Negar Aug 12, 2017
This genre of shoujo manga in North America is the one that tends to struggle the most. There’s no supernatural powers, or vampires, and there are no fantasy elements. There are just really emotional stories that tug at the heart strings. We’ve gotten a few of these series in the past, and some are still currently ongoing due to popularity in Japan. In Japan, these series are the most common, actually. So if we want to get more of them over here in the West, we really need to support the genre by collecting the ones we have.
These are the best high school drama manga that we have in North America:
Bokura ga Ita ran in Betsucomi from 2002-2012. It was publish in North America as We Were There by Shojo Beat from 2009-2013. It received an anime and a 2 part live action movie.
Synopsis from Publisher: Nanami Takahashi falls for Motoharu Yano, the most popular, carefree boy in class. For Nanami, it’s first love, but Yano is still grieving the death of his girlfriend who died the year before. Nanami starts high school with high hopes of making lots of friends. She develops a crush on the enigmatic Yano, but he may have too many secrets for her to handle. At that time……I didn’t fully understand what Yano meant.
We Were There will make you laugh and cry as you watch Nanami and Yano grow from teens to young adults. It’s one of the best dramas we have in English to date.
Strobe Edge was published in Bessatsu Margaret (Betsuma) magazine from 2007-2010. It was published by Shojo Beat in North America from 2012-2014.The Young Adult Library Services of America chose it as one of the 2014 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens. It received a live action movie in 2015 in Japan.
Synopsis from publisher: Ninako’s friend Daiki throws her for a loop when he expresses romantic interest in her. She cares for him, but can she return his feelings? As she tries to sort out her confusion, Ninako realizes that there are many different facets of love—strange and wonderful sides…
Strobe Edge is the only Io Sakisaka series we’ve gotten in NA. Sakisaka-sama is known for her beautiful art and emotional stories in Japan. This series is wonderful and a must collect for drama fans.
Kimi ni Todoke started in Betsuma magazine in 2006 and is still ongoing. Ten years later we are currently at volume 27 in Japan. Viz’s Shojo Beat began publishing this series in 2009 and we are currently at volume 25. The series has had 2 anime seasons and a live action film in Japan.
Synopsis of series:
There’s a reason that they have dragged this series out in Japan. Readers don’t want it to end!! It’s that good. This manga has some of my favorite emotional scenes ever in it. Shiina-sama does a wonderful job of developing not only the main couple but the other characters’ relationships as well. I realize it’s long, but I promise you will want to read it over and over again.
Sunadokei ran in Betsucomi magazine from 2003-2006. It was published as Sand Chronicles by Shojo Beat in North America from 2007-2011. It received a television drama series and a live action movie in Japan.
Synopsis from publisher: After her parents get divorced, Ann Uekusa and her mother move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. Accustomed to the anonymity of city living, Ann can’t get used to the almost overbearing kindness of the people in her mother’s hometown. But when personal tragedy strikes, Ann discovers how much she needs that kindness.
Sand Chronicles is another series that uses flashback and flash-forward to tell a story that covers many years. It’s a coming of age story that is beautiful and heart-breaking to read. At ten volumes it is a must-read for drama fans.
Dengeki Daisy ran in Betsucomi magazine from 2007-2014. It was published by Shojo Beat in North America from 2010-2015. Why this hasn’t been made into a live action is beyond me! It would make a great action show.
Synopsis from publisher: After orphan Teru Kurebayashi loses her beloved older brother, she finds solace in the messages she exchanges with DAISY, an enigmatic figure who can only be reached through the cell phone her brother left her. Meanwhile, mysterious Tasuku Kurosaki always seems to be around whenever Teru needs help. Could DAISY be a lot closer than Teru thinks? One day at school, Teru accidentally breaks a window and agrees to pay for it by helping Kurosaki with chores around school. Kurosaki is an impossible taskmaster though, and he also seems to be hiding something important from Teru…
This one skirts the boundaries of high school drama. It’s in the high school setting but it is more of an espionage/mystery type story. Motomi-sama’s characters are some of my favorite and this couple is the best OTP. At 16 volumes, you must read it!
Suki-tte ii na yo started publishing in Dessert magazine in 2008 and is still ongoing. Kodansha USA started publishing it as Say I Love You in North America in 2014 and it is still ongoing. The series has had an anime and a live action movie.
Synopsis from publisher: Mei Tachibana has no friends—and she doesn’t need them! Ever since her “friends” betrayed her in elementary school, she’s sworn off friendship entirely. All it leads to is betrayal and heartbreak, and she’s well enough on her own. But everything changes when she accidentally roundhouse kicks the most popular boy in school! However, Yamato Kurosawa isn’t angry in the slightest— in fact, he thinks his ordinary life could use an unusual girl like Mei! He won’t take no for an answer, and soon Mei and Yamato embark on an unwanted friendship that will change both of them forever.
Fukumenkei Noise started publishing in Hana to Yume magazine in 2013 and is still ongoing. Shojo Beat started publishing it as Anonymous Noise in North America this month! The series has an anime premiering this spring and a live action movie coming later this year.
Synopsis from publisher: Nino Arisugawa, a girl who loves to sing, experiences her first heart-wrenching goodbye when her beloved childhood friend, Momo, moves away. And after Nino befriends Yuzu, a music composer, she experiences another sad parting! Both boys promised Nino that they would find her one day through her singing, so she holds on to that hope and continues to reach out with her voice. Now in high school, Nino serendipitously reunites with Yuzu, but she yearns to see Momo again…
This one starts this month so be sure to grab this series and get started before the anime debuts!
Hana Yori Dango started publishing in Margaret magazine in 1992 and finally finished in 2003. For many years, it was the longest running and best-selling shoujo manga in Japan. Viz media first published it as Boys Over Flowers in North America in 2003. It also got a digital release recently since print copies have been harder to find. The series has had an anime and a many live action movie and drama adaptions.
Synopsis from publisher: Tsukushi Makino is accepted into the prestigious, Eitoku Academy. Life changes dramatically for Tsukushi when her friend falls on Tsukasa Domyoji. Tsukasa is the explosive leader of the “F4,” a group of the most powerful, rich and handsome boys. Domyoji refuses to accept Makiko’s apology and Tsukushi steps in to protect her friend. A red tag appears in the Tsukushi’s locker the next morning which is a sign from the F4 that she is to be bullied by the school. Tskushi continues to stand up to her oppressors.
Long running shoujo manga, Boys Over Flowers is a favorite among collectors for its amount of drama and romance.
LDK started publishing in Bessatsu Friend magazine in 2009 and is still ongoing. Kodansha USA started publishing LDK in North America in 2015 and it is still ongoing. The series had a live action movie made in 2014.
Synopsis from publisher: Aoi Nishimori is a high school girl who lives alone in her own apartment, but to her surprise, she discovers that the prince of her school, Shusei Kugayama, has moved in next door! To add to this, a series of crazy happenings result in the two living together under a single roof! Shusei is known to be a heartless guy and Aoi particularly hates him after he coldly rejected her best friend, so a life of cohabitation seems like a recipe for disaster. And yet, Aoi somehow can’t stop her heart from pounding when she’s with Shusei…
This one starts out slow, but gets better as it goes. Make sure to check it out for your collection.
More Difficult to Find Titles but Very Good!:
Mars was originally published in Bessatsu Friend magazine from 1996-2000. Tokyopop published it as MARS in North America from 2002-2003. It is now considered out of print. The series has had two live action dramas, with the most recent running in 2016 and concluding with a live action movie.
Synopsis from publisher: Kira and Rei might as well be from different planets. She’s a shy art student, afraid of boys and hated by her classmates. He’s a rebellious motorcycle racer with girls dropping left and right just to talk to him. Their lives become intertwined when Kira asks Rei to model for her and, to everyone’s surprise, he agrees. As these two battle their personal demons and the pressures of their classmates, they learn to not only love each other, but themselves.
This series by Soryo came out a long time ago, but copies can still be found for a pretty cheap price. It’s a great drama/romance and definitely worth the read!
Marmalade Boy was originally published in Ribon magazine from 1992-1995. Tokyopop published it in North America from 2002-2003. It is now considered out of print. The series has had a live action drama, an anime, and a video game.
Synopsis from publisher: All Miki Koishikawa wanted was an ordinary family…and that’s exactly what she had. Then one fateful day her parents met the Matsuuras, and turned Miki’s world upside down. Now she lives in a house with four parents and her new stepbrother, Yuu, who is a total jerk…make that a totally cute jerk. It’s bad enough being brought into her parents’ strange soap opera, but Miki will star in a soap of her own when she ends up torn between her long-time crush, Ginta, and her new stepbrother.
This is one of the most under-appreciated series that got published in North America. It is well-loved in Japan and inspired highly published mangaka in North America like Arina Tanemura. If you haven’t read this series, you are missing a great piece of shoujo history.
Kare Kano was originally published in LaLa magazine from 1996-2005. Tokyopop published it in North America from 2003-2007. It is now considered out of print. The series has a notorious anime adaptation.
Synopsis from publisher: Yukino Miyazawa is the perfect model student. Pretty, kind, good at sports, always at the top of her class. But she’s not all she seems. It’s all an act of deception; she is really the self-confessed “queen of vanity,” and her only goal in life is winning the praise and admiration of everyone around her. When she enters high school, she finally meets her match: Soichiro Arima, a handsome, athletic, popular, and very intelligent young boy. Ever since he stole the top seat in the class from her, Yukino has hated him, and has been plotting on how to take back her former place as the object of all other students’ admiration. What she wasn’t expecting, however, was that Soichiro, the very boy she hated, would confess his love for her. She also didn’t expect that he would find out about her deception – and use it to blackmail her! Together, they discover that they have more in common than they knew, and they promise each other that they’ll stop pretending to be perfect, and just be their true selves.
This was my gateway into manga, and has a great beginning. I highly recommend the volumes that encompass the anime series, which include 1-6.