Ah, the kouhai. Gentle, submissive and supportive of their esteemed senpai, they tirelessly attempt to win the affection of their beloved elders. Or sometimes the opposite. They can stand as an obstacle, injecting a manga with humor, but ultimately foiling the schemes of the protagonist they hover around. In manga, the best kouhai always bring out the most entertaining side of their treasured senpai, and the even greater ones steal the show completely. Here are our Top 10 picks for kouhai manga characters.
10. Shimizu-kun from Mousou Telepathy
- Mangaka: NOBEL
- Genre: Comedy, Romance, School
- Volumes: 4
- Published Date: Feb. 2016 – Ongoing
Aya Nakano has been living her entire life with telepathic powers, but being in high school has become a new challenge for her. Especially with one of the most popular guys in school, Hayato Toda, having a crush on her. As her classmate, Toda’s pervy thoughts are instantly transmitted to Nakano’s head and she is awkwardly learning just how lecherous a teenage boy’s mind can be, with comedic results.
However, it is Aya’s kouhai Shimizu who is the first to approach her romantically, to Toda’s dismay. Shimizu is earnest and thoughtful, but dense in the weirdest ways. He unabashedly confesses to Aya in front of everyone, which turns Toda-kun’s pervy thoughts into a mix of anger, jealousy and regret for one arc of the manga. It’s an entertaining plot development for this story that is owed all to the nosiest of kouhai, Shimizu-kun.
9. Assistant-kun from Magical Sempai (Tejina-senpai)
- Mangaka: Azu
- Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, School, Seinen
- Volumes: 4
- Published Date: Feb. 2016 - Ongoing
Whatever way one can avoid getting roped into the defunct magic club against their will, this out-of-his luck kouhai probably wants to know. Tejina-senpai, however, finally has herself a clubmate and won’t let him go. Now named Assistant-kun, he helps the ditzy and busty Tejina-senpai “perform” magic tricks in an attempt to gain new members for the club. Although most the time she merely ends up embarrassing herself, and if they’re really unlucky, him as well. Anyone sane would have left her long ago, especially given how much of a hassle she is. However, this is one kouhai who takes great pity on their club president.
8. Saeki Ran from Stretch
- Mangaka: Higashiyama, Show
- Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 4
- Published Date: May 2013 - Oct. 2015
Who knew how important stretching was? Apparently Saeki Ran did, as she’s been doing everything in her power to get her roommate Komatsu Keiko to do them with her. Affectionately concerned over her senpai’s well being, she instructs her in each issue on how to exercise in new stretches and poses each issue. If the world was full of more cute, excitable people like Ran, it would be a much better place.
7. Iino Miko from Kaguya-sama: Love is War (Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen)
- Mangaka: Akasaka, Aka
- Genre: Comedy, Romance, School, Seinen
- Volumes: 7
- Published Date: May 2015 - Ongoing
At the prestigious Shuchiin Academy high school for the elite, rich and famous Shirogane Miyuki and Shinomiya Kaguya rule as the student council president and vice president. They also happen to be madly in love with each other, but because of their status, they believe the first one to confess their love will be in a weaker position. Thus begins their scheme-filled days of trying to trick the other into confessing, alongside their fellow student council members.
However, the newest addition in their second year is Iino Miko, the former disciplinary council member who ran against Shirogane for the president seat. After her loss, she joined them, but a series of over-the-top misunderstandings has her completely under the wrong impressions of her senpai. From one encounter to the next, her hilarious misunderstanding of each situation grows, to the point where one can only guess why she even sticks around. Perhaps it's her love and adoration for Fujiwara Chika, the student council secretary, the only member she believes is praiseworthy. Either way, the laughs are aplenty when Iino Miko is involved.
6. Collette from Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru!
- Mangaka: Imigi, Muru
- Genre: Comedy, Romance, School Seinen
- Volumes: 8
- Published Date: Oct. 2012 - Ongoing
There definitely is something seriously wrong with this art club. Usami Mizuki is pining after her classmate Uchimaki Subaru who does nothing but draw waifus. Their senpai, only known as President, sleeps all day; and their jubilant kouhai Collette has at least one screw loose. But Collette is nothing if not entertaining. A foreigner who moved to Japan with her parents at a young age, she enjoyed the country so much she opted to stay behind even after her family left. Perhaps they were a little relieved for a break from the rambunctious Colle-chan. As the youngest member of the group, she takes it upon herself to constantly keep things exciting. Just don’t expect much in the way of respect to senior classmen from this one.
5. Tanaka Ruri from Renai Shimasen ka?
- Mangaka: Tachibana, Roku
- Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance, Seinen
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: Mar. 2012 - Aug. 2013
Getting confessed to is a big deal for some, and it especially was to Fuwa Rito. However, it turned out to be a vicious prank that left him scarred for future relationships and his association with women. That doesn’t stop Tanaka Ruri from trying. After changing schools following his trauma, he became something of a savior for Ruri, who was going through her own bullying. Following him all the way to college, the two have had a close relationship that has become an unrequited love for Ruri. She takes it upon herself to at least get Rito to come out of his shell, and in the process unwittingly reintroduces him to the source of his trauma, Hoshino Shizuku. The three of them begin a romcom series of events, but throughout it all, Ruri is one of the most supportive kouhai any senpai could hope for.
4. Moriya Shizuku from Senpai, Sore Hitokuchi Kudasai!
- Mangaka: Mizu, Asato
- Genre: Comedy, Romance, School, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Jul. 2015 - Nov. 2016
What do you do when you’re in love with the suave, cool senpai but he’s dirt poor? If you’re Moriya Shizuku, you stand by him no matter what! She fell hopeless head first in love with Kamanberu-senpai, a boy whose most outstanding quality is his talent for improvisation. Instead of taking Moriya to Starbucks, he takes her to the park water fountain. No park bench lunches for them, it’s searching for edible plants in the forest. Moriya-chan may have it rough, but she’s loving every penny pinching minute of their time together. For the most part that is...
3. Tsuzuki Rika from Senpai to Kanojo
- Mangaka: Nanba, Atsuko
- Genre: Drama, Romance, Shoujo, School
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Dec. 2004 - May 2005
Unrequited love can be one bitter pill to swallow. Tsuzuki Rika entered high school with the hope of meeting the love of her life, and she finds it. Unfortunately, it’s her senpai, who just so happens to be in love with a senpai of his own who was a former student. After rapidly falling in love, Rika does everything she can to follow her senpai and get him to notice her. Throughout Senpai to Kanojo, she goes to the limits of just how far one kouhai can go to get her senpai to love her back.
2. Mutsuki Koharu from Koharu no Hibi
- Mangaka: Ooshiro, Youkou
- Genre: Ecchi, Romance, School, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 4
- Published Date: Jan. 2009 - Nov. 2012
One chance encounter with a girl and Torii Akira’s life was forever changed. Out of nowhere, the loner finds himself the object of affection of the obsessive Mutsuki Koharu. What begins as young love turns quickly into one of the sweetest yandere love stories that you can find. Koharu is just madly, -and I mean madly- in love with Akira, to the point of self harm. He can’t quite figure out why she loves him to such an insane degree, but for good or ill he’s stuck with her. He’s having to slowly get used to the quiet mutterings of “Senpai, senpai” outside his bedroom window at night though.
1. Kashima, Yuu from Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun)
- Mangaka: Tsubaki, Izumi
- Genre: Comedy, Romance, School
- Volumes: 9
- Published Date: Aug. 2011 - Ongoing
What if your kouhai was known as the prince of school? You’d be happy for them and hope they’d behave themselves, right? Well, unfortunately, for Hori Masayuki, his kouhai and club junior Kashima Yuu is rather flighty and doesn’t realize the impact of HER actions. Her capricious attitude and suave nature has made her the most handsome student at school, but all she does is cause trouble for her senpai. This side-couple from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun always manages to suck the air out of your lungs with laughter, so that easily puts Kashima Yuu as the number one kouhai in our book.
For better or worse, good kouhai are hard to come by. Whether they are younger schoolmates or newer people at the workplace, kouhai can really steal the scene. Do you have any favorite kouhai from some of your favorite manga? If so, tell us about them in the comments section. We’re always on the lookout for a good kouhai or two!