Shoujo Manga Summer Fun Reading List (2006)
by Kat Avila

Ever go to the bookstore and see the kids sitting on the carpeted floor in the manga (Japanese comics) section QUIETLY READING? Sometimes they've brought drinks and snacks with them for an afterschool session of catching up on the newest releases. If you ask, they'll tell you what their favorite titles are as they smoothly hand off a manga or manhwa (Korean comics) they've just finished to a reading buddy.

While largely associated with a drawing style incorporating unnaturally large character eyes, cute animal mascots, intricate costumes, and creative screentone effects, shoujo (girls') manga also includes other distinctive styles closely associated with individual artists or groups, e.g., the all-woman studio CLAMP (Cardcaptor Sakura), You Higuri (Gorgeous Carat), Sanami Matoh (Fake), Kaori Yuki (Angel Sanctuary), and Sang-Sun Park (manhwa artist, The Tarot Cafe), to name a few.

The following summer fun shoujo manga reading list starts with the most cute and innocent and ends with the more sexually daring 18-and-over graphic novels (so the list is mostly shoujo, but not all). It's a short list, not intended to be exhaustive or of the most popular, but with an emphasis on the lighthearted and titillating. The age ratings listed are the ones suggested by the publishers.

Sugar Sugar Rune
By Moyoco Anno. Del Rey. Ages 10-plus.
Ten-year-old witch Vanilla Ice has to compete against her friend Chocolat Kato to become the next queen of the Magical World. Whoever collects the most human boys' hearts wins!

Real/Fake Princess (a Chinese manhua)
By I-Huan. DrMaster Publications, Inc. All ages.
Zhi Li Tang has been living the life of a commoner for more than 10 years with her guardian Dr. Hui Tang who takes care of her like a younger sister. Now the royal family is searching for its members scattered by war. Dr. Tang says the 15-year-old Zhi Li is the Princess Yi Fu, half-sister of the current emperor. If the claim is judged false by Lieutenant Zhong Lu Wu, they could both lose their lives.

Fruits Basket (aka Furuba)
By Natsuki Takaya. TOKYOPOP. Ages 13-plus.
Poor Tohru Honda! The orphaned high school student works late after school and lives in a tent. One day she stumbles onto the secret of the Sohma clan, and her life is never the same again. Certain members suffer under a curse that when touched by someone of the opposite sex they transform into an animal of the Chinese zodiac.

Pretty Maniacs
By Shinsuke Kurihashi. DrMaster Publications, Inc. Ages 13-plus.
Wherever the feisty otaku Shinano Muto treads, trouble is sure to follow. Now that her all-girls school has merged with an all-boys school, she's going to be in it over her head.

Othello
By Satomi Ikezawa. Del Rey. Ages 16-plus.
Ever wanted to be somebody else sassier, more stylish, and kick-ass cool? Pitiful sixteen-year-old Yaya Higuchi is having a miserable time at school, mostly due to being bullied by her so-called friends Seri and Moe. During periods of severe mental strain, a fearless personality named Nana takes over for Yaya and, as Nana always triumphantly shouts in the end, "Justice is done!"

Her Majesty's Dog
By Mick Takeuchi. Go! Media Entertainment, LLC. Ages 16-plus.
What an unusual pet Amane Kamori owns, and what an unusual owner she is! Most owners would reward their dogs with a pat on the head, not kiss them on the lips. Of course, most dogs don't go to school with their owners like the handsome Hyoue Inugami does, and they aren't powerful koma-oni or guardian demon beasts.

Kamikaze Girls
Story by Novala Takemoto, art by Yukio Kanesada. VIZ Media, LLC. Older teens.
Momoko Ryugasaki is a civilized, feminine, frilly Lolita dresser, and her friend Ichigo is a wild, tomboyish yanki biker girl. The only thing they have in common is they are both fish out of water in the rural area where they live. The manga was adapted from the novel of the same name by Novala Takemoto, also available from VIZ.

Nodame Cantabile
By Tomoko Ninomiya. Del Rey. Ages 16-plus.
Definitely a manga for music students who will recognize the characters among their peers, know the classical pieces mentioned, and empathize with the problems: "Nodame just spent all her money on sheet music." Megumi Noda, aka Nodame, is a second-year piano student. She is an intuitive player who gets on the nerves of her apartment neighbor and fellow student Shinichi Chiaki who is more a technician. While Shinichi is a declared piano major, he is focusing on becoming a conductor.

Nana
By Ai Yazawa. VIZ Media, LLC. Older teens.
Nana Komatsu is a naive romantic who gets dumped by a cheating husband (not hers) only months before her high school graduation. In Tokyo, she meets a punk rocker also named Nana who has just moved into town like herself, and they overcome their differences to become allies.

Shout Out Loud! (aka Sakende Yaruze!)
By Satosumi Takaguchi. Blu. Older teens.
High school ice hockey player Nakaya Tsuzaka can't help but be fiercely protective of his dad, the baby-faced voice actor Shino Hisae. Nakaya has finally met his absentee dad after all these years, only to find he has competition from his dad's co-workers for Shino's attention. If Shino hadn't needed to take on the extra work from yaoi CDs to support the both of them, this wouldn't be happening.

Antique Bakery
By Fumi Yoshinaga. Digital Manga, Inc. Ages 16-plus.
A group of four 20-30ish guys run a bakery and coffee shop par excellence. They and their customers might eventually solve the mystery of who kidnapped the bakery Antique owner Keiichiro Tachibana when he was a child and turned his little-rich-boy world upside down.

Play Boy Blues
By Shiuko Kano. Be Beautiful. Ages 18-plus.
Construction worker Shinobu Hishiya should be proud of his protege Junsuke Aki who replaced him as the number one host at Club Dandy. But the suave Junsuke wants more than Shinobu's admiration, he wants a commitment from his wandering lover.

Embracing Love (aka Haru wo Daiteita)
By Youka Nitta. Be Beautiful. Ages 18-plus.
Kyosuke Iwaki and the younger, more daring Yoji Katou are rival actors in the adult entertainment industry when a film project forces them to work together. This project propels them into the public eye. Now, they are having to deal with mainstream stardom and envious competitors, on top of constant tests to the bonds of their unconventional relationship.

Your summer just got better. Have fun reading!