I can’t think of a more appropriate time to finally finish and post this than Valentine’s. I actually wanted to post this before Christmas but I got so bogged down that I kind of forgot about it. And good thing! Because I read a ton more stuff in that time.
There’s actually an order. My favourite to least favourite. And a separate category for stuff that is licensed and available in North America since supporting the creators and the industry is a good thing I guess yeah.
Let’s start off strong. The best of the best, if you will. Calling this a shoujo seems like a stretch since it doesn’t feel like a typical shoujo though the elements are there. It’s kind of weird because I feel romance exists in a vacuum where if it isn’t easily definable as shoujo, josei or even seinen 1, then what is it? It’s difficult to think of just romance manga. Maybe that’s just me and I’m being too close-minded.
Anyways, Horimiya is an absolute treat and you should read it even if you don’t like shoujo manga very much (why are you even reading this and looking for recs then?). Or if you do and just want something a little less melodramatic but 100% sweet.
Both of the leads are refreshing but it’s not just them. Everything about this that’s refreshing. It skirts by and avoids so many shoujo cliches and that’s why I have trouble calling it one. They become a couple with no melodramatic confession, it just happens and it’s natural and great.
Usually when the main characters become a couple, the focus shifts to their friends and it usually blows. This does kind of happen here but the focus goes back to Miyamura and Hori. Namely her weird fetish.
The art is crisp and constantly looks fantastic.Each character is pretty unique looking though some of the side male characters kind of blend together.
Chapter read up to: 47
Recommended if you want: something with two extremely likable leads who get into an actual relationship with no drama or serious love triangle, the best and only the best
I would have read this one a lot sooner if I had known it took place in college. It’s a small change that has a big impact on my enjoyment. They still aren’t an actual couple and it’s getting to the point where they’re dragging their feet and prolonging it and even the cast is getting annoyed by them not getting together. That happens to be one of those things I can’t stand so bleh to that.
This one does feature a love triangle but it’s different. Normally I’m frustrated by them but this one is kind of sad. Souma continues to lose at everything and even when he rebounds, the girl he likes still likes Yanagi and it’s just so sad to watch. I’m not rooting for him in the end (it’s hard not to like Yanagi) but he’s still a sad character.
Yanagi reminds me a bit of Tamaki from Ouran just a bit more tsundere. I guess Kujou is a bit Haruhi-y like as well though without the deadpan wit. Still, it’s a tried and true combination that makes for a cute couple if they would just get together already like goddamn.
Read up to: 33 2
Recommended if you want: something that doesn’t take place in high school, dorky (Tamaki-like) heroes who fell for the heroine first and don’t mind a triangle less frustrating than most.
This one can be annoying but not for the usual reasons. The couple actually gets together quickly and there isn’t much love triangle drama at all. There’s a bit but it’s resolved pretty quickly. Or if not resolved, it isn’t dragged out.
The thing that makes this manga so different is the main characters though. Suiren says very, very little. She’s MAYBE said just under a hundred words in the 50 or so chapters of this manga. Kawasumi (???) is a little better but he’s still mostly stoic. Not annoying brooding stoic but awkward and shy goof who doesn’t know how to act.
Though they do get together quickly, the progress is very slow and limited to dokidoki moments. And for awhile, the manga focused on other characters and it’s like bleh I don’t care.
Ideally I’d like to see Suiren grow and become more open. Right now because she’s so quiet, she’s bland and uninteresting. She lacks personality. Any. She could be that quiet and reserved and still have personality but she has none. Even her thoughts are the bare minimum of information and little indication she feels anything.
However, there relationship does seem pretty realistic in the sense that they aren’t able to communicate well and her needs aren’t understood as a result. This puts a strain in their relationship to the point where they almost break up. Almost. It’s kind of unclear where they were going as of Chapter 56. Ideally, I don’t want them to sweep Kawasumi being kind of insensitive/inattentive under the rug.
Read up to: chapter 56
Reccomended if you want: a manga where the couple gets together quick enough and are different archetypes than the usual, very cute art.
Asagao to Kase-san
I’m going to do a post about how I hate “yuri” and yuri manga. I want to offer some alternatives to the usual “onee-sama……. dokidoki” schoolgirl bullshit that floods my search when looking for yuri manga. Despite Yui reminding us EVERY GODDDAMN CHAPTER that they’re “both girls…!”, it still feels more organic and natural than a lot of other yuri manga I’ve read and will prob be on that list too.
I wanted a manga with romance involving two girls that felt like shoujo does. I could never get the same feeling, no matter how hard I looked. This is what I was looking for. There’e mutual respect, not just one-sided admiration. The girls face some trials that are popular shoujo tropes but they also go on cute dates. Basically, it’s cute and fun and captures the feeling of shoujo manga as best as I could hope for.
Read up to: chapter 9
Recommended if you want: a manga with romance between two girls that doesn’t feel as fake and stiff as other yuri, super cute and expressive art
You ever go to read or watch something and it ends up so wildly different than what you had assumed it was that you simply cannot process it? That’s what Hatsumei Princess was to me.
The art style looks very cutesy. Like it’s geared toward younger girls. Normally I stay away from that kind of stuff but I was thirsty for some new shoujo to get into. Boy howdy am I glad I didn’t miss this goddamn hot mess.
It looks cute and directed at a younger audience but uh, this is pretty much entirely about sex. Entirely.
The couple gets together in the first chapter (which was, again, unexpected from the description I had read of it) and from there these hotblooded youths are constantly going at it. They’ve yet to succeed but they often get into risque situations and are more often than not, clothesless so I’d say this is kind of the most NSFW entry on this list 3.
A bit funny since I was wondering if there were any ero-manga done in a shoujo style and this is pretty dang close without it being explicit. Not comparable to ero manga, I mean but compared to most shoujo it’s the lewdest I’ve seen.
Read up to: chapter 12
Recommended if you want: the main couple gets together immediately (but are still rather sweet together), something lewder than most all shoujo, sex in general I guess
Haru x Kiyo
This is a hard one to add because there’s very few chapters out right now but I really like it so welp. Another unconventional feeling couple that has a lot of sweet moments despite it being so early.
And despite it only having a few chapters out right now, the romance progressed faster than a bunch of other series I could scornfully name. As of chapter seven, they’re already dating and it’s cute. And for once, if at some point they focus on the anti-boyfriend friend who got with that guy because they both liked the same Cure well then I don’t think I’ll have a problem.
Read up to: chapter 7
Recommended if you want: something with two unusual leads, romance to move along quickly
Love so Life
This romance in this one takes a long time to get going and even now it’s still just a little tiny flicker of an after thought.
Which is okay because the romance does some problems and from a shoujo reader stand point I’m like yeah go for it but from a moral one I’m more like ehhh that’s wrong and you know it. So if you have a problem with sizable age gaps, maybe avoid.
It’s also okay because watching the twins grow up is fun too and I look forward to seeing them get older and older. (The shots of them as teenagers makes me want a spinoff when teenage Akane and Aoi when this finishes). The saccharine sweet shots of them doesn’t always work to make me d’awww and hnngh but I do appreciate more often than not, this is really cute.
Read up to: chapter 84
Recommended if you want: something sweet with an emphasis on family, romance as a side and don’t mind a younger female/older male relationship.
Oh Usolily. Dang Usolily.
I loved, loved Usolily when I started reading it four years ago. I mean how could I not? Liar Lily? Liar Yuri? The main guy, En, hates men and crossdresses so it looks like yuri but isn’t and back to denying-the-gay me, this was the best idea I ever heard.
And sure Usolily was good for awhile. But after five years, it got seriously tired. They run over the amnesia thing like four times until it becomes a crucial part of En’s character that creates important plot points. They introduce a bajillion characters (which is super, super evident in the last chapter because it brings back ALL of them) and nearly every single problem is solved with crossdressing. Which isn’t a bad thing but man it gets old real fast.
I did like when it featured actual gay characters and the manga does end at the wedding of a lesbian couple from an early arc. Though it’s the very last arc when an extremely cute trans girl is introduced. I wish it had been sooner but since it’s a major point for En to deal with along with hatred of men, I guess I understand.
Also, ends in typical long running shoujo fashion where they skip ahead and show the couple happily married or with kids.
Read up to: chapter 117 (completion)
Recommended if you want: something a little different than most, lots of focus on side characters, twins, crossdressing, stories that run out of steam way before it ends.
Akuma to Dolce
I actually had trouble placing this one because I really enjoyed it but it’s been on hiatus since 2008 and likely never coming back so that does influence my opinion on it a little bit.
I’ve only read a little bit of the Kamisama Kiss manga (though I obviously love the anime a lot) and my next step after reading all available chapters of this is to start collecting Karakuri Odette because so far I’ve immensely enjoyed Julietta Suzuki’s works and I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
This one, like Kamisama Kiss, is contemporary fantasy. I could always stand to read more of that, honestly. Mayuri is a really great character though I wish there were more non-Beaut interactions for her. She did end up with a human female friend but that was just before the hiatus so ha…..
Read up to: chapter 9 (completion?)
Recommended if you want: something that ends abruptly (maybe you hate yourself idk), contemporary fantasy shoujo
Ookami-heika no Hanayome
Ookami-heika takes a few chapters for the art to get consistent (though top notch chibi art 10/10) which is good because I was real iffy about that at first.
This one is real difficult because it’s been like 34 chapters and we’re still “oh no I’m just pretending to be your wife, oh no she doesn’t know he’s not pretending to be mean and scary and he is, oh no what are these feelings”. It’s mostly the denial and “this is my job but doki doki” that’s super annoying.Though her can do attitude and ambition to be the best fake bride is really endearing and cute.
However when I thought about it, what does this even have going for it once they accept their feelings? Hostility from outside or inside forces? They already got that. Rivals in love? They already got that. Once they’re not pretending to be husband and wife, what could this possibly do?
So either it’s going to keep up it’s tired shtick for countless more chapters or will end with them being together and welp, that’s it. It’s kind of bleak since I really like when the couple is actually together and this obtuseness is done with and that’s why it’s so low on this list. Anyways, you’d probably just be better off reading Zettai Heiwa Daisakusen.
Read up to: chapter 34
Recommended if you want: fake romance 4, feudal settings
Taiyou no Ie
I really liked this one when I started reading it but by the end I was kind of tired of it.
On the one hand, Mao being pulled between her two famillies, along with her desire to be with Hiro’s and live with him is entirely interesting on it’s own.
But Mao and Hiro’s romance hasn’t been doing it for me lately. I almost wish it was his brother who was the primary target. I think I would have been real pleased with Mao/Daiki and Hiro/Sugimoto. But whatever. It was quite cute in the beginning, I’ll admit.
Unlike Love so Life, the age difference doesn’t bother me as much here because they have known each other when they were younger but that doesn’t change the fact that everything else going on in Mao’s life is more interesting than the romance part.
Read up to: chapter 49 (completion)
Recommended if you want: something with good art, slowly progressing/drama filled romance, love hexagon with all likable characters and emphasis on family
Ryuu no Hanawazurai
I might end up ranking this one higher in the future because I’m only a few chapters in right now. The only two series that I remember reading a few chapters of and knew right away that I didn’t like were Hirunaka no Ryuusei 5 and Kaichou wa Maid-sama and hey I still finished the latter.
I’m really hoping this will do something to wow me though. I mean, it’s got some really cool and original ideas! The main protagonist being a dragon and the tattoo thing is really cool. Though “hey yeah whatever, whoever has more tats in a year wins” is pretty goddamn lax.
Right now I’m not leaning towards either male though. Normally I would root for Kuwan since he was the first guy we see but he wasn’t really first and Rushin isn’t that bad. But neither has particularly wow’d me so that might be contributing to my inability to get super absorbed into this.
Read up to: chapter 5
Recommended if you want: no melodramatic love triangles, action/fantasy, dragons
Ah, Fukumenkei Noise. This can go to the bottom. I don’t know why I’m still reading it, really. It’s not my kind of thing.
Momo is pretty unlikable as an adult but Yuzuriha is fantastic. He’s probably going to win in the end but I don’t want to stay around and find out if he doesn’t.
This manga does have a real nice art style. It’s very gritty and rough. For the record, I imagined Nino’s primal monster singing voice exactly as Akiakane’s Lost Story cover.
Read up to: chapter 23
Recommended if you want: music, many characters, some melodrama, and are cool with tons and tons of childhood friends
I’ll be honest with you, most licensed shoujo ain’t my cup of tea. So I’m mostly familiar with the popular stuff. Like I read Fruits Basket like two or three years ago? I watched it on Netflix as a grown woman and then spent the following night reading where the show left off. That shit took hours. I’m not including that because I don’t remember it that well. I’m just recounting my shameful adult experiences.
I didn’t include Ryuu no Hanawazurai in licensed because it’s from CMX and ehhhhhh.
Oh man do I ever love Komomo!! 6 I was beside myself with excitement when Komomo was licensed. For that reason, I’m trying to hold off reading the last few chapters when they’re uploaded even though it’ll be a few years until the release here reaches that point. Woe.
I didn’t like this at first. I mean, I loved Komomo the girl. She’s very Hime from Hapcha like and goddamn if I can’t imagine her with another voice. She starts off sheltered and kind of spoiled but she has a big heart and she learns and grows and just watching that is worth reading alone.
Natsu starts off as a complete tool and I hated him but eventually he becomes less “abusive” towards Komomo and then it becomes sweet to see them together. Though honestly, the romance isn’t the appeal here. It’s Komomo. Sweet, sweet Komomo.
Read up to: chapter 22
Recommended if you want: eyebrows, a really fantastic female lead, the “first real friend” arc being better than the actual romance, lots of food
Ouran High School Host Club
Hey speaking of shameful adult experiences Nah jk, I still genuinely like Ouran. I didn’t want it until I got out of high school because an unsavory bunch liked it and I, elitist anime asshole, didn’t want to watch anything associated with them. Same with FMA though that was far more recent.
I received the 18 volume box set for christmas last, last year but I finally got around to reading it all this summer. I had gone in knowing people didn’t like the ending but I can’t for the life of me imagine why. It was very sweet and I was pleased with it.
Read up to: volume 18 (completion)
Recommended if you want: an actual honest to god good reverse harem, something like Maid-sama but not bad, an adorable main couple
I’ve always wanted to get into Tanemura’s stuff but I’ve only ever had a brief experience with Full Moon wo Sagashite in middle school and I don’t recall that very much. So one day, a few years ago, when I saw this in stores with it’s pretty, colourful art, I started collecting it right away.
To be honest, I’m still on volume 11 and even then I haven’t read it in awhile so I don’t recall it very well. Like Akatsuki no Yona, it places a lot of focus on the growth of the female character, her circumstances and the action around her rather than doki doki love drama. I appreciate that.
Shame Tanemura stuff doesn’t get adaptions very often. Especially in this day and age. I’d want this first and foremost. Maybe it can fill the hole Akatsuki no Yona is going to leave in my heart.
Read up to: volume 10
Recommended if you want: a strong and cool female lead with noticeable growth, feudal fantasy, nice extravagant art and designs
Kaichou wa Maid-sama
Maid-sama was probably one of the first shoujos besides Kimi ni Todoke that I watched years and years ago when I was first starting to watch anime season by season. I loved it for it’s maids and for it’s romance. It helped me realize that hey, maybe I was kinda into shoujo stuff.
I didn’t read the manga until a few weeks ago and boy was I disappointed. It’s a mess.
Misaki doesn’t seem to develop much and remains a blushing tsundere nearly until the end. Which I guess is representation of some people in relationships and is true to life but it doesn’t make for a good character, unfortunately.
The mess with Usui and his brother and going to England and blah blah blah, it’s been done before and done way better. This feels poorly resolved and they still end up spending time apart in the end which is always kind of sad but hey shoujo timeskip showing they’re married now and life is great and wow great. Sure.
Ouran has far, far, far less maids but is better. You should probably read that instead.
Read up to: chapter 98 (completion)
Recommended if you want: maids
Other Romance Manga
Ore Monogatari: I mean I guess you could count this as shoujo. That’s up to you. Not counting it just because it has an unusual male protag? A bad idea or not? Who knows.
Anyways, I started reading this cause of it’s upcoming adaption and it’s really charming. Rinko is so, so cute. It kind of drags when focusing on his friend but eh, that arc is more or less over.
Kuragehime: Kuragehime is a josei so I didn’t want to include it but make no mistake. Kuragehime is my favourite all time manga. Ever. Forever.
If you’ve only had experience with the adaption that did NO JUSTICE to how great this series is, do yourself a favour and read the manga. The anime doesn’t even touch the fashion aspect which makes Kuragehime just so damn interesting. I’m still rooting for Kuranosuke of course.
Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami: This is actually an action/adventure that I was reading because it has a cool snake deity but ended up having a super adorable romance between the main characters and it was really unexpected? Given that it feels so shounen, I mean. I’ve not known shounen manga to commit to stuff like that. The last arc before translations stop has an adorable gag where someone recives advice for their first date as literal battle advice. It’s sweet and god do I miss this one.
That being said: unfortunately there have been no translation releases in a long, long time. Which sucks because I loved this a ton.
Hana to Rakurai: This is a short series but it’s really good so I wanted to shoehorn it in. Though most of the focus is on friendship (I kinda got the impression Yachiyo liked Umiho for awhile before that was kind of shot out), romance does play a big part. If you want a (bitter?)sweet tale about friendship and romance in an unconventional sense, bam. Here you go.
- Because I’d count Fujimiya-san wa Shishunki as seinen ↩
- No updates in a few months, unfortunately ↩
- Kase-san has nudity in one chapter but eh ↩
- if you want it, you’ll know what that means ↩
- I’ve tried and tried but I just can’t get into it at all ↩
- If I hadn’t separated this into categories, Komomo would be right after Horimiya. ↩