This list of the best romance manga consists of titles that many people have overlooked because of more popular, mainstream titles. Except for Watakoi, all of the other series on this list have already been completed, so you can binge read them all the way until the end!
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, reading these titles give you a dose of sweetness and romance that you never knew you needed. So let’s get right into this list (in no particular order) of unforgettable romance manga!
10. Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku (Fujita, 2014 – Present)
Let’s start the list with something quite easy to relate to, thanks to its typical office setting. While not everyone has the luxury to pursue an office romance, this manga lets us take a peek into the lives of those who do.
The main characters, a couple working at the same office, are both hardworking and serious about their day jobs. But the moment they clock off, we see that they’re a sweet, though unconventional couple. You see, the guy is a game otaku (nerd, obsessed with a particular hobby), and that usually influences their interactions as a couple. Even the secondary characters, their respective supervisors, are also in a relationship (with the lady boss being a secretive cosplayer).
Watakoi is awesome because of its relatability to the real world. It also normalizes being an otaku, which, in all honesty, is a non-issue…because aren’t we all obsessed with something?
Check out the first volume on Amazon here: Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku 1
9. Good Morning Call (Yue Takasuka, 1997 – 2002)
Imagine getting tricked into renting an apartment with a total stranger (in his defense, he got conned, too). Instead of telling your parents, you decide to go with the flow. This typical yet preposterous plot made Good Morning Call endearing to many readers and deserving of a spot on this list.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that they’re both teenagers, barely out of high school, and aren’t equipped to live independently. In the real world, they’d probably go broke in a month, but somehow, they made it work in this title. It also doesn’t hurt that the guy you accidentally rented an apartment with is the school heartthrob.
You can get the six volume set at Amazon, but it’s only available in Japanese: Good Morning Call – all six volume set [Japanese Import]
8. After the Rain (Jun Mayuzuki, 2014 – 2018)
Do you remember the first time you fell in love? And no, it doesn’t include your rotating crushes of the week or that “my friend likes him/her, so I’ll like them too.” It’s the person who gave you that achingly sweet feeling whenever you thought about them. That person you couldn’t take your eyes off of but couldn’t look at directly face-to-face.
This manga’s love story is about that — a young teenage girl falls in love with her co-worker at her part-time job. Unfortunately, that co-worker is her boss and is probably a good 20+ years older than her.
Their interactions are gold, especially when she tries to read his emotions or inadvertently flirts with him. Too bad the guy is as dense as every other manga main character, even when she’s already telling him directly how she feels. It’s hard to go further into the details without spoiling anything, so just read it for yourself! It was adapted into a 12-episode anime series, but if you want all the juicy bits, I recommend you start reading the manga now.
Check out volume 1 on Amazon: After the Rain, 1
7. My Love Story!! (Kazune Kawahara, 2011 – 2016)
You may think you know the plot of most romantic manga series compared to action-adventures or mystery-thrillers. However, some titles break the mold, and they do it in a way that makes them unforgettable.
My Love Story!! is one of them, and the execution of their “unique twist” is excellent and enough to secure a spot on this best-of list.
This is not your typical pretty boy X damsel-in-constant-distress pairing. The main character is a hulking giant with a face that you’d have no problem mistaking as an antagonist. His hulking frame and facial features probably match Slam Dunk’s Takenori Akagi, instead of the pretty boy Rukawa. On the other hand, his love interest is your prototypical bishoujo (pretty girl) lead: petite, gentle, and is loved by many.
Oh, and yeah, they both like each other—end of story.
Unfortunately, the main character is a bit dense, so even when the girl gives him clear signs, he misinterprets them and thinks that she likes his friend, an actual pretty boy. He vows to support his friend’s “relationship,” not knowing that he’s actually the object of her affection!
Unique, yet very exciting, right?
Check out Volume 1 here: My Love Story!!, Vol. 1
6. Kimi no Todoke (Karuho Shiina, 2006 – 2017)
The plot of many romance manga is usually quite predictable. However, many people read romance manga because of the characters. While some of these characters are very relatable, some are too good, too pretty, or too precious to be true. This balance of relatability and make-believe is the perfect setup to escape a boring life. And after reading Kimi no Todoke, you’ll be swept away far from reality. And you’ll wish to stay there.
Imagine, the main character is a girl originally described as someone who resembles Sadako. Unkempt hair hiding most of her face, unresponsive, hard to talk to and be friends with–basically the bottom tier of likability in her class. Too bad for everyone, the school’s most popular boy begins talking to her! Suddenly, her life changes; she starts making friends, takes care of herself and her appearance more, and transforms into the best version of her she can be.
And with their unique pairing, love blooms. And that kids, is How I Met Your Mother. Oof, wrong list!
It deserves a spot on this “best romance manga” list because we see how dynamic the main character is. She’s the epitome of polishing a diamond in the rough. And no, the male protagonist isn’t taking advantage of her shyness or awkwardness, either. He genuinely wanted to strike up a conversation and discover the real person hiding beneath all that hair (lol).
You can get volume 1 (and the other volumes) on Amazon here: Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 1
5. Ao Haru Ride (Io Sakisaka, 2011 – 2015)
Many romance manga titles, especially ones involving teens or young adults, are typically considered coming-of-age stories. High school is the perfect setting for a young person to fall in love for the first time or foster their relationships with friends, rivals, and the opposite sex.
This theme is what Ao Haru Ride became known for. It’s one of the best coming-of-age titles because it teaches you about love, relationships, heartbreaks, indecisiveness, and moving on. To say that Ao Haru Ride is a rollercoaster of emotions is an understatement.
From the happy moments with friends at school to breaking the heart of your first love, and even realizing that the person you want to be with has been with you all along–it will truly give your heart a workout. And you’ll probably shed a tear or two on many interactions between friends, lovers, and friends-turned-lovers. Vague, I know, but I don’t want to spoil the beautiful story and characters that this manga has in store for the readers.
Check out the first volume on Amazon: Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 1
4. Nisekoi (Naoshi Komi, 2011 – 2016)
What do you think happens when the son of a Yakuza leader gets “forced” into a relationship with the daughter of their rival gang’s boss? A recipe for disaster? Hilarity ensues, right? But what if, hear me out here…what if it works out beautifully and blooms into a budding relationship that you’d want to for?
Well, that’s what you get with Nesekoi, loosely translated as “fake love.” In the first place, the main characters are forced into a fake love situation and have decided to play along to maintain peace between the rival gangs. But as many other characters are introduced, especially ones that potentially threaten their “relationship,” you can expect that the daughter of a Yakuza boss won’t sit idly by!
Not only that, but there’s also the element of mystery in this romantic comedy. You see, the male protagonist holds a locket that was given to him by his childhood sweetheart. As kids, they promised something like, “I’ll marry you someday” (oh man, kids say the stupidest things), and that locket is a symbol of him holding on to that agreement. So, who’s got the key to his heart, erm locket? Is it the Yakuza chick? Or perhaps a childhood friend? Or what if there are multiple keys? I think I’ve gone too far, and I’ll stop here before I spoil the whole series!
You can find volume 1 on Amazon here: Nisekoi: False Love, Vol. 1 (1)
3. Your Lie in April (Naoshi Arakawa, 2011-2015)
From the light-hearted romantic comedy, let’s now move towards something more serious. Do you know what rhyme’s with music prodigy? Tragedy. Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about why Your Lie in April deserves a spot on this list.
I’ve said it earlier, many romance titles are predictable, the plot is shallow, and the characters are opposites. But this one goes against the grain and erases those misconceptions.
The main characters are both into music: the male protagonist is a piano prodigy who hasn’t touched any keys since his mother died. The female lead is a hyperactive, free-spirited girl who plays violinist who rarely sticks to the score but is loved by the audience. They met when she asked her friend to set her up with his friend, but by some stroke of luck, they got closer, and she even convinced him to play the piano again.
But as I’ve said earlier, this is heavier than your usual romance title, and you may need more than a box of tissues. The female character has a secret and told said a lie, and you’ll know both of these when you read the manga!
Check out book 1 here on Amazon: Your Lie in April 1
2. Love Hina (Ken Akamatsu, 1998 – 2001)
An oldie, but a goodie, Love Hina is probably one of the first romantic comedy titles you’d read if you started your manga obsession in the early 2000s. And even when it’s your prototypical harem romantic comedy, you’ll enjoy every moment of it and even try to binge the whole 14 volumes in one sitting (trust me, I tried).
Here, you got a guy that’s also holding on to a promise to his childhood friend (can anyone tell me why young kids keep doing these things??) to enter the University of Tokyo together. Oh, I take back what I said about kids and their stupid promises–entering a top-ranked university together, that’s something I’d encourage all kids to do!
Unfortunately, the male protagonist is a bit lacking in the brain department and has failed the entrance exam twice. His parents won’t fund his obsession anymore, so he was forced to live in a hotel owned by his grandmother; only this time, it’s transformed into a girls-only apartment. Lucky!
The girl he made a promise with may or may not be one of the tenants of the apartment. It’s even possible that he made that promise with multiple girls. I won’t confirm or deny anything; you have to find it out for yourself!
You can get the complete manga series on Amazon here: Complete set Manga Series: LOVE HINA, volumes 1-14
1. Orange (Ichigo Takano, 2012 – 2017)
We’ve covered harem, Yakuza spawns, music prodigies, and May-December romances. What we need now is a bit of sci-fi and just a healthy dose of “I’m you from the future, someone f-d up, and you need to fix it.”
That’s basically what happened in Orange, and because of its unique plot (and a slow boil of romantic feelings from the main characters), this rounds up the top 10 best romance manga that you need to read right now.
The female protagonist receives letters from her future self, 10 years in the future. This older, wiser self tells her of the biggest regrets she made, and it’s something that she’ll probably do in the course of the story. She needs to NOT do any of it for her to have a happy ending. Or at least not feel guilty about talking to your past self instead of helping the world… seriously, you can probably warn governments or avoid tragedies…possibly).
Obviously, it involves a boy, and she should do everything that her future self tells her, or else the boy’s life gets messed up. If she fails to convince him not to go with his friends after school and instead accompany his mentally-ill mother to the hospital? His mom dies. You get the gist.
You say, “that’s messed up.” I say, “epic character backstory.” Curious to know more about them now, are you? Go ahead and start reading this title now!
You can check out the complete collection 1 on Amazon: orange: The Complete Collection 1