If you’re looking for a unique reading experience, try one of the 10 best manga series. Manga are comics published in Japan. They are typically serialized in weekly or monthly magazines and later published in tankōbon, or book, form. Although a large number of titles fit into a set genre, including shounen, comics for boys; shoujo, comics for girls; seinen, comics for young adult males; and josei, comics for young adult females, they cover a wide range of topics, from slice-of-life dramas to fighting tournaments to wacky comedies. With such variety, this list uses several different categories to properly recognize achievements across all genres and styles.
1. Best Seinen Manga
An idealistic doctor has to make a choice between saving the life of an influential politician or a young boy. Monster tells a mature and gripping story as the doctor realizes years later that his choice had far-reaching implications, and he may have saved the life of a murderer. The title won the 2001 Shogakukan Manga Award, a long-running and respected award from a Japanese publisher. It has also been nominated for Eisner Awards in the U.S. It is currently the highest-rated manga title at Anime News Network, based on reader ratings.
2. Best Manga for Rooting for the Bad Guy
When a bored death god shares his Death Note, a notebook capable of spelling out anyone’s death, with a bored high school student, the result is a reign of terror over criminals. Light Yagami begins with good intentions to create a better world, but he quickly spirals out of control. The result is a thrilling cat-and-mouse game between Light and the detectives who try to stop him.
3. Best Manga about Stopping an Apocalypse
20th Century Boys
20th Century Boys won the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award and the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award, another prestigious award from a Japanese publisher. It’s a psychological thriller that begins when a childhood story about the destruction of the world begins to come true. Old friends reunite to try to stop this tragedy from actually taking place.
4. Best Josei Manga
A chance meeting between two women named Nana leads to a strong friendship. The series takes readers along as two very different young adults strive to make their mark on the world and find what they want most. Nana won a 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award.
5. Best Classic Manga
No list of the 10 best manga series would be complete without Osamu Tezuka. Creator of iconic figures like Astro Boy, he is sometimes called the “God of Manga”. Phoenix is one of his most ambitious works. The stories in the series’ 12 volumes span time and space, as characters search for phoenix-like immortality.
6. Best Comedy Manga
Cromartie High School
Cromartie High School is a strange school. There’s a student who’s a robot, but nobody seems willing to admit it. The biggest tough guy on campus gets terrible motion sickness. Then there’s the student who looks suspiciously like Freddie Mercury. Winner of the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award, this series is great for fans of bizarre comedy.
7. Best Manga with a Message
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki, director of some of the best anime movies of all time. Beyond its quality pedigree, it also offers a timely message about the dangers of not taking care of the earth. The characters in the manga struggle in a post-apocalyptic world after industrialization destroys life as we know it.
8. Best Shoujo Manga
Winner of the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award, Fruits Basket is a sweet story about finding a place to belong. The fact that the main characters turn into cute animals doesn’t hurt its appeal, either. In the grand shoujo manga tradition, there’s also a love triangle to draw in romance fans.
9. Best Manga for Stylish Fighting
At its core, Bleach is a typical Shounen Jump title, with an endless string of fights and power-ups. However, Tite Kubo brings a distinct style to his world, and creates a large cast of characters readers can care about, putting it a step above its peers and making it one of the 10 best manga series. The series won the 2005 Shogakukan Manga Award.
10. Best Violence-Filled Manga
Berserk is a top pick if you want a manly read full of over-the-top violence. Guts wanders a medieval world, slaying demons that are constantly drawn to him with inhuman strength. Readers at Anime News Network have made Berserk the third-highest-rated manga title on its site.
Hopefully, you’ve found a new title to try. Share your own favorites in the comments below!