Manga With a Strong Female Lead
Female Manga Characters Get a Bad Rep
Female manga characters get a bad rep as they are often portrayed as being weak, ditzy, or simply used for story filler. There are tons of good shoujo, josei, and even shounen manga with very powerful female leads, and here are just a few of my favorites.
Juri: Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan
Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan by Saraha Mizu is a renowned josei, based off a Korean novel of the same name by Ji-Young Gong. In eight beautiful chapters, It tells the story of Juri, a suicidal piano player who is the victim of child abuse, as she attempts to provide emotional comfort to Yuu, a prisoner on death row for the murder of three people. Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan tests the human consciousness and challenges your value of human life, focusing primarily on the struggles of Juri as she attempts to overcome and come to terms with her past. While at first Juri seems to be a weak character, she holds true to her strong-willed personality while admitting her own faults. By the end of the story, Juri becomes someone you can't help but admire.
Watashitachi no Shiawasa na Jikan is a wonderful short manga, and leaves you very satisfied. It's genres include drama, slice of life, romance and psychological.
Yamamoto Hotate: Yamamoto Zenjirou to Moushimasu
Yamamoto Zenjirou to Moushimasu is a really cute shoujo of 18 chapters. The protagonist of this manga is a ten-year-old orphaned girl named Hotate, who is sent to live with a relative after her grandmother says she can no longer take care of her. The plot twist is that Hotate can actually see the dead, and can hear the thoughts of people who touch her. This manga deals a lot with themes of being different and remaining optimistic in despairing circumstances. Hotate practices traits of sincerity and cheerfulness as she helps other characters move on from the death of their own precious people. It's really kind of touching—and it has a real fulfilling story.
The genres of this manga are supernatural, fantasy, and drama; it touches the romance genre a bit.
Alice Liddell: Heart no Kuni no Alice
Heart no Kuni no Alice by Soumei Hoshino is a shoujo adaption of a female-oriented otome game. It features Alice Liddell as the main character, a teenage girl who has fallen asleep while waiting for her older sister to return. She "wakes up" in Wonderland, a strange, morbid world where people cannot die, and faceless people have no "role". Alice is a strong character, who works hard and doesn't let others push her around. She's also not "slimy," sticking to romantic interests and letting them mold her entire character. She has her own beliefs and goals and is a sort of authority character throughout the manga. She develops as a character, but continues to be unswayed by others. This manga is a little confusing, so you have to pay a lot of attention to the little details as everything is symbolism.
It is, of course, a harem manga. The genres include romance, mystery, action, fantasy, psychological and comedy.
Sakura: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is just one of the many really amazing manga by CLAMP. It's demographic is Shounen, but it's in a parallel world to Cardcaptor Sakura, having taken many characters from the previous shoujo, including the two main characters, Sakura and Syaoran. It's closely correlated with xxxHolic, a CLAMP manga released the same year, and I wouldn't recommend reading one without the other. Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle tells the journey of Syaoran and his companions as he travels through worlds to find "feathers," Princess Sakura's memories in tangible form, and scattered across the countless parallel worlds.
This is one of my personal favorites. Sakura is really outstanding, and she develops so well into such a powerful character. In the beginning, she is a blank canvas, only a ghost of the original princess without her memories. Through flashbacks, you see Sakura as an innocent, orphaned princess, loved by her peaceful kingdom and her older brother Toya. But as they go through the hardships of finding her feathers, Sakura still retains her gracefulness and kindness, but she is no longer as delicate as she started off.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle's genres include adventure, fantasy, comedy, mystery, action, romance, and in a way, a certain kind of tragedy. It's a really special kind of manga.
Hirayama Asuka: Kingyou Sou
Kingyou Sou by Fujitsuka Yuki is a shoujo, but the main character's ages are around 17–20, and the setting is later-high-school-early-college. It's a really sweet manga about the relationship between a "normal" girl and a deaf boy. It begins with Asuka during her junior year of high school, who acquired a certain crush on a deaf boy she watched playing drums at a festival. The manga mostly explores the struggles of their relationship, and in eight long chapters, you watch as a crush develops into love. She is a strong female lead despite having a couple of heart-wrenching moments, and though her love interest is a bit more serious and stoic, he is actually quite delicate; a feature that highlights Asuka's durability and strength.
Kingyou Sou is a beautiful, short manga that I highly recommend—its genres being romance, drama, and comedy.