The manga’s panorama we all know is populated by countless male artists who were able to leave a deep sign in Japanese pop culture’s history with their amazing stories and brilliant ideas. In fact, a good part of the most popular manga has been created by great men whose name will probably be remembered for generations, because of their ability of creating complex scenarios and intricate situations readers of all ages got caught by. From Leiji Matsumoto to Eichiro Oda, Japanese male authors’ talent is undoubtedly recognized by all manga lovers without prejudice, but what about women in a literary world that seems to be exclusively dominated by men? Well, we could say that a female author is a “flower that’s a rare kind” in both manga’s commercial universe and not, but a rare flower is also the most beautiful.
Amongst these precious, rare female artists, Katsura Hoshino is certainly one of the most known and appreciated, regardless of the reader’s gender. Indeed, female mangaka are often better known by the female audience due to their tendency to create mostly contents according to women’s tastes: family life, young romance, and women’s empowerment are generally those topics female authors are more concerned about, so their public can be very selective, sometimes. For female mangaka interested in a shounen career, life isn’t always simple. Whether the reason is preconception about women’s capability to create a good shounen or not, what is certain is that Katsura Hoshino was able of making her way in a male-dominant panorama and become one of the greatest mangaka of all times. Are you curious to know what her secret is? Then, follow us through this countdown that traces the story of Katsura Hoshino’s masterpieces!
5. Ayakashi no Ou (Demon King)
- Genre: Fantasy, Historical
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: Apr. 2013
One popular manga by Katsura Hoshino is Ayakashi no Ou, that is also one of the latest published. Ayakashi no Ou is the story of a young girl, Kumoi Kagome, who owns a humble daifuku – a particular kind of rice cake made with beans – shop together with her grandfather. One day, a strange customer who doesn’t look like he belongs to that land appears and buys all the pastries available in the shop. While eating, the strange foreigner tells Kumoi that he is travelling far and wide to search for his missing wife, but suddenly a demon enters the shop. The bad guy seems to be interested in Kumoi and tries to attack her; will the stranger be able to save the girl?
Ayakashi no Ou’s plot is pretty simple, but a simple story doesn’t mean “pointless” or “trivial”. On the contrary, by mixing just few elements, Katsura Hoshino was able to create a very entertaining fantasy containing everything a manga of this genre needs to be a great work: a historical-based background, a mystic atmosphere, a skilled protagonist, suspense, and a dangerous final battle. Although it is a very short mang--a mere 23 pages long--Ayakashi no Ou is an exciting story full of emotions, twist of events, and funny scenes that makes it a first-class piece. You really shouldn’t miss Ayakashi no Ou, especially if you like manga superbly drawn.
- Genre: Shounen, Comedy
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: Jul. 2011
There is no doubt that another amazing manga by Katsura Hoshino is the comedy shounen Kaiten!! This one-shot is set in a near future Japan where an evil organization known as Gamshack uses monsters called Kaiju to terrorize the local population. The final goal of Gamshack’s Master is to go on a conquest all over the country, but his plan is impeded by sponsored hero squads meant for rescue – whose members use technology to transform – scattered all over the country. In this messy world, Piro-paya is the right-hand woman of the Master; tired of being the bad guy, she hands the Master a resignation letter commenting that she wants a change in her life and intends to become a heroine. Will Piro-paya be able to realize her dream?
Criticized by many of Katsura Hoshino’s readers who has labeled it as “hard to follow”, Kaiten!! has been defended by all those people who think of Hoshino’s humor as “brilliant”. In fact, Kaiten!! parodies some of the most popular genres from Japanese films and TV shows from the twenties, as the giant monster and the super sentai hero, in order to create a nonsense dystopian Japan where hopeless villains who have regretted their previous life choices try to become better people. In Kaiten!!, Hoshino has proven to be a smart author with a deep knowledge of Japanese pop literature from which she has been able to take the best elements. Mixing them with traits typical of contemporary entertainment’s universe, Hoshino gave life to a hilarious masterpiece that is short in pages, but it surely isn’t short in content.
- Genre: Action, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: Jul. 2003
Katsura Hoshino really likes short stories, don’t you think too? In the third position of her dedicated countdown is, in fact, Continue, a supernatural action one-shot that follows the adventures of a 13-years old boy named Taiyo Yamamoto. As for many worthwhile shounen, Taiyo’s dream is becoming a hero, and in order to fulfil this desire he does all kind of crazy things, from racing with the school bus to bungee jumping from a high building. One day, Taiyo’s best friend Koji suddenly gets kidnapped by a group of delinquents. While fighting against them to rescue Koji, strange zombie-like monsters show up and eventually kills him. Soon after, Taiyo opens his eyes again just to realize he has mysteriously been revived. But his resurrection isn’t causal; indeed, he must fight against the dangerous demon “Millennium Earl”.
Continue is a great example of good shounen manga that has all classical elements of the genre but it is never plain. Although being another very short one-shot, Continue has, in fact, tremendous entertaining potential. Its linear plot is easy to follow but is never predictable, it is full of original ingredients such as reality ending up mixing with an abstract, technological world, characters are well-drawn and well-structured, both the main ones and the… unique villain. Continue really is a great manga about a pure-hearted hero’s adventurous life – or afterlife – and whose touching ending will leave you with a bittersweet, but pleasant feeling.
2. Zone (D.Gray-man chapter 0)
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Shounen, Super Power
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: Dec. 2003
If you are considering to start reading Katsura Hoshino’s real masterpiece D.Gray-man, then you should probably take a look at Zone first. Indeed, before the most popular of her manga serialization, Hoshino had published a short story containing all the basic and main concepts of D.Gray-man that became very popular very early. Unlike D.Gray-man, whose main character is a young boy, Zone’s protagonist is a girl called Robin, who makes a contract with the Devil to get her dead sister back to life. However, Robin doesn’t know the contract stipulates that she needs to die herself and let her sister sucks her soul out in order to fulfil that wish. After having been stabbed, Robin wakes up in 19th century Meiji Japan. What is the mystery behind Robin’s death and her sister’s resurrection?
Zone is Katsura Hoshino’s debut manga and it is a prelude to the more complex D.Gray-man. However, although being D.Gray-man’s first and last prototype, Zone can be read even as a single one-shot with its own plot and its own characters. Robin and her friend have fully developed personalities and the setting is completely different, but there are so many similarities with D.Gray-man that you should definitely try reading them together and try to search for them! Told with Hoshino’s usual linearity, a little bit of humor to prevent it from being too heavy, and full of action and special powers, it is no wonder that Zone was Katsura Hoshino’s worthy calling card.
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror, Shounen, Supernatural, Drama
- Volumes: Unknown
- Published Date: May 2004 – currently
Here we are at the hottest position, where we find Katsura Hoshino’s unquestioned masterpiece – D.Gray-man. Set in a 19th century Europe inhabited by evil creatures known as “Akuma”, namely mechanical weapons created by the mysterious Millennium Earl working with human souls, D.Gray-man is Allen Walker’s story. Abandoned by his parents when he was still a little child and born with a malformed arm, Allen is now a 15-years-old boy disciple of General Cross ready to be sent to Black Order – an organization comprised of chosen people willing to fight Akuma – and become an Exorcist. Souls caught by Akuma are, in fact, trapped into their metallic body forever unless an Exorcist uses his Innocence – an anti-Akuma weapon – to destroy the vessels and save them. Will Allen be able to defeat Millennium Earl and stop his diabolical plan?
D.Gray-man is the darkest of all Hoshino’s works, and even the most serious. Far away from being an ordinary shounen with the classical protagonist who wants to become a hero or the world’s strongest, long and boring battles with no purpose aside from winning, D.Gray-man is a complex story. Every character has her/his own reason for fighting, and lives a personal tragedy relating to the role s/he has been assigned by fate. Characters’ suffering and their inner struggle against mindless enemies which devour innocents’ souls is what gives this manga more mature traits, and what can give readers food for thought about death, afterlife, and existence. Capable of a gothic style that is never heavy thanks to humorous scenes scattered all over the manga, D.Gray-man is a superb quality work that will certainly get people talking in the coming years.
Who said that women can’t give birth to amazing shounen stories? Katsura Hoshino is the demonstration that creating a good shounen isn’t a matter of gender, but it is all about having a good idea and being able to put it on paper.
And you? What do you think about Katsura Hoshino? Did you like her manga, or are still a starter? Let us know with a comment below!