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Top 10 Shojo Manga Must-Reads

Romances, Dramas and Comedies That Will Steal Your Heart

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Curious about shojo manga but can't figure out where to start? Discover some of the most romantic, hilarious, magical and memorable Japanese comics for girls with our top 10 recommended reading list. Discover shojo favorites, including Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket and Vampire Knight.

When selecting these 10 titles, I wanted to offer titles that are 1) in print, and (relatively) readily available at reasonable prices (so I tried to avoid out of print titles, and anything that hasn't been published in English); 2) showed the variety of shojo manga stories and styles; and 3) offered options for tweens, teens & twenty-something shojo manga readers. Did I miss your fave? Add your comments here!

1. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi from Kodansha Comics
© Naoko Takeuchi / KODANSHA LTD.

Author / Artist: Naoko Takeuchi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Volumes: 18

Usagi is a cheerful, sometimes scatterbrained teen who discovers that she (and her friends) are reincarnated warriors from Moon Kingdom who must save the world from the forces of darkness. With the help of two magical cats and her compatriots Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus (and many more Sailor Scouts who join the story later), Sailor Moon battles evil and discovers her ties to her past life may lead her to a future that she could have never imagined.

Credited as the series that introduced North American readers to the joys of shojo manga when it was first published by TokyoPop, Sailor Moon was out of print for many years, until Kodansha Comics began republishing new editions (with new translations) in mid-2011. Now a new generation of shojo manga fans (as well as older readers who fondly remember Sailor Moon from their younger days) can rediscover why they love this quintessential magical girl adventure series once more.

2. Fruits Basket

Cover artwork for Fruits Basket Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya
© Natsuki Takaya / TokyoPop

Author/Artist: Natsuki Takaya
Publisher: TokyoPop
Volumes: 23

Through a series of wacky circumstances, schoolgirl Tohru Honda takes up residence at the swank residence of the very wealthy, but very cursed Sohma family. Their magical burden? They turn into Chinese zodiac animals whenever they're hugged by a member of the opposite sex.

Fruits Basket starts off as a goofy romantic comedy, then develops into an emotional roller coaster that mixes humor, fantasy, profoundly emotional romance and family drama for an addictive mix that has made it the best-selling shojo manga title in America. It's one of those classic shojo stories that should always be in print -- so hopefully another publisher will pick this series up someday if/when the existing copies of the TokyoPop edition ever become scarce.

3. Skip Beat!

Skip Beat! Volume 1 (3-in-1 Edition) by Yoshiki Nakamura from Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
SkipBeat! © Yoshiki Nakamura 2002/HAKUSENSHA, Inc.

Author/Artist: Yoshiki Nakamura
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
Volumes: 26 (continuing)

Plain Jane Kyoko Mogami moves to Tokyo with her childhood friend (and lifelong crush) Sho Fuwa, who is pursuing his dream of becoming a rock star. To support Sho, Kyoko quits school and works at several part-time jobs. But her illusions of romance are shattered when she discovers that Sho sees her only as a servant, not a girlfriend. Now burning with anger, Kyoko vows to get her revenge. Her plan? To enter the world of show business and become an even bigger star than Sho.

Skip Beat! has one of the strangest heroines in shojo manga today. After having her heart broken by Sho, Kyoko is positively allergic to the thought of romance -- even when suave superstar actor Ren Tsuruga shows an interest in her. She takes on acting challenges with a passion that borders on obsession. She believes in fairies and has a pack of 'grudge' demons who pop out to give her advice.

So why do I love Skip Beat so much? Maybe because it's got a quirky mix of humor, glamour and romance that's unlike any other shojo manga out there today. Sure, she's weird, but Kyoko's got a knack for pulling out a win even when the odds are against her. A strangely addictive and consistently fun read that keeps me entertained with every volume.

4. Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play

Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play Volume 1 by Yuu Watase from VIZ Big / VIZ Media
© Yuu WATASE / Shogakukan Inc.

Author/Artist: Yuu Watase
Publisher:: Shojo Beat / VIZ Big / VIZ Media
Volumes: 18 / VIZ Big omnibus editions: 6

Modern middle school pals Miaka and Yui stumble upon a mysterious book at the library that whisks them back in time to feudal China. Once the best of friends, Miaka and Yui become rival priestesses who must lead two groups of magical (male) warriors in quest to control the kingdom.

Fushigi Yugi is a classic example of 'harem manga', which features a heroine surrounded by an array of hunky hunks who (usually) want to be more than just friends. What sets Fushigi Yugi apart from the rest is its mix of epic romance and graphic life-and-death plot twists interspersed with moments of slapstick humor to keep it from getting waaay too heavy. It's a sprawling story that can try your patience at times, but it's hard to deny that it's one of the best fantasy shojo stories ever written.

5. Nana

Nana Volume 1 by Ai Yazawa from Shojo Beat Manga / VIZ Media
© 1999 by Yazawa Manga Seisakusho / SHUEISHA Inc.

Author/Artist: Ai Yazawa
Publisher: Shojo Beat/ VIZ Media
Volumes: 21 (continuing)

Two very different young women named Nana move to Tokyo, hoping to fulfill their dreams. Nana Komatsu has been unlucky in love, so she wants to get a fresh start (and maybe a new boyfriend) in the big city. Nana Osaki is a rock goddess-to-be who wants to hit the big time with her band. The unlikely pair meet on the train to Tokyo, and end up becoming roommates and fast friends.

As the years go by, Nana O. fulfills her rock and roll dreams, and Nana K. does find someone to love -- but it all comes at a steep price. Will their friendship survive the many ups and downs that fame and fortune brings to them?

Nana is a beautifully-drawn series that is filled with heartfelt drama, big city glamor, fabulous fashion, rock and roll sass and many unexpected twists. It's the kind of shojo series that sucks you in and won't let you go, volume after volume.

6. Vampire Knight

Vampire Knight Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino, published by Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
© Matsuri Hino

Author/Artist: Matsuri Hino
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
Volumes: 15 (continuing)

When she was a child, Yuki Cross was attacked by a vampire, and saved by another vampire. Now a teenage girl, Yuki attends Cross Academy, a school that has a unique feature: the day classes are attended by humans, while the night classes are for vampires. As the daughter of the school headmaster, Yuki exists between both worlds, and soon enough discovers that she has stronger ties to the world of the night than she thinks.

Vampire Knight mixes up two classic shojo manga themes: high school romance and gothic / vampire drama. Gorgeous artwork, loads of byzantine twists, and drop-dead hunky guys with more than a hint of sexual tension make this a favorite for readers who love romance with a dark side.

7. Kitchen Princess

Kitchen Princess Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi from Del Rey Manga
© Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi / KODANSHA LTD. All rights reserved.

Author: Miyuki Kobayashi
Artist: Natsumi Ando
Publisher: Del Rey Manga / Kodansha Comics
Volumes: 10

Najika is a sweet and kind teen who loves to cook. Even though both of her parents died when she was young, and she has spent some of her childhood in an orphanage, Najika is always helpful, always cheerful. Both of her parents were pastry chefs, but the one event that truly awakened her love of cooking was when she met her 'flan prince,' a boy who saved her from falling into the river and gave her a delicious cup of flan custard with a silver spoon embossed with the logo of Seika Academy. So when Najika gets a scholarship to attend Seika Academy, she wonders if she'll be reunited with her prince. To her surprise, she meets two boys who just might be her prince: Sora and Daiichi.

Kitchen Princess starts off as sweet as the treats that Najika whips up in her kitchen, but as it progresses, the drama, romance and surprises get ramped up to keep readers enthralled until the very last page. A nice added touch: Najika also shares recipes with readers so they too can re-create some of her culinary magic at home.

8. Card Captor Sakura

Card Captor Sakura Volume 1 by CLAMP, published by Dark Horse Manga
© CLAMP

Author/Artist: CLAMP
Publisher: Dark Horse
Volumes: 12 / DH Omnibus editions: 4

While poking through her father's library, Sakura Kinomoto finds a mysterious book. She discovers much too late that it is a magical book, made by a wizard, and that by opening the book, she has unleashed an array of mystical creatures upon the world. It's now up to Sakura to find these creatures and return them to the magical cards where they belong.

Unlike CLAMP's other series like X or xxxHolic, Card Captor Sakura was created with younger readers in mind. Even so, CLAMP doesn't talk down to their readers and gives them an exciting, heartfelt adventure series that is considered one of the best 'magical girl' series ever created.

CLAMP fans will find this to be a fascinating companion to Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, which also features an older Sakura and Syaoran in very different adventures.

9. Emma

Emma Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori, published by CMX Manga / Enterbrain Inc.
© Kaoru Mori / Enterbrain, Inc.

Author & Artist: Kaoru Mori
Publisher: CMX Manga
Volumes: 10

Set in Victorian England, Emma is a historical manga centered around the intertwined lives of a maid and a wealthy aristocrat. The strict hierarchical rules of English society forbid their relationship, but they can't stop this star-crossed couple from falling in love.

Meticulously-researched for historical accuracy, Mori sets the mood beautifully and tastefully. There are lovely wordless moments, stolen glances and subtle smiles that reveal her characters inner lives more effectively than any narration or dialogue ever could.

CMX Manga closed their doors in mid-2010, which means that finding a complete set of Emma might be challenging -- but trust me, if you love Jane Austen, period romances, and just darn good manga, it's well worth the effort.

10. Hot Gimmick

Hot Gimmick VIZ Big Volume 1 by Miki Aihara from Shojo Beat Manga / VIZ Media
© Miki AIHARA / Shogakukan Inc.

Author/Artist: Miki Aihara
Publisher: VIZ Media / VIZ Big
Volumes: 12 (Shojo Beat editions) / 4 (VIZ Big omnibus editions)

Poor Hatsumi. After being caught buying a home pregnancy kit for her younger sister, she's forced into a master-slave relationship with Ryouki, the wealthy and arrogant son of her father's boss. In Hot Gimmick, creator Miki Aihara weaves a complex web of secret loves and deep grudges across two generations living in a corporate housing complex.

Some readers may find the dysfunctional relationships in Hot Gimmick hard to stomach. Others might object to its somewhat saucy scenes. You might love it, you might hate it, but Hot Gimmick is pure shojo manga crack that you should read at least once to get why it's so influential and so controversial.

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