Fantasy manga allows us to enter magical new worlds that are full of wonder and intrigue. They are imaginative and creative, allow us to escape, but also connect with us in deeply profound ways. Despite their otherworldly appeal, fantasy series delve deep into philosophical topics, and they often explore the human experience in unique and refreshing ways.
There are your more straightforward series that showcase a battle between heroes and evil, such as demons. They are usually set in a medieval-type setting where magical creatures reside, like dragons and giants. You have stories about vampires, witches, gods, mythological figures, and more. You also have offbeat series that are strange, in the best way possible.
There are so many different magical and mythical worlds you can explore in fantasy manga, but the following are my favorites!
Soara and the House of Monsters by Hidenori Yamaji
Soara and the House of Monsters is a new manga by the creator of Marry Grave that has beautifully drawn settings and architecture and uniquely designed characters. It’s releasing from Seven Seas in 2023 with English translation and it's one of my most anticipated new manga releases of 2023.
Soara and the House of Monsters follows the travels of a monster architect, who’s conscientious about his clients' very specific and unique needs. A knight, who battled these monsters before a time of peace, stumbles across him and his band one day on her search for a new home. Unexpectedly, after meeting him and seeing his work, she decides to work with him and they embark on a new journey together.
What initially captured me about this series was its art. It’s so intricate and it has a unique style. The architecture and settings actually remind me a lot of some of my favorite action-adventure games and so does the world-building.
It’s an enjoyable and fun action, adventure, fantasy series that has a touching story and it really takes a look at what it means to have a home, a place where you feel comforted, somewhere you can rest and recharge at the end of the day, feel safe and make memories, and how everyone, from monsters and heroes, deserve to have a place they call their own. We see our MC searching for a home of her own, so there’s quite a bit of depth to this one too.
Shadows House by Somato
Shadows House by Somato stands out as one of the best supernatural manga, blending horror themes within a gothic backdrop to create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The big appeal of this manga is the art. Every page is beautiful to witness thanks to the detailed backgrounds and settings, which further add to its eerie and unsettling atmosphere.
The story starts off innocent enough and adorable at first as it follows a living doll Emilyko as she attends to a shadow named Kate, but things take a turn and it’s deceptively dark. As you get further into the story, it becomes more twisted and creepy than expected, so the horror elements don't kick in until later on.
You’ll have so many questions while reading Shadows House, but as you traverse this labyrinth of a house and learn more about it, everything will start to make sense. The plot is really well-thought-out and it contains many unexpected twists, so you never know what to expect while reading this one either. More so than that, though, it has a unique world and premise that make it one of the most incredible reads.
The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún by Nagabe
In The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún by Nagabe, there are two sides: The Outside and the Inside. Those on the Outside have been sealed off from the Inside because they are inflicted with a curse. Those who are suspected to have the curse are condemned as well, so a witch hunt of sorts is happening in this series.
We follow two characters, Shiva, a young girl, and Teacher, who is an Outsider that takes Shiva in. We watch these two navigate this bleak and unforgiving world together. Despite all that's happening and all that they've been through, the two form a close bond and we see moments of warmth and kindness between the two.
The art in The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún is minimal, but it doesn't lack impact or beauty. The simplicity suits the series well and it has a unique style that I enjoy. The emotions of the characters are conveyed beautifully and the world-building is master-class. On top of all that, it's one of the most unique fantasy manga I've read to date.
You can collect The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún via the singles or the hardcover Deluxe Editions released by Seven Seas!
Black Clover by Yuuki Tabata
Black Clover follows Asta, a loud and lively orphan that possesses no magic even though he lives in a world that's full of it. He, along with his childhood friend Yuno, who lives at the orphanage with him, both have dreams of becoming the Wizard King. Unlike Asta, though, Yuno is gifted with the ability to use powerful wind magic. This difference in skill doesn't hold Asta back by any means, and he still works hard, training his body every day, to achieve his goals.
When both of them turn 15, they head off to receive their Grimoires, which allow them to use their magic at full capacity. Yuno receives one with the legendary four-leaf clover, but Asta receives none. When Asta successfully fights off a mage that's trying to steal Yuno's Grimoire, a mysterious Grimoire with a black five-leaf clover appears. This is where both of their journeys begin, but there's so much more to this story. Black Clover is a series that's full of surprises, unexpected turns and reveals. It's a shonen that has genuinely surprised me with its twists and turns, which is rare, and this is a big reason as to why I love it so much.
While being set in a magical world isn't all that unique, everything about Black Clover, and the world it's set in, feels fresh, and this becomes even more evident in the later chapters. It has a phenomenal cast of characters that have unique abilities, fun group dynamics, captivating villains, thrilling and action-packed battles, and great art, and it only gets better and better with the release of each new chapter. For these reasons and more, Black Clover also landed a spot on my top shonen manga list.
Ragna Crimson by Daiki Kobayashi
Ragna Crimson comes across as simple at first, with an MC that wants to become the strongest to protect someone he cares about, but trust me, it’s not your average dark fantasy and it develops incredibly and becomes something much more over the course of the volumes.
Ragna Crimson is set in a rich world where dragons reside as well as dragon slayers that hunt them. Ragna is one such dragon slayer, but he is one of the weakest. He forms a partnership with the highest-ranked dragon hunter, though, and forms a strong bond with her. He wants to protect her at all costs, but can’t do so in his current state, so he works to grow stronger. But time runs out when an extremely strong and sentient dragon appears. I know this sounds pretty typical. But it’s one of those series that has twists and turns, and if I were to tell you them, it would spoil the series.
As with most dark fantasies, there’s a revenge mission in this one. Like Goblin Slayer wants to take out all the goblins, Ragna wants to take out all of the dragons. The power systems in this one are unique and intriguing, it’s action-packed with interesting developments, and it has a really cool, gritty art style.
There’s just something about the art in Ragna Crimson that really captures my attention. The use of contrast is similar in the vein of something like Death Note. It has atypical character designs and a gothic style, and I love the panels in this series. It’s one I highly recommend and I hope more people will check it out because it’s a hidden gem.
Made in Abyss by Akihito Tsukushi
Made in Abyss is a manga that's full of mystery, and it's set in a fantasy world, that's incredibly beautiful yet so dark at the same time. In this series, a massive cave system called the Abyss exists, and Cave Raiders dare to enter this dangerous yet thrilling world to explore it and uncover its secrets.
We follow a young girl named Riko, who dreams of one day becoming a Cave Raider like her mother before her. She dares to enter the Abyss despite her age and inexperience and crosses paths with a robotic being named Reg, who accompanies her on her journey.
One of the greatest fears is the fear of the unknown, but curiosity and the need to discover and learn more about the unknown drives many to overcome or overlook this fear. Curiosity can have consequences, though, and this is showcased in Made in Abyss as well.
Since this story follows kids who are descending into the harsh and perilous Abyss, there are many challenges that our main characters have to overcome. These challenges and obstacles can be quite grim and some of the people and creatures they meet along the way have ill intentions, so it is quite a heartbreaking and haunting read.
Despite this, the fact that Made in Abyss is full of adventure as well as whimsy and it has a child-like sense of wonder, it still feels light at times. The characters, their connections, and their drive to help one another achieve their dreams and goals no matter the cost are endearing, but it's tough to watch them on this journey many times also, especially given what they have been through and all that they have to overcome.
Made in Abyss expresses the heart of an adventurer, the good and the bad that come with exploring the unknown, and how one's motivations and dreams can shape them for better or for worse. On top of having a compelling story and art, it's set in a unique dark fantasy world and it's unlike anything else I've ever read before.
Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida
Dorohedoro is a dark manga that doesn't necessarily feel like one and it's one of my favorite series of all time. Despite it being chock-full of gruesome fights, blood and gore, and messed-up developments, you still feel warm and fuzzy while reading thanks to the dynamics between the characters and its sense of humor, which, while dark, lightens the mood of the series. Later on, though, the series' tone changes, so while it's fun to read, it's dark as well, thanks to the world and the issues these characters have to overcome.
In Dorohedoro, sorcerers practice their magic on the inhabitants of the Hole, who don't have smoke, and as a result, can't use magic. Our main characters are Caiman, a guy that's in search of the sorcerer who turned his head into a lizard head, and Nikaido, the owner of the Hungry Bug who finds Caiman lying in an alley one day. The two develop a really close friendship.
We not only see their relationship grow but also their relationships with their friends in the Hole. They cross paths with Shin and Noi, the Cleaners of the Sorcerer's World, of the leading family, the En family, which brings the two worlds, the Hole and the Sorcerer's World, together in this story. The fantasy world that Q Hayashida created in Dorohedoro is one of the most unique you'll ever experience.
Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida is one of those once-in-a-lifetime manga series that is unlike anything I've ever read before. With some of the best manga characters and a world that's dark and gruesome yet never feels it, it's a fun and adventurous read that's full of over-the-top violence and gore.
Read up more on why Dorohedoro is one of the best manga of all time!
Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki
Pandora Hearts is a fantasy story about Oz, who, during his coming-of-age ceremony, is unsuspectingly condemned for a sin that he knows nothing about. He is thrown into an inescapable prison called the Abyss where he meets a girl named Alice, but there’s more to Alice than meets the eye.
Pandora Hearts was created by Jun Mochizuki, who you may also know as the creator of The Case Study of Vanitas, which is also featured on this list. Jun Mochizuki creates fantastic worlds and she immerses you in them, but she also creates some of the most interesting personalities and her character designs as well as art are amongst the best. No matter what series of hers you pick up, you are in for an unforgettable experience, but Pandora Hearts is one of Jun Mochizuki's best.
Reading Pandora Hearts is somewhat like traversing a twisted yet well-constructed labyrinth or going down the rabbit hole. Just when you think you have the story figured out, something happens that completely surprises you. It is unexpected and complex, and it has interesting twists that keep you guessing at every turn. Even though it has a lot of plot twists, Pandora Hearts never loses its way. Every element and plot point in this story comes together beautifully, and the result is one of the most interesting and well-developed fantasy manga I've ever read.
You can collect Pandora Hearts via the singles or the Pandora Hearts manga box set, which is one of my favorite manga box sets to ever release.
Frieren: Beyond Journey's End by Kanehito Yamada & Tsukasa Abe
Frieren: Beyond Journey's End is a heartfelt series about an elf and mage named Frieren, who is embarking on a new journey to carry out the final wishes of her comrades. Her party defeated the Demon King and brought peace to the world, but after losing one of her friends to old age, she looks back on their times together. Frieren: Beyond Journey's End follows Frieren, who lives a near-immortal life, as she makes up for lost time and seeks to know more about her comrades and the human experience.
We all want to feel connected, but sometimes we just don't know how, and Frieren: Beyond Journey's End explores this deeply. Among a fantasy backdrop, where demons reside and magic and heroes exist, we get a story that is refreshingly relatable and real. It's easy to connect with Frieren's journey and it's one of the most compelling as well as touching fantasy stories I've read as of late. To top it all off, there are no clichés in this story and the ideas as well as themes that are explored are fresh.
Frieren: Beyond Journey's End debuted not too long ago, but it's already one of my favorite fantasy stories. It will capture your heart from the get-go, but the story and characters develop in a way that keeps you invested. The artwork is incredibly powerful too. The feelings of the characters are displayed beautifully, but its how the past and the present collide together seamlessly in this story that makes it a true stand out.
An anime for Frieren: Beyond Journey's End is confirmed to be releasing in the Fall 2023 anime season, so this is something to look forward to as well!
Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama
In Witch Hat Atelier, we follow a young girl named Coco who wants to be a witch. Her dream, however, feels out of reach, because in this world, magic users are born, not made. Just when she's about to give up, she meets a traveling witch named Qifrey, whose curious way of performing magic gives her hope that one day, her dream may very well come true. Qifrey becomes her mentor and takes her in and she, along with other apprentices, studies, and trains to become a witch.
The friendship that forms between Coco and the other apprentices is heartwarming to watch, but there's an air of darkness and danger that's always lurking in this series. It's a whimsical, lighthearted read, but as we learn more about this world and the curtain is lifted, we realize that everything is not as it seems.
The story is incredible and the magical system that exists within the series is unique, but it's the art, which is absolutely breathtaking, that sets this one apart from the rest. Witch Hat Atelier has some of the best manga panels and you will continuously be amazed by Kamome Shirahama's art.
The dynamic way in which the panels flow from page to page and the unique way in which they are structured makes it unlike any other manga I've read before. The artwork is delicate but highly detailed and the contrast is incredible too. What excites me most about Kamome Shirahama's art, though, is how the art of magic, and the emotions that come with mastering it, are conveyed. There's so much to marvel at in this series, and like many others on this list, it will awaken your sense of wonder.
Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi
Yona of the Dawn follows Yona, whose charmed life as the princess of her kingdom is changed forever on her 16th birthday when she witnesses the murder of a loved one. With her childhood friend Hak's help, Yona escapes the palace. She vows to take back the kingdom and it follows her on her journey, alongside her allies, to do so.
On top of being full of adventure and romance, Yona of the Dawn is set in a historical as well as a fantasy setting. On one hand, there are political motivations and strategies happening in this series, and on the other, you have these amazing legends and tales that are not just being told but are being brought to life. Yona of the Dawn mirrors the human experience, has one of the best female MCs, and does many things from action to romance well.
I do want to mention that Yona of the Dawn is more so an adventure story than a romance, but the romance is definitely there in this series. Moments of romance pop up every now and then, and when they do they are subtle and sweet, but it isn't the main focus of the story. Where Yona of the Dawn really shines is its characters. It has a wonderful cast and there are a lot of interesting personalities in the series that add to the story.
Some volumes of Yona of the Dawn have been flickering in and out of stock. I'm keeping track of all of the volumes on my manga restock list, so be sure to check there for any expected restock dates that may be noted.
Noragami by Adachitoka
In Noragami by Adachitoka, our MC, Yato, is a god, but he has one problem: He doesn't have any worshippers. In order to achieve his goal of becoming well-known and buying himself a shrine, he takes on odd jobs to earn money. One of these jobs leads him to a chance encounter with a girl named Hiyori Iki, who finds herself in an interesting predicament and enlists Yato's help.
Noragami's characters all long for something, and it's this longing that drives them. Their aspirations and dreams are relatable, and we watch them grow as individuals, but their dynamic as a group is incredible too. There are a number of likable characters that you will meet over the course of the series. They are all dealing with their struggles and pasts in their own ways, and you get backstory that further connects you to these characters and gives you insight into what shaped them into the person they are today.
There are some sad and heartbreaking moments in Noragami, but these moments are balanced with comedy and heartwarming interactions between the characters. You will feel all sorts of emotions when reading Noragami, and this is part of the reason it's so successful, but it's the characters, and the connections you'll make with them, that will capture your attention the most.
Magus of the Library by Mitsu Izumi
Magus of the Library is a fantasy series written by Mitsu Izumi, who’s also the creator of 7th Garden. The panels are so stunning that, on many occasions, they elicit an emotional response. Not only does it have some of the most amazing art and the most detailed panels I’ve ever seen, but it has one of the best stories as well.
Wonder and curiosity, the thirst to learn, an appreciation for books, and the power of knowledge are all things that are explored in this series, but it also is very much a tale about people, the discrimination that some face, including our main character Theo, and more too.
The series follows Theo, who lives in the village of Amun and has always loved books. But because he is poor and has pointed ears, the other children bully him and he is told he can’t use the village library. Theo dreams of going to the City of Books—a place where a gigantic library awaits him and people don’t care about how much money you have or how you look. One day, he meets a Kafna—a librarian who works for the great library—and his life changes forever.
Amongst all of this is a wonderful fantasy backdrop and a world that’s full of magical and wondrous creatures, so Magus of the Library features incredible world-building also. This is an extraordinary series that connected with me as someone who is a lover of books myself, and I really connected with the characters as well as the story as a result. Few series hit every element outside of the park, the art, the characters, the world-building, the story, etc, but Magus of the Library does. It will awaken a child-like sense of wonder within you, and even potentially, as it did with me, reignite your passion for the hobbies or pastimes you love.
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa was first released in the early 2000s and it has become a beloved series that over the years has received two anime adaptations, the original 2003 series and a retelling titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that was released in 2009, and various manga releases, including paperback volumes, 3-in-1's, a complete box set, and most recently, the Fullmetal Editions.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a tale about two brothers and alchemists, Ed and Alphonse, who lost a lot in their attempt to bring back their mother via the forbidden art of human transmutation. We follow them on their journey to find the Philosopher's Stone to recover that which they lost, but there are many obstacles as well as dark plots that stand in their way.
While the artwork in Fullmetal Alchemist is rather simplistic, the emotion that Hiromu Arakawa coveys in her panels is amazing and the overall world and settings that these characters explore are interesting to witness. It's one that has its fair share of comedic moments, but it's one of the darker and more serious titles on this list, and it features incredible storytelling.
Claymore by Norihiro Yagi
Claymore by Norihiro Yagi is one of my favorite dark fantasy manga, and while it's classified as a shonen, it feels close to a seinen to me. If you are looking for a manga like Berserk, which is my all-time favorite series by the way, Claymore is one of the first I always recommend. Both have a similar feel and setting, but Claymore is unique because it features a strong female lead and it is one of the more mature titles you can read in shonen.
In Claymore, monsters called Yoma, who live amongst humans in disguise, prey on villages. The only people who can seek out, and fight against, these monsters are Claymores—half-human, half-monster hybrids that possess supernatural strength. The Yoma isn't the only thing they must fight against, though.
With such strong impulses, they must ensure they remain more human than monster, or risk losing it all. Our main protagonist, Clare, is an expert swordsman and Claymore, and we follow her story. Her main goal is to hunt down an Awakened Being named Priscilla that killed her adoptive mother, Theresa.
The Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki
The Case Study of Vanitas is a manga series by Jun Mochizuki, who you may also know as the creator of Pandora Hearts. It's a whimsical series set in a dark steampunk Paris, where rumors abound of a clockwork grimoire is said to sow curses among the vampires exists. Guided by the Book of Vanitas, two men begin their journey: Noé and Vanitas.
It's an interesting tale that combines mystery and horror with a bit of humor. The characters are likable, if not outright lovable, and the story is full of twists and turns. One of my favorite things about The Case Study of Vanitas is the setting. It has a wonderful Victorian and steampunk setting reminiscent of those you’d find in 19th-century mystery novels, but it feels modern too. The two main characters, Noé and Vanitas, have totally different personalities, which makes for an interesting dynamic.
On top of having a wonderful story and great characters, the art in The Case Study of Vanitas is beautiful to witness. The level of detail in the panels is incredible and, as always, I love the designs of Jun Mochizuki’s characters.
The story itself is full of mystery and it really piques your curiosity about what's going on in this world. So if you are looking for a vampire manga that's shrouded in mystery and features a strong fantasy backdrop, The Case Study of Vanitas is an incredible choice.
Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka
Magi is a fantasy manga created by Shinobu Ohtaka, who you may also know as the creator of Orient. The story takes place in a world where magic is real and mysterious towers known as dungeons have appeared throughout the land. We follow the adventures of Aladdin, a young magician with a magic flute, and Alibaba, a former slave with ambitions of wealth and power, as they join forces to conquer the treacherous dungeons. On their journey, they meet many allies and foes and uncover the secrets of their world.
Magi's unique blend of action, comedy, politics, and philosophy makes it stand out. Even though the series explores complex themes such as slavery, war, greed, and justice, it manages to do so in a way that never feels too heavy. It has great comedic moments and the interactions between characters connected me further to the story, but it also has a lot to say, so Magi has a lot of depth as well.
The world-building in Magi is amazing. The series highlights diverse cultures and mythologies and you learn about the people and customs of each region that you are introduced to in this series. The characters are well-developed and memorable too. The cast is large, but each character gets their moment to shine, and the issues as well as struggles they face are relatable. Magi is a magnificent tale about adventure, but it also tells the story of the people and the places within it, so it's an exciting but also thought-provoking read.
Goblin Slayer by Kumo Kagyu and Kousuke Kurose
Goblin Slayer is a dark fantasy manga created by Kumo Kagyu and Kousuke Kurose. The story follows a stoic adventurer known only as Goblin Slayer, as he embarks on a personal mission to exterminate goblins from the world. His quest takes him on increasingly dangerous journeys, and he is often accompanied by a group of novice adventurers who aid him in his mission.
What makes Goblin Slayer a unique fantasy series is its dark tone and uncompromising depiction of violence. The series pulls no punches when it comes to portraying the brutality of the goblins and their atrocities against humans. It is also noteworthy for its realistic portrayal of the world and the character's motivations, unlike your average traditional hero's journey story.
Goblin Slayer himself is a character who is not driven by honor or glory but by an obsessive need to eradicate goblins, which sets him apart from the typical protagonist in most fantasy manga. All in all, Goblin Slayer is a gripping and intense read that isn't for the faint of heart.
Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo
In Soul Eater, you are introduced to a weapon meister named Maka, whose main desire and goal is to make her weapon Soul a death scythe. In this world, there are humans that can take on the forms of various weapons, and their meisters, who they are compatible with, wield them. For instance, Soul takes on the form of a scythe. The meisters are tasked with reaping tainted souls, but there’s, of course, much more to this story than that. I just want to keep it kind of vague so I don’t spoil anything, but the characters in this story are incredible.
I love the dynamics between the meisters and their weapons, but the dynamic of the group as a whole is also great. The teachers are awesome, so Soul Eater is full of memorable characters. Atsushi Ohkubo also has a unique art style and you really see him develop as an artist in Soul Eater. I also want to mention that he is the creator behind another recent favorite of mine, Fire Force, so if you enjoyed Soul Eater, this is one to look into too.
All in all, I just really enjoy his works and I love the gothic setting of Soul Eater. It’s fun to read, but it has serious moments as well. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and I really appreciate this about the series. I highly recommend reading it, and if you are looking for the best way to collect the series, the singles or the Soul Eater Perfect Editions, be sure to check out my review on YouTube below!
The Witch and the Beast by Kousuke Satake
The Witch and the Beast is a supernatural, dark fantasy manga that follows a quiet man, Ashaf, and an abrasive, hot-tempered girl, Guideau, two members of The Order of Magical Resonance, as they investigate mysterious cases of supernatural phenomena, from witches to necromancers to vampires. Despite how amazing it is, The Witch and the Beast is one of the most underrated series on this list and it's a hidden gem.
The world-building in this manga is incredible because of the way the world is set up. One of Kousuke Satake's greatest strengths is his ability to quickly and vividly create a world and drop you right in the middle of it. The vampire world in The Witch and the Beast, for instance, is your classic Victorian setting, which is in stark contrast to the human world, where this story mainly takes place. So the setting changes throughout the volumes, which keeps things fresh and interesting.
From extravagant clothing to gothic architecture, not a single detail is spared. The fights in this series are also some of the most exciting to experience. If you're a fan of dark fantasy manga or series that have strong world-building and exciting action, you’ll want to check out The Witch and the Beast.
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda is an epic saga that's full of adventure. It follows the journey of Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates on their travels at sea, but it also highlights the friends and foes they meet along the way. There are many treasures to be found, but as seen in One Piece, friendship may be the best treasure of them all.
One area in which One Piece truly excels is its world-building. Eiichiro Oda created a completely unique world that's full of fantasy and intrigue, where pirates and the military battle it out. There are many different regions in One Piece that keep things fresh and exciting as you read. You feel very much like you are exploring this world with Luffy and crew as they traverse the Blue Sea and beyond to islands, meet their people, and delve into their landscapes and customs.
With an incredible cast of characters, one of the best MCs, and some of the best world-building I've seen, One Piece is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the reigning kings in manga. You can currently collect One Piece with English translation via the singles, the manga box sets, and the 3-in-1 editions! I have a post as well as a video comparing all of the editions coming soon, so stay tuned.
Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku by Yuji Kaku
In Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku, there's a strong emphasis in this world between hell and paradise, and as you learn on the island of Shinsenkyo, more often than not, what is seen as a paradise is often hell. Similarly, the line between a blessing and a curse is sometimes very thin. In Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku, people are in search of the fabled elixir that grants everlasting life.
Immortality is thought to be a blessing, but in all reality, it is more so a curse. It is this constant search for immortality that continues to draw people to this island, where those who are "lucky" enough to survive return with lumps and various flora growing out of their bodies. While terrifying, they return, as odd as this sounds, looking like "art installations" crafted by a psychopath, like those you'd see from murderer Rikako Oryo in Psycho-Pass. These scenes really drive home just how dangerous and horror-filled this place is. And who better to send to explore this unknown, unforgiving island than a bunch of criminals that were going to be executed anyway?
The island is full of unknown terrors, and the mystery it holds keeps me reading, but it's the emotional moments you get from characters, like Gabimaru and Sagiri, that have me hooked even more. One of its major appeals is the sheer amount of violence that occurs in this series, but the story is never sacrificed by any means. As a result, Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku is one of the best new manga to debut within quite some time. The 13th and final volume of Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku was released, so it's a relatively short read as well.
The Eminence in Shadow by Anri Sakano & Daisuke Aizawa
The Eminence in Shadow is a self-aware and humorous take on isekai and it is set in a rich fantasy world. The creators use the many tropes of isekai as a means of a comedy, and it’s done in a tongue-in-cheek type of way. The way that it lightheartedly pokes fun at isekai, makes it an entertaining read. I don’t want the fact that it’s a parody of sorts to cheapen it anyway, though, because it has an incredible story as well.
The Eminence in Shadow is about Cid, who was reincarnated into a fantasy world, but instead of becoming the main character or flashy hero; he decides to be an eminence in shadow, a puppeteer pulling the strings behind the curtain. To get people to follow him, he makes up an imaginary enemy that his organization, the Shadow Garden, can fight against called the cult of diablos. Funnily enough, though, and little to Cid’s knowledge, the Cult of Diablos actually exists.
It’s absolutely hilarious, so much so it makes me laugh out loud, but even more so than that, it has a compelling storyline, and, of course, there’s a cult, which keeps me interested too. Even if you are someone who has cast isekai aside, I really hope you will give this one a shot, because it’s a refreshing and unique read.
Helck by Nanaki Nanao
Helck is one of my most anticipated new manga releases of 2023 and it’s a hidden gem. In this story, the Demon Empire holds a tournament to choose the next Demon King. The favorite contestant to win is Helck, a kind-hearted human who says the reason he wants to become the Demon King is to defeat his own race, or does he have an ulterior motive? Dark forces are at work, and Red Vamirio—one of the Four Heavenly Kings who rule over the empire—must discover why Helck has such a strong following among some of the demons and find out exactly what he's planning.
While it has a seemingly simple premise, it’s a fantasy story that flips the script in a lot of ways. Not only is the individual that wins the demon king tournament a human, but he despises humans as well, which makes for an interesting and unexpected story.
It also has a lot of depth. The series starts out as a fun, heartwarming read, but as it develops, it becomes more serious, so you feel a lot of different emotions while reading the series. Like many of the series I enjoy, it’s fun, and will make you laugh but it also knows how to pull on your heartstrings as well. It also has some of my favorite characters in all of manga, including the main characters Helck and Vamirio, who have a wonderful dynamic. In addition to having a great cast of characters, it has great world-building too.
Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Berserk by Kentaro Miura is a dark fantasy, as well as a must-read seinen manga that's been a force in the industry for a little over 30 years and it's one that's held the mantle of my top manga since the day I read it. It features elaborate art, an absorbing story full of carnage and sacrifice, and a protagonist, Guts, who is one of the most brutal and unrelenting characters in all of manga.
Berserk is a story about so many things; human nature, struggle, one’s own will vs their destiny, the sacrifice we make for others, but also those we make for ourselves, and so much more. It’s set in a brutal world that’s plagued by war and our main character, Guts, is quite literally born into it.
Later on, in the Golden Age Arc, he joins a mercenary group called the Band of the Hawk that’s led by Griffith, a charismatic leader. This is the arc where things really take off in the story. But this is, of course, a dark fantasy, so something happens later on that changes everything for Guts and the story develops in a way that continuously keeps you invested.
One of the things I love about Kentaro Miura’s artwork is that a lot of the panels he draws are full of chaos because a lot of the time the characters are in the thick of battle. Even so, while there’s so much going on in these moments—swords are clashing, spears or arrows are flying, there are people on horseback, people charging on the ground—you can still tell what's going on. There are what feels like hundreds if not thousands of people at a time in action in his panels, yet you still know where your main focus should be thanks to the way he highlights his characters.
If you are looking for a series that has just as incredible of a story as it does art, look no further than Berserk by Kentaro Miura. It’s an absolute masterpiece through and through, and in my opinion, it’s the best fantasy manga as well as the best manga to release of all time. You can read Berserk by Kentaro Miura via the singles or the Berserk Deluxe Editions released by Dark Horse!
These are my favorite fantasy manga to release so far! I will continue to update this post as new fantasy manga are released, so stay tuned for more.