Before the anime even formulates, there’s always the successful manga. Japanese literary art has become one of the biggest forms of expression the world has ever seen. And, well, there’s no point delving into the history of something that almost every person verse with pop culture knows about. Let’s get right to it to check out the list of best manga!
Here’s our ranking of the 40 best manga. Of all time. No, seriously, this is real. From Naruto and One Piece to Rurouni Kenshin and Vagabond, from the mega-big-huge to the ones you’d probably never heard of, here’s the list with all you need to know. But before that, a few things. Firstly, since this is such a BIG topic, we don’t proclaim that these 40 are THE best in this order itself. And secondly, high sales doesn’t necessarily make you good, it makes you popular.
Kimihiro Watanuki, a high-schooler, is troubled by monsters and spirits who are magically attracted to him. However, nobody else can see them but him. One day, Watanuki stumbles into a shop that grants wishes, and encounters Yuko Ichihara, a beautiful, seemingly all-knowing witch. Yuko doesn’t waste time, she offers to grant Watanuki’s wish to not be able to see those bothersome monsters and spirits any longer, however, there is a price. Yuko soon sees that Watanuki is a hard worker and would be useful for housework and other chores Yuko wishes for him to do until he works off enough to pay for the amount of power that needs to be used to grant his wish.
xxxHolic is such a unique style and story for CLAMP.
Yotsuba’s daily life is full of adventure. She is energetic, curious, and a bit odd—odd enough to be called strange by her father as well as ignorant of many things that even a five-year-old should know. Because of this, the most ordinary experience can become an adventure for her. As the days progress, she makes new friends and shows those around her that every day can be enjoyable.
It’s like being as Yotsuba, 5 years old again and she’s one of a kind. If you’re looking for an easy-going manga, this is perfect for you. It doesn’t have that many dialogues, easy to read, and really funny. And the best thing is it shows you that even the sounds of the cicadas is enjoyable.
Eikichi Onizuka is a 22-year-old ex-biker. He’s crude, foul-mouthed, and has a split-second temper. His unlikely goal: to be the Greatest High School Teacher in the World! Of course, the only reason he wants to be a teacher is so he can try to score with the hot students. Before he can become a full instructor, he’s got to work as a student teacher to earn his credentials. Onizuka may think he’s the toughest guy on campus, but when he meets his class full of bullies, blackmailers, and scheming sadists, he’ll have to prove it.
Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) is one of the most loved and inspirational manga in existence. This manga can describes what is going wrong with the education system in this era. The story can makes you more mature by understanding the society more deeply than ever.
Dr. Kenzou Tenma is a celebrated brain surgeon of Japanese ancestry working in Europe. He is highly lauded by his peers as one of the great young minds that will revolutionize the field. When he is on the cusp of a big promotion in the hospital he works at, he faces a grave dilemma that Kenzou faces — whether to save the life of a small boy or that of the town’s mayor. He ends up saving his life and forfeiting the mayor’s.
A doctor is educated to believe that all life is the same; however, when a sequence of killings occurs in the surgeon’s vicinity, all of the evidence points to the boy he saved. Kenzou’s beliefs are shaken after these incidents. During his expedition to resolve the true identity of his patient, Kenzou finds that the destiny of the world may be interlaced with the enigmatic child.
What makes a great psychological thriller? An intelligent plot? Unpredictable plot twists? Memorable, deep characters ? Or is it the overall atmosphere of the series? If you’re looking for a manga that can give you all of the above, Naoki Urasawa’s got your back. Monster’s story is the aspect that it excels the most in. it features a long, intellectual and complex story with zero plot holes despite its lengh, and somehow manages to be relatively slow paced yet engaging and captivating.
Kankichi Ryotsu is lazy and oftentimes greedy, looking for a new fad or gadget to make a quick buck. Unfortunate that none of those come in handy for his job as a police officer. He works at an ordinary police box with the business tycoon heartthrob Nakagawa, the descendant of nobility and multilingual Reiko, the frustrated and short-tempered Chief and an assortment of other characters including, but not limited to, a bipolar biker, a transsexual and a stale old police constable.
KochiKame is one of THE most popular manga series in the entirety of Japan. It’s extremely fun and a riot to read. The anime show is just as popular, even gaining quite a large fan base in India. KochiKame is a host of characters that, even if just for a short stint, leave you reeling in pain from all the gut-busting. It’s a slice-of-life manga series with an inane plot, an inane lead and even more, inane characters that make KochiKame…well, as crazy as it can get.
In a futuristic world, where humans co-exist with robots, scientist Dr. Tenma mourns the death of his son, Tobio, in a car accident. So, to fill that void, he creates Astro, a robot made in the exact likeness of his son and with human emotions. However, Tenma soon rejects Astro and he eventually lands up with the kind Professor Ochanomizu. The professor realizes that Astro possesses great superpowers and Astro devotes himself to a life of fighting crime and maintaining the harmony between the human and robot race.
Astro Boy is probably the oldest manga series in this list. But that doesn’t make it dated in the slightest. While many just remember the TV show, Astro Boy is an icon of Japanese literature. Astro Boy has influenced the growth of the anime and manga industries as a whole. Few other works can boast of that achievement. One of the highest selling manga series ever, the stories are full of action and emotion, crime-fighting but with lots of heart. It has a lot of universal appeals and deserves its status.
The Joestar family has a number of men who, over the years, discover that they possess unique and powerful abilities. They also learn that they must use these abilities to take down supernatural foes. Each member of the family has a name that can be abbreviated to ‘JoJo’. The eight volumes of the manga tell the tale of each member of the Joestar family as they use their powers to do the usual, ‘good vs evil’.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is your usual superhero based manga with a bit of a twist. It adds a good amount of continuity to its stories by dividing it all up into eight volumes and headlining a different character each time. That gives us eight different epic stories of manliness, action, light humor, and more manliness. The anime just emphasizes all the macho the manga already does so well.
Ichigo Kurosaki was a normal high schooler until he saves soul reaper Rukia Kuchiki. This effectively sucks him into the world of soul reaping and spirit channeling. When he inadvertently acquires Rukia’s powers, he’s entrusted with carrying out her duties. These involve passing the souls on from the World of the Living to the Soul Society and fighting Hollows, lost souls that can harm both souls and humans. Together with his friends, Ichigo must balance high school and soul reaping while trying to protect human society from Hollows and getting Rukia her powers back.
Like almost every other manga on this list, Bleach is a best-selling icon. It’s one of the most popular manga in the West. The action sequences and well-developed characters make this a strong and interesting read. It handles the multiple intertwining, sometimes separate, plotlines of each of its characters extremely well enough to be engaging but not confusing. Bleach is a monster of a manga franchise. It has anime, movies, music, even coloring books. Let’s just say, you’ve probably heard of Bleach, even if you’re not a manga fan.
The Fairy Tail is just one of many guilds of wizards on Earth-land who use their magic for paid jobs. One of the Fairy Tail wizards, Natsu Dragneel, is on the lookout for his adoptive father, the dragon Igneel. On the way, he meets Lucy, another wizard. Along with her and a bunch of other allies they gain along the way, Natsu continues his search for his father while also battling the evil forces of the immortal dark wizard Zeref.
Fairy Tail is your good ol’ mystical, magical, fight-heavy manga with tons of great action sequences. Again, Fairy Tail has done huge business for itself. Huge. I’m talking over 100 million copies sold huge. The only problem with Fairy Tail is that it doesn’t stand out as much from others of its kind in terms of story, which honestly others on this list like Seven Deadly Sins and Kingdom do better. Its characters, though, give it the boost it needs to be as popular as it is.
The series begins when a well transports 15-year-old Kagome Higurashi to the Sengoku period of Japan. There she meets half-dog demon Inuyasha and learns that she houses within her the magical Shikon Jewel. When the jewel is inadvertently shattered and dispersed across Japan, Kagome, Inuyasha and the many allies they gain along the way, set out on a journey to find all the shards and save Japan before they come into the hands of the evil half-spider demon Naraku.
Rumiko Takahashi, the manga’s writer, deviates from his usual comedic style to go with something a lot more violent and dark while still retaining a bit of comedy. InuYasha is one of the entries on this list where the anime might be a lot more popular than the manga. The series’ Sengoku setting adds an old-timey feel to it, making the manga seem a little dated at times. But it is, no doubt, thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing. It’ll make you laugh, cry and gasp in the same breath, and that’s tough to do on a page.
Love Hina is the story of Keitaro Urashima, who wants to get into the University of Tokyo to find the girl he made a childhood promise to. After he fails twice and his parents kick him out, he moves into his grandmother’s hotel, Hinata House. Unfortunately, the hotel’s been converted into a dorm for girls. And Keitaro’s grandmother names him the new manager. Now Keitaro must balance his studies with his managerial duties, while also staying out of the way of the girls there who don’t mind a good roughhousing for the usually unlucky Keitaro.
Love Hina may not be as big a seller as many on this list, but it’s certainly one of the most entertaining. Keitaro’s bad luck and the diverse, and legitimately insane, cast of characters make for a great read. What makes this manga heartwarming is the love story at the center of it all, coupled with a bit of ‘is she the one?’ and ‘will they/won’t they’ segments. The Love Hina anime is also quite popular and just as good as the manga. ‘Sweet’ is probably the best word to describe this series.
By the 1990s, nuclear war has ravaged the world. Kenshiro is the successor of ancient martial art which allows him to take down his opponents by attacking their vital points in, particularly gory fashion. Kenshiro must use his skills to take down some particularly important people who are out to get rid of him and the world he lives in. Some of these are his own brothers in combat and past enemies and friends. Somehow, trying to get a drink of water from the village drags him into all this.
Fist of the North Star has the sort of bone-crushing, wince-inducing action that most people can’t get enough of. While there’s not a shortage of any of that on the list, this particular manga stands out. But that’s mainly because of the art and its setting. While it doesn’t have the most original characters or original storyline, it has an original appeal. It’s one of the biggest media franchises of all time, comprising of the manga, anime, even video games.
Ranma Saotome and his father Genma fall into the cursed springs while on a martial arts training trip. Ranma emerges as a girl, which he turns into every time he’s splashed with cold water. Don’t worry, he can revert back to himself when splashed with hot water. His father, on the other hand, becomes a panda. Ranma must learn to adjust to his new ‘self’ while also dealing with his apparent fiancé, Akane, who wouldn’t hesitate to punch him out.
Ranma ½ is honestly quite a crazy plot. It’s the kind of story you’d see in more old-timey manga and anime that are meant usually for kids or people who just wanted a good comic strip read. But it takes a bit of intelligence to understand sometimes, especially when you factor in all the complicated relationships the different eccentric characters have with each other in the series. All in all, wacky and fun. Definite recommend!
Naruto Uzumaki houses a sealed beast in his body. But on the outside, he’s just a fun-loving, ramen guzzling teenager who wants to become a ninja. Naruto is determined to become the leader of his village, a Hokage, like his father before him. And to do that, he must train as a ninja in the company of some pretty intimidating classmates, like the moody Sasuke and the chirpy yet dangerous Sakura. Naruto must make his way to the top of the food chain to uncover the secrets of his land and learn the Chi ways.
Naruto is a legend among anime and manga fans. It is one of the top three highest selling manga series in the world. And let’s not forget the anime, which is hugely popular in all corners of the globe. Naruto is quite the engrossing and intriguing piece of manga. It’s well-sketched out in terms of characters, fight scene and story development. In fact, it is one of the best storytellers as far as the more popular entries go. It pays a beautiful nod to the times of old Japan. What more can I say, it’s as big as can be.
Kirie and Shuichi have a normal high school romance. That is until their town of Kurozu-Cho (fictional of course) is afflicted by the curse of spirals. People become paranoid or obsessed with spirals. Or they start getting attacked by spirals. Or they start turning into spirals. The spiral curse slowly starts gripping the entire town and Kirie and Shuichi must find a way to escape without getting affected by the curse themselves.
Uzumaki is the only true horror manga on this list. And trust me, it can get quite scary at times. Its visuals, while quite well done, can be disturbing at times. It’s humorous at times, but that doesn’t deviate from the truly grim story it has to tell. It’s a dream-like world where pretty much anything can happen and it has its existentialist moments. But it’s, on the whole, quite the read, especially for someone looking to have an out-of-body experience with manga.
Scene: Post-apocalyptic dystopian Neo-Tokyo in 2019, 31 years after a devastating nuclear bomb attack. Shotaro Kaneda tries to save his mentally unstable friend, Tetsuo, from falling into the wrong hands. Tetsuo is the bearer of powerful telekinetic abilities and Kaneda is worried that he could be used and manipulated by the military, the government, terrorists or other espers. It’s up to the former biker gang leader to protect his friend.
Akira is dark but powerful. As a manga series, it’s kind of similar to a graphic novel. Its artwork is revolutionary with its vivid use of dark color, graphic imagery, and shading. Akira helped popularise manga in the West, especially the United States. It’s a gritty story with a cyberpunk feel to it, but it’s honestly quite hard to put down. However, Akira is one of the lowest selling publications on this list because reading it does require a certain amount of interest in the material. Plus, it can get a tad bit depressing at times. But if the story seems interesting to you, then you’ll probably enjoy it.
The third princess of the Liones Kingdom, Elizabeth, sets out on a search for the Seven Deadly Sins after her kingdom is overtaken by the Holy Knights. The seven legendary knights, who were accused of trying to overthrow the kingdom, are rumored to be dead. But Elizabeth sets out to find all of them to help her defeat the Holy Knights and regain control of her kingdom and family.
The Seven Deadly Sins is one of the more accessible stories on this list, considering that it’s also quite the popular anime on Netflix. It’s a pretty big seller, and with good reason. It’s a great story and has a lot of good characters. The story fleshes out all seven sins and their intricate backstories very well. The main credit for this manga goes to the way they’ve injected humor into such action and mythologically- heavy story. While Meliotas’ light sexual caressing and molestation of Elizabeth can border on the uncomfortable sometimes, it’s a very entertaining piece of manga to read.
Usagi (or Serena, whatever you want to call her) is an ordinary and lazy teen like a lot of the protagonists on this list. She befriends a talking black cat named Luna, who gives her a magical broach saying that in a past life, she was one of the guardians of the magical princess of their realm. And so Usagi reluctantly adopts the mantle of Sailor Moon and fights monsters on Earth while finding the other sailor soldiers.
The ‘magical girl’ trope has been a staple of the manga and anime scene for a while now. And Sailor Moon is the pioneer of that genre. It may not have sold as high as some of the others on this list, but it was more than influential. Sailor Moon has been a popular read for decades for boys and girls alike. It has a universally appealing style with its blend of action, comedy, ‘friendship is magic’ and mystical elements. Never running from the real fight, she is the one named Sailor Moon!
Jimmy Kudo was a high school detective, quite popular and very good at his job, even helping out the police on occasion. A case leads him to be captured by the Black Organisation, who feed him a poison that turns him into a small kid. Jimmy adopts the identity of Conan and lives with his childhood friend Rachel and her father Richard, a private detective himself. He also enrolls himself in elementary school and forms a Junior Detective club, solving cases with them and Richard.
Case Closed is the fourth highest selling manga series of all time! That’s over 200 million copies sold worldwide. Case Closed is full of all the mystery, intrigue and intellect that you’d expect from great Sherlock Holmes or Basil the Mouse Detective stories. The characters are layered and complex and all contribute tons to the strong story. It’s truly a spectacular manga to pick up for anyone wanting to spend a day shut in.
Raki is a young boy whose village is attacked by Yoma, humanoid human-flesh eating demons with the ability to shape-shift. Clare is a Claymore, female half-human half-Yoma warriors assigned to protect the people for a fee, who saves Raki. With Raki’s family dead, he starts following Clare on her journey as she searches for personal revenge on her Yoma past and discovers more dark secrets about the Claymore initiative.
Claymore is, again, a manga that’s really well made and is quite stunning from a visual standpoint. One of the main attractions is the character designs, particularly for the Claymore, stunning and powerfully attractive women with silver eyes. Claymore is a stoic and oftentimes sad story but it’s an engaging one. It doesn’t have the fun, comic appeal that a lot of other action manga franchises do, but it’s a good read for someone looking at a more serious take on the genre.
Mizuki Ashiya, a Japanese girl living in the United States, sees high jumper Izumi Sano on TV and instantly falls for him. So she decides to attend Osaka High School to win him over. However, since it’s an all-boys school, she has to go in the guise of a male. She does finally meet Izumi, along with all the other boys in her own and the adjoining dormitories that make up the eclectic and multicultural mix of Osaka High School.
Hana-Kimi is quite an interesting manga series for its multicultural characters which can be quite entertaining for readers interested in Japan in general. It’s a pretty cute plot with a simple romance, high school element to it, vaguely similar in plot to the Amanda Bynes movie She’s the Man. Not only is this a manga, and three separate television series have been made on it. Live action ones! In Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean, might I add?
The mysterious doctor known as Black Jack is an enigma in the medical world. No one quite knows where he came from and he doesn’t even have a license. But no one can deny that he is a genius, able to treat almost any medical ailment and going to great lengths to do so. If you can pay the very, very exorbitant price that comes with it, that is. With his assistant Pinoko, Black Jack aims to rid the world of the disease forever all while working in the shadows.
Black Jack’s way of dealing with illness and death makes it one of the darkest manga dramas. It’s one thing to see action stories kill enemies in grand fashion, something which we’ve admittedly become desensitized to. It’s another to see people dying or suffering from terminal diseases. The only comic relief comes from Pinoko, an eighteen-year-old trapped in a seven-year-old’s artificial body, who sees Black Jack as her husband. Weird, but that just adds to the overall weirdly innovative appeal of the manga.
This manga revolves around two central characters, the first being the Chief of the French Royal Guard named Oscar. Except, Oscar’s a woman who’s father raised her like a man because, sadly enough, she didn’t even want a daughter. Oscar is principled and noble, never stopping in her aim to do as much good as she can for her country. Even if it means leaving a few broken hearts along her way. Which brings us to our second lead, the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Antoinette is beautiful and knows it. However, she’s confined by the responsibilities of royalties and doesn’t get to live out her own dreams and fantasies.
This manga stands out as being less about the military aspect of war and more about the intricate story it weaves with its characters. It’s political intrigue, love, and lust in one ‘pretty in pink’ package. The manga handles the gender ambiguity angle that’s often played up with Oscar pretty well and the art gives everything a regal and feminine touch. Plus, mixing in a little history in there saves it as well (at least, in my eyes).
10-year-old Sakura Kinomoto accidentally releases a set of cards sealed in her basement called Clow Cards that are descended from an ancient sorcerer. The guardian of the cards, Cerberus, tasks her with retrieving them all. Sakura then sets out to find all the cards again, with the help of her best friend and battle outfit designer Tomoyo and her older brother Toya while battling the magical personifications of the cards.
Cardcaptor Sakura was quite popular for its time. It extended on to the magical girl craze that came about with Sailor Moon in the 90s. The manga gained quite a bit of popularity over in the states, especially with the anime. What appeals to a lot of demographics about this manga is the effortless blend of action with humor, never making it seem dull. This is a manga that understands that it is meant for a recreational purpose. Even in the grimmest of moments, Cardcaptor Sakura makes sure that you won’t end up feeling less than light-hearted.
Gintoki Sakata is a former samurai who lives in feudal Japan that has been overtaken the Amanto race of aliens. Not knowing how to do much else, he starts the ‘prestigious’ organization of Yorozuya. He performs odd jobs for a small fee so that he can buy his favorite milkshakes. And also perhaps helping him retreat to a time when he was useful. That is when he isn’t on the run from the police, the aliens or a bunch of other people he’s wronged.
Gin Tama is one of the most renowned comedy anime series of all time and has consistently been touted as the best. And the manga’s not too shabby either. It’s extremely cleverly written, pulling out parodies of pop culture events and moments worth a barrel of laughs quite easily. Plus, its host of characters is pretty entertaining to say the least, considering he roams around with an alien, an ordinary human kid and an over-sized dog (where do we get one?). It is, overall, just a really smart and really funny series of stories that’ll quite possibly be one of the funniest things you’ve ever read.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who decide to attempt human transmutation: the one forbidden act of Alchemy. As the law of Alchemy states, in order to obtain something, something of equal value must be lost. This results in Edward losing his left leg and right arm and Alphonse his complete physical body, having to replace them with cybernetic ‘automail’ and integrate his soul into that of a suit of armor respectively. The two then set about on a pursuit for the mystical Philosopher’s Stone that could potentially reverse the effects and put them back in their original bodies while simultaneously getting caught up in the political intrigue of their nation.
Fullmetal Alchemist has been subject to consistent critical acclaim ever since its publication for its deep themes, an exploration into more mythical and scientific mix-and-match and its thoroughly relatable and memorable characters. The manga consistently poses the overarching question – is humanity simply about being human on the outside? Its existentialist tone and unwillingness to shy away from being larger than life make it a pretty solid read and, side note, superb anime.
Doraemon arrives from the 22nd century to aid Nobita Nobi, a child with horrible grades, a lazy attitude and a frequent bully’s target. Nobita’s descendants believe that having the gadget-wielding Doraemon by his side would improve Nobita’s life and, therefore, their own. Nobita is smart enough to take good advantage of Doraemon, who stores a seemingly infinitesimal amount of gadgets in his little pocket for any situation.
Doraemon is more like the popular vote in this category. It might not be considered ‘the best’ by a lot of people, but it is by far one of the most popular. The manga has sold hundreds of millions of copies in Japan and the resulting anime is hugely popular in Japan and India. Doraemon has legions of fans who frequently wish they could possess his pocket. The manga is simple and sweet, perfect for kids and adults alike who’d enjoy a few laughs and the wonders of human imagination.
Tohru Honda is orphaned when her mother dies in a car crash. With no place to go apart from her uncomfortable grandfather’s, she ends up staying with popular kid Yuki Soma and his family. But she stumbles upon a Soma family secret – they’ve been cursed to turn into the animals of their Chinese zodiac sign under certain conditions. Tohru decides to keep their secret and encourages them to come out of their shell while also trying to find a cure for their curse.
Fruits Basket is a sweet and perfectly engaging manga that can sometimes get a little intense with its subject matter. But that adds a lot more gravitas to a plot that could be quite thin on paper. The strong characters and the great use of Chinese astrology make the series relatable and enjoyable to a wide variety of audiences. Fruits Basket is an accomplishment of manga, how culture and entertainment can come together to give something truly amazing.
Dragon Ball revolves around Son Goku, a young boy who may sometimes look like a monkey, but is one of the most powerful warriors in the land. And he doesn’t even know it! He’s on a search for the seven legendary dragon balls which will summon a wish-granting dragon. On his way, he trains, meets several people, picks up a few allies along the way and even strikes up a few fights. But even the most powerful of foes can’t stand up to Goku, a child flying on a cloud.
While it seems mundane when you’d first think of it, Dragon Ball is insanely fun to read. It’s comedic and action-packed in an equal manner and is really, really entertaining. It blends Japanese and Chinese folklore and mythology to give you the complete package. Dragon Ball has influenced many of the most well-known entries on this list. Goku is one of the most recognizable characters of all time, let alone anime or manga. He is also one of the most over-powered (more on that later). Dragon Ball is a powerhouse of potential superheroes and super villains, and the manga is every comic book lover’s fantasy read.
Attack on Titan is the story of Eren Yeager, a young boy who witnesses the destruction of his hometown and the brutal death of his mother at the hands of colossal humanoid creatures called ‘Titans’. The Titans have managed to breach the walls that humanity built to ensure their safety. And they’re back in stronger numbers in order to fulfill their taste for human flesh. Eren decides to join the Survey Corps to defeat the Titans himself, along with some help from his friend Armin and adoptive sister Mikasa.
Attack on Titan is the new craze spreading around the world, mostly in anime form that is. This is one of the few entries on the list where the manga itself isn’t as good as the anime. Attack on Titan has become a veritable franchise that can sometimes push the boundaries for how influential story and character development can be for manga. The only thing that sometimes holds it back is its decidedly bleak tone and gory violence. Attack on Titan is a very serious manga, and one read will confirm that. Not the most serious on this list, but quite up there.
Ciel Phantomhive is a thirteen-year-old detective of sorts called ‘the Queen’s watchdog’ in the Victorian Era. His position came after his parents were killed and he was tortured by a group of attackers. He eventually comes into contact with a demon, who agrees to help Ciel with his plan for revenge in exchange for his soul. The demon takes on the guise of a butler named Sebastian Michaelis and helps Ciel with his daily investigations.
Black Butler is a dark comedy at its finest. Under the guise of a dark fantasy thriller, this manga series has enormous potential for humor coming from Sebastian’s witticisms and his rapport with Ciel. But it has several moments of dark and intense plot lines and especially when delving into Ciel’s history, it takes a turn for the disturbing. Black Butler is a very wholesome and well-rounded manga series (and the anime ain’t too shabby either).
Haruhi is a bright young student who secures a prestigious spot at Ouran High School where only the richest of the rich play. She stumbles on to the Host Club, a group of pretty boys who spend their time pleasing the girls at the academy. After breaking a very expensive vase of theirs, Haruhi becomes their errand boy. ‘Boy’ because she looks masculine, is generally pleasing to the ladies and they’ve just assumed she is one. Now Haruhi, an absolute commoner, needs to mix in with the extravagant lives of the Host Club playboys without arousing suspicion.
Boy (see what I did there?), comedy manga does have a way of taking the oddest of plots and creating pure gold with it. This manga is hilarious mostly because of the situational nature of it. The lead character of Haruhi falls into some very weird and odd scenarios, amplified by how ‘perfect’ her surroundings and fellow club members are. Add to that the complication of her feelings for the leader of her club. It’s a confusing mess that’s quite a lot of fun.
College student Ken Kaneki’s date almost kills him when she turns out to be a ghoul, a human flesh devouring supernatural being. After undergoing surgery, Ken ends up becoming a half-ghoul and needs to feed on human flesh in order to survive. A ghoul family takes him in and teaches him the ways of discreet living, being a ghoul while keeping his identity secret from his human companions and avoiding the ghoul-hunting organizations.
On Netflix recently, the cult classic show Santa Clarita Diet was released a year ago which was about a woman who has to feed on human flesh to survive after being turned into an undead. Tokyo Ghoul is like that, but more scary than funny. Tokyo Ghoul is a manga series that isn’t afraid to sometimes leave readers feeling uncomfortable with how unsettling or dark it can get. But that’s what works in its favor. One of the more recent manga series on this list, pick it up if you like a good zombie-esque storyline in your reading material.
Ippo Makunouchi is a shy and timid boy who is often picked on. After one particularly savage beating, a professional boxer named Mamoru Takamura saves Ippo and takes care of him at the nearby gym. Ippo takes out his frustrations on a sandbag and seeing his impressive skill, Takamura acknowledges that he could be a great boxer. And Ippo begins his training at the gym so he can become the Japanese and, sooner or later, World Champion.
Hajime No Ippo is the best selling sports manga of all time. And that’s because it’s not solely a manga about a sport. It takes time to develop its characters and explore their backgrounds and stories. No character is too much or too little in the eyes of this story. Even Ippo always understands each and every opponent’s background before fighting them. It’s a thoroughly well-written manga series that pushes the boundaries of how intellectual and meaningful sports fiction can be.
Himura Kenshin is a peacekeeper in the Meiji era of Japan, going around with his reverse blade sword and offering assistance to people who need it. He’s atoning for his actions in the Bakumatsu war, where he was a brutal assassin known as Hitokiri Battosai. He meets Kamiya Kaoru, who runs a dojo for swordsmanship, and decides to stay with her and her students while facing new and old enemies and trying to live up to his promise to not kill anyone anymore.
Also known as Samurai X, Rurouni Kenshin is, for its time, the best in terms of technicality. Its character designs stand-out and the setting is also mapped out very well. Using a historical setting (in this case the Meiji period) always gives allowance to the more liberal use of language and backgrounds, and Rurouni Kenshin makes very good use of that. A good plot and good characters add to it and make this manga quite the page turner (about 70 million copies sold worth).
The series gets its name from its two main characters – Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki. Komatsu is a young girl in love who follows her friends and boyfriend to Tokyo in order to live a great romance. Osaki, on the other hand, is a punk-rock singer who makes her way to Tokyo to start her music career. The two meet on the train there by chance and again at an apartment, they both find. They both decide to become roommates and eventually become close friends and confidantes as they both look for what they want the most – love and fame.
Nana is a refreshing break from a lot of the manga entries on this list. It is skewed almost completely towards romance and has a few heavy doses of drama as well. The big stand-outs of the manga are the two Nanas themselves. Their conflicting personalities and mutual ambition make for a lot of very interesting plot points for the manga. It’s basically like the adult version of the TV show Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. Sure, it’s not as enjoyable as reading about Meliotas’ exploits in The Seven Deadly Sins, but it’s quite heartwarming and fulfilling.
Gon Freecss believes that both his parents are dead. However, he eventually finds out his father is still alive and is a prolific Hunter, someone who carries out explorations and hunts wrongdoers. Gon decides to leave home and take the Hunter exam himself, to become a Hunter and find his father, possibly bringing him back home. On his way, he meets several other aspirants who set out on a collective quest to rise to the elite rank of Hunter extraordinaire.
There’s nothing extremely new or innovative with the plot or the making of Hunter x Hunter. But it’s one of the highest selling mangas of its genre because it’s a really, really fun read. The ridiculous and in-your-face humor, the zany yet still endearing characters and the heavy doses of violence and occasional gore make it a very popular entry for action manga fanboys. It has its own musical, for pete’s sake. Hunter x Hunter is great, it’s just short of groundbreaking.
Light Yagami mysteriously finds the ‘death note’ a notebook which allows the user to kill anyone as long as they remember their name and face. Light decides to use it to create a utopian world free of crime. Ryuk, the God of death and the original owner of the death note, decides to help Light. Together, they set out to create a crime-free world while also contending with those investigating the mysterious spate of deaths taking place all around the world.
Death Note is probably one of the grimmest and disturbing out of all the manga on this list. And it’s also one of the most critically acclaimed. Its writing, themes, dialogue and character have received constant praise. This is one manga series that’ll affect you deeply. You either love it or hate it. However, judging by the 30 million copies it’s sold worldwide, a lot of people really do love it.
Saitama is a hero who started out because he loved the experience of it. However, he trained himself so much that by now, he’s able to defeat almost any foe with a single punch. But he doesn’t get any recognition for his enormous strength. He quickly gets bored of this immense power and loses interest in heroics. He meets a few people along the way, including the cyborg Genos, who encourages him to join the Hero Association. Even there, though, his incredible power is unrecognized and he’s just living out a boring, ultra-powerful existence.
Saitama just might be the most over-powered hero in the history of anime. One of the most challenging fights that he had was wrapped up by what he called a ‘serious punch’, still just one punch. One Punch Man is hilarious and its storyline and characters have been praised to the moon and back. The manga started as a web comic and is still going quite strong. Hopefully, someday we’ll see Saitama show a range of emotions. One can only dream.
Hanamichi Sakuragi is a delinquent who often gets the ladies running…away from him, that is. Until he meets Haruko Akagi, the girl of his dreams, who introduces him to the school basketball team. Initially reluctant, Sakuragi joins the team and is a natural at the sport. Together with other misfits, the team starts pulling its weight in an effort to take out the national championship.
Slam Dunk is a true underdog story. Sports fans everywhere, this manga is for you. Slam Dunk basically does a classic formula very well. The underdogs, the redemption arc, personal growth, love and friendships, rivalries turned alliances and a lot more of that. It has some pretty choice characters and while the plots do eventually tend to get repetitive over time (how much can you do with basketball?), it’s a pretty wholesome manga.
Xin and Piao, two war-orphans who live in the kingdom of Qin in war-torn China and dream of becoming Great Generals in the warring forces. However, Piao is suddenly taken away from Xin and returns months later on the verge of death. In order to discover what happened to his friend, Xin discovers that Piao served as an identical-looking body double for Ying Zheng, the current king of the Qin empire. Xin uses it as his chance to not only avenge his friend’s death but also fulfill his dream of becoming the greatest general of all time.
Kingdom is a tale of valor, bravery and a lot of honor and dignity, which can get boring after a point for the more eye-roll-ready readers. This is a manga about the war in an exceedingly politically fragmented climate that isn’t afraid to touch upon deeper, more relevant themes from time to time. It’s solid, no doubt. Maybe not my personal favorite, but a really well-written comic in general.
Shinmen Takezou is a young man with an aggressive demeanor who decides to leave his village with his best friend to find a greater purpose in life. Together, the two enlist in the Toyotomi army. But after their crushing defeat, the two part ways and Takezou realizes that he’s a wanted man back home. A priest gives him a new name to make his escape and lead a better life: Musashi Miyamoto.
Vagabond is based on the true story of the ‘sword saint’ Musashi Miyamoto and his exploits. Although this is a fictional retelling, it’s just as adventure-laden. It can be a little too macho for one’s taste at times (*cough, cough* JoJo? *cough, cough*). But, on the whole, it’s a good piece of manga for someone looking for an adventurous soul versus pretty much the entire world.
Monkey D. Luffy is a young man who sets out on an adventure on the East Blue Sea to find the famed treasure One Piece. He believes that finding it will make him the King of Pirates. He befriends several companions on the way, including a thief, a sniper, a womanizer, an assassin and lots more. With his effortlessly cheerful attitude and his ship, the Going Merry, Luffy will stop at nothing to defeat what may come and find his treasure.
One Piece receives, to this day, constant acclaim for its storytelling, art, humor, and characters. The adventures are always fresh and fun, great for a new read in the Weekly Shonen. There’s no use denying the impact One Piece has had on anime. It’s one of the most profitable media franchises of all time! It is the best selling manga series in history and is insanely popular all over the globe. It seems like Luffy’s journey has transcended far beyond just the East Blue Sea.
Berserk mainly centers around the character of Guts, born from the corpse of his mother, who becomes a mercenary because he doesn’t know anything else he could possibly do. He spends his life on the battlefield, fighting because he doesn’t know any better. The Band of the Hawk, under the tutelage of their leader, Griffith, take Guts in. The manga then chronicles his journey with the troop as he tries to make his way up the ranks and combines greed for power with the desperation to discover his true purpose in life.
Berserk is more of a primitive take on manga. However, it is quite popular, particularly Guts. You can tell you’ve made it when you become a fighting contestant on the YouTube show Death Battle. Guts is one of the most brutal protagonists in the manga, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy. Just very morally ambiguous. For those with a little aversion to heavy violence, maybe give this one a miss, although the anime is tamer. It may not be perfect, but it’s very close.