You might think that because a series is aimed towards young girls it might be overally cute with no real substance, but that isn’t the case with these series! Shoujo anime, which can translate roughly into “Girl’s anime”, is one of the most popular genres in the medium, for both boys and girls.
Like our list? Don’t see your favorite series? Comment below! Anime Gem tries not to repeat anime on multiple lists, so check out our blog page to see what else we recommend!
- Sailor Moon (1991)
It would be impossible to make a shoujo list without mentioning one of the first “anime for girls” popularized in the United States. Sailor Moon follows Usagi Tsukino, a middle school student given the ability to transform as a leotard clad warrior who can kick the butts of any villain attempting to attack Earth. Usagi later joins her lovable cast of friends who fight along beside her. Sailor Moon is undoubtably one of the most successful anime of all time, and with good reason too. Its storytelling manages to both be serious, comical, and at times a little ridiculous. A franchise gartering $13 billion in sales, and even having its own on ice performance coming soon, it’s safe to say that the Sailor Guardians story of love, acceptance, and girl power still resonates with mainstream audiences.
2. Fruits Basket (2001) and Remake (2019)
There’s a reason this show continuously gets praised by many. With a story that’s sweet, emotional, and magical, there is something for everybody to enjoy. The story follows Tohru, an orphan girl, who move in with a popular classmate. When accidentally falling into his arms, he turns into a cat, and learns the Soma family curse of being possessed by the Chinese zodiacs. Not only is Fruits Basket a fan favorite, but a favorite of the critics as well, being praised for characterization and pacing.
3. Princess Tutu (2002)
While it can be argued to be a shonen (yes, a show tilted Princess Tutu actually does appeal to young boys), there’s a reason I decided to put it on my shojo list. Princess Tutu follow Ahiru (or “Duck” in English), a duck who turned into a human girl while wearing a magical amulet, but later gets the ability to transform into the beautiful ballerina Princess Tutu in order to return the shattered heart of Prince Seigfried. The characters of the story are being controlled by Drosselmeyer, a ghost of an author who can make stories come to life, who died before finishing his final story. As a ghost, his main goal is to finish his masterpiece. The story follows regular story conventions of a classic shojo anime, but turns them on their head. I think a story in which a young female protagonist learns that she is control of her own story is extremely appealing to the shojo demographic, and proves that even shows with names like Princess Tutu can have some substance.
4. Nana (2006)
Fans have been waiting impatiently for any update on the Nana manga that has been on an indefinite hiatus for over a decade, it’s safe to say that the tale of the two Nanas have made an impact of people. The story follows Nana Komatsu, a small town girl who moved to Tokyo in order to follow her dreams. She then meets Nana Oosaki, the lead vocalist of a punk band. The girls then become roommates, as the story continues, it dives into the many issues they face together. Nana is praised for how it effortlessly tackles darker subject matter, beautiful art, and the incredible fashion the characters sport. The studio who made Nana stated that they will make another season when (or if) the manga is completed, which will hopefully be sometime soon!
5. Natsume’s Book of Friends (2008)
Natsume’s Book of Friends is refreshing for many reasons. Firstly, the protagonist is a teenage boy, and secondly, there is no romance. Natsumi is constantly chased by youkai spirits, and has been followed by them since childhood. The story follows Natsume as he recieves the “Book of friends”, a list of spirits who served his late grandmother, and the spirits do what they can to earn their freedom. This anime is known for the relaxing and magical feeling it radiates.
6. Revolutionary Girl Utena
Not only is Utena one of the most influencial shoujo anime of all time, but it is also one of the most influencial anime period. Utena stars Utena Tenjou, a 14 year old girl who was so inspired to by the prince who saved her in her childhood, that she vowed to become a prince herself. The ring Utena was given by the prince got her involved in a dueling organization that are fighting for the hand of the mysterious “Rose Bride”, Anthy Himemiya. Utena continues to fight in order to protect Anthy, and the two eventually become close. Revolutionary Girl Utena’s romantic relationship between its two female leads, visuals, and unique storytelling have influenced modern western cartoons, including Steven Universe and Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
7. Pretty Cure (2004)
While the previously mentioned Sailor Moon is often dubbed as “Power Rangers for girls” by people in the west, the statement can be applied more accurately to the Pretty Cure franchise. Since 2004, a new installation of an entirely different team of powerful magical superheroines is released every year. Although a lot of the success of Pretty Cure is due to the adorable weapons designed perfectly for merchandise, that isn’t to say that care isn’t put into the show itself. Each season has a totally different feel, but you can gurantee that it will have an unique story, likable characters, and fight scenes that are worthy of MCU standards.
8. Gakuen Alice (2004)
Unlike the other series listed that are dramatic with dark themes, Gakuen Alice is a lighthearted comedy anime. Sakura Mikan and her friends go to Alice Academy, a school for young students with “special abilities” called Alices. Sakura and her friends soon learn about the mysteries of the academy, which they work together to solve. If you’re just looking for a sweet power of friendship pick-me-up, Gakuen Alice definitely gives off that sweet engery you’re craving!
9. Yona of the Dawn (2014)
The fantasy genre is known for its immersive world-building and fantastic character arcs, and both of these things can apply to Yona of the Dawn. Taking place 2000 years ago in the fictional nation of Kouka, which is inspired by several ancient-Asian cultures, the story starts when the king is killed by his own nephew as an attempt to overtake the kingdom, princess Yona runs away with her bodyguard as a fugitive. Learning that her kingdom is actually in ruins, Yona follows an ancient myth in order to restore the land. With well executed coming of age adventure and an incredible soundtrack, it’s easy to see why fans and critics both praise the series.
10. Mysterious Thief Saint Tale (1995)
Often overlooked by Shoujo readers, Saint Tail has a small but loyal following. The story centers Haneoka Meimi, the daughter of a talented stage magician and a phantom thief. Meimi combines both skills she learns from both parents to become Saint Tail, a Robin Hood character who uses stage magic to avoid getting caught. What follows is a cute relationship between Meimi and the junior detective trying to catch her. A refreshing take on the magical girl genre, Saint Tail still holds up decades later.