There is one surprising thing about Japan's male-dominated — some may say rabidly misogynistic — society: manga and anime support women. True, there are plenty of examples to the contrary (take a short stroll through any Akihabara anime shop if you need proof). But at the same time, the modern Japanese women can find solace, encouragement and inspiration in the manga and anime series that seem to sympathize with them — works that reflect personal experiences in a way that other forms of fiction can rarely match. It's probably safe to say that most women probably had at least one series that helped see them through their difficult teenage years.

A perfunctory glance at the manga section of any bookstore reveals that many best-selling authors are women, and sex (explicit and otherwise), gore and violence often features in their work. Manga artist Kyoko Okazaki broke new ground with stories about casual sex and prostitution among Japanese "office ladies," and also with more disturbing works about murder, human trafficking and the goings-on in Tokyo's sex shops. Moyoco Anno (who is married to anime maestro Hideaki Anno of the "Evangelion" series) explored the desires and sexuality of Japanese women, as well as their need to be feminine and sexy in order to survive and attain happiness in a male-dominated society.

Then there's the "magical girl" genre, known as mahō shōjo and majokko in Japan, which researcher Kumiko Saito describes as "a mainstay of television animation programming that distinctly targets prepubescent female viewers. The conventions of the magical girl genre, especially the elaborate description of metamorphosis that enables an ordinary girl to turn into a supergirl, have been widely imitated across various genres and media categories."