For New Shoujo Readers (although of course, anybody can enjoy them):
- Love Com (or Lovely Complex) by Aya Nakahara- A romantic comedy that's actually funny, starring a fun lead couple- an exceptionally tall girl and an exceptionally short short boy who are absolutely perfect for one another, but need to get over their height complexes (and the fact that other people find them hysterical when they stand next to each other) before they can get together.
- Full Moon o Sagashite by Arina Tanemura- the oldest title in this category, but still extremely good. A story about a 12 year-old girl with terminal throat cancer who refuses to have the tumor removed because it would also require her vocal cords to be removed and ruin her dream of becoming a singer. (Even though it means she only has one year to live). She meets two shinigami who give her the ability to become 16 (in order to attend a record company's audition) and realize her dream. It has the potential to be hokey, but it's actually really cute and enjoyable (and despite being more cynical/picky than when I first read it, re-reading it still leaves a smile on my face). Still Tanemura's best title, imo (even though Gentlemen's Alliance is the hot thing right now).
- Kimi ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina- I didn't really care for it much when I first sampled it, but after sort of...really, really liking the anime (no, not only because of who Sawako's seiyuu is), I tried the manga again and got into it also. It's another romantic dramedy about two teens who need to get together already (with a nice horror movie tie-in), but the story is as much about the lead's personal growth and development of relationships with other people in general as it is simply about her romance. Just a warm, cute story (the reviewer said, as her heart grew three sizes). Shiina's art can be super-cute also, without being annoying.
- Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase- take all of the elements that made the original FY enjoyable, replace Miaka with a much better lead, refine Watase's art (which was always lovely), and give the story a darker overtone (darker for people who know how it will ultimately end, based on the original FY; trust me...it isn't light or fluffy), and you have one darned good shoujo fantasy-adventure- with enough sprinkles of humor to keep it from feeling turgid.
- Title I'd like to see licensed in English: Strawberry Shake Sweet by Shizuru Hayashiya (A hysterically funny romantic comedy with a super cute/adorably cracked couple- an idol and the up-and-coming idol who she's training- and a fun supporting cast.)
- Sand Chronicles by Shinako Ashihara: The story of a girl from the time she's twelve (when she and her divorced mother move back to her mother's hometown and her mother commits suicide) through her maturity into adulthood (after she moves back to Tokyo to live with her father while trying to maintain a long distance relationship with her boyfriend back in her old home). It might not sound terribly special, but the execution is excellent and the protagonist is really likeable. Could really be enjoyed by anyone, but probably will be appreciated a little more by people who can look back on their earlier teen years- as opposed to a more "wish fulfillment"-y high school piece like Ouran or Imadoki, if that makes sense.
- Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga- Yoshinaga's an extremely talented mangaka with several good titles under her belt, but this is still her best gateway title. Four men running a bakery. It sounds simple, but in Yoshinaga's hands, it's executed with humor, charm, and finesse.
- One Thousand and One Nights by Han SeungHee and Jeon JinSeok- SeungHee's sumptuous art alone is worth checking this title out for. It (very) loosely follows the story of the original 1001 Nights, except that the storyteller is a man in this version (taking his sister's place when she's summoned for the sultan to sleep with her and then execute her), telling numerous stories-within-a-story set in different times and places in antiquity. The metafictional stories and the overarching story (which grows more and more complex) are both extremely well-executed.
- Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Minomiya- An excellent, down-to-earth (but still really fun and funny) series about two music students who work towards their respective dreams while falling in love (although one does so, uh, more quickly than the other ^^;).
- Rica'tte Kanji by Rica Takashima- I liked this one when I read it pre-college, but liked it more after actually going to college for a year (again with the "read-it-after-you-experience-it-for-maximum-entertainment" factor goes). A cute, funny 1 volume josei story about a women's college student on her own in Tokyo for the first time and entering the Nichoume (gay) dating scene there (and one of the chapters is, wouldn't you know it, a Christmas chapter :) ).
- Title I want to see licensed in English- Aoi Hana by Takako Shimura (As I've stated before here, an excellent, excellent romantic drama. I will send chocolate and flowers to any company that licenses and releases this one- and of course, I'll buy it.)
For Anybody Who Wants A Good Laugh:
- Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei by Kouji Kumeta- A satire that pokes fun at Japanese society (and non-Japanese society, to some extent), while sprinkling Japanese literary/pop-cultural references throughout. Hysterical, with one of the all-time great comedy leads. XD (Zetsuboushita!!)
- Yotsuba&! Kiyohiko Azuma- Much less dark than Zetsubou Sensei, but no less excellent. Simply about a quirky kid, her friends, and family living their day-to-day lives. Funny and endearing, which is rare for a comedy.
- Hayate x Blade by Shizuru Hayashiya- Sword duels, yuri, and heaps of good comedy (heh...Lawson Mask XD), with fun characters. I could read volume after volume of Hayate and Ayana dueling to the top for stars. XD
- Title I want to see licensed in English- Sasameki Koto by Takashi Ikeda (As I've said here before, a really good romantic comedy.)
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni by Ryukishi07 and Karin Suzuragi- I didn't expect to like the Higurashi franchise as much as I do. But both the anime and manga incarnations of this moe-meets-slasher-horror-meets-mystery, about the secrets buried in the peaceful, rural town of Hinamizawa, are prime examples of horror done right.
- Uzumaki by Junji Ito- about a high school girl living in a rural town (of course) in which freaky things start going down as a result of the "curse of the spiral." (It makes much more sense when you read it.) Seriously weird and entertaining. (And only 3 volumes!)
- Title I'd like to see brought over: Franken Fran by Katsuhisa Kigitsu (Funniest horror title I've ever read. :D While still being genuinely good- and more than a little twisted.)
- Solanin by Asano Inio- Freaking excellent. About a young woman working as an OL in Tokyo while living with her musician boyfriend. She quits her job (which she can't stand), and has to figure out what she wants to do with her life. This title could come across as simply self-indulgent navel-gazing but it doesn't; the writing is excellent and the characters ring true. (Plus the two volumes that were released in Japanese have been released in one larger volume in english.) Good for people who don't mind slice-of-life and just want a plain old good story. (Especially starring characters beyond high school.)
- Title I'd like to see licensed in English: Octave by Haru Akiyama (Through all of the highs, the lows, the good, and the bad, I've really grown attached to this series. This story about a young woman/former idol who moves to Tokyo and begins to find her direction while beginning a relationship with a composer is really excellent and well written. I can see it being read here by the Solanin crowd.)
(Note @ 10:55 p.m.: Noooo, I still can't upload the pics I want here!! The ancient desktop I'm on isn't being cooperative... @_@)