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Favorite Manga Series

Kara's picture

漫画

Our library is home to several manga series.  People seem to be a little daunted when they see these rows of books that can take up an entire shelf, so I thought I would highlight a few of my favorite ones.  Unlike many of our American comic books, these comics from Japan are full-fledged, ongoing stories and must be read in order.  Although most are aimed at a younger audience, manga series are produced for virtually all ages and interests.  There is a little bit of a learning curve to read these books, but if you’ve never read any before, don’t fret!  Each volume will have a little page of instruction and it doesn’t take too long to get used to it. 

Fullmetal Alchemist

In an alternate world where people are able to use alchemy (a type of magic), this series is about two brothers who commit the ultimate taboo – trying to bring someone back from the dead.  Their act – which doesn’t work – costs one of them their body and the other a literal arm and leg.  As the series progresses, the brothers investigate a way to recover what they lost through the means of a Philosopher’s Stone and along the way begin to uncover serious issues within the government in which they work.  There are many funny and lighthearted moments, but overall this series deals with heavier issues such as military and governmental corruption, the ramifications of war, and the various sins of mankind.  It has a lot of action, but also a little romance, which makes for a nice balance.  At times it can be violent and a little disturbing, so I would recommend it for teens and older.  Unlike some of the other popular longer running series, this one is actually complete at 27 volumes and has a very satisfying ending.  The author clearly had a set story in her mind as she was writing and it shows by wrapping up nicely and never dragging.  If you haven’t delved into manga yet, I would recommend this series as a starting point.

Naruto

I’m going to geek out a moment and tell you how much I absolutely love this series.  It is hands down my favorite.  It's the story of a young ninja who dreams of becoming the leader of his village.  Scorned when he was younger because of a monster that was trapped inside of him (through no fault of his own), he spends much of the series trying to gain respect from his fellow teammates and prove himself worthy to his village.  There is a lot of action and humor in the series, which is what drew me to it at first.  However, as the series progresses, it is all of the quirky characters that you really fall in love with.  If you are planning to read this story, be prepared for a time commitment.  It currently spans 59 volumes (62 in Japan) and it’s still being published (although the author has said recently that it is reaching its conclusion). The first part of the series (volumes 1-27) takes place as Naruto is around 11 years old.  Although there is a lot of ninja fighting, it doesn’t get too serious until volume 28, when a time skip occurs and the characters are now around 15 year old.  The fighting also isn’t what you would expect.  Sure, there are a few who stick to hand to hand combat, but most of them use unique powers (like fire, sand, and shadow attacks to name a few).  If you like comedy and action, with some serious issues like war thrown into the mix, I would recommend Naruto.  It’s consistently on the graphic novel bestseller list and one of the most popular manga in the world for a reason.

Sailor Moon

This is one of the more classic series.  I originally read it in middle school, but still enjoy it now that I’m older.  Originally published in the 90s, Kodansha starting reprinting this series last year for a new generation.  I love this new edition because the artwork is printed in the correct direction (before it had been mirrored so that you could read it like an American comic).  It also comes with notes in the back to help you learn about Japanese culture that you might not pick up as you are reading.  The story centers around Usagi, a seemingly normal 14 year old girl in Tokyo who learns she is destined to be a Sailor Scout (a hero with powers to fight evil that threaten the earth).  Reluctant to put herself into these scary situations at first, as the story progresses, she learns to embrace her powers as she befriends other girls who help her in her fight.  There is a nice balance of romance and action and the artwork is just beautiful.  If you liked Fruits Baskets (another popular series that we have that has more emphasis on romance) or if you just like your romance with some crime fighting, I would recommend this story.   In the spirit of revitalizing this series, there is also a new anime adaptation in the works for next summer.

Death Note

Compared to the others on this list, this one is the shortest at 12 volumes.  It’s also geared for more mature readers (you’ll find it in the adult fiction section).  Light Yagami is a brilliant high school student who one day stumbles across a death note that a death god has dropped on Earth.  As Light (and you) soon discover, the death note is a tool death gods use to kill people scheduled to die.  When a person’s name is written on the death note, the person will die.  As Light discovers how it works, he takes it upon himself to create a new, ‘better’ world by eliminating criminals.  The police quickly catch on that someone is murdering people in a mysterious way and the rest of the series plays out as a cat and mouse tale, with detectives scrambling to figure out who this person is and how he is accomplishing it.  As the premise suggests, it can be very violent at times and there is certainly some moral ambiguity. The story has many unexpected turns and is very gripping right until the end.  I would recommend “Death  Note” if you are looking for a more serious story.

Is there another series you want to know about? Do you have questions about the ones I just discussed? Just want to talk about manga? Email me anytime!

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