These Are My Favourite Manga, I Think You Should Read Them.

A lot of you most likely read comic books, and plenty of you love watching anime. But how many of you read manga?

If you do? Good for you. You’ll probably hate this list with a passion. If you don’t? Then here’s where I think you should start.


Pluto

Naoki Urusawa Really, you can’t go wrong reading anything by Naoki Urusawa. Anime fans may have watched Monster, a cracking series focused on a sociopathic genius set in Germany. 20th Century Boys, probably Urusawa’s most famous work, was made into a movie series in Japan.

But my favourite Urusawa manga is Pluto. At the very least it’s his most sustained, consistent work.

It’s also a great entry point, being that it’s essentially a modern reworking of Tezuka’s Astro Boy. It’s truly phenomenal. In this version, Astro Boy himself is merely a bit player, the focus is on another robot – a police detective investigating the murder of other world famous robots. It has a unique sci-fi noir feel. Think Blade Runner, think Minority Report.

It’s brilliantly written, fully realized. It’s a genius angle on an already existing story and a great entry point for folks not used to reading manga.


Vagabond

Takehiko Inoue Takehiko Inoue is most famous for Slam Dunk – the shonen sports manga focused on basketball. That’s a phenomenal series, but Vagabond is his greatest work.

If you’re the kind of person who marvels over art, Vagabond is unmissable. It’s probably the most beautiful manga ever created. The style is… it’s unique, grounded, miraculous really.

Vagabond is a retelling of the Miyamoto Musashi story, a real life martial artist. It plays around with the details, but for me, it’s the most definitive version of a story that’s been retold endlessly.

The series is ongoing, which can always be a bummer, since Inoue is known for taking his time with these things, but seriously – this is a work of art. On every possible level.


Ping Pong

Taiyō Matsumoto Yes, it’s a manga about Ping Pong. Yes, that’s weird. But oh my god. You’re gonna want to read this.

Ping Pong is about Ping Pong, but it’s really not. The strange scratchy art style sketches out a story that’s really about two adolescent friends struggling with the burden of talent and the fear of losing.

And the way the story twists and turns? It’s really unique among sports manga in that it’s really not predictable. It’s not the HARD WORK PREVAILS OVER ALL message seen in most shonen manga, it’s far more complicated than that. I think that’s what I love most about it. Ping Pong subverts all those tropes and is worth reading for that alone.


Solanin

Inio Asano Okay, I came this close to recommending Oyasumi Punpun, Asano’s latest work, over Solanin, but I didn’t. Because for first time readers, Punpun is just super weird, super dark and almost impenetrable. I just want to say – if you read Solanin, and you like it? You have to check out Oyasumi Punpun.

But Solanin is just a better entry point.

Solanin tells the story of a group of recent university graduates, struggling with real life, struggling with money. Just struggling. I don’t want to say too much about it, but Solanin is very real. It’s a story you’re going to relate to.

It’s also relatively short. If you want to read manga, but have been turned off by the Dragonballs and Narutos of the world, this is a good place to start.

Then you can go and read Oyasumi Punpun.


Sanctuary

Taiyō Matsumoto Sanctuary is pretty old. It ran from 1990-1995. As such it has a really unique art style that, in my opinion, really helps it stand out. It feels like it’s from a different time, with different ideas.

It also plays host to one of the most intriguing high concepts in any manga ever: two young, fiercely intelligent immigrant friends make a pact. One joins the Yakuza, the other gets into politics. Neither will rest until they are at the top of their field. Together they will transform Japan.

The end result is a cross between The Departed and Suits. But Sanctuary essentially outperforms both of them. It’s brilliantly paced, smart, and has a truly unique look to it. Sanctuary feels adult. You’ll need to suspend your disbelief at the rapid rise of these two individuals, but that’s just part of how cool this whole story is.


Hajime No Ippo

George Morikawa Outside of Slam Dunk, Hajime No Ippo might be my favourite sports manga of all time.

We follow Ippo, a diminutive, bullied son of a fisherman as he goes from wimp to world class boxer. It’s truly incredible, combining visceral fight scenes, with truly hilarious moments.

For me, the best part of Hajime No Ippo is the pacing and drama of the boxing itself. The author Morikawa has a great ability to surprise readers, integrating an encyclopedic knowledge of boxing with a gift for subverting expectations.

Be aware: Hajime No Ippo is long. Super long. The manga started in 1989 and it’s still fucking going.

Unbelievable.


REAL

Takehiko Inoue I've been trying to go for one manga per author, but I'd be doing you all a disservice if I didn't recommend REAL by Takehiko Inoue.

REAL is like an adult version of Inoue's hit manga Slam Dunk. Like that, REAL is a basketball manga, but shifts its focus to the world of wheelchair basketball. It's brilliant really. It's a sports manga, technically, but moves into slice-of-life drama throughout. It's beautifully drawn, both in terms of the art itself and the main characters. It can be heartbreaking. Above all it's real.


Bakuman

Tsugumi Ohba You've probably heard of Death Note. You've probably watched Death Note. Bakuman is by the same folks that created Death Note under the pen name Tsugumi Ohba.

It's a super meta story about two teenage boys trying to become mangaka -- comic book artists essentially -- and its genius is in the way their story reflects the type of manga they're writing in the story itself. When they try and write a battle manga, Bakuman becomes a battle manga. If they write a romance, Bakuman subtle becomes a romance manga. It's super slick.

But Bakuman is also really funny. The characters are brilliant, and evolve in unique ways throughout. It's not perfect, but it's clever and a lot of fun.


That's my list. What's yours? Any recommendations? Any glaring omissions? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    Gantz - sci-fi with aliens. very interesting and gripping story.
    One-Punch Man - great shonen comedy. fairly new, but pretty solid so far.
    Jojo's Bizarre adventure - a classic, great for first two 'seasons' lost it in the middle a little and got it back towards the end. a
    Feng Shen Ji (actually a Manhua, not manga) - this one has a great story, interesting characters and full colour artwork.

    Last edited 17/07/15 12:10 pm

      I love One-Punch Man. It's absolutely hilarious, great artwork and a fantastic parody of manga tropes.

      Gantz started off great but the ending is absolute garbage. So many loose ends and the author pulled the "because aliens" crap on us.

        what loose ends are you referring to?
        i dont think they pulled 'because aliens', but only because it was always about aliens right from the beginning.
        i also think it explored human nature really well in lots of different facets.

          It's been a while since I finished reading it, so I might have remembered some of this wrong.
          Here are just a few things I can think of:
          - The ending was rushed. They defeat the aliens and land back on earth on some beach and that's the end of the story...
          - They don't give you much back story about the aliens, especially the ones just hanging out on earth disguised as various things, like what are they doing on earth and why are they doing that? I was hoping for more explanation than just "aliens".
          - After their mission in Italy, iirc, where they got their asses handed to them, they were just transported back to Japan and released from Gantz? Why?
          - Why was Tae-chan the target in one of the missions? Was it really all because she accidentally took a photo of a Gantz member or alien (can't really remember)?
          - What was the point of the scene where the reporter guy meets that alien who can predict the future? He predicts a few things like a man having a heart attack and a plane falling out of the sky and that's it, it doesn't mention anything else ever again. That alien has no other purpose...
          - Kurono suddenly has a brother who is a vampire? WHAT?!?
          - At the end, they fly through space and enter earth's atmosphere in just their suits and the gyro-motorcycle thing? Has the author not heard of physics? I realise the comic is not realistic to begin with, but come on, having advanced alien tech. doesn't mean you can ignore physics.

          There's more than this, but these are what I can think of off the top of my head atm.

            ah yeah,
            those points do raise good questions.
            i thought i remember somewhere about the aliens being refugees or something, but the point of the Gantz teams were for the rich and powerful to have something to bet on. that 'all knowing' alien in the end said something about giving the technology to humans to help them have a chance against those giant humanoid aliens that they battle in the last chapters.
            the very end with them heading back to earth i do actually remember it being a WTF moment.
            i think i got too caught up on wanting to know what happens next that i didnt stop to question some of the logic.
            ha ha.

            Last edited 20/07/15 9:48 am

    Yay Hajime No Ippo. I don't ready the manga but I do love the anime.

    If you like Vagabond you might like Blade of the Immortal, not strictly a Manga, but awesome samurai stuff. Amazing artwork too.

    Oh man, love Ippo and the wait for Vagabond is worth it purely for the artwork.

    Oh, I looooved Monster but then, never read anything else he did, think I'll definitely have to give Pluto a shot. Had no idea Slam Dunk and Vagabond was the same guy! Been putting Vagabond off for ages, probably time I try it too. Apart from Asano I haven't read any of these actually, they all sound super interesting. I'd also throw in Asano's 'What A Wonderful World', also another shorter one (little longer than Solanin but way shorter than Oyasumi), and is equal parts hilarious and endearingly sad.

    - Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer (alt name: Hoshi no Samidare)
    10 Volumes, Complete.
    Comedy, Action, technically Seinen.
    Nothing to say, just read it!

    - Teppu
    Incomplete
    Sports Women MMA
    The main character has an interesting personality, not your usual nice naive person. Plus the people that's around her are interesting too.

    - Bambino
    Technially complete, but there's Bambino Secondo which is a direct sequel so not really complete
    Cooking, Seinen, Drama
    Drama about a young chef getting into a large famous Italian Restaurant and learning the ways, with lots of drama.

    - Berserk
    Incomplete
    Seinen, Action, Fantasy
    Also another series that really doesn't need an introduction. WARNING, early in the series has lots of NSFW stuff, whereas later is just blood, gore and violence.

    - Genshiken
    Technically complete, but there's Genshiken Nidaime which is direct sequel so not really complete
    Seinen, Comedy, Drama
    About a University club for geeks and nerds that don't fit in the regular geeks and nerd circles. Lots of injokes and references to other famous anime/manga

    - Shut Hell
    Incomplete
    Seinen, Historical, Action
    Please try this, I won't be good enough to explain this.

      Oh, and I nearly forgot Silver Spoon! Great Slice-of-Life Shounen Drama by the author of Full Metal Alchemist, good pacing, though incomplete at the moment. Seems to be wrapping up though, since they're in their 3rd year of High School. The mix of comedy and drama is great, as you would expect from the person who did FMA.

      Cannot agree more about Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer. A deeply beautiful seinen story artfully disguised with classic shounen trappings that it as much subverts and parodies as it pays homage to them. It's simply fantastic.

    C'mon. My wallet already hates me when I read up on Games, Board Games and Movies. Now you want to get me hooked on Manga too!?

    Ruler of the Land - Martial Arts Manhwa
    Bio-Meat - Extremely underrated but a great manga
    Shokugeki no Soma - Food manga with extreme reaction

    Tons more. I read tons of manga lol

    Man, I have a love-hate thing going with Urusawa. There are so many things to love! The beautiful, realistic art with just the right amount of manga fantasy style; the exceptionally smart, carefully developed premises; the edge-of-your-seat thrilling storytelling that you just devour; the smart and surprising twists that subvert your expectations... and that's where the things to hate appear: Twists, twists, too many twists.

    Urusawa LOVES his twists and after the first few, the original premise of the story that you originally fell in love with has been totally sidelined, if not outright and quickly hand-waved away. It somehow worked in 20th Century Boys, a very long manga, because each twist, while annoying, was able to develop and spark your interest again before being overlaid by a new twist and in the end, there was enough time to tie most of the enormous amount of dangling bits of previous plot in a somewhat coherent if not entirely satisfactory way. Pluto? With only 52 chapters, the twists piled up at dizzying speeds.

    Those cool-sounding noir themes of a half-cybernetic detective solving a string of robo-murders? Hand-waved around the mid-point, the mystery solved and abandoned in literally two panels. By the end of the manga, the original character is barely ever seen. There are twists piling on top of twists by the very last chapters, so much that I refused to believe, as I read it, that the whole manga was 52 chapters; "that must be just the first volume, right?" Nope, last chapter was the climactic fight against a character introduced only a couple chapters before (whose existence had just been a McGuffin until that point) and then, one epilogue page that solved only one of the many plot-holes created by the twists, while literally opening a new one. I hated it with passion, mostly because I had loved it so much in its first half, and I felt like a sucker not seeing it coming from Urusawa.

    It is not coincidence that Monster is his one story that made it into anime and was most popular in the West: it is surprisingly restrained with its twists (there's "only" like 4) and they do not completely render invalid or moot most of the previous plot points, as it happens in his other stories, so most of his genius shines on, untainted.

    I decided to renounce Urusawa for the sake of my peace of mind. I don't want to fall in love again with some other brilliant, beautifully illustrated premise just to rage later on and end hating the whole thing He's like Haruki Murakami but with nice pictures and much better storytelling, yet still infuriating and unsatisfactory in the end.

    Last edited 17/07/15 1:33 pm

      I was going to reply to this article, to recommend 20th Century Boys. I stand by that recommendation, but I have nothing to say that you've not already said. Have an upvote.

      I agree, but I think Pluto is the manga where those tendencies are a little less pronounced.

        Maybe? But if they were less pronounced relatively, the short length of the story made them more jarring to me. Or maybe it was just me rolling my eyes and getting exasperated more easily because my experience with his previous body of work.

    Every time this comes up I say the same thing, but what the hell: anything by Mitsuru Adachi. Super good tragi-comedies that usually center around high-school sports and romance.

    OnePunch Man! Too good to ignore. Absolutely hilarious and great parody of Shonen manga.

    My favorite at the moment is a Chinese manhua called "The Ravages of Time". It's a unique telling of Romance of the Three Kingdomes (of Dynasty Warriors) fame. The twist is that just about everybody is a scheming, master strategist. The story is so loaded with brilliant plots, counter plots, top tier writing and brilliantly unique perspectives of classic characters. Oh, and the main protagonist is Sima Yi, yes THAT Sima Yi.

    If you love Pluto, 21 century boys and monster.... You're going to love his new one - Billy Bat!

    As the father of two girls (one who identifies herself as an otaku!) my introduction to manga started with Osama Tezuka's Buddha and went on to Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba. But the visit to the Manga Museum in Kyoto is what sealed it for me. My favorite has been Tsubasa Reservoice Chronicles

    No one mentioned KareKano (Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou) yet?? That manga was awesome.

    Life the manga..Great adult manga, if you can stomach the controversial topics/scenes. ( Warning: This manga gets real dark REALLY quickly)
    Hikaru No Go : Still one of the greatest sports mangas for me
    Nana: Nothing much to say, nice drama/romance manga
    Hourou Musuko: An awesome manga on a interesting topic
    Koe No Katachi: Not sure If I like this manga or not. But I give it props for the topic.

    Last edited 18/07/15 8:56 pm

    Blame! is brilliant. I don't even know why, but I still think about it from time to time.

      Blame! is really good, but the art is just too confusing for me. If only he could redo it with the skills he has now. Sidonia no Kishi (art-wise) retains his style but with improved clarity. I actually understand what's going on.

      Or maybe it's because I read Blame! when I was too young to be bothered really reading/looking/experiencing the manga and not just skimming through :p

      Last edited 20/07/15 2:57 pm

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