25 Great Manga Any Fan Should Read

I’ve always loved storytelling, no matter the medium. I read books, stories published online, but also manga. It’s a medium I came to love a lot over the years. Great manga aren’t simply telling a story, though, but combine it with often fantastic visuals.

I guess what makes them so interesting is a combination of cultural differences, unique stories and their visuals.

Best Manga by Inio Asano - Oyasumi Punpun Picture 4
© Inio Asano – Oyasumi Punpun

While I’ve read hundreds of manga, their quality can vary. For this reason, I put together a list of twenty-five great manga. While some titles might be more popular, I believe there are some hidden gems few people have heard about.

If you are interested in more manga recommendations, check out my articles on the best horror manga, the best seinen manga, and the best shonen manga.

I also want to give a spoiler warning. While I’ll try not to go into too much into detail about the plot, sometimes it’s unavoidable.

So, here are twenty-five great manga any fan should read.

Table of Contents

Rurouni Kenshin

Best Manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki - Rurouni Kenshin Picture 1
© Nobuhiro Watsuki – Rurouni Kenshin

Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki is not only a samurai manga but also a great manga. It tells the story of Hitokiri Battosai, an infamous killer during the Bakumatsu War.

Now known as Kenshin Himura, he travels the land as a wandering samurai. Yet, he isn’t a bloodthirsty killer. Instead, he’s a man haunted by his past. He wishes to atone for his crimes and to never kill again, thus fighting with a reverse blade katana.

However, Kenshin has to learn that the road to redemption is not an easy one. Time and again, he runs into people who hold a grudge against him for what he did in the past.

The manga features multiple arcs. The first being set in Edo serves more as an introduction to Kenshin and the other members of the cast.

Best Manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki - Rurouni Kenshin Picture 2
© Nobuhiro Watsuki – Rurouni Kenshin

Where the series truly shines is during the Kyoto arc, which introduces Shishio Makoto, Rurouni Kenshin’s most notable antagonist.

What makes Rurouni Kenshin stand out so much are its deeper themes. It tells the story of a man who seeks redemption, but can’t seem to escape his past. As the story goes on, we wonder if he can ever bury the name Hitokiri Battosai, and fear he never can.

The manga’s biggest downside is the art style. It can appear old-fashioned and simplistic, especially when compared to other, more popular samurai manga such as Vagabond or Blade of the Immortal.

Still Rurouni Kenshin is a great manga, one that stands out for its fantastic action sequences, interesting characters and complex themes.

Blue Heaven

Best Manga by Tsutomu Takahashi - Blue Heaven Picture 1
© Tsutomu Takahashi – Blue Heaven

Tsutomu Takahashi’s Blue Heaven might be short, but it’s still a great manga. At only two volumes, this thriller manga succeeds fantastically at what it sets out to do.

During a cruise, the titular luxury-liner Blue Heaven discovers a wrecked ship. What they discover are signs of terrible bloodshed, but also two survivors. While one is in horrible condition, Ri Seiryuu, the other, seems fine.

Before long, Ri Seiryuu escapes confinement, mingles amongst the passengers and begins an indiscriminate killing spree. This, however, brings him to the attention of an ominous rich family also aboard the ship. From here on out, things spiral out of control.

Best Manga by Tsutomu Takahashi - Blue Heaven Picture 2
© Tsutomu Takahashi – Blue Heaven

What makes Blue Heaven such a great manga are not only the unique setting, the pacing but also the characters.

While some characters are normal people, others are crazy psychopaths who love nothing more than to further escalate the events on board. Blue Heaven’s pacing is nothing short of fantastic. Tensions are high, the action is intense and not a dull moment is to be found.

The only downside is how short the manga is. The story and setting had a lot of potential and I wish it would’ve been explored more thoroughly.

Overall, Blue Heaven is a manga I recommend to anyone who likes thriller manga or who loves fast-paced, action-oriented stories.

7 Seeds

Best Manga by Yumi Tamura - 7Seeds Picture 1
© Yumi Tamura – 7Seeds

7 Seeds is a post-apocalyptic survival manga created by Yumi Tamura. When a giant meteorite is about to collide with earth, the 7SEEDS project was created. Five sets of seven young men and women were chosen and put into cryogenic sleep. Once the catastrophe was over, they are awoken.

The manga’s story follows each of the five teams as they try their best to survive in this dangerous new world.

After initial doubts, I soon came to love 7 Seeds. It’s a great manga and one of the best in the survival genre.

The survival aspect in 7 Seeds is well-done and handled realistically. Our characters have to find shelter, search for water and work hard to eat. It’s the basics of survival, but other survival manga often overlook those details.

Best Manga by Yumi Tamura - 7Seeds Picture 2
© Yumi Tamura – 7Seeds

Another thing I loved were the characters. The cast’s as divisive as it’s realistic, and many of them develop as the story progresses.

Yet, the cast of character is also a major problem for 7 Seeds. There are simply too many of them, and we get to know all of them, witness their struggles, survival, and even death. While it serves to tell unique stories, it can also be quite overwhelming.

My biggest issue with 7 Seeds, however, is the art style. It’s reminiscent of older manga and quite simplistic. It takes a while to get used to, and unfortunately, never improves throughout the manga’s long run.

Even though, 7 Seeds is not only a fantastic and complex survival manga but also a truly great manga. I highly recommend checking it out, and if you enjoy the first chapters, you’ll love the rest.


Best Manga by Akio Tanaka - Shamo Picture 1
© Akio Tanaka – Shamo

Shamo by Akio Tanaka is a martial arts manga, but one quite different from others. In this story, we don’t follow the good guy, but an antagonist.

When high school student Ryo Narushima is sixteen years old, he murders both of his parents and is sent to a reformatory.

During his sentence, he meets a man named Kenji Kurokawa, a karateka who recognizes Ryo’s talents and teaches him self-defense.

Ryo’s released after two years because he was a minor at the time of his crime. After his experiences in prison, he vows to gain strength, to survive, and to never be a victim again.

Best Manga by Akio Tanaka - Shamo Picture 1
© Akio Tanaka – Shamo

Yet, Ryo’s changed. His time in prison has made him a deprived and despicable character. He does what he needs to get money, and when he fights, he fights dirty. This life, however, is never glorified. Ryo has few friends and acquaintances, and most of them try to take advantage of him. Yet, there’s nothing he can do because of his past. Criminals are seldom given a second chance, especially murderers.

Shamo’s art is raw, gritty and realistic, but while it’s good, it’s not outstanding. Still, this specific style lends itself perfectly to as dark a story as Shamo is.

This dark story, however, takes a step back in the latter half and Shamo suffers for it. Instead of showcasing Ryo’s character, we’re introduced to concepts such as Ki and even witness sword fights. It makes for a rather disjointed experience.

Shamo’s great during its first half, and its unique perspective makes it such a great manga.

City of Darkness

Best Manga - City of Darkness Picture 1
© City of Darkness

City of Darkness is a manhua, but I still think it deserves a mention on a list of great manga.

Chen Luo Jun’s a member of the triads, but one day he’s betrayed by his boss and loses everything. So, he sets out for Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, the titular City of Darkness. Over the course of the story, he meets new allies, fights stronger enemies, and makes a name for himself in the underworld.

City of Darkness stands out for its fantastic, detailed and colorful art. Few other works can compare when City of Darkness is at the top of its game. Being an action manhua, it features quite a few battles and they are not only suspenseful but also rendered in gorgeous detail.

As great as City of Darkness’ presentation is, it suffers from a few glaring issues.

Best Manga - City of Darkness Picture 2
© City of Darkness

The story’s rather simplistic, but that’s to be expected of an action manhua. The problem starts with a trope as old and tried as fiction. Namely, enemies becoming friends. Each arc introduces a new antagonist. After their defeat, however, we learn their sympathetic backstory before they join the main cast. It feels cheap and makes the emotional impact of earlier arcs meaningless.

Another problem is the way the story’s told. Large chunks of it are told by a narrative voice instead of being shown via the visuals.

The most glaring issue, however, is the pacing. At times, it’s slow at others, it goes into overdrive. Sometimes, we’re thrown right into the action without even understanding what’s going on.

Even though I had still had a blast reading City of Darkness. It’s fore and foremost an action manhua, and with action, it delivers and delivers incredibly well.

Dead End

Best Manga by Shohei Manabe - Dead End Picture 1
© Shohei Manabe – Dead End

Dead End by Shohei Manabe is one of the weirder titles on this list, but still a great manga.

We get to know Shirou, a construction worker, living a mundane life. One day, a naked girl, Lucy, falls into his life and things change forever. After introducing Lucy to his buddies, he has to leave for a few minutes, only to come back to find her gone and his friends slaughtered.

A moment later, a strange man saves Shirou from an explosion and urges him to escape via the sewers. Down there he meets another stranger, the first of a rag-tag band of characters he supposedly knows from his past.

Best Manga by Shohei Manabe - Dead End Picture 2
© Shohei Manabe – Dead End

While this premise is strange enough, things only get weirder. What starts out as a thriller slowly introduces more and more surrealistic elements.

Where Dead End stands out, the most is in terms of characters. They are all absolute badasses who can do insane feats. It’s nothing short of exciting.

Shohei Manabe’s art is rather unique and takes some time getting used to. Backgrounds and surroundings are gritty, almost dirty. Yet, it’s most notable in terms of characters. Shohei Manabe’s style makes them entirely unique, but also uglier than other manga characters. This, however, only adds to the strange nature and atmosphere of the manga.

Overall, Dead End is a surreal read, a great manga, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a raw, gritty story.


Best Manga by Toshio Sako - Usogui Picture 1
© Toshio Sako – Usogui

Toshio Sako’s Usogui is a great manga that focuses on gambling and mind games.

The story focuses on Baku Madarame, the Usogui, and the many deadly gambles he takes part in. Related to these games is the powerful organization Kagerou. It presides over these games and its referees make sure that the games are carried out satisfactorily and all bets are paid up.

Things get crazy right from the start. After a brief introduction of Baku, we’re thrown right into the first true death game. From here on out, things only get crazier.

What makes Usogui such a great manga are the games. They are complex, but not impossible to understand. Yet, they always serve more as a backdrop. The real focus is on the mind games and the psychological tricks the characters employ to win.

Best Manga by Toshio Sako - Usogui Picture 2
© Toshio Sako – Usogui

The characters, too, are fantastic. Baku’s an all-around badass who’s not afraid of death games or confronting overwhelming odds. Kaji, on the other hand, is a normal guy. At first, he’s more of a stand-in for the reader, but throughout the series he becomes a proficient gambler in his own right.

The only issue I had with Usogui was the art style, which started out rather simplistic. Over the course of the manga, however, it improves tremendously.

Usogui’s a great read for anyone interested in mind games and gambling, even if some scenarios depicted can be unconventional. It’s, however, quite a commitment at over 500 chapters.

Chainsaw Man

Best Manga by Fujimoto Tatsuki - Chainsaw Man Picture 1
© Fujimoto Tatsuki – Chainsaw Man

Who doesn’t know of shonen manga’s new golden child with a head and arms resembling chainsaws? His name is Denji, and he’s the main character in Fujimoto Tatsuki’s great manga Chainsaw Man.

Chainsaw man is stylish and brutal, full of blood and violence, and one of the most surreal manga of recent years.

At the story’s outset, Denji’s living in a small shack, killing devils for the yakuza to pay off his debt. These devils are demons who escaped from hell. He fights them by using his pet devil Ponchita as a weapon.

When he’s killed, Ponchita fuses with his body, saving his life and allowing him to transform into Chainsaw Man. Soon enough, he catches the eye of the official devil hunters and is forced to work for the Public Safety Bureau.

Best Manga by Fujimoto Tatsuki - Chainsaw Man Picture 2
© Fujimoto Tatsuki – Chainsaw Man

The manga’s plot starts of relatively simple, but soon becomes more complex as more and more hidden details are revealed.

While Chainsaw Man can be ridiculous, even stupid and comical, it’s still a dark and unforgiving story. Anyone who’s read Fujimoto Tatsuki’s previous works, especially Fire Punch, knows that it’s a staple of his works.

The greatest part about Chainsaw Man is the art. It’s unique, raw and gritty. Fujimoto Tatsuki renders his world, characters and the various devils in beautiful detail. Especially the devils stand out. Their design and power are often outlandishly horrific and stunningly creative.

Chainsaw Man can be best described as a work of beautiful madness. At times it’s funny, at others ridiculous, but it’s always a crazy, surreal and brutal ride. Reading it was quite an experience. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to check it out.

Blood and Steel

Best Manga by Jingfu Qiao and Meng Ma Gong Zuo Shi - Blood and Steel Picture 1
© Jingfu Qiao and Meng Ma Gong Zuo Shi – Blood and Steel

Blood and Steel by Jingfu Qiao and Meng Ma Gong Zuo Shi is a martial arts manhua I enjoyed immensely.

Yan Heng is a martial artist and member of the Quincheng group. One day, they are being attacked and annihilated by the Wudong group. Yan Heng is saved by Jing Lie, the Wudong Hunter.

Together, the two of them set out for revenge against the Wudong.

The story’s relatively simple and typical for a manhua of the Wuxia genre. Where Blood and Steel stands out, however, is in terms of art.

It’s one of the most beautiful works on this entire list of great manga. The world’s drawn beautifully, characters are gorgeous to look at and fights are rendered in stunning detail.

Best Manga by Jingfu Qiao and Meng Ma Gong Zuo Shi - Blood and Steel Picture 2
© Jingfu Qiao and Meng Ma Gong Zuo Shi – Blood and Steel

Another great thing about these fights is how they are presented. In many other martial arts manga, fights are often over-the-top, drawn out and last forever. Not so in Blood and Steel. Almost all the fights in this manhua are brisk and quick, making them much more realistic, but also more interesting.

The only problem I had with blood and Steel was the story progression. While it’s a story of revenge, proper conduct and morals were often more important. This led to our protagonists letting enemies escape because fights didn’t start on even footing.

Still, this didn’t deter my enjoyment of the manhua much. While the story might not be its strongest point, the art and fights are top notch.

If you’re looking for a beautiful work about martial arts, read Blood and Steel.

Dr. Stone

Best Manga by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi - Dr. Stone Picture 1
© Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi – Dr. Stone

Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi’s Dr. Stone tells a story that’s rather simple: rebuilding human civilization from the Stone Age with all the knowledge of modern day.

This unique premise makes Dr. Stone such a great manga.

The story starts when a mysterious light shines on Earth and every single person is petrified. Thousands of years later, Taiju Ooki and his friend Senku are the first to reawaken.

Senku, being a young man with vast knowledge of science, sets out to restore the world to what it used to be.

It’s this plan that triumphs over everything else in Dr. Stone. Technological development and progression outshine every other part of this manga. It’s extremely enjoyable to watch Senku create pretty much anything from scratch. Senku starts out by building primitive tools and weapons, but soon experiments with chemistry, electricity before setting up things such as factories.

Best Manga by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi - Dr. Stone Picture 2
© Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi – Dr. Stone

While there are many other survival manga out there, Dr. Stone’s the first to truly focus on establishing a society and technological development.

Another selling point of the manga’s the art. Boichi’s a master of the craft and everything in Dr. Stone looks nothing short of gorgeous.

The only major problem I have, and which also deterred my enjoyment of Boichi’s earlier work, Sun Ken Rock, is the humor. It’s simple, childish and over-the-top, heavily relying on one thing alone: facial expressions. It got old relatively quickly, and after a while, grew to annoy me.

Overall, though, Dr. Stone is clearly a great manga, and one of the best in recent years. I absolutely loved reading it.

Keep on Vibrating

Best Manga by Jiro Matsumoto - Keep on Vibrating Picture 1
© Jiro Matsumoto – Keep on Vibrating

Jiro Matsumoto’s known for his weird and surreal works, but Keep on Vibrating might be the weirdest of them all. It’s the only adult themed manga on this list, and it’s quite a piece of work.

It’s a collection of one-shots. Some are interconnected, others are standalone. They depict explicit sex, violence and various other insane events. I’d like to give a warning here. This manga’s not for the faint of heart.

The very first story’s a great introduction to what you’re in for. It’s full of sex, violence and the plot is utterly abstruse and surreal.

Yet, Keep on Vibrating’s also incredibly creative in its surreal insanity, making it an enticing read and great manga.

Best Manga by Jiro Matsumoto - Keep on Vibrating Picture 2
© Jiro Matsumoto – Keep on Vibrating

Jiro Matsumoto’s art is gritty and dark, but entirely unique. Backdrops are often disturbing, depicting a grim, derelict world.

The plot of each story’s weird, but some are downright surreal. Yet, one can see rare glimpses of genius, certain bits of imagery that make it such an outlandish and fascinating work. This is especially noticeable in the often mundane dialogue, which stands in stark contrast to anything else that’s going on.

Keep on Vibrating is a graphical manga, a weird manga, but also a great manga. It’s different from almost every other work I’ve read. It’s an experience to be had, but only for those who can stomach the explicit content.


Best Manga by Motoro Mase - Ikigami Picture 1
© Motoro Mase – Ikigami

Imagine you’re getting a note which informs you that twenty-four hours from how you’re going to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Motoro Mase’s Ikigami deals with this scenario. In a dystopian Japan, certain citizens between the age of eighteen and twenty are selected to die for their country.

They are informed about this by the titular Ikigami, which are delivered to them by government messengers. Kengo Fujimoto, our protagonist, is one such messenger.

Ikigami’s mostly told in episodic fashion, detailing how people react to the terrible news. While some accept it, others rebel against it, fall in despair, and desperately try to escape their fate.

 Best Manga by Motoro Mase - Ikigami Picture 2
© Motoro Mase – Ikigami

This premise makes Ikigami such a great manga. It’s one of the most thought-provoking reads I’d had in a long time. While all the scenarios and people shown are interesting, some are nothing short of outstandingly beautiful or poetically tragic.

At the same time, however, this episodic fashion is one of Ikigami’s biggest problems. We always know that most of the characters in this manga will only be around for a few chapters. While some are extremely well done, and we feel for them, the time we spend with them is ultimately cut short.

Ikigami’s art is realistic, but quite average. It does what it needs to, and that’s mostly it. While there are some beautiful scenes, they are rare and in-between. Yet, they create a beautiful contrast, really showcasing the emotional importance of these scenes.

Overall, Ikigami’s a great manga, one that makes you ponder quite a lot and wonder how you’d spend your last day.

The Horizon

Best Manga by Ji-Hoon Jeong - The Horizon Picture 1
© Ji-Hoon Jeong – The Horizon

Ji-Hoon Jeong’s The Horizon is one of the most depressing manhwa I ever read. At the same time, it’s a beautiful story.

It’s set in a world ravaged by war, and after a young boy witnesses his mother’s death, he walks on the road towards the horizon. At an abandoned bus, he meets a lost little girl and from this point onward, the two of them travel together.

The Horizon’s a work that showcases the gritty unforgiving nature of war and its aftermath. As dark as the story is, however, the manga itself ends on a positive note, showing that there’s always hope as long as there’s love.

Best Manga by Ji-Hoon Jeong - The Horizon Picture 2
© Ji-Hoon Jeong – The Horizon

The greatest thing about The Horizon is the art. It’s raw, gritty, but also beautiful. Sometimes it’s simplistic, at others detailed, always depending on the importance of the scene. The Horizon features a lot of brutal content, but it never glamorizes it, and only uses it to show how bad the world has become.

The thing I love the most about the art though, is how it’s used to convey emotions. When bad things happen, or emotions spiral out of control, the art becomes grittier, rougher, or distorts completely.

While the Horizon’s a quick read, it’s the perfect length for a story like this. If it would’ve been any longer, the gloomy atmosphere would’ve been dragged out and the story’s emotional impact would’ve been weakened.

The Horizon’s a hidden little gem, one I can’t help but include in this list of great manga. It shows us a world of war, but from the perspective of those who least understand it and are least involved.

If you want to learn even more about it, read my detailed review about why you need to read The Horizon manga.

MPD Psycho

Best Manga by Eiji Otsuka and Shouu Tajima - MPD Psycho Picture 1
© Eiji Otsuka and Shouu Tajima – MPD Psycho

MPD Psycho by Eiji Otsuka and Shouu Tajima’s a great manga, but it’s not for everyone. It features a lot of gracious and shocking violence.

It’s the story of Kazuhiko Amamiya who suffers from multiple personality disorder. At the outset of the story, he works as a detective and solves violent crimes and sick murder cases.

Many of these are odd, twisted and the crime scenes are rendered in intricate detail. While these scenes can be stomach turning, MPD Psycho’s much more than a mindless gorefest.

Best Manga by Eiji Otsuka and Shouu Tajima - MPD Psycho Picture 3
© Eiji Otsuka and Shouu Tajima – MPD Psycho

It’s a psychological thriller and one of the greatest manga in the genre. What starts out episodic soon turns into a bigger plot, related to Amamiya’s past. Yet, the more complex the plot becomes and the more mysteries are revealed to us, the more confusing things become. This, however, is also attributed to our protagonist’s different personalities. It can be hard to keep up with them and who’s actually in charge.

The sick violence might be off-putting to some readers. If you can stand it, however, you’re treated to a dark thriller with a lot of deeper, psychological themes. It’s without a doubt a great manga.


Best Manga by Atushi Kaneko - Soil Picture 1
© Atushi Kaneko – Soil

Sometimes you read manga that are so weird, you don’t know what you’ve just read. Soil by Atushi Kaneko is exactly that. Yet it’s a great manga and I enjoyed it immensely.

One day, a family living in Soil New Town vanishes without a trace. Two detectives, Yokoi and Onoda, are sent to investigate what appears to be a routine case. Before long, however, stranger and stranger details about the town and the events at play are revealed.

Soil’s art is as strange as the manga itself and might appear simplistic or amateurish at first. After a while, however, one notices just how unique and detailed Atushi Kaneko’s art truly is.

Best Manga by Atushi Kaneko - Picture Soil 3
© Atushi Kaneko – Soil

One of the major problems in Soil is the characters. While they are rather complex and realistic, they are also eccentric and heavily flawed to the point of being unlikeable.

While Soil is so different and refreshing, it can get a bit too weird. Especially in its latter half, so many weird elements are added, one tends to just give up to understand what’s going on. This also includes the ending, which doesn’t give answers, but makes you wonder even more what you’ve just read.

Soil’s still a great manga, one that’s rather refreshing for how outlandish it is. I believe it’s a great manga, one anyone should read. It’s an experience unlike anything else. If you like surreal manga, try Soil.

Oyasumi Punpun

Best Manga by Inio Asano - Oyasumi Punpun Picture 1
© Inio Asano – Oyasumi Punpun

Oyasumi Punpun is a great manga and one of the most dramatic and depressing coming-of-age stories of all time.

It tells the story of Punpun Onodera, a normal eleven-year-old boy. Soon enough, however, Punpun has to learn just how fickle relationships can be. As we learn more about Punpun himself, his friends, and his family, we witness how a shy little boy becomes reclusive and turns down a dark path.

Punpun’s a depressing story, and a seriously tough read. It’s full of raw, gritty details that show us how even the smallest event can lastingly influence us. Yet, it’s also a realistic and relatable story.

Best Manga by Inio Asano - Oyasumi Punpun Picture 3
© Inio Asano – Oyasumi Punpun

Oyasumi Punpun’s art is unique and beautiful, but also gritty and gloomy. The most interesting part, however, is the design of Punpun and his family. They are drawn as comical, bird-like beings. This helps to make Punpun stand apart, to better convey his emotions and reactions, but it also shows that he’s a person who just doesn’t fit in.

Yet, I have my problems with Punpun. The first is the last arc of the manga. While I felt I could always relate to Punpun and the events at play, things got a little too crazy near the end. Another one’s that the manga can feel self-indulgent and pretentious. A lot of psychological, deeper and complex themes are presented and discussed, but sometimes, it feels they are just there for the sake of being there. Lastly, a lot of time is spent on Punpun’s friends. They are all likeable and interesting, but Punpun’s narrative is always the more interesting one.

Overall, Oyasumi Punpun is an uncomfortable and depressing manga, but also a thought-provoking read. While I think it’s a great manga, it’s not a joyful experience.

Tomodachi Game

Best Manga by Mikoto Yamaguchi and Yuuki Satou - Tomodachi Game Picture 1
© Mikoto Yamaguchi and Yuuki Satou – Tomodachi Game

Tomodachi Game by Mikoto Yamaguchi and Yuuki Satou is a great manga about mind games.

It tells the story of Yuuichi Katagiri. He values his friends over everything and works hard every day to save money for a school trip. When the class money’s stolen, suspicion falls on two of his friends.

The following night, he and his four best friends are forced to take part in the titular game. It’s revealed that one of their friends has a massive debt and stole the class money to enter the Tomodachi Game.

For the first few chapters Tomodachi Game might appear rather simplistic and generic. The first game and even the second don’t stand out much. During the aftermath of the second game, things get much more interesting as the first hints of a much bigger plot are revealed.

Best Manga by Mikoto Yamaguchi and Yuuki Satou - Tomodachi Game Picture 2
© Mikoto Yamaguchi and Yuuki Satou – Tomodachi Game

The most interesting part of this manga, however, is Yuuichi, the protagonist. We soon learn that he’s not your typical good guy, but a rather twisted and ruthless person. He’ll do anything to win against his enemies. Tomodachi Game’s such a great manga and such an interesting read almost entirely because of Yuuichi’s character.

Tomodachi Game’s definitely worth a read, especially for its unique protagonist. It might, however, not seem like a great manga early on. Getting through those initial chapters is very well worth it.

Shin Angyo Onshi

Best Manga by In-Wan Yoon and Kyung-il Yang - Shin Angyo Onshi Picture 1
© In-Wan Yoon and Kyung-il Yang – Shin Angyo Onshi

Few dark fantasy manga can compare to In-Wan Yoon and Kyung-il Yang’s Shin Angyo Onshi.

The story centers on Munsu, an Angyo Onshi or government agent tasked with bringing corrupted government officials to justice. After the destruction of his home country, Jushin, he travels the land and continues to fulfill his work.

Shin Angyo Onshi starts off in a rather episodic fashion. The more we learn about Munsu, the Angyo Onshi, and what caused Jushin’s destruction, the more complex the plot becomes.

What makes Shin Angyo Onshi such a great manga, however, is the outstanding art and the fantastic characters.

Best Manga by In-Wan Yoon and Kyung-il Yang - Shin Angyo Onshi Picture 2
© In-Wan Yoon and Kyung-il Yang – Shin Angyo Onshi

The art rivals that of the best manga out there and is breathtakingly beautiful.

The most interesting aspect of this manga are the characters. While there’s a clear distinction between protagonists and antagonists, neither is painted as truly good or bad. Instead, we learn more about all of them and about their motifs.

The best character, however, is Musun. He’s portrayed as an anti-hero, someone who doesn’t shy away from questionable methods. While he might seem ruthless at first, we soon learn just how complex a character he truly is.

Shin Angyo Onshi is a great manga and a delight for anyone who likes gritty, dark fantasy.

Tokyo Manji Revengers

Best Manga by Ken Wakui - Tokyo Maji Revengers Picture 1
© Ken Wakui – Tokyo Maji Revengers

Ken Wakui’s Tokyo Manji Revengers is one thing above all else, fun. It’s one of the most enjoyable reads I had in a long while.

It tells the story of Takemichi Hanagaki. He’s hit rock bottom, but things get worse when he learns his ex-girlfriend, Hinata Tachibana, was murdered.

While he wonders where things went all wrong, he suddenly finds himself twelve years in the past. Back then he was still in a relationship with Hinata, and realizes he’s now got the chance to change the future.

While the time-travel premise of the manga’s interesting enough, it’s the characters that make this such a great manga. They are all likeable, and badass in their own right.

Best Manga by Ken Wakui - Tokyo Maji Revengers Picture 3
© Ken Wakui – Tokyo Maji Revengers

The only exception is Takemichi. He’s weak and cries a lot. While other shonen protagonists grow and become stronger, Takemichi doesn’t, but it makes him a much more realistic and grounded character.

The plot of Tokyo Manji Revengers is full of twists, time travel shenanigans, and, of course, lots of cool fights.

One problem, however, is the age of the characters. We’ve kids no older than fourteen who form violent street gangs, fight each other and even kill each other. It’s taking things a bit too far. Another problem was the ending, which felt rushed and rather unrewarding.

Overall, it’s a great manga, featuring a unique time-travel plot, fantastic characters and is an extremely fun read.

Battle Royal

Best Manga by Masayuki Taguchi and Koushun Takami - Battle Royal Picture 1
© Masayuki Taguchi and Koushun Takami – Battle Royal

Battle Royal is a manga adaption of Koushun Takami’s novel by the same name. It’s a brutal, disturbing, but also great manga.

While it retells the novel’s story, it often takes liberties to make things more dramatic. It also explores each student’s backstory and shares more details about them and their life before the game.

Battle Royal’s story is rather simple. Each year, a class is selected to take part in the Battle Royal program and taken to a remote area. There, they are forced to kill each other until only one survivor remains.

Our protagonist, Shuuya Nanahara, decides against killing any of his classmates and instead makes it his goal to get off the island.

Best Manga by Masayuki Taguchi and Koushun Takami - Battle Royal Picture 4
© Masayuki Taguchi and Koushun Takami – Battle Royal

Battle Royal’s setting is disturbing as it is, but the manga showcases it in all its insane and over-the-top goriness. We see students stabbing and mutilating each other, disembowelments, and a lot of other disturbing events.

One of the biggest flaws in Battle Royal that can deter from people’s enjoyment is the depiction of characters. They are all in the same class, and about the same age, yet some look no older than ten, while others look like adults in their thirties. Another problem is the approach to story-telling. It’s rather formulaic. We get to know a student, witness their backstory before they are ultimately killed.

Yet, I still think Battle Royal is a great manga. It’s a brutal, but also deeply psychological read. If you enjoy manga featuring death games, I highly recommend it.

Tower of God

Best Manga by SIU - Tower of God Picture 1
© SIU – Tower of God

While SIU’s Tower of God is manhwa, I still want to include it on this list of great manga.

Our protagonist, Twenty-Fifth Bam, was all alone until he met Rachel. Yet she’s obsessed with the Tower and climbing it. After she vanishes, Bam sets out to meet her again, and enters the tower himself. Yet he’s deemed an Irregular, and soon various people take notice of his entry.

Climbing the tower is no easy feat, and on each floor, Bam has to pass a test to continue his climb.

The story starts out simple, but soon expands. We’re introduced to various groups of interest and learn more about the Tower itself.

While the art starts out as barely serviceable, it improves vastly, giving Tower of God a sort of unique beauty.

Best Manga by SIU - Tower of God Picture 2
© SIU – Tower of God

Yet Tower of God has its flaws. The first is the cast of characters. With each new arc, we’re introduced to new characters, and things soon become overwhelming. Another is the story-telling. Each arc introduces us to a new setting, new rules or new games before surprising events happen and everything’s thrown overboard. By now, the unexpected has become the expected and often the time spent on setting things up feels wasted.

The biggest problem, however, is Bam himself. At the outset of the story he’s a likeable underdog, but before long, he turns into a typical, overpowered shonen-archetype.

And yet, I still consider Tower of God a good read and a great manga or manhwa. While I’m sure it’s not for everyone, I still urge you to read a few chapters.


Best Manga by Naoki Urasawa - Pluto Picture 1
© Naoki Urasawa – Pluto

Astro Boy’s one of the most popular classical manga of all time. Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto is a retelling of Astro Boy’s story, but from an entirely different perspective.

Our protagonist is Gesicht, one of the seven most advanced robots in the world, who works as a robot detective for Europol. When another world-famous robot gets murdered, he’s sent to investigate. He soon discovers that the murder couldn’t have been committed by a human and learns of a mysterious entity known only as Pluto.

Best Manga by Naoki Urasawa - Pluto Picture 2
© Naoki Urasawa – Pluto

At the center of Pluto, is the relationship between robots and humans and Naoki Urasawa spends a lot of time developing it. He shows that not all is well, anti-robot hate exists and robots are mistreated and even destroyed. However, the boundaries between humans and robots become more and more blurred.

What makes Pluto such a great manga is the story and characters. Pluto’s plot is a gripping mystery with many interesting twists and turns that will keep you guessing. The greatest part is the storytelling. Pluto’s a solemn and intimate story, one that’s moved forward via dialogue and character interactions.

Pluto’s biggest problem is one I encountered in others of Naoki Urasawa’s works. The story peaks around the middle, leaving the later volumes a bit lacking.

This doesn’t mean Pluto’s bad. It’s a great manga, and one of the best in the science-fiction and mystery department.

Darwin’s Game

Best Manga by Ginko and Yuki Takahata - Darwin’s Game Picture 1
© Ginko and Yuki Takahata – Darwin’s Game

Ginko and Yuki Takahata’s Darwin’s Game is another great manga featuring death games.

Kaname Sudo’s a normal high school student. All that changes when he signs up for a mobile game called Darwin’s Game. Before long, he gets followed and is attacked by a weird person dressed up as a mascot.

Yet, Kaname’s not your typical protagonist. At first, he flees, rather than fights, but soon he accepts the game, becomes quite good at it and also quite ruthless. It’s enjoyable to see a character go all in.

While the games in Darwin’s Game start out as typical as death matches, they soon become more interesting and grander in scale, as does the story. More and more mysteries are added, and especially the newest arc makes you wonder what direction the manga will take.

Best Manga by Ginko and Yuki Takahata - Darwin’s Game Picture 2
© Ginko and Yuki Takahata – Darwin’s Game

Darwin’s Game is a battle manga, and it’s here where it truly shines. Fights in this manga are intense, suspenseful, and ripe with action. The best part about them, however, are sigils, special powers characters receive upon entering the game.

While Darwin’s Game doesn’t redefine the genre, it adds enough elements to keep things fun, fresh, and engaging. Especially Kaname and some of the other characters are all quite interesting and likeable.

If you’re looking for a great manga featuring death games, Darwin’s Game is worth a look.


Best Manga by Kouji Mori - Holyland Picture 1
© Kouji Mori – Holyland

Kouji Mori’s Holyland is one of the greatest manga in the martial arts genre.

Yuu Kamishiro’s a boy who’s bullied by his peers and doesn’t seem to have a place in society. He stops attending school and starts training a single boxing punch.

Before long, he takes to wandering the streets, fighting thugs and building a reputation for himself, all in search of his Holyland.

Yet the more he fights, the more his name spreads and the more people know of the ‘Thug Hunter.’

What makes Holyland so great are the characters, especially Yuu. We can relate to him, feel how lost he is, and sympathize with his wish to find a place to belong. Holyland is a coming-of-age story, one conveyed via martial arts and street fights.

Best Manga by Kouji Mori - Holyland Picture 3
© Kouji Mori – Holyland

Yuu, however, isn’t the only fantastic character in this manga. Almost everyone’s carefully developed and they all have their own reasons for being out in the streets. Especially Masaki Izawa and Shougo Midorikawa are to name here.

Yet, this character-driven approach leads to other problems. Holyland focuses heavily on character development, investing almost no time in the development of an overall plot. It’s rather repetitive, and after each fight, a new enemy appears.

Yet those are only minor problems. Holyland is foremost a manga about its characters. It centers on their drive, development and it’s here where it exceeds many other manga. If you enjoy martial arts manga, Holyland’s a must-read.


Best Manga by Hiroshi Takahashi - Crows Picture 1
© Hiroshi Takahashi – Crows

Hiroshi Takahashi’s Crows is another great manga in the martial arts genre, or rather, a delinquent manga.

Harumichi Boya transfers to Suzuran, a high school full of delinquents, and soon sets his sights on conquering the school and becoming its number one fighter.

Things seldom go as planned, and soon warfare between all the gangs in the area breaks out.

What makes Crows such a great manga is how simple it is. It doesn’t want to be more than a delinquent manga about fights and that’s exactly what you get. While it has its deeper or tragic moments, it’s a rather lighthearted series.

Best Manga by Hiroshi Takahashi - Crows Picture 2
© Hiroshi Takahashi – Crows

What it does, however, it does fantastically well. It’s a lot of fun, the characters likeable and unique, and the fights are fantastic.

One thing that might be a bit off-putting is the series’ art style. Because Crows is an older series, it has a distinct 90s look to it. That doesn’t mean the art style’s bad, just different and takes a bit of time getting used to.

Another problem is the complete absence of teachers, parents and law enforcement. Juvenile delinquents start a fight in the middle of the city, beat each other senseless, and no one intervenes or cares.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Crows immensely. It’s a great manga about martial arts and delinquents, and it delivers fantastically well for what it sets out to do.

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