Best Manga of 2016

A few months ago I was invited to Anime Fan Fest to be on a panel along with Jason Thompson and Daryl Surat to champion my choices for best (and worst) manga of the past year. Just recently this same panel has been held at SDCC and it reminded me that I never got around to posting my list. So here is my selections of what I personally recommend should be read from among the countless domestic releases in the past year. I’m leaving out my votes for worst manga since I’m not here to yuck anyone’s yum, I just had to give some titles for the sake of discussion at the panel. You can read Jason and Daryl’s submissions for the panel’s list here.

Best New Manga (YA)

Yowamushi Pedal — Triumphantly heralding the return of sports manga in English! I love artist Watanabe’s flow and sense of speed, and while his characters may look rough in the beginning for those used to the anime’s style, their designs quickly catch up.

My Hero Academia — After watching episode one of the newly released anime I immediately jumped to read every English volume available. Themed after Western superhero stories and comic books, this series has a distinctly different flavor than One-Punch Man. And I never thought All Might would become my favorite character.

A Silent Voice — Emotionally draining but so worth the read. About a deaf girl and her bully.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride — I love Kore Yamazaki’s take on fairy stories and magic. And a mysterious skull-headed fae magician is oddly appealing.

Best New Manga (Adult)

Goodnight Punpun — Much anticipated by me! I love the style of all the background characters when compared to how Punpun and his family is portrayed as crudely drawn little bird people. Yet all their problems are just as real.

Princess Jellyfish — Also highly anticipated by me. Artist Akiko Higashimura is a personal hero of mine. It’s so great to see Kodansha taking a chance on manga aimed at older women (josei).

Monster — Naoki Urasawa’s long out of print masterpiece. It’s back in larger deluxe omnibuses and I can finally begin its mysterious journey.

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun — I put this in the Adults section because I feel like there’s a lot of humor to Nozaki that I can only appreciate now that I’m older, especially a lot of the stuff revolving around the working adults the main characters interact with.

Gangsta — A violent mob assassin story but written and drawn by a woman for a change. Kohske’s rich artwork makes the topic all the more appealing to me.

Most Looking Forward To (these are both out now)

Haikyu!! — More sports manga please! I never knew I cared about volleyball until Haikyu came around.

Fruits Basket — And a rescue! Extremely out of print (I would see $24 used volumes and never #1) and something I missed out on in my old shoujo days, I’ve been wanting to experience this one for a while.

Unlicensed Dream Manga

Kakukaku Shikajika — Higashimura’s autobiographical manga! Tells the story of her getting her start in art in a rural costal town with a strange painting teacher. Very emotional.

My Brother’s Husband — Gengoroh Tagame’s general work! It’s a story about a man and his daughter, and his deceased twin brother’s Canadian husband who comes to live with them.

Manga — Princess Jellyfish coming in English!

Once there lived a girl in Tokyo. She didn’t deal well with crowds. Or people. Or expectations…

But she understood jellyfish.

One fateful night this pitiful girl happens to meet a benevolent, powerful, and glamorous princess. The princess-in-disguise brings both boon and bane—ultimately changing the trajectory of the girl’s life.

We still don’t know yet if this encounter was for better or for worse…

Ever since marathoning with friends the single existing season of Jellyfish Princess (Kuragehime) on Netflix during New Years 2014 the show has held a special place in my heart. While the narrative thread is prematurely cut off in the anime, the Jellyfish Princess manga has continued on significantly farther. Since then I’ve found that while the series has earned some extreme fondness among my shoujo-influence indie artist and comics friends, the manga that started it all hasn’t had an official domestic release yet.

But publisher Kodansha announced at Anime Expo 2015 just this weekend that they would finally bring over the Princess Jellyfish manga in English, to much rejoicing! I was really happy seeing the outpouring of supportive tweets about Kodansha finally bringing over the title. I was literally tearing up myself when I heard the news. Jellyfish Princess had always been one of those titles sorely missing from my bookshelf, one that I would love to recommend and loan to friends who don’t read much manga in the first place. Thankfully Kodansha finally decided to take a chance on a longer (15 volumes and counting) josei title, and will be printing them in convenient 2-in-1 bindings.

Artist Akiko Higashimura’s post-volume autobiographical update comics are some of my favorite things, revolving around her sudden obsession with K-Pop idols, stalking Japanese Olympic stars as a teen, and initially raising her son as a single mom. She is seriously one of my heroes.

At Anime Expo it was also announced that Crunchyroll Manga would be making the first four volumes of Jellyfish Princess available on their site as soon as July 15th! That’s absolutely amazing! Crunchyroll Manga is fully accessible to anyone who has a Crunchyroll premium membership.

You can also watch the first two episodes of the 11-episode Jellyfish Princess anime on YouTube or Hulu, or get the DVDs for a very reasonable price. The opening sequence is something to behold. Can you identify all the pop-culture references?