It’s fair to say that manga isn’t for everyone and not in the least bit as popular in the states as say American comics like Marvel and DC. It’s similar to what we as Americans favor when we think of comics but simply not as colorful and far more “animated” looking than what we’re used to. It does however have a large fanbase overal in the states and remains popular worldwide. I grew up reading both American comics and Manga and I actually find myself enjoying more Manga series than any American series. With there being a vast collection of series out there to enjoy, I decided that I wanted to rank by Top 5 favorite manga to date. I have a few articles and reviews coming up that are based around some of my favorite series and thought it only right to go ahead and give you some insight into the series that I love the most. Of course this list isn’t going to agree with everyone and I’m sure there are many series that could make my list that I haven’t read yet, but for this list I will simply be giving MY favorites. These aren’t in any way the ones I think are best, but just the ones I love to read the most and impacted me the most. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy the list!
5. Hikaru No Go
Hikaru No Go is about a character “Hikaru” who comes across an old Go board that holds the spirit of one of the best Go players ever from long ago. If you don’t know what “Go” is then this is the perfect series to introduce you to the game. It’s not a commonly played game in the states but is actually quite fun if you can play it with someone else that knows the rules. I honestly had no interest in the series originally because I had no knowledge of the game and just didn’t think it would work for me. I turned out to be wrong though when I realized how well written it is. I love that Hikaru was never wanting to learn how to play Go and had no interest like myself. It was the spirit attached to him that pushed him into trying to play it. I love the way the beginning of the story works because we can relate easily with Hikaru unless you’ve played the game before. As he continues to learn more about the game, we also do too so it’s also in a way an instruction guide to how to play.
The spirit at first tells him which moves to make when he first matches up against a prodigy in the game. He ends up winning which sets the stage for our rivalry. They could have simply had the spirit tell Hikaru which moves to make in every match he had which would have made the story boring. Instead they made Hikaru start to have an interest in learning how to play, kind of like me. I’m doing this, Hikaru actually has to develop his own skill and abilities to become a master at the game. It’s a great story that gives us an excellent character arc with Hikaru and also has some intense matches that you wouldn’t think about getting excited or nervous for. It has a satisfying end and overall I love how complete the story feels from start to finish. It has remained one of my most beloved series and got me into learning how to play Go.
I also would like to make a shout out to the Rian Johnson movie Knives Out for actually having the board game present in one of the scenes. It excited me more than anyone else probably.
4. Assassination Classroom
This is the newest series on my list and is also one of the most interesting ones concept wise. This tells the story of an alien who has come to earth and says that he will destroy the earth in one year unless they can kill him. He also says that in the meantime he would like to teach a class on how to assassinate him. The best part about this series is that it has an endgame from the very beginning and doesn’t push itself further just to continue the story. It ends when it’s supposed to end and that’s that. I didn’t read this when it was first being released weekly and never felt a real urge to read it because the alien design looked goofy as hell, but a few years ago I picked up the first two volumes and instantly became hooked. I ended up reading the whole series over the course of about a week and fell in love with it.
It has many interesting characters and many different arcs that all serve the purpose of getting us to our endgame. It takes some unlikely ideas like playing baseball and makes it relevant to the actual skill the students are developing to assassinate the alien. Now I will say that this story probably isn’t for anyone and logically doesn’t make a ton of sense but if you take it for the story it’s trying to tell, it does everything extremely well. It has some great comedic moments balanced with excellent action and drama. This story doesn’t try to be anything it’s not and sticks solely to the story it’s trying to tell. I just love how tight and focused the direction of the story is and how it has a satisfying and definitive ending. Also, if you’re a volume collector then this is one of the best series to have on your shelf. The covers are simple but it’s the color differences between each one that makes it such a visually appealing series to add to your collection.
On a side note, I would actually love to see this series done in live action for American audiences. I know that the alien visually wouldn’t work for most people but I think there’s ways to get around it like maybe give him a human form for the majority?
3. Death Note
I’m sure that I’m not the only person to have this on their list since it’s one of the most popular manga out there. It’s on my list because of how incredibly written it is. As I said before with Assassinaton Classroom, this story has a clear focus and knows exactly where it’s going. It’s only 12 volumes and that’s mostly due to the fact that it’s not trying to be anything more than it actually is. It takes a somewhat simple concept of a character, Light Yagami, who finds a notebook that has the ability to kill anyone who’s name is written in it, and makes it an incredible cat and mouse story. There are so many small details that come into play with this story whether it be pure recklessness or the actual rules that the Death Note has. This story is so incredibly detailed and so focused that the story feels like it couldn’t have been written any tighter than it is.
I will say that there is a clear difference in quality for me between the first half and second half. Now the story flows perfectly between the two and makes sense of how we go from part one to part two, but I feel like pet two doesn’t hold up as well until we get to the very last volume. I think the story is much tighter in part one, but finds itself in a position where it didn’t have much choice but to kill off one of our main characters. Otherwise it would have felt more forced than anything else. I do wonder if the second part was actually intended from the start or not. On top of the actual story, the characters are incredible. Sure there are some great side characters, but I’m more focused on Light and L. They are the perfect adversary for each other and both are written incredibly well. Light is the villain who you don’t want to root for but you do and L is the hero who you do want to root for but you don’t. Of course some people may feel the other way about it but that’s my impression. It’s easily one of the best detective like stories out there and it’s a damn shame that Netflix botched the movie as bad as they did. Death Note will forever be a staple in my love for manga.
Coming off of Death Note, the same team of writer and artist brings us an even darker story…kidding. Bakuman is an unlikely direction for the duo that actually sparked my love for manga as a whole. It gives us two characters that team up to become manga creators themselves. Not only does this give us an interesting story of what it actually takes to become a manga creator, it also gives us a great tale of love and drama. It isn’t your typical kind of success story where they manage to win right off the bat, no it puts roadblocks in their way at every opportunity. The roadblocks don’t feel forced, but rather a realistic issue that comes in front of them. The common thing in most of the series on this list is the right storytelling and clear focus. This is another one of those coming in at only 20 volumes. Now I will say that the final bit of the story does feel a little rushed, but everything else that happens makes up for that slight issue.
I absolutely love that we get a story that gives us some insight into the actual things that we’re reading while also giving us a compelling and engaging story. What works most for this story are all of the character arcs we get to see, not just from our main duo but also for all of the side characters. That brings me to another point, the side characters are some of the best and some of my favorite of any series. They all have unique personalities and fantastic arcs throughout the complete story and they also play rivals to our main characters. You love them, but you still want our duo to beat them at every turn. On top of all of the points I’ve made so far, I also love and hate that we got to see so many original story ideas in the story. Since they are manga creators, we get to see a variety of different ideas, many of which I would love to see as actual real world stories like Detective Trap or Perfect Crime Party.
How come we don’t have an American version of this as a show? That would certainly be interesting.
- One Piece
Finally we get to my favorite series of all time and has been my favorite series since the very beginning. I won’t go too much into explaining the story since most people should know if it, but it’s basically about a pirate, Luffy, who has the dream of being the King of Pirates and finding the ultimate treasure the One Piece. That sounds extremely vague and not as interesting as the story actually is. Everyone has their go to battle manga series like Bleach, Naruto, or Dragon Ball. For me it’s One Piece and for several reasons. I think it’s the most consistent series story wise and quality wise than any of the other big ones out there and balances creative storytelling with great drama, action and comedy. This series is truly the ultimate world building series that doesn’t lose itself in its own story. It sets up many things early on that become important later in the story, but it stays true to what it is. It doesn’t lose focus and doesn’t try to top itself like say Naruto or Bleach did towards the end of their runs.
One Piece has been the longest series at 90+ volumes that I’ve kept up with and it’s still going today. I remember first reading it in high school because my library actually had the first 23 volumes. After that I actually ended up buying all of the volumes and reading the entire story. Once I was caught up I ended up reading the series weekly with each new chapter released and have been doing that since around 2012. It’s been my most dedicated series for myself to date and is the ultimate staple in my love for manga as a whole. I love all of the characters and all of the different stories, arcs, and just general situations and problems going on. It’s the writing though that really tops all of the other series for me. Now it’s hard to compare say Death Note to this because Death Note has excellent writing but is a totally different kind of story. One Piece however manages to master every element to world building and information. Eiichiro Oda will go down to me as the best manga world builder because of his incredible skill of knowing when to tell us certain things and how to utilize every single aspect in his world. There’s not a single thing that doesn’t have some kind of reason or impact and I just love it.
In the end, this simply an opinion list of what are personally my favorite manga series. It’s not by any means a quality list of the best manga ever and it’s not a list that will sit right with everyone or have everyone agree but it’s my personal list. There are so many more series out there that I could’ve listed or talked about that deserve recognition and I fully intend on talking about the series on this list and more in the future. Manga is an underrated art in America. It doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves or attention to the actual quality of storytelling that is involved. It’s an art that I wish to spotlight more for people that haven’t given it a chance. All of these series are a mere speck in the overall amount of fantastic manga or anime out there and I just hope for those who don’t read them or those who do, that this list at least peaked your interest in some stories that you didn’t know about.
I hope you enjoyed the list, and if you want to comment or give me your list then make sure to comment below or email us at TowerCityMedia@gmail.com. And make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @TowerCityMedia