A Koala’s Guide to the Best Japanese Mangas

Mangas, or Japanese comic books, were my first source of entertainment. Before I watched my first TV show, I read my first manga. More than a quarter of a century’s worth of manga reading has made this medium my most knowledgeable subject matter (yes, it may appear I know a lot about dramas, but that is just an illusion). The amount of mangas my siblings and I own would open a bookstore, and a pretty big one at that.

Mangas really reached the peak of their mass appeal in the 80s and 90s. I can trace the decline of quality and the rise of commercial packaging to around the time Yuu Watase‘s Fushigi Yuugi hit the stage in the late 90s. It was a fast and addicting read, but when I finished it, I realized that it was quite contrived, pedestrian, and maddenly lame.

Allow me an analogy – if teen lit used to be represented by such masterpieces such as Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials trilogies, when the dreck that was Twilight emerged to represent the genre, suddenly your heart and soul feels empty. Watching people embrace mediocrity made me want to weep.

When endodo4ever asked me for a list of what I considered the best mangas I have ever read (out of hundreds of titles), I knew this was a chance for me to commemorate the truly exceptional mangas that left their marks on that literary genre. I’ve read both shonen (boys) and shoujo (girls) mangas, though my list is skewered predominantely towards shoujo (as if my Hello Kitty affliction doesn’t give my girly preferences away).

I have decided not to rank the mangas, but have merely compiled the best of the best, with a blurb about each story to whet your appetites. If the story sounds interesting, I highly suggest you read the more detailed synopsis on Wikipedia. If available, I’ve included the Japanese, English and Chinese titles of each manga for ease of reference, since it’s title may be different depending on which language is the source of your manga crack.

1. Glass no Kamen (The Glass Mask ) 千面女郎 by Miuchi Suzue

One of the longest running mangas of all time, serialized starting in January of 1976 and still going on today, now up to 44 tankobon (individual) volumes. That’s a lot of manga, people, with a story that my sister and I often wonder whether the author might croak before finishing it. Morbid, yes, but totally probable considering her snail pace in continuing her story in the last decade.

Glass no Kamen is an epic theatrical saga of a young girl named Maya who is an acting savant. Her desire, dedication, and innate talent takes her on a journey from minor actress to one of the leading stage performers of her time. Her rival Ayumi is the daughter of a famous actress, and a genuine talent in her own right. The two girls strive to become the one chosen as the leading actress to perform the legendary stage play Kurenai Tennyo or The Crimson Goddess.

This series is amazingly crafted, taking Maya and Ayumi from dueling stage performances, to television actress, to indie plays, to national performances, and so on and so forth. Each opportunity and each performance take the girls on a parallel journey to the same goal, which only one girl can attain.

The illustrations are wonderfully drawn, teaching me about theater and plays from age 6 when I started reading GnK. Truly one of the most sweeping stories ever constructed (it’s ballet cousin would be Swan, which I will discuss further down) about the subject of acting. The love stories are developed slowly in the background, and actually are the least interesting part. You read it for the carefully constructed acting roadblocks, and how Maya and Ayumi hurdle past each one through hard work and perseverance.

My favorite segments are when teenage Maya and Ayumi do alternate-night performances as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and later when Maya and Ayumi are cast respectively as the angelic younger princess and the dark and tormented elder princess in the national production of The Two Princesses. I cannot stress enough the breadth and depth of GnK, and how it is a genuine labor of love and a lifetime’s devotion from the author to us, the readers.

2. Candy Candy 甜甜 by Igarashi Yumiko

Probably one of the, if not THE, most well-known shoujo mangas to come out of Japan. Candy Candy likely changed the lives of many a girl (and guy) who read the manga and/or watched the anime during the formative years of their childhood. Heck, it’s theme song shows up randomly in dramas from time to time. This was the manga which turned me into a manga addict. I wrote an entire post about it here, so I shant repeat myself again. Truly a masterpiece that symbolizes what shoujo manga can and should be about.

3. Basara / 7 Seeds 幻海奇情 by Tamura Yumi

Basara is one of the most harrowing and soul-rending mangas I have ever read. It’s story and execution straddles both shoujo (with an epic love story that makes Romeo and Juliet seem like child’s play) and shonen (with battles and wars fought to determine the fate of a country).

The story takes place in a future Japan, reduced to a pre-modern state by a catastrophe at the end of the 21st century. Sarasa, our heroine, has twin brother Tatara, who is prophesied to be the “child of destiny” who will bring back the country’s independence and stop the tyrannical rule of the despotic Golden Emperor. When Tatara is killed, Sarasa pretends to be him in order to keep the downtrodden from losing hope. She crosses paths with a young man named Shuri, and they fall in love.

Unbeknownest to either of them, Shuri is the annointed Red King, the youngest son of the Golden Emperor  (who has given all his children a territory to self-govern and a title, hoping they would destroy each other and never challenge him for the throne in succession). Shuri has sworn to destroy the revolutionaries led by Sarasa and avenge the death of his beloved cousin.

You can imagine what hell these two have to go through to be together. The manga spawns 27 books, and is split into Part I and Part II, with Part I ending in such a gutwrenching way I almost was too scared to keep reading. And that is a hallmark of a well-constructed story.

After Basara, I thought there was no way in hell Tamura Yumi could top that manga, or even follow up with something even close to as good. I was wrong. She followed up with 7 Seeds (currently up to book 17), and it is already as good as Basara. Depending on how 7 Seeds finishes, I will make a determination at such time. I wrote about 7 Seeds before, click here and here to read a plot synopsis and why it’s such a mindblowingly stellar story.

4. Touch 鄰家女孩 / Rough 我愛芳鄰 by Adachi Mitsuru

Adachi is a prolific manga writer, and his subject matter is mainly one genre and one genre only – the sports coming-of-age story. Within that genre, he picks baseball as his most frequent sport, followed by boxing, and occasionally swimming and track. I’ve selected what I consider to be his best two works to highlight here, but some of his other works are better than 99% of the manga out there (such as H2, Katsu, Cross Game, Slow Step, and Niji Iro Togarashi).

Adachi can be considered the best pure storyteller in manga. He is a master of using quiet action to convey the emotion and propel the story, and an expert at crafting subtle yet loaded dialogue. His stories are always humanistic and about the everyday details, never bombastic or frantic. Reading his mangas is a calming experience, akin to floating on a lazy river and soaking in the atmosphere.

Touch is Adachi’s most famous and iconic work. It tells the story of a pair of twin brothers, Tatsuya and Kazuya, and Minami, the girl next door who grows up with them. Both boys love Minami, yet elder twin Tatsuya lets his beloved earnest younger twin Kazuya pursue her diligently as he takes a back seat, until he is forced to acknowledge his pitching talent and make a once-in-a-lifetime attempt to win the high school baseball championship at Koshien. Touch made me cry my eyes out (I cannot reach book 7 without crying even today), and likely added to my love of sports (yes, I am a huge sports fan and know my teams and stats, in case anyone wants to talk shop with me).

But it is his followup manga Rough that is my personal favorite Adachi manga. Rough is an adorable boarding school story with the hero being a talented high school freestyle swimmer. He meets his childhood sweetheart again, who also happens to be the daughter of his family’s rival Japanese snack store and a talented diver. The two kids reconnect and find that sometimes love cannot be stopped and stories can have different endings.

Rough and Touch (and almost all of Adachi’s manga – with the exception of  Niji Iro Togarashi which is set in a fictional Edo period Japan) chroncicle high schoolers who have dreams, fears, doubts, and talents, depicting them in delicate real life settings that are heartwarming to read. Adachi loves the first love stories, and he elevates both in Touch and Rough so that you finish reading it and wish to god that you had a neighborhood oppa or best guy friend growing up.

5. Inuyasha 犬夜叉/ Urusei Yatsura 福星小子/ Maison Ikkoku 相聚一刻 by Takahashi Rumiko

If I had to pick my top five favorite manga writers, without a doubt Takahashi would be on the list. Her talent is undisputed, and her imagination unparallel. Her full-length mangas are typically a blend of fantasy and cultural creations that can only come from her fertile mind. I’ve listed what I consider her most famous and best works, but her Ranma 1/2 was also exceedingly successful and a genuine treat to read, even if I find it less substantive and long-lasting a work.

Urusei Yatsura may just be the one manga I have re-read the most times. I got lucky, because I scored a collectors edition set that has all the translator annotations that make every single inside joke understandable. The series tells the story of Ataru, a lazy, perverted high-school boy who finds himself saving earth when he wins a race against an alien princess and prevents the alien race from subjugating the humans.

Luckily or unluckily for Ataru, the beautiful and short-tempered alien princess Lum falls in love with him, and moves in to stake her claim on this sorry excuse for a young man. What ensues is 34 volumes of the most hilarious, side-splitting, witty vignettes I have ever read in my entire life, with some of the wackiest but most loveable side-characters ever created (which is a Takahashi specialty).

Sadly, Urusei is influenced heavily on Japanese culture and language, and many of the jokes and slap-stick situations in the manga won’t be funny unless its parody is explained to the non-Japanese reader. My set has those annotations, and if there was ever a fire, I’d grab my kids and my set of Urusei Yatsura. The moment I feel bored, I read one quick chapter and I am chuckling and giggling like a loon. So. Cute.

Inuyasha is Takahashi’s latest epic, and her most sweeping story to date. It tells of a young high school girl Kagome who gets transported back to the Sengoku period. There she meets a half-demon (the son of a dog demon and a human woman) Inuyasha, and together with other allies, they must travel the war-torn land to find fragments of a mystical jewel that is needed to defeat a powerful evil entity.

The story is collected in 57 books, is genuinely intense, sweeping, and dramatic. It is also Takahashi’s most romantic book, with the creation of a love triangle that spans death and reincarnation. The hero is one of my favorite characters of all time, the short-tempered and irascible Inuyasha. This is one series that is definitely available for English language speakers, and I highly recommend it.

Maison Ikkoku is Takahashi’s only attempt at a full-length manga without any fantasy elements, and is also her most mature story. It’s been called a bittersweet romantic comedy, and that describes it so aptly. It’s about a young widow Kyoko who gets a second chance to start her life afresh as the landlord of a dilapidated apartment building. She’s surrounded by a bevy of odd renters, and finds herself pursued by Godai, a man younger than herself. The story has trademark Takahashi humor throughout, but is amazingly humanistic and uplifting. It’s about second chances in life and love, and reading it enriches your heart and soul.

6. City Hunter 城市獵人/ Cat’s Eye by Tsukasa Hojo

Tsukasa Hojo is also another writer (like Takahashi and Adachi) that writes mangas that appeal to both men and women, though his style and genre is pure shonen. His drawing style is also very realistic and three-dimensional, with a penchant for curvy ladies and muscular men.

City Hunter showcases the writer’s love of Bond Ladies, that’s for sure. CH is about Ryo Saeba, a Tokyo private eye, and Kaori Makimura, his girlfriday. The manga is episodic, with new cases and new ladies in distress introduced every few chapters, and are usually self-contained. The overarching mystery as to Ryo’s background and upbringing, and his mysterious past, is finally discussed in the end and the story reaches a conclusion that I find fitting.

Cat’s Eye was his earlier work, and while the drawing style doesn’t have CH’s sophistication and masterful technique, the story was nevertheless wonderfully moving. It’s about three beautiful sisters who run a cafe called Cat’s Eye during the day, but become cat burglars at night stealing their famous father’s artwork in an attempt to get him to reveal his identity to them. The main character is the middle sister, who is in love with a earnest young detective who so happens to be in charge of catching the cat burglars who so confound the police. The ending was a little WTF, but still managed to bring the story home and leave me happy as a kitty with cream.

7. Ouke no Monshou (Crest of the Royal Family) 尼羅河女兒 / Hakushaku Reijō (The Earl’s Daughter) 伯爵令嬢 Hosokawa Chieko

This is the granddaddy of all time travel mangas/novels/dramas. In fact, the writer of the current Chinese trend towards Qing dynasty time travel dramas confessed to getting his inspiration from Ouke no Monshou. The story centers around an American Egyptology student named Carol Lido, who travels back in time to ancient Egypt.

She becomes embroiled in the political affairs of Egypt with its rivals and allies during that time period, and she falls in love and eventually marries Memphis, a young pharoah. She’s revered as a goddess of the Nile due to her knowledge of history being considered an ability to foretell the future.

This manga is still ongoing, and to be honest, it lost its way around the mid-way point. The beginning was exhilirating, and Carol’s adventures and love story was interesting and delightful to read. However, Carol is ultimately a beautiful but physically weak character, so she becomes very passive in the story and always at the mercy of the various Kings and Princes who covet her and steal her away from Memphis.

Ouke is truly a legendary work, but the writer would have done herself a favor by ending it earlier rather than allow it to meander around and recycle plot points left and right. It has become an abduction of the week story by this point, and I wish the god the writer can end it so I can move on.

In comparison, because Hosokawa was so restrained and in control of herself in her earlier work Hakushaku Reijō, I actually like the manga better at this point than the more epic Ouke no Monshou. Hakushaku Reijō is about the long-lost daughter of an Earl who is discovered in an orphanage and brought home to Paris to be reunited with her mother and grandfather. During the Channel voyage, she befriends a girl stowaway who is a pickpocket.

Her kindness is not reciprocated, as the pickpocket uses an unfortunate ship disaster to try to kill the real Earl’s daughter and take her place since those who know her identity have perished. The real daughter does not die, but loses her memory, and is discovered by a young French aristocrat who is in love with her. He lies that he is her fiancee, and takes her home to recover. The story follows her regaining her real identity and family, and choosing between her first love and her true love.

8. Dragon Ball / Dr. Slump by Toriyama Akira

Raise you hands if you’ve never read or heard about Dragon Ball? This might be the most well-known manga in recent memory, and it truly deserves it popularity. It’s a story that blends cultural fiction with action and laughs to create an addicting and interesting manga. The story centers around Goku, a young man who turns out to be from another planet, who becomes a fearsome warrior and fights for justice and the safety of Earth.

Toriyama Akira’s earlier work is just as funny and addicting, and his Dr. Slump is one of my favorite children’s mangas. It skews young (like Doraemon), but contains a lot of adult inside jokes and references. It’s called a gag manga (about a crude scientist who creates a robot girl who brings happiness and chaos to the fictional Penguin Village), and is just crammed full of Japanese and American pop culture and crude humor that will make you shake your head and giggle like school kid.

9. Black Jack / Princess Knight / Astro Boy / Buddha by Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka is the undisputed and revered father of Japanese manga. He created the industry as we know it, and his works live on in perpetuity for its depth and breadth. I’ve listed a few of his most well-known works, which shows that his range is unparallel (from science fiction to medical procedural to princess stories to spiritual awakenings). I’m in no way qualified to even discuss why he’s a God amongst manga writers, but believe me whenI say his works is not about the visual presentation as much as its about the story he wants to tell. Many of his works are being published in English in collectors editions with impeccable translations. I highly recommend any of his mangas, but my personal favorite is Black Jack (who was clearly the inspiration for Dr. Gregory House).

10. Swan 芭蕾群英 by Arioshi Kyoko

Swan is the most iconic ballet manga ever written. Nothing has ever been attempted at such scale and attention to detail. This manga gets into the psychological and emotional highs and lows of becoming a prima ballerina, and you are utterly captivated. The three-way battle of the swans of Swan Lake set in Paris in the early mid-portions of the manga remains my favorite showdown sequence in any medium and any sport.

The drawing took me awhile to get used to, but the writer’s attention to the delicate and exquisite lines of ballet dancers has never been matched. You literally see a ballerina on the page, and its breathtaking and riveting. The latter half wasn’t as interesting for me, when the heroine Masumi goes to New York to study modern ballet. In the end, my OTP got together and Masumi became a world class prima ballerina, which made this story always an epic read from beginning to end.

11. Yuyu Hakusho (Ghost Files) 幽☆遊☆白書 by Togashi Yoshihiro

This manga is a more violent and emotionally mature version of Dragon Ball, blending fighting with the supernatural. I went in with no expectations, and found myself quite taken by the story and the concept. A high school delinquent from a broken family accidentally dies in a car accident when he saves the life of a little girl. He wasn’t suppose to elect to save the girl and die in her place, so the God of the Underworld allows him a chance to return to the land of the living by completing some tasks.

This is only one part of the story, and our lead character comes back to the living only to find that he must continue to battle demons, monsters and villains to keep the world safe. This story has some great characters and exciting battle sequences, all grounded in a humanistic approach towards concepts of good and evil (i.e. not all demons are bad, most humans can be quite evil). There is a sweet love story developed slowly from beginning to end, and shows that shonen manga can have a broad appeal if done right.

12. Ruruoni Kenshin (Meiji’s Romantic Swordsman) 浪人劍心 Watsuki Nobuhiro

A must-read for a fictional look at the real historical post-Edo period, where Japan was on the brink of modernity and samurais were a dying breed that have been outdated and outlawed. The story is about a fictional forever-youthful assassin named Himura Kenshin, from the Bakumatsu (a samurai sect), who becomes a wanderer to protect the people of Japan during an era of painful rebirth.

Watsuki wrote this series upon his desire of making a shonen manga different from the other ones that were published in that time, with Kenshin being a former assassin who struggles with what he has done in his previous incarnation, and the story taking a more serious tone as it continued. I loved Ruruoni, a story about finding forgiveness and redemption wrapped in a incisive historical critique of post-Edo Japan.

13. Haikara-san ga Tōru (Fashionable Girl This Way Comes) 窈窕淑女 / Yokohama Monogatari (Yokohama Story) 横滨故事 by Yamato Waki

Yamato Waki is one of the early dames of shoujo manga, and her Haikara-san ga Tōru won the first ever Kodansha Award (the Oscars of mangas) in the shoujo manga category. She’s been retired since the late 90s, but she left behind a collection of works that remain brilliant and timeless. She loves Japanese cultural history, and her speciality is chronicling the fictional lives of girls in important time periods in Japanese history.

Haikara-san ga Tōru tells the story of Benio, a tomboy in 1920s Japan (the Taisho period), and her funny, sweet, and poignant journey to adulthood. The story takes us from Tokyo to Manchuria and back again, finally culminating in the Great Kanto Earthquake, where Benio and her true love Shinobu finds their way back to each other. I freaking love this story to death – it’s sweeping romance and hilarious antics counter-balance and create a story that transcends all barriers.

Yamato continued to develop her craft, and her Yokohama Monogatari is also a masterpiece coming-of-age story set in the Meiji period of two best friends who take diverging yet equally monumental paths in life. The journey of Mariko, the rich princess with pride and determination, and Uno, her best friend/servant, from Yokohama to London and San Francisco, respectively, in a time of great cultural change was brilliantly brought to life. Both girls have sweeping love stories that are just romantic beyond belief.

14. Sora wa Akai Kawa no Hotori (Red River, also known as Anatolia Story) / Yami no Purple Eye (Purple Eyes in the Dark) 魔影紫光 by Shinohara Chie

Shinohara Chie’s niche in shoujo manga is in combining the supernatural with the sweeping romance. Her Yami no Purple Eye won her a Kodansha Award, and was one of the first mangas I read and couldn’t stop re-reading and actually had dreams about. The story is about a girl named Michiko who turns sixteen and discovers to her horror that she is a shapeshifter who turns into a spotted leopard. She has a loving human boyfriend, but she is being hunted by an increasingly deranged scientist who wants to expose her secret to validate her crazy father’s life long work.

The story is split into two parts, with Michiko meeting another fellow shapeshifter who has the ability to turn into a black panther, and she ends up pregnant with his child. Their baby is a rarity in the shapeshifting world, coming from the union of two shapeshifters, and the daughter’s story is revealed in the second half of the series. Yami is exhilirating, dark, and emotional, with the supernatural used to emphasize how how those with powers long for normalcy and a life lived with purpose and hope.

I’ve enjoyed all of Shinohara’s works, including her twin saga Umi no Yami, Tsuki no Kage about two twins who get infected with a virus that gives them the power to levitate and pass through solid objects and they turn against each other for the love of one guy, and her forbidden love saga Aoi no Fuuin about a demon and her demon hunter who fall in love with each other.

But it was with Red River that she once again reached new heights in her storytelling. Red River is the successor to Ouke no Monshou in the time-travel genre, and tells of a teeange girl who finds herself transported back to ancient Anatolia. Unlike Ouke, the heroine Yuri is not a damsel in distress, but instead becomes a young warrior who ends up staying in the past, marrying the King, and becoming a part of fictional history.

15. Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac) 聖闘士星矢 by Kuromada Masami

A classic 80s shonen manga that spawned legions of toys across all of Asia and likely made kids learn about Greek mythology when otherwise no one would know the difference between Hera and Athena. The story is about five mystical young men destined to become warriors, the “Saints” (or “Knights”), who fight wearing sacred armored clothes, the designs of which derive from the various constellations the characters have adopted as their destined guardian symbols.

The Saints are sworned to defend the reincarnation of the Greek goddess Athena in her battle against the other Olympian gods who want to dominate Earth. Like Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya is as series of challenges and battles that bring our five protagonists against increasingly more powerful enemies. It’s a great series that has all the hallmarks of shonen manga but manages to tell an interesting and and creative story about redemption, hope, and courage.

16. Kimagure Orange Road 古靈精怪 by Matsumoto Izumi

A wonderful teenage romance-meets-fantasy manga, Orange Road started off light and fluffly and got progressively more intricate and emotionally riveting. It’s a high school coming-of-age story anchored by a love triangle between the main character, an indecisive high school boy with supernatural powers named Kyosuke, Madoka, a mercurial and enigmatic girl with whom he falls in love at first glance, and Hikaru, Madoka’s ditzy and energetic best friend who loves Kyosuke. The story is surprisingly sophisticated and tender, and I find myself able to re-read it years later and derive the same enjoyment and pleasure.

17. Waltz wa Shiroi de Dress (Waltz in a White Dress) /Magnolia Waltz 白木蘭円舞曲 by Saito Chiho

I have a love-hate relationship with Saito Chiho. She is one of the best artists around with her illustrative technique (god, are her guys and girls gorgeous), but her stories are flimsy and inconsistent fare that almost never sustain the beauty of her artwork (I view Yuu Watase the same way, except Saito is a much better illustrator). The one exception is her Waltz series, though this story only reaches the heights of greatness because she elected to make it a series instead of ending it at the end of Waltz in a White Dress.

Waltz is set in the Meiji period where a young girl named Koto, who aspires to be a fashion designer, instead finds herself bumping up against the strictures of her era. She finds herself reluctantly engaged to a seemingly cold young lieutenant Masaomi, whom she has known since childhood, but falls into a torrid love affair with a British commander named Aster, who is half Indian. When it seems that Aster has died, Koto marries Masaomi, and on their wedding night Astor reappears and asks her to elope with him. While it appears that Masaomi will fight Astor to keep Koto by his side, in the end Masaomi lets Koto leave on a steamer bound for Shanghai with Astor. He loves her, but having been diagnosed with leukemia, he wants her to find her happiness with a man who doesn’t have a death sentence looming.

I was really really pissed with the ending of Waltz in a White Dress, because I totally shipped Koto with her woobie husband, who I knew totally loved her but couldn’t show it because Astor got in the way. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one, because Chiho Saito decided the continue her story, following Koto and Astor to Shanghai where she bore him a baby boy. But Astor was involved with the movement for Indian independence from its British colonial masters back in India, and he leaves Koto to head to India to head the movement.

Koto meets up again with Masaomi, to whom she is still legally married, and he knows that she’s had a baby with Astor. Under orders from the Japanese goverment to assist in the Indian independence movement, Masaomi accompanies Koto to India, and their relationship continues its slow burn where he keeps her at bay so that she doesn’t discover that he still loves her. When they reach India and manage to reunite with Astor, at a final rally, Astor is mortally wounded and dies. Masaomi manages to safely get Koto and the baby on a ship back to Shanghai and coaxes her to not give up her life for the sake of her baby and those who need her.

Koto opens a dress shop in Shanghai and goes through the motions until she hears that Masaomi has been sent to Manchuria for a tour of duty. Masaomi’s older brother, who is also good friends with Koto, finally reveals to her that Masaomi requested the assignment to get away from Koto, and that he is dying of leukemia, and he knew it when he decided to let her elope with Astor. Koto heads to Manchuria with the idea that she wants to take care of him, but discovers that her heart didn’t die when Astor died, and that she was always in love with both men.

The couple have this amazingly romantic reconcilation in the snowy plains of Manchuria, and Koto manages to convince Masaomi to end his military career and return to Shanghai with her. His older brother welcomes them back, and realizes with joy that the couple have reconciled. The story jumps forward 8 years to the end of World War II, and we see that Koto had another son with Masaomi before he passed away, and has since become a successful designer raising her two sons alone.

Her two sons from the two men she loved realize that their beloved mother has another chance at love, with Masaomi’s older brother who has always been by her side since she was a child and before she married Masaomi and before she eloped with Astor. Waltz is one of the most romantic shoujo mangas I have ever read (both guys get the girl!), and is ripe for a drama adapation if ever there was one.

18. Kanata Kara 彼方から (From Far Away) by Hikawa Kyoko

Of all the time-travel mangas (since Ouke no Monshou originated this sub-genre), Kanata Kara shares the crown as my favorite along with Inuyasha. It’s effortlessly brisk, a story told with a beginning, middle, and end that all make sense, and the illustrations are gorgeous. It tells of a high school girl Noriko, who falls into a strange world where she has become the Awakening that is the source of great fear and power. Legend foretells that when the Awakening arrives in their world, the Sky Monster will be awakened and destroy civilization.

Noriko meets a solitary warrior named Izark, and accompanies him. Unbeknowst to her, Izark is on a quest to change his fate by trying to kill the Awakening only to find out that the Awakening is Noriko. They travel together and Noriko learns the language of this new world, and Izark tries to figure out what to do with her, and with his awakening demon powers. It’s a battle between good and evil, and a love that transcends time. The entire manga is well-plotted and touching, and I loved every page of it.

19. Tokimeki Tonight (Exciting Tonight) by Ikeno Koki

Imagine if Itazura na Kiss had fantasy elements, and voila, you will find its predecessor Tokimeki Tonight. Ranze, a not-very-bright high school girl, is in love with Shun, the cutest boy in school, who is cold and dismissive of her. Except Ranze isn’t quite your average girl, for she comes from a supernatural family with a vampire father, a werewolf mother, and a werewolf little brother. Ranze herself has the ability to shapeshift into anything she bites.

The story started off cute and little girl like, but quickly ramped up its mythology and epic multi-verse lore, bringing the story of Ranze and Shun not just about unrequited high school love, but about a reincarnated pair of love-crossed lovers in a fantasy world. Ikeno continues her story from Ranze and Shun, to Ranze’s younger brother’s story with the girl he loves, and finally to the love stories of Ranze and Shun’s son and daughter with their respective OTPs.

I think Tokimeki Tonight is adorable and always a fun read, even if I like certain of the story segments better than others. It’s a classic shoujo manga that may be somewhat simplistic in delivery, but nevertheless tells a great story and has a lot of heart and sweetness.

My Final Thoughts:

I’m very picky about my mangas, moreso than I am about my dramas actually. Dramas and the television medium can become outdated quickly, even though there are genuine masterpieces that can transcend technological advances because the story is so solid. Mangas and the written medium (including of course novels) don’t have that constraint. The ability to hand draw an illustration is the same today as it was sixty years ago when mangas first took off in Japan. Which is why I hold manga writers of this generation up to the same standards as their predecessors, and most of the newcomers fall so woefully short it’s hurts me to read them.

The mangas I recommend are all as readable today as the day I read them, because the story within is constructed with care and consideration. Reading these mangas, and many more, helped expand my horizons and build my understanding of storytelling. This list is by no means exhaustive, and reflects only my taste amongst the hundreds of mangas I’ve read. Have fun reading if you decide to check any of them out.


A Koala’s Guide to the Best Japanese Mangas — 105 Comments

  1. I love Inuyasha, and weird enough I didn’t dislike the poor Kikyou like some disliked.

    I also love dragon ball and Yu yu Hakusho (I looove Kurama! And Hiei and Yusuke lol XD), it marked my childhood.

    I also like Ranma! So funny ^^

    Ruruoni Kenshin was a mangá very interesting, how come a samurai be like that, I was so involved with Kenshin’s character 🙂

    The others one I confess I heard but didn’t check…

  2. i spent more time watching wuxia than i did reading mangas as a kid. but i have to confess that i have an undying love for Doraemon & Chibi Maruko. i learned how to read because i wanted to read the first so badly.
    and when i did get into this stuff later on, it was mostly through anime rather than mangas (Sailor Moon, Kenshin, FY, Ranma 1/2 etc.). can’t say i’ve read or watched as extensive a collection as most fans but my favorite shoujo is Fruits Basket. i have a thing for light fluffy stuff but with enough dark emo undertone 😛 some of the stuff you mentioned sound awesome though. like the last one… i also have a thing for time/space travel epicness. 12 Kingdoms did the job for me better than FY ever did. But 12K also lacked an OTP >_<. will have to check ur recs out!

  3. My fav is kanata kara.I fell in love with izark and noriko.their character is loveable.norika is ideal girl for me.she is strong in her way not that oh I’m week please save.illustration so good..izark makes me want a hubby like him.since kanata kara noriko becomes my fave mangaka,had all her manga.sadly I hardly find her new work since then.I like inuyasha,rounin kenshin too.idk if its me but nowadays manga is not as great as it used to be like the time kanata kara,inuyasha and kenshin time,so thats why I hardly read manga anymore.

    • kanata kara is my fav too!! ^^
      hikawa san already made other mangas after kanata kara… otogi moyou ayanashiki. have you read it?
      but still,, kanata kara & miriam is the best mangas of hikawa san.. 🙂

    • kanata kara is my fav too!! ^^
      hikawa san already made other mangas after kanata kara… otogi moyou ayanashiki. have you read it?
      but still,, kanata kara & miriam are the best mangas of hikawa san.. 🙂

  4. wow – what a nice surprise to see the topic of manga appeared!! thanks for sharing~

    I would say for more recent manga, I personally love:
    1. Slam Dunk – one of my all-time favorate
    2. ヒカルの碁
    3. Inuyasha
    4. Bakuman (still ongoing)

    I still find manga the most creative medium since it’s only bounded by the manga writers’ imagination. When I find dramas keep on repeating themselves I would still turn to manga to appreciate creativity and very often, story-telling skills.

  5. Wow, indeed a breath-taking list, koala. I can see how many mangas you have read all your life reading this, making me so reluctant call myself a passionate outaku which I thought I was (embarrassed). Touch and Basara are definitely my all-time favorites. I love Touch (and almost all Adachi’s works) for its quiet subtlety, unique humor and its youthful story about dreams and love. And I heart Basara for it epic war chronicle with all the indescribable pain, love, hatred, revenge, forgiveness and its unbelievable wide range of gorgeous characters, boys and girls alike. I can talk about Basara for days, but in short, Shuri and Sarasa couple perhaps will forever top my list of the most memorable and admirable love stories ever told in any forms of art.

    By the way, you made a little mistake with Shuri’s identity. He IS the Red King, the youngest of four Kings, who killed Sarasa’s twin brother and who vowed to kill the “fake Tatara” for murdering his beloved cousin, Shido. I still get a great thrill thinking about their crossed destinies, and still remember clearly the amazing feeling run through my body the first time I realized Shuri WAS the Red King.

    • Hi Blue Lily, I fixed it! Totally a typo, I meant to say Shuri is the youngest son of the Golden Emperor, and he is called the Red King (which we know along with the Blue King, the White King, and the Black King make up the Emperor’s four children).

      I love mangas~ If you love Basara, you MUST read Tamura’s 7 Seeds. There is a developing love triangle in 7 Seeds that has me dying from the angst and I can’t figure out which ship I board.

      • 7 seeds are on their ways to my computer ^o^. Will share with you my thoughts on it soon.

  6. I love Adachi too! Thanks for this post, it reminds me that I have to catch up with my manga reading 🙁 So much good manga to read. I didn’t like Yu Yu Hakusho or Inuyasha very much though. I don’t get the hype.

  7. Hmmm never owned one manga in my life cause everything is on CD and in English SUB LOL :-D, yeah while you all enjoyed your childhood with fun comic books I was reading classics and mind blowing books that’s why I’m having a late childhood fun run at my age. I read Wuthering heights, Little Women, Jayne Eyre, The God Father, Sidney Sheldon etc. but I had sweet valley twins and sweet valley high, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Narnia before it became a movie, yup I’m very westernized, but what I love about Asian readings are the arts of fine drawings, just recently I watched fushigi yugi and yup some did bore me but I really love the humor on that cartoon, I am a forever lover of Sailor Moon and I fell for Mamuro, but when I was young my cartoons were carebears, she-rah, Bio-man all that stuff….I’m a martial arts fanatic I love Bio-man and Shaider lame so lame….but hey I was a kid. So turning to classic was an extreme turn around….it stretched my brains a little. LOL 😀

    • I don’t think reading mangas during childhood is exclusive of reading Western classics. I did both, and a love of reading was the only link. ^__^

      • Yeah well too bad my mom only knew classics and man manga were not a thing with my friends back then if i could turn back time now I’m stuck with business books ahaha….yeah sad 🙁 So can’t help if I play dummy sometime to rest mt head…light reading I may say Archie and Veronica or Casper type of thing 😀 But I’ll check the racks for mangas one of these days….thanks!

  8. Oh how I love you. When I first asked you for a list, I never expected you to write a long, detailed post about your favorite mangas! But I’m so glad you did because I was able to read about mangas that I’ve never read. That would be about 90% of what you listed. In middle school, I read whatever I could find at a Borders or Barnes and Nobles, and usually would read the huge stash of mangas my friend bought and hid in suitcases under her bed. [She later gave them all away after suddenly claiming that she didn’t like them as much anymore. I don’t know why. 🙁 ] My first manga was Marmalade Boy and then I watched Fruits Basket which turned me into an addict for a few years. Anyway, I guess TV took over and I stopped reading them. Now I have an excuse to pick it up again! I don’t think they sell the older ones nearby but there’s always amazon if I need it. Thanks for writing this up, jie jie! Reading this while eating 85 Degrees bread is a great start to my day! <3

  9. I relived my whole 3 decades of my life just now…
    I’m not half as prolific a manga reader since college when it’s harder to horde it and move it fr one rental to another and I keep going back to my oldies but goodies. And 90% of your list, it’s in my emergency box of treasure I’ll grab when disaster strikes.
    The only thing different is HK TV have everything under the sun playing in afterschool hours since my kindergarten days and I will go back and read the manga when I’m old enough. Hence my CandyCandy Dr. Slump, Astro Boy manga inaugurations as toddler. Urusei Yatsura, Saint Seiya(and Creamy Mami, Galaxy Express 999, Queen Millennia…) in grade school. Touch (And I love Rough the manga more), Maison Ikkoku, Orange Road (which I still rem most fondly as artistically gorgeous), Yuyu Hakusho, City Hunter….in high school and so on. My first mecha is Golden Warrior Gold Lightan. I’m blown away by Neon Genesis Evangelion, I’m a fan of Patlabor and Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Slam Dunk is a newer sports shonen I <3, but nth is touching my Adachi Mitsuru love. My favoritest manga writer is still Takahashi. Hmmm, I realize my absolute loves ar not too shoujo.

    ahhh those were the days. I had a year in grade 9 when the TV stations has Touch followed by Orange Road, Legend of Galactic Heroes and Patlabor in a competing station. City Hunter, ShinChan, Ranma at night. and I was at the peak of my manga addiction, I rem catching up and reading Glass no Kamen.

  10. I’m a major manga addict myself and you even have some of my faves there.
    I read a lot of Rumiko Takahashi works in my teens not only the ones you listed but also one pound gospel.
    But my all time favorite has to be Naoko Takeuchis Sailor Moon, I loved the manga and anime. The anime especially brings out my childhood memories.
    Ai Yazawa is another mangaka whom I started reading and Paradise Kiss and Nana are both great mangas. A lot of people dislike the end to parakiss but I felt it was the right way to end it.
    These days I enjoy Yotsuba to by Kiyohiko Azuma, it has a simple story but it’s so hilarious. Fruits basket is another favorite.
    I started on from far away but haven’t had the time to finish that one yet.

  11. Glass no Kamen <3 <3 <3
    It's such a shame that the author's so slow to release every new chapter/volume. I really want to see the Masumi/Maya relationship develop *cries angrily*
    There is a j-drama version of this manga, that is actually not so bad – for a j-drama, I mean. Still a tad bit over the top, especially in its depiction of the plays seen throughout the plot, but still, the season 2 made me melt for Maya and Masumi – YES, despite the age difference!
    Inuyasha, Red River and City Hunter are not too bad either, though.

  12. Hi, does anyone know what happened to the story of the swan (the first of two pics at the very top of this blog post) that was published by margaret comics? I only have the first book and I wanted to know what happens to the main character. I wonder if she ends up with the teacher… thx.

    • Buh? You only have the first book, and you want to know how it all ends? Swan is 21 volumes of kick-ass ballet and competition and performances. You haven’t even met the main male lead, who doesn’t show up until book 5 I believe.

      Well, if you must know, her teacher is just her teacher, and actually it’s alluded that he ends up with Lilliana, Masumi’s biggest rival.

      Masumi and Leonhardt are partners through it all, even though she has a torrid love affair in NY that, uhm, doesn’t end well. But in the very end, she’s found her calling again as a ballerina and ends up with Leon. Sigh, so perfect.

      • although i appreciate u replying, the truth is, i don’t have access to getting more of the manga, which is why I asked and am now sorry that i did here.

      • You don’t have to feel bad about asking. It’s just hard to explain the story since you’ve only read book 1 and there is 20 more books of plot.

        I could have just answered your question literally – that she didn’t end up with the teacher – which doesn’t really have any meaning unless you understand the greater plot of the entire story is all.

  13. I’ll admit I haven’t read most of the manga you cite here — though I have been meaning to read City Hunter for a while now — because I’ve always skewed more towards shounen manga than shoujo. My forays into shoujo manga have been short, and more often than not, have me banging my head against the wall, so maybe I haven’t been reading the right things. Funny, though, because I’ve been reading romance novels for much longer. (I blame irresponsible relatives for that one; I was an obsessive reader, and you shouldn’t just leave your Nora Roberts books lying around. Thankfully, I’ve graduated past that and moved on to better authors, but I’ll be a romance reader for life.) A few titles do stand out, though. Kimi ni Todoke, Koukou Debut, and Ouran High School Host Club are all lovely; Mars is haunting, and has galvanized me into writing fic. Kare Kano was lovely while it actually dealt with the main characters and their various issues, and not so much when the author seemingly forgot about them and wandered off into tangential subplots that went on forever.

    I’m all over the shounen, though: I followed Inuyasha to the bitter end, I read Ranma 1/2 over a weekend, I’ll forever be in love with Kenshin, Naruto is my security blanket, I’ve written term papers on Bleach (and it doesn’t help that many of the male characters therein get their clothes blown off in combat just as often as their female counterparts do!) and Death Note, I love D.Gray Man for it’s ridiculous villains (who are far more lovable than the good guys, imo), Soul Eater resonates with the Tim Burton fangirl in me, and Claymore is wonderful.

    The best manga I’ve ever read, though, shoujo or shounen, would probably be Full Metal Alchemist. As I wrote to a friend a while ago: “[It] tackled things like genocide, racism, GIANT GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACIES OF DOOM, revenge, love, sacrifice, and the true measure of a human, and did it all with amazing sensitivity and it never felt preachy or ham-fisted. And people wonder why all of FMA’s fans are rabid.”

    • It sounds like you definitely skew more shonen than my preferences, since the shonen I like tend to appeal to both genders almost equally. I will definitely check out some of the recs that I’ve been meaning to read, like Ouran Host Club and Full Metal Alchemist.

      I am also an unashamed romance novel reader, and I stash my boxes of romance novels in the closet, to be unearthed. My husband named my Kindle “____ Romance Bookmobile” since it’s the perfect reading device for the guilty pleasure.

      I’m not a NR fan, but I adore old school Judith McNaught.

      Most shoujo is bile, and the amount of crap is increasing exponentially. But for your preferences, I highly rec Basara and 7 Seeds, which will mitigate some of the wall banging tendencies from your previous shoujo reading experiences.

      • The Kindle really is the best place to stash all my guilty reading pleasures; I mean, it is unfair that such a large section of literature is branded foolish and frivolous, and the fact that I am rather peeved about that doesn’t mean I want to get caught reading something with a cover that screams “Orgasm in Pink, now with 80% more Fabio”. I’m not much of a NR fan, either, though I’ll gladly buy anything that has Jenny Crusie, Laura Kinsale, or Julia Quinn written on it. (The Shadow and the Star, by Kinsale, is, quite possibly, my favorite romance novel of all time. Ninjas! Victorian England! More Ninjas! The author describes the book as, “Victorian-miss-meets-American-ninja romance,” and it is brilliant.) Do you hang out at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books? It’s a great place.

        I’ve been meaning to check Basara out for years now, and somehow just never got around to it. I need to get on that. Full Metal Alchemist is amazing. Astoundingly amazing, impeccably plotted, and populated by characters I love or love to hate.

        By the way, I’d read your post on the upcoming Hunger Games movies, and I finally read the trilogy over spring break. I liked the first two books immensely, but the third? I understand that the characters have been through some very traumatic situations and the cartloads of neuroses and psychological trauma they’re toting around would need to manifest themselves somewhere…but it makes no narrative sense whatsoever to have your main character plunging to the depths of despair ever other page. I really went from adoring Katniss to kind of wanting to smack her. There are better ways to handle characters with psychological issues and still build narrative tension, even when events are now moving on a much larger scale. I hated the ending; it was rushed, flat and tritely and unconvincingly ended a love triangle that wasn’t even necessary in first place, and that destroyed a wonderful friendship. Seriously–Katniss and Gale’s friendship? So wonderful it nearly made me cry a few times. When Collin’s tore that down with some misdirected, badly construed romantic tension? I WANTED TO CUT A BITCH.

      • Haha, Javabeans read romance novels, too, and I got the Smart Bitches site from her years ago. ^__^

        Okay, I have no problen with Collins creating a love triangle in book 2, because I always suspected it was inevitable (as they got older), even if I was completely 1oo% madly in love with the pure friendship/partnership between Gale and Katniss.

        What I despised about Book 3 was everything you wrote. EVERYTHING that Collins built up in the first two books in terms of character development and plot consistency and logic she shredded to pieces in Mockingjay, which is a mockery of her own creation.

        Gale was thrown to the wolves for the sake of resolving the love triangle, Katniss became Bella Swan (seriously, Collins gave a lesson on how to transform a kickass heroine into a whiny self-absorbed beyotch), and Peeta puttered to his conclusion that felt like it was some sort of consolation prize.

        Ugh. I still love the first two books, but the third left such a bad taste in my mouth.

        I haven’t read that Kinsale book, so will add it to my Kindle tonight. Btw, one of my fave’s is As You Desire by Connie Brockway. Utter pure perfection of a RN.

      • You are right about Mockingjay being a mockery of what made the first two books so good. I understand what Collins was getting at — I get the anti-war themes, I get that certain parallels had to happen, that certain plot threads needed to be picked up again. I appreciate the recurring symbols of hunger and hunting and healing and song and bread and fire that wove in and out of the narrative of the first two books, because that shit got ridiculously heavy-handed in the third.

        The fact remains, though, that I came out of this last book angry. I don’t know what it was, exactly. Gale’s character assassination, in which he devolves into an amoral killer of innocents? How Katniss can’t bring herself to forgive him, even though he played no active part in Prim’s death? Katniss’ descent into mindless, drug-induced hazes, that permeated more that half the book? The way Peeta just pops back into 12 at the end, as if to say, “Remember the first half of the book when Peeta was forced to watch people he knows get tortured to death, and then brainwashed? And the latter half, in which Peeta was deranged, psychotic and out to kill Katniss? Lol, j/k, he’s back to being the stable one in the relationship again”? All of the above?

        The narrative really only came alive for me for transient bits, and they’re few and far between: Haymitch and Katniss’s first conversation; Prim and Katniss snuggling in the bunker; Boggs sighing while getting his armor covered in vomit, and then later telling Katniss that she’d more than earned a long, happy life; Annie and Finnick’s reunion; Johanna and Katniss’ reluctant friendship. I couldn’t immerse myself in this book: the pacing was too erratic, the situations too contrived, the message too heavy-handed. I get that the victory at the end was a horribly pyrrhic one. Collins was out to prove to us that there’s nothing glorious about war. I know the epilogue was meant to show us that the sacrifices had not been made in vain, that there was indeed a better world for children in the making. I understand all of that. I wish the execution, though, wasn’t so horribly sloppy.

        Also, I just looked up As You Desire on Amazon, and can I say, worst official blurb ever? Thank God for user reviews. I think I’ll get it; I’m a sucker for best friend romances. Hee.

      • As You Desire is fucking amazing as far as RN goes – delightfully witty, intelligent, thoughtful, and romantic. I loved both the hero and heroine equally, separate and apart from each other.

        One of the most unforgettable moments in AYD is when the hero “describes” the heroine. You’ll know what I mean when you get there. Heard it’s just been released on Kindle, so get on it, girlfriend!

        Mockingjay – I have nothing more to add to everything you said better than I could have said. The novel read like bad fanfiction, and I couldn’t figure out WTF Collins was smoking when she wrote it. As opposed to Pullman’s final book of his HDM trilogy The Amber Spyglass, which does succeed in pulling all the anti-war, anti-organized religion, pro-naturalistic and humanistic themes from the first two books and then brings it all home and made me weep buckets of tears from the happy and the sad.

        When I finished Mockingjay I threw the book down in disgust. Anger as well, but more a sense of betrayal. All three leads got shafted, but Gale’s character assasination made zero sense narratively as well. I always thought he would and should have died. Prim dying also made no narrative sense, purely shock value only, Collins’ wielding her mighty pen to inflict added pain when her point had come across already when Finnick died.

        Anyways, I can’t believe I’m still angling for the movies like a stupid kicked dog back begging for a bone.

      • Oh, I haven’t read The Amber Spyglass yet; I read the first two over a two-day frenzy, and then I got to the bit where Mary was hanging out with those elephantine creatures on wheels and got dreadfully bored. I get that they’re a metaphor for peoples who are naturalistic and in-tune with themselves — as opposed to the bears under Iofur, who where cracking under an insidious colonial influence and denying their true natures — but they were part of the reason the novel got horrifically slow. I’ll pick it up again once I’m home from college, because I’m eager to see what Pullman does with the Authority and the up-ending of Lord Asriel’s villain status. (Also, gay angels. Just, gay angels. I love Phillip Pullman. If any books can be called the anti-Narnia books, it’s these, and I love them. C. S. Lewis gave me a toothache with his preaching, and when he denied Susan entrance to heaven because she dared to grow up and embrace her sexuality — well, then. He and I were finished, no matter how fond I was of Puddleglum, from The Silver Chair.)

        You’re right about Gale. He should have died, never mind how much I lusted after him. (Hey, he was legal most of the time!) Gale was the archetypical rebel, who, in other times, in other books, is the young Bolshevik leading marches in Petrograd, or carrying out guerilla attacks against the Soviets with Ahmad Shah Massoud, or storming the Bastille, or screaming into a megaphone in Tahrir Square. At the end of the violence in Mokingjay, Gale should have died for the cause he’s believed in all his life. He shouldn’t have turned into the monster — one who was perfectly willing to massacre innocents, one who truly believed that the ends justified the means, one that believed in preemptive justice — that we found in the end. There was no redemption for him in the end, and that hurt.

        I’m trying to forget Mockingjay exists, honestly. I came out of it hating all of the characters (except Finnick, who is still totally alive and happy and in love and a brilliant father and a wonderful husband, damn it and you can’t convince me otherwise, and probably Boggs, who was lovely, and is still alive in my head!cannon as well). I dunno, I think I’ll go write fanfic or something to soothe my hurt. Bah.

        I got As You Desire. I’ll tear into it as soon as I finish with class readings; I’m going to need something to clear my head after that mess.

      • I never liked C.S. Lewis, which gave me the added bonus of never becoming disillusioned with his starchy moralizing in his latter books.

        Pullman’s anti-religion bent also gets a tad too much in The Amber Spyglass, but he’s so daring in tackling the subject matter I gave him a pass. Such as for the whole inane and monstrously boring subplot with Mary and the Mulefa.

        The last 30 or so pages of TAS were so perfect I simply couldn’t find the energy to really critique the final book since what was so perfect helped temper the not-so-perfect parts of the novel.

  14. I was so overwhelmed by your elaborated post that I forgot to say that I was surprised you didn’t mention Naoki Urasawa, who is one of the most excellent mangakas in history in my opinion. His mesmerizing masterpieces, as in “Monster” and “20th century boys” typically, can put any thrillers in shame.

    • He’s brilliant, I agree. I’ve glanced through his works, but my manga tastes do run more shoujo with a smattering of shonen, and I don’t do thrillers much.

      I did read a lot of fantasy/horror such as Bride of Deimos 悪魔の花嫁.

      Another sub-genre is the fantastic Spirit Warror Kajuku-O 孔雀王

      I haven’t been reading much in the last decade, since quality has dropped so precipitously. Been picking up more mangas lately.

      • Speaking of recent works, I remember you once said that you were following Skip Beat? This is the only one manga I’ve been reading due to lack of time. I loved it to bits, and still do, but I start to secretly hope that it should come to an end now because the story seems to wear so thin recently that sometimes I lost track of emotions and understanding. For God’s sake, Kyoko must admit her feelings to Ren, and Ren must solve whatever mental problems he has been suffering from very, very soon. I’m runing out of patience. Are you, ockoala?

      • I’ve run out patience for Skip Beat long ago. There was a stretch in the middle when Kyoko and Sho had it out and actually talked and tried to work through their issues that got me excited again, but for the most part I LOVE the concept, hate the execution of the story.

        I don’t like the writer’s tendency to drag and drag and drag, and then write circles around a subject.

  15. This was so much fun to read. I don’t know why but I felt like squealing when I saw this on the website. Manga was my first love and it’s so much fun to re-live it.

    Inuyasha I’ve never really finished that, I got fascinated with other things in the middle of reading it but I love it. (I’m from the generation that watched the anime on tv XD)

    From Far Away…I feel like re-reading it now (i’ve only read it twice so far) I adored that story. I was never bored while reading it. I can’t remember how I felt when I felt when reading but I devoured the manga and did no work whatsoever. Noriko and Izak was <3

    Rurouni Kenshin <3 that's all I have to say I loved that guy to pieces and it hurt my heart to read the volume that explained his past. Seriously one of my favourite shounen mangas (besides FullMetal Alchemist, D. Gray Man, Psyren and Bokurano…not sure if the last classifies and shounen…more like psychological)

    Saint Seiya YES! This is how I learned my greek mythology sadly. I freaking loved this manga (and the show)!…That's all i can say

    YuYu Hakusho…good times…I really can't remember much besides I enjoyed it…
    Swan…I borrowed wuite a few volumes from the library but they didn't have all the volumes….gets it's time to look for them

    Red River…if i'm not mistaken this one was never finished right? I think this was the reason I stayed away..

    7 Seeds…I wish I could read more of this series but I guess I just have to wait 😀

    As for the rest I guess I have to read them now (although I'll probably stay away from the Glass Mask and Dragon Ball)

    Side Note: Kind of an odd question but have you ever read Bokurano?

    • Red River finished a couple of years ago, so go ahead and read it if that was what was stopping you. I have not read Bokurano.

  16. I love manga! I’ve been reading it since I was in the 2nd grade; and now I’m almost thirty and still addicted. Candy Candy is my first manga. Unlike many fans of Candy Candy I knew, Terry is the least Candy’s love interest I like. I think it’s more about the hair, though ^^; and the fact that I love Anthony very, very much. I never interested in reading Glass no Kamen. Lots of my friends love it. Every time they talked about it, I simply sat and listen. I love Basara, but 7 Seeds gave me headache (I consider it the manga version of Lost).

    It’s hard to pick best manga for me. So many great manga I’ve read. I read mostly shonen and seinen. I read the current Big 3 (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece); though Naruto and Bleach are temporarily put in the closet (the first cause it’s getting annoying and the latter because my all time favorite manga character’s death). Recently, I’m reading supernatural manga: Mushishi, Natsume Yuujinchou, Selected Pandemonium, Waters, Tousei Gensou Hakubutsushi, etc.

    It’s easier to pick favorite mangaka. My faves are Urasawa Naoki, Adachi Mitsuru, and Usami Maki. I decide my favorite after I read at least three of their works.

    Do you read Nodame Cantabile? I think it’s one of the best Josei manga, and manga overall. And since you’re a fan of shojo, do you read Oresama Teacher and Dengeki Daisy? Other than Skip Beat, those are shojo manga I follow currently. All three of them have interesting and untypical heroine.

    • omg I’m with you on naruto! At first i loved naruto so much. It’s very addicting at first, but when naruto getting older and the storyline keep getting draggy, I has stop reading it.

  17. I’m defintiely with you on Swan, Miss Koala! It’s an absolutely wonderful read, but I have yet to finish it. The entire story is just so captivating.

  18. You do realize you’ve just described my childhood? Well, sorta. Here, we didn’t get mangas. Or rather, I assume we didn’t because when I was a kid, nobody I knew read them (only my cousin read comics…well, just one and it was Italian so).

    Anyhow, most of the mangas you mentioned were turned into animes and we did get those. I used to watch them pretty much everyday and omg, soooo good. \o/

    Only later, much later I found out that all the animes I used to watch were based off mangas and it was a revelation. I still didn’t get to buy many because they were hard to come by and my parents were meh about spending money on that kind of thing rather than, say, novels. Man, I feel like I wasted my childhood!

    Have you ever read/watched The Rose of Versailles? It was one of my favorites.

    BTW, I was seriously shocked when a friend lent me the last volume of Georgie! and I found out how it ended. OMG!

    • Georgie! OMG, I can’t list Georgie here because its such an incredible guilty pleasure. Did you know the manga was pretty racy, it has a *ahem* bed scene that definitely was not PG-13.

      How did the anime of Georgie end? Did Abel not die? Did she not have his baby? Did she not go back to Australia and find Arthur in the end? I’m pretty sure the anime must’ve been roses and rainbows. I cried buckets over the author offing Abel, since he was my fave character in the drama

      *woobie brother in love with his adopted sister, chases her to London, becomes ship architect and builds ship named Georgie for her, wahhhhhhh*

      I like The Rose of Versaille, but didn’t love it. If I loved it, the manga would be on this list since it’s such a classic.

      • I know it was racy -the anime also is- but the network that aired it here chopped it down so it was all fluffy and children-safe (!!). I may have seen a few racy scenes on YT a few years ago and the kid in me shrieked in embarrassment.

        I didn’t know Abel died for starters. As I said, the anime was so heavily edited the story was unrecognizable from the manga. IN the anime -the version aired here. I’m pretty sure other networks edited it in other ways- she did go to Australia and found Arthur. With the help of Abel, she saves him. And the three of them go back to Australia and live happily ever after. WTH? I mean, okay, fluffy and happy, I can get behind that, but can you imagine my face when I read the last volume of the manga? I was completely shocked, okay? Shocked and depressed. Abel was my favorite character!

        Re: The Rose of Versaille. I think I have to blame it for my love for bromances and for heroines that kick ass. ^^ There was the whole she’s-a-woman-but-has-to-act-like-a-man that fascinated me so much.

      • PS: I don’t remember anything about her being pregnant so I’m fairly sure -but not 100% positive- that the anime skipped that bit.

        I do remember being shocked reading the manga and going, “OMG SHE IS PREGNANT? IT’S ABEL’S BABY? OMGGGGGGGGGGGG!”

      • HOW Abel died was beyond traumatic for me. I mean, they got the pardon, they were ready to arrest the Duke, everyone had arrived at the execution site, everything should have been just fine. He saw his beloved Georgie coming for him – and then bam, bam, bam, and there went my heart, gut, and belief in unicorns.

        I can’t believe there are people out there who watched the anime version and who believed that Georgie went back to Australia with Abel and Arthur. And what, married both of them? No way, I knew one brother was going to die, I adored sweet Arthur but I kinda wanted him offed so that my dark and smolderly Abel would get his Georgie.

        But her baby boy she named Abel? Absolutely precious and the spitting image of his father. That mollified me somewhat. But…*is still bitter* LOL, witness no one ever talks about that lame-ass pansy Lowell. What a loser of a male lead. Ugh, Abel should have beat him to a pulp.

        I’m not a fan of cross-dressing mangas, TBH, so Rose of Versaille was just okay for me.

      • It was such a shock for me as well! I was coming back from a trip with all my classmates. We were on the bus, my friend goes, “hey, you want to read this?” and I did and cried, trying not to sob because hey, doing that in front a bunch of preteens and teenagers is just a terrible, terrible idea, but omg, I don’t think I’ve ever recovered. I had a crush on Abel, okay? It sounds stupid, I know…

        I never really liked Arthur. He was too…clingy? Whiny? Abel had my heart from the start. ^^ I mean, yes, Arthur was sweet, but Abel…oh Abel. See? SEE? I get all incoherent when I think of him and it’s been what? Over 20 years? FML

        Lowell! PFFFFT! ‘nough said!

      • If I could use any character as a floor mop, I would pick Lowell J. Grey. Hell, even his name makes him sound like the useless bugger he is.

        I totally crushed on Abel as well, hell, who didn’t? He was a bad boy, and totally loved Georgie from one end of the earth to the other. Arthur was too….self-sacrificing and a goody-two-shoes, and I never ship those character types even if in RL he’s the best choice of the bunch.

        Your friend gave you the book on a bus ride? HUGS, I can imagine the shock when you read the “real” ending of Georgie.

      • Okay, so you guys convinced me enough to pick up Georgie. I’m already up to chapter 11. it’s really good. very romantic. luv it so far. it sucks that abel dies though. whatever 🙁

  19. I am so glad you composed this list – manga was my very first foray into the Asian entertainment world. I moved from manga to anime to dramas, but I always remember that I started with manga. Several of those on your list are some of my favorites – Red River, Swan, Yu Yu Hakusho. (I wish I could finish Swan but I can’t find online scanlations anywhere, and I depend on those for manga-reading T.T). It’s interesting how the artwork trend has evolved from the ’rounded’, realistic look to the very angular, linear, impossibly pretty look that’s popular in shojo these days -if you read Ai Yazawa you’ll see what I’m babbling about, lol. Have you tried newer ones like Fruits Basket, Paradise Kiss, and Ooku? All of these have solid storylines with gorgeous artwork and memorable characters.

  20. (Second try posting as it seems the first one got swallowed up in a different dimension) Ockoala, you’re truly a jack-of-all-trades! Thought I was all alone in the manga/anime turned t-k-d-drama junkie boat. Guess not. Love your manga recomms! Some feel a little dated (mostly because of the art though… those giant, galaxy-like eyes!) as I was born really late in the 80s, but others others I have just LOVED to death, particularly Yuyu, Rurouni, Inuyasha and 7 Seeds. Remember scrimping on my measly allowance and learning Japanese on my own just so I could read these babies.
    Agree too that manga quality has declined as of late. There’s still a smattering of really good ones though, like Kaze Hikaru (art, story, backdrop, emotions all top-notch); some CLAMP works like XXXHolic (morbidly touching), Kobato (surprisingly heartfelt given CLAMP’s usual range of emotions), Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles (Card Captor takes on a darker veneer); Furuba (Fruits Basket) whose art and exposition literally sucks the breath out of you (who knew a story could be told in this manner?); and Nodame Cantabile (kitschy, funny, though the last couple of books are kinda.. deflating). As for Watase-sensei, not really a fan too, but her recent take on Fushigi Yuugi, Genbu Kaiden, is exceedingly better written (it actually delivers on the premise of the Four Gods, instead of FY’s crappy take on it), un-silly, and with a badass heroine (no sniveling Miaka here). And oh, have you read Kodomo no Omocha? For a manga about elementary-school kids and the crazy shenanigans they get into, it was very mature, and the emotions felt real. I felt like Obana-sensei really understood what kids go through, especially the troubled ones.
    Thanks for sharing the manga love 🙂 maybe next time you’d talk about animes too (i wish!)
    (And maybe I’m strange this way, but I LOVED and HATED Kikyo with equal fervor. How is that possible? Guess I have a thing for the tragic first love. I loved Tomoe in RK too.)

    • Hi Liesel,

      I don’t follow anime, and was never an ardent fan, since I prefer the manga medium. Unless a story is purely anime only – I was a mega-Robotech geek in the 80s.

      As for Genbu Kaiden – it’s the ONLY Yuu Watase manga I like, and I may even love it, if only she would continue writing and finish it. All the problems and lameness with Fushigi Yugi, Watase solved and then transcended herself in Genbu Kaiden. I hated all three leads in FY (especially Miaka – UGHUGHUGH, diediedie) , but love every single character in Genbu Kaiden. But then, I loathe her Ceres to the core of my soul, so I cannot in good faith believe Watase can truly do a good manga, Genbu Kaiden’s awesomeness notwithstanding.

      I’m not a fan of Nodame Cantabile, but did enjoy the live-drama adaptation. I’m reading La Corda D’oro right now, and while I like it more than Nodame (for the classical music sub-genre), it’s kinda meandering and something is missing but I can’t put my finger on it.

      My illustrative taste harkens back to the older style because that’s what I grew up on. 🙂

  21. I watched Candy Candy when I was a kid too. Always remember it as 小甜甜. Does anyone know where I can watch this series or where I can buy the DVD in Singapore?

  22. I am so, so happy that you’ve taken the time to write this piece!! Manga of manga, you’ll always be my first love! Although some may consider it lowbrow &/insubstantial when compared to novels, quality mangas (like those you’ve mentioned in the entry) are fantastic examples of well-woven stories. &above all, they make you *feel* so much don’t they?? I remember being 7 and bawling my eyes out after reading the last Candy Candy book. It was hard to accept that in the weeks to come, I’ll no longer get to ‘share her life’ and the finality of it all depresses me (still does. a bit).

    Also, really glad that you included Waki Yamato works cos she’s awesome possum!!! Her books contain that element of adventure and portrays such strong female characters.. Thinking back now, I really wonder what and how was the response to her books when it was first published in Japan (considering it’s dominantly patriarchal system). A series that is less well-known but I thoroughly enjoy not included in your entry is Flower’s City/Nemuranai Machi Kara (http://rawscansmanga.blogspot.com/2010/12/nemuranai-machi-kara-by-yamato-waki.html). Am not sure if you have in fact read it but if you have not, please do. I understand that everyone’s taste may vary but to me, this short series is such an undiscovered gem. Plot wise, it is not as epic as the other more popular Waki Yamato mangas but the story is so touching in it’s own way. Simple and lyrical almost.

    &&&on that note, how about Yu Asagiri?? Did you enjoy any that she produced? Her works are not particularly deep but damn they sure are entertaining. Seven Colours Magic (Nana no Iro Majikku), Alice no Jikan and Kon-na Panic are some of my favourites… Admittedly, I didn’t read some of her later mangas and it upsets me a bit that supposedly the more adult stuff she came up with in recent times are the stories she really wanted to write&she was ‘forced’ to write the shoujo manga earlier on T___T I guess being quite young when I read all her stuff, I want to continue to embrace the sort-of wistful, somewhat innocent and idealistic love depicted in her shoujo mangas.

    Reading this entry of yours made me so excited and kinda nostalgic. I used to have a lil book where I wrote down manga character names that I want God to let me meet after I die (I was young and imaginative so there!). It’s great to know that someone’s so passionate about all these manga too&I think I love you!! Thank youX100000000000

    • Hi Jun,

      I have mixed feelings about Yu Asagiri. I’ve read almost all her earlier works, of course her classic Nana no Iro Majikku and Ai Boy. Problem I have with her is the same problem I have with Miyuki Kitagawa – in almost every single manga they write, I second lead ship.

      While I liked Nana no Iro Majikku quite a lot, because I couldn’t stand the male lead (I hate sushine boy characters, and early Asagiri mangas are littered with these types of guys), it’s ultimately not a manga I have a deep connection with. Same thing happened to me in Kitagawa’s Princess Army – I was ultimately so freaking disappointed that Nonoko didn’t end up with Shinobu that I have never reread the manga after it finished.

      But I concur that Waki Yamato is a high priestess of manga, and I love how her manga’s are so humanistic and feminist and empowering. Her heroines are all trailblazers and pioneers and iconoclasts.

      • At the risk of sounding like a yes (wo)man, I myself dislike the sunshine boys-type characters too!! Specifically in Ai Boy and Nana no Iro Majikku.. The 2 main male leads in those 2 series came across as too playful and ‘kid-ish’ for me to find them attractive (&I’m probably in my early teens if not younger when I’m reading them). &I guess it does spoilt Ai Boy for me when Aiko chose the ‘silly’ Sho over ‘Kai’ (Whhhhhyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!).

        &ditto Princess Army.. I mean wow hot was Shinobu?? I always tend to champion the strong, quiet&smoldering male over the ‘open’, joker type. Ok, I did re-read some parts of Princess Army though (the scene where Shinobu was tending to her open wound&hugged her from the back. Kyaaa!!). For me, this one takes the cake for worst upset when Yuya got the girl but the supporting characters are so memorable, quirky and fun that regardless, Miyuki Kitagawa’s works will always have a soft spot in my heart.

        Btw, Mr Fredward’s Duck is a series that I’ve always been fond of (although it took me a while to get use to the illustrations) that veers a bit from my usual shoujo manga fix. The storyline is simply something else! It covers so many subject matters (family, love, life, death etc).. Sometimes I feel like despite how fantastical, dramatic&unrealistic the setting may be, I get to learn so much about the human condition from reading mangas&I’m all the better for it (my dad is likely to disagree).

        Thanks for taking the time to respond ^____^ ! You reminded me of my passion for manga which I have somewhat neglected for a while now. I spent some time last night going through some manga online although nothing beats the hard copy versions that I can hold on to… Back to watching 49Days now!!!

      • Damn it, woman, the mere mention of Kai and Shinobu gets me frothing at the mouth from years of anger I haven’t worked through yet.

        I knew Kai was getting shafted from the get go, as Asagiri has a preference for high-energy, no-discernable personality, happy boys, and then she draws brooding, intense, raw hot-as-hell second male leads specifically to spite me.

        It’s like – hey Koala, here’s Kai and B, oops, sorry, neither one will get their girl, psych~

        The case of Shinobu in Princess Army gave me a raging case of homicidal rage. He was utterly heart-breakingly (im)perfectly perfect, and so handsome he made my adolescent heart hurt just by looking at him. I have never hated a male manga lead as much as I hated Yuya (and his equally lame late-introduced twin – WTF was that all about Kitagawa-sensei?)

        The scene at the beach retreat where Shinobu and Nonoko *gasp* almost got it on was the sexiest thing my 15 year old self read up until then.

        *is forever bitter about PA*

      • Omg!!Omg!!! The beach retreat!!! Argh… I think my temperature still rises merely from thinking of the scene. Le sigh!!! I remember flipping it quite a number of times and being very jumpy in case my mum walked in&thought tt i’m reading smut (whoops).

        Asagiri definitely has a penchant for the outspoken types.. Must be personal preference cos I really just do NOT get it. Maybe she’s trying to encourage/brain wash young girls reading her manga to go for the guys who aren’t emotionally scarred.. You know how most females go through the ‘bad boy’ phase (and some never get past it).. So maybe in her own way she’s trying to steer her readers from that fate?? Am I pushing it a bit here?

        Interestingly enough I did a lil ‘research’ on her later works after I wrote to you and found out that her recent works are mainly yaoi.. Funny that. I should consult Freud and Jung.. Maybe they’d have some interesting explanations abt Asagiri’s psyche.. (Maybe I found me a thesis topic… NOT).

  23. 🙂 You inspired me to make a list too… I did not follow any shonen manga that much, so I have lot to catch up, good timing since I can’t find decent shoujo manga easily now, argh anime and manga quality keep declining T_T….

    So happy to see Kanata Kara and Tokemeki Tonight 🙂 I keep re-reading them every now and then.

  24. wow.. ockoala, we’re quite alike…
    glass of mask, candy-candy, inuyasha, rurouni kenshin, city hunter, yuyu hakusho, yokohama story & saint seiya were all my fav manga.
    i don’t like dragon ball ..
    and the others you mention, i haven’t read it…

    there’s three others that capturing my heart, which are:
    Bride of Deimos / Deimos no Hanayome / 悪魔の花嫁 (Japanese ) by Yuho Ashibe

    Minmin! by Asagiri Yuu

    Sentaro by Tsubasa Nunoura

    have you read it?

    • I love Bride of Deimos, and it’s such an awesome dark classic. I debated whether to add it to my list actually. But the ending sort of puttered to a conclusion.

      I didn’t like Min Min. Of all the earlier Asagiri works, I actually like Nana no Iro Majikku the best.

  25. Hey, just curious, but where did you find Swan? I’ve been looking around for it (since it totally matches my favorite manga genres), but I’ve never been able to find it :\

    I know the first 15 volumes have been released in English by CMX; unfortunately, they’ve dropped it since. I would really appreciate it if you could link me to a place where I could read it! It’s cool if it’s in Chinese as well. 🙂

  26. Candy Candy – If I start talking about Candy Candy itself, I will gush endlessly. I love it so much that I own two different Korean editions, the prose of which are slightly different with the later version using easier vocabularly (i.e. less poetic). And sent my mom to hunt down a Korean video store that transferred the anime onto video. And I personally know a woman who as a girl sang one Korean version of the anime theme. gyyaaaaaah (the sound of me restraining myself from gushing)!!!

    Swan – Too many decades have passed since I read this but I remember it inspiring me to draw my own ballet manga.

    Ranma 1/2 & Inuyasha – Awesome. Love. Ranma and Inuyasha remind me of my childhood friends. We were such stinkers. And so much fun.

    Rose of Versaille & the first 3-4 volumes of Orpheus’s Window (Orpheus no mado) – Someone mentioned RoV. Personally, I think the first three volumes of Orpheus’s Window mark the height of manga art. The frame/panel composition, the quality of the character illustrations, the whole shabang. Amazing. Then, it goes downhill really fast with the lush, fluid images becoming so hard, brittle, and stilted. It made me wonder if Riyoko Ikeda totally left and assigned some assistant to finish the remainder of the series. I’d still love to know the back story.

    I stopped reading manga after the 80s because I couldn’t take the new style of illustration.

    In light of the difficulties unfolding in Japan, I found myself thinking a lot about how much I love Japanese manga/anime and how my aesthetic, ethical, and romantic sensibilities were shaped by my favorite manga/anime: Candy Candy, Princess Knight, Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, Queen of Millennia, Rose of Versailles, Orpheus’s Window.

    Thanks for prompting an occasion to reflect on these formative influences.

  27. This list is amazing. Thank you for taking your time to tell us about each manga and why you enjoyed it. I have only read Basara and Anatolia Story. I love epics as you can tell 🙂 I don’t know if you’ve ever read this, but I also enjoyed Shin Angyo Onshi. That was actually one of the first manga/manhwas I ever read to completion. I used to read random mangas, but most of them didn’t catch my attention enough for me to want to continue them. I’ve started 7 seeds and am enjoying it! I can’t wait to get my hands on a lot of these mangas! *bookmarkspage*

  28. shonen manga: i really love takeshi obata’s work. From Hikaru no go to Death note. He always collaborate with someone beside him and he always amazed me.oh how I miss his work.

    Another my favourite mangaka’s for shonen genre is Urasawa Naoki.
    I’m freaking love his manga “Monster” and “20th century boys”. Such an epic storytelling! They are one of my all time fav. Manga.
    And Aoyama gosho who make detective conan.

    From shoujo: I love Ai Yazawa’s work. the most memorable manga i’ve been read from her so far was Nana. the relationship both of Nana’s character are very deep.

    Anotther my fav. Manga are piano no mori by Makoto Isshiki. Such an inspiration manga.

    I really love dragon ball. This manga is my first manga.

    • another my fav manga which are very hillarious: midori no hibi, and yakitate japan…! I swear laugh every 5 minutes reading them. Lmao…….

  29. That was quite a read! ^_^ Now I don’t know whether to pity myself that I consider mangas like Ouran and Hana Kimi as some of the best manga I’ve ever read, keke.

    I’m sure I watched Cat’s Eye when I was young… Was it 2002 or 2003? Ah, I can’t remember. (Maybe I’m just remembering something awfully similar)

  30. This entry totally AWSOME!!! It’s bring back my love for manga/anime. I’m a more shonen manga fan than shouju. To be honest I’m not sure if I’m a die-heart manga fan like you, because I have only a complete collection of Slam Dunk myself. The rest of the manga collection at home are my sis and they are shouju manga. haha… but I was the 1st person in my family to lead my sis and bro to read manga. But some of the titles you mentioned here I watched their anime and I’m in love to them. After reading this entry, I’m gonna start reading the rest of the titles that I never read before… haha…

  31. Actually i was born on 1979, and when i was 12th year old i read Candy candy 4 my 1st mangas…untill now i still safe my collection mangas such as SWAN,INUYASHA,CONAN, RURUONI KENSHIN (Meiji’s Romantic Swordsman)=Samurai X,Glass no Kamen (The Glass Mask ),Dragon Ball,Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac) and my hubby very surprise that i have and read all of it, bcs his fav mangas are RURUONI KENSHIN (Meiji’s Romantic Swordsman)=Samurai X,Dragon Ball,Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac) and he doesn’t know that i love to read mangas either like him. My Fav Mangas are CANDY CANDY and SWAN (i thought it was romantic mangas) and something came up in mind that i love to see to K-Drama adapt SWAN and see MOON GEUN YOUNG playing as a lead role, bcs i know see can dance ballet very well and off course JGS as her leadmale…hehehe….
    Thnk u captain 4 bring us such a wonderful memory as a child who love to read fantasy story.

  32. Such an interesting post. I’ve only been reading manga for a short while so I haven’t heard of most of these titles, or I’ve only watched them in their anime form, so it was interesting to see what older manga is like. Sounds like older shoujo is a lot more interesting than the newer ones, though there are those few that manage to stand out.

  33. Wow…you just listed 80% of my fave mangas… I agree that manga this day aren’t as good as back then….
    I think my manga preference is almost exactly the same with you ockoala, I skewed shoujo but sometimes I read shounen too.
    Mangas are my first love, intoduced by my dad….. (isn’t he awesome) when I fell in love with mangas it then start my quest to T-Drama, J-Drama and the K-Drama….
    But of the mangas you listed my Top fave are From Far Away, Dragon Ball (never got bored reading this)
    I read the first dozen of Glass Mask, but I dropped it since not becos it’s not good but becos I got tired waiting for the new edition ( I live in a country where there is a lot of manga published, but it takes a long time in between editions), back then I didn’t know that reading mangas can be done online (it was my brother that introduce me to online mangas). I’m technologically retarded that way….

    well…enough of this rambling of mine…All I want to say is that I love that u post about mangas :p

  34. your recommendations are the death of me >_< i dled Basara the anime to try it out and i'm like "omg, must have more!"
    i'm now banging my head because i've just spent over $300 on From Far Away & Red River. but i'm still banging it because Swan & Basara volumes are seemingly OOP and the few available options are NOT cheap.

  35. I agree with your recommendation of 7 seeds/ Basara- so good! I personally also loved Fruits Basket, which starts so silly and light but becomes so full of depth and heart-moving tales.

  36. Thank you SO SO MUCH for this post!!

    i didn’t started to read manga untill recent years, but some of the animes you mentioned… i kinda grew up with ^^ it brings back such pleasant childhood memories!
    so happy to learn their english title names! I can find them more easily on the net x)

    i’m rewatching kimagure Orange Road right now… too bad there aren’t any eps uploaded with the original Cantonese version (i don’t like the new Cantonese voices used…) so i’m watching in japanese with eng subs 🙂 but anyways…. i’m enjoying this sooo much, so once again: 謝謝你!

  37. You know what you should read? You should so totally read TOKYO CRAZY PARADISE!!!
    It’s the only manga which I’ve read multiple multiple times and everytime, it’s just as good. It’s got the sci fi, action, adventure, strong female lead, romance, comedy, EVERYTHING in it.
    It’s sooo good. So if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend that you read it 😀

    • Keishichou Tokuhanka 007 and Girl Queen are also 2 great mangas.
      Girl Queen’s plot is a bit all over the place and some parts are hard to understand, but I love the art!
      Both these mangas have awesome artwork.

  38. You are so freaking great!! I love all your recommendations and I’ve read some (though I wasn’t able to finish some). One of my favorites was InuYasha! I love his character. He’s so grouchy and all but he’s very cool.

    Of course, who wouldn’t know AstroBoy, Ruruoni Kenshin, Ranma 1/2, Dragon Ball and Yuyu Hakusho? I was quite intrigued with Waltz wa Shiroi de Dress, never head of it btw so I’m putting my faith on you.

    I wonder if you’ve ever read Summer’s Desire’s manga? I was told there was one. I just finished ParaKiss and will watch the movie adaptation. It’s nice but not really that great! Thanks for the other recommendations! 🙂

    • PS. I didn’t know Cat’s Eye and City Hunter had the same mangaka!! It should have been obvious. I am that dumb, I know.

  39. Me agree a LOT with You!!
    Nowadays manga is just like have no depth at all, and I miss my old manga sooo MUCH!

    byw, GnK’s story now make me frustrated!

  40. I agree with a lot of your choices….. I’m only 20 and I am surprised that most of the mangas I love were began a decade or so ago, even though I didn’t read mangas until I was like 15……

    From your choices, I love:
    Glass Mask – also the Jdrama
    Red River
    Akatsuki no Aria- from the other post
    Yu Yu Hakusho
    Rurouni Kenshin
    Dragon Ball
    Waltz wa Shirio de Dress
    Kanata Kara

    And I haven’t even read mangas since I started the Asian dramas a year ago because I found the new mangas stupid and lacking quality in giving the audience a deeper attachment with…. But from the way I see it, we have the same tastes and I might just have to read some of the mangas that you enjoyed as I might enjoy them too….

  41. wow, thank you so much for all these info! ^^
    my top faves (if I may share) are:

    1. Detective Conan
    2. Naruto
    3. Prince of Tennis
    4. Card Captor Sakura but I hated the Tsubasa Chronicles
    5. Kaitou St. Tail
    6. Magic Knight Rayearth


  42. I 100% agree with what you mean <3 I personally love older generation stories, they seem to have a way to whisp you into another world and have you connect to the story as a whole. All moments were memorable, the story flows like the river and gives you so much more than you bargain for. I'm a sucker for fantasy or adventure romance and thats where older generation manga shines <3 For them, once just isnt' enough. I think I read some of them like 5 times within like 3 years becuase I couldnt' get that feeling out of my mind.
    That pure geniune, innocent, straight foward way of story telling, simple goal yet sollid foundation to support entricate and enchanting storytelling feeling I get from these masterpieces X3 makes my heart feel tingly, warm and complete.

    I read a lot of the manga you listed here
    -Yu Yu Hakusho (all time childhood favourte with hunter x hunter XD )
    – Glass Mask ( best shoujo of all time period. )
    – Basara
    – Kanata Kara
    – Red River ( all 3 above are the best romance adventure/ fantasy I've ever read ^__^ guarentee to read at least more than 3 times XD)
    – Ranma 1/2 ( anime XD and manga his really hilarious <3)
    – Dragon Ball + Dr Slump ( no Doremon?! O_O)
    – Kenshin!
    -Candy Candy ( was pretty good =D I was quite fond of it but it was)
    – City Hunter ( one of my brother's favourite)
    I love them all X3
    except one ( Inuyasha =_= maybe im biased since i watch the anime till like maybe episode70 ish … i just couldnt' go on afterwards … its started to rub me the wrong way but I did take peak on the manga ending XD Maybe its how they commercialized that made me dislike it even more =\ )

    there are still a lot of titles I still didn't read yet =( regretably ( astro boy was my mother's favourite). I surprise you don't have The Rose of Versailles on your list , although i didn't read it, the anime was really tear jerking. There is a lot of old anime/manga that are treasures too =) I notice you didn't put a lot of seinen or shounen classics ( SLAM DUNK! or Fist of the North Star or Getta Robo) but thats alright =D

    Please dont' be sad, many of these masterpieces are still appreciated today ^__^ All time favourites too <3 Although I'm pretty old myself XD (21 cough*) They are like Ghilbi production to me X3 Masterpieces I can't compare with anything today. A totally different category on their own =D

    However, I do think there are good manga/anime that are slightly newer. Just different story telling and different charm… ( I quite like NGE, Ai Ren, Houshin Engi, Hikaru no Go, Serial Experiement Lain, Wolf's Rain). Times are changing as well as thoughts, what people value or appreciate will vary all the time. Manga/Anime created are reflection of the human mind/soul whether they may be optomistic hope or dark pestimistic. Its how they convey the feelings held within each piece and connect with the audience's heart that really matters =)

  43. Ockoala,
    Did you read Kanon also by Saitou Chiho?
    I read it but I have always been confused about one plot point and have been looking for people to ask ever since.

    —Contains Spoilers of Kanon—
    There was one scene before the fact that Mikami is her real father is revealed, where they were alone in this mansion and he carried her up the stairs and it looked like they were about to consummate their relationship. My question is DID they? The manga was a little unclear about that. If they really did… wow, it’s like REAL incest. This has been bothering me occasionally for a while now.

    Thank you!

    PS: Thanks for your recommendations. I fell in love with most of them.

    • O__O Buh? I’m not sure what version of Kanon you read…..but you are missing like 4 pages of book. Mikami and Kanon totally slept together, and it was steamy as all heck. Yeah, they had NO idea they were father-daughter (I mean, who the hell knew?!?!?). Not sure why the version you read had that section completely deleted. Kanon was such a messed up story. Ugh, me no like.

      • I was completely addicted to this manga back then that I couldn’t wait for the English scans. Despite my incapability to completely understand written Vietnamese, I somehow made it through the series. I guess they cut out some pages. Thank you very much Ockoala! Time to hit the raws!

  44. tokimeki tonight or named “throbbing tonight” in my country is one epic manga! without it, my primary school year wouldn’t be complete. xD

    as for me, my mangaka god and goddess are naoki urusawa (monster, 20th century boys, billy bat) and CLAMP (card captor sakura, xxx, tsubasa chronicle). earlier for the plot, the later for the artwork, but still, both have the both aspect that make me fell over them~ ^^

    • Urusawa Naoki has the realistic style in his artwork, and his manga is always need people to rack their brain. I think it’s safe to say that his manga is not Shoujo nor Shonen but Josei (adult) manga. And..oh, since you mentioned Tetsuwan Atom in the post above, I think you should check “Pluto”, miss K. It’s Urusawa adaptation toward Pluto chapter in Tetsuwan Atom, with his own style and so much depth. Love that story so much.

      As for CLAMP, I’ll recommend their works to everybody, yea, I’m a hardcore fans. Agree with you, CLAMP is the most awesome for the artwork, and to say their artwork will be a piece of art IMO isn’t an overstate. What I love the most about CLAMP is how the character speak with their eyes, and a simple gesture able to cover grand meaning. As for Ms.K, I’ll recommend xxxHOLiC since the other seem too cute for now^^*beware: no romantic relationship here*

  45. I LOOOVEE anatolia story and for me it was the greater story at time traveling compared to ouke no monshou. I might try out some of your recommendations 😀

  46. to tell you something!
    we share the same love for many many mangas!
    Many of your listed manga are actually my ALL TIME FAVORITE!
    Especially Glass Mask, Red River and Ouke no Monshou, Yu Yu Hakuso, Inuyasha and From Far Away~
    I’ve read many many manga so far, but none of them can be compared to those listed.
    These are considered classic in my opinion!
    They’re very well written, beautifully executed and drawns reader into the world of its perspective stories.

    I can’t stop spazzing about how much i love them.
    Reading them as a child sets such a high standard on manga and i’m also extremely picky of what to read.

  47. I very much agree with what you wrote in this post. My preferences are generally skewed towards the 80s and 90s mangas. Not only for the superb quality of artwork, the rich character and plot development, the cinematic feel; there is a sense of the characters growing on you and you living with them that you are left with a lingering feeling after you finish reading. These are some of the qualities which are hard to come by in today’s mangas, which capitalize – generically speaking – on “cute” damsel-in-distress female characters with extraordinarily large eyes. The old mangas have certainly pushed the boundaries in terms of what comic books are capable of. On a side note, it is understandable that Twilight – the likes of which are abundant in cheap shoujo mangas – can achieve such booming popularity in the West where mangas are less well-known.

    If I may add to your list, some of the old ones I like are: Seito Shokun by Shouji Youko, Sailor Moon (perhaps not so great in some aspects, but still holds a special place being one of the first mangas I read. The way Takeuchi Naoko depicts space and the galaxies still awes me), Niji no Natasha by Yamato Waki, Diva by Ono Hiromu, Lady Lynn by Hanabusa Youko, Amaterasu by Miuchi Suzue (seems to have been dropped, though), Towa Kamo Shirenai and Alpine Rose by Akaisha Michiyo, Orpheus no Mado and Eroica (sequel of Rose of Versailles) by Ikeda Riyoko, Miriam by Hikawa Kyouko.

    I haven’t read everything on your list, but I recently read Ouke no Monshou and just couldn’t get myself to continue reading after a few chapters. The style of artwork aside, the plot and characters are poorly developed. The romance, which is developed on one page, seems almost like a joke – adding to the constant kidnapping. Overall, Red River still delivers more impact on me.

    Of the new ones that I like are: Detective School Q and Detective Kindaichi by Amagi Seimaru and Satou Fumiya (always love a good detective story with well-thought cases rather than the slightly overrated Detective Conan), Death Note by Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi (of course!), Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden by Watase Yuu (even if you don’t really find Fushigi Yuugi much to your liking, don’t let it put you off from trying Genbu Kaiden! Watase-sensei’s artwork has since developed significantly. The plot and characters are very well-developed. The sense of vastness of the Four God Universe she manages to convey through this is amazing), Sakura Gari also by Watase Yuu (the level of attention to details is breathtaking. This intense and suspenseful manga is like a neat little piece, woven so perfectly together that if you take one piece off, everything will fall apart – definitely a masterpiece), Hanayori Dango by Kamio Youko, Nodame Cantabile by Ninomiya Tomoko (once you get pass the art style, everything is thoroughly enjoyable. It is just so unique, refreshing, uplifting, and inspiring. You’ve got to love that witty sense of humour! I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Ninomiya-sensei’s works).

  48. Wah! I recognised pretty much all of these on your list, but I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read most of them! Which is a shame, because I’m actually quite a fan of 80s/90s shojo. :O I do, however, agree 100% with Basara and 7 Seeds being up there; Tamura Yumi is most definitely my all time favourite author! She writes some of the best stories ever. 🙂

    I have mixed feelings about Glass no Kamen. I started reading it a long time ago, around the time I started reading Skip Beat actually, but for some reason I remember not being that interested in it so I dropped it after volume 4 or so. I’ve heard a lot of great things about it, but I never got round to picking it up again after my first try! I sort of wish my library had copies available, since I’m always more likely to read a series when I have the book in hand. =/

    I’m also duly interested in reading Tokimeki Tonight, something I’d never heard of till now! I’m a huge fan of Itazura na Kiss, and recently just finished the manga (so sad that the author never got to complete it T_____T), so it’s fresh on my mind and still milling about!

    As for manga I really love that aren’t up there, I would say Full Metal Alchemist (yeah, I’m not much of a shonen fan either, but this series is practically the epitome of shonen!), Princess, Fruits Basket, Hana Yori Dango (haha, I have read that you don’t like it much, but to me it’s 90s high school shojo in its finest XD), Ooku, Natsume Yujincho, and Kaze Hikaru. 🙂 I have a few guilty pleasure favourites like Hapi Mari and Skip Beat! too. xD

  49. Wow this is a very impressive review to read. When i read this article first, i admit that i never read many mangas here.
    Because i want to read other mangas (at that time i followed Naruto (which getting worse each chapters but i can’t drop it because it’s one of those earliest manga i love, faithfully read, and purchase), Meitantei Conan (which getting boring because too much fillers, but i still purchase because similar reason like Naruto), Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo (which honestly more interesting than Conan but harder to find, but it’s not as thrilling as it used to be), Bakuman (So far i love it! The art simply excellent (god Takeshi Obata is an amazing artist) n its behind-the-manga-making story is interesting), and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (my personal love, simple coming-of-age story but done so good).
    Back of this article, then i started to borrow and read Red River thanks to your review and god, i love it sooo much. I managed to finish first 22 tankobon even though i really busy at that time. Because i can’t wait for the next chapters i find its online scanlation and read it until the very end of the story. It’s a well done epic romance story and i love all characters. And because of that i read another Shinohara Chie’s work and i enjoyed it all. Ah, have you ever read Shinohara’s latest work (Yume no Shizuku, Kin no Torikago)? I curious about your thoughts.

    After that i want to read another mangas from your list

  50. Pingback: Red River – A Recollection of Thoughts – thebumpsoflife

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