Top 50 Best Manga
Manga is an unending source of wonderfully woven stories that move you with each turn of the page. But if you're just getting into the vast world of Japanese comics, it can be daunting to find what story you like or even what's any good. That's why we have this manga megalist, bringing you the best of everything you could ever want, from slice of life shenanigans, romance, and hardcore action to psychological thinkpieces and works of art. Just remember to read right to left!
The unsurprising top of this manga list is the monolith that is the Berserk manga. It's so large, popular, successful and – most importantly – really damn good that there's just no other choice.
Guts is the main man of the series and, as appropriate of his reputation as the best swordsman ever known, wields his six foot sword like an overly obvious dick joke. Seeing the potential of a man who kills as naturally as breathing, army leader Griffith forces Guts into the ranks of the Band of the Hawk. After that follows a tale of fate, revenge and waterfalls of blood.
The Berserk manga has obvious differences from the anime. It starts out differently, goes into much greater detail and continues the journey that you can only come to love over time. And what a huge journey it is.
Why it made the list: Berserk is a pretty mature manga, but along with all the blood and fighting is an incredible story of bleak destiny, opposites and fighting your way in life. And the fact that it's still going can only promise more great volumes ahead.
Read if you like: Ongoing manga; long series; fantasy; blood; violence; shifting point of view; story arcs; large cast of characters; seinen manga; realistic art style; character development.
Second on this best manga list is One Punch Man, the masterpiece of a manga formed by a great storywriter and greater artist working together.
Saitama is the most average-looking guy you've ever seen, but of course he's the most powerful hero alive. While Saitama takes on the role of defending Z-City, his hero work becomes incredibly boring since he always defeats his opponents with just one punch. Saitama searches for an opponent who can make fights fun, but being all-powerful doesn't make things easy.
One Punch Man is the superhero manga you never knew you needed. Its simple story makes enjoying the comedy and action aspects all the better, especially when the series breaks out in animation-tier art.
Why it made the list: One Punch Man goes against any expectations you could have about a superhero manga. It puts comedy first and enjoys showing how fun things can be with the kind of character Saitama is in the world of Very Serious Hero Business.
Read if you like: Comedy; action; unlikely heroes; shounen manga; highly detailed art; superheroes; anti-climaxes; simple story; ongoing series; webcomics.
Close to the top of our list is one of Urasawa Naoki's greatest manga: 20th Century Boys. Whether you like shounen manga or not, this series needs to be on your to-read list for just how great it is.
When they were children, Kenji and his friends were inseparable. They built a hideout and made up stories of saving the world. After burying a time capsule and promising only to dig it up if the world was in grave danger. But when one of Kenji's friends commits suicide, the world really does plunge into chaos and it's up to Kenji to remember the key to saving everyone.
This series is your go-to shounen manga for mystery, drama and big twists you never saw coming. It's a bit on the mature side for a manga aimed at young boys, but there's something deeply interesting about the psychological drama themes and non-standard art style.
Why it made the list: Saving the world is nothing new, but 20th Century Boys isn't all about super powers or kids who somehow make everything work out. There's a darker tone behind the whole series and the story makes each page worth it.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; saving the world; groups of friends; mystery; conspiracy; timelines; drama; psychological themes; memories; long series; completed series; older series.
Our fourth best manga of all time is the series that that changes how you see the world. It's not too much to say that while other stories stay within you, Oyasumi Punpun is the story that changes you.
Punyama is an ordinary boy who isn't quite a bird, but that bit isn't important. While he tries to keep optimistic about life and does things the usual kid his age does, but that doesn't stop life from happening. His father is arrested for abuse, his mother is put in hospital, he's sent to live with his uncle and figure out this whole "growing up" thing.
Oyasumi Punpun is not your average slice of life manga. It handles some heavy subjects, but its artistic depiction of the main character and just how deep this psychological examination goes is what makes it great.
Why it made the list: Oyasumi Punpun is the kind of psychological slice of life manga that doesn't try to make you like the main character. Absolutely nothing about the manga is endearing, cheerful or the best of any situation, but it's compelling because of this.
Read if you like: Seinen manga; psychological themes; slice of life; artistic choices; birds; drama; coming of age; dark humour; postmodernism; time jumps; long series; completed series.
You've likely seen it all over the place with the many anime adaptions, but Jojo's Bizarre Adventure's true home is in manga form, where every panel is an opportunity to pull off a fabulous pose while looking threatening.
The Joestars are a long line of super-buff men who, due to a life-changing event in the past, can never escape the constant threat of fabulous, equally buff vampires. While it starts with the origin story of how the Joestar legacy came to be, each arc follows the journey of a Joestar descendent who inherits amazing powers and must accept their destiny of fighting the immortal man who was once their ancestor's ultimate rival.
There's a favorite arc for everyone in this never-ending epic of a manga. While some elements of its style can feel repetitive, you can't help but love it for being like the weird, quirky uncle at a party who always has fun stories to tell.
Why it made the list: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is the kind of story that's easy to share but hard to fully grasp if you don't read it. While it's hard to promise consistent amazement at just where the story goes (and how fabulous it stays), Jojo's one of the rare manga series that constantly delivers on its crazy, quirky style and plot.
Read if you like: Rock 'n' Roll; powers; sagas; manly men; muscles; fights; style; the 80s; vampires; legacies; long story arcs; continuing stories; ridiculous names; large cast of characters.
Wait, don't skip to the next entry! Even if it's a series about masturbating, this isn't an 18+ descent into H-manga territory. If anything, Onani Master Kurosawa is like Oregairu with a bit more contempt for everything.
Kurosawa is an anti-social guy who doesn't really care about anything and looks down on everyone in his class. Somehow he got into the habit of masturbating in the rarely-used girls' toilets on the third floor of the school. But when his gloomy classmate Aya discovers his secret, Kurosawa is drawn into a web of blackmail, revenge, bullying and a whole lot of regret.
Onani Master Kurosawa has a heavy atmosphere, but it isn't drama and emotional manipulation all the way. The journey is what makes the ending great though.
Why it made the list: Onani Master Kurosawa is a hugely misunderstood series but a fantastic read once you get into it. Each character in the series is very relatable, and while the story is a little out of the ordinary, the drama and teenage angst makes it feel very real.
Read if you like: Character-focused manga; short series; drama; psychological series; school setting; first love; bullying themes; things not being what they seem; bored teenagers; growing up.
As we enter the top of the top, we come to the manga that has set the standard for everything else to come. Lone Wolf and Cub raises the bar for every samurai story of revenge to come. And it's a very good bar.
Ogami Ittou is an elite executioner in feudal era Japan. He has it all, but when his pregnant wife and servants are killed and he himself accused of being a traitor, Ogami must take his newly born son and flee. Ogami and his son Daigoro take to the roads to become assassins for hire on the long, long path of violence, cruelty and revenge.
Just like the violent adventures of Berserk or honour-filled saga in Vagabond, Lone Wolf and Cub captures something special. And it's not the violence or path of ruin to revenge; it's the bond between father and son, united on a mission.
Why it made the list: Lone Wolf and Cub has everything you could want in a mature, violent manga, but with a thoughtful touch. The way it tells an amazing story is made all the more moving by the realistic art style and the series being anchored by its father and son focus.
Read if you like: Action; violence; revenge; feudal era Japan; samurai; historical manga; seinen manga; episodic manga; realistic art style; older series; long series; completed series.
You've seen Elric cosplayers at every convention, seen Fullmetal Alchemist mentioned on every top anime list, maybe even seen art of it somewhere. But if you've never experienced the story, the manga is a pretty great place to start.
Two brothers, mourning the loss of their mother, decide that it's better to reanimate her corpse than to accept her death. By performing alchemy, they manage to resurrect their loving zombie parent, but one sacrifices their body, and the other, two of his limbs. Realising that they royally fucked up, the two forget their mother and set out on a journey for the Philosopher's Stone to regain their various parts.
Fullmetal Alchemist's manga feels like a more typical shounen story than the anime, though doesn't lose itself in the usual tropes. It's also an overall more serious story, but not without some comedy and its usual charm.
Why it made the list: Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most well-known stories to anyone with an interest in anime or manga, but if you haven't seen or read it, the manga is a perfect way to experience the story of two brothers' magical adventures.
Read if you like: Alchemy; fantasy; magic; shounen manga; adventure; comedy; armour; completed series; long series; stylized art.
Close to the top of this list is The Big Three's longest running manga, forged from gold and the grimy seafoam you can only see aboard a pirate ship: One Piece.
When the Pirate King, Gol D Roger, was captured by the world government and killed, he let the world know of a great treasure called One Piece. Whoever had One Piece would become the next Pirate King and be showered in endless riches and fame. With this in mind, seventeen-year-old Luffy sets out to find a crew and pirate it up to find the treasure everyone is after. Eighteen years later and he's still searching for it.
One Piece is a huge journey of a manga, both in story and in the effort it takes to read all of it from the beginning. But for your three days straight of reading, you get an amazing story that has only continued in quality and will probably go on for years to come.
Why it made the list: One Piece is a huge, long story that continues to be as fun and imaginative as it first started out. It may be daunting to start a long series, but your reward is an ongoing story that just keeps being good.
Read if you like: Pirates; treasure; humungous cast of characters; adventure; shounena manga; long series; ongoing series; comedy; super powers; fruit.
Often recommended as a classic manga is Urasawa Naoki's murder mystery tale, Monster. This long series draws out the psychological drama for a delicious tale of morals and murders.
Dr Kenzo Tenma is a hugely successful young brain surgeon who just about has it all. But, as with all successful protagonists, has everything undone when he makes a decision about who he operates on. When Tenma decides to save the life of a child rather than save the mayor, a spate of murders occur, all leading back to the child he saved. But is the child one of those creepy kids from horror movies, or is something else going on?
Monster's pace is slow but purposeful, giving you a well-told thriller that feeds to puzzle pieces as chapters roll on.
Why it made the list: Monster is a classic series that has an old-manga feel but a strong mystery story. Its perspective changes keep things fresh, and the way its paced gives you pieces to the puzzle in time, letting you appreciate the journey to finding out what on earth is going on.
Read if you like: Mystery; suspense; drama; psychological thrillers; doctors; large cast of characters; seinen manga; perspective changes; older series; long series; completed series.
A bunch of manga on this list are the source material for many hit anime, and it's no different for Shingeki no Kyoujin, 2013's biggest hit series.
The series follows young hothead Eren Jeager and his insatiable urge to slaughter giant naked humans that like to eat regular humans. As teenagers are the always best suited for large-scale combat, Eren and his friends join the war effort to reclaim his home from the rampaging titans. But when he discovers he can transform into the enemy, Eren's quest becomes much more important as he grasps the power that can finally save mankind.
Attack on Titan's early art is hit-and-miss, but as the series develops, everything gets better and better. It has the same outstanding scenes as the anime (as it should) but develops the story much more quickly, going into the character development the show missed.
Why it made the list: If you've heard anything about the Attack on Titan anime over the past few years, you might already know how great the series is. But if you're looking for reasons to jump to the manga, it's a bit faster-paced than the anime and also continues the story at a more regular wait, giving you more chapters sooner.
Read if you like: Action; shounen manga; blood; fighting; Spiderman; a vague European setting; the underdog; ongoing series; drama; life-or-death stakes; story arcs; large cast of characters.
The youngest manga protagonist to feature on this list is also one of the most famous: Yotsuba, the energetic girl who has captured the hearts of millions of readers across the world.
Every day is an adventure to five-year-old Yostuba, an energetic and cheerful girl who can find something to like about absolutely everything. As she goes about her daily life, she discovers new things and finds out about how the world works, sometimes aided by her family and friends.
Yotsuba& is heralded as just about the easiest manga for anyone to get into and it's hard to argue against that. Its slow, easy pace and general subject matter make it an incredibly easy read (especially if you're learning Japanese too), but still entertaining.
Why it made the list: The daily adventures of a child doesn't sound particularly interesting, but Yotsuba's adventures and her eternally curious outlook gives the whole manga a unique charm that brings it close to capturing the optimistic wonder of early childhood.
Read if you like: 4koma; slice of life; comedy; childhood adventures; classic series; ongoing series; long series; green; simple art style; Azumanga Daioh; family; growing up.
Sports manga captures the hearts and minds of millions of people, and Slam Dunk is perhaps one of the hugest sports manga titles and continues to be a classic with anyone who likes sport stories.
Hanamichi is a slacker and looks like a total delinquent. It doesn't help that he has a bad attitude and thinks of himself as a genius. After he's approached by a cute girl and asked to join the school basketball team, Hanamichi agrees, because who can say no to a cute girl who will actually talk to you?
Slam Dunk gives you the sporting manga goodness you'll expect, but it tends to lavish time on each match, making things last for chapters on end. Which is good if you need a huge dose of basketball.
Why it made the list: Slam Dunk is another hugely popular manga series and a big love letter to basketball too. It spends a lot of time on attention to detail and fancy plays while still giving you a compelling story about an idiot's rise to sporting greatness.
Read if you like: Sports manga; basketball; the underdog; classic manga; school setting; drama; comedy; long series; complete series; simple story.
Ito Junji's The Spiral makes it onto this list as another tough choice between this or the author's other works. It's also the kind of horror manga that knows how to creep you out in just the right ways.
The small seaside town of Kurozu-cho is, like many other small seaside towns, haunted. But it's not haunted by a pesky ghost or some kind of monster, but by spirals. They're everywhere, from the most natural of Mother Nature's phenomenons to the disturbing habits of the townspeople and the strange spirals on their bodies… As Kirie Goshima concerns herself with the mystery, things only get stranger.
Ito Junji, manga's horror god, knows how to make horror manga. The Spiral is perhaps his most internationally famous work, and very easy to get into.
Why it made the list: If you can't get into something without a little adrenaline, the eerie and deeply unsettling world of The Spiral is the perfect way to experience the horror side of Japan's best manga. It's also a great way to get into Ito Junji's works.
Read if you like: Horror; mystery; violence; Ito Junji; short series; complete series; older series; classic manga; curses; spirals; psychological themes; realistic art style; short story structures.
There are clearly not enough samurai stories of blood and honour on this list, so take Blade of the Immortal, a supernatural series that deals with revenge and redemption.
Rin Asano's family has been slaughtered by the Itto-Ryu, a sword school that is steadily spreading through Japan. Her path of revenge leads to her meeting Manji, an immortal swordsman on a journey to slay one thousand evil men in order to lift his curse. As the two travel together, Rin sees how her anger and revenge hurts others and begins to wonder if her path is right…
Blade of the Immortal is all about the characters and how they deal with their task to essentially murder hundreds of people. The lead two aren't alone though, and the addition of more core characters adds to the story as a whole.
Why it made the list: Blade of the Immortal may be one in a long line of samurai manga, but its focus is on death and morality more than depicting historical Japan. The journey is what matters in this series, and the conclusion the series reaches is satisfying.
Read if you like: Seinen manga; samurai; the supernatural; action; revenge; adventure; morals; drama; realistic art style; older series; completed series.
If you can get enough of warriors from ages past, noble battles or skilled swordsmen, Vagabond is another great manga to add to the list for its mature look at samurai life.
Miyamoto Musashi is Japan's most famous swordfighter in history. Vagabond is the fictionalized retelling of his life, from when he was shunned by villagers, to his part in a great battle that made history, to his life as a wanted criminal. This is the story of Japan's legendary swordsman and his greatest rival.
Unlike most historical manga where the journey to becoming a legend is what makes the series great, Vagabond is all about Musashi's (Shinmen Takezou) development from a demonic child to a mindless glory-seeker to a very respectable warrior.
Why it made the list: Vagabond is a lot like the other historical manga greats, but where others turn to cool action scenes and an epic journey, Vagabons prefers to focus on character development and thoughtful moments. It still delivers on a great art style and action scenes, but it very much has a different goal.
Read if you like: Historical manga; samurai; Edo Japan; seinen manga; realistic art style; thinking; action; rivals; long series; ongoing series.
We've had our share of pirates, but Vikings hardly make the cut when it comes to Eastern media. Thankfully then we have Vinland Saga, a great story that gives us the Vikings in manga we sorely need.
Thorfinn is the son of a great Viking warrior, but when his father is slain by a mercenary leader Askeladd, he becomes a warrior to avenge the untimely death. Finding the best way to take Askeladd down is from the inside, Thorfinn joins the mercenary group but ends up getting caught up in the Danish invasion of England.
Just saying there's gore and violence doesn't quite get the point across when you're looking at Vinland Saga. Be prepared for eye-popping, gut-spilling, limb-dropping fights where war isn't just black and white.
Why it made the list: Vinland Saga is a pretty damn realistic take on the historical invasion of England by Danish Vikings. Along with all the blood and gore is a deep story that keeps things as realistic as possible, never making the violence of war a fight of good vs evil.
Read if you like: Seinen manga; historical manga; Vikings; violence; gore; action; adventure; drama; realistic art style; ongoing series; long series.
Sometimes manga moves from cool stories to a piece of art, and perhaps there's none more so than Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, a calm and bittersweet story about the possible future of humankind.
It's the post-apocalyptic future, but instead of humanity taking to large metal structures or spaceships, everyone's living the rural life and using old technology to get by. Within all this is Alpha Hatsuseno, an android who runs a café and travels around the area to meet new friends and old. Her adventures show her how beautiful life is and how impermanent it all is.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou excels at presenting a peaceful atmosphere with tinges of sadness or the bittersweet. It's not a manga you'd cry over terribly much, but it captures something gentle and transient few other series do.
Why it made the list: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is all about the calm and gentle, even though it's set in post-apocalyptic Japan. Instead of focusing on the technology, it's grounded in community and what makes the world beautiful.
Read if you like: Slice of life; future settings; androids; science fiction; cafés; peaceful atmosphere; slow progression; older series; long series; completed series.
Manga is well known for ridiculous premises, which you may have seen from all the entries on this list. Perhaps the most weird is Saint Onii-san, the manga about the tourist-like adventures of Jesus and Buddha.
Jesus and Buddha are best friends and decide to take a vacation in Japan. Cultural misunderstandings ensue. As the two go about their daily lives, trying to act as normal as possible, they try to keep their god status hidden, even if it means hiding Jesus's thorn crown of roses or putting a bag on Buddha's head to hide his aura of selflessness.
The slice of life adventures of two deities in Japan is about as enjoyable as you think it might be. While there are religious jokes abound, there's the unmistakable atmosphere of calm and cute daily life that so many slice of life manga have.
Why it made the list: Behind the weird premise of this slice of life manga is plenty of cute interactions between the deities of two of the world's largest religions. Its calm, cute atmosphere makes for a relaxing read, but you need to know a bit about Jesus and Buddha to get the jokes.
Read if you like: Ongoing manga; gods; best friends; religion; slice of life; tourism; seinen manga; comedy; calming atmosphere; small cast of characters.
It's too hard to pick just one of Osamu Tezuka's works, especially when he's the god of manga and has over 700 volumes of manga to his name. But while it's mighty tempting to list Astro Boy or Princess Knight here, you can't go past his 14 volume epic about Buddha.
It's a desperate time in India; its people are starved, thirsty and are constantly at war. It's in this time that Prince Siddhartha Gautama is born. While his father attempts to steer him to the path of being king, Siddhartha is taken aback by life's truths and dedicates his life to ending suffering and becoming Enlightened.
While Buddha is great to read before charging into Saint☆Young Men, it's an interesting interpretation of a story we don't really see in the West.
Why it made the list: Buddha shows us an interpretation of Buddha's life in manga form, giving us a way to see a different religious story with easy to read manga artwork. OF course, being made by Tezuka is another huge point, and many consider this series to be his best.
Read if you like: Osamu Tezuka; cartoonish art style; religion; historical manga; philosophical themes; drama; comedy; biography; interpretation; long series; older series; completed series.
Every so often you come across something that mysteriously draws you in to whole weird world to contemplate. Our next title in this list does exactly that.
Kasane's appearance is truly horrific. Because she's so hideously ugly, she's bullied and shunned to the point where she shuts herself away. But Kasane has something on her side: a mysterious tube of lipstick that, when worn, can steal the face of anyone she kisses. With this power, she can take revenge on everyone, but the path it takes her on can only end in tragedy.
Kasane is a psychological series that uses horror elements for drama in a story that seems pretty standard but is presented incredibly well. There's almost no comparing the feeling you get from reading the first few chapters.
Why it made the list: Kasane is a weird and mysterious manga, coming across as a horror/psychological series that has more drama than anything deeply scary. But once you start reading, you can't help but be drawn in by the creepy dark atmosphere that spreads through the whole story.
Read if you like: Drama; psychological themes; the supernatural; lipstick; dark atmosphere; school setting; suspense; tragedy; recent series; ongoing series.
Ikeda Riyoko is a huge name in shoujo manga, but picking just one of her works is a challenge. If you must choose, though, you can't go wrong with Ikeda's highly influential portrayal of France's high class society in the 20th Century: Rose of Versailles.
Oscar, the daughter of the Commander of the Royal Guards, is raised as a man in order to take her father's place after he retires. Once old enough, she takes her place as the Commander of the Royal Guards at the Versailles Palace, not long before Marie Antoinette takes to the throne and the French Revolution's roots begin to spread.
Rose of Versailles has everything you could want in a shoujo manga: a cool heroine, a moving story, romance, pretty women and a moving story.
Why it made the list: Ikeda Riyoko is a huge name in shoujo manga, but if you can only ever read one of her stories, Rose of Versailles is the way to go. It tells the story of the French Revolution better than any textbook, though there's some fiction added to make it interesting.
Read if you like: History; romance; crossdressing; shoujo manga; drama; royalty; tragedy; forbidden love; France; classic manga; complete series; standard length series.
You can't have a top manga list and not include a little yuri now and then. But while most yuri manga pays its respects to Marimite, Morning Glory and Kase-san stands out as something very true to high school girls, with plenty of fluffy good times.
Yamada is a young high school girl who is always outside taking care of the school garden. Because it's so close to the track and field club, she often runs into the team's star runner: the boyish but sweet Kase. When she notices her growing attraction to Kase, Yamada is sent into a spiral of confusion, but when Kase starts giving her hints, the two of them start seeing each other as something more.
If you haven't had a heart attack over the other cute series on this list, Morning Glory and Kase-san might finish you off. While its touch of realism is incredibly welcome in the genre, it's still very fluffy with its teen romance.
Why it made the list: Morning Glory and Kase-san is a rare yuri manga where the schoolgirls fumble with their feelings but try to move closer, exploring what it means to like girls and struggling with what exactly attraction is. It's not the ribbon-fixing purityfest like a lot of other series, but it's also not another excuse to draw boobs.
Read if you like: Yuri; school setting; plants; fluffy stories; touch of realism; first loves; romance; insecurity; one-shot chapters; ongoing series; small cast of characters.
I lied; there are in fact two titles on this list with very recent anime adaptions. The next being Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, which is also a more recent manga series.
It's no secret that high school girl Chiyo likes Nozaki. But when she finally works up the courage to confess, Nozaki mistakes her as a fan and gives her an autograph. It turns out Nozaki is a well-known shoujo romance manga artist but he has zero experience with love. And so starts Chiyo's efforts to grab Nozaki's attention, but not without a whole bunch of weirdos accompanying her.
Nozaki-kun's range of weird and adorable characters are what carry the series, since any two characters together creates endless possibilities for jokes. Though the manga is still a take on the genre in general.
Why it made the list: Just like many slice of life manga series, Nozaki-kun is all about the comedy. But rather than the standard fare jokes, this series has a very peculiar quirk that you can easily find charming and, more importantly, downright hilarious. Read if you like: Comedy; romance; shounen manga; shoujo manga; strong supporting characters; quirky characters; 4koma; slice of life; parody; manga in general; ongoing series.
If manga about dying is too boring for you then good news: Gantz's characters are already dead. But death doesn't mean the suffering stops; in fact, Gantz pulls out all the ugly stops when it comes to depicting humanity and its hidden dark side.
When young Kei and Kato are killed by a high-speed subway cart, they're enlisted in afterlife's own Men In Black meets Battle Royale, tasked with fighting aliens to gain points and powers. Everyone in the game has seen their own horrors in life but the suffering continues as they try to fight foes outside and within.
Battle Royale is taken to a whole new level in Gantz, but it's not just about action and aliens. Gantz takes a close look at society and shines a light on its ills, but it also gives us a bit of bloodsport in between.
Why it made the list: Gantz is a rare action/horror where the situation isn't eerie everyday life but a huge battle for life. The way it mixes up the classic Battle Royale scenario is thrilling, but its examination of society keeps you thinking as you read.
Read if you like: Action; drama; science fiction; horror; seinen manga; ecchi; alience; Battle Royale; survival games; long series; completed series.
Sometimes it feels like manga has too many of the same things. Whether it's the art, the story or the world, sometimes you need something different. Soul Eater is the weird, quirky glob of characters and setting you may have been looking for.
Shibusen is a technical school for people who like to objectify others – literally. Three kids and their human weapon partners attend the school to learn how to become demon hunters. Part of the course is to collect 100 souls so that they can transform their partner into a better weapon, fit for soul reapers. But it's not exactly all about the journey to collect-em-all.
Soul Eater is as quirky and stylistic as it can get. Everyone has their weird aspects and are sometimes weird to the extreme, but with everyone being weird together, it makes getting to know the world a whole lot of fun.
Why it made the list: Soul Eater's strong style is the first thing that hits you, but its weird characters and intriguing story draw you in and keep you there for the entire 25 volume run. It's not all about learning and collecting souls, but going into the story any more would ruin the surprise.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; comedy; the supernatural; stylistic art style; quirky characters; powers; strong supporting characters; standard length series; complete series.
Of the many, many manga series to get the anime treatment, Parasyte is perhaps this list's most recent candidate for adaptation, just finishing its animated run last year.
Main character Shinichi lives in a quiet Tokyo neighbourhood that suddenly turns horror fest when worm-like aliens invade Earth, settling in the brains of human hosts and transforming them into flesh-eating monsters. When it's Shinichi's turn to be taken over by a parasyte, it fails, instead eating his right hand. As he learns to live with the alien in his hand, Shinichi's world slowly transforms into a place where friendly human faces hide hideous aliens underneath.
Parasyte has an interesting mix of a shounen manga-like story with a more adult psychological horror story. There's plenty of questions to consider when reading this manga, but the action scenes give you a good break to appreciate it more.
Why it made the list: Parasyte isn't your usual horror manga, preferring to spread out the building tension with action scenes. The story always keeps things personal, focused on Shinichi's struggles with essentially being half-human, and it works to this manga's benefit.
Read if you like: Aliens; body horror; horror; action; seinen manga; moral questions; humanity; school setting; violence; older series; standard length series; complete series.
If you haven't had enough romance already, Girl Friends might sate your appetite with the short story of two girls who find love and try to figure out what to do about it.
Mariko is a plain girl who doesn't stand out and has a hard time making friends. When her exuberant classmate Akko bursts into her life, Mariko is transformed and given a brighter outlook on life. But when her feelings of friendship turn to love, she's not sure how Akko would take it and begins to wonder whether they can stay friends.
Girl Friends is every yuri manga done right, with just the right amount of discovery, fluffy moments and moving drama.
Why it made the list: Girl Friends is a lot like other yuri manga, especially when it's about two schoolgirls who have no idea what the hell is going on. What the manga does differently though is delve into realistic drama that doesn't carry on for too long, keeping things in check before the ending.
Read if you like: Yuri; romance; drama; shoujo manga art style; school setting; first love; strong secondary characters; short series; complete series.
Of the few josei titles on this list, Chihayafuru is perhaps the most obvious in art style. It's also the strangest to goreigners, since it covers an exclusively Japanese sport.
Chihaya is an energetic tomboy who has no real goals for the future. When she meets the reclusive Arata, the grandchild of a master karuta player, she becomes friends with him out of pity. After the two bond, Arata introduces Chihaya to the game of karuta, saying that if you become the best at this game, you're the best in the world. Chihaya is immediately inspired and starts her long journey to becoming Japan's karuta queen.
Sports manga (and anime) have a knack for making you interested in a sport you never knew existed before. Chihayafuru is no different. While the translation can make understanding the poetry aspect of it a bit difficult, Chihayafuru still has the heart of a sports manga.
Why it made the list: Chihayafuru's sparkly shoujo art compliments its cultural sport content well. There's definitely a barrier to understanding aspects of the sport (something which the anime does well), but once you get the basics, it's a great story from then on.
Read if you like: Japanese cultural sports; karuta; josei manga; sports manga; romance; competition arcs; ongoing manga; school setting; rivalry.
Of the handful of Very Serious Manga on this list sits Koe no Katachi, the recent hit story about elementary school students and the all too common aspect of bullying.
Shouko is a young deaf girl who transfers into a new elementary school. While she's bullied by practically everyone, she maintains a cheerful outlook. But when her classmate Shouya bullies her to the point she's forced to drop out of school, things change for Shouya as well. He's ostracized by the class, bullied relentlessly and driven to thoughts of suicide. It's only the thought that he should make amends for his past that keeps him going through school.
Koe no Katachi is another serious manga series, but its younger audience and younger characters make it an interesting read.
Why it made the list: Not many shounen manga can boast the kind of mature yet relatable themes Koe no Katachi has. While it's grim to a severe degree, the story of Shouya's path to redemption is compelling, both making for a moving story and serving as a warning about bullying going too far. Read if you like: Shounen manga; bullying themes; exploring disability; romanc
Mixing romance and music can never go wrong. That's the approach Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso takes, and does it well, with a love story that's more than just finding someone.
Arima Kousei was a child prodigy the likes of which the Japanese classical music scene had never seen. His life was all about music and the piano until his instructor – his mother – passed away, leading Kousei to a mental breakdown. Now unable to hear his own music, Kousei is content to live like a normal teenager, his life devoid of colour. But Kousei meets Kaori, the free-spirited violinist whose music is vivid, wild, entirely unorthodox… and is about to change his world.
Shigatsu's story is nothing you haven't seen before, but it weaves together romance with drama in nice ways. The series knows when to be funny and uplifting but doesn't stray from dealing with Kousei's problems and helping him grow from them.
Why it made the list: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is the shoujo manga for boys, coupling the sparkly, pretty style of shoujo manga with a male protagonist and a romantic story with non-romantic drama. It's the love story you want if you're after drama that's not about who's going out with who.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; shoujo manga art style; classical music; piano; violin; crying; healing; drama; romance; school setting; standard length series; complete series.
Great manga make for great anime and sometimes great live-action shows. It's no different for Death Note, a much loved supernatural/mystery manga that has been adapted into anything you can imagine.
Light is a teenage genius who's a little cynical about the world. When he comes across a notebook that promises to kill anyone whose name is written inside, even Light can't help but be teen about it and kill people to test it. When the "Death Note" is true to its word, Light sets out to kill everything that's wrong with the world and become some kind of god. What he doesn't count on is the creepy genius detective L to be on his case, trying to stop him at every turn.
Just like every widly-popular story, Death Note does well with its direction, pacing its story well and going against expectations with twists every now and then. The artistic attention to detail makes everything all the better.
Why it made the list: Death Note is another well-known shounen series, though more obviously a story that appeals to the teenager in you. It's dark and creepy but the mystery is well worth the read.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; psychological manga; the supernatural; mystery; death; power; standard length series; suspense; completed series.
We've seen the anime and glanced at the light novels, but while the Haganai manga is another adaptation of the source material, it's interesting to read through, with the new art style giving it a different look.
Kodaka, a not-so-mysterious transfer student, enters a new year of school. Because his hair is a shade lighter than everyone else, students all think he's going to beat them up when really he just wants friends. When he stumbles across a crazy girl talking to her imaginary friend, the two establish the Neighbours Club, a place where they can make friends and feel safe from the pressures of high school. But what they can't escape is the growing romantic tension that only gets worse when more girls join the club.
While manga adaptions of anime that are adapted from another source can be a little underwhelming, the different art style and simple story make the Haganai manga a good read.
Why it made the list: The Haganai manga is basically the illustrated version of the anime, but the way it's drawn and how it's presented make it easier to get into than the anime. Either series still shows the story of awkward friends struggling through high school.
Read if you like: Adaptations; reaction faces; childhood friends; sketchy art style; waifus; nuns; school setting; ongoing series.
Sometimes one short, single-volume manga is all it takes to tell a great story. That's what Our Happy Time takes to make its story shine, from its deep characters to simple but touching plot.
Juri has a dark past, a past that drives her to commit suicide. After three attempts, she's taken along by her nun aunt to prison, where she reaches out to prisoners. There, Juri meets Yuu, a murderer on death row who has taken three lives.
Our Happy Time isn't exactly happy to begin with, but this short and charming story takes you on a journey in just eight chapters. There's something about the characters, their meeting and all their actions justified by their past that makes this series deeply interesting.
Why it made the list: Our Happy Time is quick to get into the heavy topic of suicide and death, but in all the sadness is a beautiful tale about finding something to live for – together with someone not unlike you.
Read if you like: Slice of life; drama; romance; seinen manga; suicide themes; psychological themes; small cast of characters; beautiful art style; short series; completed series.
Of the few very recent manga series on this list, Orange ranks in at number 36 for how this budding story shows an unusual mix of genres along with a touching tale of saving someone.
Sixteen-year-old Naho is a shy girl with a crush on her classmate Kakeru. But her peaceful life is interrupted by a letter from her 27-year-old self who says that she deeply regrets the past. To confirm it's really her, future-Naho writes about what happens in the near future and warns past-Naho to watch over Kakeru, because he's destined to die soon.
Orange has a fresh take on the romantic drama genre with a rarely-seen sci-fi element. And, of course, while you know the story will probably end in tears, Orange weaves a careful story of how Naho changes everything to save the guy she loves.
Why it made the list: Orange is a bit of an unusual shoyjo manga. While the science fiction element gives the story an interesting edge, how it all plays out is something else entirely too. It's not your average shoujo manga, and seeing where it goes will be a treat.
Read if you like: Science fiction; shoujo manga; romance; school setting; drama; heavy themes; tragedy; recent series; ongoing series.
Anime adaptions abound as we reach the middle of this list. Of course, we can't forget the stylistic vampire-slaying deliciousness that is Hellsing.
The legacy of Van Hellsing is alive and well in modern day England. As his descendant runs an organization that continues to search for and dispose of cool supernatural enemies, their front man Alucard is sent out to deal with all things vampires. When a regular vampire mission worsens, Alucard turns an ordinary police woman into one of his familiars, and the two set off to stop huge mysteries and rival organisations.
Hellsing is yet another manga made into a popular anime, but in this case reading the manga is slightly different to watching it all play out. It adds a bit extra to either experience but doesn't take away from starting with either form.
Why it made the list: Hellsing makes just as great a manga series as it does an anime. The series delivers cool action scenes, cooler characters and a nice take on the Van Hellsing story you may already be familiar with.
Read if you like: Vampires; Van Hellsing; action; horror; seinen manga; anti-heroes; alternate stories; watching the anime; British settings; stylistic art style; medium-length series; older series; completed series.
A splash of shoujo takes up our list's number 37 spot. Skip Beat! takes its nice set-up and amps up the comedy, making for a funny and loveable series.
When Kyouko's childhood friend and crush Sho asks her to come to the big city with him, to support his big break into the entertainment industry, Kyouko leaps at the chance. But while she focuses on supporting Sho in Tokyo, he ditches her once he starts going places. Rejected and alone, Kyouko takes it in her stride and focuses all her power on taking him down on his turf.
Characters are key in this romantic comedy tale of revenge. Kyouko's crazy path to revenge isn't at all a serious thing but a long and hilarious tale, joined with characters that shine just as greatly as Kyouko does.
Why it made the list: Skip Beat! takes a common premise and makes it shine with crazy antics, nice comedy and a cast of loveable characters. If you're not in it purely for the shoujo aspect, it's not hard to get into the series for its weird comedy.
Read if you like: Shoujo manga; the entertainment industry; comedy; drama; romance; long series; ongoing series.
You can't have a best of manga list without the manga that inspired countless seasons of anime and was a huge part of growing up in the 90s.
Son Goku is a young boy who lives in the mountains and trains to be a great martial artist. There he meets Bulma and hears of the dragon balls, seven mystical orbs that can summon a wish-granting dragon. He tags along with Bulma for the journey to find them all and, along the way, gains friends and trains to be the ultimate fighter.
Dragon Ball might not be the most original manga by today's standards, but for the time it was a monolith of greatness, and it's easy to see why. There's plenty of downright cool action along with such a huge cast that there's bound to be a favourite.
Why it made the list: Dragon Ball started a hell of a trend for shounen manga, but even reading the series now, you can see what makes this series shine. Its over-the-top action, cast of way too many characters and how everyone grows up to be more powerful than before is truly a sight for fans of classic shounen manga.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; action; adventure; comedy; fights; super powers; martial arts; Journey to the West; huge cast of characters; balls; long series; older series; completed series.
Sneaking onto this list is one of the very few titles aimed at older women: Nana. No, not a manga about grandmothers, but a story of two young girls making their way in the big city.
Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki might share the same name, but they're not alike in the least. While Komatsu flees to Tokyo to start a new life, Osaki arrives at Tokyo full of dreams about becoming a rock 'n' roll star. When the two move in together and become best friends, it seems like nothing can separate them, though life does try to get in the way.
While Nana's art can be hit or miss, its long, long story is an artful depiction of life in Japan. It's a lot more dramatic than most slice of life series but it sets a strangely realistic tone for the whole series.
Why it made the list: Nana starts off as your usual slice of life manga but goes into mature drama that few other series match. Its high points are satisfying, but the underlying tone of the series, that adult life isn't success or failure all the time, stays strong.
Read if you like: Josei manga; music; adult life; moving to the city; friendship; slice of life; drama; romance; heartbreak; rock 'n' roll; long series; completed series.
Manga is always about the art, and if the art's good, the story can be forgiven in a few areas. While The Voynich Hotel has a weird style with a whole lot of artistic influences, it has a confusing story that might turn away some, but an art style that might draw you in anyway.
Taizou is an ex-gangster on the run from the mafia. His escape efforts take him to a secluded island where the Voynitch Hotel. While things seem as usual, if a bit creepy, he's gradually introduced to the wide range of disturbing, quirky and just plain odd characters that inhabit the various rooms of the hotel.
The Voynich Hotel is hard to pin because it's confusing, weird and slightly creepy but all in good ways. Dowman Sayman's work is always something a bit out of the usual, and Voynich Hotel is a great first taste of this weird, weird author.
Why it made the list: If you're not immediately drawn in by the unusual stylistic art style, Voynich Hotel can quickly draw you in with its mix of what-the-hell-is-going-on plot and weird Western comic vibe. It's not the easiest manga to get into but definitely one of the more interesting.
Read if you like: Hotels; quirky art style; odd characters; islands; slice of life; no set story; short chapters; short series; completed series.
You've no doubt heard about the Ouran Host Club anime, often recommended to anyone who likes romantic comedies or wants to fawn over handsome guys. But every anime has its start, and the Ouran manga is a good one.
When Haruhi literally stumbles across the school's male host club, she breaks a vase and is bullied into dressing up as a new host in order to pay it off. While in the care of the group's range of quirky guys, Haruhi tries her best to deal with her new circumstances and isn't afraid to flirt with girls to keep her place. But nobody in the host club can resist the charms of a feminine boy…
The most important thing to know about Ouran, with its already popular anime series, is that the romance gets resolved in the manga. There's also several side stories to enjoy if you want more time with the characters.
Why it made the list: Ouran High School Host Club often gets recommended as one of the best romantic anime to watch, but while the show is great in its own right, the manga offers so much more. It has the same romantic comedy feeling the animated series has, but draws out the story much more and gives everything a lot more attention.
Read if you like: Watching the anime; cross-dressing; school settings; the rich; fish out of water stories; romance; harem; comedy; drama; long series; completed series.
The third title that makes up shounen manga's Big Three needs little introduction, as you've likely seen it mentioned anywhere manga is talked about. But if you haven't gotten into this series yet, you might be missing out.
Teenage boy Ichigo sees dead people. When he and his family are attacked by a particularly malevolent spirit, called a "hollow", they are protected by a soul reaper. But ultimately unable to defeat the hollow, the soul reaper transfers her powers and responsibility to protect humans to Ichigo, who becomes a badass hollow slayer. From there, Ichigo goes on a long journey of slaying evil spirits, training to get stronger and protecting friends, which throws him into some intense situations.
Bleach falls a little lower on this list for having some obvious arcs, but don't let it deter you from discovering the charms of this popular manga.
Why it made the list: Bleach is way too big to ignore, but once you get into it, it's enjoyable as the supernatural action series it is. As the last of The Big Three to start, it also promises more hollow-slaying goodness to come.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; the supernatural; action; comedy; red hair; large cast of characters; long story arcs; powers; long series; ongoing series.
If angst and endless pain is what you need from a story then Angel Sanctuary has it in spades. The manga goes into all kinds of painful lives and wallows in misery, but where there's sadness, there's moments where things pull through.
Alexial is one of the two highest angels in Heaven but her place there isn't for long. Due to a whole host of problems, she's condemned to Earth and made to reincarnate endlessly, always living an absolutely miserable life. But Alexial's many troubled lives aren't the only thing in chaos; even Heaven and Earth are in turmoil.
Angel Sanctuary doesn't shy away from heavy topics, and there might be some in the mix you're not going to be a fan of, but with the whole series about uncomfortable misfortunes, it's interesting to read something that touches on so much.
Why it made the list: Angel Sanctuary can be pretty confusing in the beginning, but if you stay along for the ride you're in for a refreshingly mature and dark tale about love and life.
Read if you like: Angels; fantasy; romance; mature manga; heavy themes; story arcs; large cast of characters; older series; long series; completed series.
We don't get many Japanese comics about superheroes, but when we do, they end up pretty fantastic. That's why the incredibly recent manga My Hero Academia has made it here already.
In a world where everyone has super powers, young Izuku Midoriya was born with absolutely none. But even though there's nothing special about him, he wants to be a hero and will do anything to be like the legendary All-Might. Somehow he's good enough to get into the most elite school for training heroes, and that's where his long road to being the very best begins.
My Hero Academia is a weird and obviously Western-inspired manga that mixes shounen manga tropes with Western comics' quirkiness and stylistic art style. Its reliance on well-worn story set-ups only makes its different features more interesting.
Why it made the list: My Hero Academia sure has a lot of obvious shounen aspects, but what makes the manga interesting isn't the plot or the characters so much as what happens and how little differences can make the whole thing feel new.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; super heroes; super powers; school setting; action; adventure; comedy; stylistic art style; recent series; ongoing series.
Sometimes pictures are better than words, especially when it comes to looking at the past. A Bride's Story does just that, bringing like to 19th century Asia with highly detailed, patterned clothes and close attention to the lives of people living 200 years ago.
Twenty-year-old Amira is a young bride in 19th century Asia, sent to a neighbouring kindom to meet her husband. As it turns out, her husband is twelve, but that doesn't stop Amira from doting on him and doing her job as a wife. As she settles into her new life, she meets other wives and couples who do various activities around the village.
Like a lot of slice of life manga, A Bride's Story excels at a calm, peaceful atmosphere. Its highly detailed art and slow pace make it ideal for a relaxing read or learning about past cultures.
Why it made the list: A Bride's Story is a calming historical manga that lavishes attention on historical accuracy and detail, recreating the past more than concerning itself with a particularly active story.
Read if you like: Historical manga; Asia; romance; slice of life; aspects of life; slow progression; marriage; ornamental clothes; setting; ongoing series.
If you've heard of magical girls, chances are you've seen something of Sailor Moon. It's a huge classic of a shoujo manga and anime series, and for good reason.
Usagi Tsukino is an average middle school girl who likes to sleep in, eat snacks and wants to fall in love. It's not until she stumbles across a mysterious cat that Usagi is told that she's the reincarnation of the moon princess, and all-powerful warrior, who must reunite the other sailor soldiers and return to the throne.
Sailor Moon's story covers five main arcs, and while the series is fairly long, the story keeps things short, preferring to keep the action and romance rolling.
Why it made the list: Sailor Moon is a classic manga series, much like the anime. It excels in beautiful art (with particular attention to long, flowing hair) and delivers an all-round tighter story that you might know from the anime.
Read if you like: Shoujo manga; romance; fighting monsters; evil plans; school setting; royalty; reincarnation; cats; magical girls; large cast of characters; long series; complete series.
If you need your fill of amazingly drawn action and other series aren't doing it for you, Akame ga Kill's dark violence and cool fight scenes might fill your need.
Tatsumi is a poor kid from a poor village who travels to the capitol to earn something of a living. What he finds in the city is not a land of opportunity but a place full of corrupted politicians, thieves and heartless rich people. Of course, the only way to set the place straight is to kill the rich to save the poor, which is exactly why Tatsumi gets swept up the assassination group Night Raid.
Akame ga Kill is the rare manga in that its story is nothing you haven't heard before yet it manages to keep things interesting and fresh. For all the powers and weapons, characters are fated to die – permanently – making this a series that commits to what it sets out to do.
Why it made the list: Akame ga Kill might not have the most original premise, but it makes up to it by sticking to its rules and keeping its dark fantasy atmosphere strong. Everyone could die at any moment, and when the stakes are high, there's no better feeling than knowing you're in for a good, real fight.
Read if you like: Blood; gore; violence; shounen manga; dark fantasy; adventure; action; politics; corruption; assassins; no non-deaths; recent series; ongoing series.
Towards the bottom of this list sits Fairy Tail, shounen manga's almost-big three that brings a whole world of magic and fighting to life in its volumes and volumes of chapters.
Lucy is a brand new mage looking for a guild to join, but her heart is set of Fairy Tail, the strongest mages' guild out there. It just so happens that she runs into a powerful mage called Natsu, who is a guild member and can help her become a member. And so begins their 400+ chapter long journey of being a mage and making a living as part of one of the land's most prestigious guilds.
Fairy Tail has a strong start with some interesting story arcs and intriguing characters but might come off as a bit usual for readers who love shounen manga series. It still has a lot of charm though, from its adventures to its characters, and is still a deserving series.
Why it made the list: Fairy Tail is a classic shounen manga about traditional sword and sorcery magical settings. It delivers the development, story and arcs you would expect, but falls pretty far down this list for getting a bit repetitive.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; magic; guilds; story arcs; cute animal mascots; adventure; action; dragons; huge cast of characters; long series; ongoing series.
Making it onto the lower part of this list is Naruto, the love-it-or-hate-it manga that has spawned hundreds of chapters, anime episodes and more than a few spin-off series.
Hidden Leaf Village is attacked by a great demon fox. The most powerful ninja in the village has no other choice but to seal the demonic beast in the yet-unborn Naruto. It's because of this that Naruto is treated badly by the village, but their attitude and his lack of ability doesn't stop him from wanting to be the strongest ninja of his village.
The first of the Big Three shounen manga series to finish, Naruto is a ride from start to finish. It tends to focus a lot on the main set of characters, but if you're in need of fighting ninja action, this is the best series for it.
Why it made the list: Naruto, the long epic of a manga it is, is often a great start for anyone looking to get into a lengthy series. It's very much a shounen series, but it has a lot of nice action and an easy way into the anime that it ends up a very easy read.
Read if you like: Ninjas; long series; completed series; stylistic fighting; shounen manga; idiot heroes; super powers; power ups.
Manga tends to be pretty diverse compared to anime; you can have your classroom love comedies and your harem romps, but you can also have your fill of any sport, any hobby or any career. Beck is that for music.
Tanaka Yukio is absolutely boring. He's shy, directionless and has a pretty terrible taste in music. That's why it's so surprising that, after meeting Ryusuke fresh from America, Yukio is pulled into a rock 'n' roll band and quickly becomes a damn good guitarist.
Beck is for rock 'n' roll fans and readers who like bands. There's no getting past all the music references or, well, the entire point of the series, so if you're not keen on music (or the genre), it mightn't sit that well with you.
Why it made the list: If you're looking for a band manga, with some good rock 'n' roll references and plenty of music, Beck is your answer. It presents the solid friendship that forms the basis of any band with some steady character development over the course of the series.
Read if you like: Shounen manga; music; guitars; realistic art style; slice of life; comedy; drama; romance; growing up; long series; older series; completed series.