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I have been reading manga since about last October. I realize that's less than a year, but I can read a lot of stuff in that time. And I have been working on four series faithfully (SDK, Saiyuki, Vagabond, and Death Note) and am starting another (Blade of the Immortal). (I will not count Basilisk because IMO, it sucks.)

And I thought to myself, y'know, Cho, these are all shounen manga.

The trouble is, I'm not real girly, so I need some help here ...

To give you some idea of the issue: I read science fiction and fantasy, and I don't like squishy fantasy with sweet widdle unicorns either (P.C. Hodgell and Tanith Lee both have some real kick-ass unicorns). I used to practice martial arts (Aikido, and Uechi Ryu karate, if anyone's keeping track). I'm not scared of bugs, spiders, or snakes. I code HTML by hand. I don't wear lacy stuff and ruffles, and the makeup and perfume get used maybe half a dozen times per year. You get the picture ... .

But I hate being at a loss when people are talking about use of frames (or no frames) or backgrounds or whatever as being "typical of shoujo manga." I need to get educated!

So I would very, very much appreciate some recommendations for classic shoujo manga that will make me understand what folks are talking about, and preferably not send me screaming for the hills, dying of pink/fluffy/cuteness/ruffles/sparkles.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!


( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
Fruits Basket, naturally. If you can get past the heroine's being a sweet, sappy doormat in the first volume and get interested in the incredibly broken people who surround her (she's got two very good non-doormat girl friends who show up early on), it's a great series.

CLAMP's xxxHolic and Clover (the second OOP) are the only CLAMP works I ahve not been allergic to. Clover has stunning graphic design, and tells the story out of chonological order. Complete in 4 volumes. xxxHolic has stylized art with touches of Art Nouveau and deals a lot with traditional Japanese folkloric creatures. You may want to slap the main character, though, as he's incredibly clueless and very brittle about that. These two series of CLAMP are less traditionally shoujo, however.

If you're into character, Ai Yazawa's Nana is very good.
May. 10th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)

Broken people are always good (... uh oh, wait, that doesn't sound right ...   o_O; ). And this is the second time that Clover has come up (Sanada mentioned it a while back). I wonder whether abebooks.com can come through for me on manga the way they have on SF&F and kid's books.

I like character in regular books ... and of course there's a fair amount of it in Saiyuki (and in SDK, surprisingly).

Thanks for the recs! I'll be running out to pick up the latest SDK in the next few days - I'll have to see what else the comics shop has.

May. 9th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
*points to her LJ*

Basara. Art's not much(thouh it gets markedly better), story is awesome and definately NOT "dying of pink/fluffy/cuteness/ruffles/sparkles." It's literally about 2 leaders in a war who fall in love while travelling in disguise(heroine's guise is actually reality-an orphan girl travelling from place to place, while her normal role is pretending to be her dead brother. hero's is essentially that of a travelling peddler.) It's not a "cleverly foiling the enemy in near bloodless coups so that it'll be easy for the lovers to team up against a greater evil and float off in a cloud of shojo sparkles" war. There's death, a lot of it, and they literally destroy each others lives. And...urm...my favorite manga.

"Wallflower" is quite fun and, in a lot of ways, it's a dark parody of the shojo sparkles and fluff books...it's about 4 bishounen(a playboy, an antisocial guy far too fond of fighting for his own good [who'd either get along far too well with Onime no Kyo or they'd try to kill each other, hard to judge which] a girly boy[sorry Yuki, but you are] and, of course, the serious one who's in charge of it all) who are promised free rent if they can turn the landlady's niece(an anti-social, horror-everything loving girl who watches movies so gory they're banned from Japan and causes lightbulbs to explode just by walking by and gets nosebleeds at the sight of pretty people) into a lady. Naturally, they figure out pretty quickly that it's a lost cause and, much as she freaks them out, they rather like her the way she is. It's a very odd sounding book, but excellent.


*starts rummaging*

There's Skip-Beat, about a girl who followed her boyfriend to Tokyo from their home town only to learn that he just wanted a housekeeper, and sets out to get her revenge(another one that's hard to describe, but it always cracks me up)

Also, very much not Shojo, but you might like Bleach. The character interactions sometimes make me think of the SDK characters.

I'll energetically second Fruits Basket...it does have a lot of the cutesy stuff you were talking about, but get a couple books into it and scratch the surface, and there's a lot of darkness there...it's essentually about an overly cheerful and innocent girl(who's regharded by such by the characters) who gets involved with a family with a dark curse and an extremely abusive head of the household, and she teaches many of the family members, who have essentially been beaten into believing they're worthless, that they do have worth and they start learning to take their lives back.(to avoid getting into it too much)

Y'know...I read a lot of shojo, but a lot of the times, the sparkles and such try MY patience...
May. 9th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
got sidetracked by FB. You might like Chika Shiomi's stuff: http://meganbmoore.livejournal.com/244640.html
(no subject) - chomiji - May. 10th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - May. 10th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - May. 11th, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - May. 11th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - May. 11th, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - May. 11th, 2007 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - May. 11th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - May. 22nd, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 9th, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)
I'm a big fan of Kaze Hikaru, personally. Also Hot Gimmick. Sick and twisted, yes, but SO INCREDIBLY GOOD THAT IT WILL MAKE YOUR EYES BLEED.

I would also recommend the Princess Tutu manga, but it's crap. Watch the anime instead--now that is some seriously kick-ass awesome girly shojo. I don't even watch anime anymore and I love it.
May. 10th, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)

Your Hot Gimmick rec made me smile - it's nice to see someone else who's not afraid to get VERY VERY ENTHUSIASTIC! I'll have to check it out (assuming they have it down at the store ... or failing that, at Borders, but I try to buy from the nice geeky people when I can).

The chances of me watching anything video are slim to none ... I'm so out of the habit, and I'd rather be reading or writing to folks online in my little bit of free time ... but you're not the only person I've heard mentioning Princess Tutu (it's the one with the duck, right?).

(no subject) - bad_mushroom - May. 10th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 10th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
Ahaha, I've got to admit that I hate most shoujo manga, but luckily "shoujo" is defined entirely by what kind of magazine the story was originally serialised in, not the content or art style... so there's a lot of variety. And in the US they sort of lump shoujo and josei manga together... they also make more of a differentiation between shoujo and light Boy's Love series here, while in Japan those are likely to run in the same magazines and be marketed as "shoujo" (harder Boy's Love is in separate magazines, though).

Paradise Kiss is one of my favorite josei manga, although the art style is very stylised and original and not really "typical" shoujo. But it's a short series and is worth reading - the protagonist is a normal girl who falls in with a bunch of art students and becomes their fashion model. She starts dating a gorgeous, confident design student guy immediately and feels way over her head when the relationship turns sexual and gets exponentially more complicated. I liked it because instead of the usual sappy, weepy romance, the love story aspect of Paradise Kiss is volatile, bittersweet and occasionally cruel.

If you can tell the characters in Fruits Basket apart, it's not that bad (except for one character that I simply despise). The heroine has eyes the size of dinner plates that can stare vacantly into the depths of your soul - doesn't get any more shoujo than that, hahaha. But I found myself either disliking or utterly disinterested in all of the main protagonists and all of the high school student council drama... the attraction for me was the big, dysfunctional family, which is the focus of the first half of the series as new relatives are introduced. Something about Fruits Basket is likable despite the cliches and the author's insistence on pairing up EVERYONE in a very predictable, J.K. Rowling sort of way. I tend to like Fruits Basket fanfic more than I like Fruits Basket itself.

I guess Petshop of Horrors is technically a josei manga because it runs in a josei mystery magazine and is stylistically shoujo, but there's no cutesy romance (although the mutal attraction between the loud, perverted cop and the snarky, effeminate pet store owner is deliciously gay and impossible to ignore.) The storyline is a series of connected episodes centering on exotic, supernatural pets that invariably turn on their abusive owners in messy ways - sounds formulaic, but the beautifully detailed art, the awkward relationship between the protagonists, and plenty of banter and amusing one-liners make it a fun read. There's also a decent amount of good fanfic of the series, which is a big plus.

I'm a CLAMP fan (although sometimes I don't know why, ahaha...) so there's quite a few series I could recommend - xxxHolic has incredible, unusual art and lots of references to Japanese mythology. Some people find the main character's high-strung personality to be annoying, but I think he's funny. Like CLAMP's other currently running series, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, xxxHolic is a crossover with every other CLAMP series - personally I find the crossover bits forced and irritating because it's hard for a series like that to stand alone, but thankfully it's minimised in xxxHolic and it's possible to read it without feeling bombarded by not-so-clever self-referential crossreferences (like in Tsubasa...).
May. 10th, 2007 01:23 am (UTC)
wow, i had to cut this for length...
Another fun-but-very-dark-in-later-volumes CLAMP manga is Tokyo Babylon, which centers on a young, naive exorcist, his bubbly, fashion-obsessed sister, and a kind, flirtatious vet who also happens to be a sadistic assassin. The series feels a little dated and 90s-ish (which is 80s-ish in Japan, lol) since it's a rather early CLAMP work. It was really influential, though - popular series by other mangaka, like Descedents of Darkness and Angel Sanctuary, owe a lot to that early CLAMP art and story style.

Fushigi Yuugi - Genbu Kaiden is sort of a prequel/side story to the extremely popular shoujo series Fushigi Yuugi, only unlike the original, the heroine is actually likable - the basic premise of Genbu Kaiden is that a girl is magically transported from the 1920s to ancient China, where she's a legendary priestess who has to collect a team of attractive bishounen guardians. The original Fushigi Yuugi is basically the same thing (only the girl is from 1990s Japan) but it feels sort of sophomoric... like Fruits Basket, it's the supporting cast that really makes it stand out and you're better off just ignoring the central romance. Actually, the central romances in both series are extremely similar now that I think about it, differentiated only by which heroine you personally find more irritating... hehe... But the heroine in Genbu Kaiden is more mature and doesn't become the standard passive shoujo sterotype.

Oooh, and not-technically-manga-but-still-worth-mentioning-as-shoujo-because-I-love-stuff-set-in-mythic-China is the novel series The Twelve Kingdoms by Fuyumi Ono, which was the inspiration for an anime series a few years back. The anime adaptation was slow-moving and not particularly gripping so the series doesn't have the recognition here that it does in Japan, where the books were popular. Tokyopop has started to pick up some Japanese "light novel" (illustrated serial fiction) series and publish them as young adult books (I hate the term "young adult", because the stories are often just as rich and complex as "adult" fiction, just with younger protagonists... it's basically a marketing distinction). But anyway, The Twelve Kingdoms just came out last month and it's definitely not kittens-and-rainbows shoujo fluff... it starts with the standard Japanese schoolgirl (average, insecure, weepy) who gets dragged against her will in a Chinese-inspired mythological world where she has no food, no money, no friends, and everybody seems to want her dead. It gets interesting as she slowly drops her meek, ideal-daughter persona and has to fight to survive.

My friends read a lot of shoujo, so their favorites are Hana-Kimi, The Wallflower, Ouran Host Club, Boys Over Flowers, Ayashi no Ceres, and Absolute Boyfriend... um, I couldn't really get into any of them enough to read past the first volume (if that), but at least they weren't too incredibly painful...
Re: wow, i had to cut this for length... - chomiji - May. 10th, 2007 03:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow, i had to cut this for length... - sanada - May. 10th, 2007 05:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow, i had to cut this for length... - chomiji - May. 11th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow, i had to cut this for length... - sanada - May. 11th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow, i had to cut this for length... - rachelmanija - May. 11th, 2007 06:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow, i had to cut this for length... - chomiji - May. 11th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 10th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
Ouran High School Host Club is pretty damn good. It's about a girl who goes to a private school on a scholarship. Looking for a quiet place to study, she walks into the Host Club (think.. I don't know, man-geisha), gets mistaken for a boy, hit on, and, when she's trying to escape, knocks down an $80,000 vase. So the club makes her dress as a boy and entertain girls to pay off her debt. Her thoughts are: "I kinda enjoy having girls hassle over me. It's cute. Guess I'm a little bent that way. Maybe I'll use "ore" when referring to myself. Yeah..."

Fujioka Haruhi is a fantastic heroine--she's so nonchalant and practical and doesn't care that she's surrounded by her own personal harem beautiful men, which is so rare for a girl in shoujo. I could sing her praises to the heavens. The boys in the Host Club can be complete idiots, and she calls them on it (but they forgive her because they think she's adorable). And you can actually tell the boys apart, which is always a plus.

I'm also partial to Kare Kano, because it isn't dripping with angst, which I appreciate.

Another good one is Land of the Blindfolded. It's a bit slow--it's very slow--but it's charming. I have a soft spot for people who can see the future.
May. 11th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)

Well, it sounds like Ouran High School Host Club might be the next one after FB and XXXHolic, because I might like it (whereas I'm trying the other two primarily because they seem to be classics of the type).

>> Maybe I'll use "ore" when referring to myself. Yeah ... <<

Hee! Thanks to asking Sanada many, many questions over the past few months, and the wonders of the WWW, I actually know what you're talking about! See, I have been trying to educate myself ...

>> I have a soft spot for people who can see the future.... <<

:-D   I thought of you yesterday because I was making an icon with Sakuya in it. (She's looking distressed, and the caption is "I see crazy people ... ")

May. 11th, 2007 04:23 am (UTC)
Huh, I think everyone got the recs I usually rec!

My personal favorites are Yazawa Ai's Nana (she also wrote Paradise Kiss, but I don't like it as much but Yazawa is one of my favorite mangaka EVER) and Takaya's Fruits Basket. You may want to get a little used to shoujo before Fruits Basket; a lot of my shounen-loving friends were really turned off by it at first (though I'd still read it eventually, because underneath the Sweet Tarts cover, it is incredibly good). I adore Nana, but again, there is the focus on the romance, and some people find Nana K. too girly.

Wait, OMG NO ONE HAS RECCED YUKI KAORI! This must be remedied!

Um, so just as a warning, Yuki Kaori is TOTAL AND COMPLETE CRACK. I do not use the allcaps lightly! Angel Sanctuary is complete now, and it is INSANE and has reincarnation and love and hate and twins and genderbending and incest and Luficer and boys who are swords and I love it to pieces. On the other hand, the panel layout is dreadful. It gets better, though.

There's also The Cain Saga and Godchild, which are actually the same series but marketed separately because Viz is stupid. Cain goes from 1-4 (parts 1 and 2) for a total of five vols. and then Godchild picks up after that, but they're being published simultaneously. I've been reading them totally out of order, but it is ok with me. The art is gorgeous and it is PURE CRACK.

Um, on the other hand, if you don't like Gothic excess and insanity, I would stay away from Yuki Kaori. In her favor, there are no sparklies and fluffies and hearts, unless they are bleeding, poisoned hearts of DOOM.

CLAMP's X/1999 is also gothic excess, but as a warning, it's unfinished at 18. Grrr. But it's very pretty and has stuff like apocalypses.

I haven't read Ouran, but the anime is actually more fun once you know some shoujo tropes, because they completely make fun of them. So that may hold for the manga as well.

So... I dunno. A lot of the recs you're getting are for sweet high school romances, which I adore but you might not? Or you might want something a little less shoujo-shoujo for your first shoujo?
May. 11th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)

>> love and hate and twins and genderbending and incest <<

See, this is why I was sad that you didn't get into Godstalk, because the series ends up with a lot of this kind of thing ... ;-)

>> it's very pretty and has stuff like apocalypses <<

Sounds like it came out of Telophase's infernally addictive story generator!

I'll have a look at Cain and Godchild when I go to the comic store - I'd like to see the art. (Heh, maybe that's what I'll request of the Mr. for Mother's Day - a manga spree at Alliance Comics!) Angel Sanctuary is something that for the past several months I've picked up, read the back covers, and then put back cautiously, rather as though I was afraid it had become stuck to my fingers and wasn't going to let go ... it wants me for some reason ...

Thanks awfully for stopping by and giving me squeeful recs!

May. 11th, 2007 06:30 am (UTC)
I would also highly recommend ES (Eternal Sabbath), which... might not technically be shoujo. But the character designs, though not the panel layouts, are very shoujo. It's a psychological thriller about a young man who can walk into the minds of others, and the woman scientist who is immune to his powers. Gorgeous, haunting art, especially of the mindscapes; interesting, non-stereotypical characters; spooky story with some thought-provoking undertones.

In a totally different vein, I adore the very shoujo Her Majesty's Dog, which is vaguely like Buffy except the heroine's power is word-magic rather than ass-kicking; she takes her duty to lay ghosts very seriously, and doesn't quite understand human interaction. She is protected by a dog-demon who mostly looks like a handsome boy; he's in love with her.

PS. How did you like Uechi-ryu? I just started studying kobudo (bo, at the moment) in a style derived from it; I did Shotokan before.
May. 11th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)

Wow, so many things to check out ... head explodes with possibilities!

ES sounds good, and meganbmoore (commented above as well) had also been talking about Her Majesty's Dog a while ago. I'll have to see what the budget and time will allow (because I'll want to review all of them, too ... )

Uechi Ryu was interesting. I enjoyed the depth and history of it, but the instructor (a youngish ex-Navy guy) and my physical limitations (although I am quite strong, I am clumsy and not very flexible) were a bad combo. I had a rough time with it - the best he ever said of me was "You do with your mind what others do with their bodies." The kata were very interesting, and the drills in stuff like strikes gave me a good grounding in that sort of technique.

I liked Aikido much better: the fact that we were always learning with a partner (after the technique demo) meant that the senior students could, if need be, physically move me into the correct position - and I ended up learning much faster than with Uechi Ryu. But the Uechi Ryu meant that I was very good at ukemi (attacker technique) - once I learned to fall and roll. So I could actually bring something to the others in terms of helping them punch or chop properly (thereby making the defense - which is mainly what you learn in Aikido - that much more effective).

Uechi also gave me my best martial arts story. One evening after my younger sister (taller and more graceful than I) joined the dojo, the instructor was expounding on the Kung Fu animal styles whose moves had been incorporated into Uechi Ryu, and how they were best suited to certain types of physiques. "You," he said to a tall, muscular guy, "are a tiger. And you" - to my sister - "are a crane ... ."

He was interrupted by the class clown: "Awww! If she gets to be a crane, I wanna be a backhoe!"

Nov. 24th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
Ooh, did you ever get to watch/read 12 Kingdoms? That's one I'd rec as well, though the pace at times can be a bit slow.

You're probably not looking for suggestions any longer, but just in case: ^_^

Genju no Seiza is a good one (by the same mangaka as Petshop of Horrors)--The king of a small mythic country is reincarnated in modern-day Japan. The immortal beast-guardians of the half-Japanese teenager come looking for him one-by-one, and most of them aren't very friendly.

Wolf's Rain is pretty but it's only two volumes and I'm not sure if it's technically Shojo or not (published by Kodansha). Post-apocalyptic wolves on a journey searching for wolf-heaven.

Decendants of Darkness, aka Yami no Matsui is good (although it gets decidedly odd towards the end, and has been abandoned by the author, incomplete). The series focuses on individuals who work for the Ministry of Hades, an bureaucratic branch of the underworld that helps escort the dead to their final resting places.

Finally, the thing by CLAMP that I'd recommend is actually RG Veda (their first work). Like Saiyuki, this is (loosely) based on somebody else's prior work, primarily Vedic mythology. Lots of battles, tragic losses, and very complex relationships.

The list probably highlights the fact that I really enjoy shojo stuff that tends towards the dark and/or epic with plenty of UST, and also goes to show that I'm not long on the typically shojo dinner-plate eyes, hearts, and sparkles, except maybe for Furuba.... ^_^
Nov. 24th, 2008 03:59 am (UTC)

I'm always looking for manga suggestions! But having said that, I don't know if I'm going at start any new series for a bit ... I seem to be on plotline overload. I have FMA, Monster, and Eternal Sabbath all sitting about, and can't seem to make myself get back into any of them. Furuba should end in a few more volumes, and Wild Adapter also seems to be getting toward a stopping point (although given Minekura sensei's rate of output lately, Samurai Deeper Kyo - which is on vol. 31 of 38 and is coming out every other month - may finish first!

I read the first two manga/novel volumes of 12 Kingdoms and really liked it ... but I've heard that it's become a casualty of TokyoPop's reorg, and no more will be published ...   :(

(BTW, any more thoughts on Red Hills? I'm interested in which bits are working for which people ... .)

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