When it comes to the josei genre, its specific target audience is older women. These anime series involve more serious topics like marriage life, promiscuous affairs and death. Sadly, only a handful of josei anime are produced every year in comparison to other demographic genres like shojo and seinen. Most viewers are only aware of the extremely popular josei anime titles such as Princess Jellyfish and Chihayafuru.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of josei anime shows out there that aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. Here are four underrated josei anime shows that aired during the 2010s, and which are still absolutely worth checking out today.
Polar Bear Cafe (2012-2013)
Polar Bear Cafe is a slice-of-life comedy series by Aloha Higa. The story is set in a cafe run by a polar bear, with each episode focusing on the everyday lives of animals who happen to interact with humans.
Anthropomorphism is a highlight of this series. Polar Bear Cafe is similar to the American cartoon series We Bare Bears because of how quirky and fun these animals are when it comes to not only interacting with humans but also trying to act “human” themselves. Unfortunately, this series flew under the radar when it was airing, perhaps because josei fans were more interested in Chihayafuru.
A Summer Snow Rendezvous (2012)
A Summer Snow Rendezvous is a supernatural romance by Haruka Kawachi. Ryousuke Hazuki is a young man who happens to have a crush on a flower shop owner, Rokka Shimao. He decides to take a part-time job at the flower shop in order to get to know Rokka a little better. Unfortunately, Ryousuke can see the spirit of Rokka’s deceased husband, Atsushi Shimao, who is watching over her in spirit. Atsushi and Ryousuke are at odds with one another, as Ryousuke wants to pursue Rokka but Atsushi is constantly interfering.
It’s simply romantic that Atsushi is devoted to Rokka even in death.“Until death do us part” literally doesn't mean anything to him. This series is worth watching for the storyline, as it presents love more naturally and realistically, unlike many other romance anime.
Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi (2012)
Kei Sugita’s Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi is a historical romance series based on the literary text Hyakunin Isshu, a classical Japanese poetry anthology that showcases one hundred waka poems by one hundred poets. The anime series centers on the romantic poems about the rumored love affair between Ariwara no Narihira and imperial consort Fujiwara no Takaiko, as well as other notable affairs.
Audiences who enjoyed Yuki Suetsugu’s Chihayafuru, which focuses on the Hyakunin Isshu karuta game, should also check out Uta Koi, which provides further insight into the text. Although the stories in this anime are romanticized, viewers are guaranteed to gain an appreciation for Japanese waka poetry.
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (2016-2017)
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is a historical drama series by Haruko Kumota. The story is centered on a former yakuza member, Yotarou, who just got out of prison. Rather than returning to a life of crime, Yotarou decides to become a rakugo performer. Rakugo is a traditional Japanese performing art involving a narrator telling comedic stories. Yotarou ends up becoming the apprentice of the famous rakugo performer Yakumo Yuurakutei.
Similar to Uta Koi, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju pays homage to Japanese traditional creative and performing arts. The anime shows the complexity and beauty of the art of rakugo. It also showcases the struggles that these rakugo performers experience as they try to ascend to popularity while balancing their professional and personal lives. Although this series gained several award-winning nominations and received praise from critics, it wasn’t well-received by viewers who prefer more action-packed or hyped-up series.