I am a self-professed shoujo addict! While mostly aimed towards a young female demographic, there are so many great shoujo anime for beginners and first-timers out there.
With so many titles out there that date all the way back to the 1970s, shoujo is almost as intimidating as shonen in terms of what is available to sample.
Rich doesn’t begin to describe the swath of titles available in the world of shoujo anime; from magical girls to sweet and heartbreaking first loves, this genre appeals to the softer side that many of us keep hidden deep inside ourselves.
With a twinkle in my eye, however, I’m here to help guide you and help you find your footing in this often heartbreaking genre.
What Kind of Anime is Shoujo?
Shoujo anime are shows that are designed to appeal to a teenage female audience.
Shoujo, also spelt shōjo (or 少女 in Japanese kanji), literally translates to 'young woman'. The term is mainly used to refer to types of manga, which are often published in demographic-specific magazines such as Shojo Beat.
It's important to stress that shojou anime can cover a wide range of topics and settings. However, there are a few common points in most shoujo series.
The majority of shoujo anime will feature a female teenager as the protagonist or deuteragonist. Romance tends to play a key part in shoujo stories, while subtle emotions will often be given more focus and importance, especially in comparison to shonen anime.
Snow White with the Red Hair
Snow White with the Red Hair is a perfect example of an anime fairy tale. Another one that started as a manga, this series aired in a split cour format; starting in July 2015 and ending in March 2016.
In this series, the main character is an herbalist living in the kingdom of Tanbarun. Her name is Shirayuki, and she has beautiful red hair which catches the eye of the kingdom’s prince, Raj. Raj demands that Shirayuki present herself to him in order to become his official concubine. Flat refusing, she runs away in the middle of the night to the neighboring kingdom of Clarines where she meets Prince Zen and strikes up a friendship with him. Over the next 24 episodes, Shirayuki will encounter hardships in her personal and professional life, but that doesn’t stop her from her quest to become an official court herbalist.
Fruits Basket (2019)
Now is the absolute best time to get in on the Fruits Basket anime! The original anime adaptation of this series aired in 2001 and is a very good series, but after seeing the 2019 remake, I can’t imagine ever going back to the original.
The story of Fruits Basket involves a high school girl named Tohru who is kind of an airhead, but she’s a well-intentioned airhead so it ends up being ok. In the beginning of the story, Tohru is living in a tent out in a forest due to problems at home that forced her to have to temporarily relocate. When she is discovered by Shigure and Yuki Sohma, she learns that she’s actually been camping on their property. After learning of her situation, they invite her to stay with them but complications arise when she learns the secret of their family; they’re cursed and turn into animals from the Chinese zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite gender!
Fruits Basket is a treasured classic of the shoujo genre for a reason. It has endured over the years and still stands proud as a landmark series, and the latest remake has only solidified that for so many fans around the world.
Ouran High School Host Club
What makes the 2006 romantic comedy Ouran HighSchool Host Club so wonderfully special is how well it makes fun of its own genre while still belonging to that very genre. Ouran HighSchool Host Club deftly walks the line between parody and heartfelt tribute with ease from episode to episode. Over 26 episodes, it tells a fantastic origin story about each character in the cast while throwing in the occasional side character for giggles.
What makes this series even better is how inclusion-friendly it is with a genderfluid main heroine and a cross-dressing father; neither of which are ever treated as “weird” by any of the other characters.
In this series, the setting is an elite private high school called Ouran Academy, which is almost entirely made up of the sons and daughters of the super-rich upper class. I say almost because one student, Haruhi Fujioka, is a commoner who earned a full scholarship to the school as an honor student. One day while looking for a quiet place to study, Haruhi finds the school’s host club and, in a bizarre series of events, is forced to join the club in order to repay a debt.
The first entry on the list that skews more heavily towards traditional shoujo tropes, Kamisama Kiss, is a wonderful example of a classic shoujo. With the first season airing in 2012, the series establishes a strong story and beautiful characters (particularly Tomoe) while the second season, which aired in 2015, told a much longer story that lasted pretty much the whole cour.
In this series, the main character is Nanami Momozono who is left on her own one night after her father runs off, leaving her with a massive debt. While hanging out in a park one night with all her stuff in a bag, she meets a man who is being “harassed” by a small dog. After chasing the dog away, the man thanks her by kissing her forehead and giving her an address. When she gets to that address she learns that it’s a shrine and they have blessed her with the powers of a land god which comes with its own surly yokai familiar.
Another example of a shoujo with a strong female lead, this series produced by J.C. Staff was my first personal favorite series of the last decade and it still holds strong to this day thanks to its powerful cast of characters and the tragic way that it ends without ever getting a second season due to low home video sales in Japan.
Running for a full 26 episodes back in 2010, Maid Sama features a female lead who isn’t interested in taking anyone’s crap. After her family is left in debt by her father, Misaki is forced to change her life plans around. Enrolling at a formerly all male school, she works her way up to student council president and vows to make the school into a place where the female students can feel safe and welcome. At least during the day at least. In the evenings to help pay the household bills, she works in a maid cafe. She’s able to keep her double life a secret for a while but when the most popular boy at her school, Usui Takumi, learns of her secret they start to form a bond over it.
Another story of a jilted woman vowing revenge in the most epic way possible! Originally airing between 2008 and 2009, this is a series all about striking out on your own and finding your own identity after living for someone else for so long.
Produced by Hal Film Maker, the main character in this series is Kyoko Mogami. When we first meet her, she is working multiple jobs in order to afford her luxury apartment. What no one realizes is that she’s doing this so that she can support her childhood friend Shotaro while he is attempting to become an idol. What she doesn’t know until it’s almost too late is that he has no real interest in her and has been using her the entire time to live his lifestyle. Vowing revenge, Kyoko joins a rival agency to become a bigger star than Shotaro could ever dream of being!
My Love Story!!
Another traditional story about first love, this sweet romance from famed studio Madhouse has quickly become a beloved modern classic. What’s unique about this series is that not only is the lead character a guy, but he’s about as far from a bishounen as you can get!
In this series, the main character is a big, burly, athletic guy named Takeo Goda who desperately wants a girlfriend. The only problem is that every time he likes a girl, they are only interested in his best friend, the dashingly handsome Makoto Sunakawa. Now in high school, Takeo rescues a girl named Rinko Yamato from a train groper and the pair becomes a couple.
My Roommate is a Cat
Another non-traditional shoujo, this is also the most recent entry on the list having aired in 2019. Produced by studio Zero-G, this is a story about finding forgiveness after it’s too late to seek it out and a story of bonding between a man and his cat.
In this series, the main character is an adult man named Subaru Mikazuki who, while visiting his parents grave, crosses paths with a stray cat. Seeing how hungry the cat is, he takes it home and begins the process of bonding with the animal despite having never had a pet before. What makes this story so unique is that most of the episodes tell the story from multiple perspectives, Subaru’s perspective but also his cat, Haru.
The Wallflower is another non-traditional shoujo with a powerful message of learning to love and accept yourself for you who are without compromise. Produced by Nippon Animation and airing in 2006, The Wallflower might not be the most popular or well known title on this list but it deserves all the attention it can get thus its inclusion here.
The Wallflower takes place in a mansion which has four beautiful teenage boys living there. Their landlady is an eccentrically wealthy young woman who makes them a deal; if they can turn her niece into a proper young lady, they’ll be able to live in that mansion for free. However, if they fail their rent will be tripled. Taking on the challenge, the boys accept only to discover that the niece in question is Sunako Nakahara, a gothic, horror movie loving, blood and splatter freak.
Yona of the Dawn
One aspect of shoujo anime that I love is how often they are led by characters who, after facing some hardships, learn to buckle down and kick ass with the best of them and Yona from Yona of the Dawn fits that description perfectly! Originally a manga, this series started airing in October 2014 and ran for 24 episodes. Sadly, it never got the richly deserved second season that fans have been craving ever since (which you might notice is a trend with a lot of the entries on this list).
In this series, the main character is a princess named Yona who is in love with her cousin and is best friends with her bodyguard that she’s known since she was young. After witnessing the murder of her father, the king, at the hands of her cousin, she is forced to run away and hide her beautiful red hair. Now she’s on a quest to reunite the four Dragon warriors of myth and legend in order to take back her kingdom from the hands of her evil cousin, Su-Won.
It’s currently available on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.