Rom-Coms and Chaos: Otaku Recs from Bookstr’s Gabriela Collazo

What could be better than a recommendation list of rom-coms? Manga and anime rom-coms! Bookstr writer Gabriela has just the 10 series you need for your TBR!

Graphic Novels Recommendations Romance
gabriela collazo portrait on the bookstr team tuesday template background of orange and black.

We’re back with recommendations straight from our Bookstr team members in this week’s Team Tuesday feature. Today, we’re bringing you a list of eclectic Anime and Manga from editorial and outreach member Gabriela Collazo. She absolutely adores a mix of genres, but romance is always at the center.

A lover of books and pop culture, there’s no wonder she fits the Bookstr mold to a T. Whether she’s writing her fairy tale novella or watching Anastasia (1997) again for the millionth time, you can be sure that she’s enjoying the best life has to offer. Her sense of humor is unparalleled to boot. When asked what the title of a book on her life would be, she responded with “Note to Self or This Could Very Well Be Me PMSing.” I can only imagine what an amazing experience it would be if she were ever to meet her favorite celebrity, Zendaya. They’d have us all in stitches.

Let’s take a look at the 10 Manga and Anime recs Gabriela has in store for us.

Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi

Yona of the Dawn was one of the first manga I ever read, and it still ranks high for me. It tells the story of a displaced princess who befriends a group of warriors descended from dragon gods, whom she is prophesied to lead. They go on adventures together, defend impoverished villages, and call themselves The Happy Hungry Bunch while they’re at it.

Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi book cover
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

There’s action, there’s politics, and the romance is worth every slow-burning second. Not to mention the eye candy. Though, I have to say, Mizuho Kusanagi truly shines at gag faces.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Normally, it takes me a minute to get into a series that’s overwhelmingly hyped, but the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise really is that good. It’s about two brothers on a journey to find something known as the philosopher’s stone. Their search for this legendary artifact, however, leads them down a dark conspiracy.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood anime
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I enjoyed the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime and its source manga, but the Brotherhood reboot takes the cake. The story as a whole is amazing, with its diverse and well-rounded characters, but the best part about the Brotherhood adaptation is the awesome opening and ending songs. I’m due for a rewatch.

Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family has been my life’s devotion for the last four years — just ask any of my friends. It deals with a spy who must get himself a fake family as part of a mission. The kicker? Unbeknownst to him, his pretend daughter is a telepath, and the woman playing the role of his wife is an assassin. Even the dog has a secret!

SpyxFamily book cover depicting a man in a suit reading a newpaper in a leather chair while holding a gun.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

It’s a wholesome found family story with lots of laughs, action, and the potential for romance. Essentially, it’s got a little bit of everything, which is exactly my cup of tea. More importantly, it’s got Anya — my favorite character in all of manga. Anya, the six(?)-year-old telepath. My idol.

Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate is a show about time-travel. Not the fun Back to the Future kind of time-travel, but the psychologically taxing, WWIII instigating kind. Basically, the realistic kind of time-travel. A self-proclaimed mad scientist and his friends must deal with extraneous consequences after they build a time machine out of a microwave and a phone.

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Steins;Gate is considered to be one of the best anime ever created, and for good reason. It’s really smart! I’ve seen this series three times, and something always goes over my head. But the main reason it makes it onto this list are the fond memories I have of introducing it to friends.

Kindergarten Wars by You Chiba

Kindergarten Wars is a recent favorite with a kooky premise. The story is set in “the safest kindergarten in the world,” a school where the entire staff is made up of former inmates. To complete her jail sentence, convicted assassin Rita must work as a teacher while defending her students from killers targeting the children every day. Her one motivation? Finding a hot boyfriend.

Kindergarten Wars by You Chiba, manga book cover depicting and man and woman holding a gun with bulets flying about.
IMAGE VIA MANGA PLUS

The series has that chaotic blend of genres I like, and it’s never boring. Honestly, I can’t tell where a story arc ends and another one begins; it’s non-stop gags and action. And just when you think that’s all it is, it throws a dagger at your heart. I look forward to a new chapter every week.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions

I discovered this show through a gif on Pinterest, and it did not disappoint. It’s about a boy seeking a fresh start in high school after coming off of an embarrassing phase of grandiose delusions, aka, he was a chunibyo. Just when he thinks this cringy part of his life has ended, he meets Rika, a current chuni.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, anime girl holding a weapon on a dark starry background
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I’ve seen this anime about four times, and it’s a comfort show at this point. It’s a silly rom-com with beautiful animation and a lot of heart. It makes me smile and cry, and I’m adding it to my rewatch list as we speak.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War by Aka Akasaka

What I love about this next series is that it starts off as a gimmicky, over-the-top rom-com but gets psychological along the way. Set in a school for children of the elite, the story follows the mind games between a high school student council president and his vice president. The two have the hots for each other, but neither of them wants to make the first move. Alas, love is war.

love is Way book cover depicting an anime girl on a red background.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

This was one of the first series I saw end in real-time, and it’s continued to live rent-free in my brain since. That psychological edge Aka Akasaka loves to employ in his storytelling makes this a rom-com unlike any I’ve read. I thank him for giving me one of my favorite side couples to ever set up room in my head and my heart.

Kamisama Kiss

Kamisama Kiss is one of those series that has great rewatchability for me. It tells the story of a homeless girl who suddenly inherits the responsibility of being a shrine’s deity. Through different trials, she does her best to rise to the occasion while trying to win the affection of her fox demon familiar.

Kamisama Kiss, anime characters
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It’s a fun supernatural rom-com with an all-around likable cast. Best of all, it stands on its own two legs apart from its source material. I don’t think I can say that about every anime adaptation.

Witch Watch by Kenta Shinohara

This next one surprised me with its blend of gags, action, and depth. Witch Watch follows a witch trainee and the day-to-day shenanigans between her and her group of familiars. Amidst all the slapstick, the latter do their best to protect the teen witch as impending doom approaches.

Witch Watch mange book cover depicting a happy girl with a man grabbing her shoulder
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Needless to say, this manga is a romp! Every chapter has a button to it, which is a testament to the writing — even when the storylines are pure tomfoolery. What makes this a favorite, though, is that it’s got substance. Similar to Kindergarten Wars, one minute it’s pure ridiculousness, the next it’s pulling at your heartstrings.

Cardcaptor Sakura

I had to close out the list with an anime I’ve adored since childhood, Cardcaptor Sakura. This is a magical girl series about a young girl who must collect a group of magical cards wreaking havoc in her town. Each challenge that comes her way, she overcomes with one simple motto, “Everything will definitely be all right.”

Cardcaptor Sakura, anime girl on a starry background
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Some problematic character relationships aside, this series is wonderful, innocent fun. There’s magic, elaborate costumes, and even proper LGBTQ+ representation. Most importantly for me, it’s got my favorite anime character — our protagonist’s adorable rival-turned-love-interest, Syaoran Li. In sum, this is a forever comfort watch.

I’ll leave you with Gabriela’s favorite quote because there really is no better way to wrap up.

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all. You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty!”

– The Emperor, Disney’s Mulan (1998)

Check out what other Bookstr team members have recommended here.

Browse these books and more on our Bookstr Team Recs bookshelf on Bookshop.org.

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