I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I have a bit of a soft spot for shoujo. Of course, I’ll always prefer my blood and doom over fluffy and cute, but every now and then it’s nice to break things up with a little bit of girliness. I’m pretty particular about my shoujo though, and most of the time I can’t tolerate a lot of cheese and angst. That’s why the following five animes have all managed to do something different from the norm. Once you’re done reading, I would love to see some other people’s lists too since I’m always on the lookout for new anime. ^^

5. Skip Beat!

Summary: Kyouko Mogami quits school to follow her childhood love as he pursues his dream of becoming famous, but after slaving away as his personal maid, she overhears him talking about how he’s just using her. Enraged, Kyouko swears to get revenge by becoming an idol even more famous than him.

Skip Beat may just be one of the most deceptive things I’ve ever seen. I’ll admit that during the first few minutes I considered dropping it because the female lead seemed like a dependent, self-sacrificing idiot desperate to please her boyfriend, but then everything changed. Before my eyes Kyouko became someone completely new: an angry, determined, and self-confident heroine whose intense, burning hatred gave birth to a strong desire for vengeance. Kyouko is a rare gem among shoujo leads, and it was really her fighting spirit that made this show so addicting from start to finish. I don’t think it’s possible to make it through the first episode without wanting to cheer Kyouko on.
If I had to point out its biggest flaw, I’d say the art is a bit underwhelming though, but a strong protagonist, excellent sense of humor, and great seiyuu cast all more than make up for it, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants something a bit different in their shoujo.

4. Full Moon Wo Sagashite

Summary: Mitsuki, a girl diagnosed with throat cancer, is visited one day by two shinigami who inform her that she only has a year to live. They agree to help her achieve her dream of becoming an idol so that she can find Eichi, her former love who she was forced to separate from two years prior. [The exact opposite of Skip Beat ;D ]

Another story about a girl trying to make it in the idol industry? Don’t let that fool you though- this is one of the most emotionally gripping, heart-breaking things I have ever seen, and if you don’t shed a tear at some point then you’re not human. I will admit that the first half is pretty unimpressive and tedious with all of the filler episodes, but once it gets serious, this series really starts to shine. It may present itself as a cute story about a pop idol, but beneath the surface is a tragic tale about a very sick little girl who has to try coping with things that I can’t even imagine having to think about at twelve years old.

3. Lovely Complex

Summary: Risa is a really tall girl and Otani is a really short boy. Together they are viewed as a comedy duo in their school, but one day Risa starts to realize that she may feel something more for him.

LoveCom was an interesting one. It’s sweet and simple, managing to take a rather generic shoujo plot and turn it into a fun and engaging romantic comedy that does an incredible job balancing the drama, romance, and humor. It’s touching at times, laugh-out-loud funny at others, and always incredibly realistic aside from a few minor annoyances (sorry, but I could’ve lived without the trap.) It takes it’s time fleshing out the main characters and developing their romance, and the amount of depth given to Risa and Otani in just 24 episodes is just amazing. It definitely took me by surprise.

2.  Revolutionary Girl Utena

Summary: Tomboyish Utena enrolls in Ohtori academy where she finds herself involved in a bizarre game where people have to fight duels to win a girl who they call the “Rose Bride.”

One thing to note about Utena is that it is SLOW and repetitive. You will watch Utena defeat someone in a duel almost every episode, but somehow that same formula never seems to get old. The reason why is because the amount of depth and character development is incredible and unlike any other anime I’ve ever seen. Plus, the repetitive scenes are about the ONLY thing that you’ll see coming- there’s still quite a bit of suspense regarding everything outside of the duels, including some pretty jaw-dropping revelations and twists. And anyone who’s a fan of these surreal mind fuck shows like Evangelion or Paranoia Agent should definitely watch Utena, because there’s a lot of heavy symbolism, psychological analysis, and hidden meaning behind everything.

1. Saiunkoku Monogatari

Summary: Kou Shuurei lives in poverty despite belonging to a powerful family, so when she’s offered a job becoming the Emperor’s consort to turn him from a lazy fool into a responsible ruler, she accepts, although her true desire is to some day become a government official.

Bishies. There are a lot of them. But don’t let that turn you off-these characters are far from shallow, and their looks are merely an added bonus. There is nothing at all shallow about this anime.

Before watching this though, you should be aware that it’s more historical than it is shoujo, but because it has so many shoujo elements I decided to include it anyway (after much debating.) There is a lot of focus on government and politics, so for some that may be a turnoff. I’m usually not much of a fan of politics, but I found it easy to get absorbed into the story, and it also helps that almost every character in the entire enormous cast was likeable and well-developed. Shuurei, the female lead, really surprised me too- she managed to stand her ground, overcome the prejudices of society, and climb her way to the top in a man’s world, proving herself to be an incredibly admirable character that actually has a BRAIN as opposed to most shoujo leads.  Words cannot express how much I adored her and Saiunkoku Monogatari- it’s really the kind of thing where you have to see it to believe it, because the concept sounds so boring and simple that I have to admit I didn’t believe it would be very interesting either.

So what do you think? I’m curious to see everybody’s lists. =D