Ayu is a big fan of anime and manga and tries to watch and read as many series as possible.
Highly Recommended Shoujo and Josei Manga
Hi everyone! I'm happy to share my list of the best shoujo and josei manga I've read so far. I said shoujo and josei, but there are actually a few shounen titles mixed in here, too; I included them because of all the shoujo feels I felt while reading them. These series will make you go doki-doki! I hope you like them as much as I do!
Countdown: My 16 Favorite Manga in These Genres
- Shishunki Bitter Change
- Taiyou no Ie (House of the Sun)
- Strobe Edge
- Yankee-kun to Megane-chan
- Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (The Wallflower)
- Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride)
- Last Game
- Hirunaka no Ryuusei (Daytime Shooting Star)
- Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish)
- Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji (Wolf Girl and Black Prince)
- Kimi ni Todoke
- Sket Dance
- Kimi no Iru Machi (A Town Where You Live)
- Akatsuki no Yona
16. Shishunki Bitter Change
Genres: Shoujo, School Life, Gender Bender
Shishunki Bitter Change is one of the cutest things I've read. The story is about Yuuta Kimura and Yui Ootsuka, who accidentally swapped bodies back in elementary school. Three years later, they still haven't figured out how to return to their original bodies, but they've learned a lot about each other.
The story is a bit slow-paced, but the manga does a nice job of narrating how the characters have grown in the past three years. It also shows how they're trying to understand and accept their budding feelings (from whom and for who? I won't tell, haha). Overall, I believe this one is a must-read.
15. Taiyou no Ie (House of the Sun)
Genres: Shoujo, Slice of Life, Romance
Taiyou no Ie is probably one of the sweetest manga I've come across. The title literally translates to "House of the Sun." True to its title, the story is warm, as are the main characters (MCs).
Mao Motomiya (17 years old), the female protagonist of the story, decided to leave her house after her parents separated. Her childhood friend Hiro Nakamira (23 years old), the male protagonist, then asked her to live with him.
Despite their age gap, their relationship isn't that awkward; it feels naturally cute. The chapters are well-written, too, with just the right amount of drama for me. So if you're really into shoujo, don't miss this one!
14. Strobe Edge
Genres: Shoujo, School Life, Romance, Drama
Strobe Edge is a rare gem of a manga. It tells the story of Ninako Kinoshita (the main female protagonist), who falls in love with Ren Ichinose (the main male protagonist) despite the fact that he already has a girlfriend. Ninako realizes her feelings for Ren early on and decides to keep them hidden—but, you know, things just tend to happen (sorry, I won't spoil it!). Anyway, what's interesting is how similar the two of them actually are and how they slowly discover their similarities with the help of the other characters in the story.
I read Ao Haru Ride (from the same mangaka as Strobe Edge, Sakisaka Io) before reading this one, and I always thought that Ao Haru was really, really good. However, I personally think that Strobe Edge is more unique, and it also made a deeper impact on me.
The scenes in this story are very well-executed, and it's less cliché than your average shoujo manga. The main characters are also very cute, and our female lead is like a walking ball of sunshine! Also, if you want something lighter (Ao Haru Ride was heavy for me; the tone was even too dark sometimes), this would be a better choice than Ao Haru!
13. Yankee-kun to Megane-chan
Genres: Shounen, Comedy, School Life, Romance
Yankee-kun to Megane-chan was one of the first manga I really fell in love with. The plot is about Daichi Shinagawa (the male protagonist), a delinquent high school student who meets a former delinquent, Hana Adachi (the female protagonist). She convinces him to enjoy their high school life to the fullest.
This series is just so beautiful; I got super hooked on it! The characters are all adorable, the humor is great, it's long but doesn't drag (unlike Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches), and the romance is really my kind of love story—except that the ending is such a disappointment. I would have ranked this higher if not for that utterly devastating ending. Oh well, everything else is good enough that I was able to get over the ending (eventually), and I still highly recommend that readers experience this masterpiece.
12. Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (The Wallflower)
Genres: Shoujo, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life
I really didn't want to watch this at first because of the art, but thank the heavens that I gave it a try. (Yes, I watched the anime first and only started reading the manga because the episodes weren't enough!)
Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge is about a girl named Sunako Nakahara (the main female protagonist) who starts living with four dazzling and beautiful creatures in the form of Kyohei Takano (the main male protagonist), Takenaga Oda, Yukinojo Toyama, and Ranmaru Morii. Sunako hates anything radiant and beautiful, be it the sun, the stars, or human beings. Thus begins her life of suffering as the four boys aim to transform her into a perfect lady to get free rent from Sunako's aunt, who owns the house in which they all live.
This manga is really one of my all-time favorites because it is simply heartwarming. Honestly, the other characters are just average, but Sunako and Kyohei are so wonderfully written that the series would survive with them alone.
11. Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride)
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Drama, School Life
Ao Haru Ride is a story about the high school reunion of Futaba Yoshioka and Kou Mabuchi, who were once middle school classmates. After meeting again, they discover how much they've both changed; later on, they find out the reason for those changes. The plot covers how they learn to cope with everything that's happened, as well as their present feelings for each other.
I would describe Ao Haru Ride as bittersweet. It's really good, but there's just too much drama for me to handle. That's not to say I didn't like it; it's just that this isn't something I would read over and over again, compared to Strobe Edge.
10. Last Game
Genres: Shoujo, Comedy, Drama, School Life
Last Game is a really sweet story about a poor girl and a rich guy (but not Ouran-level rich). Mikoto Kujou, our female lead who happens to be poor, transfers to Naoto Yanagi's school, and they become classmates. She beats him in every single damn thing and he wants revenge, only to fall for her early in the story.
I won't spoil anything else, but this is really one of the sweetest and most heartwarming manga stories I've read, with a similar feel to Taiyou no Ie. Just prepare yourself for a really dense female MC—but, all in all, I highly recommend this story.
9. Hirunaka no Ryuusei (Daytime Shooting Star)
Genres: Shoujo, Romance, School Life, Drama
Hirunaka no Ryuusei is the student-teacher love story of Suzume Yosano (a high school student) and Satsuki Shishio (her homeroom teacher). It's the usual story of the main female MC transferring from the province to Tokyo, meeting new friends, finding a love interest, and then developing a love triangle later—except that this isn't your usual love story.
This story is really good! It's my ideal shoujo manga: well-drawn with clear art and a heartthrobbing storyline. This is literally everything that is good about shoujo, until—well, no spoilers; you just gotta read it.
8. Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish)
Genres: Josei, Fashion, Romance, Comedy, Gender Bender
You have to believe me when I say that this is one of the most beautiful josei manga out there. Really, everything is beautiful about this manga: the characters, the art, the plot, the anime adaptation, the development—you name it, Kuragehime has it.
The story centers on the lives of female otakus sharing an apartment, fearing and despising everything beautiful, until they meet our goddess, Kurako. Kuragehime is about understanding and embracing beauty and opening up to a whole new world. All of the characters are sweet, adorable, fluffy, and innocent, and they teach us a thing or two about beauty, life, friendships, and love.
7. Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji (Wolf Girl and Black Prince)
Genres: Shoujo, School Life, Romance, Comedy
Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji is a shoujo manga about Erika Shinohara, a high school student who pretends to have a boyfriend by showing a random guy's photo to her friends. The guy in the photo, Sata Kyouya, turns out to be someone from the same school (of course!). He agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend, as long as she does whatever he says.
This is a typical story about a mean, tsundere guy and a highly positive, energetic girl, but it's really lovable and honest and sweet. I never found the MCs annoying, and I like the way they respond to the conflicts presented in the story. Personally, I think the problems and resolutions feel natural rather than forced, which is another thing I like. If you're looking for something cute and light, this story is definitely for you!
6. Kimi ni Todoke
Kimi ni Todoke is definitely one of the sweetest and most heartwarming stories out there. It tells the story of Sawako Kuronuma, a shy, honest girl who's an outcast in her class, and Shota Kazehaya, the exact opposite of Sawako: bright, outgoing, and loved by all. Despite being polar opposites, they start to like one another, and with the help of Kazehaya, Sawako finds new friends, opportunities, and experiences.
The supporting characters have interesting narratives, too; sometimes, their stories even feel more refreshing than the MCs'. The story is initially light and fluffy, but it gets more serious as the plot progresses. All in all, I really think this is one of the best! I love almost everything about it: the art, the plot, and the characters, of course. Be sure to check this one out if you haven't yet!
5. Sket Dance
Genre: Shounen, School Life, Slice of Life
I think Sket Dance is a real masterpiece and a definite must-read in the school life/slice of life genre. The manga centers on the SKET Dance/Club, with Bossun (Yusuke Fujisaki), Himeko (Hime Onizuka), and Switch (Kazuyoshi Usui) as members. They aim to help people in need, and they get requests and cases throughout the series.
The cases and conflicts are mostly standalone stories, and they often get resolved in one or two chapters, but the plot is solid and the arcs are seamlessly connected. The strength of Sket Dance lies in the narrative and portrayal of its characters, including both the MCs and other groups. I especially loved watching the dance club's teamwork, character development, and relationships with the supporting characters. You'll find several characters with really captivating backstories.
For a shounen manga, it has the perfect blend of comedy and drama, with just the right amount of romance. Well, I would have loved a bit more romance, but given that friendships and the characters' dreams are more central here, I guess it's okay. This is definitely among my top favorites!
Genre: Shounen, Romance, Comedy, Slice of Life
Horimiya (full title: Hori-san to Miyamura-kun) made it to my top four because this is the most feel-good thing I've ever read. It's about the fun but weird relationship (yes, weird, which is mostly Hori's fault) between protagonists Hori Kyouko and Miyamura Izumi. The story begins when they both discover that they are not who they appear to be at school. They decide to keep each other's secrets and learn more about each other.
What I especially like about this manga is the absence of the usual drama, misunderstandings, and cliché conflicts found in most stories. Horimiya sets itself apart by being able to tell an excellent story without resorting to the clichés of the genre. Horimiya might even be the most refreshing title in the romance, comedy, and slice of life genres. Also, I almost forgot to mention that this one is actually tagged as shounen!
3. Kimi no Iru Machi (A Town Where You Live)
Genre: Shounen, Drama, Romance
Kimi no Iru Machi ("A Town Where You Live" in English), explores the lives of Haruto Kirishima and Yuzuki Eba as high school students. The story begins with Yuzuki helping Haruto to earn the love of his longtime crush, Nanami Kanzaki—but the two main characters wind up growing closer instead. They eventually become a couple but run into problems along the way. The MCs move to Tokyo and become college students (with several new character additions). Eventually, the story covers their lives as adults.
I think that Kimi no Iru Machi is one of the best love stories I've read, which is unusual since I hate, hate, hate harem stories. There's too much fan service, which I'm personally not a fan of. What made me love this manga is how realistic the story feels and how each stage in the MCs' lives is distinctly and uniquely explored. The drama is bad for my heart, but the struggles of the characters feel damn real. So yes, this is definitely my kind of drama. And, like Horimiya, this is also a shounen manga.
Genre: Josei, Romance, Drama
Now we're down to my pick for the second-best romantic drama, Chihayafuru, which is probably my best josei pick at the moment as well. The manga is about competitive Karuta, which is a Japanese card-playing game using Karuta cards with 100 tanka poems printed in yomifuda and torifuda. The story revolves around the lives of the three main characters, Chihaya Ayase, Taichi Mashima, and Arata Wataya. It tells the story of how they became friends through Karuta and, later on, how Karuta still plays an important role in their lives as high school students.
The story covers the formation of the Misuzawa High School Karuta Club and its members. Some of the main plot elements are teamwork, the characters' relationships within the team, and their relationships with other Karuta clubs and societies. This series will definitely make you appreciate Karuta as a sport and get you more interested in Japanese culture.
What I love about Chihayafuru is how the games and matches are beautifully told in both the manga and anime—but, of course, I love the romance most of all, and I can't wait to see how it ends. Chihayafuru is still ongoing at the time of this writing, and this is definitely one of the few titles that I'm still closely following. If you haven't tried this yet, I recommend that you watch the anime first before reading the manga. The Karuta scenes are action-packed, and they're best seen in animated form, in my opinion.
1. Akatsuki no Yona
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy
We're finally down to the best shoujo manga I've ever read: Akatsuki no Yona. This story is about Yona, the former princess of the Kingdom of Kouka, who is chased out of the castle with her childhood friend and bodyguard, Son Hak. The two begin to search for the four legendary dragon warriors in order to survive and to help the Kingdom of Kouka.
Despite being categorized in the shoujo genre, Akatsuki no Yona's plot and action is more akin to shounen manga. Every element in this story is finely crafted, from the art, characters, and setting to the plot. I think this is Mizuno Kuzanagi's best work yet, and it continues to get better with each chapter. All the characters have come a looooong way, and each turn of events is surprising. The fantasy element fits the story perfectly and adds more spice, and the romance (God, the romance) gets better and better!
If you haven't seen or read this yet, you may find the pace slow in the beginning, but when it picks up, you won't be able to stop reading (I warned you). Akatsuki no Yona is definitely my One Piece in this genre!
Which Is Your Favorite?
N B Yomi from Dallas, TX on June 25, 2020:
Geez there are a lot of Josei and Shojo that I don't know about.
Susan Ng Yu on May 31, 2020:
It's so hard to choose the best. Most of them I've only seen the anime or live action adaptation and of course, you can't judge a manga by its anime. Hehe.
I would have to say though that I've watched the live action movie of Kimi ni Todoke countless times, and I still want to watch it again. Kazehaya Shouta is the guy I wish I'd met in high school. Haha!
kornuc on November 12, 2019:
you are the best
Ashi-Girl on April 12, 2019:
I like some of your recommendations,but absolutely Hate Manga with age gap especially between a minor female and adult male. It's disgusting.
Alexis on August 31, 2017:
Several great recommendations listed here, though there are several I haven't read/have been on my to read list.
Danny Tribelhorn on March 26, 2017:
Mangas have always been good in my opinion but then again, just like my opinion in books, you have to find one that entices you to read more or go further through the story