Romance. Chocolates. Roses. A pure-hearted confession atop the roof at school. Shoujo manga is generally better than any romance novel you’ll ever read. Sweet enough to substitute for chocolate, I thought I’d highlight my top ten shoujo manga that pull at my heart and make me go doki doki. So if you’re like me and spending Valentine’s alone, maybe read one of these and treat yourself to something nice. Be your own Valentine!
I know I’ve talked about Usotsuki Lily before on this blog but it’s really good guys. The reason why I like this so much is because it shows unconditional love in so many ways. A lot of the couples are…not exactly who you would think would pair well with each other, but at the end of the day they are just…ridiculously happy and idiotic couples. I also enjoy how this series approaches different kinds of love, and falling in love. No two couples get together the same way, and they all progress at different rates. It’s cute, fluffy, funny, and honestly just a bit refreshing to see idiotic love without a ton of complicated drama. Plus this cast of characters is to die for. Like honestly. They are such loveable idiots.
Tonari wa Nani O Kuu Hito Zo
I got really obsessed with cooking manga for a while, and this was one of the cutest. What was both terrible and great is that I found it a long time ago, but the last three chapters hadn’t been translated…so I forgot about it for a bit. However, I recently found it again and it was FINALLY completed. It was such a joy to read again–and not just for the recipes. Like Usotsuki Lily, there is so little drama in this that it just becomes a cute little love story to read. Nice and straightforward, with good characters that make it simple but endearing. The friendship between the two main characters blooms into love due to cooking. It’s a nice reminder how sometimes we can connect to people in the simplest of ways.
Horimiya is really cute. Really stinking cute. The title characters, Hori & Miyamura come together through unexpected circumstance and begin to cherish one another deeply. The way they interact, is very much like an old married couple–so honest with one another, and so caring of each other, they just fit together kind of perfectly. What’s interesting in this manga is that there is drama going on, but hardly ever from the main couple. They remain a constant while romantic subplots with their friends happen. Furthermore, there’s a lot of good joke chapters in here too that do nothing but develop the relationships they have with each other or their friends. Of course there are some heavier chapters focusing on Miyamura’s past, but nothing that brings the series down. Instead Horimiya is able to balance drama, humor, and love in a good way. The only downside is that there’s not really any plot.
Love can bring out our best, and though a lot of shoujo manga touch on this, one of my favorite examples happens in Hiyokoi. Now, Hiyori’s life wasn’t terrible by any means in this, but she was a super shy person at the beginning who had trouble making friends. Her love interest came in first as her friend, and that developed into love that was made increasingly sweet as she began to try her best to be outgoing. She even tried to help someone who she found similar to her (a boy named Kou who also fell in love with her). Of course one of my favorite relationships in the manga actually happens between Hiyori’s best friend and Kou-kun. The two strike up a strange relationship as first, but as the best friend confides in him unintentionally, she begins to have feelings. When she confesses, he’s shocked, but agrees to think about her feelings. So while it can be left unclear whether or not they are in a real relationship, they open up to the possibility which I love. And by the end Hiyori has grown so much that it makes me so proud.
Banri Hidaka is one of my favorite mangaka’s of all time. One of my first love’s of hers was Tears of a Lamb, and while I’d love to have had that make this list–I think it’s more of a drama. But V.B. Rose is one-hundred percent a romance. The main characters are workers at a wedding dress boutique, which means the manga is filled with great dresses. Furthermore, the romances in this are just so…pure? Like on one hand we have the main couple Ageha and Yukari who both are quite bad at being in love. When I say that, I mean they seem oblivious to each other’s obvious feelings, but eventually end up confessing (in prime shoujo fashion). Once they’re on track in their relationship, it soars and they make each other better people. Yukari makes Ageha want to work hard and try her best to achieve her goals, and Ageha helps Yukari mend bridges that he’d broken long ago. With such a great love, a fun cast of characters, and gorgeous art, this love story by Banri Hidaka is one to remember!
Last Game is undoubtedly a love manga that is a great read for those wondering why guys are acting weird around them. Why? Because a lot of the love actually comes from the main boy, Yanagi so he gives a keen sense into what guys could be thinking with their subtle but effective moves. Childhood rivals turned friends with home girl Kujo, Yanagi sets a goal from himself: he’s going to make her like him so that he can turn her down and “embarrass” her. Unfortunately for him, he ends up falling for her for real very quickly, though his goal is still to have her confess to him. This game of who says “I love you” first becomes their last game in his eyes. This story is really cute and really funny, and it’s so great to see just how in love Yanagi is. What’s better though is later on when Kujo develops feelings for him but thinks Yanagi DOESN’T like her because of how he’s covering it up and treats her as he normally does (which for the record they ACT like a married couple already). They’re both too pure for this world, and the fact they like each other and don’t know it becomes entertainment for their friends.
Watashi ni xxx Shinasai
A story about a popular cellphone novelist who ends up blackmailing a popular guy so that she can experience love scenarios for her novel. I wonder why I like this (jk we all know). What begins with a strange relationship, very quickly turns into a deep connection between the two main characters, Yukina and Shigure. Yukina, the snow queen, begins to feel genuine love for Shigure and is able to write with even more passion. One of the things I like best about this series is that Yukina not only learns how to identify her own love, but also how to identify different kinds of love. She sees longing thanks to Mami, and she learns the difference between loving a childhood friend (Akira) and loving romantically (Shigure), and even jealousy and heartbreak in a more twisted and childish love (Hisame). This story about writing a love story is really good and really dramatic. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
Say I Love You
Okay I legit think this may be one of the greatest shoujo manga I’ve ever read. A simple premise: girl with no friends somehow ends up with most popular guy and begins to grow. But what sets, Say I Love You apart from other manga, is it’s honest and REAL depiction of not just different kinds of love, but also life. The relationship between the characters changes as life and they change, but despite all that they continue to persevere. The story as a whole, sometimes feels more like a life lesson than a love story. One that reminds you that life will get in the way, and that it may not go as planned, and that everyone’s lives and goals will happen at different times, but that to keep the people you love close you need to reach out. You need to hold to them, to talk to them. To say “I love you”.
Ao Haru Ride
I must say that Ao Haru Ride is a bit of a love/hate for me. It’s incredibly dramatic, and some of the decisions in it are incredibly stupid, but it’s still good. Main character’s Futaba and Kou were love interests in middle school, but before anything could happen between them Kou left. Futaba then grew up trying to be brash and unattractive because other girls hated that all the guys liked her (how dumb is this? but i get it). This leads our home girl to believe she lived an unremarkable life until she meets Kou again and begins to like him all over again. The relationship between these two is exactly what I imagine when I think of the term “missed chance” or “opportune moment”. They keep missing them despite how clear it is they have lingering feelings. It creates a both frustrating and heartbreaking narrative as they navigate other relationships, and each other, meanwhile all we’re hoping is that they will one day come together again. Of course one thing I like is that a boy that becomes Futaba’s boyfriend is so sweet to her. He isn’t the jerk trying to steal her attention, he’s genuinely in love with her. And she loves him too, though never the way he deserves, and she realizes that and for that reason ends their relationship. It’s sad and gets me rooting for Kikuchi to find love too, just as I root for Futaba to end up with Kou.
You know, I almost feel bad putting Orange here because I’d classify it as a straight up drama. But the romance in it—the romance kills me. While the story itself is rather heavy, being about a group of friends trying to change the future so their friend doesn’t kill himself, the romance portions are sweet. Naho is trying to save Kakeru and in doing so the two develop feelings towards each other, but feelings that future Naho also had experienced and never acted on. In a way, their romantic storyline is also reminding us to go ahead and act on our feelings of love, because we don’t know how long we’ll have those people for, and how are our love can essentially save others. But there are two things in particular I REALLY appreciate about Orange. The first is that even though Naho confesses to Kakeru, it’s not just her love that saves him from committing suicide, but rather the love of all of his friends that makes him stop himself at the last moment. It’s a nice touch to make this love story one of love and not romance per say. The second thing, arguably my favorite part of this ENTIRE manga, is Hiroto. Future Hiroto is married to Naho, and it’s clear that current Hiroto has feelings for her. But Hiroto loves both Naho and Kakeru so much that he decides to try and get Naho and Kakeru together as he tries to save the latter. This means that he is giving up his entire future—his marriage, his child, his wife, because it would mean more to him to see Kakeru alive and Naho and him happy. Hiroto, in my opinion, is the greatest example on this list of true love, through and through.
These were my top 10 manga recommendations to binge today for Valentine’s Day!
Til next time!