Last week I came across this article on Jezebel titled "Memo To The Media: In 2010, Add More Dynamic Female Characters" buy Latoya Peterson, and I wanted to spend some time discussing it. The main concept of the article is that while manga has it's fair share of sexism and follows plenty of stereotypes it also has a lot more content for women and by women than you can easily find in mainstream US media.
I loved the article, and was really pleased to see that many of the manga the Latoya recommends are titles I haven't read yet. The one title I had read, Nana, is one of my absolute favorites. Does it portray women in romantic relationships with men? Yes, definitely. The main difference for me between Nana and US-based media representations of women is that it treats them like real people. They also pass the Bechdel test because the two main characters are women, they talk to each other, and they often talk about things other than men. A+
There are plenty of issues with manga and anime and their portrayal of gender (fan service being a prime example), but there is such an amazing variety of options it's easy to find titles that are women-centric, and deal with issues of gender in mature ways. I agree with Latoya's premise and wish that the US would create more material that is for women and by women that presents women as more than accessories, are from different walks of life, and don't have to be made-over to be beautiful.