A good thing you can say about scanlation communities is that they have the ability to cater incredible series to foreign readers that official licensing companies just don’t have the resources to distribute. I can’t count how many quality series I’ve seen floating around the Internet that will probably never be picked up by English publishing companies.
So here are some quality shojo titles that may never see American bookshelves, but will certainly make your day a little sweeter.
Below are my personal top 5 as well as a recommendation for a similar mainstream title for each series.
5. LAST GAME (Amano Shinobu)
This series has only been out for a little while, but it’s becoming a hit in Japan for good reason. LAST GAME is about a perfectionist rich boy and a plain girl from a single-parent family. At first he sees her as a rival who keeps beating him in school and in sports, but his feelings eventually turn into affection; although, she is so focused and serious that she’s unable to notice his feelings.
The series starts out with one-shots about their elementary school and high school years, and then the serialization continues with their college years, where he asks her to play one last game: a game to figure out her true feelings for him. It’s very funny, the artwork is nice and clean, and it has a gradually growing cast of interesting characters, especially the main pair. It’s also nice to see a legitimately good series about a boy chasing a girl.
If you like Special A, you might like LAST GAME.
4. Seishun Kouryakuhon (Akizuki Sorata)
I had the poor foresight to start reading this series shortly before graduating high school so it struck a deep emotional chord with me. Seishun Kouryakuhon follows four high school boys as they experience the remnants of their high school days. It focuses on each boy and in turn depicts their lives, their relationships, and their unique personalities.
Unlike many shojo series, it has an essence about it thanks to the focus on the boys’ friendships. It’s short and it has a simple premise, but the stories are so heartwarming and funny that you will wish you were either back in school or that you never have to leave.
If you like the anime Kimi to Boku, you’ll definitely like Seishun Kouryakuhon.
3. Oboreru Knife (George Asakura)
A picturesque coming of age story of a young teen model who moves to the country and comes across a dangerous boy in her class. It sounds like the typical pretty girl meets bad boy story, but it has an incredible amount of depth and it tackles serious teen issues and a few mature themes, regardless of the fact that neither of the protagonists act anything like their proper age. What really sets the series apart is George Asakura’s unique art style that focuses not just on pretty shots of the characters, but on scenery and atmosphere that gives the story a dark and serious feel to it.
If you liked Kodomo no Omocha or (known in the US as Kodocha), you might like Oboreru Knife.
2. Ao Haru Ride (Sakisaka Io)
This series is gradually becoming more well-known and will probably be picked up by American publishers if they have any sense. It’s a school-life rom-com about a girl who reunites with her first love in high school after he had moved away in elementary school before fulfilling a promise he had made with her.
From the main relationship to the side characters, Ao Haru Ride does some of the best storytelling I’ve ever read. The characters have normal problems that anyone can relate to but are still interesting that you’d want to read about them. This is the first time I have ever seen any series where the female protagonist and her best friend are both crushing on the same guy at the same time, calmly discuss their feelings, and maintain their friendship with a sense of healthy romantic rivalry in which they both inspire each other to do their best. It actually breaks one of the most overdone romance tropes in any media form with a satisfying and interesting resolution.
Granted, it has enough of those frustrating shojo qualities such as miscommunication and over-thinking simple ideas, but they are resolved normally and without any of that cheesy melodrama that makes you want to rip your hair out of your skull. It’s sincerely funny and heartwarming with a storyline that turns real life into a story anyone would enjoy reading.
If you like Kimi ni Todoke, you might like Ao Haru Ride.
1. Tokyo Crazy Paradise (Nakamura Yoshiki)
From the famed author of the popular Skip Beat! comes her lesser known but surprisingly lengthy series set in a futuristic Japan where crime is rampant and the mafia rules. Women are especially targets, and because of this the heroine, Tsukasa, a policeman’s daughter, cross-dresses and works as a bodyguard for her classmate Ryuji, who also happens to be the leader of Japan’s strongest yakuza group.
This isn’t your typical yakuza bodyguard story. Tokyo Crazy Paradise is the best of both worlds with silly romantic humor and some pretty serious themes and action sequences. The character of Tsukasa breaks female stereotypes with every action, but grows to accept her femininity and her romantic inclinations but never lets it be her weakness and continues to dropkick all of her enemies. Once you get past the huge unbelievability factor that the main characters are 14 years old, the story really takes off as it delves into the futuristic society and the inner workings of the yakuza. There’s more than enough action and fanservice to tempt any shonen lover and plenty of romance for shojo readers.
If you like Wild Ones, you might like Tokyo Crazy Paradise.