The Teens’ Love subgenre adds much-needed erotic spice to romances for women

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For some, it’s hard to tell if Teens’ Love, a subgenre that primarily concerns itself with smut, is worth looking deeply into — especially when its cover art muddles all the works of said genre together to make them fairly indistinguishable from one another.

Despite this however, there are some real diamonds in the rough to be found here, as there are with other forms of sexually explicit or erotic material. So today we’ll be looking at the history of the Teens’ Love subgenre, the appeal of it, and then pick out the favourites we’ve stumbled on that were, of course, thoroughly scrutinised and assessed by yours truly for the research purposes of putting together this article.

Before we go any further, mind, it should be worth noting that the majority — if not all — of these works have, to date, only been made available for English-speaking audiences through fan translation efforts. It’s therefore unfortunate that most of the books I’ll be recommending in the genre are not legally obtainable at the time of writing — but we’ll do our best to link sources to purchasing the ones that are, and you can use your own initiative to track down the others.

When it comes to romances aimed at women, I’ve had my fair share of being teased with sexual tension — as primarily seen in otomes, which tend to fade to black simply to insinuate the act rather than depict it explicitly.

But thanks to stumbling upon a YouTube video on the subject of “hentai for women“, I discovered that Teens’ Love is a subgenre that had somehow eluded me until this point in time. I’ve chosen to indulge in a spot of degeneracy for the sake of anyone else who was previously none the wiser about it for today — because as an adult woman, there’s been a sore lack of mature erotic material aimed specifically at me. And if I get to enjoy it, no-one else should be denied it either!

What is Teens’ Love?

The genre, sometimes shortened to TL — though probably best not to lest someone confuses it with a common abbreviation for “translation” or “translator” — concerns romantic stories aimed at female teenagers and adults, and explicitly depicts sexual acts, albeit typically without illustrations of genitalia as in more common types of hentai.

The overall art style tends towards the shoujo/josei-esque, and stories explore heterosexual relationships between a female main character and a male main love interest. Along the way, the subgenre takes in its fair share of expected tropes for romantic stories, with some likely to raise an eyebrow or two. The issue of consent often comes up, as do kinks such as age gaps, interspecies relationships and couplings based on a power imbalance, but remember, no matter how toxic something might seem to your own personal tastes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

It’s all fictional at the end of the day, and as responsible adults we all know where to draw the line. As such, readers of Teens’ Love works can feel reassured that they’re enjoying something that speaks to them in the comfort of their own personal space at their own convenience — and this is especially important when we consider how lacking the world is in erotic material made by women for women. What we have should be sacred for its rarity alone!

Some of the very best Teens’ Love works depict healthy relationships and attitudes towards sex, while others give us a main character who is assertive in her morals and attitude, or easily sympathised with and likeable. Some even give us a completely unproblematic main love interest — and a few even give us solid storytelling and themes. The range of experiences on offer is much like the broader hentai scene.

The Teens’ Love subgenre first appeared around the mid 1990s, and was intended as a means of female artists to provide erotic content for female readers. In fact, renowned mangakas who are beloved to this very day often had a go at the genre — almost always as their first steps in the business.

Horikou Hanemono Ranger is a good example. This was written and drawn by Kanae Hazuki, who most will be familiar with today for her highly popular shoujo manga Say I Love You. This is probably no surprise considering how raunchy the latter gets at times, but 2006’s Horikou Hanemono Ranger is a little different; rather than being an ongoing series, it instead tackles a series of one-shot chapters with separate storylines depicting the concept of “opposites attract” in profound, coming-of-age tales with relatable and emotional characters.

Another great example — and one that is available with an official translation — is LOVE PRISON, illustrated by Kei Shichiri, whose artwork will be familiar to anyone who has appreciated the highly popular and beautifully presented Wonderful Wonder World series (aka Heart no Kuni no Alice, after its first game) by QuinRose studio, a range of otome games and related media influenced by Alice in Wonderland. Shichiri specifically was responsible for the manga adaptation of the “Twin Lovers” chapter of Alice in the Country of Clover (aka Clover no Kuni no Alice).

It proves to be a fun rabbit hole (pun fully intended, I assume – Ed.) to find yourself down when discovering older works of established manga creators — but the best is yet to come. Let’s get into the few offerings of anime adaptations first to see if they’re worth a watch, because it’s with these shows that the genre really got noticed.

Definitely not Ikkaku from Bleach

Sōryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni… (On a Lustful Night Mingling with a Priest) first aired in 2017 with a 15+ “all-ages” release and its full 18+ version available separately on a different streaming service. The “all-ages” version is entirely pointless because its plot, and I’ll say this as politely as I can, is non-existent.

I know that this will probably surprise no one (particularly anyone who watched the all-ages broadcast of Redo of Healer – Ed.) because it’s smut — but it doesn’t hurt to add a touch of narrative for a sense of urgency and character growth, even if it’s just a little bit — and, as we’ll see in our subsequent recommendations, the works that make this additional bit of effort always come out on top.

Teens' Love: On a Lustful Night Mingling with a Priest

In On a Lustful Night Mingling with a Priest, the titular priest is about to take over a temple, but before becoming a monk, his parents implore him to take a bride before his duties mean that he will be unable to.

The piece falls into the worst traps of romantic literature written for women — our main love interest takes advantage of the main character when she’s drunk upon their first introduction to one another; the main character is a constant blank-slate who is uncomfortably submissive; and there’s a forced love triangle with a side character who has no merits of his own, all in an attempt to add some drama that doesn’t really add anything; it’s all rather headache-inducing. Best to steer clear from this one, but it’s worth acknowledging simply due to it being one of the first Teens’ Love works to really make waves within the industry.

Amai Choubatsu: Watashi wa Kanshu Sen’you Pet (Sweet Punishment: I’m the Guard’s Personal Pet) was the next to grab attention the following year due to reasons you can probably already guess from the title. Yes, it’s a masochist’s dream premise, and it’s heavy on the rough sexual material, so bear that in mind rather than going in unprepared. Rape, NTR and Stockholm syndrome are prolific here — although I can’t help but give props to the show’s animation and character designs for showcasing a variety of body rather than remaining steadfastly predictable.

Then there’s Yubisaki kara Honki no Netsujou: Osananajimi wa Shouboushi (Fire in His Fingertips: A Flirty Fireman Ravishes Me with His Smoldering Gaze), the cream of the crop of Teens’ Love anime adaptations from what I’ve experienced so far.

Childhood friend turned firefighter crush

Fire in His Fingertips (as we shall refer to it hereafter) first released in 2019, and remains one of the better anime adaptations of the Teens’ Love subgenre. It depicts a realistic relationship between its main pairing; its main love interest not only delights in satisfying and pleasuring the main character, but actually makes her climax more times he does across the show as a whole. The show’s point of view is shot almost entirely for the female gaze, too, which is a nice touch.

But the best thing about it is how it’s a love story with sex thrown in for good measure — since viewers will come to care about all aspects of their relationship. The characters are individually likeable, and they make a good romantic and sexual unit for their chemistry and endearing relationship progression.

Teens' Love: Fire in his Fingertips

It avoids commonly distasteful takes from romantic stories, too, with Soma — the fact I can remember his name should be indicative of how good of a hunk he is — never being unfaithful. He even has moments of being emotionally mature and vulnerable — a legitimate hottie in every sense.

Everyone in the cast leaves just as strong an impression, even the main love rivals. And it was particularly sweet to see that, despite the pair bonking multiple times beforehand, their bubbling feelings for one another made for a satisfying finale as they finally vocalised their actual feelings of wanting to be a serious couple for the first time.

The journey to that destination was mostly in the ballpark of main character Ryo, since Soma was all hands on deck as soon as their relationship was rekindled. (The fire puns just keep flaring up, eh – Ed.) After having saved her from her burning apartment complex, the pair end up living together after having not see one another since being childhood friends.

The show has its fair share of comedy too, albeit with cheesy dialogue, but a rewarding sense of relationship progression. It’s a very safe option to start exploring the Teens’ Love genre thanks to its vanilla explicit scenes, its emphasis on the main character realising and accepting her crush providing a clear sense of consent for anything that happens after that — and, of course, a sweet romance.

While the anime adaptation isn’t available officially in English anywhere other than questionable sources, you can pick up the manga on Amazon.

And speaking of manga, there’s a lot more to think about when picking out good Teens’ Love works, because there’s a lot more on offer. That said, plenty of them do contain content that may be red flags for some readers, so know what you’re getting into before you start reading. We’re not into anything too toxic in our sexy romances here, so here’s a few safe recommendations to start your own exploration with.

A Demon King you can’t help but love

Tensei shitara Maou-sama ni Dekiai saremashita (When I Reincarnated, I was Doted on by the Demon King) has no right being as good as it is. Its main character, Haruka, is one of the most relatable in the genre, enduring a period of being downtrodden with her life’s bad luck.

She’s lonely, struggling at her job, has been turned down by her office crush, and is becoming increasingly plagued by overthinking and anxiety — until a Demon King appears in her life to turn it all around.

The plot is unexpectedly cute, with an emphasis on the reincarnation aspect to solidify their chemistry and relationship building. He supports her growth as an individual and wants to help her, while she learns to appreciate herself and her own merits when turning over a new leaf; she eventually comes to raise her own sense of self-confidence feel reassured about herself and her own skills. It’s a shockingly uplifting tale, and the smut is just another means through which she learns to understand her self-worth.

Maou, the Demon King, had a thing for Haruka’s previous incarnation, the Saviour; she was the only one who could put him in his place. As such, there is a prevailing theme of Haruka’s present form being “second best”, but thanks to this setup, she has her own character arc that she is able to grow from, since Maou does indeed end up appreciating and loving her for herself.

This manga is still ongoing, but its pure romance and depiction of a main love interest who actually respects the main character’s boundaries — for the most part, anyway, though we should remember that he is a Demon King — makes this a smutty romance worth being invested in.

Fox god is prime husbando material

Kami-Danomi Kon-Katsu (Asking God for a Hubby) has plenty of similarities to When I Reincarnated… and also brings along a bit of interspecies/otherworldly romance with a major theme of fate and destiny to complement the reincarnation angle.

Here, the main character and main love interest are meant to be together, and they go from strength to strength with each passing chapter. Sex in this title is used with the most care and sense of reward here, as the pairing does not have full penetrative sex until the main character confirms her feelings for the main love interest, vocally solidifying and formalising their relationship’s status.

Main character Natsuki is sweet and worthy of compassion due to her past misfortune in love, despite it being her one and only wish in life. The reveal of why she has been unable to successfully date and maintain a relationship with any male to date is incorporated well into the story, and makes for an understandable plot point that adds a bit of conflict into their relationship. It’s especially refreshing that this main conflict does not involve a love rival.

Well, okay, both male and female rivals do exist here, but they’re both completely harmless. They primarily serve the purpose of emphasising just how strong the main character and main love interest’s relationship is — however flawless the rivals might appear, they’re no threat to that core relationship.

The ex of the main love interest is especially refreshing in personality and story relevance. She comforts Natsuki, encourages her to appreciate herself more, and is an absolute delight to see appear; her supportiveness of the new core relationship is something rarely seen in love rivals who are part of romances aimed at women. We’re truly blessed because, for once, she’s someone who is not at all spiteful or malicious due to jealousy. Hooray!

The fantastical story aspects really lend themselves to the gorgeous art style, with the two god characters always being drawn in stunning and captivating detail. The finale is also extremely satisfying, pairing up the endearingly supportive side characters and giving the main trio the best ending that they could ask for — Natsuki gets her wish of getting not just a husband, but a family.

There’s not a bad egg in the cast, the ending leaves things on a perfect note, and no one can tell me that reading it just because the main love interest looks like a kemonomimi version of Kuroko no Basket’s Aomine was a bad idea. (Perish the thought – Ed.)

Did we cover some good ground here as a starting point? This won’t be the last you’ll see us exploring Teens’ Love stories! Next time, we’ll be recommending an even more niche-interest focus with the best age gap stories the genre has to offer — so please look forward to that!

In the meantime, if you’ve started your own journey through this saucy subgenre, why not share some of your favourites down in the comments, via the usual social channels or on the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page?

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