The shoujo manga demographic has a rich history targeted at younger female readers. Originating from Japanese girls' culture during the turn of the century, the earliest shoujo manga was published in magazines aimed at teenagers in the early 1900s, revolutionizing itself during the 1950s to become a formalized category of manga. Shoujo manga is well-known for carrying with it a distinct aesthetic and art styles, recognizable for its unique, non-rigid paneling and highly detailed artwork.
The demographic has spawned many wonderful series, including classics such as Sailor Moon, Ouran High School Host Club, NANA, and Fruits Basket. In such a broad editorial demographic with such a lush history, it comes as no surprise that there are many series that don't receive the recognition that they deserve from Western audiences.
In the Clear Moonlit Dusk
Mika Yamamori's In the Clear Moonlit Dusk is an enchanting romance telling the story of two teenage princes falling in love. Yoi Takiguchi is a young woman with all the stereotypical characteristics of a bishounen prince. She has long legs, a deep voice, and a very handsome face. She soon meets an upperclassman named Ichimura, a fellow school prince, an almost ironically -- the only person who can see her for who she truly is. The story follows the princely pair as their friendship develops into something more.
In the Clear Moonlit Dusk is a gorgeously illustrated series that encapsulates the main character's complicated feelings towards her gender identity and how she's perceived by her peers. The relationship between the two protagonists feels genuine, and the progression of the lead couple's relationship comes across as natural. The series won the semi-grand prize manga award from An An magazine in 2021, and was nominated in 2022 for the 46th Kodansha Manga Awards shoujo category.
In the Clear Moonlit Dusk is available in English through Kodansha International.
Cheeky Brat, created by Miyuki Mitsubachi, is an adorably hilarious sports rom-com. Protagonist Yuki Machida is the manager of her high school's basketball team. Being the eldest of six, Yuki has spent her entire life holding back her emotions as to not be a burden to those around her. She soon meets Sho Naruse, a fellow high school student and basketball player whose attitude and selfish comments tests Yuki's patience. Despite their constant interactions, Yuki actually has a crush on the basketball team's captain, Shido, who recently started dating someone else. Heartbroken, Sho steps in and tries to console Yuki -- despite how much two seemingly dislike one another, they begin to bond.
While Cheeky Brat may seem like the average shoujo romance, Cheeky Brat explores the pains of an early unrequited love, and a perfect example of "opposites attract". Plus, for any shoujo manga readers who were disappointed by Robico's My Little Monster and how it handled its character dynamics, Cheeky Brat offers a similar relationship structure that's handled in a much healthier way.
Cheeky Brat is available in English through Yen Press.
For any awkward young person who's struggled to find love, Fujimomo's Lovesick Ellie is the perfect series to relate and reminisce to. Following the very awkward Eriko Ichimura, a teenage girl who spends her days admiring the school pretty boy, Akira Ohmi, and fantasizing about their fictional relationship on her Twitter account, aptly named Lovesick Ellie. One fateful day, Eriko's normal life is ruined when she finally gets to see Ohmi for who he truly is -- a two-faced jerk. Not to mention, he finds out about her secret Twitter account. Surprisingly, Ohmi is rather intrigued by Eriko's fantasies, and the two begin spending time together.
Lovesick Ellie succeeds in being just as charming and romantic as it is hilarious. The dynamic between the cold, princely Ohmi and awkward, sometimes perverted Eriko is an absolute delight to keep up with and read. The series has been highly recieved as well, as Lovesick Ellie was nominated in the 42nd Kodansha Manga Awards for the best shoujo manga award. Upon the release of the series' eleventh volume, Lovesick Ellie already had well over 1.4 million volumes in circulation.
Lovesick Ellie is available in English through Kodansha International.
Rosen Blood, created by Kachiru Ishizue is an infectiously entertaining reverse-harem series. Following Stella Violetta on her way to start a new life as a maid, she experiences a terrifying carriage accident that lands her on the doorstep of a gorgeous Gothic mansion in the middle of nowhere. Occupied by four handsome strangers -- Levi-Ruin, Friedrich, Yoel, and Gilbert -- the mysterious young men take pity on the stranded girl and employ her as their new housekeeper. As Stella settles in to her new life, she discovers that the group of men are blood thirsty vampires who feed on young women to survive.
Despite its obvious allure with a gorgeous Gothic aesthetic, Rosen Blood is a genuinely entertaining reverse-harem. Not only are its male leads enticing and unique, the paranormal mystery surrounding the four vampiric love interests keeps pages turning. Stella is a gorgeous protagonist, with a bold personality that reader's are sure to connect with.
Rosen Blood is available in English through Viz Media's Shojo Beat imprint.
My Love Mix-Up!
My Love Mix-Up! is an incredibly unique shoujo romance that eliquently and hilariously handles first love -- and the protagonist realizing that they're not straight. Protagonist Aoki has a crush on his adorable calssmate, Hashimoto, who sits next to him in class. Tragically, he falls into a deep despair when he borrows an eraser from her, as he realizes that she has engraved the name of another boy -- Ida -- into it. To make his situation even worse, Ida catches Aoki holding the eraser, believing he has a crush on him.
The best part of My Love Mix-Up! is how creative duo Wataru Hinekure and Aruko choose to embrace and explore Aoki's sexuality. Despite being an obvious romantic comedy, it's absolutely delightful to see Ida and Aoki interact with one another, and to see Aoki come to terms with his feelings for his classmate. The series also recieved a stellar live-action adaptation in October 2021. Additionally, My Love Mix-Up! is an award winner, taking home the shoujo manga award in 2022 during the 67th Shogakukan Award ceremony.
My Love Mix-Up! is available in English through Viz Media's Shojo Beat imprint, with the live-action adaptation available in English through Viki.