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 — Themes of bullying

Paste recently had me write an article about two manga I’ve been enjoying lately, A Silent Voice and Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto. Both touch on topics of bullying but with different approaches. Both are also award-winning series written and drawn by women.

A Silent Voice really sticks with you, following the story of a reformed bully trying to fix the damage he’s caused. While the first two volumes are available bundled in both print and digital, Crunchyroll Manga has translated chapters much farther. I’m still trying to catch up to the latest and am finding it to be quite the trip down the road to reconciliation.

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is available in print only and I was so excited when I first heard it announced for localization by Seven Seas. It’s one of those works you never expect to come out in the West, you hear of its accolades and it winning fan-favorite polls but it seems too Japanese for any tight-budgeted publishers to risk it. I was often laughing out loud while reading it so I’m so thankful it got a release and I could convince my thankful friends to give it a shot too.

Yowamushi Pedal and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun manga licensed by Yen Press!

 

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

In a completely surprise announcement during their panel at Sakura-Con yesterday, manga publisher Yen Press revealed they had acquired the rights to publish both the Yowamushi Pedal manga and the Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun manga in English, among a list of other new series. I’m really excited about this as I’m a huge fan of both Yowapeda and Nozaki-kun!

It’s also an interesting announcement as nobody expected either of these series to ever be localized. In the past, sport manga like Slam Dunk hasn’t sold particularly well in North America, nor has yoncoma which is the style of 4-panel humor storytelling that the original Nozaki-kun manga uses. Yowamushi Pedal is a significant investment since the series is currently 39 volumes long in Japan without sign of stopping, quite a translation undertaking. Hopefully Yen Press has seen the lively Yowapeda fandom and felt it was time to take a chance of a sports manga again. It’s also great news that they’ll be doubling up their Yowapeda releases into two-volume omnibuses, since maybe it’ll allow the West to catch up to the anime and beyond quicker.

And Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is a great aquisition even with its 4-koma stigma because I’ve had so many friends, anime fan and even newbies, who finish Nozaki-kun and ask for more. And without a second season announcement there was only the manga, which was not available in English. Now I have a place I can point them to!

Thank you so much, Yen Press! I definitely plan to preorder both of these and recommend them to all my friends and more!

Meanwhile, you can watch both seasons of the Yowamushi Pedal anime on Crunchyroll or season one on Hulu and the one season of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun anime on Crunchyroll or Hulu.

Preorder Yowamushi Pedal volume 1 or Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun volume 1!

Manga — JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure — Part 1: Phantom Blood

This week Viz Media released print editions of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure for the first time. Originally only the third part, Startdust Crusaders, was available in print. While Viz has had Phantom Blood available digitally for a couple of months, for the print run they went all out and brought over the beautiful hardcover JoJonium editions. These are a bit larger in size than the usual Japanese graphic novels, but fall more in line with other hardcover printings found in the US. It also includes some color pages, comments from creator Hirohiko Araki in the back, and modern redesigns of all the old characters for the special covers.