Discussion: How Do You Pick Your Favorite Manga?

Today, a friend asked me on Twitter what my favorite manga was. I could give her a pretty quick answer of some of my all-time favorites (From Far Away and Monster) and some current favorites (Ooku and Bunny Drop), but I hesitated a moment and looked at my bookshelf, scrambling to pick just a few titles out of the many I’m collecting and reading.

It was really hard.

I read a lot of manga and I truly like about 95% of it, it not more. How do I pick from great shelf of titles when I’ve got Black Jack, Pluto, Basara, Emma, Otomen, Kimi ni Todoke, etc.? It’s extremely difficult to choose favorites! There’s so many different kinds of manga. Can I choose one each from different genres or gender spheres? What do parameters do I use to judge a favorite? Do I want to re-read it often? Do I search for a new volume (if the series is ongoing) in stores like a hawk? Do I go out of my way and buy the volumes I’m missing for higher than the cover price? There are manga that fit any one of those parameters, but they don’t *feel* like my favorites. Are they greatly loved? Oh yeah, and I’ll enthusiastically recommend quite a number of them to the right person. But are they an absolute favorite? No, not really…

My favorites are must-reads. I’ve read them all more than once and they’re titles I think I’d recommend to almost anymore. But more importantly, I’ve carried them with me through all the moving I’ve been doing in recent years and haven’t let these titles leave my bookshelves for a long time. There are very few non-favorites that have moved around with me through my college and post-college years.

So what do you use to judge what is your favorite manga? How do you make the final decision and what are some of your absolute favorites?

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31 Responses to Discussion: How Do You Pick Your Favorite Manga?

  1. peroxid says:

    Well for me, my favorite manga has always been Planetes. Although I also love like 95% of the stuff that is on my bookshelf Planetes is no doubt my favorite. And why? Well probably because of the nostalgic feeling to it. Planetes was the first proper manga (i.e. not counting with bleach and dragon ball) I’ve read, and it just me realize how awesome a manga can be. It’s not that I don’t love dragon ball, but that is only entertainment, while I feel that Planetes has an actual message, philosophy. Same thing with my favorite anime, which is Princess Mononoke, and I watched it way before I knew what anime. I guess nostalgia is the most important thing when it comes to choose my number 1.

    • Planetes is awesome! I haven’t read more than vol. 1 of the manga, but I saw the anime & loved it.
      I don’t know if nostalgia is a factor for me, but all my favorites do have a philosophy behind it or at least something deep going on. ^_^

  2. lys says:

    When I have to give my “favourites,” I name Kaze Hikaru and I Hate You More Than Anyone; long term fav would be Kare Kano. I feel like I have the strongest connection with those titles—I really love the characters (characters tend to be my hook for getting into series), I love the artwork and want to track down everything else the mangaka has done, and they’re generally series I followed loyally from the first volume. Somehow, with series I read after they were all published (like PSME or From Far Away or even Fruits Basket), I feels like they’re not quite “mine,” if that makes sense. IHYMTA and Kaze Hikaru also have tiny-itty-bitty groups of English-language fans, so maybe that contributes to my especially strong feelings for them. I have to share my enthusiasm with everyone!!

    (And now I’m wishing that some publisher would finish I Hate You More Than Anyone and that Viz would speed up its Kaze Hikaru releases even a little. The downside to having obscure favourites…)

    • I hope someone picks up I Hate You More Than Anyone. I don’t know if it would be a good fit for TP, but I know the editors there would be tempted. I love Kare Kano too, I actually love it a lot, but it’s probably a second tier favorite for me, not a top fav.

      A ton of my favorite series are titles that I wasn’t aware of when they were first released. (Although with some of them, I caught the tail end of releases.) So I guess I doesn’t matter to me. I seriously enjoy reading manga I missed when it first came out. It’s like a treasure chest from another time! 😀

  3. peroxid says:

    The point is, when it comes to choose my favorite manga, it becomes more personal, i.e. more subjective. So I don’t choose my overall favorite manga, because of it’s objective quality, but on how it makes me feel when I read it, thus it’s a personal thing.
    On an other note, to be honest, I pretty much disliked the anime adaptation of Planetes, but that is probably because I read first the manga, then watch it, with great expectations. Thing is, the anime is a much more shounen version of the manga. Anyway, I really recommend you to complete Planetes. I would actually recommend for you to read a scan of it, since it’s so hard to get the Tokyopop releases (I have them, but it cost me more than 100€ getting the 5 volumes). So maybe after you read it, you may decide whether or not to buy it.

    • Of course it’s subjective. That’s why I was asking how others judge their favorites. I was really just comparing and contrasting.

      I actually just like the pacing better in the anime. I know it’s more shounen, but it’s pretty well-thought out.

      As for your suggestions to read the scans…You do know that I work for Tokyopop, right? >_>;; Kinda awkward. I know it’s hard to find because of Kodansha pulling all their licenses, but I’m not going to read the scans. Then again, I’m kind of lucky in the sense that I can just borrow it from the in-office library if it’s there.

      • peroxid says:

        haha, sorry about that. I hope I didn’t offend you :S. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all against scans, and nowadays I don’t read none, but when I got into manga it’s was through the scans. I only bought Planetes, because I had already read it, and knew how good it was, whereas if I didn’t read the scan (and watched just the anime), I wouldn’t buy the series. So I guess in my case, the scans “helped” Tokyopop.

        • No worries. I wasn’t offended so much as I was just thinking “wow, this is incredibly awkward. He probably doesn’t know I work for Tokyopop…”
          I’m glad you bought the series anyway after reading the scans, but you do have to admit that you’re an exception there. There are plenty more fans who just don’t bother buying the official releases despite loving a series.

          • peroxid says:

            unfortunately, that is the sad truth… I can’t understand how there are people who despite loving manga, continue to “steal” it… Don’t they realize that they are hurting te industry? Well this has got too off-topic 😛

          • Again, no worries about getting off-topic. Good discussion is good and welcome anytime on my blog.

            I think a lot of people who steal via scanlations have either never worked for anything in their life, are just too poor/ in areas with little or no access to manga or just too self-centered to realize what they’re doing. If they’re too poor and in areas with little-to-no access to manga, I understand, but the other two are just despicable. (Although some of them are just too young to work and don’t realize what it means to put that kind of effort into things.)

  4. Ysabet says:

    I could write for ages about what makes me enjoy or outright love a manga, but I’ve found it impossible to predict what’ll make it a real favorite.

    Fruits Basket has been my absolute favorite for something like eight years. It hits all my buttons of “sweet and dark and full of genuine emotion and interesting characters”, and I started reading it just over halfway through the Japanese run, so getting to watch it unfold was probably a factor. I’m also fannish about it, but cause and effect have not been established–am I so fannish about it because it’s my favorite, or the other way round? Anyway, it certainly occupies the most shelf space in my office. I have a full Japanese set, a full English set, and am happily buying Tokyopop’s Ultimate Editions.

    The other manga that I’d call my favorites don’t meet all the same criteria. X/1999 is usually what I name next, but I didn’t read it until CLAMP had already put it on hiatus, and I couldn’t care less about most of the characters, so my love for it is based entirely on two of the supporting cast. This lends some weight to “it’s a favorite because I’m fannish about it”.

    NANA is probably nearest and dearest to my heart after Fruits Basket; most of the things I said about Furuba are true for it too, other than having more than one set or being fannish about it.

    After those three, everything else that comes to mind gets filed into specific slots: High School Debut is probably my favorite feel-good, just-plain-fun series. Aishiteruze Baby is my favorite too-cute-to-believe series. Monster is probably my favorite long-running dramatic series. Evangelion is probably my favorite adaptation of an anime. Yotsuba&! fills me with the most pure glee. And so on.

    I agree with Lys when she says that series I’ve read after they’re finished their run don’t feel like they’re “mine”, even though that’s not an obvious identifier for me. (Frex, it’s possible I wouldn’t love X this much if CLAMP had just finished it.) I can love a story while I’m reading it, but things I get to read all at once or don’t spend a lot of time geeking out about while they’re running don’t linger in my mind the way stories do when I get them in increments and get to theorize about them and anticipate them.

    • Wow! I knew you were a Furuba fan, but what dedication! I don’t think I have a full set of Japanese anything (unless it’s a one-shot, lol.)

      I would also say I’m not so fannish, but then again, I can get pretty excited about any of my favorites. I would recommend to any manga fan Monster or From Far Away, simply because they’re just so good once you get into them. It’s a shame that more people don’t like them, especially From Far Away, which is the epitome of a great shoujo manga for me.

      After that (and the current favorite series that I’m still in the process of collecting/waiting for new releases), I can pretty much say this is my favorite historical manga, this is my favorite foodie manga, this is my favorite educational manga, etc., but they’re not my tippy top favorites of all time. 😀

      Like I answered Lys, I don’t think of manga I’ve missed the run of like that. Those are just treasures that I lost that I wasn’t aware of or wasn’t interested in them at the time. Now I’m delighted by them, even though none of them have entered into my top favorites yet. There are some really good contenders though!

      • Ysabet says:

        My Fruits Basket fanaticism paid off when I was working on the fanbooks! Having Japanese hard copies was astonishingly useful, given that I can’t really read them. And I’ve been talking for years about wanting a second full set in English so I can have a lending copy. I very, very rarely loan manga out, which is awkward when I go around telling everyone they should read something.

        I need to read From Far Away sometime. I keep hearing such good things!

        I certainly still enjoy reading manga that I don’t get to until after they’re finished/available in English–I adore Sand Chronicles, for example–but I find it’s a very different experience for me. ^_^

        • I’m sure it was! A series like Furuba I get a little lost because there are just so many volumes. ^_^;; I have the same problem with stuff like Boys Over Flowers. That series is SO LONG.

          I used to lend a lot in college and I rarely had huge problems. Especially since everyone who accidentally damaged a copy was kind enough to get me a replacement copy before returning it (or shortly after.) So it was hard to get mad at people for damaging my copies and that’s usually the big hurdle with people who think about lending out their manga.

          YOU NEED TO READ FROM FAR AWAY. Seriously, that series gets almost no love. It’ll be kind of hard to find though. It’s been a looong time since it first came out. If you were here, I’d totally lend you my set.

          I think reading manga after they’ve finished is a different experience for me too, but it also increases the amount of joy I experience while reading because it feels like I’ve stumbled onto a lost treasure.

          • Ysabet says:

            Fruits Basket has a lot of detail and foreshadowing that HanaDan doesn’t, too, so it really wants attention. I mean, I gather it’s still enjoyable if one reads it without catching everything, but the subtleties are lovely.

            I have a friend whose borrowing-stuff policy is “if it’s not in perfect condition when you get it back, I buy you a new one”, so that’s my gold standard for lending stuff out. But between manga being fairly flimsy and fairly expensive, I still get wary. I loaned Fruits Basket to my sister (only two or three volumes at a time), but I think that may be the only time I’ve done it.

            I’ve put From Far Away on my list of stuff to check out if/when I get the opportunity. I hope I can read it sometime!

          • I think Fruits Basket has characters that I want to relate to better too. But that’s just me and it’s too late because I’ve collected most of Boys Over Flowers already. XD

            Ah, well it helps to have an environment like the one I had in college. We had twice-weekly meetings of my anime club and one of them was just a social time where we hung out and talked about geeky things. So for quite awhile, we just brought manga we wanted people to check out every week. If someone wanted to borrow the manga we brought, they just had to ask. Of course, the “you break it, you buy it” policy was in effect, so it was all good with the borrowing.

            I actually saw From Far Away in Kinokuniya today… I wanted to buy some of it for you, but I already had a huge stack in my hand. If you want it, though, maybe we can work something out. :3

          • Ysabet says:

            Couldn’t you read Furuba at Tokyopop? I imagine they’ve got a set there…?

            That manga-borrowing set-up sounds ideal. ^_^ My only concern tends to be that people have different notions of what constitutes acceptable wear & tear on books.

            From Far Away is a longish series, right? I’m worried about trying to assemble it and then not being able to get it all. Amazon.ca has some of the books, though…

          • They do have a set there and I have read it! I’ve actually bought about half of the series myself already, but usually only when I find the volumes on discount somewhere. 😛

            Well, I guess we were pretty strict on acceptable wear and tear. You didn’t crack the spine, you didn’t bend the pages or the covers, etc. Obviously stuff like stains were unacceptable too.

            From Far Away is 14 volumes, which is long, but not as bad as it could be. If you need any help, it seemed like that Kinokuniya had most of the series & I could always check out my comic book store down by my mom’s, which always seems to have awesome old manga.

          • Ysabet says:

            Well, that’s all right, then. ^_^

            I’m really picky about the condition of my books (which you’d never be able to prove from my bookshelves, but that’s because I bought most of my books used for a long time), but I know I’m excessively paranoid.

            How much do manga volumes cost at Kinokuniya, usually? Amazon.ca seems to be listing them for the usual Canadian prices.

          • Kinokuniya is usually full price USD. (About 9.99 then, I didn’t look at the exact price though.) That’s probably better than trying to search for anything OOP though. ^_^

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  7. DeBT says:

    A few requisites before buying a Manga:

    1. The Manga must be able to stand against multiple rereadings. I don’t want something that’ll only be bought once and then filed away never to be read again. There were a few early series I bought when I was starving for Manga material. Titles such as Horobi, Grey, Venus Wars, Rebel Sword, and 2001 Nights were snatched up simply because there wasn’t anything else to read. Now I can hardly bring myself to impulse read any of those unless I force myself to.

    2. If it’s a long-running title, I want to make sure that it pays off in the end. Knowing that there’s a finite number of volumes makes it easier for me when I know there’s a stopping point. Also important is that the company translating the Manga won’t stop printing the title if sales run low. This has been Dark Horse’s major complaint with cult titles such as Reiko’s Zombie Shop, Junji Ito titles and Satsuma Gishiden. If they’d finished the runs on those titles, I would’ve been more likely to pick them up knowing there was an ending in sight. This was how I was able to eventually buy the eternity of Lone Wolf & Cub. Conversely, I snatched up the volumes of Swan when it became apparent that CMX was folding, so this isn’t an ironclad rule.

    3. Price is a major factor. If I feel that a volume is too expensive and not worth the impulse purchase, I won’t bother buying it. The VizBig Manga collections of previous volumes give good bang for their buck, and I wouldn’t mind buying them if there were any titles I’d be interested in. Why haven’t they used the same format for Please Save my Earth, Basara or Banana Fish yet?

    The only exception to this rule is 20th Century Boys, but only because I’d read it beforehand and liked it so much I wanted it physically. I still think it would’ve worked just as well in a similar size to Monster, which is surprisingly out of print. You’d think Urasawa would’ve gotten better name recognization by now.

    4. Reading the work beforehand. This might’ve been a major complaint from the Manga companies last year, but it’s a claim I continue to stick with. I like to do a little shelf-reading to see if the work piques my interest and determine if its my kind of story. Going through the whole archive for free might be seen as a kind of cheat, but I also use multiple libraries to broaden my reading habits and see what other works are out there. Some series may take several volumes after the pilot episode to pick up the pace, and I want to make sure that it doesn’t suffer from a drop in quality later on. Seeing a beloved work detoriate before your eyes is one of the most discouraging things to a long-time fan, and I’ve had that happen to me far too often. If I’m going to contribute my enjoyment to something, I want to make sure I enjoy the ride as long as possible.

    5. Continuous good word of mouth. When people keep lavishing praise on a certain title, I start to notice, and begin to have suspections on whether these people are on the take, or if the comic really IS as good as they say. By browsing around, I take a look at the promised series, and I’m either nonplussed or blown away from the premise. Either way, interest has been brought to a title that I wouldn’t have known before, and will keep in mind as something to watch out for or avoid. This was certainly the case with Skip Beat! and Arisa, which was described as “a Shojo version of Naoki Urasawa”.

    Some titles might be too obscure, and I’d have to wait until I see a copy at the bookstore before I make a decision. I purchased Not Simple after I read it twice to figure out the story and thought my sister would like it. (It’s extremely subtle) I’ll pass similar judgement when Fantagraphics releases Wandering Son later this year. If I like what I see, I’ll add it to my reading list.

    • Wow. I don’t think there’s anything I can say except you have a looooot of standards for buying manga. o_o

      Although I was asking for what your favorites were and how you picked an absolute favorite from a manga you just really liked.

  8. Given that I am trying to keep my book collection smaller, for me a favorite is one that I am making a conscious effort to keep. I am now only keeping series I will definitely re-read and can actually acquire. I love Emma but…

  9. Ahavah says:

    There is a reason why I have 4 library cards from 3 different states: I love manga, I can’t afford it, and I want the manga I read to be as legal as possible. I was collecting a few titles that were very, very special to me (and not available at my local library), such as Black Jack, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Ooku, but I haven’t bought a volume in ages…it really bothers me that I’m behind (especially with Kurosagi- I really love that series), but maybe with interlibrary loans..:(

    BTW, I read the entirety of Planetes via interlibrary loans. It has a different tone from the anime, and I highly recommend the series! 😀

    Now, as for favorites: I don’t tend to re-read anything, unless it’s really funny or has some very special value. OTOH, I don’t discriminate between classic/already released titles and ones still coming out. I understand the fan-joy that comes from following an ongoing series at the same time as everyone else (to the point that there is one title I do read scanulated just to keep up with the Japanese chapters. I know that that is the lamest excuse of them all, but I usually take out the books once they get to the library–if that helps at all ;D)

    However, I count titles like Please Save My Earth and Black Jack amongst my favorites despite the fact that they were completed years ago.

    I would split up my faves into many different categories: Favorite completed Shojo, fantasy/sci fi: PSME, Favorite ongoing shoujo, fantasy/sci fi: Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden, Favorite Tezuka Serial: Black Jack, Favorite on-going shonen: Kekkaishi (the anime does *not* do that story justice! :P) etc. It may be cheating, but I have too many faves to pick just one–I’d rather add another category!

  10. I can give one example of a manga that I have re-read over and over again in my shelf: Gintama.

    I first got into Gintama from watching a short clip of the characters cosplaying BLEACH characters. Afterwards, I started watching the first episode and was hooked. I started buying the manga when it came here to America in 2007.

    I think it’s the fact that I absolutely love dirty humor comedy and pop culture parodies that I was willing to support this manga. Though what really drew me in were the characters and the series was similar to Rurouni Kenshin. RK personally moved me a lot and Gintama does have some heart-warming moments that I re-read or re-watch over again. It’s also a series that’s very episodic and a realistic portrayal of life in Japan.

    I do keep up with the current serialization by reading copies of Weekly JUMP while reading all the VIZ volumes. I also watched all the Crunchyroll episodes. I don’t think there’s anything like Gintama out there and that’s why it’s one of my all-time favorites even though the manga began in 2004.

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