The Rec League: More Romantic & Potentially Smutty Manga

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookAfter Ellen’s lamenting about The Bride of the Water God and the search for a Midnight Secretary replacement, we wanted to do another Rec League.

We’ve done requests in the past on webcomics, WebToons, and my very own search for something similar. But new books are being published and discovered every day.

Give Ellen’s review a read and see if you have something to recommend!

Susan: I’ve not read Midnight Secretary so if you want something specifically like that I can’t help, but I can definitely have a crack at romance manga recs.

Midnight Secretary, Volume 1
A | BN | K | AB
Sneezy: Midnight Secretary is smutty as all fuck (or as much as you can get with published manga), with dollops of angst and crazy sauce in Vampire Flavour.

There’s Discord Comics if anyone wants LGBTQ+ YA/New Adult smut. I didn’t keep up with this site after I finished the Khaos Komix story line, but I remember it as being REALLY GOOD and REALLY HOT. I remember the side stories as being more hot and heavy.

Although, content warning, Khaos Komix deals with the ups and downs of being Queer, so violence and bullying are shown. So was eating disorder, childhood sexual abuse, and parental emotional abuse/neglect. That’s what I can remember right now. If I remember anything else, I’ll mention it. Suffice to say, it’s it gets pretty heavy at times, but I promise happy endings are had by all.

Amanda: I really had to dig deep into the recesses of my memory for this one, as my manga readings were easily over a decade ago.

Black Bird – Smutty, if I remember correctly, with mythology and vampiric elements.

Black Bird, Vol. 1
A | BN | K | AB
Everyone’s Getting Married ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) – More romance than sexytimes but I picked up the first couple volumes on a whim and enjoyed it. Same goes for Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku ( A | BN | K | G | AB ).

If you’re after some bonkers, Smutty McSmutterson, try Gakuen Prince ( A | BN | K | G | AB ). Does it portray healthy issues of consent and safe situations? Definitely not, but I could not stop reading these.

Lastly, there’s Peach Heaven ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) where a high school girl has a secret double life as a successful erotica writer.

What are your suggestions? Let us know below!

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  1. 1
    Steffi says:
    4+

    I recently read “Oh my Assistant”, which is a M/M Korean web Manwha by Milla/Yalgae and it is so darn cute (and, may I add, smutty as well). Beautiful art as well. It’s in Korean but fan translations exist, which is what I read.

    Blurb:

    Seonho in an artist, who draws adult webcomics. It started as an easy way to make money, but it’s caused some unexpected side effects: he hasn’t been aroused for over two years! Exhausted, he hires an assistant. It’s just that, he didn’t expect him to be so cute! Muyeong is clean, talented, and apparently loaded so…why does he want to work under Seonho? Turns out, Muyeong is Seonho’s number one fan…

  2. 2
    Rebecca says:
    7+

    I remember Butterflies, Flowers by Yuki Yoshihara being relatively smutty when I read the first five volumes ten years ago. I’m sure there are problematic elements that my brain glossed over at the time, but if you can handle Gakuen Prince it should probably be fine. It’s still available digitally if you can’t find it through your library system.

    In general, I think if you’re looking for smutty manga, josei manga is probably a better bet than shojo. Both Viz and Kodansha have been publishing more Josei or 16+ Shojo over the last few years, and if you go to the Kodansha website they have lists of their 13+, 16+ and mature titles.

  3. 3
    K.N.O’Rear says:
    5+

    Yona of the Dawn: this is a reverse harem manga(girl surrounded by hot guys who are all interested in her), but it’s pretty clear who she will end up with, which is her bodyguard, Hak( I know the bodyguard crush rings some catnip bells for some people) .

    Basically, one day the man the heroine was convinced she would marry( not her bodyguard )murders her dad and tries to kill her, so she has to runaway with Hak in tow. Later it turns out she is a reincarnated king( no spoilers this is in the summery) who needs to gather the four dragon warriors aka the hot guys she finds herself surrounded by to save the world.

    Now, this isn’t a big save the world from the big bad story, it’s more along the lines of travel The world and solve actual problems like stopping a sex-trafficking ring or free a city from a gang of drug lords. The story also has a gray sense of morality, for instance The heroine’s father( the one who was murdered ) was actually a terrible king which is why she has to save the world in the first place. There’s a lot of political intrigue if that is your thing along with plenty of sexy and soapy goodness.

    I will warn that the heroine does start out as a bit of a distressed damsel, but soon she’s on her way to becoming a badass warrior on par with the dragons who protect her. This story is also a long-runner and still incomplete so you’re in for a long haul, but it is 100% worth the investment. If you want to just dip your toe in there’s one season of an anime available on crunchyroll.com.

  4. 4
    Momo says:
    6+

    In high school I read a lot of Fumi Yoshinaga. Like most yaoi, her works can be wildly problematic, but they are at least intelligently written (if that’s something you value in your smut).

    For yuri, I’d recommend the one-shots of Amano Shuninta and Akiko Morishima.

  5. 5
    Trix says:
    4+

    Yaoi doesn’t usually skimp on the sex, but it often has consent issues that can be troubling. Here are some that I found less problematic:

    One of my favorites is Satosumi Takaguchi’s five-part series SHOUT OUT LOUD!, where a widowed voice actor tries to reconnect with the surly teen son he fathered while a teen himself. The father experiences unexpected attraction to a suave castmate, while the son has strong chemistry with his hockey coach. It’s not as explicit as others I’ll mention, but it’s sexy and well-plotted.

    Youka Nitta’s EMBRACING LOVE is legendary for its relationship between adult film actors (I believe there’s an age gap as well). It’s a long series, but complete; word is that it ends satisfyingly. I’ve seen some of the anime too (one depicting the earliest installments of the series). You may want to avoid the OVA (that is, standalone one-shot) A CICADA IN WINTER, featuring the guys playing lovers in feudal Japan: it’s gorgeous and has a hot sex scene, but it ends tragically.

    I really enjoyed a scanlation of Haruka Minami’s SWEET, involving an insatiable young man’s pursuit of a bakery magnate. Both characters are unselfconscious in their pursuit of pleasure, and it felt really sex-positive. (Her compilations LOVE A LA CARTE and DRUNKEN LOVE are the only ones I’ve found for sale in English; they work as smut, but the stories aren’t as satisfying.)

    Ayoko Yamane’s CRIMSON SPELL is an entertaining (if slightly hard to explain and sometimes follow) paranormal historical involving royalty, wizards, demons, shifters, the works. There is a bit of dubcon that the plot conceit may or may not explain away to your satisfaction. Volume 4 has some glorious smut featuring cross-dressing. Volume 6 recently appeared following a five-year hiatus: I found it a bit convoluted, but that cliffhanger at the end has me rubbing my hands in glee as to the possibilities.

    There’s also the gay manga compilation MASSIVE, which I haven’t read yet…fans of Gengoroh Tagame’s gentle MY BROTHER’S HUSBAND may be surprised by his other work!

  6. 6
    Pre-Successful Indie says:
    5+

    I just read a nice retrospective of FAKE, one of my old faves:
    https://www.animefeminist.com/history-fake-and-the-found-family-the-90s-bl-cop-drama-that-influenced-a-genre/

    It’s a m/m police/detective drama / slash / domestic drama – the leads adopt a kid orphaned by crime syndicate shenanigans; a B plot shuffles through the son’s life and his own (hetero) romance, much later.

    It’s not AS tropey as a lot of m/m manga. And it’s out of print. 🙁

  7. 7
    hapax says:
    6+

    YONA OF THE DAWN is possibly the best manga I’m currently reading, for all the reasons K N O’Rear mentioned. While the romance is a major subplot, I wouldn’t really call it a romance manga, though; it’s about growing up and responsibility and politics and found family and, oh, just read it.

    CRIMSON SPELL is indeed lovely and smutty (as is everything Yamane does) and all kinds of crazysauce. If you like her work she’s done a bunch of contemporary erotic suspense, but it goes into hardcore BDSM and outright rape and not-at-all-happy endings, and, well, I don’t know if that’s a warning or an enticement.
    If you are in the mood for smutty and lovely and ALL THE DRAMA yaoi, the manhwa TOTALLY CAPTIVATED is one of my favourites. It’s a gangster story, and absolutely unrealistic, and definitely moments of dubcon (and child abuse and all sorts of triggery stuff), but it still has some sigh-worthy romantic interactions (“there’s my roses” OMG) and a pretty definite HEA.

  8. 8
    Trix says:
    3+

    I’ll need to revisit FAKE…iirc, Vol. 7 was frequently banned in school libraries back in the day because of the m/m content (bah!). It definitely fit the bill of gritty police procedural (Volumes 5 and 6 actually gave me nightmares)…

  9. 9
    Trix says:
    3+

    And it’s AYANO Yamane who does CRIMSON SPELL, I realized as I hit “submit” just now…sorry.

  10. 10
    Ren Puspita says:
    8+

    Welp, this discussion is right up on my alley! Actually the reason why I rarely read books this year is because I mostly read smutty manga, lol. Have any of you know Renta? This site have many digital manga collection and most of their collection beside Harlequin manga is yaoi manga and smutty romance manga. The smutty manga itself called “Love” in Renta while in Japan, they called it “Teen Love” (but I assure you, there’s no TEEN in those mangas. I never know why the Japanese called it Teen Love. Maybe to differentiate from Josei genres that don’t have explicit sex scenes). As for Renta, actually they are Japanese site but now they have the English site as well. So in Renta, the mangas already translated into English. Their system is like a digital manga site, you pay to rent their digital manga and they have option to rent (just 48 hours to read) or buy (unlimited time). For some titles, the price can be too much, so you may want to choose what titles to read that hold your interest.

    As for titles in Renta, there’s plenty in Love and Yaoi genre. If you love hetero smutty manga, this is my recommendation in Renta. Warning first, the titles can be soo CORNY, lol. Also most of their titles feature forceful hero and dubious consent (sometime no consent at all!). My recommendation is what I consider safe, but your mileage may varies:
    – Hold Me Baby, As a Lady by Wasou Miyakoshi; feature a heroine that got sex reassignment surgery (she born as a male). Hero is her high school friend
    – My Younger Boyfriend Has a Time Limit, also by Wasou Miyakoshi: If you like a big gap romance and younger hero (also he’s so beta and a sweetheart)
    – My Secret with the Girl Night Door by Chika Kokonoe: Have a transvestite hero and a heroine that have stalker problem. The romance is very slow burn and I like how the hero always prioritize the heroine first. Trust me, this is very rare in any smutty manga I’d read, lol.
    – A Chubby Girlfriend and Her Sweet Boyfriend by Mika: Have a BBW heroine and a hero that have sweet tooth. They are bonding by their love of sweets.
    – Only Be Yourself with Me by Yuki Shiroi: This have a same theme with My Secret ones, with a shy heroine and a hero that try to win her heart by using social media.
    – Does it Feel Good to Speak by Makiko Saiki: Its have a hero and heroine that already in relationship while their office prohibited any romance relationship between their employees. The story have an office setting and I like that their conflict is a real-life ones.
    – Over-Cumming Writer’s Block: I know despite the corny titles, the story is not! It’s one of the bestselling title in Renta, feature a heroine that approach a hero in order to write erotic novels. I like the heroine’s personality and the hero is also hottie himself.
    – Life with My Roomie by Yuto Saedzuki: This is one of rare titles in Renta that deal with gender norm and sexuality. The hero is gay, but he fall for his cousin, the heroine. Maybe the right term is he’s a gender fluid? Anyway, the romance is more like a slow burn and both hero and heroine have good and cute personalities
    – The Guy I’m Into is a You Know What by Nanae Chioka: This is also one of the best titles in Renta. Heroine is a hardcore yaoi fangirl and the hero happen to have an appearance like her favorite yaoi character, lol. The story also very funny and comedic.
    – The Artist and The Beast by Coda: This is the number 1 Love titles in Renta, both the Japan site and English site. The art is not topnotch work and actually the story can be pretty basic. The heroine is a yaoi manga author with no sex appeal while the hero is a yakuza. The story start with blackmail, so if that’s not your usual trope, you may want to read this title with caution.
    – The Beauty is the Beast by Chidori Komatsubara: The story have a same theme and feeling with Makiko Saiki’s ones. What I like is the conflict between the hero and heroine is what we will face in our daily basis but not a boring ones. Also the art is so goood!

    Actually, I have so many recommendation for Love titles in Renta, so if you want to get another titles you can always mention me :D. Beside Renta, there’s site that also provide smutty manga in legal way like Coolmic (Japan) and Lezhin (South Korea). I don’t have any account on Lezhin since their romance usually have “cheating” factor, lol. As for Coolmic, I just read 1-2 titles there. My favorite is Don’t Say No, My Foreign Boss is not a Gentleman by Meg and Fire in His Fingertips by Tanishi Kawano.

    Anyway, the Love comics in Renta (and also Coolmic) have so many GRAPHIC and explicit sex scene. But due to their rules they kinda censor the private part, but well still the sex scene is pretty much hot, lol.

    I seconded Yuki Yoshihara’s ones, but I like her old ones like Itadakimashu that pretty much hilarious and hotter. I also recommend Red River by Chie Shinohara. Its have so many glaring tropes like a Mary Sue-ish heroine, a hotter hero that somehow always come to her rescue (at first), dubious consent, etc. But, from vol 6 onward the story become better. If you like time travel, Hittite history and Egypt history, I recommend Red River.

    I did read Ohmu Tomi’s Midnight Secretary, but I prefer her other series like Kindan No Koi de Ikou. Midnight Secretary is pretty basic with a relationship that I feel kinda unbalanced, while Kindan No Koi de Ikou have a werewolf hero with human heroine, but how the relationship work is much better. The ending also have a bittersweet feeling on it

  11. 11
    jejune says:
    3+

    SOULLESS by Gail Carriger has been made into a manga. It’s not terribly smutty, but it does have charming werewolves and vampires. je

  12. 12
    Nan De Plume says:
    1+

    Wow, could this topic be any more relevant to me? I haven’t had a lot of time to read m/m stories lately because (*insert shameless plug alert*) I have been super busy writing my Joey & Johnny Forever Series of Erotic Novellas- currently working on number 7, which I hope to have out by Christmas.

    I hope recommending my own work isn’t against any commenting rules on SBTB, but I *do* think a lot of the m/m and/or yaoi commenters on this post would enjoy them. As erotic romances, they all guarantee an HFN and have several explicit sex scenes- all with enthusiastic consent. (TW/CW for off-page rape by a third party character in the first installment, but nothing too graphic. My stories mix both light and dark elements.)

    To be less of a shameless plug, I do have some unrelated book recs:

    Just read “The Outlaw’s Heart” (m/f) romance, which I would rate as “okay,” maybe 3/5 stars. I liked how both the hero and heroine are introverts and that the story manages to avoid falling into Stockholm syndrome pitfalls.

    Currently reading “Song of a Captive Bird,” which is a fictionalized account of a real life Iranian poet who grew up before the Iranian Revolution, her trials and tribulations, etc. Fascinating stuff.

    Happy reading, everyone!

  13. 13
    Sally says:
    3+

    My favorite recommendation is Tail of the Moon by Rinko Ueda. It’s about a ninja-in-training trying the win the love of this ninja dude. The heroine is super ditzy, but not in an annoying way. She does “grow up” as the story moves along. This is a shoujo series so the smut is very toned down, but I love to reread this series every now and then.

    But for smutty josei…I agree with Ren Puspita, can’t recommend Renta! enough.

    Side note: I think the “Teens Love” category spawned in the last decade around the time Sho-Comi & Cheese were publishing some really spicy stuff despite their underage demographic. I read some of the older “Teens Love” manga from the mid 2000s and they do sometimes feature high schoolers. Nowadays the heroines are usually college-age to ~early 30s; the weird name just stuck.

    Anyway for recommendations from Renta!, here’s another ninja story. 😀 To Ninja Love is to Ninja Live by Ichiro Tsurugi is still ongoing and the art is a bit simple for my taste, but this is a cute one. The heroine another ditzy type, but she is loved for it and her village values her for her unbelievable strength.

    Black Prince and Teased Princess by Minami Shiina is about a heroine who gets pulled into a fairy tale world. Warning, she does have sex (the dubious consent kind) with multiple dudes, though she does end up with one of them.

    Hm, anything by neco, I love her art. My Boyfriend’s a Love-Zombie is about the heroine’s older, dead boyfriend coming back to life as a young, hot zombie.

    Yuuki Hinase is another good one if you like sweet, short stories to cleanse the palate after bingeing on a high-drama read. I like Honey Wolf, Come Here. and Daylight. Hold Up, Hold Me was hilarious.

    Most every week, Renta! offers the first chapter of some BL or TL title for free, so it’s a great way to sample many different series without the commitment. Beware, they have gotten me to spend that way on a few occasions.

  14. 14
    Ellen says:
    3+

    So many amazing recommendations!!! I am very excited to start checking some out.

    I am already a Yona fan and I agree it is AWESOME.

  15. 15
    Trix says:
    2+

    Can’t believe I forgot Satoh Inoue’s 10 DANCE series! If you ever wanted a yaoi version of STRICTLY BALLROOM (sort of), it’s delightful. Volume Four seemed to slow down the burn of Volumes Two and Three somewhat, but I know there are at least six books in the series. (There is a teensy bit of allusion to played-out “passionate Latin” and “reserved Japanese” perceptions, but it’s mostly clear that those are just people’s notions and Not A Real Thing.) The intrigue of ballroom dance competition is really interesting, too, as is the age-old question of whether you have to be attracted to your partner to dance effectively…

  16. 16
    Emma says:
    2+

    Hmmm, so this is more of a coming of age story rather than a romance, but Song of the Long March is an incredibly awesome manhua (Chinese manga). In actual Chinese history, there’s this lost princess at the start of the Tang dynasty. Presumably, she was killed or hid in a Buddhist nunnery until she died of old age, but in THIS story, Li Chang Ge is actually a badass warrior-strategist (think teenage female Zhuge Liang who can also fight, if you’ve read Romance of the Three Kingdoms) who’s advising provincial governors and the like while incognito. There’s so much angst and character development, I love it. Can’t confirm my theory, because I barely know any Chinese, but the Chinese title, Chang Ge Xing, is I believe a play on her name and the fact that different characters for “chang ge” mean “sing a song” (hence the English title, I guess). The character for “xing” Xia Da uses is also what you use for saying “travel” (“luxing” [sorry, can’t do the umlaut]), so I personally think of the title as “Chang Ge’s Journey,” since it alludes to both her exile and her personal growth. It also doesn’t make me think of the Long March that everyone else thinks of in Chinese history, hahaha.

    Sadly, this series is on hiatus while the author, Xia Da, is suing her publisher for stealing and modifying her work :((( but don’t let that deter you from a great series, the artwork is also incredible. Just look at the cover image on tvtropes and tell me you didn’t fall in love with her coy smirk: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manhua/Choukakou

  17. 17
    Emma says:
    2+

    Oh good lord, how could I have forgotten, there IS romance in this, but it’s a slow burn, and it’s at a crossroads right now, because they like (love?) respect each other, but are on different sides of a war that’s just begun. (Side note: people tend to only know Uyghurs from the concentration camp atrocities going on right now in Xinjiang, but because Chang Ge is half-Uyghur, we get to see Uyghurs in non-atrocity context. It’s nice! Also historically speaking, the imperial Li family in the actual Tang dynasty definitely descended from the steppe “barbarians,” so this series probably also infuriates the ultra-nationalist types, which is also nice.)

  18. 18
    Emma says:
    2+

    Oops, one more thing (wow, I’d love an edit button). I see that there’s no official English translation, only the fan translation I relied on a few years ago, so here’s what they’ve done up to the latest chapter: https://mangarock.com/manga/mrs-serie-44493

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