Shoujo anime comes in many different styles, from historical dramas and slice of life narratives depicting modern society to dramatic worlds in far-off galaxies. But there’s one thing that ties all shoujo stories together: Emotion.
Now, this emotion is often romantic, but these series shouldn’t just be generalized as “just another love story.” By taking a deeper look into this handful of shows, I examined how they portray love while also serving up life lessons that we can apply to our own lives.
These stories are complex; they make us think. But they also show us new ways to look at the world.
High schoolers Kyohei Takano, Ranmaru Morii, Takenaga Oda and Yukinojo Toyama are invited to live in a gorgeous mansion rent-free. The catch? Turning the mansion owner’s wallflower niece into a lady. However, her niece Sunako Nakahara is an agoraphobic, horror-movie-loving recluse who tends to be frightened whenever she sees anyone attractive.
Though this anime sounds superficial at first glance, The Wallflower is a positive narrative about inner beauty. From a traumatizing experience, Sunako was told that she was ugly, leading her to take those words to heart. We learn that underneath all those layers, she’s a kindhearted and caring person. The anime’s theme is centered around societal beauty standards and their damaging effects.
Sunako overcomes the harsh words spoken to her in the past and learns to love herself inside and out. The show’s message is not only heartwarming, but I love how it teaches viewers to appreciate who they are as a person.
It is entertaining to watch Sunako’s interactions with the boys, and it was rewarding to see how they become like a family throughout the story. I appreciated this series because Kyohei, Ranmaru, Takenaga and Yuki start the show with the mission to make her into a lady, yet they eventually are less inclined to change her and simply empower her for who she is.
These characters all have flaws and are far from the perfect image they try to project toward others, allowing The Wallflower to teach us to love ourselves and relish in the little things that make us, us.
Watch The Wallflower on Funimation!
Sora Naegino wants to become an acrobat for the famed circus Kaleido Stage, known for its skilled performers who put on spectacular routines and extravagant costumes.
To realize her dream, she travels from Japan to California to audition for a group, soon realizing she needs much more than her natural talent to succeed.
Sora is challenged multiple times throughout the show. With perseverance and hard work, she is tested not only for her skills, but also for entertaining the audience. She struggles mentally, physically and emotionally along the way, and every time she overcomes an obstacle, she is faced with yet another roadblock.
Though Kaleido Star is a show aimed toward a younger audience, I think what viewers of all ages can take away is the message of fighting for what you believe in. Sora encourages you to follow your dreams, and that adversity builds character.
Perseverance can help to motivate you and help you grow like Sora as she works her way to being a top performer in Kaleido Star.
Watch Kaleido Star on Funimation!
Ouran High School Host Club
In Ouran High School Host Club, main character Haruhi is a brilliant student who gets accepted into the posh Ouran Academy—and now they’re a fish out of water.
When they mistakenly wander into the meeting room of the host club and breaks a valuable vase, she’s recruited to join the club to pay for the damages.
This quite hilarious series focuses on how Haruhi and the members of the host club (Honey, Mori, Hikaru, Kaoru, Kyoya and Tamaki) clash because of the different ways they each view things. Ouran High School Host Club teaches its viewers about acceptance and the danger of preconceptions.
There’s plenty of romance, slice of life moments and humorous elements, but beneath the surface, we see how Haruhi and the host club members experience culture shock from these preconceived notions. Throughout their interactions, they come to a greater acceptance and appreciation of each other.
This series teaches us not to judge a book by its cover just because that book may be different from what we expected. The host club members grow throughout the series, challenged by Haruhi and their own world-views. It’s rewarding, and a great lesson in changing for the better.
Watch Ouran High School Host Club on Funimation!