What is Seinen Manga? — How to Define and What to Expect

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Welcome to my post on what is seinen manga.

This is an actual conversation I had with a friend of mine.

Friend: Hey, what is seinen manga?

Me: Hmm?

Friend: Seinen manga.

Me: Oh, it’s like josei but for older guys

Friend: So, manga for old dudes? Man, Japan is just weird…

Me: (・_・ヾ


What is seinen manga? It’s not manga for old dudes or for the poor hikikomoris that refuse to come out of their rocks, no. It’s the counterpart to josei in that it’s targeted at older men aged 18 to 50.

Unlike josei though, identifying seinen is relatively easy. It helps that there are actually some magazines that separate shounen and seinen.

But if you are new to the genre of seinen, allow me to help you in identifying the defining characteristics of seinen manga.

*Keep in mind that not all seinen manga display all the characteristics I’m stating.

More Mature Themes

Like josei, seinen manga now has the creative license to touch on more mature themes.

The themes can be sexual, psychological, gory, etc.

Of course, like josei, the mention of mature themes tend to be a touch-and-go as too much of them will not categorise the manga as seinen anymore.

Putting in mature themes adds spice as we all know that shounen manga can turn a little repetitive and boring after a long while.

By adding these themes intermittently, seinen manga brings about a whole new perspective or even a whole new story that adds more dimension to the genre.

Some series that fall into this category are not limited to but include Berserk, Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (Our Happy Times), and Nozoki Ana.

Older Male Protagonists

Of course, manga meant for older men would have a male protagonist that is older in age.

It is meant to connect with the intended audience and make readers interested in the manga. It may be just me but seinen protagonists seem to be incredibly wise and mature.

I know guys who still act like they’re 12 when they are at my age (which is 21 btw) and here is a seinen protagonist who could be anywhere from 20 to 30 years of age and he would be in control of his life and decisions.

Although I will admit that some seinen manga these days are portraying broken protagonists or protagonists with no idea what to do in life, I’m just stating the general trend across some of the seinen manga I’ve read.

Some series that fall into this category are not limited to but include Vagabond, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (Erased) and Black Lagoon.

More Complex Storyline

I’m mentioning this to counteract the linear storylines shown in most popular shounen.

Older men would have outgrown typical shounen plots like saving the world from evil, becoming the no. 1 ___ in the world, fighting for just the sake of becoming stronger. So in contrast seinen manga has story rich plots that are far more complex.

There may be some adventuring sure, but the goal of the adventure and reasons are a lot more complicated than just “be the no. 1 swordsman in Japan” or something to that effect.

Of course, some older men might like the plots of shounen manga but I’m just stating the general demographic that seinen mangakas would usually create for.

Some series that fall into this category are not limited to but include Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (Erased), Berserk and Ghost in the Shell.

Walk a Morally Grey Line

In keeping in tune with counteracting shounen manga, seinen manga characters tend to have moral codes that can be morally ambiguous.

In shounen manga, the protagonist is mostly an idealist that wants the good for everyone around him. If he is a fighter, he won’t battle or kill people unnecessarily. He will never attack the defenseless and has a sunny disposition that makes him incredibly likeable among his friends and allies.

In seinen manga, the protagonist is not necessarily an idealist. He may kill others if they get too much in his way, armed or not and he might not always be very likeable. Sometimes, the protagonist may show compassion to those who show him as such but his moral compass is not always so clear.

It is not just the protagonist. The supporting cast and the setting of a seinen manga may also have morally grey areas which is thoroughly touched upon. In addition to that, seinen manga characters may not necessarily be killers but they might have complex reasons for doing certain actions so their characterisation is not so black and white.

In the shounen manga world, moral ambiguity is a bit of a touch-and-go thing or not mentioned at all.

Some series that fall into this category are not limited but include Black Lagoon, Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (Our Happy Times), and Vagabond.

Final Thoughts

Unlike josei manga, there is a lot of seinen manga that has been translated and best of all, correctly identified as seinen.

I believe it’s because of how popular the shounen genre among both genders. While some girls like reading shounen manga, most guys are not too keen on looking at shoujo manga, and as a result, there is a lack of translated josei manga.

You realise that I didn’t put in realistic romances in this list like with josei and it’s for a really good reason. Seinen does not usually touch on romance a lot because if you follow the formula for shounen manga, there’s like not much romance too.

Although I will admit while some seinen does have romance as a subplot, it’s more pragmatic and not really something to talk about.

Seinen that has romance as a pivotal part of the story is now becoming more widespread and popular but the number of manga isn’t enough for me to classify that as a defining feature of seinen. I have to wait a few more years to see where the genre is going.

Like always if you have anything to discuss with me about what is seinen manga and its defining features, go ahead and post down below, I’d love to hear it 🙂


  1. I grew up watching anime and reading comics. I didn’t find manga until I was older, but I have not had as much time to collect and read it as I would like.

    I really love the fact that you identify the different genres because most of the people I know lump all manga into one category and leave it at that.

    I will be bookmarking you for future reads.

    Thanks so much for the insight.

    Gwendolyn J

    1. I agree! When I found out that 07-Ghost was josei, I was like “I thought it was shounen and what the heck is josei?”

      Thank you for your support, I’ll be posting more content like this in the future 🙂

  2. Is this kind of like Anime stuff? It was a little confusing at first but, I also never heard of that before nether. lol My daughter asks me things like this that I have no idea what it means. She always tells me read some of her Anime books and I would understand better. lol But, I did learn something new! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Haha it’s easy to get confused between anime and manga. My mum does that all the time 🙂

      I may do a post to clarify the differences.

  3. That’s really interesting. I used to visit Japan 3-4 times a year and every time I got on a train I would see people of all ages reading Manga. I bought a couple as souvenirs but I can’t read kanji. It sounds like Manga is as diverse as the people, often appearing very contradictory to westerners. You might just motivate me to have another look:)

    1. Yes, I do agree that some manga genres and themes do appear contradictory to westerners, that’s why it’s often very difficult to get manga licensed and translated. I may talk about this later down the line but I’m glad you’re motivated to take another look

      Yes, kanji is hard to read. A Japanese learner’s nightmare 😛

  4. What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You! For sharing this quality post with others.
    Actually this is exactly the information that I was looking for information about the manga books and when I landed on your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details.
    So I’m happy that you decided to write about this topic and share it with people. It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone who is interested in this topic.
    I will come back to your website again for sure and I’m looking forward to reading your new posts.)


  5. Hi Violet, thank you for sharing a very interesting post.

    I must admit I was totally confused between Manga and Anime however reading the posts on your site I think I am beginning to see the difference.

    It would be very helpful if you can find the time to write a post clearly explaining the difference between Manga and Anime.

    I have bookmarked your site to return later and learn more… keep up the good work!

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