Manga Suggestions
April 25, 2005 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by grumblebee's recent question about graphic novels, I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions about worthwhile manga.

I've just recently begun to read manga and although I never thought I'd lke it I've been sucked right in. A friend got me started with Death Note and Battle Royale, both of which I really enjoyed, and Blade Of The Immortal, which I've only just begun.

I like darker stuff, intelligently written with stylish artwork. The darker the better really although a little comic relief here and there doesn't hurt as long as it's smart. I'd love to read more but there are so many to choose from and I'm not familiar enough with the genre yet to be able to discern what's worth reading/buying and what's not. Any manga fans have any suggestions?
posted by LeeJay to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of Blame. You can find the volumes online through bittorrent, but it'll be printed in english starting in august, I think. Definitely dark and with wonderful artwork. Very little dialogue, though.
posted by GeekAnimator at 4:37 PM on April 25, 2005

I would like to suggest you check out TangognaT the blog of our fellow Mefite gnat. She knows Manga!
posted by mlis at 5:14 PM on April 25, 2005

I read a very little bit of Cowboy Bebop and Ranma 1/2 (both which have animated shows) but I couldn't get into either.
posted by Staggering Jack at 5:25 PM on April 25, 2005

Manga's a medium, not a genre. Manga stories run the gamut. I tend to favor shoujo (girl's) manga and anime, but I do have one recommendation that I think would please you, Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:34 PM on April 25, 2005

You might like Lone Wolf and Cub.

In general, if the anime came first or concurrently (Escaflowne, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Cowboy Bebop), skip the manga--their appeal tends to be in music and animation in ways that translate poorly to manga.
posted by Jeanne at 5:42 PM on April 25, 2005

Response by poster: Manga's a medium, not a genre.

Oops. Noted.
posted by LeeJay at 5:58 PM on April 25, 2005

I do, sadly, really like the manga. I tend to like shojo manga more than the darker stuff but if you like Blade of the Immortal you might also like:


Junko Mizuno's work is darkly cute, in a retro pop kind of way.

didn't do much for me, but it does have dark themes (mystical creatures preying off humans, curses and whatnot).

I liked the Demon Ororon it has a unique art style.

Some people love Clamp, if you had to start with one of their series, you might want to try the cyberpunkish fable Clover although xxxHOLiC might also appeal to you.
posted by gnat at 6:04 PM on April 25, 2005

Manga, of course, are just comics; while we Westerners usually mean Japanese comics, it's useful to make a distinction.

Consider reading the manga that really started it all: Ôtomo's six-volume, 3,000-page apocalyptic epic Akira (part of it later adapted into a good but flawed animated film by Ôtomo himself). Akira set the template for countless manga to follow: A post-WW3 Tokyo being rebuilt from the ruins of the old city; a band of teenage bikers who become entangled in a mysterious government experiment; telekinesis and child prodigies.

It's dark, epic, violent, explosive (literally -- at the end, you get the impression that there can't be much of Tokyo left to blow up or collapse) and hyperkinetic; one of Ôtomo's hallmarks is the use of slow motion, brief seconds of actions that span several pages in short cuts. The first volume was published in 1981, but it's still one of the best.

I also like Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind (Amazon link), an epic masterpiece set in a post-nuclear fantasy world inhabited by humans and gigantic insects. Yes, gigantic insects. Miyazaki (most known in the US for films such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away) later turned part of the saga into a full-length animated film which is, not surprisingly, very faithful to the original manga, and quite good on its own.

As a personal aside, most manga (Akira's six volumes seems to be a rare exception) is published in black and white, in small paperbacks; it's often a nice format, but when the artist is as good as Miayzaki, this is a great shame; the format feels cramped, the panoramic vistas crammed into tiny rectangles and competing with speech bubbles, the details and textures compressed to microscopic scale.
posted by gentle at 6:34 PM on April 25, 2005

For sheer girls-and-guns action, it's hard to beat Kenichi Sonoda's Gunsmith Cats.
posted by SPrintF at 6:47 PM on April 25, 2005

The new editions of Nausicaa are printed in large format.
posted by gnat at 6:51 PM on April 25, 2005

gnat, that's great news. Thanks.
posted by gentle at 7:14 PM on April 25, 2005

I really really *really* like Masashi Tanaka's Gon, a set of beautifully drawn wordless stories about a small dinosaur's sometimes violent, sometimes touching interactions with modern animals. The detailed nature drawing is just amazing, and the stories swoop and twist all over the emotional map, from furious to cutesy to heartwrenching and back again.

Highly recommended, and somewhat different than many of the others likely to be listed here.
posted by mediareport at 7:47 PM on April 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the suggestions. I have a bunch of different leads now.
posted by LeeJay at 8:02 PM on April 25, 2005

I'll second GeekAnimator's suggestion--what I've read of Blame kicks ass.

Blade of the Immortal (at least as it's called in translation) by Hiroaki Samura is pretty damn good too. The art is stupefyingly good too--one of the few manga out there that even a sufficiently high-budget anime studio could never tackle appropriately.

It takes place at the tail end of the Tokugawa Shogunate--It's a fairly dark samurai/bandit/murder/redemption tale. I've read that the use of language is fairly interesting--modern street slang occupies the same relative spaces as more stilted, "old-timey" kind of dialogue (not so much in translation, though).

It's published in English by Dark Horse, in larger format than stuff by Tokyopop, (but I'm not sure what the size is actually called). Probably 15-20$ each (USA). It is still being translated and published, but I think Samura will be ending it soon on the Japanese side of things, if he hasn't done so in the last month or two already.
posted by hototogisu at 8:04 PM on April 25, 2005

Try Yasuhiro Nightow's Trigun series, which are available in English.
posted by jeffmshaw at 8:07 PM on April 25, 2005

I haven't read much Manga (I'm a Graphic Novel kind of guy), but I enjoyed Excel Saga for the sheer absurdity.
posted by drezdn at 9:09 PM on April 25, 2005

i like sanctuary. it's not particularly well drawn and the treatment of female characters is somewhat misogynist, but the yakuza and political scheming saga is quite addictive.
posted by juv3nal at 10:01 PM on April 25, 2005

The Ghost in the Shell manga is really interesting, I think, and mostly better than the movie, though unlike the movie it's got a terrible case of Anime Mindfuck Ending. It's got interesting style leaps and a nice sprinkling of David Foster Wallacey footnotes that help bring the world to life.
posted by furiousthought at 10:50 PM on April 25, 2005

Since you liked Battle Royale, I guess I would suggest Gantz (sci-fi manga about people who have died that appear in this room and given weapons and sent out on strange missions) and MPD Psycho (silence of the lambs type story about police going after serial killers).
posted by bobo123 at 10:58 PM on April 25, 2005

Monster by Naoki Urasawa is absolutely amazing. It's a psychological murder mystery about a doctor who pursues a former patient, but it's much deeper than that--explores all sorts of ethical issues and the nature of humanity and whatnot.

Helter Skelter and River's Edge by Kyoko Okazaki are also quite excellent, though definitely not the norm in terms of art and plot. I don't know if they've been licensed in the US.
posted by schroedinger at 11:48 PM on April 25, 2005

I'll second, third, fourth the Lone Wolf and Cub books, and repeat my suggestion from Grumblebee's thread for the atmospheric and visceral Uzumaki by Junji Ito.
posted by safetyfork at 6:25 AM on April 26, 2005

I will second Uzumaki, Vagabond, and Blade of the Immortal. I think that they will be along the line of what you are looking for.
posted by donkeymon at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2005

Nausicaa and Lone Wolf are among my favorites and have been for many years, but in addition I recommend so many things by the originator of manga, Tezuka Osamu.

The man behind Astro Boy and Black Jack (and literally hundreds of other titles), I think his series Adolf, his biographies of Buddha and Beethoven (he did multiple versions of each) and his supreme work Phoenix are all can't-miss.

Seriouly, check Phoenix out. Viz publishes English translations.

Another Viz book, Sanctuary, is absolutely incredible suspense, political intrigue and crime drama rolled into one super-satisfying packet. It's pretty grim and occasionally graphic, however, so be warned.

Not, strictly speaking, manga, but Usagi Yojimbo is a beautiful ongoing story by Stan Sakai using the wandering samurai motif.

I second the Gon recommendation as well.

And that's pretty much it for me. I've read a lot of manga and very few titles are things I found worth recommending.
posted by the_savage_mind at 7:50 AM on April 26, 2005

I'll fifth (or is it sixth?) Lone Wolf and Cub. Not only is it my favorite manga, it may also be my favorite comic book globally. I'll also vouch for Phoenix. Phoenix (Karma) blew me away.
posted by Panfilo at 10:39 AM on April 26, 2005

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