Shoujo and Josei Manga/Drama
Hanazakari no Kimitachi e (English title: For You in Full Blossom)
Hana Kimi was a wildly popular manga when it was published in the early 2000s, selling over 11 million copies. There have been many drama adaptations across different countries including South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Indonesia, but the original Japanese drama is the best. It’s incredibly funny, which stops the serious main storyline from overpowering it.Hana Kimi is about Ashiya Mizuki (Horikita Maki), a girl who becomes interested in Sano Izumi (Oguri Shun) after she watches him high jump on TV. She dresses up as a boy in order to attend his all-boys’ school to get closer to him — of course, chaos ensues, mostly because you can’t have 30 boys in one building and expect peace.
Kimi wa Petto (English title: Tramps Like Us)
Kimi wa Petto is an example of josei manga as opposed to shoujo. While shoujo manga presents a very idealized version of romance and usually has a bubbly female protagonist, josei tends to be more practical and have varied protagonists or even casts of mostly men. Kimi wa Petto is a charming story and the drama does a good job of making it come alive.
Iwaya Sumire (Koyuki), a stressed journalist with unfeminine hobbies such as watching pro-wrestling and reading seinen manga. When an injured boy turns up on her doorstep, she takes him in to help, but he just won’t leave once he’s feeling better. She offers what she thinks is an unimaginable choice: he can only stay if he acts like her dog. The boy, Goda Takeshi (Matsumoto Jun) — or Momo, as he calls him — readily takes her up on it. The story follows the ups and downs of having a human as a pet and the feelings that arise (and the complications when Koyuki’s senpai that she loves comes back into the picture.)
Ouran Koukou Hosuto Bu (English title: Ouran High School Host Club)
Ouran High School Host Club is also wildly popular, and both the manga and the anime are critically acclaimed. The drama version is the best adaptation of a manga to TV I have personally ever seen. It manages to adapt a lot of funny but unrealistic manga-style tropes (such as people being crushed under words) in a way that works for live-action.
Ouran follows Fujioka Haruhi (Kawaguchi Haruna), a middle-class girl, who enters Ouran Academy, a prestigious high school whose student body is made up of people from incredibly rich families. After she breaks a vase worth $300,000 she has no choice but to disguise herself as a boy and work as a host with the school’s host club, a group of boys that have made it their mission to cater to and entertain the school’s females.
Hana Yori Dango (English title: Boys Over Flowers)
Hana Yori Dango is the best-selling Japanese manga of all time, selling over 54 million copies. It spawned multiple live-action adaptations across multiple countries, including a film that is the third best-selling Japanese drama DVD of all time.The 2005 drama version has become the most recognized and well-loved of all adaptations, leading to a second season and a movie. The story follows the manga very closely: Makino Tsukushi (Inoue Mao) enters a prestigious school in order to follow in the footsteps of one of her idols, but she finds out very quickly that her classmates are superficial. After crossing the F4, the four most powerful boys in the school, she becomes the bullying target of the entire school. However, after she stands up to Domyouji Tsukasa (Matsumoto Jun), he falls in love with her and the rest of the drama follows their rocky relationship, made complicated by her being in love with his best friend.
Nodame Cantabile is another school story, but this one follows students at a classical music university and falls under the josei category. The leading female character, Nodame, is based on a real person who helped write some of the music for the anime adaptation.Nodame follows Shinichi Chiaki (Tamaki Hiroshi), an arrogant multi-talented student, and Megumi Noda, or Nodame (Ueno Juri), who is messy and sloppy and everything that Chiaki is not. She falls in love with him soon after their accidental meeting, and though it takes him a while to even begin to appreciate her talent and her personality, they influence each other positively and grow into better musicians and people together.
Hachimitsu to Clover (English title: Honey and Clover)
Hachimitsu to Clover resembles other school manga dramas on this list, but it falls under josei because of its realistic portrayals of complicated and occasionally painful romances.It follows five students as they go through art school together, with the main character Takemoto Yuuta (Ikuta Toma) acting as the series’ point of view. While he’s in love with Hanamoto Hagumi (Narumi Riko), he can’t bring himself to confess his feelings. Throughout the series, he grapples with how he feels about her and how he feels about art while growing and learning with the rest of his friends.
GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka
Great Teacher Onizuka’s popularity extended way beyond Japan and it accomplished a lot, including being one of the first manga to be translated into English for American audiences and inspiring many adaptations, both animated and live-action. There are actually two drama versions, one in 1998 and this one from 2012. The 1998 version reached high ratings, with an average of 27%, but the changes were so great that fans question whether it holds to the manga’s spirit.Onizuka Eikichi (AKIRA) becomes a teacher because he wants to hit on schoolgirls, but during his time at a second-rate college, he discovers he has a conscious and a sense of morality. He takes it upon himself to teach his students, the unruliest class in the school, life lessons through methods that were usually illegal but effective.
Many of the dramas that are adapted from manga involve stories of reforming delinquents by any way possible, and Rookies is one of the best-known examples of it. Rookies was published not only in Japan, but in France, Italy, and Taiwan as well. While the manga focuses more on the baseball aspect of the story, the drama follows the relationships between the players and their coach.Kawato Koichi (Sato Ryuta) is the new teacher at the notorious Futakotamagawa High School, where he is also assigned to be the baseball coach. Half the team have been suspended because of a brawl, while the other half prefer to loiter, smoke, and chase skirts. He spends his time teaching the students to follow their dreams of playing in Japan’s national high school baseball tournament, Koshien, and to leave behind their good-for-nothing lifestyle.
Yankee-kun to Megane-chan (English title: Flunk Punk Rumble)
As you can see, there are quite a few Japanese dramas that feature yankees (delinquents) but this is my personal favorite. Yankee-kun to Megane-chan is not as internationally well-known as some of the others, but it has a lot of heart and the drama is hilarious.
It follows Shinagawa Daichi (Narimiya Hiroki), a lazy yankee at a college prep school. To his dismay, class president Adachi Hana (Naka Riisa) decides to make him enjoy high school whether he wants to or not. He doesn’t always appreciate her meddling and overeager attempts, but once he learns the truth about her past, he realizes they have more in common than he thought.
And last, but definitely not least, is Gokusen. The dramas launched the careers of many of the top actors in the industry right now, and the manga lasted a respectable 15 volumes. There are three seasons and a movie, as well as a follow-up manga special that features her old students as working, respectable adults.Gokusen (short for “gokudou sensei”, or yakuza teacher) follows Yamaguchi Kumiko (Nakama Yukie) as she rejects her upbringing in a yakuza family and becomes a teacher. She ends up in charge of a class of good-for-nothing yankees, all of whom follow their leader Sawada Shin (Matsumoto Jun). None of the students trust adults, so it’s her job to coax them into trusting her — all the while she has to hide her yakuza background. Having to hide such a large secret on top of falling in love with a policeman brings a lot of comedy to the serious plotlines of each episode.