The Maiden's Garden
This thread is for any other ladies out there, or gentlemen who are well in tune with their feminine side. I've found it rather hard to wade through all the translated and licensed light novel properties washing up on our shores and find the gems which resonate with a maiden's heart...or at least don't place those of us on the distaff side of things entirely as simple ornaments for the boys. I'm looking for stories where women have realistic and independent portrayals that a woman reader would be able to relate to and enjoy sharing. I'm perfectly fine even if those well-developed female characters play second fiddle to a male protagonist. I was hoping we might share notes. :-)
So, I'll share my own finds to kick things off!
TOP TIER SELECTIONS
"Book Girl" by Nomura Mizuki
So far this is the only story licensed for English translation I can find that is verified as written by a woman. As a bonus, the artwork is done by a woman, too. The POV protagonist may be a guy but he's balanced by richly developed women (and other men!) who are a joy to discover as each book grows the overall story. This is one of those true gems where all the characters are three-dimensional personalities, each true to themselves and their backgrounds including gender. I cannot endorse it enough.
"So I'm a Spider, So What?" by Baba Okina
Kuroko is awesome with awesome sauce. Most of the story is from her perspective and that's a good thing because she's the best first-person portrayal I've ever read for an isekai story. Not to give anything away, but simply calling this isekai is an injustice. Really, you have to read it because this is as best I can tell a totally unique take on the isekai genre. A true favorite of mine. While I'm pretty sure Baba-sensei is female, if I'm wrong then I'll bear his babies anyday - not that he'd need the help having already birthed someone as glorious as Kuroko. :-)
"Spice and Wolf" by Hasekura Isuna
This story is among my favorite ever, regardless of media. Holo is my waifu. Lawrence is my husbando. I could snuggle them all day and then eat both of them up. Okay, Holo would likely be the one eating. I'm fine with that. She can dine on me any day. :-)
Seriously, the entire story arc is well written and engrossing. The characters are painfully real. The pacing may be slow at times but I like how the relationship develops over time between these two very different beings. It makes sense when you recognise all the baggage each of them brings.
The new story recently started that takes the arc to the next generation is kicking off quite well. I've bought 21 books in this property so far (19 Spice and two Parchment) and they are among the most precious in my library.
"Kizumonogatari" (and its Monogatari seriesmates) by NISIOISIN
Okay, I'm finally going to let my inner yuri show. Tsubasa x Hitagi for the win! Seriously Koyomi, just run off somewhere far away with Kiss-Shot and let my two girls develop naturally. :-)
Yuri goggles aside, while this series would seem on basic summary to be a harem story, that's such a disservice. The Monogatari series is soooo much more than that. Mystery, fantasy, sci-fi - it's got it all and in a well-written package. The writing is so compelling that I totally embrace stuff that would usually send the needle of my squick-meter soaring. Like shipping Karen x Tsukihi, the protagonists sisters who also flirt outrageously with their onii-chan. The story is just so fun I'll pretty much accept anything. Now THAT'S good writing. :-)
"Me, a Genius? I Was Reborn into Another World and I Think They've Got the Wrong Idea!" by Nyun.
I'm sorry to say it but I'm having real problems finding stuff on JNC that really speaks to me. That's part of why I am posting this - I'd like help sorting through the chaff to find some good grains. So far this is one of only two stories I've read that hasn't required me to hold my nose to one extent or the other. The reason for this is mostly summed up in two words - Arakawa Miki. She's the mother of the protagonist. I'm totally obsessed with this woman and want to know more about her. It should be noted that this isn't really a harem story despite the suggestive covers. While it is true there are a few women vying for the protagonist's attention, he's focused on one girl. And the other primary teenaged girl in the story is attaching to the protaginist's bed buddy. So despite the standard tropes found in all "teenaged boy surrounded by hot girls" stories, there's more than enough substance to look past the tropes and instead just permit oneself to be amused by them while digging into the real meat to be found just past the fluff.
"Outbreak Company" by Inchiro Sakaki
This is the other story I've found so far on JNC that I'm not having to hold my nose or just sigh repeatedly as I read it. While not at the level of Book Girl or So I'm a Spider...at least not yet...it is a glorious read. Yes, it's an unabashed harem story covering all the expected tropes. BUT, as the summary says, it has heart. Unexpected levels of heart. Oh, and it has Minori. She's awesome and looks to be getting more so.
Books I still plan to read since the anime suggested it should be good:
No Game, No Life
Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (and spin offs including Oratoria)
I've got them on the shelf since the anime for each was awesome. That is quite a few books, especially for Girls in a Dungeon. Hopefully I won't regret the investment.
So anyone have other suggestions for translated, licensed light novels that would appeal to the ladies?
@dryurimom While Walking My Second Path in Life (commonly referred to as Watafuta) has a female protagonist, I have absolute no idea if the author is a man or woman. Otaku de Neet doesn't really give any clues.
Rokka Braves of the Six Flowers has some very interesting ladies in it. Fremy and Mora / Maura in particular get some good focus early (I've read two volumes). Even Nashatania, the cliche lead, gets some decent development. It's a really good series I think for female heroes (I've only read two volumes though). It's not a harem series, at least it isn't set out to be one. I don't want to say much more, but I think you'd like it.
Did you try "Walking My Second Path In Life"? (I probably missed it scanning the post if you did). I don't really love it, though I don't know if that's because I'm a dude or if it's the format + setting (sort of a regal Isekai setting mixed with the less formal but still organized Knight order + short stories format). Like, Me A Genius isn't that different format wise, and I enjoy it, so I don't know. Maybe it's just having an all male cast with one girl pretending to be a man that doesn't appeal, and the slow romantic setup? IDK.
There's some good stuff by publisher Arian Rose that I'd like picked up stateside. There's one about a girl born with the trait of "evil eyes" descended from her father's side, a physical trait that makes people judge her and her family's behavior and actions incorrectly.
I'm not really fixated on whether the writer was a man or a woman. Men can portray solid women characters and vice versa. I'm more interested in whether the female characters are portrayed in a way that a woman can comfortably relate to, or are they portrayed as little more than plot elements or ornaments for the men.
I started reading Watafuta but could only read what is unlocked to members. I found the initial story to be pretty weak, but I've seen other works start off weak and pick up later. Is this one of those?
I think you'll love volume 2 of Rokka. If you watched the anime, that material covered all of volume 1 (the stuff it misses is mostly internalized thought processes by characters), so you can jump right in with 2.
I'll add also that just because a story has a female lead doesn't mean I'll find it compelling. "I've been killing slimes for 300 years and maxed out my level" started off very hopeful and I loved the basic story gimmick. Unfortunately the story quickly fell into the rut of "visitor of the week" and became almost a chore to keep reading. Even worse, while the secondary characters are all female they are essentially walking tropes with no substance. It's like the writer has a dartboard with all the stereotypical female tropes on his wall and throws a dart to determine who the next secondary will be. I'll likely buy Vol 2 just to see if it picks itself up, but as things stand it isn't living up to my expectations...which is a bummer. :(
Did you read Infinite Dendrogram yet? It expands its roster little by little with female cast, and these characters have debatably strong convictions and ideals. There's no real romance through 5 volumes either, they are characters independent of the hero.
"Killing Slimes" was rated pretty well by Justus. Haven't read it myself yet.
I suppose I would be a Gentleman who has no problem watching/reading more feminine or shojo series or series with strong Female(s). For the Harem type of series, it is hard to find one where the female cast or at least the majority of them do not have romantic feeling for the MC, I like to call these Platonic Harems where there is a mutual relationship of friendship.
There may be what people would classify as minor spoilers for the series I am going to talk about so be warned. Also I may hold some bias for some of these series
LN we have in English
Konosuba is one of these Platonic Harems; each girl is just a friend to Kazuma and nothing more. Each character has a life of there own outside of Kazumas' which is a blast. Each member of Kazumas' party contribute in some way, even temp members like Wiz or Yunyun. I would not be that surprised if some of the girls start to fall for Kazuma but this would not be because he is the MC but because they are his friends that got to know Kazuma for many months. There seems to be some sexual tension between Kazuma and Darkness where there are many instances of this like where Kazuma and Darkness were facing Vanir.
I've been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed out my Level is one where the protagonist is a female character that is just tired of slaving away at her job and once she reincarnated she makes it her goal to just live life at her own pace. This is, like most Isekais, and escapist fantasy but where others escapist fantasies are where the MC is OP and saves the Girl, this one is where the MC just takes it easy. The only other series I can think of that is similar is Death March (but probably would make it here).
Anime/LN we do not have in English
Chivalry of a Failed Knight is the romance between two horny teenagers. Stella the heroine is certainly more sexual and forward with her sexuality than most other heroines in other works but this does not make her bad or worse, this is just how she is. Stella starts the conversation with Ikki the MC whether or not they should/want have sex or not.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a great series that depicts nearly all types of relationships and feelings people can have. both the mang and the anime are amazing and has compelling characters.
The Ancient Magus Bride is a great story that has a fantastic romance. every character is amazing in their own way and help the main characters Chise and Elias grow as characters. Chise and Elias also help each other grow as well.
Yona of the Dawn is a mythic story about a young naive princess who starts out as a passive character and becomes a powerful active character who has wisened to the world outside of the castle.
@terrence I would say through 6 volumes, but I'm not sure if that trend is going to last. I do agree that all of the female characters do seem to be independent and not trope magnets.
There isn't a whole lot I can think of that is licensed...
Doesn't have a bad portrayal of its female heroine. But I read it years ago so I barely remember anything at this point.
Kimi no Suizou wo Tabetai (I want to eat your pancreas)
Not yet released, but will be out later this year. I think the main female character is really well written. All the characters are.
My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected
Honestly I love the female characters in this novel. Especially Yukino. I doubt I would do that if she wasn't well written. The story itself however and Hachiman's actions, I can't tell how relatable it would be for you.
Okay now this one is great. The author is Sakuraba Kazuki, a female light novel author. She has also written A Lollypop or A Bullet which I love. Gosick was licensed years ago but only a few volumes released sadly. You should look into her works. Also, you would probably love "A Lollypop or A Bullet" since you are a yuri fan.
Written by Ono Fuyuni - the wife of "Another"s author. The one I mentioned earlier ^^. It has a female main character and you'll probably find her relatable. Look into more works by the author too. There is "Juuni Kokuki" which I believe was licensed too at one point.
WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?
Has strong and well written female characters. Will be released in English in a few months.
The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria
Well, I am biased here since it is one of my favorites. But the story is full of strong female characters and isn't really pandering. In fact I can only think of two fan-service scenes in the whole series. One of them involved the main character cross dressing. I can't say if you will find the said characters relatable because Eiji Mikage's characters can feel very abstract and surreal sometimes yet he does his best to put you in their shoes. So I would definitely recommend checking it out too.
Works by Ryougo Narita in general have well written female characters and are devoid of fan-service. Most Baccano fans I know are in fact females so there has to something about it right?
I am also here to recommend Second Path in Life. I’ve read both volumes and it is really cute and fun. Also even members only have access to the first parts of each volume now that both are published.
Also, Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average is another fun light novel available in English with a female lead.
Oh, I can second Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria as a great LN with a very well-developed female character. I'm embarrassed that one slipped my mind.
I'll go ahead a probably use my first premium credit to get the whole first novel of Watafuta.
Baccano and Durarara are among my wife's favorite anime. I have all the Baccano books released so far but haven;'t read them yet. Given the quality of the anime I imagine the LNs are superb. I wonder, are the LNs as confusing as the anime, though?
I have "Didn't I say to Make My Abilities Average" in my Rightstuff wishlist, waiting for the next sale for whichever publisher has the rights. Same with Worldend.
@Drone205 If we slipped over to manga I'd have a very long list of awesome material for other ladies. Ancient Magus Bride and Frau Faust are phenomenal. Yona is superb. Cardcaptor Sakura is classic. Lordy, I could go on all day listing phenomenal manga. :-)
As far as the LNs you mention, I saw the Gosick anime and it was wonderful. I have it on my shelves. Same goes for Youth Romantic Comedy which is awesome beyond words.
Again, I have no problem with male POV first person stories as long as there is one or more female character I can anchor to. I just can't attach myself to a story where all the female characters exist for the male POV to trope over. Some boob staring and panty imagining is fine. God knows there's enough of that in Monogatari which I adore. But despite Tsubasa having a chest worth framing, she's got a delicious mind if you bother to just look up. "I don't know everything. I just know what I know." drool
Anything else you can think of that is translated, licensed, and published legally for English consumption?
@hakomari said in The Maiden's Garden:
My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected
The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria
Great picks. Can second these, though with reservations in regards to Maria (because there is a certain female trope prevalent in volume 1).
I have all the Baccano books released so far but haven;'t read them yet. Given the quality of the anime I imagine the LNs are superb. I wonder, are the LNs as confusing as the anime, though?
The Baccano! anime did something pretty interesting, since all the books were already released when it was being made, so it mashed them all up, which is why the story jumps between different time periods. The books are more "traditional" chronological plots, as far as I am aware (I also own a few, but haven't gotten around to reading them yet).
I believe Baccano books jump all over the place as well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Baccano!_light_novels
@hakomari Yyyes, as far as each consecutive book doesn't necessarily follow in chronological order, you're right, but I was referring to the fact that in the anime, you see multiple different plotlines presented simultaneously in every episode, and nothing makes complete sense nor do any plots/arcs resolve until you get to like episode 10. That's what I thought dryurimom meant by "confusing" :x At least each individual book is a self-contained story and does not jump between different plots and timelines.
@myskaros Haven't seen the anime. So my bad :3
@hakomari It's really good! I would highly recommend it. It's even better if you don't really know what the plot is, because they cut the stories up extremely well and always keep one piece of key information from you, the viewer, so even as each individual story progresses, you're always missing that one thing that lets you make sense of them all. I thought it was really well done.
I call it the Pulp Fiction of anime.
(Some say the Memento if anime would be even more apt).
If this topic ever branches out of Anime and Light Novels I have am currently reading 2 or 3 books with strong female characters.