As a writer, I’ve always been a big fan of storytelling. While I love to read books and stories published online, I’m also a big fan of manga. It’s a medium I’ve always held dear. There’s something special about it. I guess it’s because the best manga aren’t simply telling a story, but it’s also providing you with stunning visuals.
I can’t say what makes manga stand out so much to me. While I’ve read hundreds of manga, I’ve never gotten much into the medium of comic books. It might be the cultural difference, or the stunning variety of different stories told. Whatever it is, I feel that the best manga out there are stunning works who can tell unique stories and bring them to live with fantastic art.
That’s the reason I created a list of the best manga of all time that I uncovered throughout the years. While there are some vastly popular titles on this list, I’m sure there are some hidden gems that few people might have heard about.
However, this is a list of manga I’ve read and enjoyed, so some of the most popular or most acclaimed manga might not be part of this list because I haven’t read them yet or I didn’t enjoy them as much as other people.
I’d also like to give a spoiler warning. I’ll try to not go too much into detail about the plot points, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
So, here’s my list of the 75 best manga of all time anyone should read.
Table of Contents
- 75. Rurouni Kenshin
- 74. Blue Heaven
- 73. 7 Seeds
- 72. Shamo
- 71. City of Darkness
- 70. Dead End
- 69. Usogui
- 68. Chainsaw Man
- 67. Blood and Steel
- 66. Dr. Stone
- 65. Keep on Vibrating
- 64. Ikigami
- 63. The Horizon
- 62. MPD Psycho
- 61. Soil
- 60. Oyasumi Punpun
- 59. Tomodachi Game
- 58. Shin Angyo Onshi
- 57. Tokyo Manji Revengers
- 56. Battle Royal
- 55. Tower of God
- 54. Pluto
- 53. Darwin’s Game
- 52. Holyland
- 51. Crows
- 50. Dragon Head
- 49. Claymore
- 48. Attack on Titan
- 47. Annarasumanara
- 46. Chi no Wadachi
- 45. Ouroboros
- 44. Sanctuary
- 43. Tokyo Ghoul
- 42. One Punch Man
- 41. 20th Century Boys
- 40. Hunter x Hunter
- 39. Blue Lock
- 38. C.a.t. (Confidential Assassination Troop)
- 37. Hotel
- 36. Battle Angel Alita
- 35. Made in Abyss
- 34. Jagaaaaaan
- 33. Solo Leveling
- 32. Fuan no Tane
- 31. Knights of Sidonia
- 30. Akira
- 29. Dorohedoro
- 28. Shigurui
- 27. Lone Wolf and Cub
- 26. Gokushufudou: The Way of the House Husband
- 25. Ichi the Killer
- 24. Kingdom
- 23. Yamikin Ushijima-kun
- 22. Gantz
- 21. Liar Game
- 20. Bokutachi ga Yarimashita
- 19. Homunculus
- 18. Alice in Borderland
- 17. Freesia
- 16. Kamisama no Iutoori and Kamisama no Iutoori Ni
- 15. Junji Ito Horror Collection
- 14. Omoide Emanon
- 13. Onani Master Kurosawa
- 12. Biomega
- 11. Smuggler
- 10. The Climber
- 9. Me and the Devil Blues
- 8. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 7: Steel Ball Run
- 7. Vinland Saga
- 6. Vagabond
- 5. Ultra Heaven
- 4. Uzumaki
- 3. Blame!
- 2. Berserk
- 1. Blade of the Immortal
75. Rurouni Kenshin
Let’s start this list with a samurai manga. Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki is one of the best samurai manga and one of the best manga of all time.
Rurouni Kenshin chronicles the story of Hitokiri Battosai, a man who’s infamous for his deeds as a killer during the Bakumatsu war.
He’s now known as Kenshin Himura, a wandering samurai. As opposed to the rumors, Himura is not a bloodthirsty killer, but a man who did what he did because of his own convictions. Now that the war is over, he’s haunted by guilt and has sworn never to kill again. Kenshin wishes to atone for the lives he took. If he’s forced to fight, he does so with a reverse blade Katana in order to not kill his enemies.
The route to redemption, though, is not an easy one and, Kenshin often runs into people who are interested in his past or who hold a grudge against him.
Rurouni Kenshin is a manga with multiple arcs, starting out in Edo where it follows a more episodic nature, introduce a wide cast of characters.
The series truly shined in its second arc, the Kyoto arc which introduces Rurouni Kenshin’s most notable antagonist, Shishio Makoto.
What makes Rurouni Kenshin one of the best manga and makes it standout between other, similar manga are the deeper themes it features. It’s Kenshin’s drive for redemption and his wish to escape the past he can’t seem to.
The manga centers on whether Kenshin will be able to keep his vow. Can he bury his past as Hitokiri Battosai? And as more and more adversaries are introduced, we come to worry that it might never be possible.
One of the biggest downsides for me was the art which, at least in my opinion, looks a bit old-fashioned and simplistic, at least when compared to other manga on this list.
Overall, Rurouni Kenshin is a great samurai manga with some fantastic action and interesting characters. That’s where Rurouni Kenshin truly shines and is elevated to one of the best manga of all time.
Rurouni Kenshin is a great read for anyone who’s looking for a good samurai manga featuring complex characters and some deeper themes.
74. Blue Heaven
Blue Heaven by Tsutomu Takahashi is a short, two-volume thriller manga set on the titular luxury liner Blue Heaven. I’ve really enjoyed this manga and I think it’s one of the best manga at what it does.
The manga starts with the departure of the Blue Haven, but the story begins when a wrecked ship is discovered in the middle of the ocean. On board are signs of horrible bloodshed and only two survivors are discovered. One of them is in terrible condition, the other, Ri Seiryuu, seems fine, considering the circumstances.
Soon enough, the latter of the two escapes his confinement, mingles among the passengers, and starts killing them indiscriminately. Before long, things spiral out of control when another set of ominous characters learns about the murderer on board. From here on out, things get brutal and Blue Heaven turns into a violent hell.
I already mentioned that I enjoyed the setting, but I also like the crazy characters in this manga. Especially a certain rich family of psychopaths make the playing field onboard quite a bit more interesting.
Blue Heaven is rather simple in terms of story. There’s a murderer aboard a cruise ship and things get out of hand. This might be the reason the manga’s so short. It’s regrettable because I enjoyed everything about it. There was such great potential to the setting. I feel this manga could’ve been much longer and the escalating nature of the plot was a bit too rushed.
The thing that makes Blue Heaven one of the best manga in my book is the pacing, the simple, yet twisted story line and the many intense moments it has. There’s never a dull moment in this manga.
Blue Heaven is a manga I’d recommend to fans of thriller stories and those who are looking for a fast-paced, action-oriented story that still offers some depth.
73. 7 Seeds
7 Seeds by Yumi Tamura is a post-apocalyptic manga set in the distant future after humanity was wiped out when a giant meteorite collided with earth.
To make sure humanity would overcome this calamity, the 7SEEDS project was created by the government. Five sets of seven young man and woman were selected, put into cryogenic sleep and awoken long after the catastrophe was over.
7 Seeds’ story follows the members of each of the five teams, showcasing their experiences and how they manga to survive in this new, dangerous world.
I read 7 Seeds many years ago. While I had some initial doubts, I came to love it and regard it as one of the best manga I ever read. What I enjoyed the most was the setting and the premise of having to survive in a world that’s completely different from your own.
What makes 7 Seeds one of the best manga is the survival aspect. It’s well done and handled realistically. Characters have to search for water, work to get food, and find shelter. It’s the simplest, yet most important things that are always overlooked in other, similar manga.
Another great thing are the characters. They are very divisive and realistic. Over the course of the story, many of them show significant character development and it’s enjoyable to watch them grow under the circumstances.
However, those divisive characters are the first problem I had with 7 Seeds. This program was designed to make sure humanity would survive, but this bids the question why our characters were chosen. Why did the government chose random teenagers suffering from depression and anxiety issues over hardened survivors or scientists? Well, for the sake of the plot of course. It’s a big plot hole, but one I was willing to overlook as the story continued.
The huge cast of character in 7 Seeds is a double-edged sword. As outlined in the premise, there are five sets of seven people. We get to know all of them, witness their struggles, survival and even death. This means there are a lot of different characters and a lot of different plotlines. While it serves to tell unique and interesting storylines, it also can get a bit overwhelming. Later on, the manga also focuses more on the interaction between these characters and less on the initial problem of survival. However, things never reached the point of setting up a new society. I’d have loved to see that.
The biggest issue I had with 7 Seeds was the art style. It’s rather simple and in my opinion, a bit old-fashioned and reminiscent of older manga. It takes some time getting used to and to some it might be a deal breaker, since the art doesn’t improve throughout the course of the manga.
Overall, 7 Seeds is a great complex survival and one of the best manga in this genre, but it can be a bit overwhelming. I’d recommend anyone to check out the first few chapters or the first volume. If you enjoy those, you’re sure to enjoy the rest.
Most of the time we see manga from the point of view of the good guy, or at least someone who’s morally gray. That’s not the case in Shamo by Akio Tanaka, and this serves to make it one of the best manga at what it does.
At age sixteen our protagonist Ryo Narushima snaps and brutally murders both of his parents. After this event, he’s convicted and set to a reformatory.
There Ryo learns karate from a jailed man sent to the reformatory. This man, Kenji Kurokawa, recognizes Ryo’s talent and starts teaching him the specifics of self-defense.
Since Ryo was a minor at the time of his crime, he’s released after only two years. After his experiences in prison, he swears to survive, gain more strength and never be a victim again.
At the core Shame is a martial arts manga and one of the best manga of the genre. However, it differs from others regarding its protagonist. Ryo is a deprived and despicable character, essentially the villain of the story. If he needs money, he takes it. If he fights, he fights dirty. That’s what makes Shamo so interesting. The best way to describe Ryo would be as a gangster or street thug.
Yet, Shamo doesn’t glorify the life of an outcast. No, it shows that Ryo’s life isn’t a good one. He doesn’t have many friends or acquaintances, and the few people that surround him are shady and gladly take advantage of him.
At the end of the day, he can’t do much about it because of his past and because society seldom gives criminals a second chance. That’s why Ryo has to do what he has to do, and he isn’t shy about doing it.
The art in Shame is pretty good. It’s gritty, it’s raw, and it’s often realistic. However, while it’s good, it’s not outstanding, at least compared to some of the best manga in that department.
My biggest problem with Shame is the later part of the story. The first half of the manga is fantastic and showcases Ryo’s despicable character and the things he does. However, it loses steam in the second half. The introduction of concepts such as Ki and sword fighting makes it a very disjointed experience.
Shamo is at its best during the first half. It’s here that it shines as one of the best manga in the martial arts genre, especially because of its unique protagonist. After that, though, it’s unfortunately a steady downwards path.
It’s still worth a for its unique perspective, but don’t be afraid to put Shamo aside once you don’t enjoy it anymore.
71. City of Darkness
Rating and describing City of Darkness was tough. While I enjoyed it immensely, it has some glaring issues I can’t ignore.
It’s one of the few manhua on this list, but I still think it serves to be mentioned in a list of the best manga of all time.
The title of the manhua comes from Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, which was also known as the City of Darkness.
City of Darkness is the story of a young man, Chen Luo Jun, who’s a member of the triads. One night, he’s betrayed by his boss and loses everything. From here on out, he makes his way to the City of Darkness.
Over the course of the story, Chen makes new allies, fights new enemies, and we’re introduced to a large cast of characters populating the underground world.
The biggest selling point of City of Darkness and the reason I’m including it in this list of the best manga, is the fantastic, detailed and colorful art. There’s few manga or manhua that can compare to it. It’s this art that makes the battles in this series so enjoyable, and since this is an action manhua, there’s a lot of them.
Those battles are the second reason I recommend people to give this series a look. They are suspenseful, stunning and extremely well drawn.
As good as the presentation is, however, there are quite a few flaws as I’ve mentioned above.
The story is, overall, very simplistic and typical for a manhua like this. It doesn’t deter my enjoyment though since City of Darkness is foremost a pure action manhua.
My biggest problem with the story is that it follows one of the most annoying concepts in fiction. Enemies of former arcs often become allies in the succeeding one. This always feels like a sort of cheat, almost as if all the emotions, the tension and the battles of prior arcs were meaningless. It gets especially bad when we learn about the sympathetic backstory of a character we thought of as nothing but a crazy psychopath before he joins the main cast.
While most of the characters in this manga look cool and are badass, there’s not much in terms of character development. What little there is, barely scratches the surface.
Another personal issue I had with City of Darkness was the pacing and the way the story is told.
The pacing in this manga is all over the place. At times the story is rather slow before it goes into overdrive, jumping right back into the action and introducing new developments before you know what’s going on.
The story in City of Darkness is often told via a narrative voice that explains what’s happening in the story. This makes reading it a strange experience. It feels almost like reading a novel. Often it’s even the case of telling us what characters are feeling or thinking instead of showing it via the visuals.
Now, all of this might paint City of Darkness in a poor light, but it’s far from it. It’s inclusion in this list of the best manga is well deserved.
Overall, I had a blast and enjoyed City of Darkness tremendously. It’s an action manhua that pitches cool and badass characters against each other, presented in outstanding art. If it comes to action and art, City of Darkness delivers and it delivers well.
70. Dead End
Dead End is the first manga by Shohei Manabe on this list and a manga I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s also one of the weirder titles on this, but still one of the best manga I ever read.
Dead End introduces us to Shirou, an ordinary construction worker living a mundane life. All that changes when a naked girl, Lucy, falls into his life. He decides to introduce this mysterious woman to his buddies, but has to leave the apartment for a few minutes. When he returns Lucy is gone, his friends are slaughtered and a strange man is waiting for him in the middle of the carnage.
The stranger saves Shirou from an explosion and urges him to flee into the sewage system. Down there, Shirou meets yet another mysterious stranger.
From here on out, the story centers on Shirou’s attempts of figuring out what’s going on, as he gathers a rag-tag group of characters he supposedly knows from his past.
As if this premise is not already strange enough, things only get stranger over the course of the manga. Dead End starts out like a thriller story, but soon introduces more fantastical elements. That’s what makes reading Dead End such a weird and surreal experience, but that also makes it so interesting.
What makes Dead End one of the best manga are the characters. They are across the board portrayed as over-the-top badasses that can do insane feats.
The art, as so often in the works of Shohei Manabe, is unique and takes time getting used to. The backgrounds and surroundings are gritty, but where it truly stands out is for the characters. They are drawn strangely and uniquely. While it makes them more realistic, it also makes them uglier than usual manga characters. Yet, this only serves to make Shohei Manabe’s art stand out so much.
Overall, Dead End is a weird and surreal read, but at least to me, it clearly deserves a place on this list of the best manga. If you want a raw, gritty and surreal thriller manga, give this one a try.
Usogui by Toshio Sako is one of the best manga that focuses on mind games and gambling. However, not the type we usually see in manga like this.
Our protagonist is Baku Madarame who’s know as the Usogui, the Lie Eater. The story centers on the many deadly gambles that Baku takes part in.
Related to those games is the powerful organization known as Kagerou, whose referees make sure that the games are carried out satisfactorily and that all bets paid once the game is over.
The one thing to know about Usogui is that it gets crazy right from the start. We’re treated to a brief introduction of our protagonist, cementing him as a genius gambler and a man who knows what he’s doing. Right after those initial chapters the very first true death game begins and from here on out things only prove to get crazier.
What makes Usogui one of the best manga in this genre is the games themselves. While they can be quite complex, they are not impossible to wrap your head around. No, most of the time you understand what’s happening well enough and the manga centers more on psychological tricks and mind games related to the games.
Another thing I enjoyed was the characters. Baku is a fantastic protagonist, one who doesn’t shy away from death games and who doesn’t seem to get scared when confronted with overwhelming odds. Yet, there’s also Kaji, a normal guy who runs into Baku at the outset of the series. He starts out as more of a stand-in for the reader, but throughout the series he develops quite a bit and becomes a talented gambler in his own right.
One point that might be a bit of a let-down is the art. The art in Usogui starts out as rather simplistic and doesn’t stand out much. However, it improves a lot over the course of the story and truly shines in later parts.
A word of warning though, Usogui is one of the longest manga on this list with more than over 500 chapters in total.
In the end, I had a great time reading Usogui and I think it’s one of the best manga about gambling and mind games out there, even if some games and scenarios depicted can be a bit unconventional.
68. Chainsaw Man
Chainsaw Man by Fujimoto Tatsuki is weird, seriously weird. It’s probably one of the strangest manga on this list, yet it’s still one of the best manga I’ve ever read.
Just imagine, if you will, a man who can transform into a creature whose head and arms resemble chainsaws. That’s Chainsaw Man.
His name is Denji. He’s a simple man, living in a small shack, killing devils for the yakuza to pay off his debt. Devils are, for simplicity’s sake, demons who escaped from hell. He’s fighting them by using his pet devil Ponchita as a weapon.
When he outlives his usefulness, the yakuza decide to get rid of him. Unexpectedly, Ponchita fuses with Denji’s body, keeping him from dying and giving him the powers of the chainsaw devil and allowing him to transform into Chainsaw Man.
He soon catches the eye of official devil hunters and is forced to work for the Public Safety Bureau killing devils.
Chainsaw Man is ridiculous, at times even stupid. Especially Denji, our protagonist, appears to be nothing but an idiot. Yet, there’s something about this manga that makes it interesting. It’s the sheer uniqueness and creativity that makes it one of the best manga of all time in my book.
There’s of course the devils, creatures who escaped from hell and who wreak havoc on Earth or grant humans their powers. Some of their designs and powers, especially in later parts of the manga, are stunningly creative and horrific.
The plot of this manga is simple at first, but the longer you read on, the more complex and interesting it becomes. There’s an overall dark and unforgiving atmosphere about this manga which seems to be an overarching theme of Fujimoto Tatsuki’s work.
Yet, as surreal and dark as Chainsaw Man is, it’s a strangely enticing read. As you continue reading, you’re drawn in by the overall plot and you want to witness more of the madness that is Chainsaw Man.
The characters in Chainsaw man are all quite interesting and unique. While Denji seems to be simple and dumb, he grows on you, especially in later parts of the manga. His companions Power and Higashiyama are both interesting in their own right.
The most interesting character, however, is Makima, the mysterious, intelligent and beautiful leader of their team.
The fights in Chainsaw Man are stylish and brutal. There’s a lot of blood and violence, as one can guess from the unique nature of our protagonist. What makes the fight in this manga so interesting and great are the various different devil powers.
Where Chainsaw Man’s elevated to be part of this list of the best manga is because of its unique art. The world, the characters and devils are rendered in beautiful, yet gritty detail. It’s a style that’s unique to Fujimoto Tatsuki and oddly fitting for the abstruse story you’re about to witness. However, it’s a very sketchy style and needs some getting used to, as is often the case with manga who are rather unique.
Overall, Chainsaw Man can be best described as beautiful madness. At times it can be funny, at others emotional, but overall it’s a crazy, surreal and brutal ride. While Chainsaw Man is crazy, though, it’s also damn good. It’s gory, painful, and it will leave you with a burning feeling of despair.
Reading this manga was an entirely unique experience. It’s something that I haven’t read before and that I have to include in a list of the best manga. I urge anyone to try it, but it’s the type of manga that’s definitely not for everyone.
67. Blood and Steel
Blood and Steel by Jingfu Qiao and Meng Ma Gong Zuo Shi is a manhua about martial arts, one that I enjoyed immensely and just have to include in this list of best manga.
Our protagonistis a young martial artist called Yan Heng who’s a member of the Qincheng group of martial arts. One day, the Qincheng are attacked and destroyed by a member of the Wudong group. Yan Heng is saved by a man named Jing Lie, known as the Wudong Hunter.
Bound by a similar motif, the two men set out on a road of revenge against the Wudong.
Blood and Steel is a typical martial arts manga of the Wuxia genre. What made it stand out to me wasn’t so much the characters, but the amazing art.
Blood and Steel is beautiful, the characters are gorgeous and fight scenes are rendered in extreme detail. I was honestly surprised by how well the series looked and it’s easily among the most beautiful works on this entire list.
What made me add Blood and Steel to this list of best manga were the fight scenes and the way they are done. In many martial arts, manga fights are presented in an over-the-top way and drawn out to last forever, but not in Blood and Steel. Fights are brisk and quick. It makes them much more realistic and at the same time more interesting.
However, there are also problems with Blood and Steel, namely with the characters and in terms of story progression. This is a story of revenge. However, many times, it seems morals and proper conduct of fights is held as the highest motif. It gets to the point of letting enemies escape instead of getting revenge because fights didn’t start on fair footing. It can get a bit frustrating after a while.
To me personally, though, it didn’t deter my enjoyment of Blood and Steel much. While the story might not be the greatest and most unique, it’s the art and the fights that made me read on.
If you’re looking for one of the best manga or manhua in the martial arts genre, you could do much worse than pick up Blood and Steel.
66. Dr. Stone
The core premise of Dr. Stone by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi is simple, rebuilding humanity from the Stone Age with all the knowledge of the modern age. That alone is what makes Dr. Stone so different from anything I’ve read before, and a great addition to this list of the best manga.
The manga starts off when a mysterious light shines on Earth and petrifies every single person. After thousands of years, Taiju Ooki and his friend Senkuu are among the first to reawaken from this state.
Senkuu is a young man with a vast knowledge of pretty much everything related to science, and he soon sets out to restore the world to what it used to be.
The art in this manga is top-notch and it can be ranked among the best manga in terms of art alone. Characters, animals and the entire world are all rendered and drawn in beautiful detail.
The character’s in Dr. Stone, however, isn’t its selling point. Especially Senkuu and Tsukasa, who serves as the antagonist throughout the first part of the manga seem almost too defined in their stance. However, they are both likeable and interesting enough.
Where Dr. Stone truly shines is in the development of various tools and the technological progression. While I’m sure things are simplified and results happen too quickly, it’s still a lot of fun and very interesting to see Senkuu create pretty much anything from scratch. It’s satisfying and enjoyable.
What sets this up as the best manga in my book is the premise and the way it was realized. There’s a lot of survival manga out there, but none focus on the establishing of society and technological advancement. In Dr. Stone, however, it’s the major theme of the manga. Technological development outshines everything else. The characters, the world, and even the plot all seem secondary and merely a means for us to witness Senkuu’s steady progress.
In the course of the manga Senkuu starts out building small tools and weapons, but soon he experiments with chemistry, sets up electricity and even a factory.
The only major problem I have with Dr. Stone is one I also found in Boichi’s other works, for example, Sun Ken Rock. It’s his type of humor. His humor is simple, over the top and childish, most reliant on facial expressions and comical renderings of characters. It gets old quickly and after a while; I didn’t find it funny anymore. Instead, it grew to annoy me.
Overall though, Dr. Stone is clearly one of the best manga in recent years. It’s a lot of fun, and the focus of scientific and technological progress makes it stand out a lot.
65. Keep on Vibrating
Keep on Vibrating by Jiro Matsumoto is the only truly adult themed manga on this list of best manga, and boy is it a piece of work.
It’s a collection of one-shots, some interconnected, others standalone depicting explicit sex, violence and all sorts of sheer and utter insanity. So a word of warning, this is not for the faint of heart and those easily disturbed.
The very first story should show you what you’re in for. It’s all about explicit sex and a fair share of violence. Needless to say, the plot of the individual stories is abstruse and makes almost no sense.
Yet, there’s something about Keep on Vibrating, about the sheer surreal insanity of it that makes it so enticing and one of the best manga I’ve read.
The art is shoddy and unique, gritty and dark. The backdrops are often disturbing, depicting a grim world, while the dialogue in this harsh world is often as mundane as can be. It creates a rather unique experience.
The plot, at least what little there is, is downright weird. Yet, there are some rare glimpses of genius here and there. It’s the sheer creativity and imagery the author brings forth in this work that makes it so outstanding.
Keep on Vibrating is one of the weirdest and most graphical, but also one of the best manga I’ve read. It’s also vastly different from anything else. It’s an experience for those who are looking for something more explicit and surreal.
Ikigami by Motoro Mase is a manga set in a dystopian future in which a strange law, the National Welfare Act, is in effect. Under this law, certain citizens between the age of eighteen and twenty-four are selected to die for their country.
Twenty-four hours before they die, they are informed via a notification, called an Ikigami, from government messengers.
Our protagonist Kengo Fujimoto is one such government messenger.
The story of Ikigami is mostly episodic, but it has an overhanging plot about Kengo’s own doubts of the law.
Most of the screen time, however, is spent with the people who receive an Ikigami, showing us how they react to this terrible news and how they spent their last day. Some accept, others rebel, and yet others throw themselves into despair and try to change their destiny desperately.
It’s an interesting and, frankly, terrifying concept, but it also made Ikigami one of the most thought-proving and one of the best manga I’ve ever read. Yet it’s so interesting to see the different scenarios and types of people Ikigami presents to its readers. There are some truly great storylines in this manga, some heartfelt and beautiful, others poetically tragic.
To me it was those different episodes that made Ikigami so good and made me add it to this list of the best manga.
One problem, though, is the characters. It’s obvious that most of the characters in this manga will only be around for a few chapters at most. While some are extremely well done, and we can feel for them, the time we spend with them is, ultimately, cut short.
The art is average, but realistic. It’s serviceable and does what it needs to do, but for the most part that’s it. There are some beautiful scenes during pivotal moments, but those are rare and in-between. However, they create a pleasant contrast, showcasing the emotional weight and importance of these scenes.
Overall, Ikigami is one of best manga out there, one that I enjoyed a lot and that’s worth reading for pretty much anyone. It’s interesting to read those little scenarios, and it makes you wonder how you would spend your last day.
63. The Horizon
The Horizon by Ji-Hoon Jeong is one of the most depressing and sad manhwa I’ve ever read, yet it’s also beautiful. Even though it’s a manhwa, it makes a great addition to this list of the best manga.
The Horizon is set in a world ravaged by war. A young boy witnesses his mother’s death. Lost and confused, he walks the road towards the horizon.
When he enters an abandoned bus, he meets a little girl and from then on then two of them travel together, always towards the horizon.
The Horizon is honestly one of the most depressing works I’ve ever read. It shows the gritty and unforgiving darkness of war and its aftermath.
The story is dark and I feel at times it gets a bit too dark for the sake of being dark, but that’s my opinion.
As dark and unforgiving as most parts of the story are, it ends on a positive note, showing us that there’s always hope as long as there’s love.
What made The Horizon stand out to me though, and why I added it to my list of best manga, was the art. It’s raw, it’s gritty, yet beautiful. At times it’s simplistic, at others detailed. There’s a lot of brutal content here, but it’s never glamorized, never there for any other reason than that to showcase how bad the world of this manhwa has become.
What I love the most was how the artist can convey emotions via the art. The art becomes grittier, rougher, and distorts all together when a character’s emotion spiral out of control.
At only 21 chapters, the Horizon is a quick read. However, I think it’s the perfect length for this story. If it would’ve been any longer, it would’ve most likely dragged out the gloomy atmosphere and weakened the story’s emotional impact. As it is, it’s the perfect length for the story, it wants to tell.
Overall, The Horizon is a hidden gem, that’s very fitting for a list of the best manga. It shows us a world at war from the perspective of those least involved. It’s dark, brutal, unforgiving and most of all, sad. I’d urge anyone to read it, but if you don’t like sad or depressing content, you better skip this one.
62. MPD Psycho
I started reading MPD Psycho by Eiji Otsuka and Shouu Tajima a long time ago. Back then I only read part of it, but the manga stayed on my mind because of its graphical imagery.
It was only a year ago that I continued reading it, and I loved it as much as I did when I first discovered it. That day, it had solidified itself as one of the best manga of all time. Yet, this manga’s not for everyone. It’s complex, confusing, and it features many scenes of shocking violence.
MPD Psycho is the story of Kazuhiko Amamiya who’s suffering from multiple personality disorder.
The manga starts out as a more episodic detective story in which Amamiya or one of his many personalities solve violent crimes and sick murder cases.
That’s where a lot of the graphical and shocking imagery comes in. Many of the cases are odd, twisted, and their results are quite sick to look at.
The art in this manga is clean and detailed. Much of the violence and many of the crime scenes are rendered in intricate detail. It can make it a stomach turning pleasure to look at them.
Another great thing is the realistic character design. Japanese people truly look like they are Japanese.
Yet, MPD Psycho is not a slaughter fest and not a collection of mindless gore. Instead, it’s a highly psychological series and one of the best manga in the genre. As the story progresses, things slowly come together. The story develops from episodic cases to and an overarching, complex plot related to Amamiya’s past is slowly revealed.
The more complex the plot becomes, the more confusing it gets as well. There’s of course the overarching mystery of the plot, but also the nature of our protagonist. At times it can be tough to keep up with his different personalities and what they are aiming for.
This is the biggest problem with MPD Psycho. The shifting personalities can make you unsure what is going on and who’s in charge at a time.
Another thing that can be off-putting to some readers might be the sick, gracious violence depicted. People are dismembered, cut apart, twisted or tortured, and the results are presented to us.
Overall, MPD Psycho is a twisted, dark manga with a complex plot and deep psychological themes. If you’re interested in dark, complex thrillers, MPD Psycho is clearly among the best manga the genre offers.
You sometimes read something and once you’ve finished it, you have no idea what you just read, but you enjoyed it immensely. This is exactly the case with Soil by Atushi Kaneko, and that’s why I think it’s one of the best manga of all time.
There are many weird manga out there, and then there’s Soil. This manga differed from anything I’d read before.
Soil is set in the town called Soil New Town. One day a normal family vanishes without a trace. Two detectives, Yokoi and Onoda, are sent to investigate what happened. While the case looks like a routine one, things soon get stranger and weirder as more details about the town and events taking place there are revealed.
The art in Soil is quite unusual and takes some time getting used to. It might appear simplistic or even amateurish at first. If one’s willing to invest the time, though, one realizes that the art is unique. The characters are rendered in detail and all stand out from one another. Yet, where the art in Soil shines is when things get stranger. As the entirety of Soil New Town becomes more and more surreal, so does the art.
Soil’s characters are realistic and complex. There are no clichéd characters to be found. Instead, most of the characters we encounter act like actual people. Yet, while the characters are realistic, they are also heavily flawed. This is especially the case with Yokoi, who comes up as an extremely unlikeable human being.
One has to wonder what Atsushi Kaneko’s choice was to present us with such characters. Maybe he wanted to add some more eccentric characters to his cast, or they were created to add to the overall atmosphere and oddness so prevalent in this manga.
As I mentioned before, Soil is different and quite refreshing. There are so many weird things in this manga one has to be impressed by the mangaka’s creativity. Soil is such a surreal and unique experience, it’s one of the weirdest, yet best manga I ever read.
This weirdness though leads us to the biggest problem with Soil. It’s more an experience in sheer and utter weirdness than a coherent story. Especially the latter half of the manga just keeps getting weird and weirder. There’s still a story left, but Atushi Kaneko keeps adding so many new, weird elements that you’ll give up on trying to understand what’s going on.
This also shows in the ending which doesn’t seem to be much of an ending or at least, it’s too confusing to make sense off. One can find some explanations on the internet, but they are merely guesses and interpretations.
Overall though, Soil is worth picking up and a great addition to a list of the best manga of all time. It’s such a weird and surreal manga that can’t be compared to anything. The only other manga I can think of that comes close to it might be Uzumaki by Junji Ito.
So, if you’re looking for something surreal and different, give Soil a try.
60. Oyasumi Punpun
At first I wasn’t sure if I would include Oyasumi Punpun by Inio Asano in this list. Yet, when I thought about it, I had to admit that Oyasumi Punpun is one of the best manga and one of the greatest, dramatic coming-of-age story of all time.
It’s written by Inio Asano, and if you’re familiar with his work, you should know what you’re in for. His work is dark, depressing and raw, and Oyasumi Punpun is no exception.
Oyasumi Punpun tells the story of Punpun Onodera, who’s a normal eleven-year-old boy at the outset of the story.
All seems well with Punpun, but we soon learn how much is wrong with his life. At the outset of the story, Punpun meets Aiko, the new girl in class. It’s here that he has to learn just how fickle relationships can be. However, we learn more about Punpun, his parents and family and have to witness how a shy little boy becomes reclusive and turns down a dark path.
In the course of the story Punpun’s life is filled with family issues, romantic problems, sex and alcohol and of course depression and anxiety.
To state that Punpun is depressing is an understatement. While Punpun was one of the best manga I read, it was also one of my toughest reads. There were so many parts, so many raw, gritty details that showed just how much someone can be influenced by even the smallest of things. All this makes Oyasumi Punpun so realistic and relatable. We all have experienced dark things and we all can relate to Punpun on a personal level.
The story of Oyasumi Punpun is told via different arcs, giving us glimpses into his life as a boy, during high school and finally a young adult.
The art in Punpun is beautiful, especially because of Inio Asano’s unique style. It’s drawn more realistic, but also grittier and gloomier than other manga. It’s this art that adds so much to the overall atmosphere and solidifies Punpun as one of the best manga ever.
What’s interesting is that Punpun and his family are not drawn as people, but as comical, bird-like beings. Yet, it’s only us, the reader who sees them as such. It was an obvious choice, most likely to have a better way to convey Punpun’s emotions and reactions and to make him and his family stand out from others.
Oyasumi Punpun is also a very mature manga, containing nudity, but never as fan service. It’s only there to make you uncomfortable and to increase the overall dark and gloomy atmosphere.
Many of the characters in Punpun are, for lack of a better word, damaged in their own ways. They aren’t presented to us likeable, but to be real. We aren’t perfect and none of us would be an ideal protagonist, and neither are the characters in Punpun.
Of the different parts, I enjoyed the earlier parts of Punpun the most. There was a certain innocence to it, and the feeling that things would only go downhill from here. Yet, it wasn’t as overdrawn as in the last arc. It was this arc that was a bit too dramatic. The story always felt part real and part relatable, but everything got too out of hand and became too crazy to identify with anymore. So, I felt that the final arc of the manga was the weakest.
Another thing I didn’t enjoy was the time spent with other characters. While I thought Punpun’s friends were all interesting, it felt almost like filler content that moved us away from the more interesting narrative related to Punpun.
For all its psychological, deeper and more complex themes, Punpun can feel a bit self-indulgent and pretentious. I guess it comes with the topic matter and the mangaka’s wish to discuss, give insight and convey his own reasoning. At times, though, it fell flat and seemed to be there just for the sake of being there.
Still, Oyasumi Punpun is one of the best manga and worth reading for anyone who’s looking for a deeper, more depressing and realistic story.
Oyasumi Punpun is among the best manga out there at what it does, at making you feel uncomfortable and depressed. Yet, it’s still a great read, thought-provoking read, just don’t expect it to be joyful experience.
59. Tomodachi Game
Tomodachi Game by Mikoto Yamaguchi and Yuuki Satou is one of the manga mind game manga on this list, a genre I absolutely enjoy.
The story starts off with Yuuichi Katagiri, a young man who values friends over everything. He works hard to save money for a high school trip, but soon after the class money is stolen and suspicion falls on two of his friends.
That same night, Yuuichi and his four best friends are kidnapped and forced to play the titular game. It’s revealed that one of his friends has a massive debt and stole the class money. The reason was to get into the Tomodachi Game and to win money.
Tomodachi game starts out very simple, and especially during the first few chapters it might appear as rather generic. The first game, and even the second game, doesn’t stand out too much. It’s during the aftermath of the second game, though, that the manga takes up steam and reveals a much bigger plot.
That’s where things become interesting, and the manga becomes one of the best in its respective genre. It’s not only the plot, though, that gets more interesting, it’s also the games.
The art in this manga is pretty well done and enjoyable. Where it stands out is the rendering of Yuuichi’s facial expression at various moments.
And here we’re at the core of this manga, its protagonist Yuuichi. He isn’t your typical goody-two-shoes protagonist, but a much darker person than originally thought. He doesn’t shy away from twisted or ruthless methods to win, making him stand out against other protagonists. I think it’s much thanks to Yuuichi’s personality that this manga is among the best.
Overall, Tomodachi game is an interesting and unique manga with some great games and a unique protagonist. It might not appear all too interesting early on, but if you give it some time, it gets better, a lot better.
58. Shin Angyo Onshi
Shin Angyo Onshi by In-Wan Yoon and Kyung-il Yang is a dark fantasy manga and of the best manga the genre offers.
Angyo Onshi are government agents charged with killing corrupted government officials and bringing justice to the people of Jushin.
The story revolves around Munsu, one such agent who still keeps up his work even after the destruction of Jushin.
Similar to other manga, Shin Angyo Onshi starts off more episodic, as Munsu travels the land, continuing his duty. After a while we learn more about Munsu, the Angyo Onshi, and what caused the destruction of Jushin. An overall plot is revealed and we learn that there’s more to Munsun’s travels.
The biggest selling point of the series is the outstanding art, the fantastic characters and the great story.
The art throughout the entire series is nothing short of amazing and rivals the best manga out there. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful work.
Almost all the characters, protagonists and antagonists are interesting and their motifs are understandable. The manga even takes a step back from painting any of the characters as either good or bad. Instead, it makes us understand both sides.
Standing out the most is Munsun. He’s more of an anti-hero who doesn’t shy away from using questionable methods to fulfill his goals. He’s a complicated character and might seem cruel and ruthless, but overall it’s enjoyable to follow his journey.
Shin Angyo Onshi is among the best manga the fantasy genre offers, and it’s a delight for anyone who enjoys gritty, dark fantasy.
Tokyo Maji Revengers by Ken Wakui is one thing above all else, a lot of fun. It’s one of the most enjoyable and best manga I read in recent years, featuring some cool characters and an interesting premise.
It’s the story of Takemichi Hanagaki, a young man who’s at an all-time low. When he thought it couldn’t get much worse, he learns that his ex-girlfriend from his youth, Hinata Tachibana, was murdered by the Tokyo Manji Gang.
While he wonders where his life went all wrong, he suddenly travels through time and ending up twelve years in the past. During that time he was still in a relationship with Hinata and he realizes that he’s now got the chance to change the future and save her.
The premise of the manga is already interesting, if a bit odd. It’s an idea, however, that many people can relate to in theory. It would be fun, or at least interesting, to go back in time with the knowledge of how the future would turn out.
What made this one of the best manga to me wasn’t the plot, but the characters. They are across the board likeable, except for the obvious antagonists.
Pretty much everyone, except for our protagonist, is an absolute badass and a great fighter. Takemichi, on the other hand, is almost their polar opposite. He’s weak, and he cries a lot. Yet, this creates a bit of diversity between him and the other members of the cast. It makes him more realistic and more grounded.
However, this might not be for everyone. A lot of criticism of the series stems from Ken Wakui’s characterization of Takemichi. Now, weak characters are a popular trope in shonen manga. Yet, those characters often grow throughout the series and, ultimately, become the strongest. Takemichi, though, doesn’t get stronger in a typical sense. He never becomes a good fighter, but he’s an extremely sympathetic and likeable character. His position in the group is not that of another fighter, but its heart and voice of reason.
The overall plot of Tokyo Manji Revengers is interesting and enticing. The adventures of our band of character and Takemichi’s time travel shenanigans are a lot of fun.
There’ are a lot of twists in this manga, but it was never something that deterred my enjoyment. I stand by my opinion that this is one of the best manga, featuring cool characters with a lot of fantastic action and fight scenes.
The art of Tokyo Maji Revengers is also fantastic. Every single character has his or her own design, making them stand out among others. Ken Wakui’s made it a specific choice to give each character a different hairstyle, clothing and accessories to make them all individual.
Backgrounds and general world design are also well done, and the world looks alive and realistic.
The only problem I have with Tokyo Manji Revengers is the age of the characters. Most of the story is spent when Takemichi is a young teenager, no older than fourteen. Yet, our characters form violent street gangs, fight each other and even end up killing each other. It’s not believable at all. We even get flashbacks of them forming the Tokyo Manji Gang when they had just entered middle school.
I get that shonen characters are often pretty young, but Tokyo Manji Revengers is taking it a bit too far.
However, that’s my only real problem with the story. As I said though, it’s a common trope in shonen manga and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
Tokyo Manji Revengers is one of the best manga out there because of its unique time-travel plot and its fantastic characters.
Just be warned, the protagonist Takemichi is more of an emotional, grounded character and not a badass.
56. Battle Royal
The movie Battle Royal is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve also devoured the novel and when I found out there’s a manga, I had to read it too. While there’re some flaws with it, it still holds up as one of the most disturbing and best manga.
The manga by Masayuki Taguchi and Koushun Takami is a retelling of the novel, but it goes even deeper, exploring the back story of each student and adding additional details here and there. It also takes some liberties and alters the source material to make certain events more dramatic or add additional developments.
Battle Royal is the story of the titular program. Each year a class is randomly selected, placed in a remote area, and the students are forced to kill each other until only one remains. It’s, in essence, a survival of the fittest.
Our protagonist Shuuya Nanhara and his class are forced to take part in this very program. Instead of fighting, he makes it his goal to get off the island without playing the game.
Battle Royal is a great retelling of one of the most disturbing settings ever. Being forced to kill your classmates and friends to survive is nothing short of sick. The manga doesn’t sugarcoat things. Instead, it gives you a glimpse into the insane situation and shows us how different people react to it. Some throw themselves into despair, others choose to give up right away, and then there’s those who will play to win.
I enjoyed this retelling of the story and the many additional details we learn about the characters. While the movie and the novel conveyed events realistically, the manga is often overdramatized.
Many of the fights are shown in an over-the-top fashion and last entire chapters. Yet, I didn’t mind it in the least because they were well done.
The art in Battle Royal does well to show us the gruesome reality of the situation, showcasing emotions, breakdowns and of course gore in glorious detail. At times it feels almost a bit too copious. The same can be said about the sexually charged imagery. Overall, the art of this manga is great and is one of the reason I think this is one of the best manga of all time.
While I enjoyed the manga immensely, I also have to admit that it has its flaws.
The first and most notable problem is the inconsistency in character representation. All the students are supposed to be in the same class and about fifteen years of age. Yet, some of them are drawn as if they are no older than ten, while others, most notable Kawada, appear to be in their thirties.
Another thing is the rather formulaic approach of storytelling. Battle Royal follows a simple concept. We’re introduced to a new character, we witness their backstory and their demise. While it’s nothing too frustrating, it gets old.
As I mentioned before, things are a bit overdramatized. In the novel and movie, most confrontations lasted mere moments. After all, those were kids going against one another and not battle-hardened veterans. Yet, somehow, these kids can survive being shot, disemboweled or terribly hurt and can fight on.
However, it doesn’t mean that Battle Royal is a bad manga. On the contrary, I still consider it one of the best manga I read.
I’d recommend Battle Royal to anyone who’s fan of the movie and who wants to dive a big deeper. However, the manga is also a great read for any fan of death games, survival manga and kill or be killed situations.
55. Tower of God
I started to read Tower of God by SIU years ago, but I come back to it again and again to see more of the characters, learn more about the world and find out how the story continues. While it’s a manhwa, I still added it to this list of the best manga.
Tower of God starts out simple. We get to know our protagonist Twenty-Fifth Bam who was all alone until he met Rachel, a girl set on climbing The Tower.
After Rachel vanishes, Bam enters The Tower on his own to meet her again. He learns that his entry in The Tower is not normal and that he’s deemed an Irregular. Thus starts the story of Tower of God.
Climbing The Tower is no simple feat. Each floor has tests that Bam has to pass if he wants to continue his climb. However, this is not only the story of Bam, but a vast cast of characters.
In later arcs, the story is expanded, as we learn more about the different factions populating the tower, the people at its top, and of course The Tower itself.
At the start the art of Tower of God is decent enough, but as time goes on, it gets much better. By now, the art is still simple, yet beautiful and somehow different from what one’s used to and gives the manhwa a unique beauty.
What I enjoyed about Tower of God were the characters, at least initially. They were all unique and likeable. However, later on there are a few too many characters and it’s easy to get lost among the gigantic cast. It seems the author isn’t so much interested in character development, but increasing the cast and throwing in new characters.
It didn’t detract from my enjoyment, but it can get a bit overwhelming and, ultimately, leaves you unattached to most of them.
The biggest issue I have with Bam. He starts out as a likeable underdog, but soon becomes your typical, overpowered shonen-archetype. It was a bit of a shame.
Another glaring issue I have with Tower of God is the plot. While it seems contained and simple early on, it keeps growing and growing and getting more and more complex. This wouldn’t be a problem, but in Tower of God, it seems almost a bit too unrestrained. With each new floor and each new arc, we get to know new characters, fresh developments happen and new mysteries come up.
Sure, the series is still very entertaining and I still consider it among the best manga or manhwa I read, but a lot of times, you feel almost a bit lost what’s going on and where the story is going.
Still, Tower of God is a great read. I enjoyed the earlier parts, called Season 1 the most because here things were simpler and our protagonist appeared to differ from other shonen protagonists. All this changed in season 2.
I guess to me, the most interesting part in Tower of God is The Tower itself, the different floors, the tests and not the overarching plot. I’m a big fan of detailed settings and to me, many of the best manga have great world-building.
Overall, Tower of God is fun, interesting and unique, but not for everyone. Still, I urge you to give it a try and see if you’re enjoying it.
Pluto by Naoki Urasawa is a retelling of Osamu Tezuka’s manga Astro Boy. Astro Boy itself is one of the most popular classical manga of all time, and its influence on the entire medium cannot be overstated.
When I first read Pluto, I had no idea that it was inspired by Astro Boy. This made it an different experience for me.
The story begins with the murder of the popular and world-famous Swiss robot called Montblanc, one of the seven most advanced robots in the world.
The robotic Europol detective Gesicht, another one of the seven most advanced robots, is sent to investigate. He soon uncovers evidence of a mysterious entity only known as Pluto and a plot to destroy all the world’s most powerful robots.
Things get much more interesting when Gesicht realizes that the murder couldn’t have been committed by a human.
Before I read Pluto I knew Naoki Urasawa from his famous work 20th Century Boys, another one of the best manga of all time, and he has lost none of his talent since. Pluto is a great mystery, seinen manga, one of the best manga in the genre, that follows our protagonist Gesicht, as he tries to uncover a world-wide plot.
At the center of Pluto is the relationship between AI and humans. Yet, in Pluto, a world in which humans and robots co-exist is already a reality, making those questions much more pressing. Especially since our protagonist Gesicht is a robot himself.
Not all is well in Pluto’s futuristic world. We see many examples of anti-robot hate; we see robots being mistreated or even destroyed. At the same time, however, the boundaries between humans and robots, between living, feeling being and inanimate object, aren’t set in stone anymore.
What makes Pluto one of the best manga I’ve read are the story and the characters. I was stunned by how well the plot was developed. It’s a gripping mystery that keeps you guessing and wondering what’s going on.
Naoki Urasawa is a master in terms of plot development and storytelling. In other manga, the plot is moved by introducing new characters and by new events happening. Pluto, however, is a more solemn, more intimate story. Here it’s the dialogue, the interaction between characters, that drives the plot forward.
As typical in the works of Naoki Urasawa, our protagonist Gesicht is complex, not just because he’s a robot, but because he’s got his own problems and is haunted by his very own demons.
The only problem, as is often the case with Naoki Urasawa’s work in my opinion, is that the story peaks around the middle point.
The series in its entirety is a great read, but I feel the last volumes can be a bit lacking compared to the earlier half of the manga.
At only eight volumes, Pluto is much shorter than Naoki Urasawa’s other works, but it s a great read.
Pluto is an amazing manga, one of the best manga in the science-fiction and mystery genre. It presents us with a dark, futuristic world, great characters and an intriguing mystery plot. If you’re a fan of Naoki Urasawa, Astro Boy or science-fiction mystery, I urge you to read Pluto.
53. Darwin’s Game
Darwin’s Game by Ginko and Yuki Takahata is another one of the best manga featuring death games that stood out to me among a plethora of similar titles.
It starts out when Kaname Sudou signs up for a mobile game called Drawin’s Game, unbeknownst to what he’s getting into. Soon enough, he’s followed and attacked by a weird person dressed as a mascot. From here on out things only get more interesting as Kaname meets new characters, learns more about Darwin’s Game itself and decides to fight, rather than hide.
What made this manga so enjoyable was Kaname himself. He started out rather typically, and during his first encounter with another player he flees rather than fights. Soon enough Kaname accepts the game and becomes quite good at it and also quite ruthless. It’s enjoyable to see someone going all in like that.
The rest of the cast is also quite likeable. There was almost no character that I didn’t like, however, some characters are quite underdeveloped. All of them have their own unique design, though.
The games in Darwin’s Game start out as death matches, but soon they become more interesting and grander in scale. The same is true for the story.
And here we have another good point about the series, the story. While it might not be innovative, it’s still an enjoyable read and leaves enough mystery to keep you guessing what’s going on.
The art in Darwin’s Game is detailed and well done, but truly shines during battle scenes. The battles in Drawin’s Game are ripe with action, intense and suspenseful. I think it’s because of the addition of Sigil’s, special powers that characters receive that made this one of the best manga I read.
Overall, Darwin’s game doesn’t redefine the genre, but it adds enough interesting elements for it to be fresh, fun and engaging. The story itself is also interesting. Especially the newest arcs add a lot of new developments and make you wonder what direction the manga is going to.
If you’re looking for a great death game manga than Darwin’s Game is exactly what you’re looking for.
Holyland by Kouji Mori was a manga I found by accident some years ago, but I was thrilled I found it. It’s one of the best manga in the martial arts genre out there.
It’s the story of Yuu Kamishiro, a boy who’s abused and bullied by his peers and doesn’t seem to fit in with society. Out of desperation, Yuu stops going to school and starts training a single boxing punch all on his own.
Once he’s ready, he goes out into the streets in search for his very own Holyland. Out there, he’s fighting street thugs and builds a reputation for himself as the ‘Thug Hunter.’
However, he soon learns that this new name has stirred quite a bit of attention and soon many people seek him out.
What makes Holyland so great, is that it’s entirely realistic. There are no superpowers or unrealistic attacks. There’re only fists, kicks, and blood.
Where Holyland truly shines and what I think makes it one of the best manga are the characters and how the story is conveyed by them. You can feel how lost Yuu is, how desperately he wants to carve out his own little place in the world.
In its essence, Holyland is a coming of age story. Yuu makes new friends, but also new enemies as the story continues. Yet, Holyland isn’t a one man story. There are a lot of characters all as carefully developed as Yuu and all equally interesting, notably Masaki Izawa and Shougo Midorikawa. Every single character in Holyland has their own reasons for being out in the streets, to linger at night and all have been shunned by normal society.
Holyland isn’t perfect, however. At times the author goes a bit too in-depth with explanations of techniques during fight scenes. It can stop the flow and keep you from being truly invested in the fight scenes.
Another problem is the story’s premise. Holyland focuses on character development, so the overall plot is rather thin. It’s a story about street fights and action scenes. After each fight, a new enemy awaits and more fights are to be had.
It didn’t deter from my enjoyment and I still consider Holyland one of the best manga of all time, but it can get a bit repetitive after a while.
Another thing is the art. While it’s unique, it’s also a bit old-fashioned, which you’ll notice right away. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once one does, it develops its very own charm. Where the art stands out is during the fight scenes. They are all fluid and well done and a joy to read.
Overall, Holyland is a great, character driven martial arts manga. The story might not be too deep, but it makes up for it because of it’s amazing characters and a deep-routed familiarity and relatability. We can all understand the dilemma of trying to find a place to fit in.
Holyland is one of the best manga on this list in terms of character development, and I urge anyone interested in martial arts to check it out.
Crows by Hiroshi Takahashi is yet another one of the best manga in the martial arts genre. While Holyland was realistic and character-driven, Crows is one thing and one thing foremost: fun.
I first got interested in Crows after watching Takeshi Miike’s movies Crows Zero and Crows Zero 2. It was years later that I uncovered that the movies were based on a manga, albeit featuring a different set of characters.
Crows is the story of Harumichi Boya, who transfers to Suzuran. Suzuran is a high school filled with delinquents and known as Crows High.
From here on out, Bouya wants to conquer the school and become its number one fighter. Of course, things don’t go as planned and soon enough warfare between all the gangs in the area breaks out.
The best thing about Crows are the fights and the characters. All the characters are unique and stand out in their own way and are a lot of fun.
What I appreciate most about Crows is that it does what it promises. It delivers a fun delinquent manga, but doesn’t try to be more. It’s refreshing to find a series that’s simply fun.
One of the lower points of the series is the art. Begin an older series it has a typical 90s look and feel to it. It’s not bad by any means, but it has a style that takes some getting used to.
Another thing I always found weird about Crows is the complete absence of teachers or any sort of law enforcement. Delinquents simply clash in the middle of the city, beat each other senseless and no one intervenes, no police is called, nothing.
Overall, Crows isn’t too deep a series. It has its tragic and dramatic moments, but most of all it’s a series about delinquents, brawls and street fighting.
On that note Crows delivers and delivers well, making it one of the best manga to read if one’s looking for a more lighthearted manga about delinquents.
50. Dragon Head
Dragon Head by Minetaro Mochizuki is an apocalypse manga, and it’s a crazy ride from beginning to end.
It all begins with a violent train wreck. Teru, our protagonist, has to watch many of his classmates die right in front of his eyes before he discovers two other survivors, Ako and Nobu.
They try their best to escape the tunnels, but the lack of light and food starts to impact their fragile psyche.
When they make it out, they realize that the outside world has changed and might hold even more dangers than the tunnels.
Dragon Head stood out to me because of its realistic characters. They seem like living, breathing humans with genuine emotions and act how normal people would act during a disaster. They panic, they are afraid, might lash out or go crazy. That’s simply realistic given the situation they are in.
Another great point is the story, the dire hopelessness that hangs over it all as our characters strive on and on. The longer you read on, however, you wonder if there’s even anything left to strive for.
Dragon Head is a thrilling experience, and probably the best manga in depicting a real apocalypse. There’s no moment in which the manga takes a break. Instead, there’s constant suspense hanging over our characters as the world seems to go crazier and crazier.
It’s without a doubt the art in Dragon Head that makes it one of the best manga, though. While one can see that the manga’s from the 90s, the art style is great. The most amazing accomplishment, however, is the world, the backgrounds and the general destruction. It renders a destroyed, hapless world in all its terrifying, depressing glory. It’s a detailed, beautiful rendering of a destroyed world that stands out amongst many other similar manga.
The only problem I have with Dragon Head is that things drag a little the longer it goes on. There wasn’t much focus on an overall plot anymore, instead we got more and more introspection about the characters. Maybe all of this was done on purpose, though. After all, if the world’s ending, where do you go? What do you do? Maybe this hopelessness, this aimlessness, was at the core?
Another letdown for some might be the ending. It’s almost as if the manga’s over without giving us clear answers or a resolution.
Still, Dragon Head is an amazing, unique manga and one of the most realistic, intimate depictions of the end of the world in the entire medium.
If you want to read one of the best manga centered on survival and disaster with some horror elements than Dragon Head should be your first choice.
Claymore by Norihiro Yagi is a dark fantasy manga and the story of Clare, one of the titular Claymores.
The manga is set in a medieval world in which Yoma exist, monstrous beings with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. It’s Claymores like Clare who are tasked with killing them.
Clare, however, is a low-ranking Claymore out on a quest of personal revenge.
The story starts off in episodic fashion with Clare dispatching Yoma before we’re slowly introduced to the main plot. We learn about Clare’s past, her caretaker Teresa, and the ominous being known as Priscilla.
This story, while intriguing, isn’t the manga’s biggest selling point. It’s the world and its monsters that make Claymore one of the best manga of all time.
The landscape is rendered in beautiful detail, cities look amazing and the monster design is among the best and most creative I’ve ever seen. Claymore clearly stands among the best manga in terms of art.
As an action-based manga Claymore features a lot of battles, however, they can be a bit hard to follow, and the locations in which the battles take place are a bit uninspired. The world of Claymore is breathtakingly beautiful, but all these locations are hardly used.
Another thing I didn’t enjoy too much was the principal antagonist. She’s made out as an impossibly strong being, yet we don’t see too much of her. She’s almost nothing but an ominous presence that looms out there and only becomes important near the ending.
And here we have one of the biggest problems with Claymore, the ending. Some revelations at the end of the manga were a questionable choice. They explain the state of the world, but to me they were nothing but a cop-out.
Nonetheless, Claymore stands among the best manga in the dark fantasy genre and features some of the best art out there. It’s well worth the read.
48. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is one of the most popular and one of the best manga of all time.
The story’s set in a dark, fantastical world. All of humanity is crowding together in a single city protected by massive walls. This city is the last bastion of humanity who’s been eradicated by the titular titans. These titans feed on human beings and kill them indiscriminately.
Our protagonist Eren Yeager is a young military recruit who gets the powers of turning into a titan himself. From then on, Eran and his fellow recruits and members of the survey corps fight the titans and try to defeat them for good.
What I enjoyed most about this manga was the setting. I love stories that are set in confined spaces. I really like the idea of humanity restricted to a single city constantly under the threat of being destroyed.
The premise of Attack on Titan is simple, but the story gets more interesting as time goes on. We learn more about the titans, their history, and how they are connected to the city.
The art in Attack on Titan is one of the most divisive topics.
During the very first chapters, the art isn’t pretty. It’s in all honesty, barely average if that. Yet, Hajime Isayama improved a lot and in volume three the art improved and from volume six onward it became one of the better drawn series out there.
The scenery, especially the wide shots of the city, are gorgeous. Where it really shines, similar to other action-oriented manga, is during the battle scenes. They are beautiful to look at, intense and unique because of the unique weapons employed by the survey corps. The action is brutal and fast-paced, yet drawn fluidly with a great attention to detail. This makes Attack on Titan one of the most unique and one of the best manga in terms of battles.
What I enjoyed the most was the appearance of the titans. They aren’t ghastly, twisted human beings, but look more like dim-witted, almost simplistic humans. It’s their lack of emotions, their empty, smiling faces that make them so outlandish and creepy.
Still, the art in the early volumes of Attack on Titan is definitely a weak point.
Attack on Titan is also another, longer manga, but it’s well worth the read. It’s an engaging and interesting story that features its share of memorable characters. These elements made Attack on Titan one of the best manga out there and one I’d recommend to everyone.
If you’re looking for a unique and complex action-oriented manga with a fantastic setting, Attack on Titan might be what you’re looking for.
Annarasumanara by Ha Il-Kwon is another manhwa, and one of the most beautiful and heartfelt stories I’ve ever read. Even though it’s a manhwa, I wanted to include it in this list of best manga to shed some light on it.
The story centers on a magician living in an abandoned theme park. His magic’s supposed to be real, and whenever people visit him, he shows it to them. Yet, he’s always asking if they believe magic is real beforehand.
Our protagonist is Yoon Ah-ee, a high school student who doesn’t believe in magic anymore. She’s living in poverty and her life comprises nothing but studying, working and taking care of her younger sister.
One day, he stumbles into the abandoned theme park and eventually visits the mysterious magician. From here on out, her life changes forever and one of the best manga or better manhwa begins.
Annarasumanara is a great, heartfelt story that ponders on quite a few different topics.
A central theme is that of growing up and living up to your own expectations and those of the people around you. Another theme is the question of what life and happiness are truly about.
There are other themes the manhwa touches on as well. It’s those of social expectations, parental pressure, understanding yourself and what you want in life or what you’re willing to give up to be happy.
While magic is a central theme in this story, we soon learn it’s not so much about magic tricks, but more about the magic of life itself. It’s the beauty we see as children, the magic that seems to get lost when we grow up and wish to get back.
The art in Annarasumanara is strange, almost abstract, yet unique. However, it’s not just there for the sake of being different. It has also meaning to the overall plot.
The characters in Annarasumanara are all very believable, even if they might not appear so at first. It’s a story of actual people and genuine emotions, and maybe just real magic as well.
With only three volumes, Annarasumanara is one of the shorter reads on this list of best manga, but one I’d recommend to anyone.
Another interesting point is that this manhwa inspired me to write one of my most popular and well received stories to date I Catfish a Different Girl Each Night. It wasn’t so much the plot, or the central themes that inspired me, but part of the initial premise.
46. Chi no Wadachi
Chi no Wadachi by Shuuzou Oshimi is one of the best manga I read in recent times. It’s a psychological manga about drama, abuse and manipulation.
The manga is the story of Seiichi Osaba. He’s a typical young boy. He’s got friends, a crush, and he’s got loving parents. His mother, however, is extremely overprotective, and he’s often made fun of for their close relationship. While strange, and a bit extreme, it doesn’t seem too big a concern.
This all changes during a certain incident that puts in motion a series of events that will change Seiichi’s life and the view he has of his mother forever.
The series starts out simple, but quickly spirals out of control and just keeps getting crazier and crazier.
However, the pacing of this manga is slow and slow for a reason. Chapters seldom include many events. At times they show us nothing more than the interaction between two characters. Yet, it’s this slow progression, this stifling movement that adds so much to the tension and suspense.
At first the suspense might seem a bit oppressive. There were many slow shots, many glimpses at something, but the more I read the more interesting I got. Eventually I got used to this specific style of storytelling. It’s this focus on even the smallest details that makes Chi no Wadachi one of the best manga I’ve read.
The art in Chi no Wadachi is another reason I consider this among the best manga out there. It’s absolutely stunning, focusing on intricate facial details, a lot of them being smiles. The art can be sparse at times, dense at others, but it always conveys the mood of the story. What’s truly beautiful though are the many big page spreads.
While the story doesn’t seem too deep, it’s the way it’s told, the way we experience it that makes you feel what’s going on. A lot of times I was disturbed by the portrayal of an insecure young boy trying to please his mother. At other times I was stunned at her toxic manipulation and just how far she took things.
The biggest problem with the manga might be the slow, gloomy and solemn atmosphere. The overhanging suspense and tension so prevalent in this manga can be a bit oppressive, especially in the earlier chapters.
However, if one reads on, and gets used to the unique slow style of storytelling, one is in for one of the best manga in recent years.
I discovered Ouroboros by Yuuya Kanzaki only recently, but the moment I started reading it I was drawn in by its great storyline. Once I was done, I couldn’t deny that I’d just read one of the best manga of all time.
Ouroboros is the story of Ryuuzaki Ikuo and Tatsuaya Danno. While Ryuzaki is an investigator for the Shinjuku Police, Tatsuya is a member of the yakuza.
Long before the start of the story, the two of them lived happily in an orphanage under their caretaker, Yuiko. All this ended when the two boys witnessed her tragic murder.
The manga starts of simple and more episodic with the two of them are working together to solve various crime cases.
This episodic nature continues for most of the manga’s story, but the overall plot tightens and becomes more prevalent as the two of them learn more about the man who they are after.
I really enjoyed Ouroboros. It’s one of the best manga about crime and conspiracies. While it develops slowly, it never gets boring.
The overall plot is interesting and engaging and it’s also the strongest point of Ouroboros. Yukio’s murder is a mystery, one with many twists and turns that will throw you off again and again.
The art in Ouroboros was very enjoyable. It’s good enough to be interesting, but never truly outstanding. What I enjoyed the most was that many of the characters were drawn more humanlike. It’s something I enjoyed, and that helped a more grounded story like this.
I also came to like our two protagonists. Both of them are very interesting and complex. I wished, however, there would’ve been more of a focus on Tatsuya Danno since he’s, at least in my opinion, the more interesting of the two.
There’s also a fair share of side-characters who are all interesting and either likeable or detestable.
The only real quarrel I have with the story is that the twists became a bit too much near the end and some revelations were rather clichéd. It didn’t deter my enjoyment of the series, though.
Overall, Ouroboros was a manga I found really engaging and had a lot of fun with, but that’s also because I enjoy settings about crime and the underworld.
The episodic nature of Ouroboros might be daunting to some, and the beginning of the manga is a bit shy to give us more about the overall story. If you enjoy those parts, though, I’m sure you’ll love the rest.
Ouroboros is clearly one of the best manga about the police, crime and deep-routed conspiracies.
Sanctuary by Buronson and Ryoichi Ikegami was one of the best manga I ever read and exactly to my liking. It’s a fantastically dark thriller and yakuza manga.
Sanctuary is the story of two men, Akira Houjou and Chiaki Asami, who want to change the course of the nation of Japan. In their opinion Japan is stagnant, corrupt and ruled by old men who’ve accepted the status quo. The two of them set out to push Japan into a new age and to create their very own sanctuary.
To accomplish this, the two of them aim to conquer Japan through two different routs. Houjou ventures into the underworld to seize control of the yakuza while Asami aims to become Prime Minister.
What makes this manga such a great read is the alternation between the two major plots, one centered on organized crime, the other on politics.
There’s of course an extensive list of adversaries both Asami and Houjou encounter. These reach from ambitious hot-shots and fellow yakuza bosses to diet members and champions of the establishment.
This dualism makes the manga so much more enjoyable. Whenever one story loses a bit of steam, the writers switched to the other one and throw in a fresh development, new ploy or twist.
To me Sanctuary was a suspenseful, but fun ride. I really enjoy stories about power fantasies, and Sanctuary is among the best manga featuring those. What makes it even better, is that it’s grounded in reality. I was very intrigued to follow our protagonists’ climb to the top.
There were enough conflicts to keep me reading and to keep the plot interesting. Overall though, what Sanctuary is most of the time is really cool. We have a ton of characters who are just absolutely amazing.
The art in this manga is on point as well. While it has a typical 90s feel to it, characters look both extremely professional and badass at the same time. Wide shots, backgrounds and even rooms are often rendered in beautiful detail.
My biggest issue with Sanctuary, however, is realism. While the yakuza plotline is a rather typical climb to power that is farfetched, but albeit realistic, Asami’s political rise wasn’t. Yet, while the political shenanigans, the intrigues, plans and twists, were unrealistic, I still had a great time reading them. Especially Isaoka was one of the best character in the entire manga and an outstanding adversary.
However, things spiraled out of control the closer the manga got to the end. I was still enjoying things for what they were, wanting to see how Sanctuary would play out. By then, however, I’d long abandoned the idea of realism.
Another fact that some readers might not enjoy is the depiction of women in this manga. There’s really only one important female character, and she serves as Houjou’s love interest. Almost all other women depicted are prostitutes or sex objects.
Overall, Sanctuary was still a lot of fun in the way certain over-the-top polit-thrillers or gangster movies are. It might not be too realistic and it might not make sense all the time, but man is it a great read. There’s a lot of suspense, a lot of action and a lot of badass characters, making Sanctuary one of the best manga I’ve read. If you’re into crime stories or political intrigues, give this one a read.
43. Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is another long running and vastly popular series and by many considered one of the best manga of all time.
It’s the story of Ken Kaneki, a reserved young college student who loves to read. At a café he encounters Rize, a beautiful young woman who seems to share his love for books.
Rize, however, is a ghoul and driven by her hunger for human flesh, she soon attacks Kaneki. Ghouls are creatures who look just like humans and mingle between them. However, they have almost superhuman powers and need to feed on humans to survive.
After his encounter with Rize, Kaneki is rescued by Dr. Kanou but soon learns that he’s now part ghoul and can’t stomach normal food anymore. He seeks refuge at a café called Anteiku, which is a safe house for ghouls.
As the story progresses, we learn more about ghouls, different members of Anteiku, and other groups of ghouls.
The story starts out slow, focusing on Kaneki and his new life, but we’re slowly introduced to more characters and their relationship to one another. Eventually, the story gets more interesting as new threats are introduced. Especially, the sequel Tokyo Ghoul:re ends up expanding the plot and the world of Tokyo Ghoul vastly.
The art in Tokyo Ghoul was the biggest selling point for me and made me appreciate it as one of the best manga of all time. Tokyo Ghoul is beautiful and comes with both great character and monster design, fantastic backgrounds and an overall gloomy and dark atmosphere. I can understand that this art style is not for everyone, though. It’s especially the inky panels that help in setting the mood and make for some beautiful scenes.
I also loved the battles in Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul:re. I loved the attacks, the brutality, and especially the design of the kagune. However, I have to say that battles can be a bit confusing. This is most prevalent in later parts, especially in Tokyo Ghoul:re. Battles are on a larger scale, with large numbers of people being devoured, beheaded or disemboweled before the bigger players step in. These battles tended to not only be confusing, but became a bit repetitive in the long run.
The characters are interesting enough, with quite a few bing likeable, while others are not. One of the prime offenders to me was Kaneki. He starts off as a shy, reserved boy, but after a certain significant event he gets a huge power-boost and is suddenly a force to be reckoned with. Now Kaneki had his share of horrible things happening, and it’s clear that he went through some serious trauma. However, this feels like a mixed bag between honest characterization and edginess for edginess’ sake. I felt strongest for some of the supporting characters. Arima was great, and so were Urie and Amon.
One of the most prevailing themes in Tokyo Ghoul is that of a tragic past. Almost everyone of the main cast suffers from this trope. The world of ghouls and the CCP is a dark and brutal one. Yet, it ultimately grew old and lessened the impact. I felt myself invested in the characters in the first part, but later, instead of making you feel for characters, you sort of shrugged their tragic backstory off as more of the same.
There are, however, a lot of fantastic themes in Tokyo Ghoul. I enjoyed the dualism of the two sides. Neither ghouls nor the CCP are innocent, but they are also not truly bad.
The story of Tokyo Ghoul was overall enjoyable, but I still found it to be at its best in the early parts. It was here where the difference between the world of ghouls and humans was still an important plot point. While Tokyo Ghoul:re started out similar, it later dissolved into a different story before it came to a rushed ending.
Now, all of those flaws don’t make Tokyo Ghoul a bad series. No, I had a great time reading it, and think it’s one of the best manga. But for that reason, I also felt it necessary to discuss some of its flaws.
To me Tokyo Ghoul stood out for its fantastic art, the battles and the creative design of the members of the CCP and the ghouls. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a darker, more brutal and complex horror manga.
42. One Punch Man
I’m usually not a fan of gag or comedy manga. Most of the time they don’t click with me. One Punch Man by Yusuke Murata and ONE, however, is different. Based on the web comic by the same name, it’s one of the best manga at what it does.
One Punch man is foremost a manga centered on a single gag. What if a character was so strong, he could defeat every enemy with a single punch?
This character’s name is Saitama. He joins the Hero Organization to put his strength to good use. Before long, however, he becomes bored with it all and throughout the manga hopes to find a real challenge.
That’s mostly it for the story, at least early on. However, as silly and simple as it sounds, as much fun it is.
Later on, the story focuses more on the various side-characters and their individual struggles, which adds a nice contrast to Saitama’s power.
What makes this series shine is the art, especially during battles. It’s easily one of the best manga on this list in terms of art alone. The various monsters are rendered in gorgeous detail and look impressive.
Battles might not sound like much, but they are often extremely interesting because they focus more on the effort of other characters before Saitama takes action and ends things in a single blow.
The characters are another thing that adds so much to this manga, mostly comedy. A favorite of mine is King, the world’s strongest man. Every scene involving him is outstandingly funny and often makes me laugh out loud.
Yet, there’re more characters, some serious, others comical as King, but throughout the board they are all enjoyable, fun and unique. Garou is another example of a fantastic character.
The biggest selling point in One Punch Man, however, is the humor. With so simple a premise, one would think it loses its charm quickly, but it never does. The art also adds a great deal to it, often depicting Saitama as a small, unimportant bystander. That is until he takes action. Then he’s rendered as an absolute badass and depicted in glorious detail.
One Punch Man is one of the greatest action and comedy manga out there and to me one of the best manga of all time. While the story’s not the deepest, it’s insanely entertaining, a lot of fun, and comes with some of the best art the medium offers.
20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa is one of the greatest mystery manga of all time and has become vastly popular.
I read this manga years ago, but it was one of the first manga that came to mind when I thought of creating a list of the best manga of all time. It’s easily at the genre’s pinnacle in terms of storytelling.
20th Century Boys is the story of Kenji Endo and his friends. The story begins shortly before the end of the 20th century. Our protagonist Kenji Endo works at the family’s convenience store and is getting by. Things change when he learns about the suicide of one of his childhood friends, Donkey.
Things turn stranger when a new cult led by a figure only known as Friend becomes increasingly popular. It’s not long before Kenji realizes that there’s much more to this cult and that it’s somehow related to his childhood. Kenji reunites with his childhood friends and together they try to figure out the truth about the cult, the figure known as Friend. and to stop the end of the world.
The art in 20th Century Boys might appear simple at first glance, but it’s because of Naoki Urasawa’s unique style. His mastery of the craft becomes especially prevalent when one looks at the characters. Every single one of them has a distinct personality, making them recognize even when the manga switches to different points in time. Backgrounds are very detailed and pleasurable to look at.
What makes this one of the best manga I ever read are the big mystery, the characters, their relationship, but most of all the way the story is told.
While a conspiracy plot and having to save the world is nothing new, the story is told so well that one can’t help wanting to know more. What stood out to me the most was the switching between different timelines. It’s done extremely well, reveals a lot more about our various characters, but never confuses you.
Overall, the story is told in three major timelines, first during the closing of the 20th century, then 2014 and during the 3FE, the third year of the Friend Era. However, there are also various flashbacks to the time when Kenji and his friends were children during the late 60s and early 70s. The third timeline, the Friend Era, was my least favorite part of the manga.
During the first two timelines, 20th Century Boys was easily my favorite mystery manga and one of the absolute best manga of all time. It was masterfully told and had enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what was going to happen. Yet, the story of the Friend Era felt a bit detached from it all. It felt strange and much too different from what was going on before.
Another minor problem is how many people seem to be in on the conspiracy. The story pits our characters against new troubles and fresh developments. It almost gives the story a feeling of our main cast fighting against the rest of the world.
It didn’t deter my enjoyment much when reading, but it makes you wonder a little. How is one mastermind able to conspire with and control so many people?
Yet, it doesn’t change my opinion of the manga. As a whole it was a fantastic work and while I didn’t enjoy the last part as much as those before, it wasn’t bad by any means.
20th Century Boys is a great mystery, seinen manga that stands out because of its complex plot and the fantastic way the story is told and presented. It truly deserves to be called one of the best manga of all time.
40. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi is one of the longest, most popular shonen manga out there and also one of the best manga I ever read.
To be honest, Hunter x Hunter had to grow on me a bit. While I enjoyed the first arcs, it was much later in the story that I truly enjoyed it.
Hunter x Hunter is a manga about hunters who are, for simplicity’s sake, licensed treasure hunters with a lot of privileges. To become a hunter, you have to pass the so called Hunter Exam, several hard challenges that only one in a hundred thousand can pass.
Our protagonist Gon Freecss is a young boy who wants to become a hunter so he can find his father and signs up for the Hunter Exam. During the exam Gon gets to know many of the fellow participants who soon become the main cast of Hunter x Hunter.
As I mentioned before, the series took a while to grow on me. The Hunter Exam arc felt like a typical shonen arc. Things got much more interesting when Yoshihiro Togashi introduced the Nen system that allowed users to manifest superpowers. This Nen system is one of the most interesting parts in Hunter x Hunter since it serves as a foundation and a restriction for a character’s powers.
The protagonists in Hunter x Hunter are likeable throughout the board. What I enjoyed was the dynamic between Gon and Killua in the arcs they spent together. It was incredibly enjoyable to see those two friends go on adventures together, and it solidified Hunter x Hunter as one of the best manga.
I also greatly enjoyed the antagonists of the story. Hisoka is such a strange and weird villain. The phantom troop and notable their leader Chrollo are also an extremely interesting group of characters. And later on, during one of Hunter x Hunter’s most celebrated arcs, we are introduced to one of the greatest antagonists in manga history.
However, while I think Hunter x Hunter is one of the best manga out there, it isn’t without its flaws.
There’s first the art. I’m surprised how Yoshihiro Togashi can be so good at times and so bad at others. There are panels that are incredibly stunning, especially during certain fights. I couldn’t help but be awed by how detailed the art was. Yet, there are other panels or entire chapters that are almost nothing but scribbles. Overall though, the art is serviceable and decent, but apart from a few instances, it doesn’t stand out.
Another problem is the quality of the arcs. While some arcs are outstanding, like the York New and Chimera Ant arc, others feel rather boring and dragged on for so long I couldn’t wait until they were over. It almost feels like Hunter x Hunter is a strange mixture between brilliant and unique storytelling and boredom.
And now we come to the most daring problem I had with Hunter x Hunter, the exposition.
Hunter x Hunter often goes out of hand with explanations and dialogue. While I have no problem with dialogue-heavy manga, Hunter x Hunter’s plethora of words can feel a bit unfocused and almost unnecessary.
This is most prevailing in the newest arc, the Succession Contest arc. I was both stunned by the complexity, but also a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of explanations and expositions. I didn’t struggle to make sense of it, but I feel there would’ve been better and more concise ways of explaining things.
Overall, Hunter x Hunter is one of the most enjoyable shonen manga with some brilliant moments that more than make up for certain weaker parts of the series. If you want to read a good fun shonen and one of the best manga of all time, give Hunter x Hunter a try.
39. Blue Lock
I’m usually not a fan of sports manga and not too big a fan of shonen manga.
I stumbled upon Blue Lock when I was looking for other manga writen by Muneyuki Kaneshiro since I enjoyed their other works. At first I was skeptical, but after I read the first couple chapters I was drawn in by this manga. After reading it for a while I came to absolutely love it and consider Blue Lock one of the best manga I read in the last year.
The story of Blue Lock is relatively simple. After an analysis, it’s found out that the Japanese National Team misses one thing, a great striker. The Japanese Football Association hires an eccentric coach named Jinpachi Ego. He puts together a program held at Blue Lock, a prison-like training facility. There three hundred talented strikers from all over Japan will be pitted against one another. The sole survivor of Blue Lock will become the new Striker of the national team, while anyone else will be banned from joining the team forever.
Our protagonist Yoichi Isagi is one such striker who enters Blue Lock.
As I said, I’m not a big fan of sports manga and I’m also not the biggest fan of soccer. So why did I continue reading Blue Lock? Because of the art, the characters and the sheer amount of tension during many of the different games and tests.
The art by Yuusuke Nomura is outstanding and can rival the best manga in the arts department. It’s sharp, vivid and highly engaging. Some panels and pages or exceptionally well drawn, especially during key events in games. The artist can render raw emotions and power in fantastic detail. The overall style of this magna is amazing. Characters are often shown with glowing eyes, auras and faces distorted by sheer physical strain. It’s the type of art you’d usually see during over the top battle manga featuring fights to the death. It’s simply amazing and makes the entire manga so much more enjoyable.
Another thing I loved were the characters. They are all extremely well done, have their own unique character, but are throughout the board likeable. My favorite might just be Meguru Bachira, who’s such a quirky, yet amazing character.
What I enjoyed the most, however, was Yoichi and his quest of self-discovery at Blue Rock. Yoichi isn’t an overpowered shonen protagonist, instead, he’s often worse than other characters and it’s up to him to catch up to them. It’s a constant theme throughout the manga, and Yoichi slowly grows as he discovers more about his own play style and inherent talent. It not only keeps things interesting, it also keeps you on the toes during many of the games.
Now, in a manga such as this, there’s bound to be some unrealistic things. In Blue Lock, it’s mostly the level of play the characters showcase. All the characters in Blue Lock are high schoolers, yet they showcase world class plays.
While it’s a bit unrealistic, it didn’t deter my enjoyment at all.
Overall, I think Blue Lock is one of the best manga that came out in recent years, sports or not. It’s because of its great cast of characters and especially because of the fantastic art. Even if you’re not a fan of sports manga like me, check out Blue Lock.
38. C.a.t. (Confidential Assassination Troop)
C.A.T. by Fung Chin Pang is a short manhua I found by accident a long time ago. It was, as far as I know, unfortunately never finished. Still, what’s there is just too good to ignore. I truly think C.A.T. is one of the best Manhua or manga out there.
The story centers on a young woman known only as CAT. She was taken in by a group called the SFP Project. While there, she was severely abused before she could escape. Trained by a group of assassins, she’s now out to take revenge on the men who abused her.
Another part of the story centers on a man known as Alvas, who’s become the head of the CIA and plays his very own game with the rest of the world.
The story isn’t fully fleshed out unfortunately because the manhua was never finished.
What makes C.A.T. so amazing is the absolutely breathtaking art which can rival the best in the entire medium. It’s reminiscent of Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura, another one of the best manga of all time.
Each panel is beautiful, and the author’s style lends itself perfectly to the many action scenes in C.A.T. They are rendered in fluid and dynamic motion and look simply stunning.
This art also shows in the characters. Every character is well designed and drawn with full attention to detail. Cat starts out as a typical killing machine out for revenge. However, as short as the manhua is, the author can still make her a rather complex character.
The adversaries she meets throughout the manhua have some impressive design of their own, but aren’t much more than typical adversaries.
The only other characters who stand out are Hao Long and Alvas, but unfortunately we don’t spend enough time with them.
Still, C.A.T is a refreshing little Manhua that I enjoyed immensely and that stood out to me because of the great art and the fantastic fights. With only two available volumes it’s relatively short, but I still consider it among the best manga I’ve read and think it’s well worth the read.
Hotel is a fantastic collection of one-shots all drawn by the artist Boichi, who’s one of the best manga artist out there.
Each of the chapters is beautifully drawn and features Boichi’s outstanding art, but the content of the stories varies a little. There were none I disliked, but some are better than others.
While the stories are standalone, there are some thematically links between them. The first two stories for example seem to be set in the same world.
Things get really strange in chapters three and four who are a lot more surreal and weird than what came before.
Chapter five was drawn in full color and is breathtakingly beautiful, however, there isn’t much of a story to be found there. Still, it stands out among the rest because of the stunning full color art.
My favorite chapter was the first one though, featuring the titular Hotel, and it made me tear up a bit near the end.
Hotel is one of the few collections of one-shots on this list, but I really think it deserves its spot as one of the best manga. Some of the stories featured in Hotel are emotion while others are surreal and funny, yet all of them are interesting.
Hotel is a great, quick read that stands out from other, similar collections because of Boichi’s outstanding art.
Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro is one of the best manga in the cyberpunk and science-fiction genre out there.
The story starts off with the scientist Ido, who discovers the remains of a cyborg girl. She’s lost all her memories, but he takes it upon himself to restore her. He names her Alita and gives her a new cybernetic body.
From here on out we follow Alita as she finds her way in this new world and develops from an innocent, childlike character into a battle-hardened badass.
At the start of the series, the art is merely serviceable, but it improves in later parts. The art shines especially during the many fight scenes. There are quite intense, but motions are always fluid and you know what’s happening at all times. This was most notable during the motor ball arc, which was fantastically done and one of the best manga arcs I’ve read.
The setting of Battle Angel Alita is also well done. I really came to love the gritty post-apocalyptic world and especially the city of Scrapyard who’s a gloriously mad cluster of machines, factories and rubble.
Scrapyard can be best described as a cesspool swarming with the worst criminals and cybernetic freaks imaginable.
As for characters, I have to say that Alita was a well-done protagonist, at least for the most part. I enjoyed her character arc and her development a lot.
What makes her so interesting is that she’s not your standard hero protagonist. The entire story is about her finding her way and her place in the world. While there’s of course a plot, Battle Angel Alita is more character driven than anything else, more about Alita herself.
Yet, other character are also well done. Ido for example is a complex character. His relationship to Alita can be best described as a sort of father-daughter relationship, but it’s not free of its flaws.
The villains in this manga are a lot of fun. The one who stood out to me the most was Zapan, a bounty hunter who later turns into a full blown psychopath.
There are also some deeper themes in this manga. What’s great is that they aren’t shoved into your face. There are clear themes like the meaning of life, finding your way and uncovering who you really are.
Battle Angel Alita is not free of flaws, though. The most blatant one is the art, which is decent at first. While the setting is grim and the city of scrapyard is well designed, the character design can be a bit unrefined. This causes many of the robots and cyborgs to look a bit cartoonish.
Another problem is that some characters can be a bit overdrawn, which is especially apparent with a character who appears later in the story.
The same is true for Alita. While his is a manga bout her growth and her changing throughout the story, she can be a bit immature and arrogant.
Overall though, Battle Angel Alita is a well-paced, entertaining cyberpunk, science-fiction story and one of the best manga I ever read. I recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of science-fiction, post-apocalyptic settings and, of course, cyberpunk.
35. Made in Abyss
There are some manga out there who stand out because of their intricate and interesting characters or the story they tell. Others stand out because of the world they created. Made in Abyss by Akihito Tsukushi is a stark representative of the latter.
The Abyss is one of the most captivating and beautiful places ever created in manga. I only found out about this manga recently, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the abyss.
Made in Abyss tells the story of a young girl, Riko, who lives in the town of Orth. Orth was built around the edges of a giant chasm, called the abyss, which has never been fully explored.
Riko herself is the daughter of one of the most famous cave raiders, or White Whistles as they are called, who disappeared years ago. Riko herself dreams of becoming a White Whistle.
Her life changes when she meets a robot boy called Rengu. Believing this encounter to be caused by her mother, the two of them decide to descend the abyss.
Made in Abyss is a dark mixture of fantasy and science-fiction that features a fascinating setting populated with various strange and bizarre creatures.
What makes Made in Abyss one of the best manga of all time is clearly the art. It’s absolutely beautiful and insanely detailed. It’s no understatement to say that Made in Abyss is more beautiful than almost all other manga out there.
While the story of Made in Abyss appears lighthearted at first, especially because of its characters, it grows darker and more disturbing the further our protagonists descend.
There’s a feeling of dread related to the Abyss that can’t be understated. It’s an alien world, not only populated by alien creatures but also strange characters. And let’s not forget the ‘curse of the abyss’ which makes descent easy, but an ascent painful and almost impossible once a certain depth is crossed.
The biggest problem I have with Made in Abyss are the characters. Our protagonists are two kids who descend into an alien and dangerous world. I really can’t say I’m fond of the trend in manga to employ very young characters as protagonists. One has to wonder about this choice. Was it to rekindle the adventurous feelings we all had as children? Or was it done as a contrast to the alien world and to make the horror so much more horrible because it happened to children?
All in all though, while this choice was a bit strange to me, I still enjoyed the series immensely. Especially since the world and the world building were so interesting.
Overall Made in Abyss is easily one of the most beautiful and one of the best manga I’ve read. It presents us with one of the most unique and amazing settings ever. I urge anyone out there to read this manga, it’s truly worth it.
Jagaaaaaan is another manga written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro.
It’s the story of a young police officer known as Shintarou Jagasaki. He isn’t too fond of his life and is quite frustrated with how boring it is. This changes during a train ride when he’s escorting home a drunk man.
An office worker grows increasingly madder before he transforms into a twisted monster and starts tearing apart the other passengers. Jagasaki defeats the being by shooting a beam from his very own hand. He soon learns that the man was a fractured human being and that he himself is one as well. It’s now Jagasaki’s task to hunt down other fractured humans.
Fractured humans came into being when a rain of frogs descended upon Tokyo. These frogs infested humans with strong desires. While some of them give into their desires and are thus transformed into monsters, others, like Jagasaki, can resist temptation.
The story of Jagaaaaaan is crazy and continues to get crazier as it goes on, yet, as crazy as Jagaaaaaan is, it’s also one of the best manga I’ve ever read.
What I enjoyed was that people’s desires caused them to become monsters. It adds a bit of a deeper theme and shows that one shouldn’t blindly give into desire.
The first thing that stands out about Jagaaaaaan is the art by Kensuke Nishida. It’s fantastic throughout the board, and enough to warrant Jagaaaaaan’s addition to this list of the best manga. The faces of characters and their emotions conveyed via distorting them are amazingly done.
What’s also great is the character design and especially their transformation into twisted monsters.
The fights in Jagaaaaan are something to marvel at. Jagasaki’s own transformation becomes increasingly more powerful and impressive to look at as the manga goes on. It starts with a simple finger canon, but soon his entire arm turns into a weapon and later on things only turn to get more insane.
With characters, Jagasaki is really interesting. Anyone who read Kamisama no Iutoori and its sequel knows that Muneyuki Kaneshiro has a hang for weird characters. Jagasaki’s a weird as shown in the very first chapter. However, that also makes him much more realistic and unique. Who of us isn’t frustrated with their life at times? Over the course of the manga Jagasaki develops, going from a sort of loner with a rather twisted goal to someone who can appreciate and value the people by his side.
As for side-characters, there are some truly great ones, many of those being fractured humans like Jagasaki. While some are more normal, it’s the ones who are a deranged and crazy who are more interesting.
The first thing one should know about Jagaaaaaan is that it features its fair share of explicit content. There’s violence, there’s gore, and there’s nudity. While sex isn’t common, it’s still shown, and the manga isn’t shy to show sexual abuse committed by a certain, despicable character.
One little criticism I have is the pacing. Things take up more steam early on, almost as if the writer wanted to get as much of the crazy premise out of the way in the very first chapters of the manga. It works well and introduces us right away to the crazy world of Jagaaaaaan. However, it still feels a bit rushed.
Overall, Jagaaaaaan is a weird, twisted, but great manga if one’s willing to give it a chance. There are some depraved acts and some quite heavy gore during battles, but it never is there just for the sake of it. And, after all, Jagaaaaaan is horror manga and one of the best manga the genre offers released in recent years.
For all the disturbing and depraved things portrayed, it’s so much fun at others one can’t stop reading.
Try Jagaaaaaa, if you’re looking for something a bit weird. If you enjoy the first couple of chapters, stick to it, it will only get better.
33. Solo Leveling
Solo Leveling is a manhwa by Sung-rak Jang based on the web novel of the same title by Chugong. It’s recommended everywhere these days, and many people include it as one of the best manga or manhwa out there.
When I first started reading Solo Leveling, I was skeptical and couldn’t help but roll my eyes at it. The world-building seems almost too simple, and the story didn’t appear that great to me.
Yet, as I read on, there was one thing above all else that stood out to me and made me enjoy it: the art. Solo Leveling looks stunning.
The reason I love reading Solo Leveling so much is for the fights and the action, and there’s plenty of it.
The story is relatively simple. So-called gates appear around the world, connecting it to a world of monsters. At the same time, ordinary people were given superhuman powers and became known as hunters. From then on these hunters fought the monsters who appeared from these so-called gates.
Our protagonist, Jin-Woo Sung, is one such hunter, however he’s know as the ‘World’s Weakest Hunter,’ since he’s pathetically weak compared to others.
After a certain mission goes terribly wrong, he awakes in the hospital with a quest log in front of him. From here on Jin-Woo Sung can do quests, level up and become stronger, a feat only he’s able to do.
Solo Leveling is basically a typical zero to hero power fantasy. Yet, it handles this well enough, as we witness Jin-Woo changing from a weak underdog to a force to be reckoned with. Overall though, the story isn’t outstanding.
It was interesting to see Jin-Woo himself changing and becoming a bit of a darker character himself.
There are some fresh revelations and hints at a bigger, overarching plot in recent chapters. Still, the story feels more like a vessel to show us a cool protagonist and some outstanding fights.
And thus we come to the main part of Solo Leveling, the fights. Fights are the gist of Solo Leveling, and they are rendered in beautifully outstanding detail. As often in manhwa, Solo Leveling is fully colored. Yet, it goes beyond many others in terms of sheer detail. It’s no understatement to say that Solo Leveling can stand up to the best manga out there in terms of art.
As for characters, Jin-Woo Sung is likeable enough, but I felt his growth was a bit too fast. I’d have liked to watch him struggle and overcome challenges for a bit longer. However, he’s relatively powerful, relatively early on and from then on defeats almost all enemies with ease.
In later parts Solo Leveling also focuses more on other characters who are all interesting and a lot of fun in their own right. It also helps to expand the story and the world. Still, most of the time those characters are there to struggle against monsters before Jin-Woo comes in to save the day.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with this. Solo Leveling is fun, the art is fantastic, and the action is incredible. The plot, however, as of now at least, is pretty standard. If Solo Leveling is one thing, it’s fun and definitely among the best, if not the best power-fantasy series out there.
32. Fuan no Tane
Fuan no Tane is an anthology of very short horror stories, never more than a few pages long.
It stands out among other horror manga by focusing entirely on being scary and creepy.
There’s no plot in Fuan no Tane. It’s a collection of creepy incidents involving ghosts or supernatural entities. Each chapter of the manga contains a few of these incidents, all centered on a specific theme. It might be a location, such as a school or a hospital, or a concept such as uninvited guests.
At first, it might appear strange that there’s no plot, but that’s also what makes Fuan no Tane work so great and one of the best manga at what it does.
It doesn’t waste any time on introducing characters, setting the scene or giving us a plot. Instead, we go right to the creepiness. That’s how it keeps up the scariness and creepiness factor all throughout without taking a step back.
The art in this manga is good and the unique, more sketchy style helps to underline the creepy moments, but it’s not outstanding as the art in some of the best manga in terms of art on this list.
Overall, Fuan no Tane is a special type of horror manga one that not everyone will like or enjoy. It’s the fact that the writer didn’t bother with a plot that might alienate some readers or make them downright frustrated.
If you’re, however, looking only for glimpses, only brief incidents or scenes of scares and creepiness, then this one’s for you.
Tsutomu Nihei is one of my favorite mangaka of all time.
Knights of Sidonia is his longest series to date and can be best described as a mecha-space manga. While it diverts from his usual style of storytelling, it still features his outstanding art and complex world-design. However, Knights of Sidonia feels more mainstream-friendly than his older series.
However, I still think Knights of Sidonia is one of the best manga in the science-fiction and space genre.
It’s the story of the titular spaceship Sidonia and a young man named Nagate Tanikaze.
The Sidonia fled into space after earth was destroyed by powerful aliens known as Gauna who are still in pursuit of the Sidonia, relentlessly attacking it.
Nagate Tanikaze has been living most of his life in the depths of the ship without contact to any other human beings. One day, however, he finds his way to the populated portions of the ship.
Because of his natural talent as a fighter pilot, he quickly becomes the pilot of one of the Gardes, giant mechs designed to fight the Gauna.
The first thing one notices about Knights of Sidonia is, like I mentioned before, that it’s more mainstream than his other series.
Blame!, Biomega, and many of his other works had been dark, gloomy, gritty and quiet.
Not so Knights of Sidonia, at least not overall. We still got the gritty, dark atmosphere when the stories about fighting the Gauna. However, there’re chapters in-between featuring more conventional storytelling. We’ve got normal conversations, people hanging out, joking around, falling in love and much more.
However, Knights of Sidonia still feels like a Nihei manga. We’re still presented with his grand architecture, the mega structures, the fascinating alien Gauna, and later on entities that remind us of the cyborgs in Blame! It’s because of these elements I consider Knights of Sidonia one of the best manga, especially in terms of art.
Of course, Knights of Sidonia is still a seinen series. While it has lighter elements, death is still an everyday occurrence and so are destruction and danger.
The biggest problem I have with Knights of Sidonia is the ending. Without spoiling too much, I felt Nihei wrapped things up in a too-happy and even somewhat cheesy way.
However, while I was a bit disappointed by the ending, the rest of the manga is still one of the best manga and space operas out there, especially in more recent years.
If you’re a fan of space manga, definitely check out Knights of Sidonia.
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo is one of the most popular and influential manga of all time, spawning not only the Japanese cyberpunk subgenre but also one of the most influential anime of all time.
Many people hold the manga in very high regard and think of it as one of the best manga of all time.
Akira is set in the city of Neo Tokyo which was erected on the ruins of Tokyo after it was destroyed in 1988 by a mysterious explosion. Neo Tokyo is your typical dystopian cyberpunk hell that fuses future technology and giant skyscrapers with biker gangs, poverty and revolutionaries.
Our protagonists are Tetsuo Shima and Soutarou Kaneda, two bikers who are best friends and bitter rivals. When Tetsuo tries to pull a desperate stunt to prove he’s Kaneda’s equal, he sets in motion the awakening of Akira, a secret government project.
At the core Akira is a story about government conspiracies, secret experiments and megalomania.
The greatest point about Akira and what makes it one of the best manga is undoubtedly the art. While the character design is great, but where it truly shines is in the depiction of the shady dystopia that is Neo Tokyo. The dirty corners, the cracks in buildings and streets and even the rubble are all rendered in Katsuhiro Otomo’s unique and insanely detailed art-style. It’s a marvel to look at.
Especially in later parts, when the story turns into a full-blown apocalypse, the destruction is presented to us in glorious detail.
While the character design in Akira is great, the characters leave things to be desired and appear almost as arch-types than actual characters.
Kaneda is a badass biker boy and our protagonist, while Tetsuo is an edgy youth with anger problems who desperately wants to be at the top.
Of the two, Tetsuo is clearly the more interesting though. Especially in earlier chapters, he comes up as a scary, almost chilling character, while he remains somewhat tragic and even sympathetic.
Another problem is the story. It’s more style than anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love the clashes of psychic powers, the destruction of the city and everything that’s happening. Yet, powers are never clearly established. This is especially prevalent in later chapters when Akira dissolves into a power struggle between psychic superhumans.
I enjoyed the earlier volumes of Akira the most. It’s here that the story focuses more on biker gangs, drug orgies, and government conspiracies. This is also where the dystopian setting with all its cyberpunk elements truly shines.
Did the aforementioned flaws ruin Akira for me? Not in the slightest. Having read Katsuhiro Otomo’s other work Domu – A Child’s Drea and having watched the movie version of Akira, I didn’t expect it to be a piece of hard science-fiction. I knew powers would most likely be unexplained and not be set in stone. What I came for was the outstanding art, the setting, and a storyline about a crazy megalomaniac. And that’s exactly what I got.
Does Akira live up to the hype it so often gets and the high ratings it receives? Yes and no. Akira had a massive influence on the manga and anime genre. Yet, as with other works pivotal to subgenres or movements, they rarely live up to their reputation.
However, at least in terms of arts and setting, Akira holds up. It’s still beautiful and one of the best and most detailed manga of all time. If you can ignore the lackluster plot and the almost one-dimensional characters, you fill find some of the greatest art and one of the best cyberpunk dystopias in the entire medium.
Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida might be one of the weirdest manga I’ve ever read. It’s set in such a dark, grim and brutal world, yet it’s full of humor.
It’s a surreal tale set in the city of Hole, which is connected to the Sorcerer’s World, a world populated by magic users. Because of this connection, the city of Hole has become a testing ground for magic users who visit it and test their powers on the city’s denizens.
Murders, mutilations, transformations and other atrocities are a daily reality for the people of Hole.
But there’s Kaiman, an amnesiac with the head of a reptilian who’s immune to magic. Believing himself to be another victim of magic users, he goes after them relentlessly to figure out who he really is and what happened to him. In his quest, he’s helped by his female friend Nikaidou.
The premise of the story is already weird enough, but it only serves to get weirder and more surreal as the story goes on.
However, as grim and dark as the story appears, it mixes death and carnage with comedy and lightheartedness into a whole that just works. It’s this odd dualism that made Dorohedoro unlike anything I’ve read and elevates it to one of the best manga.
Yet, there’re more reasons to praise Dorohedoro. One of them is the art. It’s both outlandish and absolutely gorgeous. Both the run-down, decrepit city of Hole as well as the weird surrealism of the Sorcerer’s World are rendered in gorgeous detail.
The same is true for our cast of characters. On one side we have the transformed and disfigured inhabitants of Hole and on the other side the outlandish characters who populate the Sorcerer’s World.
What’s interesting is that no side is painted as good or evil. Both are simply there, in a morally gray mush, and all the characters are equally likeable and unique.
In the beginning the story centers on Kaiman and his quest, but the more we learn, the more we learn about an overall plot that connects Kaiman, the city of Hole and the Sorcerer’s World. Describing this plot and the world of Dorohedoro is a thing that’s almost impossible because of the sheer creativity and originality that went into it.
While Dorohedoro has a lighthearted, surreal and at times humorous atmosphere to it, it still doesn’t shy away from gore and blood. The further the story continues and the more outlandish it becomes, the more brutal and horrific the events featured are.
Overall, Dorohedoro is one of the most unique, original and best manga I’ve read. However, one gets the feeling that it’s often weird for weirdness’ sake and that the story is complicated for complication’s sake.
Dorohedoro is a manga that anyone should check out. Be warned though, it can be quite heavy on gore and even though its goriness is hidden behind a curtain of humor, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Still, it’s one of the best manga of all time and a series that anyone interested in horror, weird and surreal manga should check out.
Shigurui by Noria Nanjou and Takayuki Yamaguchi is one of the most brutal and best manga in the samurai genre.
It starts with the proclamation of the twisted daimyo Tadanaga Tokugawa to hold a martial arts competition with real swords featuring fights to the death.
The manga starts with the first fight which pits a one-armed man, Gennosuke Fujiki, against the blind and lame Seigen Irako. However, we don’t see the result of their fight just yet, instead, the entire manga features on the backstory of our two contestants.
The high point of the manga is the art. Shigurui looks fantastic and renders its gore and brutality in beautiful detail. Throughout the entire run of the manga, the art is outstanding. Characters, backgrounds and even nature are a joy to look at.
What makes Shigurui stand out as one of the best manga is not only the art, but the very real depiction of how brutal and unforgiving samurai culture really was. In other media, it’s often romanticized and depicted as honorable. Shigurui, though, doesn’t shy away from showing that it was in essence despicable and the cause of many lost lives.
What’s interesting to see is that Shigurui makes no clear distinction between protagonist and antagonist. Instead, the author focuses on the flaws of both characters and on the unforgiving nature of samurai culture.
The women in this manga are treated terribly. They are almost always abused and become nothing more than simple attachments to samurai to be exploited as seen fit. This is most evident in the characters of Lady Iku and Mie Iwamoto.
The entire story of this manga is overshadowed by a general atmosphere of depression. There’s nothing good here, there’s only the sword and the life it forces people into. It’s one of servitude and obedience shrouded in the guise of honor.
Shigurui is a manga that’s less plot driven and more character driven. It showcases our protagonists’ lives and their quest for revenge.
However, here the problems start. Things become a bit tedious later on, and the manga dragged on a bit too much.
There’s also an entire arc about two characters that have no relation to our protagonists that’ brought to no resolution. This, however, is because the manga’s based on a novel about the tournament held by Tadanaga Tokugawa. The novel itself features all the fights and backstories of the contestants. One has to wonder if the manga was cut short and was originally going to feature the entire tournament.
This might also explain the ending. While I thought the manga ended perfectly and conveyed its overall themes satisfactorily, one can’t help but feel that it was a bit rushed.
Overall, Shigurui is a fantastic, brutal story, featuring two great characters and giving us a realistic and unforgiving look at samurai culture without glamorizing it.
To me, Shigurui is one of the best manga of all time and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in samurai manga and brutal fights. A word of warning though, this manga is not for the faint of heart and its story is as tragic as it is depressing.
Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima is one of the oldest manga on this list, but also one of the best and most influential manga ever created. This samurai manga is rightfully considered a classic of the medium.
Lone Wolf and Cub details the life of Ittou Ogami, who was once the Shogunate’s chief executioner. His life was ruined when he was framed for treason by the Yagyuu Clan to steal his position. Being forced to flee with his young son, he travels as an assassin for hire and thus they become known as Lone Wolf and Cub.
In the beginning the manga is told in episodic fashion featuring the different assassinations Ittou Ogami carries out. As the manga continues, we soon learn more about our protagonist, about his back story and that his travels serve one purpose and one purpose alone, to get revenge against the Yagyuu Clan.
What makes Lone Wolf and Cub one of the best manga is not only the overall plot, but that each of the individual, episodic stories stand their ground. They are conveying depth and emotion rarely found in other, much longer works.
Being from the 70s, the art of the manga might appear old-fashioned, but it’s still excellent done. It’s simple, yet gritty and realistic, giving it a unique style that’s very fitting for a traditional samurai story.
What stands out the most, however, are the action sequences. They are incredibly well done and look fantastic even today, making this one of the best manga in terms of sword fights.
What I also really enjoyed was the character of Ittou Ogami. While he might appear as a hardened assassin, almost like a demon, he’s shown as a father who cares deeply for his son. It was this dualism and the many other nuances we witnessed about him that showed me just how complex and multi-layered a character he was.
Overall, Lone Wolf and Cub might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The style is old-fashioned and the overall story and presentation are done realistically. It isn’t as flash as other samurai manga, and the art, while well done, is also simpler than that in modern manga.
Still, it’s without a doubt one of the best manga of all time and worth checking out for any fans of traditional Japanese stories and samurai manga.
I mentioned before that I’m usually not a big fan of comedy manga, but Gokushufudou by Kousuke Oono is pure gold.
It’s the story of Tatsu who was formerly known as Immortal Tatsu, a legendary yakuza who retired from his position and become a househusband.
Now, of course, mundane household tasks have their very own challenge, but that’s not all there is to Gokushufudou.
The entire manga is drawn and presented to us with the intensity of a usual crime or battle manga. Buying vegetables for dinner at a bargain is drawn with a suspense and tension usually reserved for life and death situations. Meeting old rivals is shown as a dramatic clash that might explode into violence only for them to engage in a cooking challenge and see who can garner more likes on Instagram.
I think the art is absolutely perfect and makes this one of the best manga coming out in recent years. Showing normal, mundane tasks and a daily household routine in such a suspenseful and over-the-top way is absolute genius. More so than that, the art is clean, well drawn and often beautiful.
There characters are fun and of course as ridiculously overdrawn as you’d expect them to be in a comedy manga. We run into various characters from Tatsu’s past, who are all similar to him and are trying to make an honest living. But whenever Tatsu meets any of them, it’s always depicted as if they were still out in the streets.
Gokushufudou is without a doubt one of the funniest manga I’ve ever read, and the fantastic art style helps so much to make this manga utterly ridiculous.
I highly recommend Gokushufudou to anyone who wants to have some good laughs and witness some incredibly stupid situations. It’s truly one of the best manga in the comedy genre of all time.
25. Ichi the Killer
Ah yes, Ichi the Killer by Hideo Yamamoto, one of the most graphicl and most disturbing manga of all time. However, it’s also one of the best manga I’ve ever read.
Hideo Yamamoto has outdone himself. While he did some strange work before, Ichi the Killer is a story in which almost every single character is batshit insane.
Ichi the Killer is the story of the titular killer named Ichi, an ominous figure who always kills his victims brutally. His adversary is Kakihara, a deranged yakuza. After Kakihara’s boss vanishes, all hell breaks loose as he tries to find his boss. Once he figured out what happened to him, he searches for Ichi himself. This eventually leads to a confrontation between the two.
As I mentioned, Ichi the Killer is a mature and graphical manga. It features violence, torture, sexual abuse, rape and murder. To say this is not for the faint of heart might be an understatement.
But Ich the Killer is no mere gore feast, it’s a psychological story that explores various themes, making it one of the best manga of all time.
The most predominate one is that of sadism and masochism. Other themes include identity disorder, childhood abuse, manipulation and much, much more. All of those are mixed into one of the most deranged manga of all time.
But that’s what makes Ichi the Killer work. Ichi doesn’t filter. It shows us the deepest depth of human depravity and the darkest underbelly of society.
I really enjoyed Ichi the Killer. For both, it’s raw depiction of violence, for the over-the-top and insane characters, but also for its story and the many deeper themes. There are quite a few twists and turns as we continue to explore our two protagonists deeper. Especially Ichi is a vastly more complex character than we’d have ever thought.
The art in Ichi the Killer is somewhat simplistic, but unique. It often comes with overdrawn facial expressions that show the mental state of characters. It also features its violence in glorious detail.
The protagonists, Ichi and Kakihara, who are the driving force behind the manga couldn’t be more different. The two of them are almost polar opposites. Which helps to make the manga even more interesting than it already is.
We already talked about the violence which can be a bit much and even if there’s a reason for it, certain scenes can be rough. Another flaw is that a few details about the plot are left unexplained or are a bit unrealistic. It didn’t deter from the manga’s enjoyment, though.
Overall, Ichi the Killer is a mature manga that features quite a few disturbing scenes, but it’s also one of the best manga out there. If one’s up for a more disturbing and depraved story ripe with graphical content, Ichi is at its core an amazing, psychological, thriller manga.
Kingdom by Yasuhisa Hara is one of the most popular and highest rated historical and military manga out there.
Having heard about it for so long, I finally read it last year and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot. By now, I consider it one of the best manga of all time.
Kingdom is set in the Warring States era of China and aims to detail the unification of China under the state of Qin.
Our protagonist is Shin, a young servant boy who becomes entangled in the matters of state during a rebellion against the soon-to-be king of Qin, Ei Sei.
From here on out, Shin sets out to become a Great General under the Heavens and help Ei Sei to fulfill his dream of unifying China.
Kingdom is a manga that aims to encompass a scope that’s almost unfathomable, and it shows in its sheer length. At over 600 chapters, the manga is still far from being done.
The focus of Kingdom is on the large-scale battles that took time during the Warring States era and it shows them in incredible detail.
We are treated to large-scale battles between armies numbering in the tenth or even hundreds of thousands. What makes Kingdom so great, though, is its showcasing of tactics and strategies. The manga does extremely well detailing the various engagements, tactics deployed, strategic finesse used and isn’t shy to show to overall brutality of the battles.
However, there’s another important plot happening, one that details the events at the court of Qin. It’s a power struggle between Ei Sei and Ryo Fui, the Chancellor of State who aims for the throne himself. While I enjoyed the immense battles in Kingdom, I grew to absolutely love the matters of state with its intrigues.
Kingdom also showcases, especially in later parts, the pivotal events happening in different states.
Overall, the scope of this manga is as grand as it gets, and the story and plot are told fantastically. For this alone, it’s well fitting for this list of the best manga of all time.
The art in Kingdom starts out merely average. Especially during the first arc, I thought it was decent enough, but not outstanding. However, this changes in later parts. The large scale engagements are rendered in stunning detail. Another thing is the giant, walled cities of ancient China who are absolutely impressive and a marvel to look at.
For characters, the manga features a large cast of diverse characters and some who are outstanding like Ei Sei, Ryo Fui, General Ou Ki and Riboku.
But that’s also where the bad parts of Kingdom start, with our protagonist Shin. He used to be a servant boy, raised together with another boy named Ri Hyou. The two of them had the dream of becoming the greatest generals in China and had countless sparring matches together.
This, and his natural talent, somehow made a young servant boy a force to be reckoned with. During the first arc, Shin can not only defeat hardened swordsman but also trained assassins.
This theme continues throughout the entire manga and Shin shows a level of martial prowess that’s, frankly said, unrealistic. He’s always at the center of the battle, always throwing himself into the fray, cutting through tens if not hundreds of enemies.
Another thing I didn’t enjoy about Shin was his clichéd characterization. He’s a young hothead who’s not smart and aims for the top because it’s the top. However, during the entire course of the manga, he’s always recognized by those amazing characters we encounter. It all feels a bit forced.
However, while Shin is the protagonist, the focus of Kingdom is clearly on the overall plot, the large-scale battles and the politics. Of course, we witness many of the battles from Shin’s point of view, or at least in large parts. The focus, however, is always on the overall battle.
Another thing I have to criticize are the first few arcs. They are, at least in my opinion, the worst part of the manga. It’s during the very first arc, the Sei Kyo Rebellion arc, in which Shin’s faults are most glaring. It’s also here that the story, while interesting, feels more like a shonen manga.
All this changes when we enter the very first, large scale battle and when Chancellor Ryo Fui appears at court.
Kingdom, while a historical manga, takes some liberties, however, this shouldn’t surprise anyone.
However, the problems outlined are mostly minor, and I enjoyed the bigger, overarching plot tremendously. If you decide to pick up Kingdom, you want to read on until the very first large scale battle. Those are what truly make Kingdom interesting and make it one of the best manga of all time.
23. Yamikin Ushijima-kun
The world of illegal money lending is a dark, dark place. In the world of Yamikin Ushijima-kun by Manabe Shouhei people get used, betrayed, tortured and even lose their life. This manga is dark, and it’s twisted. However, at times I enjoy stories that are darker and I think Yamikin Ushijima is as good as it gets. That’s why I believe it’s one of the best manga of all time.
Our protagonist Kaoru Ushijima is a money lender offering cash loans with an interest rate of fifty percent to be paid back within ten days. Who would take such an outrageous loan? As it turns out, there are quite a few people. It’s the dregs of society, those who are drowning in debt, or who gave into their various vices.
The story follows the antics of Ushijima as he makes sure people pay him back and take from them all they have. Ushijima isn’t shy to use prostitution, identity theft or extortion and even sets the occasional example for those who think they can get away without paying.
Yamikin Ushijima-kun is, mostly, a realistic, grounded story that shows us the worst of the worst. It’s showing just how deep you can fall and in how much trouble you can get. The dangers in this manga aren’t coming from monsters or killers, but from your own mistakes and your own desperation.
You seldom find hope in this manga. Most of the episodic stories end with characters in the worst place possible after having all their money taken from them. Still, there are a few glimmers of hope that might feel out of place in this manga, but that makes the experience even better.
Still, most of the stories can be described as tragedies, as misery and trouble pilling up on people until there’s no way out.
However, Ushijima isn’t the only scum out there, and in the manga’s course we get to know people who are far worse.
Yet, what makes it so much worse, is the realism of the tale. Making mistakes in life, accumulating debt or having terrible luck are a reality in our world and so are people who prey on the weak.
Yamikin Ushijima-kun is a manga that’s meant to be unpleasant. It showcases the dark underbelly of society and does so in a fascinating way. It’s this focus on the dark sides of society that make this one of the best manga out there.
Manabe Shouhei’s art is different and unique. It’s not as refined as other manga and can be best described as gritty and almost dirty. But for this type of manga, it’s more than fitting. It helps to set the tone. This is not a pleasant world, not a clean world, no, this is a dark, gritty and dirty world.
As in Manabe Shouhei’s other manga, the characters are unique, but aren’t necessarily the nicest to look at. But once more this helps to set the tone. Overall, the art serves to keep the manga grounded in reality.
As for characters, there’s seldom anyone who’s likeable. Ushijima isn’t a good guy, he’s all business, taking as much money as he can. Still, often, you come to root more for him than anyone else.
Things get a bit different in later, longer arcs when the focus shifts from Ushijima to other characters and outlines their journeys in this dark world. I felt the manga got even better in those longer stories. While I enjoyed the earlier chapters immensely, it’s these longer stories that truly made Yamakin Ushijima-kun one of the best manga of all time to me.
It’s a fantastic read to tag along and see the lives of different people and uncover the reasons that will eventually bring them to Ushijima’s office.
While one’s hard pressed to feel sympathetic to most of them, there are some fates that are truly heartbreaking. But as I said before, there are also some stories that end in happier ways.
Overall, this is a fascinating and dark manga that will keep you reading and wanting to see more of the underbelly of society.
There are many crime manga out there, but I feel none portray it just like Yamakin Ushijima-kun. While it can occasionally be more sensational than realistic, it’s still one of the best manga out there.
Gantz by Hiroya Oku is insane, but that’s also the reason I love it so much.
The manga tells the story of Kei Kurono. One day he and his childhood friend Kato die in a tragic train accident when trying to save a homeless man. Following this accident, the two of them awake in a Tokyo apartment in which a group of other people, as clueless as them, have gathered. The center of the room is taken up by a black sphere called Gantz. It explains to them it’s their job to hunt down aliens living among humans. Soon after, they get teleported to a different location and the first of many brutal alien hunts begins.
Gantz is another longer manga with almost 400 chapters, but it’s well worth the investment. It’s also a story high on action and, at least most of the time, low on dialogue. This makes Gantz, for its length, a relatively short read.
At its core, Gantz is a brutal, gritty series about people hunting aliens, presented to us in fluid action and glorified gore. And Gantz that’s what makes Gantz one of the best manga of all time. The alien hunts and the action, especially in later parts when the scale and the danger keep increasing.
One of the major reasons Gantz stands out among many other, similar action-oriented manga is not only the weirdness of the premise but also the amazing art. Characters are drawn detailed and all have their own style. The aliens, too, are unique and their design is fantastic.
Gantz is full of action and battles, and each one of those is drawn and illustrated amazingly. The action is fluid; the violence is brutal, and the enemies aren’t just cannon fodder. No, it’s almost always the opposite. It’s the people who are sent to hunt them down who are the cannon fodder. Death is normal in Gantz, and not just for the peculiar rival in Gantz room.
Another thing I really loved about Gantz were the characters. First and foremost, I like to mention Kurono. He starts out as an unlikeable, egoistic teenager that almost anyone will hate. Over the course of the story, though, he shows tremendous character development and changes into an entirely different reason. It’s a delight to see Kurono grow gradually and eventually become the leader of the Gantz team. Whenever I think about Gantz as one of the best manga of all time, Kurono’s character is one of the first things that comes to my mind.
Many of the other supporting characters are cool and unique and quite a few of them have their own special traits, way of fighting and powers.
However, Gantz isn’t free from problems. As much as I consider Gantz as one of the best manga of all time, I have to admit that it also has some serious flaws.
Gantz is a long manga, and I felt that Hiroya Oku loves to experiment with things and loves to add new things to his manga. The problem is that some of these things are left hanging. There’s an entire subplot about vampires who conflict with the Gantz team. For a while they are quite significant to the story, that’s until they aren’t and the entire plot point is dropped.
Another reason is the portrayal of the world in Gantz. While one expects the missions to be brutal, dark and unforgiving, the normal world in Gantz isn’t much better. We’re experiencing severe bullying, rape, brutal violence and in later parts even a mass shooting.
The most problematic thing to me, however, was the last mission and specifically the ending. I felt like things weren’t really planned out anymore and the author just came up with the story on the fly. Things turned very weird near the end, even for Gantz, with no proper explanation to what was going on. After that, the manga was brought to a close with a rushed final. I kind of understand what the writer wanted to go for, but it was all a bit too strange and happened too fast.
Overall though, Gantz is an amazing manga. It’s a weird, insane, brutal and gory mess that has some of the most exceptional action scenes I’ve ever seen in manga. It also features some of the coolest, most interesting monster design. Even though the plot can get a bit out of hand and sometimes makes no actual sense, I still consider Gantz one of the best manga of all time. At its core, Gantz is a series about people hunting down aliens, and that’s where the series is at its absolute best.
21. Liar Game
Liar Game by Shinobu Kaitani is my favorite mind game and psychological manga of all time, and I also consider it one of the best manga ever written.
It’s the story of an honest girl named Kanzaki Nao who becomes a contestant in the Liar Game, a game with stakes in the hundreds of million of yen. The goal of the game is to deceive or trick your opponent and steal their money.
Kanzaki gets promptly tricked and loses all her money. Upon hearing that a genius swindler, Shinichi Akiyama, is being released from prison, she sets out to enlist his help. After initially rejecting her request, he helps her. As it turns out, though, this was only the very first round of the Liar Game.
Liar game is so good because of the various different games. While they are simple in the beginning, things soon get much more interesting. Liar Game truly comes to shine in its later, longer arcs.
This is probably the best manga for anyone who’s looking for intelligent and clever mind games and psychological tricks.
What’s even more interesting than the games themselves is how well they are constructed. Even better than those are the various tricks and strategies employed by our protagonists. It’s a delight to watch them out-play and trick each other with nothing but the force of their mind.
The art in Liar Game is serviceable, but not outstanding. The locations and games, however, are nicely designed and the character all look unique.
One thing to notice though is the over-exaggerated reactions and emotions of characters. It feels unnatural and over the top.
Characters, apart from the protagonists, are often uninspiring and almost caricatures of themselves, only there to represent a certain character type. Most of the time they are rather simple and no match for Akiyama. That’s until we get to know some more clever adversaries like Yokoya or Harimoto. When they show up, Liar Game becomes so much more interesting and the games reach a new level of suspense and tension. The games featuring those characters are absolutely outstanding and solidified Liar Game as one of the best manga I ever read.
At times, though, Liar Game has some troubles, most of all with its many side characters. They aren’t just simple, but often act like utter idiots. Their reactions are often overdrawn to the extreme and panels with all of them gawking at Akiyama with wide mouths almost become the norm.
Another thing that might alienate some readers are the explanations of the games which can become a bit drawn out and overly complex.
There’s also the ending, which I thought was a bit simple and anti-climatic. It almost felt like the manga was cut short.
Overall, I had an absolute blast with Liar Game. While some earlier games are easy to grasp, things turned truly good when it was time for the Contraband Game. It was here that so many twists, turns and new strategies were introduced, my mind was blown.
Liar Game is truly one of the most thrilling and best manga out there.
20. Bokutachi ga Yarimashita
Bokutachi ga Yarmashita was a manga I found when I had a look at the other works of Kaneshiro Muneyuki. At first I didn’t know what to think about it, but as I read on it turned out to be one of the darkest and best manga, I’ve ever read.
The manga is the story of Tobio Masubuchi and his three best friends Isami, Maru and Paisen. They spend most of their days leading an average, undisturbed life. One day, they get into trouble with some delinquents from a neighboring school. After Maru is beaten up, they decide to take revenge.
Once they’ve decided what to do, they put their plan into motion. What was meant to be a prank, however, turns into deadly reality. As a result, their normal, mundane lives end.
Bokutachi ga Yarimashita is a fantastic psychological manga bout guilt and redemption. It’s also one of the darkest, yet most realistic manga I ever read. There’s just this dark, gloomy and depressing atmosphere hanging over the entire work.
It was one of the most unique experiences I had in manga. There was an underlying tension throughout the whole manga that makes you uncomfortable on a deeply personal level.
The storytelling in this manga succeeds on every level. The pacing is fantastic, the plot is great and keeps you engaged from beginning to end.
In terms of art, this manga is pretty good, but I feel it’s fantastic and unique with facial expressions and using them to showcase the emotional state of characters.
However, it’s not the art that makes this one of the best manga of all time. The best part about it is without a doubt the characters. The entire story of this manga is driven by characters. These characters aren’t heroes, but are realistic and normal day people. If you want to go further, they are weak, immature and materialistic, the type who doesn’t think about the consequences of their actions.
It’s those people who somehow have to handle the situation they’ve got themselves in, and we can see the toll it takes on them.
While the characters are interesting and realistic, they aren’t necessarily likeable or sympathetic. However, I felt that’s not what Kaneshiro Muneyuki had in mind. No, he wanted to present to us with normal people.
The manga toys not only with the concepts of guilt and redemption, but also friendship, sanity, love and life itself.
There’s also no magic ending here. As with real life, people have to live with the consequence of their actions and some do better while others do worse.
Overall, Bokutatchi ga Yarimashita is a fantastic, dark, suspenseful and psychological manga. Reading this was an experience like any other, but it presented me with a deep look into the human psyche. It’s clearly one of my best reads last year and one of the best manga of all time.
Homunculus is another manga by Hideo Yamamoto, so you know what you’re in for. It’s not as brutal and disturbing as Ichi the Killer, but it’s way, way weirder.
It’s the story of a young man, Susumu Nakoshi, who lives as a homeless man in his car. He encounters a young medical student, Manabu Ito, who’s doing research about the process of trepanation, the drilling of holes into the human skull. He proposes to Nakoshi that he’s looking for test subjects on which to perform trepanation.
After a while, Nakoshi agrees to undergo the procedure. Once it’s over, Nakoshi learns he can now see distorted versions of humans when looking at them with his left eye. These are the titular homunculi.
Homunculus is one of the most unique and best manga I ever read. While it starts out interesting, it becomes very strange after a while.
It’s a psychological masterpiece which deals with a variety of themes, such as vanity, trauma, identity disorder, materialism and many other things.
There’s a fair share of disturbing scenes, both violent and sexual and even more scenes that are just uncomfortable on a different, much deeper, psychological level.
Overall, the story of the manga can be best described as a slow, but steady descent into madness.
Homunculus almost feels unpredictable. Even from the outset, one has to wonder what’s going on with Nakoshi. After the trepanation, after he sees visions, the manga appears more a character study than to follow a straight plot.
The greatest things about Homunculus are without a doubt the art and the weirdness of the story. It’s for those reasons alone that I’ll always consider it one of the best manga of all time.
The various humunculi, the symbolic representation of people’s trauma and Nakoshi’s very own madness are masterfully done.
The art can be abstract at times, disturbing at others, yet it’s always detailed and serves to brilliantly outline what’s happening.
Our two protagonists are very interesting. Nakoshi and Manabu are both complex and flawed characters. Their interactions and the things we learn about them are very interesting throughout the story. I can honestly say that neither of the two is in any way clichéd and the same holds true for any of the side characters.
However, near the end, the manga derails in a variety of ways and what felt as a controlled effort of a deeper psychological story turned into one of surreal insanity.
The biggest problem I had with Homunculus was the ending. It’s something that will stay on my mind for a long while, but I can’t say what sort of ending it was. It was, to say it in the best way, entirely ambiguous.
Overall, Homunculus is a very unique and surreal manga. It’s a psychological tale, one that presents us with some of the most complex characters, but that’s also unrestrained in its narrative.
Still, for the sheer creativity that went into it and for the psychological themes alone, I can’t think of it as anything else as one of the most surreal, yet best manga of all time. It’s absolutely worth reading.
18. Alice in Borderland
Alice in Borderland by Haro Aso is another manga about death games and in my opinion one of the best manga the genre offers.
Our protagonist Ryohei Arisu does anything he can to avoid thinking about the future. One night when he’s hanging out with his friends Karube and Chota, they see fireworks.
After a sudden, blinding explosion, they find themselves in a different world. They are now in Borderland, a world in which people are forced to either take part in deadly games or die.
As a fan of clever death games, I knew this manga was right up my alley.
What makes this manga more interesting is that there are different types of games that vary in difficulty. Each type of game is specifically suited for different people. There are games that require intellect, while others rely more on physical fitness.
The reason I think this is probably the best manga the death game genre offers is this variety of games.
The games are throughout the board interesting and enjoyable to watch and quite brutal and unforgiving.
I really liked the art in this manga. The Borderland itself and the various game locations are all stunning to look at.
The most attention however was given to the characters. You’ll notice that all the characters look unique and are well designed. You can clearly see their emotions just from their expression.
I really enjoyed most of the characters in this manga. Arisu was a great protagonist since I thought he was rather realistic. He’s smart and resourceful, but he’s not a genius. There’s also a deep-set melancholy surrounding his character. He’s not the type to fight his enemies in ruthless fashion, and not the type who’ll keep fighting until it kills him. No, he’s a more somber character. Yet, it’s this that makes him more complex and interesting.
Most of the side character are also likeable and interesting, and almost every single one of them has their own backstory and many of them develop as characters throughout the course of the story.
The manga goes a bit out of hand in later parts when the story is told from the point of view of individual characters. While most of them are interesting, like I said, it also makes keeping up with them tougher.
The only problem I had with Alice in Borderland is the ending. I think it worked well, and there wasn’t much of a choice to do it differently. Yet, it still felt anti-climactic.
Another problem, like I mentioned before, is the number of characters introduced in the second half of the story. On one hand, it allows Haro Aso to explore how different characters handle the games, but it made the magna almost episodic.
Overall, though, those are merely minor complaints. Alice in Borderland is a probably one of the best manga for anyone who’s interested in manga about death games or general survival manga.
Freesia is another very weird, almost surreal manga. Yet, I find myself going back to it again and again because it’s one of the best manga I ever read.
It’s another manga by Jiro Matsumoto, the creator of Keep on Vibrating, so can already tell that this one’s going to be weird.
The story of Freesia is set in a dystopian Japanese society that’s at war and passed a law that legalizes retaliatory killings. Should a person you love be murdered, you are legally allowed to kill them or hire someone to do the job for you.
The manga centers on Kano, a man who specializes in these types of retaliatory killings, and the other members of his agency.
Freesia is not a pleasant story. It presents us with horrible people, insane people who are doing a job that’s not honorable.
There’s a dark, depressing feeling that lingers over this manga. Freesia’s Japan is a dark place, a gloomy place and most of all, a cruel place.
The art in Freesia is unique. It’s not pretty to look at, but it doesn’t want to be. The drawings are raw, gritty and unpolished. While the backgrounds are often detailed, faces are simplified. It brings forth an interesting contrast, one that’s very fitting for the entire story of the manga.
Freesia is a manga full of broken and damaged people, maniacs and utter madmen. It’s almost as if the writer abandoned the idea of having sane, well-adjusted people as members of his main cast.
Our protagonist Kano is insane, suffers from schizophrenia, hallucinations, delusions and memory failure.
Yet, throughout the story, Kano understands that it’s not the world, but he himself who’s crazy and tries the best to change himself. Other members of the cast suffer from similar ailments or turn out to be downright psychopathic.
Most prominent among all members of the cast are delusions and hallucinations. That’s the reason the manga appears so strange at times, and why scenes don’t seem to make much sense until we understand what’s really going on.
The manga’s premise makes it sound like it’s about the act of retaliatory killings, yet it focuses more on the personal stories of our main cast and the people they are tasked to kill. This can make Freesia somewhat episodic, but the mangaka can give us solid backstories and motifs for the targets of retaliatory killings. It makes them sympathetic, makes us feel and care for them. This makes many of the killings tragedies in their own right. This unique way of presenting them to us elevates Freesia from a black and white view and makes the entire manga nothing but a morally gray mush. This is one of the reason I consider Freesia to be so good and why I think it’s one of the best manga out there.
Freesia is set in a world that’s not safe. Japan is at war, atrocities are committed daily and our cast of characters are mentally ill and some might even snap in the story’s course. This also means that the manga can be heavy in violence and gore.
However, much of the setting isn’t explained. The war is never more than a backdrop, nothing but the reason for all the misery happening in Freesia’s world.
The same is true for most of the main cast. We near learn all too much about their past, only get glimpses here and there. Yet, it’s not a big problem, as we experience the story mostly from Kano’s point of view.
Something that might be tough on people are the mental issues, delusions and hallucinations so prevalent in the series. As I mentioned before, it can be quite confusing, irritating or downright surreal.
Overall, Freesia is a manga that’s not for everyone. It’s a dark, gloomy and depressing world, populated by people who suffer from various mental issues. However, that’s what makes Freesia such an interesting and unique read. The portrayal of Kano and his delusions and hallucinations make Freesia a truly surreal experience and one of the best manga out there. I’d recommend Freesia to anyone who’s looking for a dark and surreal story.
16. Kamisama no Iutoori and Kamisama no Iutoori Ni
I mentioned before that I’m a big fan of manga about death games and Kamisama no Iutoori by Kaneshiro Muneyuki and its sequel are as good as it gets. It’s also really weird.
It’s one of my favorite manga of all time and I think it’s also one of the best manga ever.
The story starts with Takahata Shun, a normal high school student who’s utterly bored with his life. All that changes when his teacher’s head explodes and a Daruma doll appears. This strange event is only the outset of the very first death game in this manga.
As the series continued, we’re introduced to other interesting and often very odd games and some unique and fascinating characters.
The sequel series starts off with a new set of characters, but eventually ties in with the story of the first part.
What I enjoyed about this manga was that it wasn’t shy in killing of characters. Many times a new character is introduced or their backstory is revealed only for them to die soon after. No one is truly safe in the world of Kamisama no Iutoori.
One of the strongest points of the series are its protagonists. I came to like all of them, and especially the more deranged members of our cast. It’s these characters that cemented Kamisama no Iutoori as one of the best manga of all time.
Some of the characters also develop vastly over the course of the series. The most notable one is Ushimitsu who became my favorite character in the entire series.
The games throughout the entire series are often simple, but their execution is as weird as it is enjoyable. While other manga about death and mind games feature mostly realistic games, Kamisama no Iutoori’s games are almost surreal. What’s interesting is that many of the games have some sort of twist. There’s always a certain way on how to win them that our cast has to figure out over its course.
In the first part the art by Akeji Fujimura might not be that great, but in the second part of the series it becomes much better. Especially, the later parts of the series are absolutely gorgeous with some pages and spreads who are absolutely gorgeous.
I also love how the artist can create suspense only with the art. This has created one of the best manga chapters of all time, in which Shun Takahata’s plotline is brought to an end.
The second part of the series is much longer than the first one. This also means that there’s more time spent on the individual games, which is a fantastic thing, but sometimes things can drag on a little.
One thing I often hear criticised about the series is its ending. I think it’s one of those you either like or hate; I loved it.
Overall, I had an absolute blast with this series and enjoyed it immensely. It’s without a doubt one of my favorite manga of all time and one of the best manga ever.
When it comes to horror Junji Ito is my favorite mangaka of all time, and his horror collection is probably one of the best works of Japanese horror ever.
Ito’s horror collection comprises terrifying one-shots, but also includes one of his most celebrated works, Tomie, and an adaption of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. If you want to know more about Junji It’s work, you can check out my article on my favorite Junji Ito stories.
Tomie is the story of a high school student who was murdered and her body dismembered. However, this is only where the story starts. The next day, Tomie shows up to class as if nothing happened. We soon learn the true horror of Tomie. She can regenerate from any injury and replicate herself from even the smallest part. As if that’s not enough, she’s of entrancing beauty that drives any man to a senseless obsession over her that ultimately drives them mad.
Tomie is told in episodic fashion with each story featuring a different set of characters. The most interesting part here is that Tomie is never the protagonist. She’s always the enigma of the story.
There’s a plethora of other fantastic stories to be found in Junji Ito’s Horror Collection. There’s Lingering Farewell, Long Dream, My Dear Ancestors, The Lovesick Dead, Town Without Streets and my personal favorite Hanging Balloons.
What makes Ito’s work stand out so much is his unique, beautiful art style. He’s a master of the craft and a master of horror who’s created some of the best manga in the horror genre.
His stories are ripe with gruesome imagery, violence and gore. Body horror is a common theme in his work and people are distorted, twisted and changed into ghastly abominations. Yet, Ito’s horror truly shines in the reactions of his characters, their faces. We can see their wide eyes, their terrified expressions, their screaming, distorted faces are all rendered in fantastic detail.
Ito’s also a master of the page turn. He often ends a page with a character’s expression of sheer and utter terror, but only reveals the cause on the next page. It’s famous for these mini-cliffhangers.
Many of Ito’s stories feature people being driven mad, giving into their desires and obsessions or toying with things beyond their understanding.
What’s interesting about Ito’s characters is that they aren’t heroes. They are often mundane nobodies, going about their normal life before they stumble into horrific situations. Yet, Ito’s horror is seldom about monsters or killers. Most of his work features normal, mundane things like dreams, love, hair or even musical records who are turned into deadly enigmas.
Overall, I think Junji Ito’s one of the best, if not the best Japanese horror mangaka. If you are a fan of horror and want to experience the best manga in the horror genre, check out the works of Junji Ito.
14. Omoide Emanon
There are sometimes short little tales containing a glance of absolute brilliance. Omoide Emanon by Kenji Tsuruta is one such tale and one of the best manga of all time. It’s a short, but beautiful little tale based on the novel by Shinji Kajio.
It’s the story of a young man who’s returning home from his travels on a ferry. He encounters a beautiful young woman who introduces her as Emanon. The two of them talk and have dinner together.
During dinner, she tells him an unbelievable story about herself.
I don’t know what makes this manga so special. There’s the atmosphere. It’s a warm, solemn atmosphere that’s so prevalent in the entire tale. Maybe it’s the way our two protagonists meet, or the reason the young man returns home. It all fits together perfectly.
Omoide Emanon is beautifully illustrated, presenting us with realistic characters and paints a beautiful picture of a beautiful story. Especially Emanon stands out, she’s rendered in beautiful detail, is a very charismatic, yet somewhat ominous character. The author could capture her perfectly while painting a realistic image of her.
What makes Omoide Emanon one of the best manga out there are the emotions it packs into its short, single volume. It had more of an impact on me than many other, longer manga.
It’s merely a glimpse into the life of our two characters, nothing but a chance meeting.
However, at times, it’s the smallest of things that stay on our mind the longest, and if you read Omoide Emanon, it might become one of these things.
13. Onani Master Kurosawa
Onanie Master Kurosawa or Masturbation Master Kurosawa by Katsura Ise and Takuma Yokota is a manga that has no reason to be as good as it is with a title like that. Yet, I consider it one of the best manga I read.
I first learned of this manga’s existence on an image board, and from the title I thought I had it all figured out. This was going to be nothing but a big, perverted joke. Being intrigued by the weird title and what I heard about it, I read it. Before long I noticed that I’d been entirely wrong and Onanie Master Kurosawa was one of the greatest and most heartfelt stories I’d ever read.
Our protagonist is the fourteen-year-old Kakeru Kurosawa. He’s an anti-social loner with a peculiar habit. Each day, after school’s over, he locks himself into a seldom-used bathroom at school and masturbates.
One day, he witnesses two of the popular girls in class bullying the timid and mousy Aya Kitahara. While he’s usually not riled up over such matters, he takes retribution into his own hands, by doing what he does best.
Eventually, though, he’s confronted by Kitahara, who figured out that he’s the culprit behind. From then on, she blackmails him to do the same to her other bullies.
It’s the start of one of the strangest, yet most heartfelt coming-of-age stories.
While Onanie Master Kurosawa starts out as a more humorous tale, it gradually changes into a more serious one. It’s a sweet, inspiring story that tackles a variety of serious topics.
The art in Onanie Master Kurosawa isn’t the best, but it does a good job at showing the characters’ expressions with its sketchy style and careful shading. However, while there’s a lot of emphasis on characters, the backgrounds are often rather simple and uninspired.
The best part about this manga is without a doubt its protagonist. Kurosawa is one of the best-rounded, believable and likeable characters ever. It’s crazy, how a character who’s referred to as the Masturbation Master can be so great, but it’s true. It’s mostly attributed to his character development. He’s an entirely different person by the end of the manga.
The best thing about him, however, is how relatable he is and how intimate the reader gets to know about him, no pun intended. The manga doesn’t merely tell you what’s going on, or how he feels, but it makes you truly understand him. This intimacy between reader and protagonist elevates this to one of the best manga.
Yet, it’s not only Kurosawa who’s a well done character. Almost all the side-characters who play a bigger role are complex and realistic. While they don’t develop as much as our protagonist, they too change or we get to know more about them.
One thing that might be off-putting to some readers are the depictions of Kurosawa’s fantasies, which can be a bit disturbing, but I guess he’s just a teenager. What’s great, on the other hand, is that apart from these few scenes there’s no cheap fan service.
Overall, Onanie Master Kurosawa was one of the biggest surprises in manga. What I thought of as nothing but a perverted joke turned out to be one of the best manga ever. It’s all-around great and I urge anyone to check it out.
Biomega is another manga by Tsutomu Nihei and can be best described as a mixture of science-fiction, cyberpunk and zombie apocalypse, at least during the first half. And yes, this manga is as weird and crazy as it sounds. That’s why I love it so much and think it’s one of the best manga of all time.
Biomega tells the story of Zouichi Kanoe and his AI companion, Fuyu Kanoe, who’s integrated in his motorcycle. The story starts out when they are sent by Toha Heave Industries to retrieve a human that’s immune from the N5S virus, which is spreading rapidly across the world.
The virus changes all who’re infected by it into disfigured zombie-like beings known as drones.
From here on out, however, the story takes up steam, as more characters with different agencies are introduced, notably the DRF under leadership of Niardi.
Biomega is a manga in the typical fashion and style of Tsutomu Nihei. It’s set in a futuristic world with characters who aren’t truly human and lots of cyberpunk madness.
The art, as in other works of Nihei, is gorgeous. Biomega is raw and gritty, with wide-reaching and detailed backgrounds, crazy architecture and crazy cybernetic monstrosities. It’s this art alone that elevates Biomega to one of the best manga out there.
The creature and character design in Biomega is done fantastically. The drones are clearly biological entities, yet their lifelessness becomes clear at first sight. The many cybernetic monstrosities are rendered in stunning detail, and their transformations are incredibly well done.
The same is true for our protagonists, especially Zouichi and Nishu, who are absolute badasses. They themselves as well as their motorcycles and weapons have an incredible design. Biomega simply looks badass and cool.
What makes Biomega different from other works by Nihei is the sheer pacing of the manga, at least in the first half. The manga consists almost entirely of action, and some of it is insanely fast-paced. However, the action is still fluid, you still know what’s going on even if it’s almost a bit too over-the-top.
As typical for his works, dialogue is sparse. Biomega, like Blame!, is told via visuals. It’s almost impossible to make a division between the art and the story of Biomega. One doesn’t work without the other.
What I enjoyed the most and the reason I think Biomega is one of the best manga of all time is the sheer craziness and creativity.
However, the fast pacing and overall storyline are a double-edged sword. Things are going a bit too fast and the story gets out of hand in later parts of the manga. The second part is set in an entirely different setting, and the atmosphere of the story changes completely.
It’s this division that makes Biomega such a weird manga. While the first part reads more like a fast-paced apocalypse set in a cyberpunk world, the second half shifts more towers a cyberpunk-fantasy story.
The ending is strange too. While it brings the story to a close, it’s also so different from earlier parts that it feels like a different manga.
Overall, Biomega has its problems. The characters are somewhat shallow and the plot tries to fit too much into a manga of only six volumes.
The art and the action, however, easily make up for those weaknesses. While the story is weird and at times lackluster, it never deterred my enjoyment. No, I was stunned and consider Biomega one of the best manga out there.
I wholeheartedly recommend it to any fans of science-fiction and cyberpunk.
Smuggler is yet another manga by Manabe Shohei. It is much shorter than his two other works featured on this list, but it’s also my favorite manga of his.
Our protagonist Yosuke Kinute is a failed actor with a serious debt problem. To pay off his debt, he has to work as a smuggler and become part of a corpse disposal crew.
Of course, there’s trouble brewing when the crew gets involved in a mob war and two deadly Chinese assassins join the fold.
When Yosuke makes a serious mistake later in the manga, he’s a terrible price to pay for it.
Smuggler is absolutely amazing and one of the best manga out there in the thriller and crime genre. It also features its fair share of fantastic action.
The characters are great throughout the board. There’s of course Yosuke who’s the most relatable, and one of the few people in this entire cast who isn’t a madman.
The characters I came to like the most, however, were the assassins and the leader of the corpse disposal crew. They are all absolute badasses in their own right.
There’s even the occasional scene with subtle humor which helps to lighten the mood, but never ruins the overall feel of this being a serious story.
Smuggler can be best described as a story akin to that in movies by Tarantino or Guy Richie. It’s a crazy crime story that features over-the-top characters, but also has scenes that pack a heavy punch.
The art in this manga is detailed and well done, but once again, features Manabe Shohei’s personal style. Characters are rendered unique and even strangely, with distinct facial features that make them look more realistic, but also a bit ugly.
As unique and interesting as the art in this manga is, it’s not for everyone there’ll be some who dislike it.
Overall, I think Smuggler is a gem of a manga that not many people know about. However, it’s not only for that alone that I featured it in this list of the best manga of all time. It’s an amazing and disturbing crime story that’s fantastic throughout the board and features a couple of truly memorable characters and some amazing scenes.
Smuggler also inspired me to write my story Express Delivery Service, which I admit is more an adaption of Smuggler than an original story.
I highly recommend this manga to anyone.
10. The Climber
The Climber by Shinichi Sakamoto is a beautiful, beautiful manga.
I’m usually not a fan of sports manga as I mentioned before, so I was reluctant about starting this manga, but the Climber is one of the most beautiful and one of the best manga of all time.
It’s the story of Buntarou Mori, a lonesome and solitary teenager.
His interest in climbing starts when he’s coerced by a classmate to climb the school building. Without hesitation, he begins and makes it to the top. From here on out, his passion is woken, and he’s always searching for new peaks and new goals.
Mori’s transformation right at the beginning is interesting to see. The moment he gets introduced, he gives off the feeling of someone who doesn’t care about anything. Then, suddenly, after he climbed the school building, his entire expression changed. He looks like an entirely different person. And, honestly, one can imagine how he feels at that moment.
Over the course of the story Mori climbs more and more mountains and gets to know other characters, but he still appears as a loner most of the time.
What I came to love about The Climber was the portrayal of dedication and perseverance. If you push and work hard enough, anything is possible, it seems to say.
Another was the story. As much as this is a manga about climbing, it’s also a manga about character development. The Climber is hugely character-driven, and it shows us how Mori develops as a person. He’s got his own problems, he can relate to people, but as he overcomes more and more peaks he also slowly overcomes his personal problems. It’s incredibly well done.
I also enjoyed how the manga portrayed death. Mountain climbing is dangerous and people die. Yet, The Climber never dramatizes it, never presented it in an over-the-top emotional struggle. Instead death is haunting, depressing and natural.
The art in the Climber is some of the best I’ve seen in the entire medium. It’s absolutely breathtaking. There are double pages of beautiful mountains rendered in excruciating detail, with snow and weather masterfully added to them.
What I found most impressive and what clearly makes The Climber one of the best manga of all time, were the brief glimpses of poetic beauty. Mori is a quiet person, he doesn’t talk a lot and many panels are spent watching him climb. But the manga can speak through art, showing us Mori’s psychological struggles with visuals alone. It’s a thing of beauty.
The Climber goes even further though, by adding metaphors, allusions and employing literary passages from poems and quotes. It gives the manga this feeling of joy, of character that one’s not used to in the medium. Yet, it never feels pretentious. The Climber, more so than most other manga and many of the best manga out there, is a piece of art.
However, while The Climber is an outstanding manga, it still has problems.
The first is the change in tone early on. Originally the manga was created by two people, but then the writer left and Sakamoto Shinichi, the artist, decided to continue it on his own. From this point on, there’s a clear change in structure going from a sport manga to an atmospheric and visual character study.
While there are some characters who are well developed, this is the story of Mori Buntarou, so while other people appear and join into his life, the focus is always on him. Which might be daunting to some readers.
The last thing that might be a problem to some people is the frequent time skips. Some might only be a few days or weeks long, others will skip years. It can be a bit confusing or it can make you wonder what happened in the meantime. It did little to deter my enjoyment, though, since they were generally well handled.
The Climber is a manga I’d recommend to anyone. It’s simply a work of beauty, a coming-of-age story nestled in the guise of a mountain climbing one.
And that’s the core of The Climber. It’s not solely a manga about climbing, but a psychological, character-driven one. It can make for some heavy reading, but in the case of The Climber, it’s not a bad thing.
It’s truly one of the best manga of all time, and I urge anyone to read it.
How could a retelling of the life of Robert Johnson set in the American South ever work in a manga? Well, absolutely fantastic!
Me and the Devil Blues by Akira Hiramoto is one of the best manga ever created.
It’s the story of Robert Johnson, a dabbling blues musician who wishes nothing more than to play the blues. However, he’s no good at it. He learns of an urban legend that states that if you play alone at a crossroad at night; the devil comes to take your soul. In exchange, however, you will become a genius blues player.
Unsatisfied with his life, he tries just that one night and his life changes forever.
Me and the Devil Blues is praiseworthy in many ways. The first is definitely the outstanding art of the manga. It’s one of the most beautiful manga I’ve read and comes with a very personal style. It’s gritty, but it also has a lot of attention to detail.
The next is the portrayal of the South in the 1930s. It’s well done, presenting us with a deep-seated division between white and black. The depiction of blues clubs seems very realistic. Overall, the entire manga has a very realistic and western feel to it.
Another thing I came to love were the characters in this story. RJ is a great protagonist who’s more thrown into events than choosing things himself. Clyde Barrow is a fantastic addition to the cast and in my opinion the best character in the entire manga.
Other side characters, especially Stanley McDonald, are also extremely well done. There are no wasted or shallow characters in this entire manga.
What I loved the most though, and what made this one of the best manga I ever read, was the feeling of suspense that hung heavy over the entire work. Especially in later parts, you almost can’t catch your breath for chapters at a time. This suspense and tension will keep you on your toes all throughout the manga.
The one thing that was a bit confusing to me was the beginning of the story, and even after multiple re-reads, I’m still somewhat confused about what happened.
Overall, Me and the Devil Blues is a hidden gem of a manga. Because of its themes and its western feel, it’s entirely unique. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of work.
Me and the Devil Blues is one of the most unique and one of the best manga of all time and I urge anyone, regardless of taste, to read it.
8. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 7: Steel Ball Run
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki is one of the most popular manga right now, most likely because of its outstanding anime adaptions released in recent years.
It’s also one of the longest running manga series of all time spanning far over one-hundred volumes and is currently in its eight overall story arc.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure started out relatively normal, and its first part featuring the story of Jonathan Joestar was reminiscent of other manga of its time. The art and overall style can be compared to that of First of the North Star, another vastly popular manga of the time.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure truly started to shine with its third part, Stardust Crusaders. Not only because of the story, but because it introduced Jojo’s most important and unique element, Stands. Stands can be best described as a physical manifestation of a character’s life force taking on the form of an ethereal figure and who possess various superhuman powers.
I enjoyed almost all parts of Jojo’s Bizarre Aventure unanimously and consider the entire series as one of the best manga of all time. My favorite, however, is Part 7: Stellball Run.
It depicts a cross-country horse race across the entire United States with a grand prize of five million dollars starting in San Diego.
Our protagonist is Johnny Joestar, a crippled former horse racer who comes to watch the start of the race. There he encounters a man called Gyro Zeppeli, a racer with two steel balls at his waist. After a dual in which Gyor uses fantastical powers, Johnny touches one of Gyro’s steel balls and feels power surging through his legs, allowing him to stand up again. Wanting to learn the secret of the steel balls, Johnny decides to compete in the race.
Thus his bizarre adventure across America starts.
Stellball Run is the culmination of all that Hirohiko Araki has done before. It’s not farfetched to call it a masterpiece, and it’s without a doubt one of the best manga ever created.
The world of Stellball run is like the other parts of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, populated with some of the most amazing and unique characters in all of manga. Stands are once more a central concept, and Hirohiko Araki’s creativity shows by coming up with strange and creative powers.
Where Stellball Run stands out is not only in the battles but also in the entire scenario and the overall story. Battles in Jojo are often different from those in other manga. Stellball Run is no exception, and Hirohiko Araki comes up with utterly weird and creative adversaries and Stands.
What makes Stellball Run so unique even for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is the setting, the horse race. While our characters fight adversaries, and have to uncover an overall plot, they are still continuing on their way to win the Stellball Race. This makes the manga so much more interesting and creates multiple layers of tension and suspense.
The art in Stellball Run is absolutely perfect in all fields. The characters and Stands are rendered in Hirohiko Araki’s usual style, and battles are amazing to look at. However, Stellball Run is, overall, much more detailed than former parts.
The characters are throughout the board interesting and complex and offer interesting depictions of well-known characters from earlier parts in the series, notably Diego Brando.
Overall, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the best manga of all time, and, at least in my opinion, Part 7: Steel Ball Run is its best part. There’s nothing that stands out in terms of negativity. It’s just this good.
I’d recommend it to any manga fan, regardless of preferences and interests.
7. Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura is without a doubt one of the best manga of all time. Be it the art, the story or the characters, this manga is fantastic throughout the board.
It tells the story of Thorfinn Karlsefni, son of Thor, whose part of a mercenary group led by a man called Askeladd. As we find out in the story, it’s Askeladd who’s responsible for Thor’s death and Thorfinn joined his group to one day get revenge against Askeladd.
The story takes up steam when Askeladd learns that the Danish prince Canute has been taken hostage. He hatches a plan that will change their lives forever.
Vinland Saga is a historical manga set in the 11th century Europe focusing on vikings and viking culture. As you can guess, it’s brutal. We see vikings pillaging villages, rape, plunder, and murder. There’s no mercy.
While there are some liberties taken in terms of characters and stories, Vinland Saga feels, overall, realistic.
The art in Vinland Saga is absolutely fantastic and can rival the best manga of all time. It starts out great in the first volume and only improves further. By now, it’s one of the most beautiful manga out there and absolutely outstanding. 11th century Europe never looked that good. I love the realistic and detailed look of all the towns, cities and farmsteads we see throughout the manga. It all brings the story to life and makes it more believable.
One of the best parts of Vinland Saga are of course the battles. They are as brutal as you can imagine. They are blunt, gross and at times gratuitous, but most of all, they are brutal. Yet, the battles always feel real, never unrealistic. I guess it’s what you can expect from a story centered on war and conflict.
However, Vinland Saga isn’t just a story about brutal wars and battles. For long parts the manga tells a calm, gloomy and quiet story. It’s often those quieter parts hat I came to enjoy the most. Examples are Thorfinn and Einar working hard and becoming friends, or the preparations for a large expedition. It’s during those parts that the story truly shines. It might also be because it’s a clear contrast to the brutal battles so prevalent in the story.
All the characters in Vinland Saga are great and might honestly be the best part of an already fantastic work.
There’s our protagonist Thorfinn who starts off as a quiet, efficient killer, more an assassin than a true viking. We can feel just how burned out and dead he’s inside. He’s there, witnessing all those atrocities and ignores them, not seeing them and not caring about them. All he cares for is revenge.
However, as the story progresses, he receives tremendous character development, and becomes one of the most complex manga characters I’ve ever seen.
Askeladd might be one of the best manga characters ever, and I simply can’t find enough praise for him.
There are other side-characters later on who are all well-developed and complex in their own right, like Einar, Hild or even Sigurd.
The only character I have a bit of a problem with is Thorkell. He’s enjoyable, no doubt, and seems to be based on an actual legendary viking. Still, his over-the-top antics and the way he’s acting make him almost a comic relief character.
Overall, Vinland Saga is outstanding. It’s a story I came to love for both its brutal violence and the later, quieter arcs. It’s throughout the board a delight to read, even if there are some parts that are over-exaggerated. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue is a romanticized retelling of the life of Musashi Miyamoto, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. It’s one of the absolute best samurai manga and one of the best manga in general.
The story starts off with Shinmen Takezou, a wild, young man who wants to become a great swordsman. Together with his best friend Matahachi Honiden, he enlists as part of the Toyotomi army.
The two of them barely make it out alive. After returning home, he becomes a wanted criminal. After he’s captured, he’s strung up at a tree and left to die. Saved by a monk named Takuan Soho, he’s freed and given a new identity, that of Musashi Miyamoto.
From here on out he travels the land in pursuit of the sword with the goal of becoming ‘Invincible under the Heavens.’
Vagabond stands out from other manga in many ways.
The first is the art which is absolutely gorgeous and among the best the medium offers. Even among the best manga in terms of art, scarcely few can compare to Vagabond.
Another great thing are the stunning battles and since this is a samurai manga, there’s a lot of them. Many of them are brutal, gory, and even disturbing. Limbs, guts, and heads are sent flying in the heat of battle and it’s all rendered in stunning detail. However, this explicit content is never glamorized, but always presented in a matter-of-factly fashion.
Yet, there are also battles in Vagabond that aren’t so much about pure action, but comprises tension and suspense, about making the right move at the right time.
The art in Vagabond also comes to light in the character design. Every character in this manga is distinct from one another and they are all depicted detailed and realistically.
It’s those characters that add a lot to the enjoyment of Vagabond. It’s a delight to follow Musashi on his travels as he meets and defeats his various enemies. However, he’s not the only character we get to know. As much as Vagabond is the story of Musashi Myamoto, it’s also the story of Sasaki Koichiro, another great swordsman of the same era.
Still, it’s not merely the story of those two. There’s of course Matahachi, who comes up frequently and who’s out to make a name for himself as well, albeit in a less reputable fashion.
During Musashi’s and Koichiro’s travels we also get to know a plethora of characters who are mostly similarly complex and interesting.
What I really enjoyed was the introspection we got about each character. We get a glimpse into all of them, their emotions, desires, fears, but without painting them as good or bad. No, they are just people living by the sword.
I really enjoyed the storytelling in Vagabond. While we often follow Musashi, there’re long parts dedicated to Koichiro and others to Matahachi. This form of storytelling makes the manga more refreshing since we get to know every character’s unique path and learn more about them.
Another thing I enjoyed a lot was Musashi’s character development. He starts out as a brutal demon child who wants nothing more than to fight, but later becomes a calm man, questioning what it truly means to be invincible and wonder about the path he’s been following.
This coincides directly with the way he fights his battles. He turns from a reckless youth, to someone who learns how to pick his battles, to use finesse and his head to win, rather than relying on pure martial prowess. This turn from bloodthirsty and amoral, to an almost philosophical warrior and artist, is one of the most fascinating and engrossing developments in manga. It’s one of the many reasons I consider Vagabond among the best manga out there.
While Vagabond is great throughout the board, the story can drag on a bit. It’s especially noticeable in one of the later arcs.
Another problem is the spiritual and philosophical moments in the series. While I usually enjoyed them and found most of them insightful and beautiful, they can also come up as pretentious.
Overall, Vagabond is one of the greatest accomplishments in manga. The art is gorgeous, and it presents us with fantastic characters and some stunning character development.
This is a manga I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone, even those who might not be interesting in samurai culture or samurai manga. Vagabond is at the top of the entire medium and one of the best manga of all time.
5. Ultra Heaven
Ultra Heaven by Keiichi Koike is an absolutely stunning piece of work and the psychedelic manga I’ve ever read. It’s an entirely unique experience and unlike anything I’ve read before.
Ultra Heaven is set in a dystopian future in which all feelings can be artificially created by just the right drugs.
Our protagonist Kabu is a man who’s addicted to these drugs. He stumbles upon a man who reveals a new, illegal substance, called Ultra Heaven.
From here on out, Kabu, and the reader, are in for a trip. Ultra Heaven is one of the craziest, most creative manga I’ve ever read.
While dystopian societies are nothing new, I loved the idea of artificially created feelings via drugs. It’s a concept I’ve only ever seen in the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
What makes Ultra Heaven one of the absolute best manga I’ve ever read is the art. The locations are detailed, characters are realistic, and the setting is gritty and believable. Where Ultra Haven stands out though is during the trips and the hallucinations during meditation.
Panels in manga are usually rectangular and organized. Ultra Heaven breaks those conventions. When Kaub has a trip or suffers from another form of altered mind, the shape of those panels twists and distorts to accommodate the character’s mental state. We’re presented with sheer chaos, twisting spirals and panels running into one another. It gives you an almost surreal, disorienting feeling, but lends itself perfectly to what’s happening in the manga.
I’ve seen nothing like it, and I’m not sure there’s any other manga that can compare to Ultra Heaven’s sheer deconstruction of the medium’s visual rules.
Many themes come to play in Ultra Heaven. The most prevalent, however, is that of conciousness and the transcendence to different states of mind or being.
Drugs being one way to get there, but later in the manga, meditation is used in similar fashion.
There aren’t many important characters in Ultra Heaven. There’s Kabu, an addict and small-time dealer who’s trapped in his own world. His female friend is a perfect example of a neo-hippie who’s using new technology to reach a higher state of conciousness.
There are, however, some problems with Ultra Heaven. The first is the general plot. There really isn’t much of one to be found here. It’s almost a slice-of-life story about an addict.
The biggest problem, however, is that the manga was cut short or never finished. Yet, in the three chapters there are we’ve got so much going on, condensed and presented to us in a weird and confusing way. It’s not that it’s hard to understand what’s going on, it’s more that there’s so many things that come up without an explanation. Especially later on when the story’s set in the meditation center.
Those things, however, didn’t deter my enjoyment of the manga. After all, I feel that’s exactly what Keiichi Koike wanted it to be, a wild, uncontrolled ride down into the depth of one’s conciousness.
Ultra Heaven is a creative and visual masterpiece and one of the best manga of all time that unfortunately few people know about. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in weird visuals, drug culture, or generally more surreal and weird manga.
Uzumaki is the most famous work of Japanese horror mangaka Junji Ito, an absolute horror masterpiece and one of the best manga of all time.
Manga can be a strange medium. There are many bizarre and disturbing tales out there, but few are as unique as Junji Ito’s Uzumaki.
Uzumaki is a three volume epic that tells the story of Shuuichi Saitou and Kirie Goshima and what happened to the town of Kurouzu-cho who’s infested by spirals.
In the story’s course they stumble upon one freakishly scary incident after another, all involving spirals.
The very first story details Shuuichi’s father’s descent into madness as his obsession with spirals grows more and more out of control until it comes to a terrifying conclusion in one of Uzumaki’s most popular pages.
What makes Uzumaki so great is not the story, it’s the art and creativity behind it.
Junji Ito’s imagination is incredible and disturbing. The townspeople of Kurouzu-cho are twisted, warped and changed until they represent the spiral in various ways, always with dire results.
Ito’s art is always great, but in Uzumaki he’s at the top of his game. His unique style, with its simple, yet clean black-and-white drawings, brings forth his strange and dark imagination with all its minute details.
Ito isn’t shy to present us the terrible results of the spiral’s curse. Blood, gore and twisted bodies are everywhere in this manga.
Uzumaki also comes with Junji Ito’s very unique character design. People often look gloomy and their facial features are over-exaggerated when they experience true terror or are changed in strange and grotesque ways. It helps to set the mood for the entire manga.
What makes Uzumaki stand out so much from other horror manga and makes it one of the best manga out there is its premise. There’re no monsters, no killers, no feasible antagonist. There’s nothing our protagonists can fight, nothing to run from. The only thing there is, is a concept that lingers over the town of Kurouzu-cho in the form of an omnipresent curse.
Uzumaki is mostly told in episodic fashion. The first two volumes are more akin to an anthology of strange, spiral-related incidents happening in Kurouzu-cho, all witnessed by the same characters.
We encounter hair, snails, someone twisting their body to resemble a spiral or doomed lovers. Yet each one of these incidents is unique and terrifying in their own right.
It’s only in its third, and ultimately weakest volume that Ito brings the entire story together and drives the narrative to a conclusion as the true Lovecraftian nature of the curse is revealed.
There are of course a few problems with Uzumaki. The first and biggest problem lies in Uzumaki’s protagonist. Kirie is less character and more vessel to give us insight into the surreal hell that Kurouzu-cho becomes. Thus, her actions and her continued presence in the town can appear strange.
Another problem can be the episodic fashion of the story. We often get to know new characters, but most of them will be gone by the end of the chapter. It makes it hard for the reader to get emotionally invested in them and might ultimately dampen the impact of their fate.
Lastly, the last volume is weaker than the rest. I often feel that horror, especially Junji Ito’s blend of horror, is best left unexplained, to be witnessed, not understood. In Uzumaki, Ito gives us an explanation, an ending, and while it’s satisfactory in its own right, it ultimately weakens the manga a bit.
Overall though, Uzumaki is a manga that I’d recommend to any horror fan out there. I think it’s one of the greatest accomplishments in manga and one of the best manga of all time, be it horror or not. Junji Ito’s way of storytelling isn’t for everyone, but his art and creativity are outstanding. For that alone, Uzumaki is worth reading.
Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei is without a doubt one of the best manga of all time and one of my absolute favorites.
It can be best described as a science-fiction, cyberpunk epic.
Blame! follows the character of Killy as he travels The City on his mission to find a human with net Terminal Genes. Such a person could access the so-called Netsphere, a computerized control network. This would allow them to end the chaotic growth of the city and stop the Safeguard from exterminating what remains of humanity.
The most amazing things about Blame! are the art and the world building.
The city is a labyrinth of concrete and steel of gigantic proportions. It’s a technological and architectural wasteland, made up of mega-structures of mind-boggling proportions. This size is showcased in many wide, distant shots in which Killy is barely visible amongst a backdrop of epic proportions. The city is vast and endless and Tsutomu Nihei showcases it in his many huge panels and page spreads. It gives off an overwhelming feeling of being lost and disoriented. Yet, our protagonist Killy travels on undeterred.
Yet, it’s not only the world that stands out but also the creatures populating it. Blame!’s world is populated by cyborgs, the Safeguard, the Builders and various other technological and cybernetic horrors, all unique and terrifying in their own right. The art and detail used to render those beings is absolutely outstanding. Sometimes I couldn’t help but stare at some of them for a while before reading on because I was so impressed by them.
Blame!’s art is among the best, if not the best I’ve ever seen. This art alone, with its mindboggling proportions and all its horrific creatures, makes Blame! one of the best manga of all time.
Blame! is a manga packed with action which is showcased in stunning detail, often featuring enormous explosions, but also intimate battles.
While Blame! features a lot of action, it contrasts it with the aforementioned calmer shots of Killy’s travels against the backdrop of the city.
Blame!’s storytelling differs from many other manga. There’s rarely any dialogue, rarely any semblance of a typical plot. Instead Blame!, as other manga by Tsutomu Nihei, uses his visuals to tell most of the story.
Blame!’s story is divided into several arcs, all held together by Killy’s overarching quest for a human with Net Terminal Genes. Yet, each of those arcs can stand on their own and feature interesting characters and antagonists.
Since the story is mostly told via visuals, Killy’s character lacks compared to other protagonists. He’s mostly quiet, steadily traveling through the city before he meets up with Cibo, our second protagonist.
Yet, there’s more to both of them and in the manga’s course we learn more about them, but it’s not much in terms of character development. Instead, it gives us a few more details about them and who they are.
Blame! of course isn’t free of problems. The action can be overwhelming. Killy’s Gravitational Beam Emitter is a weapon that causes mass destruction and giant explosions, which often causes battles to descend into chaos.
Another thing is Blame!’s story. Early on, the story focuses more on individual arcs, featuring various pockets of humanity. It’s only in its last part the story focuses on Killy’s quest. It’s here that the story gets confusing and we’re left with not so much a clear ending, but another mystery to add to an already huge list.
Even though Blame! can be lacking in the story department, it’s worth a read alone for the outstanding art and the world it’s set in. It’s an absolute visual masterpiece, and for that alone it deserves to be named as one of the best manga of all time.
There are very few manga who can compare to Blame! in terms of art and the unique world it depicts. This makes it a delight for fans of science-fiction, technological horror and cyberpunk.
I highly recommend anyone to give this manga a try.
Berserk by Kentaro Miura is probably the single best manga of all time. It’s not just in terms of art, or story, but Berserk’s themes and narrative that make it standout among a plethora of others. It’s a dark fantasy manga with lots of action, gore, incredible monster design, but also two of the most complex characters in manga history.
Berserk is the story of Guts, the so-called ‘Black Swordsman’ on a quest for revenge against demonic beings known as apostles and an ominous man known as Griffith.
At first glance, Berserk might appear to be a simple story. Our main character Guts is a man with a sword as tall as he is who fights his way through giant monsters and humans alike.
This might be true for the very first arc, the Black Swordsman arc, but soon we find out how much more there is to Guts and just what a complex and nuanced character he is.
It’s during the Golden Age arc we learn more about Guts, his backstory, and his connection to Griffith. Both Guts and Griffith are incredibly complex and unique characters, vastly different from one another, yet drawn to each other. The manga does a fantastic job exploring their relationship, testing and ultimately severing it.
I also love the dualism of their character, their symbolic representation, and how they appear to other people. It’s interesting to see that our protagonist Guts is shown mostly in black and titled the Black Swordsman, while the antagonist Griffith is always shown in white, appearing angelic and presented to us as a savior.
These two characters and their relationship alone elevates Berserk above most manga and is already enough to make it one of the best manga of all time.
The story of Berserk evolves and becomes more complex the longer we read on. What starts off as a simple revenge story becomes very personal as we experience the Golden Age. Later on, the story’s scope expands vastly, including foreign invasions, Christian fanaticism, and magical creatures and powers.
The world of Berserk, however, is a dark place, much darker than what we’re used to. It’s a world full of war and atrocities and Kentaro Miura isn’t shy presenting it to us in all its details. We don’t just witness wards and battles, we also witness murder, rape, torture and senseless slaughter.
However, the violence in gore is always greatest when Guts is involved. We can see him cut through anything it its path, be it monsters, humans or knights in full armor. We see guts flying, people being dismembered and decapitated or torn to pieces.
While Berserk shines in terms of character and story, its greatest part is without a doubt the art. Berserk almost transcends the medium, especially in later parts. It’s less a manga and more a piece of art. There are few manga that can compare to Berserk when Miura is at the top of his game. If you look at the art in Berserk, you can find more details in a single page or even panel than in an entire chapter of a different manga. That’s how outstanding and detailed the art is. For this alone, for its art, Berserk is nothing short than one of the best manga ever written.
My favorite part of Berserk is the monster design. The apostles in Berserk are absolutely gorgeous to look at and very unique. They are both beautiful, but also grotesque, disgusting, yet terrifying.
The one and only, but ultimately biggest problem with Berserk is the slow release time. Throughout the years, as the art in Berserk improved, the manga’s release also slowed down massively. In its earlier years, Berserk was released at a steady rate of two volumes per year. In recent years, though, we barely get a handful of chapters per year, if that. It’s a shame, really. Considering that the story of Berserk isn’t done by a long shot, one wonders if Kentaro Miura will ever finish the manga.
Another slight problem is the quality of the first arc. If we compare it to later parts of Berserk, it doesn’t hold up. It’s almost clichéd. We follow our anti-hero Guts, who’s almost a villain in its own right as he takes down apostles who are almost comically evil.
Yet, this only serves to elevate the Golden Arc age, which too many is one of the greatest arcs in manga history and ends with one of the most disturbing finals I’ve ever witnessed.
Overall, Berserk is nothing short of art. As dark as the manga can get, the story is masterfully told. And when Berserk is at its best, few manga can compare.
At first glance it might not appear the masterpiece it truly is, but if you read on, you will soon be blown away by how good it is.
I really can’t recommend Berserk enough, and it’s for this reason that I consider it as probably the best manga ever written. Anyone interested in dark fantasy, horror or manga in general should check out Berserk. It’s at the peak of the genre and as good as it gets.
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura is my favorite manga and also one of the best manga of all time.
It’s an action packed battle manga that comes in the guise of a samurai manga, but it rarely explores themes such as honor or samurai code.
Blade of the Immortal tells the story of Manji, an infamous swordsman know as the ‘Hundred Men Killer.’ As punishment for his deeds, the eight-hundred-year-old nun Yaobikuni placed bloodworms in his body, rendering him immortal and making him capable of healing almost any wound.
To atone for his crimes, Manji resolves to kill one thousand evil men. Soon after his promise, Manji meets Rin Asano, a sixteen-year-old girl who asks Manji for help in revenge against the man who killed her parents.
That man is Kagehisa Anotsu, the leader of the Itto-Ryu sword school.
From here on out, Manji and Rin travel the land in search for the members of the Itto-Ryu and Anotsu.
The premise of the story is quite simple, but the plot gets more complex over time as new factions are introduced.
What makes Blade of the Immortal one of the best manga of all time is without a doubt the characters. There are of course our protagonists Manji and Rin. Both go through a significant amount of character development, and Manji is an absolute badass. However, Blade of the Immortal features a plethora of amazing characters. There’s Anotsu Kagehisha who’s one of the most interesting characters in the entire manga. Other fantastic characters include Taito Magatsu, Maki Otono-Tachibana, but also Shira. Many of the side characters in Blade of the Immortal receive the same amount of character development as we get to know more about them, learn more about their motifs and background. At times, I found myself more interested in side-characters than our protagonists. That’s how amazing the characters in this manga are.
The biggest testament to this is that there’s no clear division between whose good and whose evil. Each character has their own circumstances, ideals, goals and reasons to fight. It’s simply the fact that we follow Manji and Rin and their side of the story that makes Kagehisa Anotsu the antagonist.
Yet there’s one clear exception. There’s one character in Blade of the Immortal who’s one of the craziest antagonists I’ve ever seen in manga. Anyone who’s read the manga most likely knows who I’m talking about. For those who haven’t you’re in for a treat, a disturbing and insane one.
Another great point about Blade of the Immortal are the female characters. In many manga female characters are often relegated to the role of love interests or damsels in distress. Blade of the Immortal is, mostly, an exception to the rule. There are many female warriors in this series who are absolute badasses in their own right, especially Makie Otono-Tachibana and Hyakurin.
Overall, if one thing can be said about the characters, it’s that they are all badass and look damn cool. Hell, there are side characters who are only in for a handful of chapters whose backstory is more intense than your usual protagonist’s. That’s how good Blade of the Immortal is.
Now I want to have a few words about the setting. While Blade of the Immortal is a manga about samurai, ronin, and sword fighting, it’s not your typical samurai manga. As opposed to other samurai manga, Blade of the Immortal doesn’t ponder the samurai code, honor, or spend time on philosophical questions. Instead, it’s a raw, gritty and brutal revenge story.
While the story is set in the Edo period of Japan, against a historical backdrop, characters seldom speak in Samurai lingo. Especially Manji and the Itto-Ryu cuss, curse and insult one another in the way contemporary street punks or gangsters would.
The second big point that makes Blade of the Immortal one of the best manga of all time, is the outstanding art. Blade of the Immortal features some of the best art I’ve ever seen. The style is gritty and sketchy, but very detailed, and the characters all look great and unique throughout the board and absolutely badass.
The background and the world are fantastically drawn and show us a detailed view of traditional Japanese towns, cities and landscape.
Since this is a battle manga, I have to talk about the fights in this manga. They are probably some of the best I’ve ever seen. Fights are brutal. People get torn to pieces, blood and guts are flying. However, the violence is never just there for violence’s sake, with maybe the exception of one character. It’s always there to showcase the brutal nature of sword fights and fights in this manga.
However, the greatest thing about the battles is that they are never confusing. The flow of the action is easy to follow, and you’ll always understand what’s going on. This doesn’t mean that fights are simple. On the contrary, Blade of the Immortal showcases some of the best and most intense battles ever seen.
Now one might think that Manji’s immortality lowers the stakes in battles, but this is seldom in the case. One can’t argue that Manji has an advantage, but it never serves to make the fights easy. Manji often has to fight with all he got to even have a chance of making it out alive.
Blade of the Immortal is an outstanding manga, one of the best manga the entire medium offers.
The only problem some people might have with it is the pacing. The beginning of the manga is arguably its weakest point, and it takes a good thirty chapters before the main story really gets going. From then on, it’s an almost flawless ride throughout till the end. There’s one arc, however, that’s unrelated to the main story and drags on a bit too much. However, that’s nothing but a minor complaint against an outstanding work.
Overall, there’s nothing more to be said about Blade of the Immortal. It’s one of the best manga out there and one that will keep you reading until the very end. Blade of the Immortal stands out in terms of characters, as well as character developments and fights. It’s completely amazing. That’s the reason I decided to put Blade of the Immortal at the top of this list.
Anyone interested in manga should check this masterpiece out.