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Joseimuke, meaning "aimed at women", is a Japanese term for media aimed at a female audience. This can include josei manga, otome games, and boys' love media, as well as games and multimedia franchises aimed at women that do not fall into any narrower category. In English-speaking spaces, joseimuke is often used to specifically refer to non-romantic series that nonetheless feature an ensemble of appealing male characters (ikemen or bishounen) for a female audience. This is opposed to games which may contain ikemen characters, but are intended for general audiences, such as Genshin Impact, Granblue Fantasy, or the Fate series. Fans of one joseimuke series may be fans of others, and may refer to themselves as "joseimuke fans."
Usage of the term in Japan
Joseimuke is typically used as a marketing demographic. Doujin marketplaces such as DLsite, Toranoana, and Comiket Service use the term in this manner. This includes both BL works and NL works. The Pixiv Dictionary describes the term as one used to separate anything not intended for male or general audiences.
Works geared towards the male audience (often with overt male gaze in them) can be labeled danseimuke (男性向け).
Usage of the term in English-speaking spaces
Joseimuke in a general sense can include any media aimed at women. However, because of a lack of other terms, it has gained a specific connotation in English-speaking fandom: it refers to media aimed at women that have large ensembles of shippable male characters, but are not explicitly romantic, neither between the characters and the female protagonist (as in otome games or reverse harem media) nor among the male characters (as in BL media). Some fans regard this more specific usage as a misconception and consider the umbrella term as the only accurate usage. This confusion over the definition results in a lot of discourse, particularly over romantic games which do not have a traditional otome route structure such as Obey me! and Tears of Themis. There is a specific media phenomenon which the usage of joseimuke in the specifically non-romantic sense describes, which is the subject of this page.
In lacking explicit romance, joseimuke series often appeal to the demographics of both otome and BL—to both yumejoshi and fujoshi. In appealing to the former, the series often have a female (or gender-neutral) protagonist who forms close relationships with the male characters. Because of this, non-otome joseimuke games are frequently mistaken for otome games. The third-party app store QooApp often lists joseimuke games as otome or romance games despite the games containing no romance (such as in the case of Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku and Helios Rising Heroes.) The games themselves may even use the term "otome" for marketing, such as the english release of A3!. This use of the term does not make them otome games—the otome game discussion subreddit r/otomegames explicitly bans discussion of A3! Joseimuke games are not, on the other hand, typically mistaken for BL. Even Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku, which was admitted by the developers to be intentionally aimed at fujoshi, has a separate pixiv tag for fanworks that contain BL elements.
While joseimuke series are extremely successful in Japan, with Ensemble Stars! in particular regularly making over one billion yen in monthly revenue, all but a few titles are practically unknown in the west. The presence of any given joseimuke series in English-language fandom spaces depends largely on the availability and quality of translations, either fan-made or official. The first joseimuke game which received an official English release was A3! in 2019, and though it received praise for its stellar localization, it failed to find an audience and shut down in 2021. Other joseimuke titles released in English include Touken Ranbu in 2021, and Twisted Wonderland and Ensemble Stars! in 2022. Anime adaptations of joseimuke series are often the only part of the multimedia experience which is translated officially, such as with Hypnosis Microphone and Idolish7. Fan translators fill in the gaps, translating game stories, audio dramas, and other media.
Features of joseimuke series
The most recognizable feature of joseimuke series is an ensemble cast of appealing male characters. Many joseimuke series start as mobile gacha and visual novel games, or start as multimedia franchises and gain a gacha game at a later point. The series Uta no Prince-sama, which started as a console otome game, later released a joseimuke mobile game. Franchises typically include media such as manga, anime, stage plays, audio dramas, music, web series, podcasts, brand collaborations, and merchandise tie-ins. Joseimuke series often publicize the popular seiyuu which voice the characters.
In terms of setting, many joseimuke series center around idols or other musicians. However, as the genre has grown, other series have centered around other professions such as actors (as in A3!), or more fantastical characters such as wizards (as in Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku), superheroes (as in Helios Rising Heroes), or shinigami (as in AFTER L!FE). One of the most influential joseimuke games, Touken Ranbu, features anthropomorphized swords.
Many fans consider joseimuke games to be surprisingly dark, particularly in comparison to what are seen as equivalent series with female casts (such as the Idolmaster franchise, BanG Dream!, and Love Live!). The darkness of the stories is also jarring compared to the cute, colorful idol aesthetics of many series. Ensemble Stars! is frequently discussed in this way due to the game's grandiose writing style which compares the idols' actions at school and in the industry to wars and revolutions. A popular copypasta in the Ensemble Stars! fandom is an exaggerated (but technically correct, if mentions and implications are counted) list of trigger warnings for the game's story which contains 53 different items, including mass suicide, cannibalism, drugging, kidnapping, revenge porn, and many other intentionally shocking subjects.
While joseimuke series lack explicit romance between main characters, they vary in how the relationships that do exist are depicted. Many joseimuke games center around a female protagonist and her developing relationships with the male cast, often in the form of a producer and the idols she manages. Some characters may have romantic feelings for the protagonist which are not reciprocated by her, such as Kaoru Hakaze in Ensemble Stars!, Gaku Yaotome in Idolish7, or Sakyo Furuichi in A3!. These types of relationships are typically understood by fans to be meant to appeal to yumejoshi and are often written with many fanservice-y moments reminiscent of otome game scenarios. Other games may have an ungendered protagonist, such as Twisted Wonderland, or a protagonist whose gender the player chooses, such as Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku. In some games the role of the player character is reduced or entirely absent in the story, such as Helios Rising Heroes. Joseimuke series without games often lack this "audience-insert" character, but may gain one when a game is added to the franchise, such as the protagonist of Hypnosis Microphone: Alternative Rap Battle. This diversity of protagonists is regarded as something that sets joseimuke games apart from otome games .
The male characters of joseimuke series are almost always extremely shippable. Moments of shippy fanservice are plentiful. Characters are often infatuated with each other, such as Izumi Sena with Makoto Yuuki in Ensemble Stars!, or Shylock Bennett with Murr Hart in Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku. These types of interactions are understood as being meant to appeal to fujoshi. Some joseimuke games do explore queer characters beyond just fanservice moments between male characters, such as the wizards of Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku being stated to be able to fall in love with both men and women. Some joseimuke series also include transgender or nonbinary characters, such as Arashi Narukami in Ensemble Stars!, or Anne Faulkner and Aoi Kureha in Paradox Live.
Aspects of joseimuke fandoms
Joseimuke fandoms tend to be centered around both shipping and self-shipping, and the creation of fanfiction, fanart, and doujinshi around those subjects. Other common fan activities include cosplay and itabagging. Fandoms typically congregate on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and in Discord servers.
Examples of joseimuke series
- AFTER L!FE
- And Zero
- Charisma House
- Ensemble Stars!
- Handead Anthem
- Helios: Rising Heroes
- Hypnosis Microphone
- Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku
- On Air
- Paradox Live
- Stand My Heroes
- THE iDOLM@STER SideM
- Touken Ranbu
- Twisted Wonderland
- Uta no Prince-sama: Shining Live
- Wind Boys
- minami. What do you mean it's not otome? Medium, 15 October 2021.
- DLsite main page indicating three categories: for all ages, for adults, and for women
- Pixiv Dictionary page for 女性向け
- Otome media vs. media for females explained with a focus on games, posted to wordpress by Uguu Cage of Love, 15 August 2018
- tweet by @Tsuuphia. 12 August 2022
- QooApp listing for Mahoutsukai no Yakusoku
- QooApp listing for Helios Rising Heroes
- r/otomegames FAQ page which defines otome games and bans discussion of non-otome joseimuke games
- Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, and other Promise of Wizard drama by suchomochlus on r/hobbydrama, 20 June 2021.
- Pixiv Dictionary page for まほや腐
- Joseimuke app game revenue data by month
- Jacob Kavanagh. A3! Impressions – One Man’s Idol Boy Trash, Noisy Pixel, 12 November 2019.
- Ensemble Stars Wikia page on The War
- why would u be considered problematic in enstars uquiz by sweetgreentea containing the Ensemble Stars! trigger warning copypasta
- Twitter thread by @adriessene comparing joseimuke and otome protagonists