Our manga reviews aren’t as comprehensive as we’d like. Feel free to help out. In the meantime here’s ten of the best.
Akira – Occupying six bulky black and white volumes, almost 25 years after publication Akira remains the standard for high octane, imaginative, science fiction adventure. Complex, stylish, uncompromising and stunning in creating the completely realised future. Katsuhiro Ōtomo and Kodansha.
Death Note – Intricately plotted down to the finest detail, this psychological masterpiece concerns the existence of a demon’s notebook. Write anyone’s name in there and they’ll die, but method can be specified. 12 volumes of cat and mouse terror. Takeshi Obata, Tsugumi Ohba and Viz Media.
A Drifting Life – The superlatively acclaimed and influential manga artist, pioneer of graphic realism in Japan, takes stock of his life and simultaneously the progress of his chosen artform during it. Detailed, modest and intimate, it’s a glimpse into creation. Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Drawn & Quarterly.
Hotel Harbour View – A measured introspection on the meaning of death over two novellas doesn’t sound much fun, but throw in a contract killer, exotic locations, a mystery and some superb art and you have a noir masterpiece. Natsuo Sekikawa, Jiroh Taniguchi and Viz Media.
Mermaid Saga vol 3 – No Disney saccharine here. Mermaids are vicious and with good reason as for a few eating their flesh bestows immortality. Of four collections this is the best with nasty and unpredictable tales. Rumiko Takahashi and Viz Media.
Ode to Kirihito – An early 1970s shift to social relevance castigasting the establishment over 800 pages in the course of a bleak, yet ultimately uplifting tale of an idealistic young doctor infected with a strange and uncureable condition. Osamu Tezuka and Vertical Inc.
Old Boy – The movie’s good, but the overwhelming puzzle of a man trying to discover why someone imprisoned him for fifteen years is far better developed over eight graphic novels. Richly detailed art and suspenseful plot prove a winner. Garon Tsuchiya, Nobuaki Minegishi and Dark Horse Manga.
Otherworld Barbara – Disturbing and puzzling in equal quantities, is this fantasy or horror? Drama or SF? It defies easy categorisation, but is thought provoking and character rich, exploring themes of identity, ageing and psychological development. Moto Hagio and Fantagraphics Books.
Planetes – A thoughtful and positive extrapolation of the future, initially focussing on the crew of a space garbage clean-up craft, yet producing an oddly serene series of character-based adventures. Warmth, humanity and ornately detailed art. Makoto Yukimura and Tokyopop.
Samurai Executioner – These collections focus more on ceremony and tradition in feudal Japan than on executions, although there are plenty of them, usually in the context of exploring a philosophical issue. No continuity, so we recommend vol 6. Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima and Dark Horse Manga.