Welcome back! This time round, because it’s still the beginning of the new year (and I still miss the old year), I thought I would do an opinion post on the top five shoujo manga I read in 2014, in sort of a way to also wrap up 2014 and say goodbye to it.
5. Haru Matsu Bokura (Ongoing)
Haru Matsu Bokura is about a shy girl, Mitsuki who has a problem socialising with others. Everything changes when she meets four of the basketball club’s stars who are all excellent in basketball and especially so in the looks department.
They befriend her and as Mitsuki spends more time with them, she begins to open up to them and fall in love with one of them who is also her classmate, Towa.
First of all, what is there not to like about this manga? It’s cute, adorable, funny and has attractive characters. Second, if you enjoyed reading and watching various the live-action adaptations of Hana Yori Dango which includes the famous Korean TV series Boys Over Flowers, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy reading Haru Matsu Bokura too. This is because Haru Matsu Bokura‘s most striking trait is its use of Hana Yori Dango‘s harem formula and it works because who doesn’t like the reverse harem genre? The idea of a single girl being surrounded by a group of attractive guys is appealing in itself and I believe, will be constantly reused over and over again in shoujo manga future.
4. Anata ni Hana O Sasagemashou (Completed)
Anata ni Hana O Sasagemashou very nearly failed to make it into this list. It was a tough decision I had to make between Reimei no Arcana and Kyou no Kira-kun but this one won out because of its unusual story plot. The story involved ghosts and spirits, which I thought was unusual for a shoujo manga because usually shoujo manga would use more attractive supernatural creatures such as vampires, devils and the traditional Japanese yokai.
The story premise was intriguing: A young lady from a wealthy family is betrothed to the son of a noble family to benefit both families – one has status but no money, the other has money but no status. The lady, Seri detests this engagement because she desires to marry out of love for the person and doesn’t want to be coerced into something against her will. However, after hitting a few obstacles, Seri realises her true feelings towards her betrothed, Yuzuki and they become an official couple. But this doesn’t mark the end as the two are thrown into the problems of Yuzuki’s ancestors and have to discover the truth behind the supernatural.
What I liked about Anata ni Hana O Sasagemashou was its characters. Seri was a independent, confident young lady who knew what she wanted for marriage: someone who she loved and the freedom to choose who she wished to marry. As I love strong female characters, it was not a problem at all for me to take an instant liking to Seri. Yuzuki’s character is the strong, silent, protective type who complements Seri’s straightforward manner of taking charge of things – they’re a perfect fit.
Not forgetting to mention, the art and story mood balance were excellent and succeeded in making me absorbed into the story and feel the intended emotions in the right places. The theme of the story was also very strong, constantly being used and re-emphasised again and again.
And that theme is love. Not just romantic love, but also familial love. That’s what I love about Anata ni Hana O Sasagemashou.
3. Taiyou no Ie (Ongoing)
At first glance, just judging it by its cover art, Taiyou no Ie didn’t look promising. As I’m someone who really appreciates good art, I’m usually deterred by not-so-attractive ones. But time and time again, I’m always surprised by how much I like them after giving them a try.
Taiyou no Ie was it. But guess what, this manga was the 38th Kodansha Manga Awards for Best Shoujo. And a winning work can’t possibly be terrible right?
So this story is about a girl, Mao who has a poor relationship with her father. Unable to live with him, she packs up her bags and leaves home because there is no love there. She is taken in by a neighbour who is also her childhood friend and from there, her life in the Nakamura household began. In that household, she learns about love and little by little, heals the wounds in her heart. She and Hiro support each other in helping each other to reconnect with their family and amidst all this, love begins to blossom between them too.
I chose Taiyou no Ie to be in my top five because of its theme on family relationships. Mao and Hiro both have family-related problems and both struggle to close the gap between their family members. It was really heartwarming to see both of them step up and out of their comfort zones through the support and encouragement of each other to make that first move. That and also the relationship between Mao and Hiro that is slowly changing from a sister-brother relationship to one of romantic love. It’s just really adorable and of course, the character interactions are hilarious, leading to good manga comedy in the series.
2. Koizora (Completed)
Ah, Koizora. Koizora was a pleasant surprise because it was based on the mangaka’s real life story and I didn’t think that it could be so heartbreakingly sad yet touching. Koizora follows the story of Mika, who finds love with the school’s delinquent, Hiro and begins a high school romance with him. To change himself for the better for Mika, Hiro puts his past behind him and tries to shed his delinquent image. However, things are not so easy and his past catches up with him, causing Mika hurt multiple times.
This manga is definitely in my list because the characters are realistic and mostly likeable. As they are based on real-life characters, there are no real antagonists, maybe only one but other than that, the story is driven by Mika’s life and how she loses Hiro and reunites with him again after a full circle. It is a sad, lovely and touching story altogether. There were many times whereby I teared up and let me just say: I’m not a very emotional person whereby I can cry easily. I don’t think anyone could ever dislike Koizora and as a matter of fact as I’m writing this, I think I want to re-read it again!
1. Akatsuki no Yona (Ongoing)
And finally, we have the last in the list: Akatsuki no Yona. During the time that I stumbled upon Akatsuki no Yona, I was itching to read a good historical romance story since I really liked Reimei no Arcana. Akatsuki no Yona proved to be a compelling story that included both light and dark themes like revenge, friendship and trust. Majority of the story is filled with comedy, which is great at showing the reader the dynamics of Yona’s relationships with her group. ‘Cos you know, travelling with a harem of guys means a party of teasing and poking fun at each other hahaha. I found the story to be brilliant in developing the characters’ personalities and backstories, as well as balancing the mood of the story.
Here’s a brief summary of the story: Akatsuki no Yona is about a princess who is forced to go on the run after her father, the king is murdered before her very eyes. Together with her childhood friend and bodyguard, Hak, Yona must find the four legendary dragons in order to protect herself and Hak from her father’s murderer, her cousin Soo-Won. Throughout her journey, Yona makes new friends and learns about empathy and compassion for others as well as survival skills – things that she was never taught in the palace. Through all these, she grows to become a fine woman, one who is worthy to be called a princess.
Akatsuki no Yona is yet another great piece of work that showcases a strong female protagonist, grown from hardship and suffering. I think that characters like that are really amazing because they show that females can be just a admirable as males, or even better.
The art is beautiful and the characters are really likeable. If you’re currently only following Akatsuki no Yona by its anime, I strongly suggest that you read its manga because
1. it’s far ahead where the anime currently is at and
2. you’re not really missing out on anything that is better to be seen on video. (Yes I geddit, you want to watch action scenes and action scenes won’t be the same on paper as compared to video. I understood that after I started watching Naruto and the action sequences are a lot better on anime. But one thing that I realised is that in shoujo manga, there isn’t much action going on so what you’re seeing in the manga and the anime will be more or less the same)
So that’s it! Those are my top five shoujo manga read in 2014 and they’re all really good. I might even go and start re-reading all of them soon after this haha. Although I’m sad to say goodbye to yet another good year, only with the new year can the new good things come. I hope that this year will have a whole lot of great anime and manga updates to add to my waiting list pool, which looks so long that I’m even afraid that it would take me months or even a year to finish them all, if I’m diligent in my indulgences.
Also, as I mentioned above, I’ve recently started watching Naruto from a friend’s recommendation (again) and I started right from the beginning. Honestly, the amount of episodes the series has in total totally deterred me from watching it for the longest time. But I eventually started watching it and now I’m somewhat hooked to it. Wish me luck in completing 220 episodes by the end of February hahahaha XD
And that’s it for today, I’ll see you guys very soon ^^