The Best Manga Ever: My Top Ten Favorite Manga Series

Nov 4, 2005 (Updated May 18, 2008)

The Bottom Line The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line.

Anyone unfamiliar with anime may find themselves asking the question, "what exactly is manga, and how do I pronounce it?". Manga books are Japanese comics, and are usually what most anime series are based off of. These books have in recent years become quite popular. These are read much as a comic book would be, but most of the time the binding on the book is on the opposite side from a normal paperback book, and as such, you have to read the pages and dialogue bubbles from right to left. Comic books that most English speakers are used to are mostly based around super heroes and villains, however manga is a medium often used to tell more intricate stories that fit under any genre. Manga is often found in the 'graphic novels' section of most bookstores.

Oh and by the way, manga is pronounced "Mon-guh" as far as I know.

I've been long interested in anime now, and admittedly it was a bit difficult to make the transition to the comic book-esq antics of the graphic novel. These books are the best way to experience the entire story for many of these series as the author intended it to be told, and in many cases I now prefer the manga over anime. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that these are the pure unedited form, and some of your favorite stories have more adult content than they did in anime form. This is especially important for parents to remember. With all of that out of the way it's time to move on to the list.

#10. - Bleach
Tite Kubo

In Japan Bleach has become all the rage; both the anime and manga. Over on our shores we've only recieved the manga, however it's proving itself to be an excellent series. Bleach follows a teen named Kurosaki Ichigo who has had the innate ability to see ghosts for all of his life. Everything changes for him one day when he meets a shinigami girl named Rukia, who lives in a spirit world and only comes to the real world to destroy evil spirits. During a battle against one of these entities, Rukia transfers her shinigami powers to Ichigo, thus starting a huge chain of events that change everything for the both of them. Definitely an interesting series for those who can never get enough shounen action.

#9. - Maison Ikkoku
Rumiko Takahashi

Takahashi is a very good storyteller through manga, and Maison Ikkoku is one of her best works. The prospect of a romantic comedy series is admittedly a turn off, but this series pulls it off in a very touching way, while still laying on plenty of comical moments. Maison Ikkoku tells the tale of a struggling college student who lives in an apartment complex shared by the woman he loves. The only problem is that she is still mourning the death of her husband. There are many characters that add to the story, and it's easy to grow attached to them as you learn more about their comical antics. Definitely a good series for the romance fan in us all.

#8. - Mermaid's Forest
Rumiko Takahashi

Yet another Takahashi series worthy of making my list; this is part of a short series of other stories. This one however follows a legend that those who eat the flesh of a mermaid will become immortal. The series follows a man who is searching out live mermaids so that he can possibly reverse the effect of said legend. From here, he meets a woman being held captive to partake in a ritual by said mermaids. This series is the darkest I've seen from the author. No doubts about it, this is almost purely horror. For fans of horror, I recommend this one.

#7. - Basara
Yumi Tamura

This is a little series that took me by complete surprise. I had not heard of it before, nor did I recognize the author's name, but it sounded interesting enough. I'm definitely glad I gave it the chance. Basara is about hope in a barren desert world where a supposed child of destiny will save the land and restore it's bounty. Twins are born one day, and a soothsayer proclaims one of them to be this legendary child. It was assumed that the boy, Basara was the one soothsayer was referring to, but after growing up he is one day killed in battle. This forces the sister to pretend to be the brother, as she leads her people.

#6. - Fruits Basket
Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket is probably the most overly cute entry on this list, but it's really well done and captivating. The story tells of a teenage orphan who suddenly loses her home. While camping out she is met by, and allowed to live with a family in exchange for daily chores. This family holds a secret. The series takes a turn for the zany when it is revealed that each member transformation into various animals upon being hugged by someone of the opposite sex. As you can imagine, this sets up for a lot of interesting situations.

#5. - Naruto
Masashi Kishimoto

Admittedly I'm a little biased toward Naruto seeing as it's my favorite anime series. While the manga isn't finished (not in Japan, or here in the US) it's still an excellent read. Naruto tells the story of a young ninja boy who strives to become the greatest ninja in his village, the only problem is that he can't even pass the initiation test. Working against him even more is the fact that he has a monster sealed within him that once attacked the village. This leads to a lot of misplaced hatred for him from others in the village. Naruto actually works a bit better in animated form, but the manga is definitely worth looking into.

#4. - Marmalade Boy
Wataru Yoshizumi

If you're looking for what is easily one of the greatest love stories told through manga, than Marmalade Boy has got your number. This is a tale of high school love, friends, and of course, a few unorthodox elements that really tie everything together. Firstly, we have our lead character who's family undergoes a drastic change when it doubles in size after her parents swap spouses and everyone moves in together. The other family happens to have a suave blonde haired son who is the same age as our main character. From here, feelings begin developing, but almost out of nowhere, and old love comes to confuse matters even more.

#3. - Banana Fish
Akimi Yoshida

The first thing you may notice is how weird this one's name is. Admittedly, it's what drew me to this series. The older style drawing style made me a bit reluctant, but the story is fast to draw you in. It starts out with a renegade abused adopted child of a crime lord. From here the story unwinds to a tale of rebellion, mystery, crime, gangs, and the Banana Fish. This is a very intriguing series with a very well made premise and air of mystery that works well on all degrees. I especially like the setting and time era.

#2. - Love Hina
Ken Akamatsu

Many people reading this may find themselves profusely disgusted with this series' placement on my list, but everyone's got their preferences. Love Hina is a perfect case of anime not even being in the same league as the manga. The anime version has less than 50% of the manga content, even after adding in the OVA sequel, and both specials. The story is about a young lonely guy attempting to get into the highest ranked college in Japan to fulfill a promise to his first love. Through a course of silly events, he ends up becoming the manager of a girl's hot spring dormitory where all the tenants think he's a useless pervert.

#1. - Akira
Katsuhiro Otomo

Akira is easily one of the most well known anime movies to ever be released on our shores, however, the manga is worlds beyond the already magnificent film. It tells the story of a young motorcycle gang in a post-apocalyptic Japan after being rebuilt. The main character is captured and tested on with a power called 'Akira', however he becomes too much for anyone to control after a short while. This is my favorite manga series, but it's style will be a bit difficult for casual readers to really get into.

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