I’m on a manga streak! Lately, I’ve been revitalizing my love for anime’s static predecessor, both with my Reread Diary and with finding a manga website I can read at work. The amount of series I have been reading is a little embarrassing and most of it is trash, so see five series I recently read that are 1) worth mentioning and 2) not horrifically embarrassing to admit I read.
Machida-kun no Sekai
Prepare your wholesome meter to hit max level. Machida-kun no Sekai follows our titular character Machida through a year in his life. He’s not smart or athletic or attractive but has a heart of gold; he loves people and has the ability to connect with anyone, whether it’s a troubled girl in his class or a stranger on the street. This story is slice of life at its finest, showing how ordinary interactions can be meaningful and life-changing. Think of how wholesome Mob Psycho is and pump up the volume. That’s how innocent it is.
I gave this manga a try because it was ranked in the top ten on the site I use. I can totally see why people love this series; it’s emotionally satisfying, beautifully written and hits the core of what it’s trying to do. Machida-kun is out to show the world that there is still hope for humanity in this crazy world. And he succeeds in the best of ways.
Recommended to everyone
Kusuriya no Hitorigoto
Mao Mao, a girl who studies herbs with her father in the capitol's red light district, is kidnapped on the street and sold to the emperor as a servant. When her knowledge of medicinal plants is discovered, she become the royal harem's poison tester and begins to help out around the palace in a greater way. This is a fun title because every arc is a little mystery that Mao Mao has to solve. Someone is sick/poisoned/ailing and she must find out what is causing it and how to help. Just think of it as Akagami no Shirayukihime, but there’s not as much romance and it takes place in China.
The supporting cast is unmemorable but I do really enjoy Mao Mao; she’s smart, clever, and quick to say what she wants without holding back, which sometimes gets her into trouble with the royal court. The art is also worthy of mention; every once and a while you find a spread that is hard to take your eyes off of. Hitorigoto’s Chinese influence also lends the manga to have some refreshingly fun and lavish costume designs, especially within the royal court.
I recently saw this on a list for fan requested anime adaptations, so apparently it has decent popularity. Keep your eye out for an anime adaptation of this one in the next couple years.
Recommended to historical fiction fans, mystery fans, fans of Shirayukihime
This is shoujo trash at its finest.
Okashiratsuki almost didn’t make this list because I’m a little embarrassed to say I like it, but, out of everything new I’ve read so far, it is easily the most charming. This is a simple slice of life romance with a twist: girl meets boy, girl likes boy, girl and boy have adorable middle school romance moments, boy has a pig tail. Yes, the boy has a little, scrunched up tail, but the girl loves him anyway. It’s cute and soon to be filled with middle school angst/drama. But isn’t that the best kind?
It seems silly, and it probably is, but there are a lot of things to like about this manga. Watching these two ostracized children find each other in such a quiet way is beautiful and, with only six chapters out so far, I’m looking forward to see how they grow together. It’s a sweet little manga that won’t change anyone’s life, but pulls at the heartstrings enough to make it worth mentioning. Everything about Okashiratsuki is cute, even the art. It’s hard not to pass up.
Recommended to shoujo trashies
Easily the most beautifully drawn series on this list, Otoyomegatari (A Bride’s Story) centers on brides and brides-to-be in Central Asia during the late 19th century as they adjust to their lives in new families. This story stands out for many reasons, the most prominent being its inspired illustrations. Amazing details show the ethnic clothing and engravings of this time and place; you can truly see the craftsmanship of the culture. I found myself taking a ridiculous amount of screenshots as I read this online. It’s impossible to simply gloss over pages; each one can take your breath away with its beauty.
But you can’t just say this manga has a pretty face, Otoyomegatari’s story is also a thoughtful reflection of its subject matter. Foreign political forces, tribal societies, the status of women, and, of course, the effects of arranged marriages are all jam-packed in this unassuming manga. It is a feel-good story that handles its many subjects and themes with grace and sincerity. Even with some of the most bombastic scenarios, Otoyomegatari’s emotional maturity makes sense of it all. Its realistic characters and thoughtful commentary open a time capsule into a world I never would’ve known about otherwise. To me, that makes it really special.
Recommended to shoujo fans, slice of life fans, josei fans, historical fiction fans, any who appreciates beautiful art
Well, one of these things is not like the others.
At first, I didn’t understand the big deal about this manga. Guts was a jerk. I didn’t care what happened to him. The art is cool but the story and characters are confusing. But after nudging from friends and fans of the series, I finally entered the Golden Age.
Wow. Hello Berserk.
After the first arc, the rest of the story— so far in my reading (volume 19)— is incredibly engaging and exciting. Berserk truly shines in Guts’ backstory; he wasn’t always the jerk I met and, seeing his downward spiral is both tragic and satisfying. The retelling of his story is one of the most lauded manga arcs in history, and rightfully so. It not only shines in its artistry and combat, but also in its characters; they emotionally resonate in a way rarely seen in battle manga. My friend said that Berserk is the best shoujo. He may be right.
I’m not going to go into spoiler territory, but I cannot say enough about Berserk’s character writing. Everyone is so refreshingly ambitious and mature. These aren’t the dreams of naïve twelve-year-old ninja; Berserk is the story of hardened soldiers fighting for their personal victories. I love Casca. I love Judeau. I love Guts and Griffith’s dynamic. And because of these connections, I can’t look away as I see their miserable fates laid out. On that note, the story structure of Berserk also makes it different from the rest. Before the arc begins, you know how it ends. Then, over ten volumes, you follow and slowly learn to love these characters even though you know…well, you know. It is a great use of dramatic irony and makes the reader pay more attention to every character interaction. There’s no way it can end this poorly, right? Watching the degeneration of the Band of the Hawk was morbidly wonderful. Now that I’m caught up with what happened before I met Guts, I’m excited to see what happens after.
Recommended to shonen fans, fans trying to read all the “classics,” fantasy fans
Disclaimer: graphic gore and sex scenes (think Devilman Crybaby but grittier)