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20 Best Romance Manga (Modern + Classic)

Romance is a curious genre, given that so many books, films, TV shows, even video games often feature romances but aren’t necessarily of the romance genre. When it comes to romance manga, however, the romance really is the point.

Romance manga also stretches so many different genres, the terms of which can be a little confusing. We’ll cover all these terms and deliver this list of romance manga in the most straightforward and easy-to-digest way possible. Before we dive in, let’s explore some of the terms and types that are often tied up with the idea of romance manga.

best romance manga

Romance Manga VS Shoujo Manga VS BL Manga

One common overlap is that of romance manga and shoujo manga. Put simply, however, not all romance is shoujo and not all shoujo is romance. The more time passes, the more concepts like shounen and shoujo manga become outdated.

Like how shonen manga is loosely targeted at an audience demographic of boys (therefore stereotypically deal with martial arts, fantasy action, ninja, and superheroes), shoujo manga is targeted at an audience demographic of girls.

romance shoujo manga

This is all exhaustingly stereotypical but, going off those stereotypes, girls love romance. Ergo, a lot of shoujo manga is romance manga. Not all, however.

The other big subgenre of shoujo manga is the “magical girl” genre (think Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura). Magical girl shoujo manga is very similar to a lot of shonen manga: action-packed monster-of-the-week stories featuring evil bad guys and super-powered good guys.

All of that said, a lot of the library of shoujo manga is, indeed, romance manga. Just because it’s marketed at girls, however, doesn’t mean a whole lot in this day and age. Plenty of girls love shounen and plenty of boys love both shoujo and romance manga.

sailor moon manga

A lot of romance manga is not shoujo-friendly. As in, it has adult themes that make it inappropriate to a readership of young girls. Those adult themes don’t have to be sexual. They may be to do with marriage, divorce, death, illness etc. Not all romance manga is fluffy and happy, just like romance in any medium.

Another popular type of romance manga (which won’t be covered here but in another article) is BL. BL manga stands for boys’ love manga (or yaoi manga). This is gay romance manga, often written by women and targeted at an audience of women and gay men.

our dining table bl manga

While we are fans of a lot of queer manga, including the diverse and beautiful genre of yuri manga (girls’ love) all of the romance manga covered below is more mainstream straight romance manga.

Best Modern Romance Manga

Now that we’ve got the similarities and differences between romance manga and shoujo manga straightened out, let’s look at some of the best modern romance manga of the current and last few years.

My Dress-Up Darling by Shinichi Fukuda

Translated by Taylor Engel

my dress up darling manga

My Dress-Up Darling does so many things so well. It appeals to all kinds of manga fans and always delivers on the laughs and the love. This modern romance manga tells a satisfyingly simple story:

A high school boy, Wakana Gojo, is studying under his grandfather to make hina dolls. He has no friends and hina dolls are his sole passion. When his sewing machine breaks, he resorts to using one at his school. There, he discovers that the most popular and beautiful girl in his class, Marin Kitagawa, has been using the crafts room to try (and fail) to make her own cosplay.

Gojo is touched by the fact that Kitagawa has, and is proud of, her own obsession. She also sees his talent for tailoring and so she begs him to make her cosplay outfits. From here, a romance begins to bloom.

What makes My Dress-Up Darling such a runaway romance manga success is the way in which it leans so hard into awkward comedy. Gojo is the most sweet, wholesome, and pure boy you’re ever likely to find in manga. In contrast, Kitagawa is confident, unimpeded, but also naive in her own way.

my dress-up darling

They are an incredibly strong match, and the ways in which he is constantly thrust into awkward situations (the first of which is getting her measurements) never fail to make you laugh. There is, naturally a whole boatload of fanservice that goes into this as well, and that might turn a lot of readers off (it did me for a while). But it’s the lewdness of the situation that sparks the best comedy.

Also, the fact that Gojo is such a good and kind boy who only gets upset and wound up by these awkwardly sexual situations make it all a little more wholesome (though that doesn’t excuse the almost embarrassing amount of cameltoes we get every chapter).

The most wholesome thing about this romance manga, however, is the way in which it celebrates hobbies and passions, irrespective of gender. Kitagawa loves without restraint, and she teaches Gojo to do the same. If you’ve seen the My Dress-Up Darling anime, I still urge you to check out the manga. It’s exquisitely well-drawn, arguably even funnier than the anime, and Taylor Engel’s translation is really fantastic.

My Love Mix-Up! by Aruko and Wataru Hinekure

my love mix up

What we typically know as a “love triangle” isn’t actually a triangle at all; it is one person trying to choose between two others. If you’re after a true love triangle, you need to read My Love Mix-Up!. This funny and sweet romance manga about high school kids crushing on each other is proud of just how silly and charming it is.

Here you have two boys — Aoki and Ida — and a girl, Hashimoto. Aoki likes Hashimoto but he learns quickly that she has her eye on Ida instead. Through a clumsy bit of miscommunication, Ida comes to believe that it’s Aoki who likes him, not Hashimoto. Having never crushed on anyone before, he’s open to the idea that he might be gay.

And so he begins to form a strong attachment to Aoki, whom he still thinks has a crush on him. So now we have Aoki crushing on Hashimoto, who is crushing on Ida, who is now crushing on Aoki. That’s a proper love triangle.

Twists and turns also come pretty frequently as this fun dynamic develops further, and we get to enjoy these sweet archetypical characters (especially the adorable himbo Aoki). These characters are fun to follow and root for, and the wholesome nature of this romance manga means that the stakes are low while the humour is high.

If you like your love stories on the sweet and charming side, rather than the heartbreaking soap opera-esque drama, My Love Mix-Up! is the romance manga for you.

Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible by Nene Yukimori

Translated by Amanda Haley

kubo wont let me be invisible

Despite its strange title that immediately gives of isekai vibes, Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is the most wholesome and charming romantic comedy manga you’ll ever read. This is the story of a boy named Shiraichi, who is used to the fact that he goes through life without anyone taking much notice of him at all. In fact, he’s completely unbothered by it.

However, one classmate does notice him: the titular Kubo. She’s sweet, attentive, curious, and cheeky. Kubo wants Shiraichi to stand out more, and so she dares him to do things that will draw attention to him.

When this romance manga first begins, the comedy revolves around these goofy antics: Kubo teasing Shiraichi about how socially unremarkable he is, and convincing him to do things like stand on his chair in the middle of class. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that Kubo has a crush on the oblivious Shiraichi. She spends more time with him inside and outside school, wanting him to notice her and enjoy her company (which he does).

kubo manga

Whichever angle to look at this comedy romance manga from, it’s wholesome. Shiraichi is unremarkable, uncomplicated, but funny in his obliviousness and the fact that he’s so unbothered by the fact that even cameras and automatic doors don’t respond to his presence.

There’s no reason for a smart and pretty girl to crush on him, and yet Kubo does. The heart wants what it wants, and that’s incredibly warming. Then there’s Kubo herself; a charming girl who tries hard to be noticed, and never swings towards the sickly sweet or the vindictive sides of the spectrum. She is simply and wholly good, while being frequently hilarious.

The mood and tone of Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is all about that wholesomeness and sweetness, bolstered by some fantastically animated art, especially in the facial department. Constantly shifting from hilarious to wholesome, this is a romance manga you don’t want to miss out on.

Buy a copy here!

Love in Focus by Yoko Nogiri

love in focus manga

Set in a Hokkaido tourist town inspired by the beautiful Hakodate, Love in Focus tells the story of a high-schooler named Mako Mochizuki who loves photography. Her grandfather taught her everything she knows, and photography became their way of remaining close and connected when he grew sick.

After her grandfather’s death, Mako was invited to live in a boarding house with her childhood friend, Kei-chan. The two grew up together in Sapporo, and now they’re back together, living and studying. The boarding house, nicknamed Lens Inn, is full of photography students, but one boy — Amemura — remains standoffish and cold towards everyone, Mako in particular.

A love triangle begins to take shape when Kei’s years-long love for Mako gently becomes apparent, and Mako herself takes a stronger and stronger interest in Amemura. The closed-off but traditionally handsome lad brings down his barriers eventually, revealing that he has issues with his looks, and with cameras, due to him being forced into child modelling and acting as a kid.

Side note: If the learning about dark side of child acting appeals to you, check out Jeanette McCurdy’s memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died. It’ll really make you sympathise with Amemura’s feelings and experiences.

The ties that bind these three characters gradually strengthen as they spend more time living and studying together, but that only complicates things further. Beyond the love story of this romance manga is an adoration and a respect for photography as an art, reminiscent of that found for painting in the brilliant seinen manga Blue Period.

If you enjoy your love triangles, and you also want a gorgeous manga that explores the passions that young people have for their favourite art forms, Love in Focus is a must-read romance manga.

Buy a copy of Love in Focus here!

Love Me, Love Me Not by lo Sakisaka

love me love me not

While Io Sakisaka’s Ao Haru Ride (below) is her most celebrated manga, her newer work Love Me, Love Me Not is refreshingly unique amongst shojo romance manga. Drawn in her iconic bubbly, soft, and (at this point) retro style, but featuring more believable and grounded problems and personalities, Love Me, Love Me Not really sets itself apart.

We have a pair of protagonists, Yuna and Akari. When they meet, they have each said goodbye to a best friend who moved away and are about to start at the same high school.

Yuna is a head-in-the-clouds romantic who believes in waiting for her perfect true love. Akari, however, “meets love head-on”. She’s full of confidence and a lust for life. The quiet, shy romantic versus the flirtatious and curious realist. This romance manga’s creator has made it clear that neither is right or wrong, which is why they share the spotlight as protagonists.

Akari also has a brother, Rio, whom Yuna immediately romanticises as a beautiful prince, and Yuna has a childhood friend, Inui, whom Akari believes would be perfect for Yuna.

Early on, Akari is dumped by her long-distance boyfriend and rumours of her flirtatious nature start to spread. The drama here is real, relatable, and sometimes difficult. But it being drawn in a cute and muted ’90s style gives this romance manga a comforting warmth, as does Yuna’s sweet — if childish — romanticism.

But this is a shojo manga that is just as much about female friendships as it is about love and romance. Yuna and Akari’s relationship is the most important and interesting one of the manga. They grow together and learn from each other, and that’s what helps this manga stand out so well against a sea of cookie-cutter romance stories.

Skip and Loafer by Misaki Takamatsu

skip and loafer

Skip and Loafer is a budding romance manga that has charm coming out of every pore. There is a wide-eyed sweetness, as well as a goofiness, to our protagonist, which is emphasised by her unique appearance.

Iwakura is drawn differently from the other characters on the roster, with her expression being more minimalist and blank, reminiscent of Mob Psycho 100. The fact that even her face elicits a laugh (but not in a cruel or mocking way) is charming. Then there is the focus on friendship over romance.

Our other protagonist, Shima, is a delightful himbo that every girl crushes on, and he has chosen to befriend Iwakura on her first day at school. In fact, it’s her first day in Tokyo, having grown up in the sticks. A lot goes wrong, and Shima is there to lend a hand (although he’s not great at doing so).

This is a romance manga that blends the slice-of-life and rom-com genres into something hilarious, warming, and entertaining. The stellar English translation carries that comedy and charm across every line and page, and a consistently growing cast of characters keeps us engaged chapter after chapter.

Horimiya by Hero and Daisuke Hagiwara

horimiya manga

Originally known as Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, Horimiya is a charming and wholesome romance manga, originally written and drawn by Hiroki Adachi (Hero) before being adapted and redrawn by Daisuke Hagiwara. Horimiya also has a hugely popular romance anime adaptation, and the anime has proven to be a truly outstanding adaptation of the original manga source material.

The Horimiya manga follows the quickly-blossoming romance between high-schoolers Kyoko Hori and Izumi Miyamura. She is a popular honour student with a secret home life packed with responsibility and raising her adorable little brother. He is an introverted, all but invisible middle-of-the-road student with a secret private life as a tattooed and pierced himbo.

horimiya anime

Horimiya is one of the most popular romance manga ever written. What has helped it succeed so splendidly is how well-developed its two protagonists are. Their dramas, issues, dreams, and daily lives as individuals are fleshed out and given real attention.

Pile a romance on top of this and you have two characters that you not only care about, but whose romance is a joy to watch unfold. Their romance also moves forward refreshingly quickly and smoothly, as opposed to those seen in the majority of romance manga.

Horimiya is a comedy romance manga, but the comedy serves more to keep the story light rather than to be laugh-out-loud funny. Come for the romance and stay for the chuckles.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War by Aka Akasaka

kaguya-sama love is war manga

Another hugely popular comedy romance manga (and anime) is Kaguya-sama: Love is War (known in Japanese as Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Ren’ai Zunōsen).  This is a comedy romance manga that leans more on the comedy, with the romance being more of an objective than a daily occurrence.

Set in the student council office of the elite Shuchiin Academy, Kaguya-sama follows the daily lives of the titular Kaguya Shinomiya, vice president of the student council, and the council president Miyuki Shirogane. Kaguya and Miyuki are equally in love with one another, but both are far too proud to ever admit it. In beautiful episodic fashion, each chapter pits the two against each other in elaborate schemes.

These schemes are either an attempt at making the other confess their feelings or a roundabout way of bringing them closer together. The plots become more and more ridiculous and elaborate as they go, with spanners thrown into the works by supporting characters Chika Fujiwara and Yu Ishigami.

The comedy of Kaguya-sama is top-notch, with every joke delivery an explosion of laughter. The romance, however, is always there, floating in the background. Every plot and scheme, after all, is fuelled by love, lust, and affection.

Kaguya-sama offers a really refreshing take on romance manga, upending old tropes and reframing the will-the-won’t-they dynamic by turning the narrative into a wonderful blend of shonen battle manga and slice-of-life comedy manga. Genius and heartwarming.

Read More: Sweet & Essential BL Manga

Orange by Ichigo Takano

orange manga cover

While Orange is considered a romance manga (and it certainly is one) it’s also a lot more than that. In fact, consider this a content warning: Orange deals with a lot of heavy themes concerning mental health and suicide.

Orange straddles quite a few genres, including romance, slice-of-life, and even the supernatural. It’s also a short manga, available in two oversized volumes that you can binge over a weekend. This makes Orange a satisfyingly complete and focussed manga experience.

The story of Orange closely follows a group of friends, the main character of which is high-schooler Naho Takamiya. At the start of a new school year, Naho receives a letter from someone who claims to be her future self. Future Naho explains that her biggest regret was her failure to save the life of a boy named Kakeru Naruse.

orange naho kakeru

The letter has arrived on this particular day because it is the same day that Kakeru joins their school in Matsumoto from his former life in Tokyo. Kakeru is quickly assimilated into Naho’s group of friends, becoming their sixth member.

The letter which Naho received is filled with a list of detailed instructions on how to save Kakeru’s life. Naho must decide whether or not to trust and follow these instructions each day. Meanwhile, in the future, Naho is married to Hiroto, and we are occasionally sent forward into their life as they reminisce about their high school days ten years ago, and about their now late friend Kakeru.

Orange is a beautiful, hard-hitting story of love, friendship, mental health, and the responsibilities we have to and for one another. It’s a romance manga, for sure, but it’s also so much more. And Ichigo Takano is a genius mangaka for putting together something as beautiful as Orange.

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita 

wokatoi manga

Existing in a similar sweet and comedy-focussed sphere as Horimiya and Kaguya-sama, Wotakoi is a romance manga with a light and funny twist. Its name (Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii in Japanese) is a clever portmanteau of otaku and the japanese word for love (koi).

Wotakoi is a refreshing romance manga for two reasons. The first is that its protagonists are adult office workers, not teenage high-schoolers. The second is that they are both closet nerds trying to pass for ordinary and diligent workers.

Narumi, a fujoshi with an obsession for yaoi manga and anime, joins a new company and, in order to make a success of her job, simply needs to keep her hobby a secret. Quickly, however, she meets and falls in love with Hirotaku, a video game-obsessed otaku who works at the same office.

This central premise offers a lot of laughs and sweet moments, but it also highlights — as the title lays out — the difficulties of love and romance for otaku. This is explored in a surprisingly varied number of ways, all of which serve to keep the series interesting as it goes.

Snow White with the Red Hair by Sorata Akizuki

snow white with the red hair manga

I mentioned above that not all romance manga are shoujo manga. Well, this one is. Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayukihime) is a shoujo manga that has been running for an awful long time. If you were sold on Orange in part because of how short and tight it is, getting into something like Snow White with the Red Hair is a big ask. But, for many, it’s worth it.

This fantasy shoujo series follows Shirayuki (literally Snow White) a herbalist of the Tanbarun kingdom. Her story, at the beginning, is very loosely inspired by the Snow White fairy tale.

Shirayuki is a refreshingly capable and self-realised female protagonist who turns down the advances of the local Prince Raji. When she scorns him, cuts her hair, and flees, she falls into the company of the neighbouring kingdom’s Prince Zen.

After saving Zen from a poison apple that was sent from Prince Raji and meant for her, she establishes herself as a herbalist of Zen’s royal court and, to the surprise of nobody, a romance between the two slowly blossoms. If you’re a fan of romance and fantasy manga, as well as European fairy tales, Snow White with the Red Hair is a romance shoujo manga right up your alley.

Noragami by Adachitoka

noragami stray god manga

Although having originally been published in Monthly Shonen Magazine, Noragami (Stray God) is still a beloved romance manga, just with a few more fantasy and isekai elements pulling it along.

Noragami follows middle-schooler Hiyori Iki, who meets an unfortunate fate involving a bus. This accident places Hiyori in the unique position of being aware of two, and able to interact with, two other worlds, known as the Near Shore and Far Shore.

The titular Stray God is Yato, a kami without a shrine. Yato is eager to make a name for himself as a god, and Hiyori wishes to have her human body repaired. Thus, a long and fantastical journey together begins. Noragami ticks a lot of boxes. It satisfies fans of fantasy and isekai manga, while also catering to the tastes of shounen and shoujo fans alike. It’s an all-round crowd-pleaser and a great romance manga for that exact reason.

The Quintessential Quintuplets by Negi Haruba

quintessential quintuplets manga

If there’s one genre of manga that makes a lot of us cringe, myself included, it’s harem manga (and, by extension, harem anime). I have always been pretty clueless as to its appeal beyond slimy fan-service. However, when The Quintessential Quintuplets (Go-Tōbun no Hanayome) kept turning more and more heads, it became hard not to pay attention. And what I found was something surprisingly wholesome. For a harem manga.

Feel free to skip past this one if you know that it won’t speak to you. But, if you’re at least a little intrigued, this is the only harem manga I’ve ever been able to not only stomach, but actually really enjoy.

I’m going to outline the premise here and, if you roll your eyes and keep scrolling, I won’t blame you. Futaro is a high school student, hired by the Nakano family to be a private tutor to a group of quintuplets: Ichika, Nino, Miko, Yotsuba, and Itsuki.

The story’s very beginning reveals to us a wedding chapel and the fact that Futaro will eventually be married to one of the titular quintuplets. However, the identity of the girl remains unknown, predictably, until the end.

What makes this harem manga so wholesome is the lack of any exhausting harem tropes. Futaro is a likeable protagonist with a sad background. His father is buried by debt and his mother is no longer here. The quintuplets are terrible students and some of them refuse to be tutored by Futaro at all.

As the story progresses, Futaro builds a friendship with each of the Nakano quintuplets, and we are always led by the nose towards the mystery reveal: which one will he eventually marry?

The Quintessential Quintuplets also has a popular anime adaptation (available on Crunchyroll) which is an incredible amount of fun and every bit as wholesome. However, the art of the manga is particularly gorgeous, lovingly detailed and beautifully textured. Both are worth your time but the art of the manga wins out.

Ao Haru Ride by Io Sakisaka

ao haru ride manga

Also known by its English translation Blue Spring Ride, this is a shoujo romance manga that epitomises the will-they-won’t-they narrative. It injects grounded, often harsh and dark, themes and events to offer readers a romance manga with real weight and substance.

In that regard, Ao Haru Ride is a shoujo manga that falls more in line with Orange than any of the more upbeat manga on this list. Ao Haru Ride is a fairly beloved romance manga with a dedicated following, especially in Japan.

The story follows sixteen-year-old Futaba whose first love has returned from a long stint of living in Nagasaki. However, Kou is not the boy she remembers; he is now aloof and guarded. We soon learn that this is because, while living in Nagasaki, Kou lost his mother.

Ao Haru Ride is a mature and hard-hitting story that really showcases how life throws down obstacles to happiness, and how we often build those obstacles ourselves due to naivete, self-destructive tendencies, and an inability to see the future or read the past.

This is a series with plenty of twists and turns that are worth experiencing first-hand, and a romance manga that comes highly recommended.

The Demon Prince of Momochi House by Aya Shouoto

The Demon Prince of Momochi House manga

The Demon Prince of Momochi House (Momochi-san Chi no Ayakashi Ouji) is a supernatural romance manga inspired by the world of Japanese shinto folklore.

The story begins with Himari Momochi, an orphan with nothing to her name. On her 16th birthday, she inherits the Momochi family estate, though she is warned that it is said to be haunted. However, desperate Himari has no other choice but to go there.

When she arrives, the stories turn out to be true. The Momochi house straddled the line between the human and the spirit world. The mansion is also already occupied by Aoi, a young man who entered the house as a boy and unwittingly became its spirit guardian. His human existence has been all but erased and he takes the form of a Nue yokai (but sexy).

Aoi’s role as guardian of Momochi house was originally meant for Himari, and it is more a curse than a gift. Himari agrees to live in the house with Aoi, and to find a way to lift the curse so that Aoi can finally leave the mansion and return to his old life.

A Girl on the Shore by Inio Asano

a girl on the shore inio asano

Consider this one a bit of a wild card. Anyone who has already read A Girl on the Shore may not consider it a romance manga, and that’s kind of true. It’s more complicated than that. But if you like your stories to be rocky, troubled, lustful, and angry, you’ll love this manga.

Inio Asano, most famous for his philosophical coming-of-age series Goodnight Punpun, has here penned a manga that exists in a single volume.

goodnight punpun manga

A Girl on the Shore (Umibe no Onnanoko) is set in a nowhere seaside town and follows the angry, lust-and-hate-fuelled romance between Koume and Isobe. These are two bored and horny teenagers looking for fun and satisfaction.

While this is not a sweet and warm romance manga, it is a very true-to-life story for countless teenagers the world over. Koume and Isobe are angry and resentful teenagers, full of tension which they help each other relieve through intense and taboo sexual meetings.

As the manga progresses, their narrative becomes more complicated, with the lines between lust and love starting to blur. This is not an easy manga to read. It is full of raw, explicit depictions of sex, and these characters are very angry, very unlikeable, but very human and vulnerable people.

A Girl on the Shore may or may not be a romance manga (it depends who you ask) but it is certainly a masterpiece.

Best Classic Romance Manga

It’s kind of difficult to know where to draw the line between classic and modern manga. Modern series’ can be classics-in-the-making, and drawing a neat chronological line across a specific year is hard.

Novels are deemed classics when they hit their 100th birthday but that certainly doesn’t apply to manga. So, what we have here are a handful of manga that are a little older, and have built up a cult status as beloved shoujo and romance manga.

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

fruits basket manga

Few shoujo and romance manga have as much of a beloved fanbase as Fruits Basket. This is a series that got a serviceable anime adaptation many years back and has since received the ‘brotherhood treatment’ with excellent results.

Natsuki Takaya’s classic shoujo manga tells the story of Tohru Honda, a girl who lost her mother and now lives in a tent in the woods. Tohru is certainly down on her luck but she keeps on smiling regardless. She is the epitome of a glass-half-full character, clinging to hope as much as her strength will allow.

One day, Tohru stumbles upon the home of her classmate, Yuki Soma, a traditional and secluded Japanese house. Yuki’s older brother, Shigure, is a laid-back stay-at-home author who welcomes Tohru into their home.

The Soma family secret is soon discovered, however, and Tohru is burdened with the knowledge that each member of the family is possessed by an animal of the Chinese zodiac.

When hugged by a member of the opposite sex, members of the Soma clan suddenly transform into their animal form, often resulting in awkward and hilarious situations. The series goes to some very dark and strange places, with the cat character, Kyo, being the most endearing and fascinating member of the manga’s cast.

Fruits Basket is a reverse-harem slice-of-life romance manga for the ages, and a beloved classic of the shoujo manga genre.

Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori

Ouran High School Host Club manga

Like the modern Kaguya-sama, the classic Ouran High School Host Club (Ōran Kōkō Hosuto Kurabu) is a shoujo manga that leans hard on comedy to satirise the tropes and themes of the shoujo genre. In the vein of Shakespearean comedy, Ouran High School Host Club centres around a case of mistaken gender identity.

Haruhi is a student of the titulaer Ouran High School. One day, while looking for a place to study, she stumbles upon the unofficial clubroom of the Host Club.

The Host Club is a small group of boys who play host to female clients by entertaining them with tea and cakes. At first, after breaking something valuable, Haruhi has to work off her debt as the club’s errand boy, before eventually becoming a fully-fledged host herself.

Haruhi’s appearance causes the host boys to mistake her for a boy and, even after the truth comes out, they still want her as a host for her natural ability to charm and entertain the girls of the school. It’s a strange story and, as I said, one that will strike a chord with fans of Shakespeare’s comedies. But this is a series that has endured for years and will go on being a firm favourite of many shoujo manga fans.

Love Com (Lovely Complex) by Aya Nakahara)

love com manga

This is another adorable comedy romance manga that has stood the test of time. Love Com follows the ongoing and endearing friendship of two students at a school in Osaka. The gimmick is that the girl, Risa, is unusually tall and the boy, Atsushi, is unusually short.

The two are labelled a comedy duo by their classmates (Osaka is known across Japan as the nation’s comedy capital, and the series even has its characters speaking the Kansai dialect). Their story is complicated by the arrival of other love interests who better match our protagonists’ heights, but things certainly do not go so smoothly.

This is a very sweet, wholesome, albeit silly and strange series. It certainly highlights the pettiness of our societal obsession with aesthetics, whether intentional or not.

Maid Sama! by Hiro Fujiwara

maid sama manga

Maid Sama! (Kaichou wa Maid-sama! or The Class President is a Maid!) is another hugely popular classic romance manga with an unusual premise. The title of the series certainly paints a particular image which, when peeled back, actually reveals a far more mature romance story.

The titular president/maid is our protagonist: Misaki Ayuzawa. As a student at a school that was once only for male students, Misaki has a lot to prove. She rises to the top and becomes student body president. However, Misaki has a student: in order to help support her sick mother, Misaki works part time at a maid cafe.

When popular boy Takumi Usui finds out the truth, he keeps it to himself. Usui is intrigued by Misaki and the two soon fall in love.

The story continues to twist and turn from here, so I won’t say anything more, but it does continue to throw a few surprising curveballs. They’re dramatic, sure, but also mature and have a lot of social commentary wrapped up in them. Maid Sama! is another classic romance manga, the reputation of which continues to this day.

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