Grab a Graphic Novel: Super Shojo Manga!
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Grab a Graphic Novel: Super Shojo Manga!

We’re highlighting our graphic novel collection by exploring tried-and-true cartoon classics, as well as fresh-off-the-press new releases. Pick up a graphic novel today! 

Our Grab a Graphic Novel blog series presents our latest reads from the aforementioned collection. Available at all five libraries, the collection encompasses comics, manga and, of course, graphic novels — anything that uses pictures as an intrinsic part of the storytelling process. 

We’re talking about manga again with a focus on Shojo

Shojo is a genre of Japanese publications with a focus on comedy, daily life (or slice of life), and romance. Whereas shonen has a heavy action focus, shojo is typically more dramatic, with an emphasis on the relationships between characters. That’s not to say there’s no action – in fact, some of the titles on this list feature cool fight scenes and epic stunts! 

Cardcaptor Sakura 

Cardcaptor Sakura is quite possibly the most popular series in the genre and is widely regarded as a masterpiece among manga series in general. Following the exploits of the eponymous Sakura, an ordinary elementary school girl who gains magical powers when she accidentally releases a deck of sentient cards (each with different powers). Sakura must recapture the cards in order to prevent their magic from going out of control. 

The series follows a monster-of-the-week formula at first, before introducing a more conventional antagonist. Sakura also deals with the hijinks of keeping her double life a secret from her classmates and teacher. The series is also an excellent example of the “Magical Girl” genre inspired by television shows like Bewitched. 

Check out Volume 1

Fruits Basket 

One of the most popular shojo series, Fruits Basket follows the daily life of Tohru Honda, who gets drawn into the affairs of the cursed Soma family, twelve of whom are possessed by the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac – and transform into animals when hugged by the opposite sex. The series is a romantic comedy with a focus on high school life, spiced up by the supernatural antics of the Soma family.  

Fruits Basket occupies a spot as one of the most popular manga series in both Japan and the United States, and is the best selling title from publisher Tokyo Pop. It also has a 26-episode anime series, which is also available at Plano Public Library!   

Check out Volume 1

Sailor Moon 

Sailor Moon is another series to be acclaimed as one of the best selling manga of all time, with multiple live action and anime adaptations, and extensive merchandising. Starring middle schooler Usagi Tsukino, the manga focuses on her quest for the series’ McGuffin: the Legendary Silver Crystal. During her quest, Usagi must fight the evil forces bent on destroying the solar system, all while balancing her school and social life.  

Sailor Moon falls into the same “magical girl” genre as Cardcaptor Sakura, and is known for its transformation sequences, which are another key feature of that genre. As you may have guessed from the description, there are a number of Power Rangers-style fight scenes, with Usagi and her friends teaming up to fight various villains. Overall, an excellent series for young manga readers! 

Check out Volume 1 of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon and Season 1 of Sailor Moon

Kiss Him, Not Me!

Hopping back over to our teen audience, Kiss Him Not Me is an example of another genre within shonen featuring a female protagonist with multiple romantic suitors. In the case of KHNM, the heroine, Kae Serinuma, is a high school student and an avid consumer of anime and manga. Serinuma begins the series by locking herself in her room for a week, distraught over the death of one of her favorite characters and refusing to eat. In what can only be described as “fantasy wish fulfillment”, Serinuma’s (extremely unhealthy) grieving period has left her conventionally beautiful and with a small cohort of romantic rivals vying for her affections.  

Particularly in this sub-genre, the appeal is in the interactions between the rival suitors, who have very disparate personalities, and in seeing who, if anyone, ends up in a romantic relationship. This is will-they-won’t-they multiplied by four, and with four times the shenanigans. As the protagonist also loves manga, it’s difficult to not empathize when she gets distracted by a comic shop sale or invites her dates to an anime movie premier.  

Check out Volume 1

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle 

This is as good of time as any to discuss CLAMP, a group of manga artists and writers responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed shojo series, including the first entry on our list: Cardcaptor Sakura. CLAMP tends to write their stories in a shared multi-verse (a world where all of their stories happen in alternate dimensions or different time periods), and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles heavily explores this concept. This is an adventure tale told across space and time, with the heroes traveling between different worlds with their own unique magics, styles and technologies. 

Fans of Cardcaptor Sakura may be unsurprised to find that our protagonists are also searching for a series of scattered McGuffins: angelic feathers containing the heroine’s memories. One of our characters, the aforementioned heroine, is even named Sakura – fun fact: the designs of the main characters in this series are directly based on the characters from Cardcaptor Sakura!

Check out Volume 1

Natsume’s Book of Friends 

Another title for Japanes folklore enthusiasts, Natsume’s Book of Friends follows a lonely orphan boy, Takashi Natsume, who inherits his Grandmother’s notebook, the Book of Friends. This book actually contains the names of spirits, or yokai, which gives the book’s owner power over them. As a result, Natsume is targeted by jealous yokai, or yokai who want their names removed from the book, which leads Natsume on a journey of understanding to learn about and empathize with the various spirits in the book, leading him to release their names.

A bit of a departure from the more combat oriented titles on this list, Natsume’s Book of Friends has a dark beginning, but is in general a feel-good series about understanding people (and spirits) who are different from us. 

Check out Volume 1

Sweetness and Lightning 

The last series on our list is Sweetness and Lightning. A father and daughter are coping with the loss of their wife/mother, and in their grief have settled on a diet of packaged food. The father, a teacher, is inspired by one of his students to cook fresh meals for his daughter, both as a way cope with his loss and provide for his daughter. This slice of life manga is a heartwarming read about moving on and embracing life. 

Check out Volume 1

As we talk about different graphic novels, we can only feature a fraction of the awesome works within our collection. We’d love to hear from you as well! What is your favorite manga graphic novel? Leave a comment with your own recommendation! 

For more reading suggestions, check out the posts in our Plano Reads tag. We also have several virtual Book Clubs to appeal to any kind of reader.

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