The romance genre, along with its subgenres, is well-known in the West and is not one of those inherently Japanese genres (like isekai or ecchi), but Japanese works tend to give it a somewhat specific touch. If you’re interested in the best romance manga that the Japanese have to offer, you’re in luck because we created exactly that type of list. Let’s check out the best romance stories of all time.
50. Ouran High School Host Club
Haruhi Fujioka, a highly intelligent student from a modest background, gains admission to the prestigious Ouran High School, attended by the elite of Japanese society. In an unexpected turn of events, Haruhi accidentally breaks an expensive vase in the Host Club’s meeting room, leading to his “enslavement” by the wealthy and handsome club members. Despite his academic prowess, Haruhi must now serve the club by running errands, working as a servant, and undertaking various tasks until his graduation. The Host Club, known for entertaining rich and beautiful girls, becomes an unusual backdrop for Haruhi’s experiences as he navigates the challenges of his new responsibilities within this privileged world.
49. Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro
Naoto, a reserved second-year high school student, encounters Nagatoro, a first-year girl, and his quiet life takes an unexpected turn. It all starts when Nagatoro and her friends discover a manga drawn by Naoto in the library. After mocking him, Nagatoro begins a routine of playfully bullying and teasing Naoto. Despite the apparent cruelty, it becomes clear to the reader and other characters that Nagatoro’s actions are not malicious but rather flirtatious and well-intentioned. Over time, a deeper connection and affection develop between them, revealing that their dynamic is more complex and meaningful than initially perceived.
48. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun
High school student Chiyo Sakura harbors a secret crush on her classmate Umetaro Nozaki. When her attempts to confess her feelings fail, she ends up at his home. To her surprise, Nozaki, a popular mangaka of a shoujo manga series, mistakes her intentions and believes she’s a fan. Nozaki recruits Sakura, who already demonstrated artistic talent in the art club, as an inker for his manga. Sakura eagerly accepts the role, hoping to be close to Nozaki and find an opportunity to confess her love.
47. Kamisama Kiss
Nanami Momozono’s life takes a drastic turn when her gambling-addicted father abandons her, leaving behind massive debts and rendering them homeless. Desperate and wandering the streets, she encounters a mysterious man who, after hearing her plight, gives her his house. To her surprise, the house turns out to be a temple inhabited by spirits, including a boy with fox ears and a tail.
46. So Cute it Hurts!!
Twin siblings Mitsuru and Megumu Kobayashi find themselves in a comedic mix-up when Mitsuru, struggling academically, coerces his sister into swapping places with him. Mitsuru, now crossdressing as Megumu, becomes embroiled in a case of mistaken identity, confusing the high school idol Azusa Tokugawa but finding an unexpected romance with the deaf girl Shino Takenaka. Meanwhile, Megumu navigates her brother’s high school, discovering it’s a haven for troublemakers. In this new environment, she falls for Aoi Sanada, a boy who consistently wears a blindfold. The story unfolds as both siblings navigate the challenges and romantic entanglements that arise from their swapped identities.
Hiyokoi is a Japanese shoujo manga series written and illustrated by Moe Yukimori. The story follows the life of a high school girl named Hiyori Nishiyama, who is exceptionally short and has a complex about her height. Due to an accident on the first day of high school, Hiyori misses the entire first semester and returns to school in the spring. As Hiyori struggles with her insecurities, she encounters a tall and popular boy named Yuushin Hirose. Despite their height difference, Yuushin is friendly and kind towards Hiyori.
44. Dengeki Daisy
After the death of her brother Sōichiro, Teru receives a cell phone that he had prepared for her beforehand. This phone allows her to contact a mysterious figure named “Daisy,” who sends her encouraging messages to help her cope with the tragedy. While Teru finds solace in these messages, she faces challenges in high school, becoming a target of the student council.
43. Gakuen Alice
Gakuen Alice follows the journey of Mikan Sakura, a 10-year-old girl on a quest to find her best friend, Hotaru Imai. Unexpectedly, Mikan finds herself entering a peculiar school known as Alice Magic School while searching for Hotaru. The school has a unique entrance requirement – only those with a special ability known as an “Alice” can gain access. A person’s Alice can range from telepathy and flying to controlling fire or transforming into a cat.
42. Kyō, Koi o Hajimemasu
High school student Tsubaki Hibino has a passion for cute things and enjoys styling her sister’s hair, but she lacks confidence in her own appearance. She typically wears old-fashioned braids and a long skirt to school. On her first day of high school, she encounters Kyouta Tsubaki, a top student with long hair that she finds unflattering. His demeanor further annoys her, leading to an initial dislike. Complicating matters, they share the same name—Tsubaki, with it being Tsubaki’s first name and Kyouta’s last name. This shared name and their placement in the same class intensify Tsubaki’s irritation towards Kyouta.
41. Takane and Hana
The story revolves around employee Nonomura’s older daughter, Yukari, who is intended for an arranged marriage with the boss’s grandson, Takane Saibara. However, Yukari is already in a relationship and refuses to participate in the omiai. To avoid upsetting her father’s boss, Yukari’s 16-year-old sister, Hana, reluctantly steps in.
40. Real Girl
Hikaru Tsutsui, a high school student with an otaku nature, faces constant ridicule from his peers. After being late for school one day, he is tasked with cleaning the pool alongside Iroha Higurashi, a beautiful girl with a questionable reputation. Surprisingly, Iroha later asks Hikaru to go out with her, and he agrees. However, their time together is limited to six months, as Iroha will have to change schools due to her father’s work. The story follows their evolving relationship within this time constraint, exploring the challenges and emotions that arise as they navigate their unique circumstances.
39. A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow
Konatsu Amano is uprooted from her beloved Tokyo to live with her aunt in a small coastal town, as her father takes up work abroad. Struggling to adapt and make new friends in her new environment, Konatsu discovers an opportunity at her school, where she meets Koyuki Honami. Koyuki is the sole member of the aquarium club, and Konatsu decides to join. As they spend time together, Konatsu gradually breaks through Koyuki’s initially unapproachable demeanor. Despite Koyuki rebuffing the advances of other students, she welcomes Konatsu into the club and begins to open up, fostering a unique and meaningful connection between them.
38. Wolf Girl and Black Prince
Erika Shinohara, a new high school student, is eager to make friends but has a compulsive lying habit when she feels overwhelmed. Desperate to fit in, she fabricates a boyfriend to impress her classmates. However, the catch is that this imaginary prince charming doesn’t actually exist, and Erika has never had a boyfriend at the age of 16.
37. Living-Room Matsunaga-san
At the age of 17, Miko Sonoda is compelled to leave home as her mother takes care of her ailing grandmother. She finds herself residing in her uncle’s dormitory, surrounded by men who are both sympathetic and suspicious. As Miko navigates this new environment, she receives assistance from Asako Onuki, a nail stylist and fellow roommate. Among the men, Jun Matsunaga stands out as particularly helpful, though he occasionally intimidates her.
36. Hibi Chōchō
High school student Suiren Shibazeki, once popular but now burdened by attention, becomes a withdrawn and shy girl by the time she enters high school. With only Aya Shimizu as her friend, she struggles to connect with others in her new school, where unwanted attention follows her, except for Taichi Kawasumi, a quiet karate athlete. Despite Kawasumi’s own difficulty talking to girls, he comes to Suiren’s aid when she faces harassment from another boy. This act of kindness sparks Suiren’s interest, and she falls in love with him.
The story kicks off with Hayama Akito, a troublemaker, and Sana Kurata, an 11-year-old actress in elementary school. Sana, unable to tolerate Akito’s disruptive behavior, discovers that he is blackmailing teachers and decides to take revenge. With the help of Tsuyoshi, a friend of Akito’s who is fed up with his actions, Sana manages to capture a compromising photo of him and begins to blackmail him.
34. Inu × Boku SS
Ririchiyo Shirakiin, hailing from a wealthy family, faces marginalization at school and extraordinary treatment within her family as the designated successor. To cope with this, Ririchiyo adopts a surly and arrogant demeanor, simultaneously protecting herself from others while keeping them at a distance. In the future, her father arranges for Ririchiyo to reside in the Ayakashi Mansion, known for harboring supernatural spirits. Seeking solitude, Ririchiyo is surprised to find that her solitude is short-lived.
33. The Demon Prince of Momochi House
On her sixteenth birthday, orphan Momochi Himari unexpectedly inherits an old house. Despite warnings of it being haunted, with no alternative, she decides to move in. To her surprise, she finds the house occupied by three handsome young men—Aoi, Yukari, and Ise. The trio urgently advises Himari to vacate the premises, sharing tales of ghosts and curses, but she refuses to leave. As events unfold, she discovers the truth: her house is located on the border between the human and spirit worlds, and she is destined to serve as the guardian bridging the two realms.
32. Beauty Pop
The young Kiri Koshiba has a gift for hairdressing. Of a nonchalant nature, she, however, quickly encounters problems with the “Scissors Project,” a group of boys dealing with makeovers for young girls. They are led by the hot-tempered Narumi, who aspires to one day become Japan’s top hairdresser.
31. Crimson Hero
Fifteen-year-old Nobara Sumiyoshi is the daughter of the okami (manager) of a significant ryōtei (traditional Japanese restaurant). Despite her mother’s efforts to mold her into a proper young lady and heir to the Okami role, Nobara resists and is more inclined to pass the responsibility to her younger and more traditionally feminine sister, Soka. Nobara’s true passion lies in volleyball, and she is deeply absorbed in pursuing her love for the sport rather than conforming to the expectations placed upon her.
30. Fly Me to the Moon
On a snowy winter night, Nasa Yuzaki, enchanted by a beautiful girl named Tsukasa Tsukuyomi, falls in love at first sight just before his high school entrance exam. After a near-fatal accident, Tsukasa rescues him, and Nasa, inspired by her resemblance to Princess Kaguya, resolves to pursue her. Despite his injuries, he confesses his love and proposes a date.
In their first year of high school, the tall Risa Koizumi and short Atsushi Ōtani are known as the “All Hanshin Kyojin” due to their height difference and frequent arguments. Despite this, they share similar interests and develop a strong friendship. As their classmates form two couples, Koizumi and Ōtani decide they also want to experience love. Koizumi discovers Ōtani had a previous girlfriend, Mayu Kanzaki. Meanwhile, Koizumi reconnects with a kindergarten friend, Haruka Fukagawa, who falls in love with her. Additionally, Seishiro/Seiko Kotobuki, a transsexual, falls for Ōtani, but he rejects her upon learning her true gender.
28. Dreamin’ Sun
Shimana Kameko, feeling unhappy at home since her mother’s death and her father’s remarriage, fears that accepting her new family would betray her late mother. Struggling with these emotions, she skips school and contemplates running away. In a park, she encounters Taiga Fujiwara, who is lying drunk. Since he has been locked out of his house for his inebriation, Taiga offers Kameko a room under three conditions. The story unfolds as Shimana navigates this unexpected encounter and the conditions set by Taiga, adding complexity to her journey of self-discovery and healing.
27. My Love Story!!
Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!) follows the story of childhood friends Takeo Gōda and Makoto Sunakawa. Despite their stark physical and personality differences, Takeo, with a large and imposing physique, is sensitive and tends to fall in love without reciprocation. In contrast, Makoto is remarkably beautiful but remains indifferent to the romantic pursuits of others.
26. Skip Beat!
Mogami Kyōko and Fuwa Shōtarō are childhood friends, and Kyōko has always been devoted to Shō. When Shō decides to leave their hometown of Kyoto at the age of 16 to pursue a singing career in Tokyo, he asks Kyōko to accompany him. Excited to be chosen by her childhood friend, Kyōko agrees. However, upon arriving in Tokyo, Shō becomes consumed by his singing career, rarely spending time at their shared apartment. Kyōko takes on multiple jobs to cover the rent and support Shō’s lifestyle as he becomes a famous singer.
25. Ao Haru Ride
Futaba Yoshioka enters high school with the burden of unfulfilled feelings from middle school, where the boy she loved, Kô Tanaka, left without her being able to confess. Serendipitously, she discovers him again in high school, but he now goes by a different name, and his personality has undergone changes. With the help of her new friends, Futaba embarks on a journey to understand and connect with the transformed Kô. Through this process, she not only seeks to tame his new persona but also aims to regain her own self-confidence and navigate the complexities of their evolving relationship.
Naho, a sixteen-year-old high school student in Matsumoto, receives a letter from her future self, who is now twenty-six and burdened with remorse. The letter aims to prevent Naho from repeating past mistakes and contains information about upcoming events, particularly regarding the arrival of a new student named Kakeru. Through the guidance provided in the letter, Naho must navigate the challenges ahead and alter the course of events to avoid the regrets that haunt her future self. The story unfolds as Naho grapples with the responsibility of changing her fate based on the insights from her future self.
23. Say I Love You.
Mei Tachibana, a 16-year-old who has never had a boyfriend and feels lonely, experiences a surprising turn of events when the popular crush at her school, Yamato Kurosawa, expresses interest in her. Mei falls in love with Yamato, and their friendship evolves into a genuine and serious relationship. Together, they navigate various challenges and share their first experiences as a couple.
22. Honey So Sweet
Nao Kogure, an orphan living with her uncle Sosuke, faces mixed feelings toward him. Upon entering high school, she unexpectedly attracts the attention of Taiga Onise, a boy perceived as a hooligan. After rescuing her from school, Taiga offers Nao a bouquet of red roses and proposes an engagement with the anticipation of a future marriage.
21. Blue Flag
In the same class as Toma, his successful childhood friend, and Futaba, whose clumsiness bothers him, Taichi finds himself in a peculiar situation when Futaba confesses to him that she is in love with Toma. Confronted with Futaba’s extreme shyness, Taichi reluctantly resigns himself to helping her, encouraging her to overcome her hesitations and get closer to her friend Toma.
20. Komi Can’t Communicate
In Komi Can’t Communicate Komi Shouko, a student at Itan High private school, appears popular due to her beauty and perceived superiority. However, on the first day of class, she meets Tadano Hitohito, her neighbor, who learns that Komi suffers from a communication disorder. This condition prevents her from speaking in front of others and making friends. Tadano, after discovering Komi’s struggle, makes a promise to help her overcome her communication challenges and achieve her goal of making a hundred friends.
19. The Quintessential Quintuplets
In The Quintessential Quintuplets, Fūtarō Uesugi encounters Itsuki Nakano, a new transfer student at his high school, who asks him for tutoring. Initially refusing her request with nonchalance, Fūtarō later discovers that his father has secured him a tutoring job for a millionaire’s daughter. Accepting the job to clear his family’s debt, Fūtarō is surprised to find out that his task is to tutor the Nakano Quintuplets, with Itsuki being the youngest. His mission is to help all five sisters graduate.
18. Snow White with the Red Hair
In Snow White with the Red Hair, Shirayuki, a herbalist in the Kingdom of Tanbarun, faces a threat when Prince Raji orders her to become his concubine due to her unique red hair. To escape this fate, Shirayuki cuts her hair and flees to the neighboring Kingdom of Clarines. During her journey, she encounters Prince Zen, the second son of Clarines, and his two guards, Mitsuhide and Kiki, who aid her in evading Raji. After saving Zen from poisoning, Shirayuki decides to pursue a career as a herbalist in the royal palace of Clarines.
17. Maid Sama!
In Kaichou wa Maid-sama!, Seika High School, originally an all-boys school, opens its doors to girls. However, the transition leads to a challenging environment, with girls struggling to establish themselves amidst the harsh climate and frequent humiliation from the boys. Misaki Ayuzawa, a determined and strong-willed girl, defies these challenges and becomes the first female student council president. While her assertive demeanor earns her respect and fear, she is labeled as a man-hater due to her strict approach.
16. Strobe Edge
Ninako, a high school student, fell in love with Ren, the most handsome boy in high school. But he already has a girlfriend. Also, Ninako’s best friend Daiki and later Takumi Ando tell her that he loves her. Misunderstandings ensue.
15. Yumeiro Patissiere
Amano Ichigo, an awkward schoolgirl overshadowed by her talented younger sister, experiences a transformative encounter with Henri-sensei, a renowned pastry chef. Henri recognizes Ichigo’s extraordinary sense of taste and recommends her to attend the Sainte-Marie Academy, a prestigious school for training elite pastry chefs.
Hanazono Hikari has always been the best in everything since childhood. However, her world is turned upside down when Kei Takishima, the son of the president of the Takishima group, defeats her in a wrestling match. Determined to surpass Kei, Hikari convinces her father to enroll her in the same high school as him—Hakusenkan Academy. Although not as privileged as Kei, she enters the Special A class, a group of the school’s seven best students, with the singular goal of defeating Takishima and reclaiming her position at the top.
13. A Girl on the Shore
In Umibe no Étranger, Koume resides in a small beach village that fails to attract visitors even during the summer. Following a romantic letdown involving Misaki, a handsome individual, Koume seeks solace in Kosuke, a boy who has harbored feelings for her for several years. The storyline unfolds as Koume and Kosuke embark on a surprising and distinctive relationship, navigating the complexities of their emotions and connections in the idyllic coastal setting.
12. Fruits Basket
In Fruits Basket, Tohru Honda, a 16-year-old high school student, finds herself living in a tent after her mother’s death. Unknowingly, she sets up camp on the property of the Sôma family. Upon discovering a nearby house, Tohru encounters Yuki and Shigure Soma. Learning about her living situation, they offer her a place to stay in exchange for household chores.
Tohru agrees and begins living with Yuki, Kyô, and Shigure. Soon, she discovers the family’s secret: 13 members are under a curse that transforms them into one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, along with the cat, under specific conditions.
11. Daytime Shooting Star
Suzume Yosano’s parents relocated to Bangladesh for her father’s job, leading her to move to Tokyo and live with her uncle Yukichi. On her way to her uncle’s house, she gets lost, and a kind stranger helps her. To her surprise, this stranger turns out to be her homeroom teacher, Satsuki Shishio. As Suzume attends school, she finds herself falling in love with Shishio.
In Toradora! Ryuuji Takasu is a Japanese student returning to the 12th grade, living alone with his mother. Despite his desire for a normal high school life, his intimidating eyes lead to false rumors about his violent nature. Struggling to make friends and longing for a romantic relationship, he shares a class with his best friend Yūsaku Kitamura and his crush, Minori Kushieda.
9. Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is a romantic comedy series centered around the relationship between two office workers who are passionate “otaku.” Narumi Momose is an enthusiastic fujoshi, dedicated to her interests but attempting to keep them hidden. Her partner, Hirotaka Nifuji, is a handsome and skilled man with a love for video games, rarely parting with his console except for work. Despite their seemingly perfect compatibility, navigating love proves to be complex for these otaku individuals.
8. Boys Over Flowers
Boys Over Flowers follows the story of Tsukushi Makino, a sixteen-year-old girl sent to Eitoku, an elite school, by her parents, hoping she will find a wealthy son-in-law. However, the school is dominated by the F4, a group of extremely rich and influential boys. Tsukushi aims to stay under the radar and focus on her studies, but her friend’s encounter with Tsukasa Dômyôji, the leader of F4, disrupts her plans. The F4’s influence and the school’s oppressive atmosphere pose challenges for Tsukushi as she navigates her way through the privileged world of Eitoku.
7. Last Game
Yanagi Naoto, a wealthy and accomplished student, faces a challenge when Kujō Mikoto arrives. Mikoto outshines him in various activities, sparking a rivalry. Yanagi, determined to regain his status, plans a “Last Game” to make Mikoto fall in love with him and then break her heart. However, as he executes his plan, Yanagi unexpectedly finds himself developing genuine feelings for Mikoto, complicating his initial revenge plot.
In Horimiya, Kyōko Hori, a popular high school girl, leads a double life. At school, she appears bright and sociable, while outside, she’s a responsible homebody caring for her younger brother, Souta. Her classmate, Izumi Miyamura, is perceived as gloomy and otaku-like. However, when Miyamura helps Souta and reveals his pierced unconventional appearance, Hori discovers his contrasting sides. Despite initial surprises, they decide to keep their true selves hidden from their classmates, leading to an unexpected connection between them. The story explores themes of identity, friendship, and acceptance.
5. After the Rain
Akira is a 17-year-old girl who works in a family restaurant after school. She is secretly in love with the restaurant manager, Masami Kondo, a 45-year-old divorced man with one child. He is neither handsome nor charismatic, just an ordinary man, a little tired, disillusioned, aware of his situation and his advancing age.
In Noragami, Hiyori Iki, a middle school student, becomes a half-ayakashi after an incident involving a bus and a god named Yato. Yato, a lesser-known and weak god, has lost his sacred weapon and is seeking to regain prominence. Hiyori seeks Yato’s help to return to normal, leading to the recruitment of a new weapon, Yukine, a boy’s ghost. Together, they face challenges from ayakashi, malevolent spirits. The story explores their journey in the supernatural realm as they confront threats and navigate the complexities of divine beings and their relationships.
3. March Comes In like a Lion
Rei Kiriyama, a 17-year-old professional shōgi player, lives alone in Tokyo. Having no more family and very few friends, he prefers to live alone after distancing himself from his adoptive family, but the loneliness weighs on him. The only people close to him are Akari Kawamoto, a young single woman, and her two younger sisters, Hinata and Momo. In contact with them, he will gradually assert himself, and mature as a player and person.
2. Kaguya-sama: Love is War
In Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane, the exemplary student council president and vice-president of Shūchiin Academy, both harbor romantic feelings for each other. However, their immense pride prevents them from confessing, as they fear becoming the “loser” in the relationship. The series revolves around their daily lives filled with intricate schemes and plots to trick the other into confessing first, leading to hilarious and dramatic moments as they navigate the complexities of teenage romance and their own pride.
1. Kimi ni Todoke
Sawako Kuronuma, a high school student, is ostracized by her classmates due to unfounded rumors that associate her with ghosts and curses. This is fueled by her name’s similarity to Sadako, a character from ‘Ring.’ Despite the fear and avoidance from others, Shōta Kazehaya, a popular student, treats her with kindness. Their interaction becomes a turning point in Sawako’s life. With Kazehaya’s support, she strives to make new friends and engage with others as a normal schoolgirl.
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