For The Pop Blog‘s Valentine’s Day feature, I’m rounding up the best shoujo romantic anime series. Yes, I’m a sucker for anime, especially shoujo, and I’ve already seen countless titles. Read on to find out which I think are the best ones.
Why We Love Shoujo Romantic Anime Series
Shoujo romantic anime series is directed towards females. In Japan, where patriarchal society is still vivid, female mangakas have found a way to escape that reality. By creating feisty, strong, and loveable female characters, these mangakas made female audiences love and resonate with female anime characters.
Who wouldn’t love shoujo romantic anime love stories? Most of the time, the main protagonists are a simple, lower-middle-class or poor girl without much beauty and brains. Despite that, a rich, noble, tall, good-looking, and an almost perfect man falls for her. It’s the ultimate dream come true for every girl or lady. No wonder shoujo anime, Asian dramas, and even Spanish dramas like this theme sells.
While a lot of snobs would condone these types of series, remember that part of it was an influence from classic Western hits such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Neither of these female leads is gifted with beauty nor wealth, but noble gentlemen were attracted to their feist, strength, and intelligence.
Apart from the plain Jane-noble man story, audiences are also attracted to the prideful, cute, and challenging courtship that came among the leads of these romantic shoujo anime. Unlike in real life, where there’s almost no courtship, shoujo romantic anime builds up an exciting development: characters are either, first, in a hate relationship, forbidden love, secret love, or a prideful conquest. Everything is just so thrilling.
Friendship is another factor that makes these shoujo rom-com anime charming and exciting at the same time. Like American hit series and drama, these anime can only have a few characters to focus on. Hence, most of the time, the main characters’ love is often intertwined with the people close to them.
The main marketing factor of series and animes is to have another couple outside of the main protagonist, especially for the more extended series. It could make the viewers more attached. Another factor is the second lead. Since these dramas often speak of complicated and forbidden love, the second lead often offers a safe sanctuary to the protagonist. Because of that, some audiences would prefer the second lead to the main protagonist. Thus, the second lead syndrome was born.
The Best Shoujo Romantic Anime Series of All Time
Hana Yori Dango
If someone asks me my favorite love story of all time, Hana Yori Dango is at the top 5. What started as a manga in the early 90s by Yoko Kamio turned out to be one, if not the most popular Asian story and series of all time. The popular manga spawned in a shoujo anime in 1995, and the most popular Asian dramas of all time: Taiwan’s Meteor Garden, Japan’s Hana Yori Dango, South Korea’s Boys Over Flowers, China’s most recent remake in 2018, and a lesser-known American adaptation called Boys Over Friends. It also produced two movies in Japan in the mid-90s, even before the manga came to an end.
Yes, the story is embedded in cliches–a rich guy-poor girl in an unforbidden love scenario, with a lot of rollercoaster challenges that tested Makino and Tsukasa’s love. But in the end, they end up with each other.
What separates Hana Yori Dango shoujo anime from its other media versions like the several Asian adaptations, is its overall feel. The J-drama version starring Jun Matsumoto, Oguri Shun, and Mao Inoue is as morbid as it is compared to the other versions, but wait ’til you see the anime. It’s a bit disturbing and brutal, with its accompanying background music.
The anime is not the best adaptation for me if I compare it with the Taiwanese, Japanese, and Korean adaptations. Still, if you’ve been following Makino and Domyouji’s love story for years now, like me, then you shouldn’t miss out on its anime adaptation.
While only having fair reviews in Japan, Special A has always had a special place in my heart. It’s simple but very charming. Protagonist Hikaru is dense and in denial to the fact that Kei has been in love with her since they were kids, and it makes you empathize with the latter’s pure love and subtle dedication. What’s also great about the anime is the love story of its secondary characters Akira and Jun, which keeps the series exciting, despite the push and pull of the lead characters.
Itazura na Kiss
The only obstacle to the love story of Itazura na Kiss is Naoki Irie, our female protagonist’s Kotoko’s love interest. Despite having ideal families wanting them to be together, Naoki is downright mean to Naoki, just because she’s not as smart as he is or that he’s not interested in having romantic relationships. He eventually falls for her but also keeps a distance for whatever reasons he has.
Itazura na Kiss is an epic love story full of push and pull moments and challenges, as Naoki cannot merely give Kotoko even the basic things a boyfriend should: a loving, sweet, and happy relationship. Naoki’s character is just downright dry, mean, and sadistic. I even often wondered why the mangaka wrote a character like him and why Kotoko sticks to him.
Like Hana Yori Dango, Itazura na Kiss spawned Taiwanese, Japanese, and Korean adaptations. It truly is another classic.
Bokura ga Ita
Another epic love story, Bokura ga Ita, dwells with a more mature theme. At a young age, the leading man Motoharu has already grasped some hardships in his life. Despite that, he falls in love with innocent and childlike Nana. Because of this difference in experience, their relationship was put to a halt.
This anime is very hard to watch, especially for younger audiences. The animation is cute and may seem to be made for them, but its story deals with a challenging and complicated situation that audiences might not be comfortable with. Ironically, that makes Bokura ga Ita one of the best romantic shoujo animes of all time.
Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge
Because of rejection from a crush who called her ugly, our main lady, Sunako, shuns everyone and hides in the comfort of her room with her creepy doll friends. Because of this, her aunt asks four beautiful boys to help her transform and become a real lady, ready to face society.
Yamato Nadeshiko made me love all the characters, including the three supporting male leads. Sunako and Kyohei’s relationship is a weird and entertaining one ‘coz they’re both childish and stubborn, but it’ll really touch your heart once you see scenes where Kyohei does his best for Sunako.
The shoujo romantic anime version is less lovey-dovey compared to its j-drama counterpart, but it’s hilarious and entertaining in its own way. It also focuses on teaching its audience lessons on self-love and acceptance.
Okami Shojo to Kuro Oji
Apart from Itazura Na Kiss’ Naoki, Okami Shojo to Kuro Oji or Wolf Girl and Black Prince‘s Kyota has got to be the worst male lead in shoujo history. He’s stoic (in a bad way), uncaring, unsweet, and mean. In the episode where they had their first date as a couple, he never gave in to Erika’s request to ride the swans. Erika ended up riding it alone, and that made me cry. If I were Erika, I would’ve completely switched roles and make Kyota prove his love for me through my love language. He won’t get away with it, despite his godlike looks.
Here’s another romance anime with a unique twist. Lovely Complex is about two people who have insecurities because of their height. Koizomi’s problem is that she’s super tall for a girl, while Otani is almost a midget because of his size. The shoujo romantic anime series is a love-hate relationship between the two until they find comfort in each of their insecurities.
Kiss Him, Not Me
Kiss Him, Not Me is the anime in which I relate to the protagonist the most. Like myself, Mei is the ultimate fangirl. She’s also struggling with weight. Mei’s world is only about food and her favorite BL boys, but her life changed after losing a lot of weight. Four of the hottest guys from her school is out to pursue her. Which one should she pick?
More than romance, Nodame Cantabile focuses on careers and dreams. Because of both protagonists Chiaki and Nodame’s opposite personalities, the story becomes more fun and comedic as they get in each other’s heads.
It took a long time before they get together and their romance stalls, mainly because of their dreams of performing and the challenges they face as musicians. In the end, however, both are really meant to be together.
If you’re a fan of classical music, you shouldn’t miss this anime and the j-drama version. The music and sound are top-notch because it’s mostly about music and the leads’ journey to being top classical musicians in the world while finding each other.
Ouran High School Host Club
This list wouldn’t be complete without a gender-bender anime: a girl pretending to be a boy, vice versa. To be able to pay off her debt, androgynous girl Haruhi was forced to join the elite boys of Ouran High School Host Club to become one of the hosts. This series is less serious than the others on the list because of its comedic nature, but you’ll love every bit of it, especially the character Hani, a genius accelerated kid that’s in their club.
Kimi ni Todoke
Despite its simple plot, the entire feel of Kimi ni Todoke is precious and beguiling. The main characters are Sawako and Kazekaya. In the two seasons, audiences root for those two to profess their love for each other already (yes, all the while, several obstacles make them securely hide their feelings).
But more than its love story, Kimi ni Todoke‘s primary feature is friendship. Sawako, an awkward and timid misfit, slowly made it to be a sociable member their school because of her newfound friends, Chizu and Ayane. The side love stories are also worth the watch, especially Chizu and Ryu’s.
The anime ended even though the manga continued until 2017. I’ve been yearning for another season, so I hope the Japanese production goes for it. However, Season 2 ended with a bang, focusing on Sawako and Kazahaya’s awkward but successful confession and a cute date. It’s worth watching.
Shoujo Romantic Anime Series of All Time: Conclusion
Shoujo romantic animes dwell in love against all odds. Despite them just being in high school, they get forbidden to be together because of status reasons and other elements, but they end up together in the end. The characters, albeit flawed, have some perfection in them that works with the audiences’ understanding and empathy.
These shoujo rom-com animes, like Disney princess films, show us what love is, even with challenges and hardships. Sometimes, they give us too much hope that we get stuck in this dream love that we could only hope for in real life: that wealthy, faithful, tall, handsome nobleman that would faithfully love us and fight for us more than his life.
Runner-ups: Tora Dora, Ao Haru Ride, Tsuredure Children, etc. I have yet to watch the others.
Did I miss out on your favorite romantic shoujo anime series? If yes, let me know in the comments below.
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