My Personal Top Ten Manga

This post actually got started on the Ladies in Comic Book Stores tumblr, where a reader asked me for my top ten manga.  I wrote out this huge post, complete with links to the Amazon listings, other suggestions, reasons why I like that series, and then tumblr ate the whole damn post.

But I think it’s a good list and that it’s worthy of it’s own spot on All About Manga, so I’m going to re-do the whole damn post. Right here. Right now.

Most of these aren’t in any order, except the first two. Beware that a lot of these are out of print. The reason I suggest them is because they are WORTH hunting down and perhaps paying a little extra for a certain volume. Mind you, I’ve only had to do this for one of these series so far.

1. From Far Away

From Far Away is my favorite love story and I will never get tired of pimping it out to people. I think it’s the best example of a fantasy world being full of different kinds of people I’ve ever seen in a manga. In fantasy, I see a lot of authors have problems developing characters beyond what side of the story’s main issue they’re on. With Hikawa’s characters, you could spend hours describing all their little quirks. Do be warned, the series takes a little bit to warm up and volume 1 doesn’t feature the most amazing writing. Keep reading!

I collected From Far Away when it was still being released, so I have no idea how out of print it is aside from friends who are looking to collect it.

2. Monster

Naoki Urasawa is one of my favorite manga-ka of all time and Monster is one of his best series. They call him the Master of Suspense because of Monster, I’m sure of it! It follows a Japanese surgeon in Germany who gets caught in a strange, very scary conspiracy because he saved the life of a young boy ten years before. This is probably the series that got me collecting something other than shoujo manga.

This one, unfortunately, seems to be very out of print, from what I hear. Is it worth it, you ask? Well, when this manga was still coming out, my anime club passed this manga around like it was a pipe filled with the best hashish ever. There was a waiting list at least a half a dozen long for a number of volumes. (So glad that I started buying it after I borrowed the series…)

If Monster eludes you, check out Pluto and 20th Century Boys, also by Urasawa. Both are excellent.

3. Basara

Basara! My love! This epic shoujo manga reads a lot more like a shounen manga, but with a heavier dose of romance than normal.  It follows the struggle of a young revolutionary, who must hide her gender as she strives to exact revenge upon a tyrannical ruling class in post-apocalyptic Japan.

This manga is incredibly out of print. In fact, it’s the only manga where I’ve dared to spend much more than MSRP for a single volume. (Volume 19, which is heavily out of print. I got a slightly damaged library copy for $60. But I had incredible luck with the rest of the volumes and bought most of them at below MSRP, so it all evens out.)

4. Banana Fish

I just finished Banana Fish and it was one of those series where I was reading the volumes with such intensity, it was a little scary. Banana Fish wouldn’t be called a shoujo manga if it weren’t for the intense relationship between its two main characters, Ash and Eiji, who are so close it’s almost sexual. The rest of the time, it’s guns, drugs, violence, mafia-types and anything else typical of 1980s-era gangs in New York City.

Even though it’s been a long time since Banana Fish was published, I had no trouble collecting the series. People tell me it’s out of print, so I may have been very lucky, but check your local comic book store anyway. They might have extra copies laying around. (Buy those if you see them and really want this series. I always recommend buying stuff out of order if it’s OOP.)

5. Please Save My Earth

I’m actually still in the middle of reading Please Save My Earth. That’s how much I like it. I don’t even know how it ends yet and here I am recommending it to you. But I always get so SAD whenever I finish a chunk of volumes…

Please Save My Earth is about a bunch of teens (and one kid) who find out that they have memories of a past life on an alien moon base. As they get to know each other better, they find themselves entangled in the same relationships and drama that dominated their former selves.

Anyway. I’m not having any trouble getting volumes, even though I thought I would have more trouble. A quick scan of Amazon tells me you can get all the volumes for at or below MSRP though.

6. To Terra…

There’s a reason why Keiko Takemiya is considered one of the pioneers of shoujo and yaoi manga and To Terra… profiles everything that makes her great. Beautiful art with more experimental paneling than you’ll see in most modern-day stuff; amaaaaaaazing scifi writing; and more subtle boys’ love than you can shake a stick at!

Luckily, these volumes are almost always available due to their publisher (Vertical Inc.) being awesome and always keeping all their titles perpetually in print.

7. Ode to Kirihito

Tezuka is a great manga-ka and there are plenty of his works on the English language market right now, but Ode to Kirihito is one of my favorites. It’s a heavily emotional journey and easy to sympathize with the main characters, more so than some of his other manga. I think this is the very first Tezuka manga I read, but it’s just good and a lot easier to get into than some of his other dark stuff.

If you want something lighter, I do recommend Princess Knight, which will give you crazy feelings of Disney nostalgia. Dororo is a good middle ground, in case you’re not into fluff. All three titles are available from Vertical Inc. If you have trouble finding Dororo, it’s probably because they’re putting out a new omnibus edition.

8. Genkaku Picasso

I don’t know if Genkaku Picasso will always been on my top ten list, but it blew me away when I finished it last week. It was such a great example of using a standard manga formula (battle/problem of the week), that the manga was able to mock itself for using it. Personally, I could relate to the main character and I even cried a bit at the ending. I seriously wish that more shounen manga were like Genkaku Picasso.

It should still be available from Viz Media, seeing how it’s a fairly recent release.


MARS was an important title to me in high school. In a fit of obvious stupidity, I sold off all my copies before college and now I have to recollect them all.  I’ve gotten through about half the series so far and it still holds up beautifully. A somewhat dark, but sometimes uplifting look at the struggles the more creative types can face in high school.

I’ve looked at Amazon for the volumes before and most of them seem to be well below MSRP. Take advantage of this because you’re much less likely to see it in stores.

10. Ooku

I’m not entirely sure whether or not to feature Ooku or Antique Bakery, which are both by Fumi Yoshinaga. But I know this for sure, I will always love Fumi Yoshinaga manga. She is a master of emotional faces and simple paneling. She draws food manga, yaoi, historical manga and slice of life, and somehow manages to make each story nearly perfect.

Ooku is currently running and in print. Antique Bakery is out of print, but SO WORTH IT. But do be warned that both manga contain fairly explicit sex scenes, in case that bothers you.

Honorable Mentions-

A Drunken Dream & Other Stories

Moto Hagio is kind of my manga hero after hearing her speak about how she creates at Comic-Con 2010. (Where this book of her short stories debuted.) It’s still in print and ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. All shiny and golden. *_*

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

If you’re even slightly into indie rock, you’ll probably have a good time with Beck. It’s like a good teenage anthem song. Unfortunately it has been long out of print and was never actually finished in English. It’s still a good read!


Personally, I like the anime better, but it’s such a good story! If you really can’t find the manga (it’s really out of print), go take a look at the anime and you won’t miss much. The manga is gorgeously drawn, though, so my only real argument for the anime is having seen it first.

Bunny Drop

This series is currently being released by Yen Press, so you’ll be able to find it easily. About an adorable kid and her not-so-adorable, older nephew who winds up adopting her. (Her father is his grandfather, who dies at the beginning.) SO CUTE.

A Bride’s Story

I LOVE A Bride’s Story! I never expected it to get licensed because of a slightly squicky May/December relationship, despite the fact that it has some of the most gorgeous artwork ever. It’s a historical manga, set in the Middle East in 19th Century and   is currently being released by Yen Press. If you want more of Kaoru Mori, Emma has also been released in English, but it’s getting hard to find.

Twin Spica

Oh, Twin Spica. Could there be a cuter slice of life, kind-of scifi series out there? I’m not sure. Everyone thinks Yotsuba&! is cute, but I think Twin Spica is better. Vertical just released the last volume has almost finished releasing the entire series, so it’s definitely still in print.

Barefoot Gen

I began reading Barefoot Gen for one of the Manga Moveable Feasts. It’s not happy, it’s about a family struggling before, during and after the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, but it’s important and mostly true. (The author is a survivor of Hiroshima.) It’s still in print, as far as I know.

Nodame Cantabile

There are more than a few manga about serious music students out there and Nodame Cantabile has got to be the most entertaining, especially when it comes to the titular character. Sadly out of print, but wroth the read!

About Daniella Orihuela-Gruber

Daniella is a freelance manga editor and blogger. She likes collecting out of print manga and playing with her puppy. Yes, someone got her a puppy already.
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11 Responses to My Personal Top Ten Manga

  1. Ingraman says:

    Twin Spica #11 was the latest volume to ship to me, and is the penultimate book for the series. #12 isn’t due out until early March, if RightStuf’s dates are accurate, although perhaps review copies are circulating.

    I once owned From Far Away, but eventually gave it to the library; I don’t know if they put it on their shelves, or just sold them. I think that what I loved most about the story was how the main character actually had to work to learn the language; she didn’t know it automatically after being grabbed from Japan and appearing in the story’s world, and the ability to speak it wasn’t given to her magically. I liked the main plot, but got annoyed by how some elements of it occurred in the later volumes, which was why I gave the books away. The library also got my copies of Mars.

    I’ve seen and enjoyed the Monster anime (and tried to buy it from Viz), but haven’t read the manga.

    I still have Basara on my shelves, having purchased it as it was being published, and I still reread it regularly. I love the story.

    Was it Viz’s Pulp anthology that Banana Fish was printed in? I read it as it was being serialized, but I don’t remember if it concluded before the anthology was cancelled. I didn’t buy the books for that one, although it probably was a better read in the books rather than chapter-by-chapter.

    Please Save My Earth was another series I was thrilled to be able to buy after having seen the OVAs long, long ago. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure how many times I wanted to reread it, so it was a victim of some shelf-clearing in order to make room for more manga. Since I wasn’t sure what the library did to the books that I gave to them, I gave PSME to a friend’s daughter, so that she could read it and then pass them around to her manga-reading friends.

    Thanks for recommending Planetes to people, as hard as it may be to find. It’s definitely one of my favorites, both the anime and the manga. I even bought the Japanese Blu-ray set for the anime… ^^;

    Will we ever see the end of Nodame Cantabile? It doesn’t seem likely… ;_;

    You’ve got a great top-10 and runners-up list, and I agree with you about most of them. A few on your list are books that I haven’t read, though. ^_^

    • Fixed! I’m not very good about new releases, sorry about that! XD
      I wish Vertical would send me review copies, but until then, I don’t mind going out and buying their books.

      I definitely liked that about From Far Away too! I’ve mentioned it in other posts, just not this one. 🙂

      The Monster manga is better than the anime, I think. The anime kind of loses the pacing sometimes. Try to get it, if you can!

      I think Pulp did conclude way before Banana Fish was finished because wikipedia says Banana Fish also ran in Animerica Extra. Not sure if they finished the run of the manga in Animerica though.

      Something tells me we won’t see the end of Nodame Cantabile. Which is really sad. Such a good manga! -sniff-

      So glad you liked my top ten. It was fun to think about. If you ever decide to seek out the books you haven’t read, I hope you really enjoy them! 🙂

  2. Pingback: My Personal Top Ten Manga | All About Manga | Japan Wham

  3. I kind of love all of these, even the runners up. : ) You have good taste.

  4. Benny B says:

    Nice list and I especially like these choices:

    To Terra…
    Ode to Kirihito
    A Bride’s Story
    Barefoot Gen (my #1 manga of all time)

  5. Patricia says:

    I love your choice of book I really enjoyed banana fish and I’m about to read Mars, but I have a questions for you. Have you ever read vassalord? Its a new series and its not done but I have not seen any good reviews about it. Other than that thanks for having good tast on books lol.

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