The world of seinen manga is incredibly diverse, encompassing a vast array of genres and themes, including psychological, historical, sports, comedy, horror, and sci-fi series. They delve into unique topics and oftentimes take a psychological as well as existential look at their main characters, in addition to having mature as well as more graphic themes. They focus not only on the development of the story but the development of their characters as well.
Not all seinen manga are action-packed and violent, but many are. Some are slice-of-life or drama-focused, so there are series within seinen that don’t focus on battles that may interest you more, depending on what you are into. Many of them focus on a battle of wits rather than brawn, so there are a lot of intellectual series to get into also that oftentimes delve into topics like human nature, mortality, and more. There’s just so much to get into in the wonderful world that is seinen manga and I truly believe that it has something for everyone.
Seinen has allowed me to enter excitingly surreal but also realistic worlds. They’ve made me question and think about things in different ways, and there’s a dark beauty to them that never fails to draw me in. There’s something just so incredibly relatable about the characters in seinen series and the struggles they face that make it a truly refreshing category in manga.
I love seinen manga, so I’ve read a ton of series over the years, and many of the series on this list are some of the greatest manga of all time. There are many more manga series I want to eventually include in this post. Seinen is such a vast category of manga and there’s so much to explore, so I’ll continue to add more series to this list over time.
That all being said, here are the best seinen manga you can read! I hope you’ll find a series or more you are excited about checking out.
Bokurano: Ours by Mohiro Kitoh
Bokurano is a mecha sci-fi manga that is about a group of kids, who wander into a seaside cave one day and meet a man named Kokopelli. He tells them that they will play a “game,” where they’ll pilot a mecha to protect humanity against alien invaders. But the truth is far more sinister…
Each time an alien materializes, one kid in the group is chosen to pilot the mecha, so each “mission” is centered around a new character. Most of the time in mecha series, you have one pilot who pilots a mech, but in this story, there are 15 different pilots. Because of this, it’s a unique story but it’s also interesting, especially given that the pilots all have different upbringings, personality styles, attitudes, motivations, and values. Some value human life and want to be a hero, while others don’t value human life at all and would rather cause chaos.
The situation that these kids find themselves in makes it a brutal read. Anytime a group of kids is tasked with piloting a mech, I know things are going to be tough. I really think of series like Darling in the Franxx, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, which is one of my favorite mecha anime on Netflix, or pretty much any Gundam series for that matter here, but Bokurano is one of the most heart-wrenching I’ve ever read. It’s actually up there with the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion for me. Both are quite similar, especially in regard to their tone and the designs of the enemies they are fighting against.
That being said, if you enjoy dark mecha manga that highlights not only the physical impact that piloting has but the psychological effects it has as well, you’ll want to give Bokurano: Ours a read.
One Outs by Shinobu Kaitani
A compelling sports manga with a prodigy MC, One Outs by Shinobu Kaitani will immerse you in intense, high-stakes competition. Toua Tokuchi, our MC, uses strategy to outwit batters. More so than anything, though, One Outs is a story about mind games. The series focuses on the psychology of the sport it’s about and our main character uses his mental skills, in addition to his physical skills, to defeat his opponents.
One Outs breaks down the plays and strategies of its players, giving you insight into their thought processes and everything that leads up to the show-stopping moment of an incredible pitch. We often remember the jaw-dropping moments in games, but never the in-between moments that created them, but One Outs slow things down, takes us into the mind of its MC, and allows us to see these pivotal moments in action. It dives deep into the corruption that exists within sports too.
For these reasons and more, One Outs is one of the most intense and complex seinen sports series you’ll ever read.
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura
Blade of the Immortal holds a special place in my heart as one of the top samurai stories as well as one of my favorite manga to ever release. It distinguishes itself from other samurai titles with its unique blend of supernatural elements, period samurai action, and contemporary street lingo, making it a truly standout work.
In Blade of the Immortal, an immortal yet cursed warrior, Manji, assists a young girl, Rin, in her quest for vengeance as the students of a ruthless sword school leave a trail of bloodshed throughout Japan. Set in the Edo period, a time of warriors, Manji, known as the Hundred Man Killer, encounters Rin, who seeks retribution for her parent’s deaths. She requests Manji’s protection on her journey, targeting the Ittou-ryu swordmasters. Initially, Manji refuses but reconsiders when he sees a resemblance between Rin and his late sister, thus igniting an intense, violent struggle that even threatens the seemingly invulnerable Manji.
The handling of the revenge theme in Blade of the Immortal is exceptional, and Hiroaki Samura’s modernization adds a refreshing touch. The manga boasts some of my favorite characters, and the development of the characters, especially Manji and Rin, is expertly crafted. In addition to the characters and story, Hiroaki Samura’s gritty, sketchy art style resonates with me. His panels exude rawness and provoke an emotional response and they are amongst the best I’ve seen.
Blade of the Immortal excels in almost every aspect, from its intricate plot and stunning artwork to its incredible characters. It is one of the best revenge stories I’ve ever read, but it has so much more to offer. There are currently 4 different ways you can collect Blade of the Immortal with English transition, the comic book issues, paperback singles, paperback omnibuses, or hardcover Deluxe Editions. You can check out my comparison of the Blade of the Immortal manga editions to find out which is best for you!
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 individual volumes from Dark Horse are out of print. I’m definitely hoping 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!.
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 may be 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!
One Punch Man by Yusuke Murata & ONE
One Punch Man follows Saitama, one of the strongest main characters in all of 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.
Real by Takehiko Inoue
Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk) impresses once again in the sports category with Real, a manga about wheelchair basketball. While other sports series focus more on the games, Real focuses 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.
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 the best 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!
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.
Parasyte is a series that was released over 30 years ago and it has maintained its position as one of the most influential sci-fi manga since then. 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 ever released. On top of that, it has some of the most horrifying alien designs I’ve ever seen and 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!
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.
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!
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!
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 standout sports series. In addition, it has earned its place as one of the best manga of all-time.
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.
Read up more on why Dorohedoro is one of my favorite manga of all time!
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!
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 makes the story more intriguing and gives 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.
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 thrilling sci-fi manga you can read as well.
Still need more convincing? Check out my in-depth review of Gantz and get an inside look at the manga, you can also check out my video on YouTube below.
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.
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 each Tokyo Ghoul manga edition to help you make the best choice.
Monster by Naoki Urasawa
Monster by Naoki Urasawa, the creator of a number of other manga series like 20th Century Boys and Pluto—two of my favorite sci-fi manga of all time—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!
Kingdom by Yasuhisa Hara
Kingdom is a manga that has been long-wished for by fans, 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 one of the best 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.
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 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!
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.
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 best seinen manga that have been released so far! As more incredible new seinen manga release, I will continue to update this post, so stay tuned. In other manga news, check out all of the new manga you have to look forward to in 2023!