spoon, a manga based on her upbringing in a dairy farm. Both stories showcase the mangaka’s ability to create a well-crafted narrative with an ensemble cast of diverse and fleshed out characters.

Michelle Lam

Photo of graphic novelist Michelle Lam wearing a tie-dye shirt and a checkered backpack, posing in front of a canyon.
IMAGE VIA MEWTRIPLED.COM

Like others on this list, Michelle Lam is a multi-hyphenated talent with a big following. When she’s not posting autobiographical comics on Instagram, the CalArts alum works as a director, author, and story artist. Better known as @mewtripled to her 416K followers, Lam first gained recognition via her webcomic Succubishez, which she uploaded both to WEBTOON and IG from 2018-2019. In 2022, she published her debut graphic novel Meesh the Bad Demon, a middle-grade series starring her succubus OC. A sequel titled The Secret of the Fang released a year later.

Ai Yazawa

Best known for her hit series Nana, Ai Yazawa is a staple in shoujo and josei manga. Her art is immediately recognizable for its stylish punk aesthetic, which is given to her time in fashion school prior to her career as a mangaka. Vivienne Westwood is a notable influence in Yazawa’s work, with her characters often donning actual designs from the British brand. Moreover, Yazawa’s other hit manga, Paradise Kiss, was published in the Japanese fashion magazine Zipper.

Photograph of mangaka Ai Yazawa in a white plaid button-up shirt and red lipstick, posing in front of a wall with a single frame.
IMAGE VIA AI YAZAWA WIKI

Apart from her iconic art style, the mangaka’s known for the mature themes in her writing, including sex, addiction, and tumultuous relationships. When breaking into the scene in the ‘90s and ‘00s, she created complicated female leads at a time when the shoujo market was saturated by cookie-cutter female characters.

Rachel Smythe

Rachel Smythe is the creator of WEBTOON’s number one series, Lore Olympus. The Hades and Persephone retelling has not only garnered 1.4 billion views on the app but earned Smythe two consecutive Eisner Awards. The comic, which has 6.5M subscribers, is an amalgamation of Smythe’s emotive art and masterful writing. Physical copies of Lore Olympus have since made the author a New York Times Bestselling graphic novelist.

Comic artist Rachel Smythe in an ivory printed top and reading glasses, posing in front of gray furniture and a gray wall.
IMAGE VIA RACHEL SMYTHE

Part of what makes Smythe’s writing so effective, is the way in which she navigates sensitive themes such as mother/daughter dynamics, and more triggering topics, like sexual assault.

She herself admits to being a sensitive person, which is something that filters through the Persephone character. Rather than making your typical warrior protagonist, Smythe sought to create a female lead whose strength came from that sensitive nature.

CLAMP

Since their debut in the mid-’80s, CLAMP has amassed an impressive body of work in various genres and demographics. Some of their biggest titles include Cardcaptor Sakura, xxxHolic, Chobits, and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle.

Famously known for their CLAMP “multiverse,” their stories tend to overlap through alternate versions of their characters. An example of this is the phenomenon of “soul pairs,” where canonical couples from their different series are paired together across other CLAMP universes.

Photo of the four members of mangaka group CLAMP, lined up in front of panel tables, and a sign that reads "CLAMP at Anime Expo 2006."
IMAGE VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Originally comprised of 11 members, the mangaka group is currently led by (pictured above, from left to right): Satsuki Igarashi (coordinator of the group’s productions), Nanase Ohkawa (group director), Tsubaki Nekoi (co-director), and Mokona (lead artist).

No list of influential manga creators would be complete without CLAMP, as they have largely contributed to the influx of otaku media in the West. When the group began working for American anime distributor Funimation, CEO Gen Fukunaga referred to them as “the most acclaimed group of artists in Japan.”

Alice Oseman

At age 19, Alice Oseman published her first novel, Solitaire. Her desire to expand the story of two side characters in this novel led to the creation of her current hit Heartstopper. It started as a webcomic on Oseman’s Tumblr page and the Tapas platform. Since then, it’s become one of the most popular LGBTQ+ YA graphic novels in recent history. The bestseller spawned an equally successful Netflix adaptation, with Oseman overseeing every aspect of the show as writer and executive producer.

Graphic novelist Alice Oseman in a rainbow t-shirt, looking up with a smirk, on a brick background.
IMAGE VIA ALICEOSEMAN.COM

Aside from the Heartstopper franchise, she has authored another New York Times Bestseller called Loveless, as well as teen novels Radio Silence and I Was Born For This. Among her numerous awards and accolades, Oseman was named 2023’s Attitude Person of the Year, and The British Book Awards Illustrator of the Year.

These six creators are but a few of the women leaving their footprint in these industries. Let us know on our socials what other female artists have impacted your nerdy heart.

Not done browsing? Check out this review on the 5th volume of Heartstopper.

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