Before I begin, I should clarify: I DON’T read scanlations. Period. All the manga I reference have at least one volume that’s been published in America in 2010. With that out of the way, let’s begin!
Number 5: Flower in a Storm (Shigeyoshi Takagi) Not so Official Link
Flower in a Storm is an action-packed story of love. It’s quick paced, entertaining, and short, at just two volumes. Although it’s short, it doesn’t honestly feel rushed, as the story moves pretty quickly from the start. Riko just wants to lead an ordinary high school life, but Ran explodes into her life demanding that she marry him. The awesome thing about Ran is that he wants Riko exactly the way she is, no changes, and is willing to be persistent enough to wear her down. The persistence is actually kind of creepy but pretty par for the course. Even if you don’t generally like shojo or romance manga, I’d still recommend this one to you.
Number 4: Seven Days: Monday – Thursday (Rihito Takarai, Venio Tachibana) Official Link
I’ve reviewed this manga previously, but when I thought of making a top five list, I remembered just how much I enjoyed it, and so it had to be mentioned again. Seven Days is a yaoi manga, but it’s actually pretty sweet. Seryou is a popular freshman with a habit of dating the first person who asks him Monday morning. The catch is that he breaks up with that person at the end of the week. On a random whim, Shino asks Seryou to date him, and to his surprise, Seryou does! The best part of this particular manga is that the guys talk to each other, and there’s no rape! Actually there’s no sex, but that’s not a detracting factor for me. I really enjoyed the story of this surprise relationship blossoming from a joke into possibly something more. I’m still really hoping for a second volume.
Number 3: Beast Master (Kyousuke Motomi) Official Link
Beast Master is another manga that I’ve reviewed this past year. It’s somewhat akin to Flower in a Storm, but it’s more a modern tale of an earnest animal-loving teenage girl taming a beast-boy. I was surprised to learn that this romantic little tale was actually penned by a man, but not too surprised, since shonen manga is often written and drawn by women. Yuiko loves animals with a passion, in fact she’s so overwhelming that most animals flee from her in fear. Then she meets Leo, and is the first person to see past his scary face to his kind interior. Beast Master has some great art, and I was impressed with quite a few of the action shots. What makes this manga memorable for me is that Leo isn’t the only one with a scary face: when he’s threatened by someone, Yuiko fights for him, and if possible, she’s much scarier than he is! Having the male character be the innocent one was also a nice little change of pace. Much like Flower in a Storm, I’d highly recommend this to anyone who likes action manga whether or not they’re a fan of shojo or romance.
Number 2: Deadman Wonderland (Jinsei Kataoka, Kazuma Kondou) Official Link
There’s at least one manga on my list that isn’t romance! When thinking of my top titles, I looked over the list I’d kept of what I read, and made a list of the five that made the biggest impression on me this year. Since I read mostly shojo romance, that’s most of what’s here. Anyway, this is the story of Ganta, who is leading a pretty normal high school life, until the day a monster slaughters all his classsmates. Since Ganta was the only survivor, he’s arrested for the crime and sent to the prison Deadman Wonderland to face dangerous contests that are televised to the public. Will Ganta survive? The series is pretty engaging, and I was impressed with the most recent volume (3), that a character that was initially pretty evil was still pretty evil even once she was sort of won over to Ganta’s side. In fact, she’s delightfully evil and self-centered and I actually like her quite a bit for her honesty. I’m also intrigued by the mysterious backstory of Ganta, and Shiro, his first “friend” in the prison. I just hope I’m not doomed to disappointment there.
Number 1: Butterflies, Flowers (Yuki Yoshihara) Not so Official Link
This manga really caught me off-guard. I’m sure this is one of my first forays into josei manga, especially since I do little to no real background research into anything I read. I have to admit that I probably have the haziest of ideas as to which belongs where. Anyway, I picked up Butterflies, Flowers because of a lot of hype among manga bloggers on twitter, and I enjoyed the first volume. The second volume was still sufficiently amusing, but by the third volume I was absolutely hooked. It’s the story of a young lady, Choko, entering the workplace in order to help her family, who’s fallen on hard times. During her interview to become an office worker, she has a chance encounter with her former servant who’s now her boss! There’s a lot of surprises in this series, and I don’t want to spoil any of them. Suffice to say this is my favorite manga for 2010, and might possibly be my favorite this next year too.
Honorable Mention 1: Bride of the Water God (Yun Mi-kyung) Official Link
Bride of the Water God is an honorable mention for me based on a technicality. It’s not manga, it’s manwha, which is the Korean equivalent. Like most books I pick up, I bought this one on a whim. I was in the bookstore browsing, and it sounded interesting. After I read the first volume, I went back the next week and caught up all at once. Soah’s impoverished village “sacrifices” her to be the bride to the Water God, so that they might have sufficient water for their crops. It’s a dreaded fate, and it’s popularly thought that perhaps the Water God eats his brides. However when she arrives, she finds that her husband is a little kid! In no time Soah is lost among the politics of the Water God’s court. She has rivals and rivals for her affection aplenty.
Honorable Mention 2: One Piece omnibuses (Eiichiro Oda) Official Link
This is a familiar story to me. One Piece has quite a bit of popularity, but the daunting size of the anime and manga had kept me from giving it a try. I’d already been burned by Naruto twice and Bleach once, so you could understand why I’d be hesitant about trying yet another super long series. Heck, I was even heavy into D. Gray Man for quite a while, but once I started to forget what was happening between volumes, I stopped buying them. So I was exceptionally happy to notice that Viz started publishing the earliest volumes of One Piece in nice 3-volume chunks. It’s especially affordable, costing the equivalent of 1 and 1/2 volumes of the manga, if you bought them seperately. So far I’m up to volume 12, and have no real plans to catch up, instead I’ll just wait and see how much of the manga gets published in omnibus form. So far it’s been engaging enough that I’m sure I’ll have no problem keeping up on them.
Whew, that was a lot of work! I’m really glad I kept my list down to five. I’ve got my fingers crossed for many more great releases next year! Maybe I’ll even increase how many I put in my end-of-year list.
Post-script notes: I looked and looked for an official Viz link for Flower in a Storm and Butterflies, Flowers. They’re published under Viz’s Shojo Beat imprint, but no page exists for it on their website, which is very unfortunate, so instead I linked the ANN encyclopedia entry for it, which should at least be informative.
All manga reviewed in this post have been purchased by the writer of the post, and not provided to the blog in any way.