High school kids fill the pages of many manga series. In fact, it’s a common complaint from readers. Aren’t there any older protagonists? But it makes sense that teen characters dominate the format because this is such a pivotal time in life. This is never more apparent than in manga about school life. Discovering yourself. Remaking your personal image. Forging lifelong friendships. First loves. All these themes, and more, can be found in manga set in school.
But despite the seemingly limited setting, there’s still a lot of variety in the genre. To that end, here are some recommendations for manga about school life:
Horimiya by HERO and Daisuke Hagiwara
Anime fans have probably heard of this series, thanks to the adaptation that aired earlier this year. It introduces us to Kyoko Hori, a pretty and popular high school student, and Izumi Miyamura, her nerdy classmate. But that’s only in school! At home, Kyoko takes care of her little brother and kind of has a bossy and terrible personality. By contrast, despite his in-school reputation, Izumi has multiple tattoos and piercings. And one fateful day, their two paths cross outside of school.
Blue Period by Tsubasa Yamaguchi
At first glance, Yatora has no reason to complain about his high school career. He’s well-liked by his classmates. He has good grades. What’s there to complain about? But he feels empty inside. That is, he does until a painting catches his eye and he joins the school art club. We’ve all had the experience of going through the motions to please other people at some point in our life, and this really hits that note—and how everything can change when you find your one true driving passion.
The Springtime of My Life Began with You by Nikki Asada
Suehiro loves books. (Don’t we all relate?!) In fact, she prefers the comparative order of fictional stories versus the complicated messiness of relationships with other people. But if everything stayed that way, we wouldn’t have a manga about it, would we? Her quiet existence is thrown into chaos when popular Takasago asks her out on a date. It’s part of a punishment game with their classmates, so everyone eagerly anticipates her response, but Suehiro is having none of it. The premise may sound familiar, but the characters are charming, Suehiro starts a book club, and Takasago has more depth to him than his initial popular guy façade may suggest.
Komi Can’t Communicate by Tomohito Oda
Tadano just wants to fit in at his new elite private high school. Standing out and drawing attention? Not part of the plan. His classmate, Komi, is known as the legendary cool beauty at school. But that’s a lie. Komi isn’t aloof and reserved. She has social anxiety and finds it hard to talk to other people. She just wants to make friends! When a chance encounter between the two results in Tadano learning her dream, he agrees to help her befriend 100 other people.
In the Clear Moonlit Dusk by Mika Yamanori
Yoi Takiguchi is a handsome, young woman. She has the low voice and chivalrous attitude that you’d associate with a prince out of a shoujo romance manga. Then she meets Ichimura, an upperclassman who takes an immediate interest in her and thinks she’s the most beautiful person he’s ever met. Ichimura also has a princely reputation at their school—for his looks and rich background rather than personality. But don’t be fooled. Ichimura may have a less-than-princely attitude, but he’s kind and is a good match for our heroine who has never had a relationship with a boy.
Kimi ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina
When I think of the “popular boy befriends unpopular girl” trope, Kimi ni Todoke is one of the very first titles to spring to mind. Like other heroines from the manga featured on this list, Sawako just wants to befriend other people, but her shyness prevents her from doing so. Alas, her quiet demeanor and appearance has led to people comparing her to Sadako of The Ring fame. That changes when her classmate Shota takes an interest in her. This manga does revolve around the developing relationship between Sawako and Shota, but Sawako’s burgeoning friendships with two other girls are also delightful to see.
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima
Anime fans have probably heard of Oima’s most recent work, To Your Eternity. While that manga falls into the speculative genre, the contemporary A Silent Voice is the series that launched Oima into prominence with his brand of emotional devastation. In elementary school, Shoya bullied the new, deaf girl, Shouko. The treatment made it impossible for Shouko to befriend any of her classmates. But justice eventually prevails, and the school administration punishes Shoya for his behavior. In fact, he ends up just as ostracized and isolated as he made Shouko feel. Then, in high school, the two meet again and Shoya works to make amends for his past behavior.
Seasons of Blossom by Hongduck and Demone
This ongoing webtoon follows young love through all four seasons. The first season, Spring, introduced us to Bomi, a tall and pretty girl who’s one of the most popular girls at school. Who better to date her than Jaemin, a tall and handsome boy who’s just as popular? But things don’t always go the way you think they should. When Bomi learns that her best friend likes Jaemin, she opts to fake date Jinyeong, their short and blunt classmate. What could possibly go wrong? The first arc of Seasons of Blossom really captures the high school experience: a crush versus something deeper, true friendship versus convenient acquaintances, and the way something small can blow up out of proportion thanks to the school grapevine. Cute and sweet, this webtoon will make you feel nostalgic.
Hope you found something that caught your interest! Check out our ongoing manga coverage for even more suggestions.