I had this list written out quite a while ago, it’s just taken me this long to actually put it together and do mini write-ups for my choices.
Over the course of a year, even a conservative year, I buy a LOT of books, and a LOT of manga. The grand majority are from favorite authors and creators that I’ve been following for a while, but there’s always a few that catch my eye randomly…or that I find in the midst of a giant sale while my favorite bookstore closes its doors forever. (Sigh.)
This list represents the manga that I eagerly kept up with this year, or just plain liked above everything else I read. I also tried to choose manga that I didn’t choose last year, otherwise it’d be Chi’s Sweet Home all the way.
Number 5: Kingyo Used Books
I love the concept of this manga! It centers around a used book store (or is it just a used manga store?), and all the individual chapters deal with particular manga and their impact on the main character of that story. It’s really fun to see people nostalgic over books they used to love, wrapped up in memories of swapping with their friends, and turning to the books for comfort. It really speaks to me as a bibliophile.
This was a pretty random choice. I wasn’t sure about Natsume Ono’s art style, thinking it might be too simplified for my taste, but it grew on me fast. I also really like that the main character of this story is a samurai who is battling his shyness. It’s nice to see a greater variety of hero than the super hyper, super dumb heroes that tend to star in stories of this sort. I really need to catch up on this one. Also, it has an anime that was simulcast by Funimation, and then licensed by NIS, so I definitely want to look into that also.
This was another manga that caught me totally by surprise. This year, I ventured into works by publishers other than Tokyopop and Viz, and it’s really unfortunate that I started so late, since quite a few publishers have closed their doors in the past couple of years. I kept hearing that Vertical has really good releases, though, and I adore Chi’s Sweet Home, so I took a step into some sci-fi fare, which isn’t the norm for me. So I was very pleasantly surprised to absolutely love this manga. It’s a story of a girl living with a parasite, battling other parasites, but it’s also about the parasite inside her forcing her to come out of her shell and make friends. Her initial interactions with other people are completely awkward and sympathetic to me, and I found myself chuckling at some of the situations. I’ve read all but the last volume, and I’m looking forward to finishing it up.
Kaoru Mori has some really wonderfully detailed art! I didn’t know this, having not had the pleasure of reading Emma when it was published in the States. I heard a lot of buzz for a Bride’s Tale, so I picked it up and really liked it. The main character is marrying into a family of nomads (I think? It’s been a bit since I’ve read it, and I’m going off memory), and she seems like a total sweetie. There’s a terrific two page spread wherein she rides a horse and kills a rabbit for dinner with bow and arrow. It’s very dynamic, easy to follow, and just beautiful. The only thing that really worried me in the first volume is that the titular bride is marrying a kid who seems to be half her age, and there’s no real conflict until the very end of this volume. The hardcover editions that Yen Press is releasing are pretty awesome, although they are pricier than normal manga.
Spoiler: this is a yaoi series.
This is a tale of unrequited love, and I think it’s actually a spin-off of a previous series. Morinaga (in the previous series Challenger – thank you Wikipedia!) had confessed his feelings to his sempai, Souichi, who was repulsed and pretended it had never happened. At the start of this series, Morinaga has been living with his feelings for a few years, but still hangs around the sempai who hates that he’s gay. After Souichi downs an aphrodisiac at Morinaga’s place, there’s not entirely consensual sex, but that’s as close to rape as it gets, which is fortunate. That kind of stuff definitely weirds me out.
I really enjoy this series because of the humor. Wikipedia really does put it best, summing it up as “a dysfunctional, mutually-abusive relationship which develops slowly into a romance over the course of the series.” After the first time, Morinaga is constantly trying to convince Souichi to have sex with him. Meanwhile Souichi very angrily repels these advances, although eventually he gives in more and more often, and doesn’t seem to know what his actions mean. It’s entertaining, and it’s somewhat sweet, and has definitely been my favorite constant read this past year.
Runners up for this list included Skip Beat!, which actually picked up again after too many slow volumes, Dorohedoro, which is just all around weird, plus Bride of the Water God and Seven Days, which I think graced my list last year….maybe. One of them did. I also flirted with the idea of putting Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon in there somewhere, but I really liked all these books more. Maybe next year.