This list was hard for me to make, because there are a ton of amazing manga series that have been released and exciting new manga series are being announced for what feels like every week now. Manga has seen a huge boom in 2021 with sales more than tripling in the last year or so, so it’s no surprise that publishers are picking up more and more series for print. Needless to say, it’s an incredible time to be a manga lover.
I’ve picked up and read a lot of manga over the years and it’s been amazing to see more and more people getting into manga. With manga being such a vast and diverse medium, there’s so much to explore, so it can be hard to know where to start, or what to read next. With that in mind, I read every single manga on this post, and more, to find the best manga of all time.
I’ve taken into account length/completion, because its hard to compare new/ongoing manga to those that have been releasing for years or are completed, as well as the influence they’ve had, in addition to how good these series are in a number of areas, like art, story, characters, pacing, and more, while making this list.
I have a lot of series I’m keeping an eye on and will probably add to this list as more chapters are released, like Magus of the Library, Witch Hat Atelier, Dandadan, and Oshi no Ko to name a few. If they are a new series, with few volumes, I am waiting to add these until I can say for certain that they stack up with the rest of the manga on this list.
That all being said, here are the best manga of all time!
Toilet-bound Hanako-kun by AidaIro
Toilet-bound Hanako-kun by AidaIro is set in Kamome Academy, where rumors of the “Seven Mysteries” run wild. One such mystery is one of our main characters, Hanako-san, who resides in the third stall of the third-floor girls’ bathroom. When summoned, it’s said he grants any wish. High schooler and occult fanatic Nene Yashiro heads up to the bathroom to make a wish, but the Hanako-san she meets is a lot different than she expected.
One of the things I love the most about Toilet-bound Hanako-kun, in addition to its characters and its premise, is its art. AidaIro’s panels and character designs are some of the most unique I’ve seen, and I really enjoy the style of the art in Toilet-bound Hanako-kun. So much so that AidaIro is one of my all-time favorite manga artists.
If you enjoy stories that are centered around the occult or urban legends, enjoy stories that are full of mystery, or enjoy manga where the main character’s a ghost, Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is a must-read. Not only is it one of the most charming supernatural manga on this list, but the fact that it’s character-centric allows you to connect with the characters and they are relatable as well.
You can collect Toilet-bound Hanako-kun via the singles or the upcoming Toilet-bound Hanako-kun box sets releasing from Yen Press!
Bleach by Tite Kubo
Bleach isn’t underrated by any means, but it is the most under-recognized of the big shonen series. For some reason, it doesn’t nearly get as much credit as it deserves. To me, Bleach is one of the most unique shonen series, because it has a gritty style as well as an edge that makes it far ahead of its time.
It’s as if Tite Kubo saw where manga was headed, because it feels very much in the vein of what’s popular in modern shonen manga, and his works influenced many of the creators that are popular today, including Gege Akutami (Jujutsu Kaisen). It’s one that has had a strong influence on the current landscape of shonen and it’s one that has a dark as well as a more mature tone than other shonen manga.
On top of having one of my favorite art styles in all of manga, Tite Kubo has created one of the best casts of characters in shonen, including some of the best female characters in the shonen genre. There is no shortage of interesting personalities in this one, and the various groups that exist in this manga, the Gotei 13, the Arrancars, the Quincy, etc, add a lot to the story too.
Bleach was released with English translation in singles, 3 manga box sets, and the 3-in-1 editions. To see a comparison of each, check out my review on YouTube below!
Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto
Chainsaw Man is a recently released shonen manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, who you may also know as the creator of Fire Punch. With an intriguing storyline, likable characters, and a darker tone, Chainsaw Man is one of the best new manga to come out in quite some time and it will tear, or more accurately saw, its way into your heart. Chainsaw Man may be a newer release, but it’s one I feel confident in adding because it’s not only one of the best manga I’ve read as of late, it’s a game-changer for shonen.
Some of the hunters join because they lost everything at the hands of the devils, others because they want money, while some are forced into it because they have no other choice. This creates an extremely diverse group of characters that, while different, are working together for the same cause; Somewhere along the line though, differences in personality are bound to happen and you always have those two characters that butt heads, which happen to be Aki Hayakawa and Denji.
These two characters highlight the difference between people, like Denji, who believe that good devils, like Pochita exist in the world, and Hayakawa, who believes that all devils are bad and deserve an excruciating death. So far, the dialogue and interaction between the characters in Chainsaw Man are done well.
There’s a narrative in this series that all devils are evil, but as Denji shows you, just like there are good and bad people in this world, there are also good and bad devils. This is one of the most exciting elements of Chainsaw Man, but it’s its absurdly entertaining approach that makes Chainsaw Man a true standout. It’s full of action and is wild, but it has a ton of heart and emotion packed within it as well.
Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei
Blame! is one of my favorite sci-fi horror manga with a cyberpunk setting to release so far as well as one of my top manga of all time. One of the biggest factors that keep me invested in a manga is if it has a rich and well-thought-out world that pulls you in and immerses you in its story, and while a lot of manga has good world-building, few do it as well as Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame!.
There’s no denying that Tsutomu Nihei is a force, and while he has a lot of incredible works, including Knights of Sidonia, Biomega, Abara, and Aposimz, none of them have been quite as influential as Blame!. And while I enjoy all of his manga for different reasons, even after all of these years, it is still my favorite manga of his to date.
Blame! is a story about Killy. He is making his way through this giant superstructure that is far bigger than we could ever imagine in search of something called the Net Terminal Gene. Over the course of his journey, he meets new allies and people, but he also comes across opposition from the Safeguard and the Silicon Life. There is so much more to this story, though.
There are two main reasons why Blame! is so successful: Tsutomu Nihei’s world-building and his art. Blame! features some of the most incredible art I’ve ever seen in a manga. When we read manga, we often look at panels that mangaka have spent hours if not longer working on for mere seconds at a time, but Tsutomu Nihei’s manga pushes you to pay attention to all of the details.
Tsutomu Nihei is a master at what he does and there’s just something truly sinister about the way that Silicon Life in particular look and the feeling you get as Killy is making his way through this dark and cold world. Blame! was the first manga to prove to me that a story doesn’t always have to be told with words, but that it can be done through art instead. It’s a really unique read and one that I highly recommend all manga collectors, no matter what you are a fan of, check out, because there’s no series quite like it.
You can collect Blame! with English translation via the singles or the Master Editions!
Gintama by Hideaki Sorachi
Gintama by Hideaki Sorachi is up there with series like Grand Blue Dreaming for me, because it’s made me laugh out loud more times than I can count. It is one of my top comedy manga recommendations in addition to being one of my favorite sci-fi series. In my opinion, Gintama is the best shonen of all time. Not only is it set in a unique, sci-fi world, but it also has a wonderful sense of humor, perfect comedic timing, and an incredible cast of characters.
A lot of people love Gintama because of its humor, including me, but to say that Gintama is just a comedy would be doing it a disservice. Even though the series’ absurdness and Hideaki Sorachi’s sense of humor are a large part of its appeal and success, Gintama has so much more to offer.
Gintama gets serious later on, and while its main character Gintoki is a lovable dope, he’s a complete badass as well. It’s a well-balanced series that is chock-full of sidesplitting as well as action-packed panels, but it has relatable characters and moments that will connect with you on a deeper level too.
Another thing about Gintama that I love is the fact that it’s episodic, but it also has an overarching story that ties everything together. The story follows Gintoki and his friends at Odd Jobs, who take on a myriad of different requests. It’s set in the Edo period, but aliens called Amanto have taken over, so it has a very unique and interesting world.
Gintama was released with English translation by Viz, but only 23 of the 77 volumes were released. Here’s hoping the series is fully translated one day because it definitely deserves it!
Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki
Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki follows Shinichi Izumi, who’s your everyday, average high school student. His life changes forever one day when an alien creature called a Parasite invades his body. Somehow, he manages to prevent it from infesting his entire body, containing it only in his hand.
No longer the same, with his hand under the control of a murderous alien named Migi, Shinichi will have to face this new reality head-on. Others who have been infested by Parasites have not had such luck and have been taken over by these otherworldly beings. Their bodies are now hosts under the control of the Parasites, who morph their bodies into horrifying visions and use their bodies to hide within the crowd as “humans”. The only one who knows of their secret is Shinichi, so he will have to find a way to warn humanity of the horrors to come.
It’s a series that was released over 30 years ago and is still highly influential and loved to this day. It’s a sci-fi horror classic that has withstood the test of time, and it’s without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best horror manga to ever release. On top of that, it has some of the most horrifying alien designs I’ve ever seen as well and it has some of the most effective body horror in all of manga.
You can collect Parasyte with English translation via the Parasyte Full Color editions or the singles released by Kodansha! Not sure which to pick up? Check out my comparison of the editions below!
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda is an epic saga that’s full of adventure and it’s the most popular shonen manga of all time. 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, 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 in all shonen manga, and some of the best world-building I’ve seen, One Piece is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the reigning kings of shonen. 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.
Homunculus by Hideo Yamamoto
Hideo Yamamoto’s Homunculus is one of the best psychological horror manga ever created. Seven Seas recently announced that they will be releasing Homunculus with English translation in an oversized omnibus format. Homunculus is a highly-wished-for and long-awaited series, so this is exciting as well as much-anticipated news.
Homunculus follows Susumu Nakoshi. One day he’s in a lavish hotel, the next he’s living in his car. He is approached by Manabu Ito, a 22-year-old medical student, who tells Nakoshi that he’s a perfect candidate for an experimental surgery. At first, everything seems normal for Nakoshi following this experimental surgery, but everything changes when the effects kick in and he begins seeing the homunculus in every person. Manabu and Nakoshi’s interactions and their complex relationship are a big reason why Homunculus is such an intriguing series.
Since Nakoshi undergoes an experimental surgery, it leaves him seeing the world in a strange and unexpected way. It’s hard to know how much is real and how much isn’t as you read, so there’s a real mystery to this series. Because you follow Nakoshi as he works to understand what’s going on and come to terms with his new reality, you really feel like you’re experiencing the story with Nakoshi as a result.
While there’s a supernatural feel to the series, Homunculus is rooted very much in reality. It’s a relatable read that explores the psyche of its main character, but it also explores emotions and the human condition in a more abstract way. This is explored even more in Nakoshi’s interactions with homunculi.
The artwork in Homunculus is simple yet beautiful as well. Hideo Yamamoto’s ability to use symbolism and create an interesting story is one of a kind.
Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
Naruto is one of the first manga I ever read, so it holds a special place in my heart. Even to this day, though, it’s still one of the best shonen manga I’ve read. Naruto is largely successful because of its characters. The story follows Naruto, a shinobi that houses the power of the Nine-Tails, on his journey to become Hokage. It has a large cast, so some characters do get cast a bit to the side, but the ones that are in the limelight most of the time are properly developed. It also has one of the best villain groups in all of shonen, the Akatsuki.
The battles in Naruto are one of its biggest strong suits. The fights are well-drawn and easy to follow. They are thrilling and action-packed but have meaning too. I also really enjoy the fact that most of the “bad guys” in this story are likable as well as redeemable. You can sympathize with them in some way or other thanks to the backstories they’ve been given, and this pulls you even more into the story.
If you are new to shonen, Naruto is one of the top series I recommend. You can collect it via the Naruto singles, manga box sets, or the 3-in-1 editions. Not sure which is the best edition for you? Check out my comparison of all three on YouTube below!
Neon Genesis Evangelion by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Neon Genesis Evangelion is based on the original anime that was released in 1995. It is written and illustrated by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, who’s the character designer for the anime. The manga is an adaptation of the 1995 anime, but it was released first in 1994 because of the anime’s production delays. Later down the road in 2012, Viz published the manga again, but in a new omnibus format.
There are a number of differences between the manga and its source material, most notably the endings. But, the manga also goes more in-depth about the events that occur in the anime and gives some characters more development and backstory, so if there were any points that confused you in the anime, you will learn more in the manga. That being said, if you’ve already watched the anime, the manga is an entirely new experience thanks to its differences and it’s well worth checking out in addition to the original series.
Neon Genesis Evangelion follows a paramilitary research organization named NERV and its pilots, who pilot Evangelion, aka EVA Units, in their war against Angels, which are other-worldly and powerful entities that much is unknown about.
It’s set in an immersive and unique post-apocalyptic world that’s full of mystery and secrets. The lore within Evangelion is extensive. Paired with its ability to always keep you guessing and its mind-bending twists, it is an unforgettable read.
It’s also one of the most influential mecha manga ever to be released and it dives deep into the psychology of its pilots, which allows you to connect with them more. Neon Genesis Evangelion highlights the battle between individuality and instrumentality and it dives deep into psychological as well as religious themes, which makes it unlike any other mecha series I’ve read before.
Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
When it comes to shonen classics, few are as recognizable as Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. In the West, Dragon Ball was released in two installments, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. A total of 42 volumes collect the main series. Since its release in the ’80s, many side-stories and spin-offs as well as a sequel titled Dragon Ball Super have been released. It’s been going strong for years and is oftentimes recognized as the grandfather of modern shonen manga, paving the way for other popular shonen series like Naruto and Hunter x Hunter that came after it.
Dragon Ball is full of adventures as we follow Goku and his friends on their journey to become stronger. In Dragon Ball, the story is about Goku’s childhood and his most formidable years, but in Dragon Ball Z, he’s an adult and faces new and formidable foes. It has some of the best battles and showdowns in all of shonen, and there’s just something about the constant powering up and growth of its characters, that keeps you wanting more.
There are currently seven different ways to collect Dragon Ball with English translation. I reviewed and compared them all, so you can find out which edition is best for you.
Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi
Hunter x Hunter‘s manga has been releasing since the late 90s, and it is still one of the highest-rated shonen manga of all time. It follows our MC, Gon, who dreams of becoming a legendary Hunter like his dad in order to one day find him. But to do so, he’ll have to pass a series of tests and overcome all of the obstacles that stand in his way.
The complex and endearing relationship between Gon and Killua is one of the biggest strong suits of Hunter x Hunter. As they work to find out who they want to be as individuals, they also have to navigate their friendship and the struggles that come with it.
On top of having amazing character dynamics, Hunter x Hunter has one of my favorite villain groups in all of shonen, the Phantom Troupe, and one of my favorite arcs of all time, the Chimera Ant Arc. This series is fun and full of adventure, but it’s one of the darkest shonen you’ll ever read and it delves into philosophical topics as well.
No Longer Human by Usamaru Furuya & Osamu Dazai
No Longer Human by Usamaru Furuya, who you may also know as the creator of Lychee Light Club, is a manga that broke me even more so than another series on this list, Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano. No Longer Human is the saddest manga I’ve ever read, but it’s also one of the best.
No Longer Human is inspired by Osamu Dazai’s novel of the same name. It’s one that will gut-punch you from the very start, and like the original novel, it will pull you into a pit of despair. It isn’t an enjoyable read by any means and it’s one of the most heart-wrenching series out there, but if you aren’t faint of heart, it’s one that you will be glad you experienced by its end. It’s one of the few manga series that I feel confident in calling a masterpiece.
The story follows Ooba Youzou and his life as it spirals further and further out of control. He fears others, so much so that he hides from the world. He makes attempts to connect with others, but only superficially, as a means to protect himself, but also to protect others from him and his seedy ways. In order to be hated or loved, one must reveal their true self to the world, and this is something he wants to avoid at all costs.
This is very much a story about a young man who lives outside of the human fold yet so desperately wants to be part of it, or at the very least attempt to understand it, and this is a big part of the reason why it’s such a tough read. Humans are flawed, and even sometimes downright despicable, and No Longer Human explores this extensively.
No Longer Human is a short read that’s expertly crafted. But it’s not just how Usamaru Furuya tells this story through words that will capture you, it’s how he tells it through his art, and the symbolism in his panels, that will engross you in its pages as well. It’s the best adaptation of No Longer Human to release so far. It brings the popular classic into the modern-day world, while at the same time, maintaining the same feel of and respecting the original.
It used to be difficult to collect in English, especially given that the individual volumes are out of print as well as expensive to buy, but Kodansha recently released a No Longer Human Complete Edition that you can shop now!
20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa
20th Century Boys has a little bit of everything I love from doomsday cults to giant robots, so I had a feeling I’d love it, but I didn’t know just how much. Flash-forward years later after completing it and it’s still one of my top manga of all time. It’s a sci-fi manga with out-of-this-world elements, but it feels so real and relatable thanks to its characters.
I’ve always been a fan of stories that are centered around a group of friends working together to unravel a mystery, like It, but the success of these series really depends on the dynamics as well as the personalities of its characters. That being said, if you are a fan of movies like It or The Goonies, you’ll most likely love 20th Century Boys, because it features an incredible cast of characters.
Given that this series features an adult cast of characters, who experienced something unbelievable together as children, there are a lot of flashbacks in this series. You’ll be taken through various timelines of this story over the course of chapters. When done incorrectly, jumping through timelines in one story could confuse the reader, but Naoki Urasawa ordered the events in 20th Century Boys in a way that makes them not only easy to follow but more thrilling and impactful as well.
If you love twists and turns, a compelling mystery, or stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, 20th Century Boys is one you’ll want to check out. You can collect the series via the singles or the 20th Century Boys Perfect Editions!
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 is 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 well-developed and interesting supernatural 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.
Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka
Magi is a fantasy manga by Shinobu Ohtaka that takes place in a magical world where mysterious towers known as dungeons have appeared all across the land. The story follows 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 encounter a cast of memorable allies and foes and uncover the deep and complex secrets of the world they live in.
Magi has a unique blend of action, comedy, politics, and philosophy that make it stand out from the rest. 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 heartwarming interactions between its characters, which add a lot of warmth to the story. Magi‘s characters are relatable and likable, but it’s set in a unique world too.
The world-building in Magi is top-notch, with vividly realized depictions of diverse cultures and mythologies. The characters are well-developed and memorable, each with their own motivations and internal struggles, and I really connected with their stories as a result. All in all, Magi is a series that’s full of action and adventure, but it will move you in unexpected ways as well.
Eden: It’s an Endless World! by Hiroki Endo
Eden: It’s an Endless World! by Hiroki Endo, who you may also know as the creator of All Rounder Meguru, is one of my favorite post-apocalyptic sci-fi manga of all time. It also has a cyberpunk feel and is more violent and dark than most of the series on this list, which puts it more so in the category of series like Akira. Even though it’s one of the best to release so far, it’s still a highly underrated sci-fi manga.
One reason as to why this could be is because it is so expensive to collect right now, especially given that the Eden: It’s an Endless World! singles by Dark Horse are out of print. There is hope that Eden: It’s an Endless World! Deluxe Editions will be released someday, as they did with the Berserk Deluxe Editions.
Eden: It’s an Endless World! is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where a devastating virus that hardens the skin and dissolves internal organs is ravaging humanity. Those who aren’t immune are left severely crippled or, if they can afford it, live on with cybernetic enhancements.
In a world thrown into chaos, a paramilitary group called the Propater has toppled the UN, setting up its own government with the intent of taking over the world. Elijah, a young man searching for his lost mother, travels toward the Andes Mountains with an artificially intelligent combat robot. When he encounters a group of freedom fighters opposed to the Propater, a diverse cast of fascinating characters enter this story.
Eden: It’s an Endless World! is set in a cold and harsh world, so you see the absolute worst of humanity in this manga. Despite this, you do get some moments of warmth and light between the characters, but even still, it is a brutal read. Eden: It’s an Endless World! focuses a lot on realism, and because of this, it’s believable. It’s the way that Hiroki Endo envisioned as well as executed this futuristic, bleak world, though, that is the most compelling thing about Eden: It’s an Endless World!.
Uzumaki by Junji Ito
Uzumaki by Junji Ito, who is one of the most popular horror manga creators and is well-known by horror fans everywhere, follows a young girl as she and her family become increasingly obsessed with spirals. The spiral phenomenon affects their town, causing people to disappear or die. Out of all of Junji Ito’s works, Uzumaki is probably my favorite.
Uzumaki showcases how one can spiral into madness well. Full of drama and suspense, the manga focuses less on blood and gore and more so on psychological horror. The story is episodic in nature at times, but it still has an overarching story that ties everything together. His creepy, highly-detailed art style is something to behold as well. To me, Uzumaki is more disturbing than it is scary. That being said, it is one of the most unsettling reads on this list.
It’s hard to talk about Uzumaki without giving too much away. All I can say is that this manga is in a class of its own when it comes to horror. It’s extremely weird and messed up, but at the same time very original in its storytelling and art style. If you are looking to get into more of Junji Ito’s works, I recommend checking out Tomie, No Longer Human, Sensor, Gyo, and Shiver: Junji Ito Selected Stories also. These, in addition to Uzumaki, are some of the best manga by Junji Ito.
One Punch Man by Yusuke Murata & ONE
One Punch Man follows Saitama, one of the most overpowered main characters in manga. Because nothing and no one can beat him, he struggles with ennui and depression. He heads out in search of a foe that will rival him, but this proves to be more of a challenge than he expected.
One Punch Man is somewhere between comical and badass, and this gives it an interesting edge that makes it a true force to be reckoned with. As far as heroes go, Saitama is the most overpowered I’ve come across, and while some manga with an unbeatable hero can lose your interest over time, One Punch Man does not.
If you are worried that this is just going to be another run-of-the-mill, overpowered superhero story, don’t be. It is done well conceptually, and paired with its humor and interesting supporting roles, you’ll see why it’s unique.
Saitama’s immense strength, boredom, and unbeatable record are what cause him to seek out a good fight, and it’s those interactions and scenes that make One Punch Man as entertaining as it is. The fact that almost everyone fails to take him seriously is another part of the comedy that makes this series shine. And of course, there’s Yusuke Murata’s art, which is in a league of its own. The art in One Punch Man is some of the best I’ve ever seen, but the story is amazing also.
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima
A Silent Voice follows Shoya Ishida, a young boy who used to bully Shoko Nishimiya, a girl with a hearing disability. However, when Shoko transfers schools, Shoya, who was once the bully is now bullied himself. Now that he’s older and he knows what it feels like to be bullied by the students in his class, he regrets his actions. A few years later, Shoya meets Shoko again and he decides to make things right.
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima is a heartwarming and tear-jerking series about the importance of second chances, but even more so than that, it’s a moving story about redemption and how people, with time and experience, can change. It’s also very much so a story about communication and how difficult it can be to express one’s emotions.
Few series have made me feel as much as A Silent Voice. More accurately, few series have made me cry as much as A Silent Voice. Amazingly, though, it not only had me crying sad tears, but happy tears as well. That being said, it’s one that will take you on an emotional, but also an inspiring journey, and it is one of the best and most profound manga I’ve ever read.
GTO by Tohru Fujisawa
GTO or Great Teacher Onizuka by Toru Fujisawa made it to the top of my ecchi manga list, but it’s one of my favorite comedy manga as well. Even more so than that, though, GTO is one of the all-time greats in manga that, despite first being released in the late 90s, still rivals manga released today. If you like comedy manga series that are funny but also have a good message, GTO is a must-read.
A big reason why GTO is so funny is our main character Eikichi Onizuka. Whether it’s his antics or mannerisms, his facial expressions, or the situations he finds himself in, Onizuka adds a lot of humor to this story. But, as you’ll learn over the course of the chapters, he’s so much more than the “funny guy”. Onizuka is a former gang member who becomes a teacher—and he’s the toughest, roughest, and brashest teacher you’ve ever seen.
He’s not afraid to break all the rules to reach his students, who are wild delinquents that are hard to teach, let alone, please. But he really connects with them on a deeper level and, with the help of his unconventional teaching methods, gets through to them one by one.
GTO is as fun as it is thought-provoking. More so than that, it’s a lesson in how a series with simple elements can be just as meaningful and worthwhile as one with complex ones. What it offers more so than anything though is heart and soul.
You can collect GTO via the singles released by Tokyopop, but they are one of the most expensive out-of-print manga series you can collect right now. I really hope we get a reprint someday!
Real by Takehiko Inoue
Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk) impresses once again in the sports manga category with Real, a manga about wheelchair basketball. While other sports series focus more so on the games, Real‘s focus is on its characters; All three of which have been in terrible accidents or have had health issues that left them disabled.
The main characters each have faults of their own, one, for instance, caused an accident that ruined the life of a fellow student, but they aspire to become better, and you really see them grow over the course of the series. These life-changing events change their perspective and they bond through the sport of basketball.
The art is beautiful, intricate, and highly detailed, which is something I’ve come to expect from Takehiko Inoue. Out of all the sports manga I’ve ever read, Real has the most realistic and best art I’ve seen. The way he captures and conveys the emotions of characters is beyond anything I’ve seen before too. You really feel these characters’ struggles and, in turn, connect with them as they work to become better people and rediscover their purpose in life through their passion for basketball.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano is a slice-of-life sci-fi manga that is severely underrated for how incredible it is. Seven Seas are publishing the series for the first time with English translation in a Deluxe Edition format, and it is one of my most anticipated new manga releases of 2022!
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou follows an android named Alpha Hatsuseno, who runs a small cafe outside of Yokohama that the owner left in her care, on her everyday journeys. She meets a lot of different people over the course of the story, and she learns and gains a lot through her interactions with them. While it’s sci-fi, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is set in a rural place, where life is quiet and slow, and even though this is a futuristic society, it doesn’t necessarily feel like one because it is still very much of this world.
The story has a melancholic, bittersweet tone, but it’s still a light read. Everything has its time, and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou highlights the transience of the world in a way that, while tragic, is ultimately beautiful. In most post-apocalyptic manga, the world is crumbling, humanity is fighting against itself for resources, and all chaos breaks loose, but in this story, humanity has accepted its fate and is living out its days as best and as peacefully as it can. As a result of this, it’s an extremely refreshing read. Given that the story is told through the eyes of Alpha, who never ages, we see the world change around her, so it has a unique perspective as well.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War by Aka Akasaka
Kaguya-sama: Love is War is the ultimate “will they, won’t they” manga. The mind games in this series are incredible. Over the course of the chapters, you’ll watch the main characters Kaguya and Shirogane battle it out, trying to convince each other to confess their love. In some ways, watching them is like witnessing a chess match between two highly talented and intelligent individuals, but with added drama and theatrics that spice things up.
I personally enjoy the series because it’s humorous to read, and you have to love the irony of the whole series. For Kaguya and Shirogane, admitting their love for one another would be like admitting defeat to the other, but in reality, they’d both win in the end. But, it’s their stubbornness and unwillingness to admit their feelings that give the manga its purpose, and this adds humor to its premise. In addition, you have other personalities like Yuu Ishigami, Chika Fujiwara, and many more that bring a lot to the table as well.
The thing I appreciate the most about Kaguya-sama: Love is War is that it feels like a complete original. With it being a rom-com manga, it could have very easily fallen into the same tropes that other series commonly do, but it doesn’t feel rehashed in any way. It’s the series’ humorous and unique take on love, though, that makes it one of the best.
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 drive 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.
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo is a series that probably needs no introduction. It’s a classic that still holds up to this day and it has only continued to grow in popularity since its release in the 80s. Not only is it one of the best sci-fi as well as cyberpunk manga to ever release, but it has also made a huge impact on the manga and anime industries and beyond.
Akira is an epic saga, set in a dystopian version of Tokyo that has been devastated by a thermonuclear attack. Biker gangs control the streets, while the wealthy and powerful are engaged in unethical experiments designed to unleash destructive supernatural powers on an unsuspecting populace. Akira continues to be one of the most prominent forces in post-apocalyptic fiction with its dark themes and groundbreaking premise.
As mentioned earlier, Akira was written in the ’80s, but the story is set in 2019. If you have yet to read Akira, it’s interesting to read a story that takes place in about the same time we are living now. To see how one person envisioned what our world would be like today, and how it compares to the world we currently live in, makes it that much more enjoyable to explore.
If you’ve already seen the Akira anime film but have yet to read the series, I highly recommend it. Not only is it ahead of its time, but it is one of the best stories I’ve ever read. There’s a lot more content in the manga that wasn’t included in the film, so there’s even more to experience.
Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate
Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate is the best volleyball manga, but it’s also one of the most prominent sports manga to release so far. Not just because of its characters, but also because it emotionally invests you in its story. Few sports manga have made me feel as much as Haikyuu!!. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and feel victorious but also feel defeated at times as well; Everything an athlete could feel, you’ll feel too while reading Haikyuu!!.
The character development in Haikyuu!! is expertly done as well. Haruichi Furudate gave each and every character their moment or moments to shine and you feel connected to them all as a result. The dynamics between the teams as well as the players are also interesting. You have some players who have joined new teams, so what was once their rivals are now their teammates, and this adds even more interest to the story.
Haikyuu!! is one that I feel is a great gateway manga for fans who aren’t typically into sports but are looking to explore the world of sports manga, but it’s also one that die-hard fans of volleyball will love as well!
Rainbow: Nisha Rokubō no Shichinin by George Abe & Masasumi Kakizaki
While Rainbow: Nisha Rokubō no Shichinin, or Rainbow for short, is not a feel-good story, it’s a truly effective one that’s an absolute masterpiece through and through, and the connection and friendship that grows between the characters does shine some light in the dark. With amazing art by Masasumi Kakizaki (Green Blood, Bestiarius) and a phenomenal story by George Abe, this is one you definitely don’t want to miss.
Rainbow has never been printed in English, but it has been printed in other languages, including French. I’m starting to think a print release with English translation may be a pipe dream given that the anime was released in 2010 and the manga completed in the same year, but I still remain hopeful, because it’s one of the most wished-for as well as best seinen titles to ever be released.
Rainbow follows 6 teenagers who are imprisoned in a Juvenile Detention Center and meet Sakuragi, who is the oldest of the group and entered juvie before them. He’s good at boxing as well. He takes these boys under his wing, helping them navigate this extremely corrupt and messed up world they are in, helping them grow.
Rainbow is a brutal read, especially given that many horrible and unbelievable things happen to the characters in this manga. Even though it has a dark tone, the relationship between these seven as well as the incredible storytelling and art that’s present in this series keeps you reading. It’s one of my top series and I hope you will give it a read if you have yet to do so!
Beck by Harold Sakuishi
Beck is an incredible slice-of-life story that follows a rock band, the struggles they encounter on their way to “making it”, and the responsibilities and relationships they juggle alongside the band. Beck does an incredible job at conveying the difficulties that come with being a musician, like how hard it is to get your name out there, but it also expresses the joy that comes with following your passion and it celebrates the camaraderie that is built between the members of this band.
In addition to the band dynamic, Beck highlights the relationships the members build outside of the band as well (this is where some romance comes in), so it’s a well-rounded story that not only takes a look at their lives in the band but outside of it also. Beck has strong characters, and the interactions between them are what makes this series shine, but it also balances comedic and serious moments well.
When it comes to manga about music or coming-of-age stories, none do it quite as well as Beck. It’s a classic that’s underrated for how incredible it is, but even more so than that, it’s one of the best manga I’ve ever read.
Beck was released with an English translation by Tokyopop, but the volumes are now out of print. To learn more, check out my Out of Print Manga Guide!
Pluto by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka
Pluto is Naoki Urasawa’s take on Astro Boy’s The Greatest Robot on Earth arc and it is one of my favorite sci-fi manga to release to date. In the postscripts of the volumes, I read that Macoto Tezuka, who is the son of Osamu Tezuka, the Father of Manga, first said no to Urasawa’s proposal, but after meeting with him, later accepted with one condition: He had to go toe to toe with his Dad and create something entirely different and new.
The combination of Tezuka and Urasawa, who has already penned masterful works like Monster and 20th Century Boys, is a no-brainer given what they both have achieved and the type of works they create. What Urasawa adds to Astro Boy is an air of mystery, a story where the world’s greatest robots are being hunted down and killed by an unknown killer.
Instead of the main character being Astro Boy, or Atom as he is called in Pluto, we follow a detective named Gesicht. Gesicht is a robot, but through his actions and interactions with others, we see that he’s very much human. In Pluto and Astro Boy, the human and robot relationship, and how the line between the two is so often blurred, is explored. Urasawa delves into this even further in Pluto and showcases the struggles and discrimination that robots face in this world.
The big thing Pluto really questions, though, is what happens when the line between robot and human no longer exists, and human-like emotions, such as hatred and sadness, are brought into the mix. Being that it’s set in a post-war society and highlights the aftermath that war has had on the people, both robot and human alike, it’s many times a heartbreaking, harrowing read, but it’s also thrilling and exciting thanks to the mystery and action that fills its pages as well.
Urasawa didn’t stray too far from Astro Boy, or Tetsuwan Atom as it’s known in Japan, so it’s a respectful retelling, but it breaks the mold as well. As a result, it’s one that fans of the original series will find familiarity with, but it offers an entirely new experience too. It’s a fantastic retelling of The Greatest Robot on Earth arc and it has one of the most enthralling stories, and some of the most striking panels, in all of sci-fi manga.
Holyland by Kouji Mori
Holyland is a mixture of many different delinquent stories that I enjoy, with a focus on street fighting. The characters’ fighting styles vary from boxing to Judo, so the protagonist is constantly fighting opponents that force him to think differently and adapt quickly to the situation, and this makes the story unique from other manga with similar themes.
Holyland follows Yuu Kamishiro, an introvert that’s bullied by his classmates. Tired of enduring so much pain, he stops going to school and heads out into the night, in search of something that will make him feel alive. He begins to train himself in martial arts at home and discovers he has a knack for it. He takes what he learns and uses it in the streets to fight against street thugs.
Yuu, from Holyland, is a character who has a rather typical backstory—the kid who gets bullied and wants to become stronger—but the way he goes about becoming stronger is not so typical at all. He heads out at night into the streets, waiting for someone to try something with him, and then fights them one on one. Yuu doesn’t back down even though people think of him as weak and it’s inspiring to watch him grow throughout the series.
Eventually, he attracts the attention of thugs everywhere and they dub him the “Thug Hunter”. Other fighters recognize his face and target him, so bigger and stronger opponents come out of the woodwork to challenge him. He also gains the attention of Masaki Izawa, a talented boxer who hangs out in the streets. Izawa is amazed by Yuu’s raw talent but recognizes his flaws, so it’s not just Yuu that makes this story but those he meets along the way as well.
I found Holyland to be a very educational experience because it gives you all the information you need to understand what’s going on without bogging you down with unnecessary details. The story unfolds beautifully, getting straight into the thick of things while still giving you enough backstory that connects you with the characters. Our main character is highly relatable as well.
Holyland delivers a story with a stronger impact than many of its counterparts. It heavily focuses on psychological themes, making it a one-of-a-kind sports series. In addition, it has earned its place as one of the best seinen manga of all-time.
Nana by Ai Yazawa
Nana by Ai Yazawa tells the story of two Nana’s, Nana Osaki and Nana Komatsu, who move to Tokyo after turning 20 years old: Nana O. to pursue a professional music career with her punk band, Black Stones, and Nana K. to join her friends and move in with her boyfriend. Despite having different personalities and ambitions, the two find similarities with each other and become close friends and roommates.
Nana is unique because you watch two friends, who come from different walks of life, bond together over their experiences, both positive and negative. You watch them relate and connect despite their differing personalities and interests to overcome their heartbreaks but also rejoice in happy times and celebrate their successes as well. It goes to show that we all, no matter who we are or where we come from, can relate with one another through shared experiences, and this is part of what makes Nana such a successful series.
The relationships and characters in Nana are complex and their emotions are conveyed expertly on the page. Any time a manga creator can show me how a character feels, rather than just tell me, I’m impressed, and Ai Yazawa does just that.
Nana is relatable given that the main characters are pursuing their dreams and I love that it takes a mature look at what it means to be a young adult and the common struggles that come with being one, from love to going to college and forming one’s career. As far as the romance in Nana goes, it explores not only the joys that come with love, but the heartbreak that can come with it as well, and this makes it not only a realistic but also a multi-dimensional read.
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 are 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.
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, leading family, the En family, which brings the two worlds, the Hole and the Sorcerer’s World together in this story.
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.
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 with hints of 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 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.
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue, who is also the creator of Slam Dunk and Real, features realistic art and a story that, while rooted in history, feels larger-than-life. Not only that, but the series has a strong cast of characters that grow and develop in a way that’s not just relatable but interesting as well.
If you are new to Vagabond, the story follows Miyamoto Musashi on his journey to become the greatest swordsman. Because of his brutish and violent ways, a lot of people think he’s something like a demon, but we, as the reader, know he’s so much more than that and we really see him develop and grow over the course of the volumes.
The people he meets along the way add so much to this story too, and they not only affect us but Musashi as well. Vagabond is a story based on the real-life swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, but while it has roots in history, it feels like this larger-than-life tale as mentioned prior. Also, as far as samurai stories go, it’s one of the most unique, relatable, and engrossing I’ve ever read.
If you are looking to pick up the series, there are two ways to collect Vagabond with English translation, the individual volumes and the Vagabond Vizbig Editions!
Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui
Assassination Classroom is a unique science fiction manga that takes a hard look at the education system. Not only does it showcase various teaching styles over the course of the series, but it showcases the individual strengths and talents of the students in Class 3-E, a misfit class that is tasked with sharpening not only their skills as a student but their assassination skills as well. Their target? Their otherworldly teacher Korosensei looks like a yellow octopus and has a myriad of unbelievable powers and abilities, including the ability to move at Mach 20 speed, regeneration, and more.
The students in Class 3-E, which are excluded from Kunugigaoka Junior High School, struggled in their studies in the past, but Korosensei sees the potential in them from day one. He notices their strengths and weaknesses and changes his teaching style in order to best help each student. Korosensei even takes an AI under his wing. He treats everyone the same, but differently as well, to foster their strengths, improve on their weaknesses, and ultimately, help them reach their full potential.
On one hand, you see Korosensei being such an incredible teacher, one you’d dream to have yourself, but on the other hand, you are told from the start that he’s a threat to humanity. Not only did he allegedly blow up part of the moon, but he also plans to do the same to Earth as well unless one of the students assassinate him within a set timeframe. So it’s an interesting dynamic. You see the students really grow to love and appreciate Korosensei, but they are also always trying to assassinate him as well.
There is a very serious tone to this manga and it has a lot to say, especially in regard to education, but it’s funny and heartfelt as well. On top of all that, it has an incredible cast of characters. Even though it’s a large cast too, each character is given their time in the spotlight, so you’ll connect with them all. It focuses a lot on the group dynamic but spends time highlighting each individual as well, which is unique.
It’s one of my all-time favorite shonen manga, and while it’s loved by many, it’s still underrated in comparison to other series in the genre. You can collect it via the single volumes, but I recommend the Assassination Classroom Complete Manga Box Set released by Viz.
Gantz by Hiroya Oku
Gantz follows Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato, two high school students who die in a train accident and become part of a semi-posthumous “game” in which they and other recently deceased people are forced to track down and kill aliens armed with a handful of futuristic equipment and weaponry. The missions they go on typically result in the brutal and gory deaths of their targets as well as their teammates, with the survivors being returned to their daily lives until their next mission.
On their missions, they can rack up points, which allow them to revive a lost teammate, return to the real world for good, or upgrade their weapons. However, there are plenty of twists along the way—which I can’t spoil.
There are a lot of different elements at play in this story. It also keeps you interested because you’re always trying to discover more about the Gantz world along with the characters. There’s even some romance involved as well. There are some twists that pop up along the way that make the story more intriguing and give it even more weight than it already has. So, on top of having a story that is constantly evolving and always throwing new developments and characters into the mix, it’s one that is relentless in terms of its approach as well.
One of Gantz’s biggest strong suits is its art. I do want to say that the art starts out well, but you really see Hiroya Oku’s art evolve over the course of the series, especially when it comes to the characters and their facial expressions.
Hiroya Oku is one of my favorite artists of all time and he is on another level when it comes to his panels. He has created some of the most highly detailed panels I’ve ever seen in a manga. He really emphasizes the feeling of a moment and the gravity of the situation in his art, so they often evoke an emotional response.
Everything from the blood and gore to the action is turned up to eleven in Gantz, so it’s a chaotic journey, to say the least, but it’s one that’s well worth reading. For these reasons and more, it’s one of my top seinen manga of all time, but it’s also one of the most action-packed sci-fi manga you can read as well.
Still need more convincing? Check out my in-depth and spoiler-free review of Gantz and get an inside look at the manga, you can also check out my video on YouTube below.
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.
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.
Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura
Vinland Saga is, as its name would suggest, a saga, but it takes you on an incredible journey and every chapter engrosses you more and more in its story. Vinland Saga is a story about Vikings that’s told realistically, but it’s told in an artful and impactful way and it offers a lot of insight into the plight and struggles of the people who lived in this harsh, war-driven world. While reading Vinland Saga, you are very much transported back to this time period through Makoto Yukimura’s art and storytelling.
Vinland Saga follows Thorfinn, who sat at Leif Ericson’s feet and listened with delight to wild tales of a land far to the west. But his dreams were shattered by a mercenary raid… Raised by the Vikings who murdered his family, Thorfinn became a terrifying warrior, forever seeking to kill the band’s leader, Askeladd, and avenge his father. Sustaining Thorfinn through his ordeal are his pride in his family and his dreams of a fertile westward land—a land without war or slavery…the land Leif called Vinland.
Character development is one of Vinland Saga‘s strong suits. There are a lot of characters in Vinland Saga with strong motivations that make them interesting. So, while it is a story about Vikings with plenty of blood and gore, it’s full of substance as well.
For me, though, it’s Thorfinn, who is being torn between two worlds, that’s the most compelling part of the series. You’ll see him hell-bent on avenging his father’s death, but his father gave up being a Viking and vowed to never kill again, so he has that running through his head as well. It is this struggle within him that really gives this series some weight.
Since it’s a historical manga about Vikings and the time they lived in, you’ll see the Vikings pillage villages and kill whoever stands in their way, but you’ll get so much more than that, especially with characters like Askeladd, whose craftiness is entertaining to watch. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, everything from the scenery to the battle scenes to the grotesque gore in Vinland Saga is beautifully-drawn.
Deadman Wonderland by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou
If you enjoy seinen and you are looking for a shonen to get into, Deadman Wonderland is one I always recommend because it is one of the most graphic and mature shonen series I’ve ever read. It also has a fair share of gore as well, which is unique for a shonen.
In this story, our main character is framed for the murders of his classmates and he is sent to Deadman Wonderland, a prison that also serves as a tourist attraction. There, he will have to fight in high-stakes death games against other inmates all the while trying to uncover the mystery of the Red Man, who’s crimes he is paying for.
in addition to Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba, who created Death Note and Bakuman, Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou are one of my favorite duos in manga. They are amazing individually, but when they come together, they are unstoppable. The character designs and art in Deadman Wonderland are incredible. The panels are full of detail, the use of perspective is great, and they make an impact. There’s mystery, suspense, and twist and turns in this one that make it compelling too and the way the story develops is top-notch.
Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
Tokyo Ghoul is one of the most talked about and most popular seinen manga series, but for good reason. It makes you think about the true nature of the whole good vs. evil narrative in a situation where there are gray areas that make the depiction between the two not all that clear.
Tokyo Ghoul follows Ken Kaneki, who was an ordinary college student until an encounter with a ghoul, a humanoid that survives off human flesh, transforms him into the first half-human, half-ghoul hybrid.
He is thrown into a whole new world, where he now must work to fit in and understand his new powers, all the while struggling with the fact that he now has one foot in the human world and another in the ghouls. One of Tokyo Ghoul‘s biggest strong suits is that its main character, Kaneki, exists between these two worlds, which places him in the middle of the two. Which side will he choose? One or the other, neither, or perhaps both?
An everyday kid, who could have been any one of us, struggles to find out where he belongs and this is very relatable. Tokyo Ghoul explores two types of battles: a mental battle that’s waging within the psyche of our MC, Kaneki, and the physical battle waging between the humans–more specifically, an organization called the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul)–and the ghouls. So, on top of being psychological, it’s action-packed and full of horror too.
Tokyo Ghoul may be dark, bloody, and violent, but it follows characters who dream of a peaceful world and aspire to be better, so it has a light side as well. On top of having one of the best MCs and stories in all seinen manga, Sui Ishida’s aesthetic and art style is one of the most unique you’ll ever witness.
If you’re considering picking up the series, check out our comprehensive comparison of all Tokyo Ghoul manga editions to help you make the best choice.
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 Soul Eater, be sure to check out my review on YouTube below!
Monster by Naoki Urasawa
Monster by Naoki Urasawa, the creator of a number of other manga series like 20th Century Boys and Pluto, is an incredible psychological thriller that features a game of cat and mouse between a neurosurgeon Dr. Kenzo Tenma and a true monster, but it’s also very much a story about people coming together to right wrongs, overcoming one’s inner demons, and how our choices, whether big or small, can have consequences far beyond anything we could ever imagine. Dr. Tenma made a choice to save someone, and because he did so, a monster lived on.
Framed for murder by the one he saved, Dr. Tenma must evade the authorities all the while searching for answers to clear his name and uncover the true identity and origin of the monster he operated on. Naoki Urasawa is well-known for creating stories that are full of mystery and suspense, but he is also a master at weaving together different timelines.
His manga is also very much a story about people. Each character is given a rich backstory, whether they hold big or small roles. However, one could argue that no characters in Naoki Urasawa’s stories have small roles, because they each affect the people as well as the plot points in his stories in their own ways.
The complex and starkly different personalities of our two main characters are also a big reason why Monster is such a big success. On one hand, you have a kind-natured doctor, who would do anything to save a life and genuinely wants to help others, and then you have an intelligent and deranged young man who thinks of people as a means to an end and uses them without a thought for his own personal endeavors and goals to bring about violence, chaos, and havoc everywhere he goes.
It would be simple to just say that a monster is a monster, but Monster dives deeper into more philosophical questions and takes a look at the psychological aspects that create them. What makes a person turn into a monster, but more specifically, who’s the true monster in this story? The monsters themselves or the people who created them?
We get a glimpse into the psychology of a sociopath in Monster, while other stories just showcase the horrible things they’ve done. They take a look at the how, but not the why, and it’s the why that’s the most intriguing of all.
Read up more on why Monster is one of the best manga of all time!
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of series that has made a lasting impact not only on fans but the industry as well. Not only has the Attack on Titan manga made waves as one of the best-selling manga of all time, but its anime adaptation has also, reaching new heights as the most popular TV show in the US the week Attack on Titan‘s final season began airing. Later on, we learned that there aren’t going to be two, but three parts in Attack on Titan‘s last season.
With the manga being complete and the final season wrapping up, it’s a bittersweet feeling, but there’s a lot to celebrate as well, especially given how much the series has grown and flourished over the years to become the colossal titan it is now.
Attack on Titan is equal parts mystery, horror, action, and drama. There are a lot of working parts to this series yet it still manages to feel cohesive. On top of all that, it has one of the most well-thought-out and interesting lores in all of shonen.
There are currently four different ways you can collect Attack on Titan!
Kingdom by Yasuhisa Hara
Kingdom is a manga that has been long-wished for by fans in the US, but it has for some reason never been printed in English despite its extremely high demand. It’s one of those highly-rated yet still underrated series that’s somewhat similar and is always compared to another favorite, Vinland Saga, so if you enjoyed it, you will most likely enjoy Kingdom too.
Kingdom is a tale of war and politics set in the Warring States period of Chinese history, with the focus on Xin, a young war orphan who fights to become the greatest general under the heavens so that he may unify China for the first time in 500 years.
Kingdom is a story that is action-packed, but since it’s about war, it’s very political as well. Even so, it never feels boring in any way and manages to keep your attention throughout. It’s one that gets better and better with each chapter and the battles as well as the strategies used in them are thrilling. On top of having a fascinating story and premise, the art in this series is beautiful and detailed.
Grand Blue Dreaming by Kenji Inoue & Kimitake Yoshioka
Grand Blue Dreaming is a seinen comedy manga and it’s the most hilarious manga I’ve ever read. It has made me laugh out loud more times than any manga and has, on many occasions, made me cry from laughter. The humor in this one is absolutely absurd and downright ridiculous, but in the absolute best way possible, so if you are looking for a fun and out-there in the best way possible read, you’ll want to check this one out.
Some may waver on picking up Grand Blue Dreaming because they think it’s a manga about diving, and while it is, it’s more so a comedy than a sports manga. This manga is about partying as much as it is about diving, so there’s a lot of drinking as well as goofing off that goes on in this series. The story follows the main character Iori Kitahara, who moves in with his Uncle at his diving shop to go to college.
He’s all starry-eyed and optimistic about his new life and he is ready for a fresh start. He has plans to meet college girls and live his life to its fullest. But things aren’t as glamorous as he planned when he arrives and sees a group of naked men playing rock paper scissors with a hilarious twist in his Uncle’s diving shop. Later on, he ends up joining the diving club, which does as much partying as they do diving. He gets wrapped up in their antics, which amps up the comedy even more.
Apart from being my favorite comedy manga of all time, Grand Blue Dreaming is one of my top seinen manga of all time as well. It has perfect comedic timing, amazing art, great character dynamics, and more. It will make you laugh more times than you can count, but, as you head beneath the surface and explore these beautifully-drawn and rich underwater worlds, it awes and awakens something within you as well.
Alice in Borderland by Haro Aso
Alice in Borderland by Haro Aso is one of the best death game manga out there. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic type world where a life-changing game called Borderland forces players to fight for their survival.
The characters are a strong point of the story. You have different people from all walks of life in this manga and they all handle the situation they’ve been thrown into differently. You see how different people handle being put in extreme situations and how it impacts them mentally as well as physically. Even though there’s a large cast of characters, I found them all to be realistic and believable, which made me enjoy the story that much more.
The games themselves are always interesting. The characters don’t know what game they’ll be playing until it actually happens, so there’s this added element of surprise both for the characters and the reader. Because of this, the characters have to adapt quickly to the situation and essentially learn as they go in a high-stress, deadly environment. In addition, there are consequences in this story for our main characters, so it adds another layer of suspense because you never know if something bad will happen to them or if they’ll make it out alive.
So Alice in Borderland is full of puzzling games that are suspenseful to watch as the spectator, but it also makes good use of its characters. Even more so than that, it’s an intense story that really hones in on the meaning of life and what it means to live a fulfilled one.
There is a lot of manga in the death game category, but Alice in Borderland manages to stand out from the pack with its unique concept and games. It shines a forefront on the characters and has an overall message that makes the games these characters are playing mean something instead of just being added for horror, shock, or suspense.
If you love twisted stories like Battle Royale, Death Parade, or Future Diary, you should give Alice in Borderland a shot! Viz just recently began releasing the series with English translation, so you can pick up the series now!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a remarkable story about the Joestar family and their battle against evil, but for reasons I cannot spoil, it is so much more than that. It’s one of the most influential as well as best shonen manga to release to date, and it develops in ways that will continuously surprise as well as captivate you.
The first five parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency, Stardust Crusaders, Diamond Is Unbreakable, and Golden Wind, are shonen. The first three are more so than the others, but as you get into the later parts, most notably Steel Ball Run and beyond, it becomes a seinen manga. If you are a fan of seinen and are looking to get into shonen manga, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the tops, in addition to Claymore and Fist of the North Star, that I recommend.
If you get into the series and aren’t hooked by Phantom Blood, please stick with it, because it truly is one of the best to release and the series gets better with each part. I always thought JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was great, but it wasn’t until Part 3 that I felt it became amazing. It wasn’t until Part 4 and beyond, though, that I thought it was a masterpiece. Hirohiko Araki’s artwork develops incredibly over the course of the chapters and his panels and character designs are some of the best I’ve witnessed. And then there’s his style, which is one of the most distinct and recognizable.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the most creative and unique series you can experience. It features exciting battles, has no shortage of interesting personalities, and gets better and better as you keep reading.
The Climber by Shin-ichi Sakamoto
Shin-ichi Sakamoto is a manga creator that never ceases to amaze me whether it be through his work on The Climber or in his others, like Innocent, which is one of my most anticipated new manga releases of 2023, and Innocent Rouge. Unfortunately, as of now, The Climber has yet to be translated into English, but it has been translated into a number of different languages, from French to Italian.
The Climber follows Mori, a guy who likes to keep to himself, who discovers he has a passion for climbing one day when his classmates egg him on to climb the side of the school’s building. He scales the side of the wall with ease and is a natural talent. We also discover he’s quite fearless because he does so without a harness on. This moment awakens something within him and he finds a new calling.
Of course, nothing is ever this simple though, because this manga is very psychological as well. Mori won’t just have to overcome the physical mountains that stand before him, but the ones that are in his mind also.
The story of The Climber is conveyed a lot through art, particularly later on in the story. But, with art as beautiful as what’s seen in The Climber, one can hardly complain. The panels are absolutely breathtaking, some of the best manga panels I’ve ever seen in manga, and they invoke an emotional response when viewing them. In turn, they really hone in on how these moments must feel to Mori as well. Everything about it is just so well-done and beautifully executed.
The Climber is one of the best sports manga, let alone one of the best seinen manga of all time. Not only does it highlight a sport that’s not commonly touched on in manga, climbing–more specifically free solo climbing and, later on, alpine climbing–it’s also done in a way that feels relatable even though the main character is doing these larger-than-life things many of us could never fathom doing. It also delves a lot into self-reflection, which makes it feel a lot like another favorite of mine on this list, Vagabond.
If you enjoy seinen sports manga that has a unique perspective, like Holyland or Real, or you like series that delves into the mental plight of their main character, like Vagabond, The Climber is one you’ll want to check out!
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue is one of my all-time favorite sports manga as well as shonen manga. Slam Dunk is not simply limited though to just being one of the best basketball manga, though. It’s one of the best manga released to date. And one can see why with Takehiko Inoue, the mind that also brought us stellar releases like Vagabond and Real, at the helm. To have not one, but three masterpieces under his belt is impressive, to say the least.
When pressed to choose between these three though, I have a hard time choosing. That being said, there’s something about Slam Dunk that’s undeniable. It’s suspenseful and thrilling, has a great sense of humor, and has an unforgettable cast of characters. But it’s how he conveys the emotion of the players, whether they are celebrating a win or contemplating a loss, that really sets him apart. These emotions are one’s you’ll feel as well, so Slam Dunk and the games within the series, really invoke an emotional response.
The team dynamic is a focal point of Slam Dunk and this is one of its strong suits. While most manga really hones in on one or two or three main characters, Slam Dunk highlights the entire cast. You really get behind the teams as a result. As you are reading as well, you feel the passion that the players have for basketball. Not only that, but Takehiko Inoue’s passion for basketball is very evident as well.
When someone writes about something they are passionate about and conveys that passion through characters who are just as passionate about it, it’s hard not to feel that passion or even develop a passion for it within yourself. The way that Slam Dunk and Takehiko Inoue can connect with you as the reader is truly special.
Slam Dunk can currently be collected via the singles released by Viz. I know the stock for many of the series volumes has been in and out, so they have been quite difficult to get. I am keeping track of the volumes over on our manga restocks list, and will notify you guys on there if any of the volumes come back in stock!
Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano
Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano is a series I put off reading for months, because, time and time again, I was warned about how sad of a read it is. I don’t want this to put any of you off from reading the series, because it’s one of the best manga I’ve ever read, but you definitely need to be in the right headspace before you get into this one.
It’s one of those series you have to reach for on the shelf without hesitation because it is one of the toughest series you’ll ever read. And if you picked this one up off the shelf, because you thought it would be a heartwarming story about a cute bird character, you are in for something else entirely…
Goodnight Punpun is a coming-of-age story about Punpun Onodera. Punpun’s parents’ marriage is falling apart. His dad goes to jail and his mom goes to the hospital. He has to live with his uncle, who everyone thinks is a failure. He later meets a girl who lives in a cult, and he falls in love with her. He turns to God about his problems, but God ends up being a jerk. Punpun hopes things will get better, but it seems like everything just keeps getting worse and worse.
We follow Punpun as he ages, and we see firsthand how he develops and his life changes over the years. It’s a very difficult experience, because you first meet Punpun as a kid, and watch how the events in his life shape and continue to affect him in his teenage years and throughout young adulthood.
In life, we make new friends and grow apart from others, and this is mirrored in Goodnight Punpun. People that come into our lives can affect positive or negative change, and this is explored also. It follows our characters in realistic settings and situations and showcases the dark and harsh reality of life.
There is one thing I want to mention, because those of you who are new to Goodnight Punpun, may be surprised to find out that the main character, Punpun, as well as everyone in his family, look like a bird, while everyone else is pictured as their everyday human selves. This is meant to separate Punpun as well as his family from everyone else in this story. Oftentimes, those around us don’t see us for who we truly are or notice what we are going through, and I believe this to be a representation of that.
It is also a way for Inio Asano to showcase Punpun’s various mental states in an abstract and interesting way. When we see him as a bird, he’s doing okay, but he has a number of different forms as well, that tell us how Punpun is feeling on the inside. This is an extremely unique way to showcase the inner emotions of our main character, and this is one of the main reasons Goodnight Punpun is one of the most genius manga of our time.
Inio Asano’s series are cynical, harsh, and bleak, so if you are someone who prefers to read lighthearted series, Goodnight Punpun is not for you. It dives into difficult topics and really explores mental health in a way that few other series have ever done before. It isn’t a pretty series by any means–even though the highly-detailed and beautiful panels often make it feel like one.
It’s a masterpiece that showcases the cruel dark nature of the world through a realistic lens, and while it isn’t an easy to read, feel-good series, it’s a masterpiece that will change the way you think about the world as well as manga entirely.
Death Note by Takeshi Obata & Tsugumi Ohba
Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata are two of my favorite manga creators. Not only do I enjoy the series they’ve created together, like Death Note and Bakuman, but I also enjoy the series that Takeshi Obata has worked on with others like Hikaru no Go or All You Need Is Kill. Death Note is one of my all-time favorites of theirs as well as one of the best manga of all time, and it has a unique and thrilling storyline as well as amazing art that puts it in a world of its own.
Death Note follows Light Yagami, who finds himself with immense power thanks to the Death Note—a notebook that allows the user to kill a person simply by writing their name it as long as they’ve also seen their face.
Since he envisions a world where crime is a thing of the past, Light takes justice into his own hands and starts dealing punishment via the Death Note. This attracts the attention of law enforcement, who enlist L to capture him. What then ensues is a game of cat and mouse between L and Light.
As two incredibly intelligent and strategic individuals, L and Light’s battle is one of wits. And even though there’s no hand-to-hand combat or physical fights, the battle between these two minds is not short on action or suspense.
The most exciting thing about Death Note, though, is its take on moral dilemmas. With great power comes great responsibility, but when said power gets put in the hands of a high school student who thinks he’s a god, lines are bound to be crossed. It’s just a really interesting premise, and you’ll find yourself more and more captivated as the story unravels.
Want to find out which is the best way to collect the series? Check out my comparison of all of the Death Note manga editions on YouTube below!
Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Berserk is an unforgettable dark fantasy manga created by Kentaro Miura that 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. And it’s a series that’s been a force in the industry for a little over 30 years and one that’s held the mantle of my top manga since the day I read it.
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 1000’s, 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 seinen manga as well as the best manga to release of all time.
Looking for the best way to collect Berserk? Check out our full comparison of the Berserk manga editions.
Berserk is continuing on with supervision by Kouji Mori, a close friend of Kentaro Miura and the creator behind another must-read title on this list, Holyland.
These are the 50 best manga to release so far! I will continue to update this post as needed and as more amazing new series are released. Want more manga recommendations? Check out our manga recommendation lists!