As a writer, I’ve always read novels, even at a young age. Another medium that was always close to my heart was manga, especially the seinen genre. While I also enjoy shonen manga, as you can see from my list of the best shonen manga, I usually prefer the seinen genre. I love stories that are more mature and convey deeper themes. That’s why I decided to share my list of the best seinen manga with you.
This is, of course, a personal list, so some popular or acclaimed titles might not be part of it. I also like to give a spoiler warning. While I’m not trying to give major plot points away in my review, it might be unavoidable.
But now, here’s my list of the 48 best seinen manga anyone should read.
Table of Contents
- 48. Dead End
- 47. Usogui
- 46. Ikigami
- 45. MPD Psycho
- 44. Soil
- 43. Oyasumi Punpun
- 42. Battle Royale
- 41. Pluto
- 40. Holyland
- 39. Dragon Head
- 38. Chi no Wadachi
- 37. Ouroboros
- 36. Sanctuary
- 35. Tokyo Ghoul
- 34. One Punch Man
- 33. 20th Century Boys
- 32. Hotel
- 31. Battle Angel Alita
- 30. Made in Abyss
- 29. Jagaaaaaan
- 28. Fuan no Tane
- 27. Knights of Sidonia
- 26. Akira
- 25. Dorohedoro
- 24. Shigurui
- 23. Lone Wolf and Cub
- 22. Ichi the Killer
- 21. Kingdom
- 20. Yamikin Ushijima-kun
- 19. Gantz
- 18. Liar Game
- 17. Bokutachi ga Yarimashita
- 16. Homunculus
- 15. Freesia
- 14. Junji Ito Collection
- 13. Omoide Emanon
- 12. Onani Master Kurosawa
- 11. Biomega
- 10. Smuggler
- 9. The Climber
- 8. Me and the Devil Blues
- 7. Vinland Saga
- 6. Vagabond
- 5. Ultra Heaven
- 4. Uzumaki
- 3. Blame!
- 2. Berserk
- 1. Blade of the Immortal
48. Dead End
Manabe Shohei is one of my favorite mangaka of all time. Dead End is one of his weirder manga, but one I thoroughly enjoyed and consider one of the best seinen manga.
Our protagonist is a man named Shirou who works as a construction worker. His life changes when a naked girl named Lucy falls into his life. After introducing her to his friends, he leaves the apartment only to come back to find Lucy gone and his friends slaughtered.
In the center of the carnage stands a mysterious man who saves Shirou from an explosion. He urges him to flee into the sewage system where Shirou meets another strange.
From this point onward Shirou gathers a rag-tag group of weird characters he supposedly knows from his past to figure out what’s going on.
While this premise already sounds strange, things only get weirder as the manga continues.
Dead End starts out realistic, more like a thriller, but over time it introduces more fantastical elements. It’s those elements that make the manga such a surreal and weird experience.
The reason I enjoyed Dead End so much was in large parts because of the characters. They are all absolute badasses.
Manabe Shohei’s works feature a very special art type. It’s unique and takes some time to get into. The backgrounds and surroundings are rendered in gritty detail. Yet it’s the characters that stand out the most. They are more realistic than other manga characters, but their unique design also makes them uglier than usual manga characters. This, however, is one reason I consider Manabe Shohei’s works so unique.
Dead End is a weird and surreal manga, one worthy to start this list of the best seinen manga with. If you’re looking for a raw, gritty and surreal thriller, you should definitely give this one a try.
Usogui by Toshio Sako is a manga about mind games and gambling and one of the best seinen manga of all time.
It’s the story of Baku Madarame who’s known as the Usogui, the Lie Eater and the many deadly gambles he takes part in.
Those games are watched over by the referees of Kagerou, a powerful organization which makes sure that all games are carried out satisfactorily and all best are paid.
Usogui gets crazy right from the start. After a brief introduction to our protagonist, we enter our very first death game. From here on out, things only get crazier.
The reason Usogui is such a fantastic manga is the games. They can be complex, but are never impossible to understand. A lot of times it’s not even the games itself the manga focuses on, but the many psychological tricks and ploys the characters employ to win them.
I also truly enjoyed the characters. Our protagonist Baku is the type who never shies away from a death game and who isn’t scared to confront overwhelming odds. Kaji starts out as a normal guy, and more a stand-in for the reader. Over the course of the manga, however, he grows as a person and eventually becomes a talented gambler himself.
The art might be a bit of a let-down, at least early on. It starts out rather simplistic and doesn’t stand out much. The longer the manga goes on, however, the better the art becomes and in later parts it’s downright fantastic.
Usogui is also one of the longest series on this list. The manga comprises a multitude of arcs, spanning over 500 chapters in total. However, it’s worthwhile reading it.
I had a lot of fun reading Usogui and I think it’s one of the best gambling and mind game manga out there. While so of the scenarios and games depicted are unconventional and extreme, I still enjoyed the suspense and tension. Usogui is one of the best seinen manga and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in gambling and mind games, especially the extreme kind.
Motor Mase’s Ikigami is set in a dystopian future. Under a strange law, the National Welfare Act, certain citizens between the age of eighteen and twenty-four are selected to die for their country.
Twenty-four hours before they die, they receive an Ikigami, a notification informing them of their fate.
These Ikigamis are delivered by government messengers, like our protagonist, Kengo Fujimoto.
Ikigami’s story is told in episodic fashion, showing us how different people react to the terrible news of their impending death and how they spend their last days. While some accept, others throw themselves into despair.
The manga also focuses on Kengo, who slowly develops his own doubts of the National Welfare Act.
Ikigami’s premise is as interesting as it is terrifying, making it one of the most thought-provoking and best seinen manga out there. It’s interesting to witness these different scenarios and people presented to us. Some storylines are heartfelt and beautiful while others are poetically tragic.
It’s those different episodes that make Ikigami so good and made me add it to this list of the best seinen manga.
The biggest problem with a manga such as Ikigami are the characters. While some are well done, and we can truly feel for them, they are never around for long.
Ikigami’s art is serviceable and does what it needs to do, but it’s rarely more than average. Some pivotal moments, however, are rendered in beautiful detail and.
I enjoyed Ikigami a lot and I think it’s worth reading for almost everyone out there. While it’s a more episodic manga, it’s also a deep and thought-provoking one. I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d spent my last day.
45. MPD Psycho
I first read Eiji Otsuka and Shouu Tajima’s MPD Psycho a few years ago. Back then, the manga was relatively new with only, but it still stayed on my mind.
A year ago I revisited it and enjoyed it even more. By now I consider it one of the best seinen manga out there.
MPD Psycho isn’t for everyone though. It’s a complex and confusing psychological manga with a lot of scenes of shocking violence.
It’s the story of Kazuhiko Amamiya, a man suffering from multiple personality disorder. He works as a detective and solves multiple violent crime cases and sick murders.
The result is presented to us in all their twisted and sick glory. That’s why this manga is not for the faint of hard, and goes almost too far.
MPD Psycho’s art is clean and very detailed and features some of the most realistic character design I’ve ever seen.
What I’ve mentioned so far might make the manga sound like a slaughter fest, but it’s far from it. It’s a highly psychological manga that develops over time as a complex plot related to Amamiya’s post is revealed.
Yet, the more complex the manga becomes, the more confusing it grows. This is in part caused by the mystery of the plot, but also by Amamiya’s different personalities. It is tough to keep up with them and what they seem to aim for.
And here we come to the biggest problem with this manga, the personality shifts. At times, it’s hard to understand what’s going on or which personality is in charge.
Another problem is the aforementioned copious violence which might be off-putting to some readers. We can see bodies that have been dismembered, cut apart or heavily tortured.
MPD Psycho is a twisted and dark manga with deep psychological themes and a complex plot. If you like thriller manga and if you like dark, twisted stories, I highly recommend it to you.
When I first read Soil by Atsushi Kaneko, I didn’t know what I’d just read. And yet, I enjoyed the manga immensely and consider it one of the best seinen manga out there.
Soil differs from anything else I read. It’s weird, probably the weirdest manga on this entire list.
The manga’s set in Soil New Town and details what happens when a family vanishes without a trace. Yokoi and Onoda, two detectives, are tasked with uncovering what happened. What seems like a routine case quickly gets out of hand as more details about the town and the missing family are revealed.
Soil’s art is very different and takes some getting used to. At first it might appear simplistic, amateurish even, but if one’s willing to read one, one realizes that it’s a very deliberate and unique style. This art shines the most when it showcases the bizarre events happening in Soil New Town. The more surreal the town becomes, so does the art.
The characters in Soil are realistic, complex and all stand out from one another. You won’t find any clichéd characters here. Instead, most of them act like realistic people and are heavily flawed. However, those flaws can be a bit overdrawn, especially in the character of Yokoi.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Atsushi Kaneko created those eccentric characters to add to the overall odd atmosphere so prevalent in the manga.
Soil is a manga that is filled to the brim with weird things. One has to be impressed. It makes it different and refreshing and an entirely surreal and unique experience.
This, however, is also one of the biggest problems with the manga. Soil, especially in the latter half, feels more like an exercise in weirdness than a coherent story. Atsushi Kaneko adds more and more weird elements, making it almost impossible to understand what’s going on anymore.
This is most prevalent in the ending. It isn’t so much an ending as it is another question. I found some interpretations on the internet, but most of them are nothing but mere guesses.
While I think Soil is flawed from a storytelling point of view, I can’t help but recommend it to everyone. It’s one of the most surreal and weird experiences I ever had in manga.
If you’re looking for a manga that’s different, and you enjoy surreal imagery, read Soil, it’s one of the best seinen manga in that regard.
43. Oyasumi Punpun
It took me a while to decide if I’d include Inio Asano’s Oyasumi Punpun in this list. The more I thought about it, however, the more I had to admit that it’s one of the best seinen manga of all time.
If you’re familiar with Inio Asano’s work you can already tell that this won’t be your everyday manga. No, his works are famous for being depressing.
Our protagonist, Punpun Onodera, is a normal eleven-year-old boy. His life is fine, but that soon changes. First Punpun meets Aiko, the new girl in glass and quickly comes to learn how fickle relationships can be. Over the course of the manga we learn more about Punpun, about his family and friends and watch as this shy little boy turns down a dark path.
Oyasumi Punpun is a depressing manga. Punpun’s life is filled with romantic problems, family issues, alcohol as well as depression and anxiety. It’s one of the best manga I ever read, but it’s far from an easy read. There many raw, gritty details that showcase how even the smallest of things can influence us. That’s what makes Punpun so relatable. Each one of us has experienced his share of misery, and each one of his can, on some level, relate to Punpun.
Over the course of the manga, we get multiple glimpses into Punpun’s life. At first as a little boy, then as a high school student and ultimately a young adult.
Punpun’s art comes with Inio Asano’s unique style. It’s a beautiful manga, drawn more realistically, but also grittier and gloomier. This style adds a lot to the overall, depressing atmosphere of the manga.
The most interesting thing about the manga is that Punpun and his family aren’t drawn as people. Instead, they are drawn as comical, bird-like beings. At first, this confused me, almost made me drop the manga, but I soon realized why this was the case. It was an obvious choice by Inio Asano to better convey Punpun’s emotions and reactions and to make him stand out more amongst the realistic setting.
While Punpun is a major manga, featuring its fair share of nudity, there’s never any fan service. The only reason for nudity and sex is to make us uncomfortable.
There are a lot of characters in Punpun and many of them are damaged. The manga isn’t trying to present us with likeable, good-hearted characters, but with real people. No one is perfect and no one would be an ideal protagonist, and it’s the same with Oyasumi Punpun’s characters.
I enjoyed the earlier parts of Punpun the most. It was the innocence so prevalent during those parts, but also the feeling, the knowledge that it would all go downhill. Later on, especially during the last arc, the story felt almost too dramatic. Before, the story always felt real, was always relatable, but during the last arc, things spiraled out of control far too much. It’s for that reason I consider the last arc of the manga its weakest.
Another problem was the story’s deviation in later arcs and the focus on side-characters. I think Punpun’s friends are interesting characters, but the time spent with them almost felt like filler.
Punpun can also feel pretentious and self-indulgent. While I don’t mind a mangaka discussing deeper themes and conveying his own reasoning, it fell flat at times and seemed to be there only for the sake of being there.
And yet, Oyasumi Punpun is a fantastic manga and one of the best seinen manga of all time. It’s deeper and more depressing than most other works I’ve read, but also much more realistic.
If you want to read a story, that will make you uncomfortable and depressed, Punpun is exactly that. However, it’s not merely misery porn, it’s a thought-provoking read, one that shows how easy it is to fall into darkness.
42. Battle Royale
Battle Royale is one of my all-time favorite movies. When I learned there was a manga adaption, I had to check it out. It’s not without flaws, but I still consider it one of the most disturbing and best seinen manga of all time.
The manga adaption by Masayuki Taguchi and Koushun Takami is, of course, a retelling of the original novel. However, it spends much more time on the individual characters, exploring their backstory and adding details here and there. The manga also alters the source material occasionally to make things more dramatic.
The story of Battle Royale is simple. Each year a class is selected for the titular program and the students have to kill themselves until only one remains.
When his class is chosen for the program, our protagonist Shuuya Nanahara makes it his goal to get off the island without taking part in the game.
Battle Royale features one of the most disturbing settings of all time. Forcing students, even friends, to kill each other to survive is sick, and the manga doesn’t sugarcoat things either. Instead, it focuses on showing us how different people would react to a situation such as this. While some give into despair, others set out to win at all costs.
What I enjoyed the most about the manga was the many additional details we learned about each character. However, the manga also overdramatized a lot of the events. In typical manga fashion, fights are over-the-top and often last entire chapters.
Battle Royale’s art does a great job in showing us the gruesome reality of the situation and doesn’t shy away from depicting gore in glorious detail. However, sometimes it feels a bit too copious, similarly to the sexual themes depicted. The art, however, is always good.
Still, Battle Royale has its share of problems.
The biggest one lies in the design of the characters. It’s frankly said, extremely unrealistic. While the students are supposed to all be of the same age, around fifteen, some of them look like they are no older than ten, while Kawada looks like a man in his thirties.
The formulaic approach to tell the story is also a problem. The manga follows a simple concept. It introduces a character, shows us his or her backstory before they are, ultimately, killed off. It gets old quickly.
The last thing is the aforementioned over-dramatization. The movie and the novel aim to make things realistic and confrontations rarely last more than an instant. In the manga, however, things often get out of hand and we witness characters fighting on after being shot, or even disemboweled. It goes a bit too far.
This doesn’t mean that Battle Royale is a bad manga, it’s just realistic. This, however, didn’t deter my enjoyment. No, I still consider it one of the best seinen manga out there.
If you’re a fan of the movie Battle Royale and want to dive deeper, I highly recommend this manga. The same is true if you’re a fan of death games or manga featuring kill or be killed situations.
Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto is a retelling of one of the most popular classical manga of all time, Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka.
I never read Astro Boy and when I started reading Pluto I didn’t know, the manga was inspired by it. It made reading it quite a different experience.
The manga begins when one of the seven most advanced robots in the world, Montblanc, gets murdered.
Gesicht, another one of the seven most advanced robots working as a detective for Europol is sent to investigate. Before long he uncovers evidence of a plot to destroy all the world’s most powerful robots related to a mysterious entity known as Pluto.
When Gesicht realizes that the murder couldn’t have been committed by a human, the story soon gets more interesting.
Naoki Urasawa is most famous for his manga 20th Century Boys and Monster, but Pluto is another fantastic manga by him. It’s a great mystery manga and clearly one of the best seinen manga out there. The story follows Gesicht as he uncovers a world-wide-plot.
At Pluto’s center, is the relationship between robots and humans. This is especially important because Gesicht himself is a robot.
Even though, the boundaries between humans and robots have become more and more fleeting, we witness many examples of anti-robot hate. It shows that not all is well in the futuristic world of Pluto.
Pluto’s impressive plot is one reason I considered it one of the best seinen manga. Many times the gripping mystery kept me guessing what was going on and I couldn’t help but read on.
Once again Naoki Urasawa reveals his mastery of storytelling and plot development. Many manga use new characters and events to move a plot forward. Not so Naoki Urasawa. Plot is a more intimate story, much more reliant on dialogue and interaction between characters.
Gesicht himself is a very complex character. Even though he’s a robot, he’s still haunted by his own demons.
The biggest problem with Pluto is one I’ve also encountered in his other works, namely that the story reaches its peak during the middle of the manga. It’s unfortunate, but the later volumes feel a bit lacking compared to the earlier ones.
Now don’t get me wrong, Pluto is still an amazing mystery manga and one of the best science-fiction manga out there. It’s set in a fantastic, futuristic world and features an intriguing mystery. If you’re a fan of mystery manga or the other works of Naoki Urasawa, I urge you to read Pluto.
I discovered Holyland by Kouji Mori by accident, but I soon realized it was one of the best martial arts manga out there.
Yuu Kamishiro doesn’t seem to fit in with society. He’s being abused and bullied by his peers. Out of desperation, he trains a single boxing punch.
Eventually, he ventures out into the streets to find his very own Holyland. It’s here that he fights street thugs and builds a reputation for himself.
He soon learns that his new name, that of the ‘thug hunter’, draws the attention of quite a few people.
Holyland is a manga that’s entirely realistic and doesn’t rely on superpowers or unrealistic attacks.
What makes Holyland such a fantastic manga are the characters and the way the story is told by them. From the moment you start reading the manga you can feel how lost Yuu is and how desperately he wants to find a place for himself.
At its core, Holyland is a coming of age story. Yet, it’s not a one man story. Yuu makes friends, but also enemies and many of them are as carefully developed as Yuu himself. The most notable examples are the characters of Masaki Izawa and Shougo Midorikawa. They too have their reasons for being out in the streets and they too are shunned by normal society.
Holyland isn’t without his faults. A lot of times, fight scenes are interrupted by explanations about the techniques employed. This often stops the flow of battles and makes it harder for them to be enjoyed.
Another problem is that Holyland is entirely character-driven. It focuses more on character development than plot. Since Holyland is a manga about street fights and action, things soon become repetitive.
It didn’t change my opinion of the manga much however and I still consider it one of the best seinen manga of all time.
When you start reading Holyland you quickly notice that the art, while unique, is also old-fashioned. It’s the type of style that takes a while to get used to, but it soon develops its own charm. This art stands out especially during the battles which are all rendered in fluid detail.
Holyland is a fantastic martial arts manga. While the story isn’t too deep, it makes up for it with amazing characters, great development and a relatability. Every one of us can understand how hard it is to find our own place in this world.
Holyland is one of the best seinen manga I ever read in terms of character development and I urge anyone interested in martial arts to give this manga a try.
39. Dragon Head
Minetaro Mochizuki’s Dragon Head is an apocalypse manga.
After surviving a violent train wreck that saw many of his classmates killed, our protagonist Teru encounters two other survivors, Ako and Nobu.
While the three of them try to escape the train tunnel, the lack of light and food slowly impacts their psyche.
Eventually they make it outside, only to learn that a massive catastrophe has happened and the outside world might hold even more dangers.
Dragon Head’s major selling point are its characters. They are realistic and act like normal people thrown into a disaster. These characters are afraid; they lash out and might even go crazy.
The same is true for the story. There’s constant suspense and a prevalent feeling of hopelessness that never wavers. The more you read of Dragon Head, the more you wonder if there’s even anything left for our main characters.
Dragon Head is the best apocalypse manga I ever read. It’s a thrilling experience and the manga never takes a break. Instead, the world seems to become more and crazier the longer it goes on.
When it comes to the art, Dragon Head is fantastic. The world, the backgrounds and the general destruction are something to marvel it. Dragon Head’s destroyed world is presented to us in all its terrifying and depressing glory. It’s this beautiful, detailed rendering of an apocalyptic world that makes it stand out amongst other, similar manga.
In later parts, however, Dragon Head drags on a bit too much. Instead of a general plot, the manga heavily relied on character introspection. And yet, one has to wonder if it was done on purpose. The world is ending, so what is there to do anymore?
Another, bigger problem was the ending. The manga was simply over and we are left without a resolution and with no clear answers.
Even though it has its faults, Dragon Head still presents us with one of the best and most realistic depictions of the end of the world in the entire medium.
If you want to read a manga about survival and disaster, about destruction and the end of the world, Dragon Head is exactly what you’re looking for.
38. Chi no Wadachi
Shuuzou Oshimi’s Chi no Wadachi is a psychological masterpiece and one of the best seinen manga I’ve read in recent years. It’s a manga that focuses on trauma, abuse and manipulation.
Our protagonist, Seiichi Osaba, is a typical young boy. There’s one thing, however, he’s often made fun of, his overprotective mother. While she’s acting strange and a bit extreme, it’s nothing too out of the ordinary.
Until a certain incident changes Seiichi’s life and the way he thinks of his mother forever.
Chi no Wadachi might start out simple before it spirals out of control and becomes crazier and crazier.
The pacing of the manga is slow, however, but it’s slow for a reason. Entire chapters might be dedicated to the interaction between two characters. This slow, almost stifling way of storytelling adds a lot of tension and suspense.
There are a lot of moments and slow shots filled with suspense, so much so that it’s almost oppressive. The more I read on, however, the more I was drawn in and eventually got used to this style of storytelling. This focus on even the smallest of details makes Chi no Wadachi so great.
The art is yet another reason I consider this manga to be amongst the best seinen manga of all time. It looks stunning and gives a lot of focus on facial details. Some pages of the manga might be sparse, others dense, but it always helps to set the mood of the story. Where the art truly shines is during the many big page spreads.
Chi no Wadachi’s story might not sound too deep. What makes it so good is the way it’s told, the way we experience it. You can’t help but be disturbed by the portrayal of a toxic, manipulative mother and a young, insecure boy trying to please her.
The slowly, gloomy and depressing atmosphere of the manga might be a problem to some. The same is true for the suspense and tension, which might be a bit too much.
Overall, I think Chi no Wadachi is a fantastic psychological manga, one that’s told in rather unique fashion and truly worth reading.
I was drawn in by Ouroboros by Yuuya Kanzaki the moment I started reading it. When I finished it, I had to admit that I’d just read one of the best seinen manga of all time.
The manga tells the story of Ryuuzaki Ikuo, an investigator for the Shinjuku Police and Tatsuya Danno, a member of the yakuza.
When the two of them were children, they lived in an orphanage under their caretaker, Yuiko. Their happy life ended when the two of them witnessed her murder.
Ouroboros, similar to other manga, begins in a more episodic fashion, showcasing Ryuuzaki and Tatsuya, working together to solve various crime cases.
For most of its run time this episodic nature continues, but the general plot tying it all together becomes more and clearer as we learn more about the man they are after.
Ouroboros soon become one of my favorite manga about crimes and conspiracies. It might develop slowly, but the manga is never a boring read.
This overall plot is clearly the manga’s strongest point. Yukio’s murder is a mystery, one that becomes more and more complex and throws you off repeatedly.
Ouroboros’ art is enjoyable enough, but never truly outstanding. One thing I truly enjoyed was the realistic design of the characters. It helped to keep the story grounded in reality.
Our two protagonists were both interesting and complex. Yet, I’d have loved to see more of Tatsuya Danno and his underworld shenanigans, since he was, at least to me, the more interesting of the two.
There are also a lot of side-characters in Ouroboros, which are all interesting and well-developed in their own right.
My only problem with the manga was the overabundance of twists near the end. Things deteriorated a bit too much and became a little too clichéd near the end.
The manga kept me engaged throughout the entire run, however, and I truly enjoyed it and especially the setting.
The reliance of a more episodic nature might daunt some and so might be the first volumes of the manga that reveal little about the overall plot. If you like those parts, however, you’ll love the rest.
Ouroboros is clearly one of the best seinen manga in the crime and underworld genre.
I’m a big fan of manga featuring the underworld and Sanctuary by Buronson and Ryoichi Ikegami was right up my alley.
It’s the story of two men who want to change Japan. One is Akira Houjou, the other Chiaki Asami. The two of them feel Japan is stagnant and set out to push the country into a new age to create their very own sanctuary.
To accomplish this, the two of them set out on different paths. While Asami aims to become Prime Minister, Houjou sets out to seize control of the underworld.
The best thing about Sanctuary is this dualism of the plot. One part centers on politics, the other on organized crime.
Over the course of the manga, our two protagonists encounter various adversaries. Some are ambitious hot-shots and yakuza bosses others are hardened politicians and diet members.
Sanctuary is a fun, suspenseful ride. I guess I’m a fan of power fantasies and Sanctuary is among the best of them. What makes things even more interesting is that Sanctuary, mostly, is grounded in reality.
Now while Sanctuary was interesting and kept me reading for the plot, it was also really cool. Many of the characters are absolutely amazing and pure badasses.
The art in Sanctuary is typical for the 90s, but not bad. Characters look professional and badass at the same time and many of the wide shots are gorgeous to look at.
The biggest issue with Sanctuary is the aforementioned realism. While Sanctuary is set in the real world and aims to be realistic, it slowly becomes more and more unbelievable. And yet, while many of the political intrigues and twists were unrealistic, I still had a great time following them. This is in large parts because of Isaoka who was probably the best character in the entire manga and a fantastic adversary.
Things spiraled out of control near the end. It was still enjoyable, and I wanted to see how things ended, but by then I’d long abandoned the idea of realism.
Another problem is the depiction of woman. Sanctuary is a manga centered about manly characters and any woman who are there are prostitutes, sex objects or serve as love interests to our main characters.
Still, I had a great time reading Sanctuary. It reminded me of certain over the top gangster movies or polit-thrillers. It might not be too realistic in the long run, but it sure is a lot of fun. Asami’s plotline is full of suspense while Houjou’s is full of action. This combination makes Sanctuary one of the best seinen manga I ever read. If you are into crime manga and political intrigue, you could do worse than to read Sanctuary.
35. Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul is a manga created by Ishida Sui and is another long and vastly popular series. It’s by many considered one of the best seinen manga of recent years.
The manga tells the story of Ken Kaneki. He’s a reserved college student who encounters a beautiful young woman named Rize at a café. The two of them bond over their love for books.
Unbeknownst to Kaneki, Rize is a ghoul and driven by her hunger for human flesh attacks him.
Ghouls are creatures with superhuman powers who mingle amongst humans and need to feed on them to survive.
Kaneki miraculously survives the encounter and is saved by Dr. Kanou. He soon learns, however, that he’s now part ghoul and can’t stand normal food. He finds refuge at Anteiku, a café and a safe house for ghouls.
Over the course of the story, we are introduced to a plethora of interesting characters and learn more about ghouls.
Early on the story focuses on Kaneki, how he comes to terms with his new life and the characters he encounters. The story takes up steam however, as newer and more dangerous threats are introduced.
The manga’s continued in a sequel called Tokyo Ghoul:re which expands the plot and the world of Tokyo Ghoul.
Tokyo Ghoul’s art is one of its biggest selling points. The manga has both fantastic creature design and character design. Backgrounds look fantastic and the entire manga is filled with a gloomy dark atmosphere. Ishida Sui accomplishes this with his inky art style, which is perfect in setting the mood.
Another thing I greatly enjoyed were the many battles. Especially the various weapons and the ghoul’s kagune showed some fantastic design. And yet, sometimes the battles could be a bit confusing. This is mostly the case in Tokyo Ghoul:re where the battles are on a larger scale and lots of people are involved.
Tokyo Ghoul’s characters are a tough point for me. I grew to like some of them while I disliked others. Kaneki, our protagonist, is one of the prime offenders.
Early on he’s a shy, reserved boy, but over the course of the manga and after certain significant power-boots he quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Another thing is his edginess. Sure, Kaneki had some bad things happening to him and he’s clearly going through some serious trauma, but at times it feels a bit too much.
The characters I enjoyed the most were supporting characters like Arima, Urie or Amon.
Another glaring problem of Tokyo Ghoul comes from its most prevalent theme, that of the tragic past. Over the course of the manga, we find out that a large part of the main cast suffers from this trope. I understand that the world of the ghouls and the CCG is a dark and brutal one. And yet, this seem is so common that it ultimately weakens its impact. Before long, I felt myself merely shrugging when another character’s tragic backstory was revealed, thinking, same old, same old.
Now those are of course not the only themes in Tokyo Ghoul. One I came to enjoy was the dualism of the two sides, the CCG and the ghouls. Neither side is truly good or evil.
While I enjoyed Tokyo Ghoul for all of its run, I found myself most invested in the earlier parts. Here the difference between ghouls and humans was still the most important part.
All of those flaws, however, don’t make Tokyo Ghoul a bad series. No, I enjoyed it a lot and I still believe it’s a fantastic manga and one of the best seinen manga of all time.
Tokyo Ghoul stands out for its gorgeous art, its battles and the fantastic design of creatures and weapons. I recommend this manga to anyone who’s looking for a darker, more complex and brutal manga.
34. One Punch Man
Most of the time, I don’t enjoy comedy manga. So at first I was wary about One Punch Man by Yusuke Murata and One. I quickly came to realize, however, that it’s one of the best seinen manga at what it does.
The manga is centered on a single gag. Imagine a character is so strong he can defeat any enemy with a single punch.
This character is Saitama who sets out to become a hero and joins the Hero Organization. He soon becomes bored when he realizes just how strong he is and searches for a real challenge.
That’s basically it for the premise. It might sound simply, even silly, but it sure is a lot of fun.
As the manga continues, the story shifts more to the many side-characters introduced and their individual struggles. It presents a nice contrast to Saitama’s powers and is often used for comedic purposes.
The high point of the series is clearly the art which shines most during the various battles. One Punch Man is easily at the top of the medium in terms of art. The monsters are extremely detailed and fantastic to look at.
From the premise one might think that most battles are over quickly, but many focus on other characters. It’s often only in the end when Saitama shows up and ends things in a single blow.
The side-characters in this manga are fantastic, too. A favorite of mine is King, the world’s strongest man. I often laughed out loud when he was involved in the story.
One Punch Man features a plethora of characters. Some are more comical, others more serious, but they are all likeable. Another favorite character of mine is Garou.
What makes this manga, however, is the humor. As simple as the premise is, it never loses its charm. The art also adds a lot to this. Saitama is often depicted as a small, unimportant bystander before he’s shown as an absolute badass when he finally takes action.
One Punch Man has quickly become one of my favorite seinen manga of all time and is one of the best action and comedy manga out there. It’s extremely entertaining, a lot of fun and offers some of the best art in the entire medium.
Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys is one of the greatest mystery manga of all time and one of the best seinen manga ever.
I read this manga years ago and it’s one of the first manga that comes to mind when I think of the best seinen manga.
The manga tells the story of Kenji Endo and his friends. At the end of the 20th century, Kenji is working at a convenience store.
The story takes up steam when he learns of the suicide of one of his friends, Donkey. At the same time, a cult, led by a figure only known as Friend, becomes more and more popular. Before long, Kenji realizes that this cult and the ominous figure of Friend are related to his childhood.
To find out more about the cult and Friend Kenji reunites with his childhood friends to find out the truth.
Naoki Urasawa’s art might appear simple at first glance. His mastery of the craft becomes clear, however, in his characters. Every single one of them has his own personality and is recognizable at first glance, even when the manga switches to different points in time. Backgrounds are very detailed and a pleasure to look at.
The reason 20th Century Boys is so good is because of the mystery, the relationship between the characters but also the way the story is told.
Conspiracy plots are nothing new and neither is saving the world. Yet, the way the story unfolds is masterfully done. What I loved the most was the inclusion of different timelines and the showcasing of childhood events. It was extremely well done, never confusing and helped to learn more about the various main characters.
20th Century Boys comprises three major arcs. The first is set during the end of the 20th century, the second in the year 2014 and the last during the 3FE, the third year of the so-called Friend Era. Included in all this are various flashbacks to the 60s and 70s when Kenji and his friends were children.
Of all those arcs, the last one, the Friend Era, was my least favorite.
The first two arcs of the manga were some of the best I read and I consider them to be some of the best in the entire mystery manga genre. They are masterfully told and you will guess repeatedly what’s going on.
The last arc, however, felt almost detached and too different from what had happened before.
Another pet peeve of mine is how so many people are in on the conspiracy. It almost feels as if our protagonists are not fighting against a conspiracy, but against the rest of the world.
Those problems, however, don’t change my opinion of the manga. 20th Century Boys is a fantastic manga. Because of its complex story and the way it’s told it is clearly one of the best mystery manga and seinen manga of all time.
Boichi is one of the most talented manga artists out there. His mastery of the visual arts shows in this collection of one-shots.
Each chapter is absolutely beautiful and stunning to look at.
The quality of the stories varies, but there were none I truly disliked.
The most normal were the first two stories which incidentally seem to take place in the same world.
It’s from chapter three on that things turn strange, becoming more surreal and weird.
The most visually stunning was chapter five, which was drawn in stunning full colors and was absolutely beautiful. This, however, was in contrast to the story, which was barely there.
My favorite amongst the collection was chapter one, which featured the titular hotel and even made me tear up a little.
There are few collections on this list of the best seinen manga, but I feel that Hotel truly deserves to be named here. The stories featured here might be emotional, others might be surreal, but they are all interesting and rendered in beautiful and stunning detail.
Hotel is a great read, and with only five chapters a quick one. It stands out, however, because of Boichi’s absolutely outstanding art.
I’m a big fan of science-fiction and especially cyberpunk and Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro is one of the best manga the genre offers.
Ido, a scientist, uncovers the remains of cyborg girl and restores her. She’s lost her memory, she he names her Alita and gives her a new cybernetic body.
From here on out, the story follows Alita as she finds her way in this new world. Over the course of the manga she changes from an innocent, almost childlike character to a battle-hardened badass.
The art is merely serviceable at the outset of the series, but improves in later parts. Where it stood out was during the many battle scenes. While the battles in Battle Angel Alita are intense, they are always fluid. This was most prevalent during the fantastic motor ball arc.
Battle Angel Alita is set in a gritty, post-apocalyptic world. Especially the city of Scrapyard, was a fantastic cluster of machines, factories and rubble. More so, it’s a cesspool where the worst criminal scum and cybernetic freaks gather.
Alita herself was an interesting main character, and I enjoyed her character development. She’s not your standard protagonist. Her story is more about finding her way in the world, more character-driven and about her than following a general plot.
Ido, too, is a complex character and his relationship with Alita can be seen as one between father and daughter.
The manga’s villains are a lot of fun too, especially the deranged bounty hunter Zapan who later turns into a full blow psychopath.
What I enjoyed were the deeper themes present in the manga. Battle Angel Alita toys with such things as the meaning of life, finding your own way and uncovering who you are, but it’s never shoved into your face and always part of the story.
The manga, however, is not free of flaws. The most obvious one is the art. It’s decent enough, but never truly stands out. The city of scrapyard and the general post-apocalyptic setting is beautifully done, but many of the characters feel unrefined and, at times, even cartoonish.
Some characters are also a bit overdrawn and to on-the-nose.
This is also true for Alita. I enjoyed her character growth a lot, but she’s still immature and arrogant for most of the story.
Still, Battle Angel Alita is an entertaining cyberpunk, science-fiction manga and among the best seinen manga I read. If you’re a fan of science-fiction or post-apocalyptic settings, you could do worse than to read Battle Angel Alita.
30. Made in Abyss
Some manga stand out because of their characters or their plot, others because of the world they create. Made in Abyss by Akihito Tsukushi is an example of the latter.
The titular Abyss is one of the most beautiful and stunning worlds ever created. I only read this manga recently, but I almost instantly fell in love with the abyss.
The manga tells the story of Riko, a young girl who lives in the town of Orth which is built around the abyss. The abyss is a giant chasm that has never been fully explored.
Riko is the daughter of a White Whistle, a famous cave raider who explored the abyss. After her mother’s disappearance, it’s Riko’s dream to become a White Whistle as well.
The story begins when Riko uncovers a robot boy called Rengu on an expedition to the abyss. She believes this encounter to be orchestrated by her mother and soon Riko and Rengu descend the abyss to find her.
Made in Abyss is a manga that can be best described as a mixture of science-fiction and fantasy. Its world is populated with various strange and bizarre creatures as well as interesting characters.
What makes this manga so good is the fantastic art. It’s amongst the most beautiful manga I’ve ever seen and clearly amongst the best seinen manga in that department. The level of detail used to illustrate the abyss is insane.
Early on the story starts out as lighthearted, especially because of the age of the characters. The deeper our protagonists descend into the abyss, though, the darker and more disturbing the story becomes.
The abyss has this overwhelming feeling of dread surrounding it. There are not only the bizarre creatures populating it but also the ‘curse of the abyss.’ This curse manifests when a person ascents from the depths of the abyss. The further one descended, the more painful it becomes, and eventually a return from the abyss becomes impossible.
One of the biggest problems with Made in Abyss are its characters. I’m not a huge fan of very young characters in manga. It makes me wonder why the author chose for Riko and Rengu to be that young.
Is it to relate to the adventurous feelings we all had as children, or was it a done as a contrast to the dangerous and alien world that is the abyss?
While I think this choice is strange, it didn’t deter my enjoyment of the series. The world building in Made in Abyss is excellent and each layer of the abyss serves to be more interesting than the last.
It’s a beautiful manga, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read and presents its readers with one of the most unique settings ever.
I urge everyone to give this manga a try. It’s clearly one of the best seinen manga of all time.
Jagaaaaaan by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Kensuke Nishida is definitely one of the weirder manga on this list.
It tells the story of Shintarou Jagasaki, a young police officer who’s frustrated with his quiet and boring life.
On another boring day, he and his partner escort home a drunk man. On the train, they witness an office worker transforming into a twisted monster. The creature beings tearing apart the other passengers, but is ultimately defeated by Jagasaki with a bream he shoots from his hand.
Jagasaki quickly learns that the man was a fractured human, and he himself is one as well.
Fractured humans come into being when so-called frenzied frogs infest a normal person with a strong desire. When these people experience strong emotions and give into their desires, they transform into monsters. Some, like Jagasaki, however, are able to resist this temptation.
From this point onward; it’s Jagasaki’s task to hunt down fractured humans.
As crazy as this premise sounds, Jagaaaaaan proves to get even crazier as it goes on. As crazy as it is, however, I still consider it one of the best seinen manga I ever read.
I enjoyed the idea of people’s desire, causing them to become monsters. It adds a certain depth to an overall very weird series.
What stands out the most about Jagaaaaaan is the outstanding art. Kensuke Nishida’s art is fantastic throughout the board. I especially came to enjoy the monster design. Many of the fractured humans have a fantastic and horrible design.
The high point of the series are the battles. Over the course of the manga, Jagasaki becomes more and more powerful and as he does his own transformation becomes more impressive to look at. What starts out as nothing but a handgun soon turns to a rival and later even crazier things.
Having read Muneyuki Kaneshiro’s Kamisama no Iutoori and its sequel, I knew the author’s tendency for weird characters. Jagasaki is no different. He’s quite the weirdo, and we know it right from the first chapter. And yet, there’s something realistic about his frustration with life, something relatable. Over the course of the manga, however, Jagasaki changes and slowly turns to someone who values the people by his side.
The many side characters in Jagaaaaaan are interesting as well. Many are fractured humans, like Jagasaki. While some of them are more normal, it’s the crazy ones who are truly interesting.
What’s important about Jagaaaaaan is that it’s a mature manga, so it’s got its fair share of explicit content. The manga isn’t shy to present us with gore, nudity and sex.
One criticism I have with the series is the pacing. While the first chapter works well to introduce us to the setting and premise, I still think it was a bit too rushed. This, however, is only a minor criticism.
Jagaaaaaan is a weird and twisted manga, but a great one. It’s full of action, gore and its share of depraved acts, but never just for the sake of it. Even though Jagaaaaaan is a horror manga, and one of the best in the genre in recent years.
For all its disturbing and depraved content, I still enjoyed the manga a lot and consider it one of the best seinen out there.
If you’re looking for a weird manga, check out the first few chapters or the first volume of Jagaaaaaan. If you enjoy those, you will enjoy the rest of the manga.
28. Fuan no Tane
Fuan no Tane is a collection of horror stories.
What makes it special is that all those stories are only a few pages long. They don’t focus on plot, but are rather short, creepy incidents involving ghosts or supernatural entities.
Each chapter comprises several incidents all center on a certain topic. It can be a location such as a hospital or a concept like uninvited guests.
It might sound strange that Fuan no Tane doesn’t have a plot. But this is exactly why the manga works so well and is one of the best at what it does.
Fuan no Tane doesn’t set the scene or introduces characters, but only presents us a creepy incident. Because of this, the manga can fully devote itself to being creepy and scary.
The art is unique and sketchy, which helps to underline the general atmosphere. It is, however, not outstanding and can’t compare to some of the better manga on the list.
Fuan no Tane is definitely not for everyone. It’s a special type of horror, one that doesn’t bother with plot or characters and thus might alienate readers.
If this is what you’re looking for, pure scares, then Fuan no Tane is definitely worth your time. I consider it one of the best manga in the horror genre and one of the best seinen manga.
Knights of Sidonia is Tsutomu Nihei’s longest series to date. It can best be described as a mecha-space manga. If one’s familiar with Nihei’s earlier works, one might notice a diversion from his usual style of storytelling, one might even call it mainstream-friendlier.
What’s the same, however, is his outstanding art and his complex world-design.
While I don’t think Knights of Sidonia is as good as Blame! or Biomega, it’s still one of the best seinen manga of all time.
The manga tells the story of Nagate Tanikaze. He lives aboard the Sidonia, a spaceship that fled after earth was destroyed by the Gauna, a powerful alien species. These Gauna are still in pursuit of the Sidonia and attack it relentlessly.
For most of his life, Nagate Tanikaze has lived in the depths of the ship without contact with other human beings.
The story begins when he finds his way to the populated portions of the ship. There it quickly becomes clear that he has innate abilities as a fighter pilot. And thus, he becomes the pilot of a Gardes, giant mechs designed to fight the Gauna.
As I mentioned, Knights of Sidonia is more mainstream than Nihei’s other series. Many of his earlier works had a dark and gritty feel to them and were gloomy and quiet.
Knights of Sidonia differs from them, at least to a part. While the fights are still presented to us in a gritty and dark atmosphere, the rest of the manga feels much more conventional. People living on the Sidonia have fun, hang out, joke around or fall in love.
Even though, Knights of Sidonia still looks and feels like a Nihei manga. His architectural design is still as grand and ambitious as always. The alien Gauna are rendered in beautiful detail and are entirely unique. Later in the mange we even encounter entities that remind us more of the silicon life from Blame!
While Knights of Sidonia features lighter elements, it’s still a seinen manga. Death is an everyday occurrence and so are destruction and danger.
My biggest quarrel with the series is the ending. It feels strange and a bit too happy and even cheesy.
For most its time, however, Knights of Sidonia is still one of the best space opera manga out there and definitely one of the best seinen manga.
If you’re a fan of space or Tsutomu Nihei, you should definitely check it out.
Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira is one of the most influential manga of all time. It spawned the Japanese cyberpunk subgenre and also one of the most influential anime movies of all time.
It’s held in very high regard and many fans consider it to be one of the best manga ever created.
The story is set in the dystopian cyberpunk city of Neo Tokyo. It’s a futuristic hell that combines technology and skyscrapers with poverty, revolutionaries and biker gangs.
Our protagonists are two bikers, Shoutarou Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima. The two of them are best friends, but also bitter rivals. One day, Tetsuo pulls a desperate stunt to prove himself and sets into motion the events that lead to the awakening of Akira, a secret government project.
Akira’s story is one about government conspiracies, secret experiments and megalomania.
What makes Akira one of the best seinen manga is Katsuhiro Otomo’s fantastic art. It brings to life the dystopian hell that is Neo Tokyo in all its detail. We can see cracks in streets and buildings, rubble in dirty corners or marvel at high-rising skyscrapers.
We can especially see Katsuhiro Otomo’s mastery in the later chapters when he presents apocalyptic destruction in all its glory.
The characters’ visual design is also fantastic. They all look stunning and unique. The same, though, can’t be said for their personality. Many characters seem more like arch-types than actual people.
Tetsuo is an edgy teenager who wants to be at the top while Kaneda is a badass biker boy.
Tetsuo is clearly the more interesting of the two, especially in earlier chapters. He’s scary, almost chilling, but remains tragic and even sympathetic.
One of the biggest problems in Akira, however, is the story. The manga is often more style than anything. While I love to watch the massive destruction caused by psychic powers, none of them are ever clearly established.
I enjoyed Akira the most when it focused on biker gangs, drug orgies, and government conspiracies. It’s also here that the cyberpunk elements and the dystopian setting come to shine the most.
None of those flaws ruined Akira for me. Having read Katsuhiro Otomo’s other works and watched the movie version of Akira, I knew what I was in for. I knew it wouldn’t be a hard-science-fiction manga. What I wanted to see was outstanding art, a cyberpunk setting and a storyline about a crazy megalomaniac. That was exactly what I got.
Does Akira deserve the hype it gets? In my opinion, yes and no. Akira’s massive influence on the manga and anime genre can’t be overstated, but similar to other pivotal works it doesn’t truly life up to its reputation.
Still, in terms of art and setting, Akira more than holds up. Katsuhiro Otomo’s art is gorgeous and amongst the most detailed in all of manga.
Once you look past the almost one-dimensional characters and the sometimes lackluster plot, you get to experiences some of the greatest art and one of the best cyberpunk settings in the entire manga.
While I think Akira is flawed, I still consider it among the best seinen manga of all time.
There are weird manga, and there is Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida. While the manga’s set in a dark, grim and brutal world, it’s still full of absurdist humor.
The manga is set in the city of Hole which is connected to the Sorcerer’s World. This connection has made the city the perfect testing ground for magic users.
Magical atrocities are a daily reality for the people living in Hole.
Our protagonist Kaiman, a man with a reptilian head and suffering from amnesia, believes himself to be another victim of magic users. Together with his female friend Nikaido, he hunts them down to find out what happened to him and who he really is.
This premise might be weird, but the story only proves to get much, much weirder over the course of the manga.
There is, however, a strange dualism to Dorohedoro. It mixes death, carnage and gore with comedy and lightheartedness. It’s a strange mixture that’s unlike anything I’ve read before.
Another thing praiseworthy about Dorohedoro is the art and the world its set in. The decrepit city of Hole and the surreal Sorcerer’s World are both beautiful to look at.
The same can be said about the cast of characters. They are all unique, be it the disfigured inhabitants of Hole or the outlandish magic users populating the Sorcerer’s World.
The most interesting thing about the cast of characters is that neither are presented as good or evil. Instead, Dorohedoro is a morally gray mush and almost all of its characters are likeable.
Early on the story centers on Kaiman, but we soon learn that he’s connected to both the city of Hole and the Sorcerer’s World. Dorohedoro’s plot is as strange as its presentation and one of the most original and creative ones I’ve read.
While Dorohedoro is often lighthearted and even humorous, it still features copious amounts of blood and gore. The longer the manga continues, the more outlandish, brutal and horrific the overall story becomes.
Dorohedoro is without a doubt one of the most original manga I ever read. And yet, one can’t help to wonder if all its weirdness and complexity is just there for the sake of it.
I urge anyone to read Dorohedoro. While it’s often humorous and lighthearted, make no mistake, this manga is not for the faint of heart.
Still, Dorohedoro is one of the best manga seinen manga I’ve ever read and anyone who’s interested in horror and especially surreal manga should check it out.
Shigurui by Norio Nanjou and Takayuki Yamaguchi is a samurai manga, but one of the best and most brutal the genre offers.
The story begins when the daimyo Tadanaga Tokugawa proclaims to hold a martial arts tournament with real swords and fights to the death.
The first fight is between a one-armed man, Gennosuke Fujiki and the blind and lame Seigen Irako. And yet, the manga doesn’t focus on the tournament, instead it focuses on the backstory of our two companions.
Shigurui’s high point is clearly the fantastic art. Characters, backgrounds and nature are beautiful and gore and brutality are rendered in stunning detail.
It’s not the art however, that makes Shigurui special, but its depiction of the brutal and unforgiving nature of samurai culture. In other manga, and media it’s often romanticized. Shigurui, however, doesn’t shy away from showing that it was despicable and the cause of many lost lives.
The most interesting thing about Shigurui is that it doesn’t distinguish between good and evil. The author shows the flaws of both characters and we come to understand that the true evil here is samurai culture.
Women in this manga are nothing more than attachments to samurai. They can be abused and exploited as seen fit and we witness it too in the form of Lady Iku and Mie Iwamoto.
Shigurui’s entire story gives of a feeling of depression. None of what we witness is good. There’s only the sword that forces people into a life of servitude and obedience in the guise of honor.
The manga’s plot is largely character-driven and showcases our character’s lives and how they were eventually driven to become mortal enemies.
And here the problems with Shigurui start. In later parts, the manga seems to lose focus and drags on a bit too much. An entire arc of the manga is also dedicated to two characters that have no relation to our protagonists and is brought to no resolution.
The reason for this is simple, however. The manga is based on a novel featuring the tournament held by Tadanaga Tokugawa. This novel itself features not only the fights but also the backstory if all the contestants. This begs the question if the manga was cut short and originally wanted to feature the entire tournament and all its contestants.
This might also explain the ending. While I thought it was a perfect ending for our protagonists and handled the overall themes satisfactorily, it still felt rushed.
Make no mistake, though, Shigurui is still a fantastic, brutal story. It features interesting characters and gives us a realistic view of samurai culture.
I regard Shigurui not only as one of the best seinen manga of all time but also one of the best samurai manga ever created. Anyone who’s interested in samurai culture and brutal fights should check this one out. It is, however, not for the faint of heart.
Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima might be the oldest manga on this list of the best seinen manga. This samurai manga is, however, an absolute classic and proved to be one of the most influential manga of all time.
The manga tells the story of Ittou Ogami. He was once the Shogunate’s chief executioner, but was framed for treason by the Yagyuu Clan. He was forced to flee with his young son and now lives as an assassin for hire, known as Lone Wolf and Cub.
Early on, the story is told in episodic fashion, featuring various assassination carried out by Ittou Ogami. Over the course of the manga, however, we learn more about our protagonist, his back story and the reason for his travels. Ittou Ogami has only one purpose, to get revenge against the Yagyuu Clan.
Lone Wolf and Cub is a fantastic manga both for its overall plot, but also for the many episodic stories told. Many of those are extremely well done, and convey more depth and emotion that many other, much longer manga.
While the art is old-fashioned, it’s still excellent. It’s gritty and realistic and lends itself perfectly to a traditional samurai story.
The best part is, of course, the many battle scenes. Even today, almost fifty years after the manga was published, they still hold up and make Lone Wolf and Cub one of the best sword fighting manga out there.
I also really came to like Itto Ogami’s character. At first he might seem like a cold-blooded assassin, a demon even, but we soon learn that he’s a much more nuanced character.
Lone Wolf and Cub might not be for everyone. It’s old-fashioned art and realistic presentation makes it different from other, flashier samurai manga.
And yet, it’s without a doubt one of the best seinen manga and samurai manga of all time. If you’re a fan of traditional Japanese stories and samurai manga, go check out Lone Wolf and Cub.
22. Ichi the Killer
And now we come to one of the most graphical and most disturbing manga of all time, Ichi the Killer by Hideo Yamamoto. Incidentally, it’s also one of the best seinen manga of all time.
Hideo Yamamoto has really outdone himself when creating Ichi the Killer. While his older work is strange too, Ichi the Killer is batshit insane.
Ichi the Killer is the story of two men. One is Ichi, an ominous figure who kills his victims brutally. The other, is Kakihara, a deranged yakuza. When Kakihara’s boss vanishes, he tries to find him at any cost. Before long, he figures out what happens and begins his search for Ichi, which eventually leads to a confrontation between the two.
Ichi is nothing for the faint of heart. It’s a mature and graphical manga that features violence, torture, sexual abuse, rape and murder.
While Ichi relies on graphic violence, it’s no mere gore feast. Instead, it’s a psychological tale that explores various themes.
The most important one is that of sadism and masochism, but Ichi also features things such as identity disorder, childhood abuse, manipulation and much, much more. Yamamoto Hideo mixes all of those together and created one of the most deranged and best seinen manga of all time.
This, however, is what makes Ichi the Killer work so well. It doesn’t filter. Instead, we are subjected to the deepest depth of human depravity.
That’s what I enjoyed the most about Ichi the Killer, the mixture of brutal violence, over-the-top and insane characters and deeper themes. Over the course of the manga, there are quite a few twists and turns as we get to know our two protagonists. This is most prevalent in the character of Ichi, who’s much more complex than anyone would’ve guessed.
Ichi the Killer’s art is both unique and simplistic. One of the most notable things about the manga are overdrawn facial expressions that show the mental state of characters. Another thing is the violence which is shown to us in stunningly disturbing detail.
The driving force of the manga is clearly its two protagonists. Ichi and Kakihara are almost opposites which also serves to make the manga more interesting than it already is.
I already mentioned the brutal violence, and it can be a bit much. There are certain scenes that are quite disturbing and rough. The plot too, has some problems, namely that a few details are left unexplained or are unrealistic. Still, it didn’t deter my enjoyment, and it’s to be expected from a manga as insane as this one.
Ichi the Killer is definitely not for everyone. If, however, you can stand the brutal violence and the disturbing subject-matter, you’re treated to one of the best seinen manga out there. At its core, Ichi is an amazing psychological thriller.
Kingdom created by Yasuhisa Hara is one of the most popular historical and military manga of all time.
I had always heard good things about Kingdom and read it last year. I enjoyed it tremendously and think it’s one of the best seinen manga in its respective genres.
The manga’s story is set during the Warring States era of China. It details the events that led to the unification of China under the state of Qin.
During a rebellion against the soon-to-be king of Qin, Ei Sei, a young servant boy gets entangled in the matters of state. This young servant boy is Shin, our protagonist.
It’s from this point onward that Shin follows his path to becoming a Great General under the Heaven to help Ei Sei unify all of China under his banner.
The scope of Kingdom is grand and I think it’s one of the most ambitious projects in all of manga. Kingdom is currently close to 700 chapters long, and it’s far from over.
Kingdom’s focus is clearly on the large-scale battles that were common during the Warring states era. Those battles are presented to us in stunning detail.
During those battles we can witness armies numbering in the tenth or even hundreds of thousands. The greatest part of Kingdom’s battles isn’t scale, it’s the presentation of tactics and strategies. The manga goes into extreme detail when explaining the various engagements, as well as the tactics and strategies used.
Kingdom doesn’t solely focus on battles, though. Another important plot-point is the power struggle between Ei Sei and Ryo Fui, the Chancellor of State who plants to overthrow Ei Sei and become king himself.
As much as I loved the large-scale battles of Kingdom, I also came to enjoy the matters of state with all their intrigues.
In later chapters, Kingdom also illustrates the important events that take place in all the different states.
Kingdom’s scope is grand and the story that is told is fantastic, especially for someone who’s interested in history. For this alone it deserves to be added to any list of the best seinen manga.
Kingdom’s art is merely average at the beginning. During the very first arc, it was decent enough to get the job done, but nothing outstanding. As the manga continued, the art improved. Large-scale battles were detailed and the giant, walled cities of ancient China are a joy to look at.
A manga is grand as Kingdom also has a vast cast of characters. Some of these are truly fantastic, for example Ei Sei, Ryu Fui, General Ou Ki and Riboku.
There are also characters who I wasn’t as fond of. One of them is unfortunately, our protagonist Shin. Raised as a servant boy together with his friend Ri Hyou, the two of them dreamed to become generals in China and often sparred together.
These sparring matches and his natural talent somehow make Shin a force to be reckoned with. Over the course of the first arc, he not only battles against, but wins against experienced swordsman and hardened assassins.
This theme continues for the rest of the manga and Shin’s martial prowess feels unrealistic.
Shin’s characterization is also quite clichéd. He’s your typical hotheaded, young man who aims for the top because it’s the top. And yet, his young man is always recognized by those around him for his greatness. It, frankly said, feels forced.
Often, this isn’t too important though. Sure, Shin is the manga’s protagonist, but the focus is clearly on the general plot and the large-scale battles and the politics. We might witness the battles from Shin’s point of view, but the focus isn’t solely on him, but always on the overall battle.
The worst part of Kingdom, however, is the very first arc. During the Sei Kyo Rebellion arc, his faults are most glaring and the story is at its weakest. Early on, Kingdom doesn’t feel like a seinen manga, but more like a typical shonen manga.
This changes, however, when Chancellor Ryo Fui returns to court and when we enter our first large-scale battle. It’s from here on out that Kingdom proves to be one of the grandest and best seinen manga of all time.
A word of warning though, while Kingdom is a historical manga, it takes some liberties with the source material. This, however, shouldn’t be too surprising.
The problems outlined didn’t deter my enjoyment and once I was done with the first arc, I truly grew to enjoy Kingdom. If you decide to read Kingdom, make sure you read on until the very first large-scale battle. It’s here that Kingdom truly shines and becomes one of the best seinen manga.
20. Yamikin Ushijima-kun
The world of illegal money lending is a dangerous place. The people in Manabe Shouhei’s Yamikin Ushijima-kun get used, betrayed, tortured or even lose their life.
If you enjoy darker and more twisted stories, than this manga is perfect for you. It’s amongst the best crime manga out there and one of the best seinen manga I ever read.
Kaoru Ushijima, our protagonist, is a moneylender who offers cash loans. However, his loans are special, they have an interest rate of fifty percent and are to be paid back within ten days. Now, the first thing you might wonder is who’d take such an outrageous loan. Apparently there are many people, if you believe Yamikin Ushijima-kun. It’s people who are drowning in debt, who gave into their vices or simply the dregs of society.
The manga follows Ushijima on his path as he makes sure people pay him back and he takes from them all they have. Ushijima uses any means possible to get his money back, including prostitution, identity theft and extortion. He’s even willing to set the occasional example for those who think they can get away.
Yamikin Ushijima-kun is a realistic, grounded story that shows us the worst of humanity. Here we can see how deep you can fall and in just how much trouble you can get. There are no monsters here, no killers, there’s only people’s own mistakes and their desperation.
While most of the episodic stories end with characters in a terrible place, there are some rare glimpses of hope. They might feel a bit out of place in a manga such as this, but they make the manga much, much better.
And yet, most of the depicted stories are without a doubt tragedies.
We soon learn, however, that Ushijima isn’t the only bad guy out there. Over the course of the manga we see other people, people far worse than him.
What makes this manga so dark is how realistic it is. We all make mistakes in our life. Sometimes we have bad luck. And there are always people out there, who are preying on the weak.
Make no mistake, this manga isn’t meant to glamorize, it’s meant to be unpleasant. It focuses on the underbelly of society, the dark sides and does so in a fascinating way.
Manabe Shouhei’s art isn’t as refined as that of other manga. It’s gritty and almost dirty, but it’s exactly right for a manga such as this. The world of Yamikin Ushijima-kun isn’t a pleasant or clean world, no it’s a dark, gritty and dirty world.
The character design is unique, but many characters aren’t exactly pleasing to look at. But again, this helps to set the tone.
Many of the characters in this manga aren’t likeable. Our protagonist Ushijima is all business and has no scruples taking from people as much money as he can. And yet, you often come to root for him and not for the many other characters.
In later arcs, though, the manga’s focus shifts. Ushijima and his plots aren’t a focus anymore, instead it’s the stories of other people. It’s here that Yamikin Ushijima-kun truly shines. I enjoyed the earlier chapters a lot, but it was the later, longer arcs that I truly came to love. It’s here that the manga’s at its best and truly becomes one of the best seinen manga of all time.
It’s extremely interesting to follow people along, see the lives of different people and to witness what eventually drives them to Ushijima’s office.
Most of those characters aren’t sympathetic, and one’s hard pressed feeling sorry for them, but there are some fates that are truly heartbreaking.
Yamikin Ushijima-kun is a fascinating, dark manga that showcases the underbelly of society in all its glory.
While there are many crime manga out there, almost none portray the dark side of society just like Yamakin Ushijima-kun. It’s definitely among the best seinen manga out there, and well worth the read.
I love Gantz by Hiroya Oku. It’s one of the most insane manga I ever read.
One day, our protagonist Kei Kurono and his childhood friend Masaru Kato die in a tragic train accident. Soon after, they awake in a Tokyo apartment where a group of people, as clueless as them has gathered. In the room’s center sits a giant sphere called Gantz. It explains to them they now have to hunt aliens living among humans and are soon after teleported to a different location.
And thus begins the first of many brutal alien hunts.
With over 400 chapters, Gantz is one of the longest manga on this list. It’s well worth the investment though, especially since Gantz is high on action and, often, low on dialogue.
Gantz is a brutal, gritty series about people hunting aliens. It’s ripe on fluid action and glorified gore, and it’s exactly this that makes Gantz so good. The action and the violence are among the best in the entire manga genre, especially later when the scale and the danger seem to increase exponentially.
Yet, what makes Gantz stand out is not only the action and violence, it’s the sheer absurdity of the premise and the outstanding art. Each character is detailed and unique. The same goes for the aliens, who all have a fantastic design.
Gantz is a battle manga, and it knows it. Battles are amazingly drawn, the action is fluid, and the violence is brutal. The best part, however, is that the enemies aren’t cannon fodder. No, it’s the humans who often end up being torn apart and killed off. Death is normal in Gantz and characters die, many characters die.
While I love the action in Gantz, what truly made me appreciate it was its protagonist. Kurono starts out as an unlikeable and egoistic teenager. He’s the type of character that you almost can’t help but hate. As the manga progresses, however, he develops tremendously, grows as a person and eventually becomes the leader of the Gantz team. Whenever I think back to reading Gantz, the first thing that comes to mind is Kurono’s character development.
However, Kurono isn’t the only fantastic character in this manga. Almost all the supporting characters are fantastic in their own way and many of them have their own traits and abilities.
There are, however, some serious flaws with Gantz I’d like to point out.
Gantz is long, and I while reading I often had the feeling that Hiroya Oku as experimenting. There are quite a few plot points or even entire subplots that are never truly resolved and are just left hanging.
Another is the world of Gantz. The alien missions are dark, brutal and unforgiving, but so is the real world. We bear witness to severe bullying, rape, brutal violence and even a mass shooting.
The biggest problem I had with Gantz, however, was the last mission and the ending. The plot didn’t feel planned out anymore and felt almost as if Oku was making things up on the fly. Near the end Gantz turned very weird, and it’s never truly explained what was going on before the manga was brought to a rushed ending. I understand what Oku wanted to say, but it all happened too fast.
This, of course, doesn’t mean Gantz is a bad manga. No, it’s a fantastic manga. Gantz is a weird, brutal gory mess featuring some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in manga. The same is true for the monsters and their design.
While the plot can deteriorate a little, I still consider Gantz one of the best seinen manga of all time. Gantz is a series about hunting aliens, and during those missions it’s at its absolute best.
18. Liar Game
Shinobu Kaitani’s Liar Game is my favorite mind game manga of all time and also one of the best seinen manga of all time.
The story starts when Kanzaki Nao, an incredibly honest girl, suddenly finds herself a contestant in the Liar Game. It’s a game where you have to deceive and trick your opponent with stakes in the hundreds of millions.
It isn’t long before Nao is tricked and loses her money. When she finds out that Shinichi Akiyama, a genius swindler, is released from prison, she sets out to get his help. After initially rejecting her request, he soon helps her out and turns the first round of the Liar Game around.
What makes Liar game so good are the different games. They might appear simple early on, but over the course of the manga they get much more complex and interesting.
Liar Game is one of the best manga out there for anyone who’s interested in clever mind games and psychological ploys.
Even more interesting than the games themselves, are the many tricks and strategies used by our protagonist. It’s incredibly fun to watch them as they out-play each other repeatedly.
Liar Game’s art is good enough, but never outstanding. The characters are all rendered uniquely and the locations are nicely designed, but all of it is merely serviceable. One thing I found a bit annoying, however, were the over-exaggerated reactions of characters.
Another problem with Liar Game are its side characters. Many of them seem to be only there to represent a certain character type. Apart from a select few such as Yokoya and Harimoto, none of them are a match for Akiyama. Once the aforementioned characters show up, however, the manga becomes much more interesting and reaches new levels of suspense. It’s especially because of the games featuring them that are outstanding and truly make Liar Game one of the best seinen manga.
What might also alienate some readers are the explanations of many of the games. They can become drawn out and overly complex.
There’s also the ending which I found anti-climactic and which felt to me as if the manga was cut short.
Still, I enjoyed Liar Game immensely. While some of the earlier games are easy enough, things get truly interesting during the Contraband Game. It was during this game that my mind was literally blown by the sheer complexity and the many strategies used.
Liar Game is absolutely brilliant and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a complex mind game manga.
17. Bokutachi ga Yarimashita
I came upon Bokutachi ga Yarimashita while searching for other works of Kaneshiro Muneyuki. When I started it, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. Soon enough though, it turned out to be one of the darkest and best seinen manga I ever read.
The manga centers about Tobio Masubuchi and his three friends Isami, Maru, and Paisen. Most of their days are spent leading an average life. Things change when Maru’s beaten up by delinquents from a neighboring school. Together the friends hatch a plan to get revenge.
What was nothing but a little prank quickly turns into deadly reality and their normal lives end.
Bokutachi ga Yarimashita is a fantastic manga about psychological themes such as guilt and redemption. It’s also one of the darkest and most depressing manga I ever read.
Reading this manga was one of the most unique experiences I ever had. It’s a story ripe with tension, but more so one that makes you uncomfortable on a deep psychological level.
What this manga succeeds at the most is the storytelling and the plot. It keeps you engaged throughout the entire run and the pacing is fantastic.
The art is pretty good, but it truly shows in terms of facial expressions and the showcasing of the characters’ emotional state.
However, what truly makes this one of the best seinen manga of all time are, without a doubt, the characters. The story of this manga is entirely character-driven. But here’s the major difference with Bokutachi ga Yarimashita, the characters aren’t heroes; they are normal everyday people. Hell, they are weak and immature, the type who don’t think about the consequences of their actions.
It’s extremely interesting to see these people handle the situation they find themselves in and of course the psychological and emotional toll it takes on them.
Bokutachi ga Yamashita not only presents us with topics such as guilt and redemption but also friendship, love, and life itself. It’s a deep character study and there’s no magical ending here. Life goes on and at the end, our characters have to live with the consequences of their actions.
It’s a fantastically dark and suspenseful manga. Reading Bokutachi ga Yarimashita was an experience for sure. It presents its reader with a deep look at the human psyche.
It’s clearly amongst the best seinen manga and was probably the best manga I read last year.
Homunculus is another manga by the creator of Ichi the Killer, Hideo Yamamoto. While it’s not as brutal and disturbing as Ichi the Killer, it’s much, much stranger.
Homunculus tells the story of Susumu Nakoshi, a homeless man living in his car. One day he encounters Manabu Ito, a young medical student. Manabu is doing research about a process known as trepanation, the drilling of holes into the human skull, and asks Nakoshi to become his test subject.
Nakoshi eventually agrees to undergo the procedure. From then on, he’s able to see distorted versions of humans, the titular homunculi.
Homunculus is not only one of the most unique but also one of the best seinen manga of all time. Yet, it starts out interesting, but it soon becomes very strange.
The manga deals with various themes, such as vanity, trauma, identity disorder and materialism, to name a few.
Homunculus features its fair share of disturbing scenes, both violent and sexual, but also other scenes that are uncomfortable on a deeper, more psychological level.
The story of this manga can almost be described as a slow, but steady descent into madness.
It’s because of this that the manga often feels unpredictable. Right from the beginning we can tell that something’s off about Nakoshi and after the trepanation it becomes more a character study than a straight plot.
What I loved the most about Homunculus was the art and the strange story it told. For those two reasons alone, it’s a worthy addition to a list of the best seinen manga of all time.
The art is abstract disturbing at others, but it’s always detailed.
Our protagonists, Nakoshi and Manabu, are both interesting in their own way, and are both complex and flawed people. Over the course of the manga their interactions are masterfully done and slowly, but steadily reveal more. Neither of the two is a clichéd character, and the same can be said about the various side-characters featured in the story’s course.
It’s near the end, though, that Homunculus derails and turns from a deeper psychological story to one of surreal insanity.
To me, the biggest problem with the manga is the ending. It stayed on my mind for a long while, but I still can’t say what I truly think about it.
Homunculus is a psychological masterpiece and one of the most unique and surreal manga I’ve ever read. It’s a deep, psychological story that features some of the most complex characters I ever came upon.
For the sheer creativity alone, and for its psychological themes alone, this manga is well worth reading.
Freesia is a manga I go back to repeatedly. It’s a weird, surreal story and one of the best seinen manga I ever read.
The manga is created by Jiro Matsumoto, the creator of Keep on Vibrating.
Freesia is set in a dystopian Japan plagued by war. In this society, a new law has been passed, one that legalizes retaliatory killings. This means you’re legally allowed to kill someone who murdered a loved one or hire someone to do the job for you.
Kano, our protagonist, is a man who works for an organization that specializes in retaliatory killings.
This manga’s story isn’t pleasant, and it presents us with a set of horrible and insane people.
Freesia’s world is a dark and cruel one, a gloomy one, and there’s a dark, depressing feeling prevalent throughout the entire work.
The art in Freesia isn’t pretty to look at, but it doesn’t want to be. The style is unique. It’s raw, gritty and unpolished. Backgrounds are detailed while faces are often simplified. It’s an interesting contrast that feels oddly fitting for a story such as this.
The cast of this manga is full of broken and damaged people. One can almost tell that Jiro Matsumoto discarded the idea of presenting us well-adjusted, sane people.
Kano, our protagonist, suffers from schizophrenia, delusions and memory failure. Yet, Kano understands that it’s not the world, but he who’s crazy.
Other members of the cast suffer from similar problems, the most prevalent being delusions and hallucinations. This shows in the manga itself. Sometimes scenes don’t appear to make sense, or appear strange, until we learn the truth about what’s really happening.
Freesia might appear to be a story about retaliatory killings, but it focuses more on personal stories. It gives us insight into both our main characters and the people they are tasked to kill.
This helps especially in fleshing out the extras, the targets of the retaliator killings. It makes these characters sympathetic and turns many of the killings into tragedies of their own right. It also shows us that the world is not black and white, but nothing but morally gray. This is another reason I consider Freesia one of the best seinen manga.
The world of Freesia isn’t safe, and atrocities are committed daily. Our characters too, are far from normal. Most of them are mentally ill and some even snap over the course of the story.
And yet, we never learn much about this world. The war is nothing but a backdrop, a reason for all the misery that’s happening.
It’s similar for our main cast. We’re only shown glimpses of their past, but we never truly learn who they really are. This, however, isn’t too much of a problem, since Freesia is mostly concerned with Kano and his point of view of the world.
Freesia might be a tough read for some people because of the prevalent theme of mental illness. It can confuse and irritate and cause scenes that are downright surreal.
This manga is dark, gloomy and depressing and clearly not for everyone. However, Kano’s portrayal, his delusions and hallucinations make it a surreal and unique experience and one of the best seinen manga I ever read.
If you’re looking for a dark and surreal story, read Freesia.
Junji Ito’s my favorite horror mangaka of all time, and I regard his horror collection as one of the greatest works of Japanese horror.
Most of the collection comprises one-shots, but there are also longer works in here. One is Ito’s adaption of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the other one of his most popular works, Tomie.
Junji Ito’s Tomie tells the story of a high school girl who gets murdered and dismembered. This, however, only proves to be the beginning of the tale because Tomie shows up the next day as if nothing happened. Soon enough the true horror in this tale is revealed. Tomie is a special type of being, one able to regenerate any injury and replicate from the smallest part. To add to this, she’s of entrancing beauty and drives every man into a senseless obsession about her and ultimately mad.
The story of Tomie is told in episodic fashion, but she’s never the protagonist. Instead, she’s always an enigma, always an evil.
This collection contains some of Ito’s best work. My favorites amongst those many stories are The Long Dream, Hanging Balloons, Lingering Farewell, Lovesick Dead and My Dear Ancestors.
Ito’s work stands out because of his unique and beautiful style. He’s a master at what he does.
Body horror is a common theme and his characters are often distorted and twisted, presenting the reader with gruesome imagery, violence and gore. Yet, Ito’s work stands out the most for his character reactions, especially their faces. Wide eyes, terrified faces and distorted expressions are rendered in stunning detail
Another element that makes Ito’s work stand out is the page turn. Ito’s a master of it and often ends a page with a character’s shocked or terrified expression. It’s only on the next page, after the page is turned, that he reveals the reason.
Ito’s stories often feature characters going mad, toying with things they don’t understand or giving into their desires.
These character’s, however, they aren’t heroes. Instead, they are nobodies, mundane people like you and me, going about their normal life only to stumble into horrific situations. Yet, these situations are often caused by things as mundane as his characters. Instead of monsters or killers, Ito’s stories feature things such as dreams, love, hair or even musical records who turn into deadly enigmas.
Junji Ito is in my opinion Japan’s best horror mangaka. If you’re horror fan and you want to enjoy the horror genre at its best, I urge you to read the works of Junji Ito.
13. Omoide Emanon
There are certain stories that contain glances of absolute brilliance. Kenji Tsuruta’s Omoide Emanon is such a story and one of the best seinen manga of all time. It’s a beautiful short little story based on the novel by Shinji Kajio.
The story features a young man who’s returning home after his travels. On a ferry he meets a beautiful young woman. She introduces herself as Emanon and the two of them get to know each other.
While they have dinner together, she tells him her story.
There’s something about this manga. It has this warm, solemn atmosphere about it. It might be the way our protagonists meet or why the young man returns home, but it’s all strangely fitting together.
Omoide Emanon’s art is beautiful, and it paints a beautiful picture of a beautiful story. The characters are rendered very realistic. Emanon stands out especially. She’s beautiful and charismatic, but also ominous.
While it’s a short manga, barely a volume long, I’m surprised how many emotions were packed into it. This short little tale had more of an emotional impact on me than many other, much longer series.
However, sometimes it’s the smaller things in life that stay on our mind the longest. If you read Omoide Emanon, it might very well become one of these things.
12. Onani Master Kurosawa
Onani Master Kurosawa or Masturbation Master Kurosawa is a manga created by Katsura Ise and Takuma Yokota. I honestly thought a manga with a title like that wouldn’t be any good. Yet, after reading, I consider it one of the best seinen manga I ever read.
I first found out about the manga on an image board. Finding out what the title meant, I thought I knew what I was in for. Nothing but a big perverted joke. Still, I was intrigued and before long I realized I was entirely wrong.
Our protagonist is Kakeru Kurosawa, a fourteen-year-old, anti-social loner with a very special habit. Once school is over, he heads to a seldom-used bathroom at school to masturbate.
Before long he notices how the timid Aya Kitahara is bullied by two of the popular girls in class. He takes retribution into his own hands by doing what he does best.
Kitahara eventually figures out he’s the culprit and not only confronts him, but blackmails him to do the same to other girls who’ve crossed her.
This is the start of a strange, but heartfelt coming-of-age story.
The manga starts out humorous, and its earlier parts are often seen as a parody of Death Note. Over time, though, it gradually changes and becomes a sweet, inspiring story that tackles various serious topics.
Onani Master Kurosawa’s art gives a lot of emphasis on characters, bringing their expressions to life with its careful shading and its sketchy style. Backgrounds, however, are often simple and uninspired. The art is good enough to get the job done, but it’s never outstanding.
The manga truly stands out because of its character. Kurosawa is a well-rounded, believable and likeable character. It was surprising to me how a character who’s called the Masturbation Master can be so well done. This, of course, is mostly because of his development over the course of the manga.
Kurosawa is relatable and we as the reader get to know him intimately, no pun intended. We not only see what’s going on, or how he feels, no we come to understand him. It’s this intimacy that elevates Onani Master Kurosawa to one of the best seinen manga out there.
Almost all the important side-characters are as complex and realistic as Kurosawa. They might not develop as much as him, but they too change and we get to understand them as well.
What might be off-putting to some readers is Kurosawa’s fantasies. They can be disturbing, but one has to remember that he’s a teenager. Apart from those parts though, there’s no cheap fan service throughout the rest of the manga.
Onani Master Kurosawa proved to be one of my biggest surprises in manga. I thought it was nothing but a perverted joke, but it turned out to be one of the best seinen manga I ever read. It’s a sweet, well-told coming of age story I urge anyone to check out.
Tsutomu Nihei’s Biomega is a mixture of science-fiction, cyberpunk and zombie apocalypse. This manga is as weird and crazy as it sounds. It’s for this reason and many others that I love it and regard it as one of the best seinen manga of all time.
It’s the story of the synthetic human Zouichi Kanoe and his AI companion Fuyu Kano. Biomega begins when they are sent to retrieve a human that’s immune from the N5S virus.
All who get infected by the virus are changed to drones, disfigured, zombie-like creatures.
The story soon takes up steam though, as more characters with different agencies are introduced. The most notable of those, Niardi, the leader of the DRF.
Biomega is a typical Nihei manga. It features a futuristic world, characters who aren’t fully human and lots of cyberpunk action.
As is always the case with the works of Tsutomu Nihei, the art in Biomega is gorgeous. It’s raw and gritty, featuring stunning and wide-reaching architecture and various cybernetic monstrosities. Nihei’s art is enough to make Biomega one of the best seinen manga.
Biomega’s creature design is also fantastic. There are the drones, who are reminiscent of lifeless robots, but are clearly biological. The many other creatures featured in Biomega are depicted in all their stunning detail and their transformations are delightfully horrible to witness.
The same, of course, is true for our protagonist Zouichi, and fellow synthetic human Nishu. Both are absolute over-the-top badasses. Their motorcycles, their outfits and their weapons are all incredibly well done.
What made Biomega stand out from other works by Nihei is the pacing. Many chapters of this manga comprise nothing but action, some of which are incredibly fast-paced. This action is almost always over-the top, but it’s well-done, fluid and you’ll always know what’s going on.
Similarly to Nihei’s other works, especially Blame!, Biomega scarcely uses dialogue, and the story is often told via stunning visuals. More so in Biomega, making it almost impossible to make a clear division between the art and the story.
What I love so much about Biomega is the scope, the craziness and the creativity of the work. I’ve seldom read a manga similar to it.
The fast-pacing of Biomega’s story is a double-edged sword though. At times things are moving forward too quickly, giving you almost no time to breathe or think about what’s going on. Biomega’s second part, however, is where things get completely out of hand. It could almost be a different manga.
While the first part is a fast-paced cyberpunk story set in an apocalyptic world, the second part is more reminiscent of a cyberpunk-fantasy story. It’s almost as if Nihei’s trying to fit way too much into a six volume long series.
And yet, it never deterred my enjoyment of the manga. The art, the action and the many twisted cyberpunk creatures we get to see easily make up for the above weaknesses.
While the story’s weird, sometimes lackluster, I was still stunned by Biomega as a whole and consider among the best seinen manga.
I recommend it to anyone who likes the other works of Tsutomu Nihei, science-fiction and cyberpunk.
Smuggler is another manga by Manabe Shohei, but it’s much shorter than his other work featured on this list.
Our protagonist Yosuke Kinuta, a failed actor with a massive debt, is forced to work as a smuggler and becomes part of a corpse disposal crew.
Trouble brews when the crew becomes involved in a mob war. Even worse, are the two Chinese assassins joining the fold.
I consider Smuggler, as short as it is, one of the best manga in the crime and thriller genre.
The action is fantastic and the characters are great throughout the board. Yosuke stands out amongst the rest of the cast by being relatable and the only member of the cast who seems to be normal and not entirely mad.
My favorites, however, were the leader of the corpse disposal crew and the assassins, who are all absolute badasses.
While there are occasional scenes of subtle humor, this is a dark and serious story.
I think Smuggler can be best described as a story similar to movies by Tarantino or Guy Richie. It’s a crime story featuring crazy events, over-the-top characters and scenes that pack a heavy punch.
Manabe Shohei’s personal style isn’t for everyone. It’s detailed and well done, but his characters are rendered strangely uniquely. Their distinct facial features make them look more realistic than the characters in other manga, but also somewhat ugly.
While it’s an interesting style, it’s not for everyone and I can see people disliking it.
Smuggler is a hidden gem that’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a disturbing and amazing thriller that’s fantastic throughout the board. It features memorable characters, stunning action and some absolutely amazing moments. At only five chapters, it might be one of the shorter manga on this list, but I still consider it one of the best seinen manga of all time.
I enjoyed it so much; it inspired me to write my own adaption of it, Express Delivery Services.
If you like crime stories and crazy characters, Smuggler is a must-read.
9. The Climber
The Climber by Shinichi Sakamoto is one of the most beautiful manga I ever read.
I’m not a fan of sports manga and so I was reluctant to read it. Once I did, however, I discovered one of the best seinen manga of all time.
Our protagonist, Buntarou Mori, is a lonesome and solitary teenager. He gets interested in climbing when a classmate challenges him to climb the school building. Mori accepts without hesitation and it’s in this moment that his passion is awoken.
When Mori’s introduced, you feel like he doesn’t care about anything. After climbing the school building, however, he changes completely and appears like a different person.
As the story of The Climber continues, Mori climbs more and more mountains and gets to know other characters. Yet, he’s always a loner.
The thing I loved most about the Climber was the showcasing of dedication and perseverance. It’s almost as if the manga says that if you push and work hard enough, you can do anything.
I also enjoyed the story of the manga immensely. At first glance, one might think it’s a manga solely about climbing, but it’s also one about character development. The story in the Climber is hugely character-driven and shows Mori’s development as a person. Mori’s got problems. He’s someone who can’t seem to relate to people, but as he overcomes more and more mountains, he also overcomes more and more problems. This dualism of the story is fantastically done.
Death is another theme prevalent in this manga. Mountain climbing is a dangerous sport, and The Climber makes it no secret. And yet, death is never dramatized, never show as an over-the-top struggle, no it’s haunting, depressing and natural.
The art in this manga is among the best in the medium. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, often presenting us with stunning double pages of mountain ranges. These are rendered in excruciating detail and a delight to look at.
One thing that makes the Climber stand out amongst other manga is the glimpses of poetic beauty. Throughout the manga, many panels are solely dedicated to Mori climbing. There’s no dialogue, instead the manga speaks through its visuals alone. It’s a thing of beauty, one that elevates The Climber to one of the best seinen manga of all time.
And yet, it goes even further. The Climber adds metaphors, allusions and even literary passages and quotes. It gives the entire work a feeling of joy and character, but never feels pretentious. The Climber is clearly a piece of art.
While it’s an outstanding work, it’s also not free of fault.
The very first problem is the change of tone. The manga was originally written by two people. When its writer left, Sakamoto Shinichi, the artist, continued it on its own. It’s at this point that the focus of the manga changes. It’s not so much about sports anymore, but becomes an atmospheric and visual character study.
This manga is for and foremost the story of Mori Buntarou. We might witness other characters coming into his life, some of which are well-developed, but the focus is clearly on Mori. This focus on a single character might daunt some readers.
Another problem is the frequent time skips. Some are only a few days long, others will span weeks or even years. This can make the manga somewhat confusing. It didn’t deter my enjoyment too much and was well handled, but you might wonder what happened.
The Climber is a work of beauty. It’s not solely a manga about climbing. It’s rather a character-driven coming-of-age story. While this might make for some heavy reading at times, it’s never an unpleasant experience.
The Climber is without a doubt one of the best seinen manga of all time, one I’d recommend to anyone.
Me and the Devil Blues by Akira Hiramoto is a manga that retells the life of Robert Johnson and set in the American South.
You might wonder how a manga such as that might work, but I can tell you it’s an absolutely fantastic manga.
Robert Johnson, our protagonist, is a dabbling musician. He wants to learn how to play the blues, but he’s no good at it. One day, he hears of an urban legend: if you play alone at a crossroads at night, the devil will visit you. He will take your soul, but for it, he will make you a genius blues player.
One night he tries exactly that and from then on his life changes forever.
Me and the Devil Blues is fantastic. The art in this manga is outstanding. It’s gritty, but very detailed, creating a very personal style that’s nothing short of beautiful.
Another is the setting. The South in the 1930s is well depicted. We can see the deep-seated division between white and black and also the many blues clubs so popular during the time. This gives the entire manga a very realistic and western feel.
The characters in this manga are all well done. RJ is an interesting protagonist, one who’s more thrown into the events taking place than choosing them himself. Clyde Barrow is, in my opinion, the best character in the manga and serves as a great companion to RJ.
There are also many side-characters in this manga, the best amongst them is the enigmatic Stanley McDonald.
What I came to enjoy the most about Me and the Devil Blues was the atmosphere. This makes it one of the best seinen of all time. I’ve seldom read a work that’s so heavy with suspense. The entire manga and its story are loaded with tension. There are certain parts, or even entire chapters, that don’t let you catch your breath. It’s outstandingly well done.
The one thing I have to criticize is the beginning. Even after multiple re-reads, I’m still confused about what’s actually going on.
Me and the Devil Blues is a hidden gem I think few people know about. Its western feel, its heavy suspense and outstanding art make it one of the best seinen manga of all time.
I’ll urge anyone who likes manga to give this one a try. It’s well worth it.
7. Vinland Saga
Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga is one of the best seinen manga of all time. Art, story, characters, this manga is fantastic in all departments.
Our protagonist Thorfinn Karlsefni, son of Thors, is part of a mercenary group led by a man named Askeladd. We soon learn that Askeladd is responsible for Thor’s death. It’s getting revenge that makes a young Thorfinn join Askeladd’s group.
After this brief introduction, the manga takes up steam when the Danish prince Canute is taken hostage. Askeladd quickly puts together a plan that should change their lives forever.
Vinland Saga is manga focusing on Vikings and Viking culture set in the 11th century in Europe. It’s a brutal time and we witness rape, plunder and murder.
The manga takes, of course, liberties, but it feels very realistic.
Makoto Yukimura’s art is stunning and it can rival the best seinen manga of all time. The first volume is already fantastic to look at, but the art serves to only get better. Vineland Saga is without a doubt one of the most beautiful manga of all time and brings to work 11th century Europe in stunning detail. What I loved the most are the many shots of towns, cities and farmsteads. It really helps to bring the story to life.
Being a manga about Vikings, there are, of course, a lot of battles. These are all around brutal. The violence is blunt, gross and gratuitous, but it never feels over the top or unrealistic.
And yet, Vinland Saga isn’t a story about brutal wars and battle, it’s the story or Thorfinn. There are long parts that tell a clam, gloomy and quiet story. While I enjoyed the battles immensely, it’s those quieter parts I came to love the most. It’s here that the story and the characters truly shine.
The characters in Vinland Saga are among the best in the entirety of manga.
Thorfinn starts out as a quiet and efficient killer and we can feel the rage burning inside of him. He lives for nothing but his revenge.
As the story progresses though, Thorfinn grows tremendously and serves to become one of manga’s most complex protagonists.
My favorite character in Vinland Saga, however, is Askeladd. He might be my favorite manga character of all time and if you read Vinland Saga, you’ll find out why.
Many other side-characters are well-developed in their own right. Einar comes to mind, and so does Hild, or even Sigurd.
Thorkell is another fan favorite, but I never truly warmed up to him. He’s fun and his over-the-top character is based on an actual legend. Still, the way he acts most of the time makes him feel like more of a comic-relief character than one to be taken serious.
There isn’t much more that needs to be said about Vinland Saga. It’s an outstanding manga, both when it’s brutally violent, but also when it’s quieter and calmer. It’s a fantastic read and truly deserves to be called one of the best seinen manga of all time. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue is based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa and tells a romanticized version of the life of Musashi Miyamoto. It’s a fantastic samurai manga and one of the best seinen manga of all time.
At the beginning of the story we get to know a young man, Shinmen Takezou, who wants to become a great swordsman. He and his best friend Matahachi Honiden enlist as part of the Toyotomi army.
They barely make it out alive and after returning home, Takezo is declared a wanted criminal. After he’s caught, he’s strung up at a tree and left to die. He’s freed by a monk named Takuan Soho and given a new name, Musashi Miyamoto.
From here on, the manga details his life as he travels the land in pursuit of the sword to become ‘Invincible under the Heavens.’
Vagabond stands out in various ways.
The most prevalent is the art which is absolutely gorgeous and even among the best manga in terms of art, few can compare to Vagabond.
Vagabond is a samurai manga, so there are a lot of battles. All of them are stunning. They are brutal, gory and disturbing. Limbs and heads are cut off, guts are sent flying, and it’s all presented to us in gorgeous detail. This explicit content, however, is never glamorized and instead shown in an almost matter-of-factly fashion.
And yet, Vagabond isn’t solely about action. Many of the battles are more reliant of suspense and tension, about making the right move at the right time.
Vagabond’s art truly comes to shine in the design of its many characters. Each character in the manga is depicted in realistic detail and they are all unique to one another.
What makes Vagabond so enjoyable are its characters. Watching Musashi’s travels and seeing him battle various opponents is an absolute joy. Musashi is not the only character featured in this manga, though. There’s also Sasaki Koichiro, another great swordsman of the same era, and this manga is as much his story as that of Musashi.
As we follow Musashi’s and Koichiro’s story we also get to know a plethora of other character and almost all of them are similarly complex and interesting.
The most enjoyable part of Vagabond was the introspection we get about each of those characters. The manga gives us glimpses into all of them, their emotions, desires and fears, without ever painting them as good or evil. No, they are all just people living by the sword.
The storytelling in Vagabond is another thing I enjoyed immensely. While it’s the story of Musashi Miyamoto, long parts are dedicated to Koichiro and Matahachi. It makes the manga more refreshing and lets us get to know every character’s unique path.
One of the best things about Vagabond is Musashi’s development. While he starts out as a demon child who only wants to fight, he matures into a calm man, one questioning what it means to be invincible.
This also showcases in his battles. At first he’s nothing but a reckless use throwing himself into battles, but slowly turns into someone who picks his battles and uses finesse rather than raw strength to win. It’s fascinating to see him turn from a bloodthirsty and amoral warrior to one that’s philosophical. It’s one of the many reasons I consider Vagabond one of the best seinen manga out there.
Vagabond is great throughout the board, but the story can drag on a little. This is especially noticeable in one of its later arcs.
The spiritual and philosophical moments in the series are another problem. I usually enjoy the inclusion of these themes and many times it’s insightful and beautiful, but at others it can come up as pretentious.
Still, Vagabond is definitely one of the greatest accomplishments in manga history. It combines fascinating characters and character development with some of the best art I’ve ever seen.
I recommend Vagabond to anyone who’s interested in manga, even those who might not be fond of samurai culture or samurai manga. Vagabond is at the top of the entire medium and it’s clearly one of the best seinen manga of all time.
5. Ultra Heaven
Keiichi Koike’s Ultra Heaven is a stunning piece of art and the most psychedelic manga I’ve ever read. It’s a manga unlike any I’ve read before and was an entirely unique experience.
Set in a dystopian future, it describes a world in which all feelings can be artificially created by the right type of drug.
Our protagonist Kabu is addicted to those drugs. Eventually, he stumbles upon a man who tells him of a new, illegal substance, one called Ultra Heaven.
From here on out, Kabu and the reader are in for the craziest, most creative trips I’ve ever read.
Dystopian societies are nothing new. Even the idea of artificially creating feelings via drugs is a concept seen before in the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
The reason I consider Ultra Heaven one of the best seinen manga is not the setting or the story, but the art. The setting is gritty and detailed, characters look realistic and locations are detailed. Yet, where the art truly stands out is during trips, hallucination and mediation.
While manga panels are usually rectangular and organized, Ultra Heaven breaks those conventions. While Kabu’s having a trip or suffers from an altered mind, the shapes and panels are distorted and twisted to show the character’s mental state. Panels become twisting spirals and start running into one another, showcasing absolute chaos. It’s a surreal, almost disorienting feeling that shows perfectly what’s happening in the manga.
I’ve seen nothing similar and I don’t think there’s another manga out there that’s deconstructing the medium’s visual rules in a way similar to Ultra Heaven.
Ultra Heaven features a variety of themes, the most prevalent being consciousness and the transcendent to different states of mind or being.
At first, this is showcased by drugs, but later meditation is used similarly.
Ultra Heaven’s cast of characters, however, is limited. There’s our protagonist Kabu, who’s an addict and a small-time dealer trapped in his own world. The second main character is his female friend, a neo-hippie who uses technology to reach a higher state of consciousness.
Yet, Ultra Heaven has problems. Ultra Heaven doesn’t so much have a plot as it is a slice-of-life story about an addict.
The biggest problem, however, is that the manga seems to never have been finished. It comprises only three chapters, but those are longer than what one’s used to. A lot is condensed in those chapters, making following the plot confusing and overwhelming. It’s not that you don’t understand what’s happening, it’s that nothing is ever explained. This becomes even more prevalent in the last chapter that focuses on meditation. It’s almost as if we get a mere glimpse in this chaotic, strange world and are left with just that.
Yet, those things don’t make Ultra Heaven bad. I think this sort of presentation is exactly what Keiichi Koike wanted the manga to be. A wild, unrestrained ride down into one’s consciousness.
Ultra Heaven is without a doubt a visual and creative masterpiece and one of the greatest seinen manga ever made. It’s unfortunate that so few people know about it.
I’d recommend Ultra Heaven to anyone who’s interested in drug culture, strange visuals and manga who are weird and surreal.
Uzumaki by Junji Ito is one of the most famous horror manga of all time, a horror masterpiece and without a doubt one of the best seinen manga of all time.
Manga can be a strange medium and there are many disturbing and bizarre tales out there. Few, however, are as unique and weird as Uzumaki.
Uzumaki is a three volume epic and tells what happens in the small coastal town of Kurouzu-cho that’s infested by spirals.
Over the course of the story, our protagonists Shuuichi Saitou and Kirie Goshima stumble upon one freakishly scary incident after another, all involving spirals.
The very first chapter details how Shuuichi’s father’s obsession with spirals turns to madness. It ultimately comes to a terrifying conclusion which is presented to us in one of Uzumaki’s most popular pages.
What elevates Uzumaki above many other horror manga is not the story, but the art and creativity behind it.
Ito’s imagination is incredible and disturbing as he shows chapter after chapter. The inhabitants of Kurouzu-cho are warped and twisted into various spiral shapes, always with dire results.
While Ito’s art is always fantastic, he’s at his best in Uzumaki. His unique style helps to bring forth his dark imagination and presents the horror in ghastly detail.
The curse of the spiral is dire, and Ito is sure to present us with blood, gore and twisted bodies.
As always, Ito’s characters are presented as gloomy with over-exaggerated facial expressions when they experience true terror. This strange style of character presentation really helps to set the mood for the entire manga.
What makes Uzumaki one of the best seinen manga and helps it stand out so much, is the unique premise. Uzumaki isn’t a story about monsters, killers or even a feasible antagonist. There’s only a concept, the spiral that lingers over Kurouzu-cho and our protagonists as an omnipresent curse.
While Uzumaki has an overarching storyline, most of it is told in episodic fashion. The first volumes are an anthology of spiral-related incidents all witnessed by the same protagonists and happening in the same town.
In these chapters we encounter hair, snails, doomed lovers and even pregnancies all tainted by the curse of the spiral. Every single one of these incidents is unique and terrifying.
It’s only in the third volume that Ito brings the story together and drives the narrative to a conclusion as he reveals the true Lovecraftian nature of the curse.
Kirie is more a vessel to give us insight into the surreal hell of Kurouzu-cho than an actual character and thus her actions and her continued presence in town can appear strange and illogical.
The episodic nature of storytelling is another problem. In each chapter we get to know new characters and often they will be gone by the end. This makes it hard to get emotionally invested in them and ultimately makes their fate less impactful to the reader.
The third volume is weaker than the rest. Ito’s blend of horror works best when it’s left unexplained. It should be witnessed, but not necessarily understood. Uzumaki’s ending, while satisfying in its own right, ultimately weakens the manga a bit.
Uzumaki is a must for any horror fan out there. It’s one of the greatest accomplishments of the horror genre and one of the best seinen manga of all time. Ito’s type of storytelling and his characters might not be for everyone, but his art and creativity are outstanding. Uzumaki is definitely a must-read for any horror and seinen fan.
Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! is one of the best seinen manga of all time and also one of my all-time favorites.
Blame! is a science-fiction, cyberpunk epic that follows Killy as he travels the City. He’s on a mission to find a human with net Terminal Genes. A person like this could gain access to the so-called Netsphere, a computerized control network. It would allow them to stop both the chaotic growth of the city and Safeguard who’s exterminating the remains of humanity.
Blame!’s most amazing aspects are the art and the world building.
The city is a technological and architectural wasteland, made up of mega-structures of mind-boggling proportions. The world showcased in Blame!’s many distant shots of Killy, barely visible amongst the backdrop, are epic in proportion. Tsutomu Nihei presents those to us in many huge panels and panel spreads. It gives off both a feeling of awe and one of disorientation.
Not only Blame!’s world stands out but also the various creatures populating it. There are cyborgs, the Safeguard, the Builders and various other technological and cybernetic horrors. All of them are unique and terrifying in their own right. The detail in which they are rendered is absolutely outstanding. I often caught myself being impressed by and staring at Nihei’s creations before I could read on.
In terms of art Blame! is one of the best, if not the best seinen manga I’ve read.
Blame! is full of action and it’s showcased in stunning detail. The action often features enormous explosions, but also intimate battles.
Yet, Blame! contrasts this action with the aforementioned calmer, somber shots of Killy traveling against the backdrop of the city.
The storytelling in Blame! differs from other manga. Dialogues are sparsely used and there’s rarely a semblance of a typical plot. Blame! much like other works by Nihei, uses visuals to convey a story.
Blame! comprises multiple acts, all connected by Killy’s overarching quest for a human with Net Terminal Genes. Each of these arcs is fantastic in their own right and features interesting characters and antagonists.
Because of this visual style of storytelling, Killy’s character can seem to lack compared to other protagonists. He’s a somber character who travels the city quietly until he meets Cibo, our second protagonist.
As we learn in the story’s course, we learn more about both of them, but this is less in terms of character development. Instead we get more details about who they are.
Blame! also has some problems. The action can often overwhelm, especially because of Killy’s Gravitational Beam Emitter. It’s a weapon that causes mass destruction, giant explosions and battles often descend into chaos.
The biggest problem with Blame! is the story. As I mentioned before, the story is more episodic, with each arc focusing on different pockets of humanity. It’s only the last arc that focuses fully on Killy’s quest and it’s here where things get confusing. Instead of a clear ending, we’re presented with yet another mystery to add to an already huge list.
While Blame! might lack in the story department, it’s worth reading for the art and world alone. It’s an outstanding, visual masterpiece and for that alone deserves to be called one of the greatest seinen manga of all time.
In terms of art and world building, there are very few manga that can compare to Blame! I highly recommend this manga to anyone, but especially to fans of science-fiction, technological horror and cyberpunk.
Kentaro Miura’s Berserk is probably the single best seinen manga of all time. It’s not just the art, the story, but the themes and narrative that make it stand out. Berserk is a dark fantasy manga featuring lots of action, gore, incredible manga design and two of the most complex characters in all of manga.
Berserk tells the story of Guts, the ‘Black Swordsman,’ on his quest for revenge against monsters known as apostles and the ominous man known as Griffith.
The manga might appear simple at first glance. Our protagonist Guts wields a giant sword and fights monsters and humans alike who get in his way.
That’s true for the first arc of the manga, the Black Swordsman arc. Before long, we learn more about Guts and we catch glimpses at what a complex and nuanced character he really is.
The Golden Age arc gives us more information about Guts and about his connection to Griffith. Both of them are incredibly complex and unique characters. While they differ from one another, they are both drawn to each other. Berserk does an amazing job showcasing, exploring, testing and ultimately severing their relationship.
Another thing I love is the dualism of these characters, their symbolism and how they appear to the people around them. Guts, our protagonist, is wearing mostly black and known as the Black Swordsman, while Griffith, the antagonist is shown in all white and appears almost angelic.
It’s these two characters and their relationship alone that puts Berserk above most other manga and already makes it one of the best seinen manga.
While Berserk starts off as a simple revenge story it becomes a much more personal narrative during the Golden Age arc. Yet, the longer Berserk continues, the grander it becomes. The story includes foreign invasions, Christian fanaticism and even magical creatures and powers.
Berserk’s world is cruel and dark place, one much darker than one would expect. War and atrocities are the norm and Miura isn’t shy to showcase them. We not only witness battles and war but also murder, rape, torture and senseless slaughter.
This violence and gore is always greatest when Guts is involved. We see him cut down anything in his path, be it humans, knights in full armor or monsters. Guts are flying, people are dismembered, decapitated or torn to pieces.
While Berserk is already outstanding in terms of characters and story, the main reason for its popularity is its art. Berserk almost transcends the medium, becoming less manga and more a piece of art. Few manga out there can compare to Berserk and you can often find more details in a single page of Berserk than entire chapters of other manga. For its detailed and outstanding art alone, Berserk deserves to be on this list of the best seinen manga of all time.
What I love the most is the monster design. Berserk’s apostles are absolutely gorgeous to look at in all their unique horror. They are beautiful, grotesque and disturbing.
The single biggest problem with Berserk is the release time. While the art of Berserk has improved throughout the years, the manga’s release has slowed down massively. Berserk was originally released at a pace of two volumes per year. In the last years though, there’s barely a handful of chapters a year. It’s a shame, especially considering that the story of Berserk isn’t nearly done.
Another problem is the quality of the first arc, especially during the first chapters. They simply don’t hold up to later parts of Berserk. Our anti-hero protagonist Guts is almost a villain himself and takes out apostles who are comically evil.
This, however, only serves to elevate the Golden Age arc even higher. Many fans consider it the high point of Berserk and one of the greatest arcs in manga history.
Berserk is nothing short of art. The manga gets dark, very dark, but it’s a masterfully told story. When Berserk is at its best, almost no other manga can compare.
During its first arc Berserk might not appear the masterpiece it is, but if you read on, you will be surprised by how good it is.
I can’t recommend Berserk enough and it truly is one of the greatest seinen manga of all time. Anyone who’s interested in dark fantasy, horror or manga should read Berserk. It’s at the peak of the medium and as good as it gets.
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura is my favorite manga and, in my opinion, the best seinen manga of all time.
It’s an action-packed story in the guise of a samurai manga, but rarely explores themes of honor or samurai code.
It tells the story of Manji, the infamous ‘Hundred Men Killer.’ To punish him for his deeds, an eight-hundred-year-old nun, Yaobikuni, placed bloodworms in his body. This renders him immortal and able to heal almost any wound.
To atone for his crime and free himself from the curse of immortality, Manji resolves to kill one thousand evil men.
The story takes up steam when Manji meets Rin Asano, a sixteen-year-old girl, who asks him for help against the man who killed her parents.
This man’s name is Kagehisa Anotsu, and he’s the leader of the Itto-Ryu sword school.
Manji decides to travel with Rin in search of the members of the Itto-Ryu and Anotsu.
While Blade of the Immortal’s premise is simple, the plot gets more complex over time as new faction are introduced, but never strays far from a revenge story.
What truly solidified Blade of the Immortal as one of the best seinen manga of all time are its characters. Our protagonists Rin and Manji go through significant amounts of character development. Yet, they aren’t the only excellent characters in this manga. Blade of the Immortal features a wide cast of fantastic characters. Anotsu Kagehisa is without a doubt the most interesting character in the entire manga, but there are also Taito Magatsu, Makie Otono-Tachibana and of course, Shira.
We get to know these side-characters, learn more about their motifs and backgrounds and all of them receive the same amount of character development. Sometimes I even caught myself being more interested in certain side-characters than our protagonists.
The biggest testament to the manga’s greatness is the nonexistent distinction between good and evil. Everyone has their own circumstances, ideals and reasons to fight. Manji and Rin are our protagonists and this alone makes Kagehisa Anotsu the story’s antagonist.
However, there’s one exception. Blade of the Immortal features one of the craziest antagonists in seinen manga history.
What I also came to like about Blade of the Immortal are the depiction of female characters. Female characters are often relegated to the role of love interests and damsels in distress, not so in Blade of the Immortal. The manga features quite a few female warriors, especially Makie Otono-Tachibana and Hyakurin.
One can say that all characters are badass and look damn cool. There are minor side-characters in Blade of the Immortal whose backstory is more intense and interesting than other manga’s protagonists.
While the setting in Blade of Immortal is populated by samurai and ronin, it’s not your typical samurai manga. While other samurai manga focuses on such topics as samurai code, honor, or ponder philosophical questions, Blade of the Immortal is a raw, gritty and brutal revenge story.
Even more interesting is that characters seldom speak in samurai lingo. This is especially true for Manji and many of the Itto-Ruy members, who act and curse like contemporary street punks or gangsters.
Another point that makes this such an outstanding manga is the art. Blade of the Immortal is one of the absolute best manga in the arts department. While Hiroaki Samura’s style is gritty and sketchy, it’s also very detailed. Every character in this manga looks great and unique.
The world of Blade of the Immortal is beautiful and gives us a detailed view of traditional Japan.
The high point of the manga is, of course, the fights. Blade of the Immortal features some of the best fights I’ve ever seen. They are brutal. People are torn apart, massive amounts of blood are shed and limbs and guts are flying. Yet, the violence, with one exception, is never over the top, instead it serves to showcase the brutal nature of sword fights.
The action in Blade of the Immortal is easy to follow and never confusing. This, however, doesn’t mean that fights are simple or boring. They are some of the best and most intense I’ve ever seen.
Perhaps it might seem that Manji’s immortality might lower the stakes, but that’s not the case. It gives him an advantage, but it’s often one he needs to even have a chance of making it out alive.
The only flaw some people might have with Blade of the Immortal might be the place. The early chapters and volumes are arguably the manga’s weakest. Once Manji and Rin set out to take revenge, however, it’s almost flawless to ride until the end.
Nothing more needs to be said about this manga. Blade of the Immortal is one of the best seinen manga out there and one that will keep you engaged until the end. It stands out in terms of characters, character development and, of course, fights.
Blade of the Immortal is absolutely amazing and anyone interested in manga should check this masterpiece out.