So lets start with the series:
The romance in this series develops pretty naturally, and thanks to the fact that the heroine has a voice it allows for a bit more complicated scenario's. Some dialects might be a bit tricky to understand in the beginning, but it is definitely fun to listen to. I still check the official site every so often, secretly hoping that they will continue some day.
My favourite entries to this series are probably vol.1 and vol.4, although I really loved the Niigata story (voiced by Hirakawa Daisuke) as well.
Oujisama (warai)This is seriously one of the funniest series I know. I think it started as a spin-off series of Meisaku Bungaku (warai), but by now it has spin-off CDs of it's own. The CDs tell various fairytales from the perspective of the prince, while their personalities are turned into something completely different and usually they have hilarious quirks.
The first two CDs each had three princes, each having their own unrelated story and a final 'zadankai' track in which all three of them have a drink and have some (hilarious) conversation. In the later CDs one new prince was introduced, while characters from earlier CDs act as supporting cast. The series is getting longer and longer but it is still as hilarious as in the beginning. They've started using running gags, and frequently mention that they know they are in a drama CD series (fourth wall, what fourth wall?).
Shirayuki (Snow White), Cinderella, and Ibara (Sleeping Beauty) are probably my favourite characters in the series. There is no way I can choose a favourite CD though, they are all brilliant.
Are you Alice?
The main story is rather dark, and switches between being serious and ironic humour. Ninomiya Ai her ability to write sarcasm into almost any situation is one of the main charms of this series, though it also has a very good story. Don't expect everything to be clearly explained though, this series leaves it up to you to connect many of the dots.
The unbirthday series expands on the original story by telling the background of several of the characters. While chronologically mosty taking place before the original story you will need to know the story or you will miss out on a lot of things. Like the original series, this is dark and more serious.
The Tea Party side dramas are less serious and more comical, depicting a few events during Alice his stay in wonderland. One of the charms of this series are the tokuten CDs though; they are mostly complete crack. The whole cast acts out of character - or the entire setting is changed- and the dialogue is often a chain of witty comments, sarcasm, and puns. There are more serious tokuten CDs as well, but most of them are completely hilarious.
This is the series that got me hooked on drama CDs, it all started with this. It is also the cause for my incredible Sakurai bias. Only recommended for people that like dark fairytales or darker stories, and don't mind doing a bit of thinking to figure out what is going on exactly on.
Momo&Grapes Men's Only
As you can guess by the title all of the seiyuu in each CD are all male, yet they did stories like Alice in Wonderland, A Little Princess, and even one based on a novel published by Tiara Bunko (a publisher that specializes in candlelight novels). It takes a little while to get used to, but after a few minutes you are completely used to the voices and it never felt unnatural. It is almost a crime how cute some of these heroines sound.
Most -if not all- of them are also very faithful adaptions of the original stories. They stick close to the originals without taking too much liberty or skipping things. The voice acting is always incredible, and if you ask me these are some of the best drama CD adaptions ever.
The stories that they did are Romeo and Juliet, The Rose of Versailles (series), Little Women, Beauty and the Beast, Ribon no Kishi, Bluebeard, Alice in Wonderland, Oboreru hodo Hana wo ageru, and a Little Princess.
Fushigi Koubou Shoukougunふしぎ工房症候群 (fushigi koubou shoukougun) translates into something like 'mysterious workshop syndrome'. The mysterious workshop in the title is what binds all of the stories in this series together. The shop can only be found by someone who is lost and really needs it, and is run by an old man, who sells 'happiness'
Each story is told by a (high profile) voice actor who both tells the story and acts out certain characters. The story is told from the perspective of the main character, and mostly centers on that person his thoughts. In each story the main character is going through a troubled period or trauma, and the mysterious workshop becomes a turning point in their lives.
The story is told from the perspective of the main character, so you hear their thoughts and feelings. The series is written really, really well, and each story is a very emotional one. I cried more than once listening to this series. While dealing with very emotional topics, the message is always "after rain comes sunshine" and that if you are willing to try you'll be able to find happiness, even though it might be different from what you expect. This doesn't mean every story has a happy end though, but the main character always resolves to move forward, and that emotional journey is what makes this series so special. That they manage to do this in every single CD without making it feel corny only shows how well written it is (and how good the seiyuu are).
What is interesting in that none of the characters in this series have a name. Everyone is always referred to as "he:", "she" "that guy" etc. The main character is also always referred to simply as "me" (although all of the main characters are male, with the exception of the last few stories). Hearing a seiyuu do different roles in one story is also interesting, and you can hear the amazing voice range that most of them have.
Several of the stories have been turned into normal drama CDs, with sepparate actors for each character. While these are all very good as well, the original series had more emotional impact in my opinion.
"Hitoribochi no Tanjoubi", "Christmas no Dekikoto", "Saigo no Negai" and "Yami" are some of my own favourites, but to be honest all of them are incredibly good.
Kannou Mukashi Banashi
Each CD has a theme for all of the stories: Japanese folklore, Andersen fairytales, Kaidan (horror), Grimm Fairytales, Greek Myths, Sengoku period, and finally Japanese folklore again. And of course the Romeo and Julliet special story.
In the first few the amount of ero wasn't that much, but it increases with the later CDs. It never reaches the amount of ero of several other series that focus on that though. Each CD has three stories told by sepparate seiyuu, and one story done by everyone. The introductions done by Inoue Kazuhiko are also on of the selling points. In each CD he tests whether your earphones/headphones are working properly, with suitably questionable wording.
The slight ero/ doki doki factor is of course the focus of this series, but besides that the stories are all simply done very well. The voice acting is good, the way they tell it interesting, and they manage to keep close to the originals (except maybe in the Sengoku one, in which everything but the historical data is pure fiction)
My own favourite is vol.3 - the horror one. The mix between horror and semi-ero is an interesting one. Although the scare factor of the dummy head mic left the larger impression (even though it is nothing compared to Kurayamigatari)
I didn't like the setting and was completely uninterested until I heard some of the preview tracks. Each CD features one of the guys as your boyfriend, along with a sub-character. The scenes between these two characters are what made the series for me. Their conversation are often so hilarious that I can't help but love it.
Other than that I think the use of sound effects is done pretty good in this series (and the use of the dummy head mic) and most of the situation parts (where your boyfriend talks directly to you) are done pretty OK as well, without him repeating too much of what you are supposedly saying. Some of the parts together are pure fanservice in terms of sweet talk and kissing though.
And then there are a few single CDs that I'd like to recommend:
Don't cry girl
The dummy head mic is used with great effect to scare you. In various ways. I'm not good with horror to begin with, but I've listened to a few horror stories and this one is definitely in the top ranks when it comes to being scary.
Besides that, the entire CD is voiced by Tsuda Kenjirou, who voices several very different roles. Every role sounds completely different though, and I can't help but be amazed by such vocal versatility.
Akogare no situation CD 01- Shikararetai
Of course the entire setting is light hearted so the end result is more comical than anything else. Morita Masakazu did this CD with so much energy, it is really amazing. I really like this CD, and I just want to recommend it to everyone.
While the beginning of the CD was more thriller orientated, the middle part is far more comical. This was something that I really didn't expect, but loved anyway. However the CD also has a bad end option, and prepare the tissues when you plan on listening to that.The fact that it has more of a story than the Shikararetai CD makes it very different, so I can recommend this as well. Did I also mention it is entirely recorded with the dummy head mic?
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These are my recommendations, I guess?
Haha, it is really difficult to choose from so many interesting concepts. In the end I decided think about which series I would be most excited about if a new CD would be announced.
If you think it weird that several big name series (Shuukan Soine, Honeymoon, anything by Honey Bee) is missing from this list: of course those are great series as well. These are just my personal favourites (and Shuukan Soine was very close to getting on the list, but I can't keep adding things).
Some people might also know that I'm a Yandere Heaven fan, so why isn't that on the list? Basically because I made this list of recommendations for everyone, and something like Yandere Heaven isn't for everyone to enjoy. I'm happy to see a lot of
These are my favourites, but if anyone is looking for further recommendations just leave a comment. If you give me examples of things you like (series, seiyuu, character types, etc) I'll try my best to recommend other things! Of course, other people are also welcome to give their recommendations :)