In the manga or Japanese comics world, there is the shoujo genre that targets female readers. The male characters are usually super handsome with overwhelming affection towards the main female protagonist. In Indonesia, this type of comics is called serial cantik (pretty series) and was most popular in the 1990s.
I had been a fan of shoujo since around 2006, but has gradually lost interest in the genre, as I found the female characters boring and mostly powerless without men. And then one day I found a manhwa or Korean comic titled They Say I Was Born a King’s Daughter (2016) written by Bi and illustrated by Kim Legn. This comic incorporates shoujo, with a female protagonist, and isekai, a fantasy-based genre that features a main character who has been transported from his or her ordinary world to a parallel world to become a kind of hero or an important character.
They Say I Was Born is different from other isekai comics that usually centers on a male character who is surrounded by women and has a tendency of being sexist and patriarchal. In this book, the main protagonist is Kim So Hee, a woman who has been reborn as a child of a king in a misogynistic world. So Hee is aware of her condition and has memories of her previous life in a more modern state. She then tries to transform the kingdom to be a place of gender equality.
This kind of stories can increasingly be found in manga, manhwa, and manhuas (Chinese comics), and is popular among girls. The plot has a certain formula: a character rises from the dead (or suddenly being transformed) as a new person and proceeds to fight injustice, or fix her characters’ past life. The skillful way the stories are told makes them far a fun read.
Below is a list of other comic serials that incorporate shoujo and isekai genres and feature strong-willed women fighting patriarchy that are worthy of being in your collection.
1. Phoenix Goes Against the World (2015- )
When being cornered in a police authority chase after stealing a jade stone, a world-class assassin named Huang Beiyue is accidentally transported to another dimension. Upon opening her eyes, she finds herself having reincarnated as a princess who is despised by her family.
Created by Lu Fei, a mangaka from China, this comic tells the story of a shy, naïve, and weak princess who transforms herself to become a woman with extraordinary martial arts and magic skills. With many action scenes and a bit of romance, Phoenix Against the World is really exciting and fun to read.
2. Sengoku Komachi Kurou Tan (2017- )
Ayano Kouji Shizuko is a student at a vocational farming school who is very keen on Japanese history and Japanese Emperor, Oda Nobunaga. One day, on her way home from school, Shizuko suddenly faints and wakes up in a period when the Emperor rules.
She is discovered by a group of robbers, but luckily is saved by Oda Nobunaga’s troops. But her appearance and the things she owns from the future makes her a suspect by Emperor Nobunaga, who suspects her of being a sy. To save herself, Shizuko offers her farming knowledge to Nobunaga, who eventually accepts it. The emperor later assigns Shizuko as a chief in a small village.
Created by comic artist Kyouchikutou, the comic will appeal to those who are intrigued by Japanese history.
3. Divine Doctor (2017- )
Feng Yuheng, a combat medic, dies in a helicopter accident. Her soul is transferred from a 20-year-old body into that of a daughter of a minister in the Shun Dynasty. The 12-year-old girl finds out that she along with her mother and sister have been sent to exile by her father in a family conflict.
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Yuheng then creates a strategy to take over the power from her father and reclaim the dignity of her mother’s side of the family. Apparently, she has a power to produce medicines and modern surgery room just by imagining it. This secret power has made her gain sympathy from the people.
The story may sound too fantastical but writers Ping Ping Jung and Yang Shi Lu made the comic intriguing and believable. Adapted from a Chinese novel written by Mao Shi Liu Shen Yu Di Nu, this series is still ongoing.
4. The Ghostly Doctor (2017- )
Feng Jiu, 25, is leader of an underground business which specializes in making medicines and poison. Her life ends in an accident, however, and soon after that she finds herself in the body of a girl named Feng Qingge.
Upon waking up, she looks at herself in a mirror to see her former pretty face is now full of scars. Feng Qingge’s spirit presents itself to her out of the blue and tells her about the fate that has befallen her. Feng Qingge then asks Feng Jiu to seek revenge on her behalf on the perpetrator – none other than her younger sister who has stolen her identity and her fiancé.
Adopting the pseudonym Ghostly Doctor, Feng Jiu begins her adventure to avenge for for Feng Qingge. Written by Yuan Man Dong Man, this comic was an adaptation of an online Chinese novel that was published in 2016.
5. It’s Too Hard to Chase the Tsundere Prince (2018- )
A female scientist who has been killed by her rival is given a second chance to be reborn in the past. Her current identity is Yun Qian Xun, the second daughter of a prominent noble family, who is always bullied by her family, especially her elder step sister.
Because of her experience in her first life, she is determined to live wisely and become a strong woman. Using her skill as a scientist, she transforms Yun Qian Xun to become the palace’s medical specialist. This comic was made by a mangaka from China, Man Xinqiu, and is still ongoing.
6. Queen with a Scalpel (2019- )
Song Zhi Xian is a brilliant surgeon who in her past life was a vicious queen who got where she was by scheming. Due to her crimes she is sentenced to death by the palace. After reincarnated, Zhi Xian is determined to save as many lives as possible to compensate her crimes in the past.
Unfortunately, she dies again in a plane crash and, poof, she is back living her previous life. Only this time she has a chance to correct her past before she become the queen, with the knowledge she has gained from the future.
Queen With a Scalpel was an adaptation of a Korean online novel that created by writer Yuin and illustrated by Mini.
This article is translated by Ilma Rivai from the original Indonesian version.