Shoujo: The other major genre of anime that needs to be addressed is Shoujo. Aimed traditionally at girls, Shoujo works tend to focus on relationships and romance rather than friendship and fighting, and center female characters more prominently than Shonen. Like Shonen though, Shoujo is a vast and intricate genre with many sub-elements and can easily seem overwhelming to someone new to anime. This exciting finale is here to hopefully shed some light on some extremely important Shoujo anime series that have had a major impact on the genre.
- The Rose of Versailles: While not the first major Shoujo anime series (the first is often credited as Tezuka’s Princess Knight) The Rose of Versailles provided the blue print for all Shoujo series to follow it. Starring Oscar a woman raised as a man by her father who was seeking a male heir, The Rose of Versailles follows her relationship serving the future queen of France before the revolution. This tragic story of love, loss and political intrigue proved that Shoujo was an important genre of anime and had a major impact in how women were portrayed within Japanese media. It was one of the first anime shows to ever center and focus on women’s experiences and perspective, and remains one of the best anime series with a focus on female characters. Despite being released in 1979 this series continues to hold up as land mark in Shoujo history and a wonderful anime.
- Fushigi Yuugi: Fushigi Yuugi is a wonderful Shoujo series taking place in a fantasy book historical setting. Fushigi Yuugi is the story of two friends Miaka and Yui who get transported into a storybook version of Ancient China where they must bring together warriors. What is so endearing about this series is that the main character Miaka is flawed which makes her relatable. Similar to Usagi the lead character in Sailor Moon, Miaka is naïve, bad at school, and loves food, but also like Usagi she has a huge heart and is trying to help others which makes her an appealing lead character. This reserve harem anime (an anime with a woman surrounded by attractive men) also stands out because of its use of a creative setting, something not found in most anime series. The story also contains a number of strong characters with complex feelings and goals that have to be brought together, which makes the story exciting.
- His and Her Circumstances: His and Her Circumstances focuses on jealousy and hate turned to love. The series follows Yukino a high schooler who is putting on façade. While school Yukino appears perfect, beautiful, modest, and intelligent. Her world is turned upside down though when the new male transfer student Arima starts to take away her attention, and finds out that at home she is actually frumpy, egotistical, and works tirelessly. This starts to create a love/hate relationship as the two compete against each other, and are forced to spend time together. This is an especially interesting series, because of how much it breaks mold of high school romances with the characters forced to go through major changes, and at times being far from nice or perfect.
- CLAMP works: It’s impossible to talk about Shoujo anime without talking about the works created by the all-women’s manga team CLAMP. CLAMP has changed both Shoujo manga and anime extensively, so much so that just mentioning a single series would be difficult. With their release of amazing Shoujo classics such as Magic Knight Rayearth, XXX holic, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, Card Captor Sakura, and Angelic Layer (just to name a few), I found it impossible to choose just one. CLAMP’s series often also emphasize genre mixing it, and have helped Shoujo diversify. In a CLAMP based anime series you can always count on creativity, and well developed characters and designs.
- Ouran Highschool Host Club: Ouran Highschool Host Club is often cited as one of the funniest deconstructions of the Shoujo genre. When biologically female, but androgynous looking middle class student Haruhi accidently breaks a vase in the wealthy academy she has a scholarship for she is forced to repay her debt by crossdresser and work as a host (a male who entertains women) in order to pay off her debt. The comedy often comes at the contrast between characters, especially the wealthy and attractive, but egotistical, romanticized and wacky wealthy other members of the host club, and Haruhi’s down to earth and sarcastic personality. The series gets a lot of mileage out of Haruhi’s annoyed reactions as she has to deal with the club member’s strange personalities, particularly the clubs super egotistical and goofy pretty boy Tamaki who falls for her. Ouran Highschool Host Club a great choice for those interested in the mixing of great comedy with some drama.
- Lovely Complex- Lovely Complex is a series based on contrasts and playing with expectations. It focuses on the tall teenage girl Koizumi Risa and short male protagonist Ootani Atsushi as they struggle to get along, deal with their differences and eventually find love. While the two contrasts each other, both share the desire to be loved and strong personalities. This series features a great balance of comedy and romance, and also is one of the few Shoujo series to include a transgender character. For those looking for a cute high school romance anime, this is one of the best choices.
- Natsume’s Book of Friends- Natsume Book of Friends is one of the most unique shoujo series. It focuses on Natsume who can see and interact with spirits most other people can’t. When he ends up coming upon a book of captured spirit names written by his grandmother when she was young, Natsume tasks himself with returning the names to spirits and releasing them from the books power with the help of powerful cat spirit Nyanko sensei. Many spirits however, seek the power the book bestows to control others and hold a grudge against Natsume’s grandmother. Natsume Book of Friend focuses a lot on the relationships between humans and spirits, and Natsume’s quest to help spirits out. Its unique lack of a major romance, long developed format and the focus on relationships between Natsume and spirits makes this series a very unique Shoujo series.
- Skip Beat- Skip Beat is a rare Shoujo series focused on revenge. After finding out that her friend and popular idol Shou is unappreciative of her hard work maintaining his life and only sees her as a tool, Kyouko vows revenge against him by becoming more famous than he is. The problem is that despite making changes to her appearance, Kyouko initially lacks a talent and develops a scary attitude unsuited for being a celebrity. She is given a chance, however by the talent agency head to learn and make her debut as a star, on the condition that she can assist people and earn enough points based her work to graduate. Kyouko often ends up clashing with the companies’ top idol Ren, who is extremely serious about his work and stoic. This clashing leads down a path of future development for all the characters involved, and forces Kyouko to come face to face with her inner feelings making it a great example of character development.
- My Love Story: My Love Story is all about the fact that love can bloom for anyone. This series focuses on a large and intimating, but kind heart teen Takeo, and his loyal and handsome, but stoic friend Makoto. When Takeo helps to protect high school girl Rinko on a train, she falls for him and begins cooking for him and his friend. Takeo at first mistakenly believes she loves his friend and tries to help them both, despite also having a crush on her. This series is very sweet, and a great example of not judging someone by appearances alone.
- Orange: Orange takes a very unusual and interesting premise. High school sophomore Naho begins to receive letters from her future self, warning her about Kakeru, a classmate who has passed away in the future. Naho is determining to save Kakeru and live without regret by trying to follow her future self’s advice. This series tackles complex themes, characters, and relationships, and shows how expansive Shoujo can be. Orange also addresses the topic depression and what it takes to save a friend in a very real way. It’s a very thought provoking series, that does a great job moving beyond a simple Highschool love story and is one of the most original new Shoujo series.