Full disclosure: I have a problem where I won’t get into a series if it has too many seasons. For some reason, the amount of history automatically translates into too much commitment, and I have serious television commitment issues. (Hence the word ‘Short’ in the title.) Granted, I’ve also watched The Vampire Diaries and other shows religiously for many a season, so there’s some hypocrisy going on here. That being said, I generally like to keep my anime series to around 26 or so episodes, and shoujo is my favorite genre. Below are my top recommendations for shoujo anime!
Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal – for old fans and newcomers to the genre alike
I grew up in Japan watching the original Sailor Moon series, dressing up as the sailors, and generally running around shouting the show’s catchphrases in Japanese with my friends. Sailor Moon tells the story of a regular girl who finds out that she’s the reincarnation of one of the guardians of the Moon Kingdom. She and her friends acquire powers and use them to fight evil.
The anime is equal parts action and character development between the girls. I loved all of the old series, and I’m just as obsessed about Sailor Moon Crystal reboot as the original series. If you haven’t watched much anime in general, or you’re just a fan of the old series, I highly recommend watching the reboot – the art and animation have been significantly updated since the original series which premiered in the 90’s. Also, Crystal seems to be sticking more faithfully to the original manga, which bodes well for Neptune/Uranus shippers.
Inu x Boku Secret Service – for a supernatural slice-of-life romance
Inu x Boku Secret Service tells the story of Ririchiyo, the classic tsundere* character, and Soshi, her bodyguard. The story follows the daily life of these rich hotel inhabitants and their bodyguards – except the tenants and their bodyguards all possess supernatural abilities. I like this anime because I identified really strongly with the main character. Ririchiyo is outwardly witty, sarcastic, confident, but incredibly alienating – her harshness doesn’t make her many friends. In comes her SS agent, with whom she gradually falls in love after their many adventures with the other hotel tenants. This anime is super sweet, but the main character still gives it some edge.
*this term describes a character who starts out as cold or hostile outwardly but is actually very kind on the inside. Like a toasted marshmallow (Yes, that was a Veronica Mars reference.)
Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora – for ugly crying
If you want to cry, and cry buckets, I’d recommend Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora. It’s pretty much The Fault in Our Stars in anime form. Two teenagers are stuck in the hospital- Yuichi is a rebellious teenage boy who’s recovering from Hepatitis A, and Rika has been in and out of the hospital throughout her entire life due to heart issues. Gradually, the two become friends and romantic interests- but all the while we never know if Rika’s going to survive. This one’s only 6 episodes long, so if you’re looking for something short and bittersweet, here it is.
Vampire Knight – for shameless supernatural romance
I binge-watched Vampire Knight a few years ago, and it still holds a special place in my shojo anime list. The series tells the story of Yuuki Cross, the disciplinary committee officer of her high school. The school is divided into Day Class and Night Class students, and surprise! The Night Class students are all vampires. It’s Yuuki’s job to make sure that the Day Class and the Night Class students don’t interact, and that the Day Class students don’t find out about the Night Class’ identities.
Yuuki doesn’t remember anything before one night she was rescued in a snowstorm from a rabid vampire- her memories start with her rescuer, Lord Kaname. Ever since, Yuuki has had a crush on Kaname, much to the chagrin of her childhood friend and fellow disciplinary committee member, Zero. What follows is an action-packed love triangle with hilarious and hilariously dark supporting characters. The stakes are high, and the plot is magnetic- it’s easy to finish off this 26 episode set in a few days.
Angel Beats! – for good, clean, undead fun
Angel Beats! is difficult to describe. It’s this gorgeous 13 episode series that has a ton of potential that sometimes hits the mark and sometimes misses it, but it has a macabre, offbeat humor that keeps the audience hooked. Angel Beats! is about a group of kids stuck in some sort of purgatory governed by this odd girl who seemingly enforces the rules of the purgatory universe with supernatural powers named Angel. The group of kids band together to battle Angel (think Codename: Kids Next Door style), while we gradually learn about how each of the characters lived and died along the way.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica – for the dark magical girl
Puella Magi Madoka Magica looks like a typical magical girl superficially, but it is so dark. Due to its popularity, this series recently got a feature length film run in the U.S. and Japan in addition to the airing of the original series. Madoka tells the story of girls becoming magical girls- the girls are granted any wish, but then they must become magical girls and fight evil witches in return. Essentially, and what the girls don’t know is, they’re making deals with the devil- the girls must fight to keep their soul gems clean so they can stay pure-of-heart magical girls, and the alternative is nothing short of horrifying. This series makes use of surrealistic artwork in addition to the typical animation, which is an interesting artistic change from the usual anime style.
Ga-Rei Zero – for everyone and anyone I meet
My favorite anime of all time is named Ga-Rei Zero. I’m not going to spoil the twist that happens in the first episode, but this entire series is framed- we catch the end at the beginning and then we travel back to see how the characters fell. Ga-Rei focuses on the relationship between two sisters, Kagura and Yomi, who fight evil spirits with the help of a military organization. Don’t judgae this one based on the horrible 3-D rendering of the evil spirits in the first episode- the story is less about the action and more about the emotional rise and fall of one of the sisters. This one will make you cry ugly tears, but it’s totally worth it.