YEAR IN REVIEW | Top Ten Manga Releases of 2018
Manga is a beautiful art form, as it dives both into the realms of fantasy and reality in ways that are both imaginative and relatable. 2018’s new batch of manga titles in the U.S. were able to deliver on both of these counts, bringing forth new worlds and heartfelt characters to readers all across the country. This year’s best manga truly shined as both prime examples of what manga is capable of creating, as well as what may come from this entertainment realm in the future. And here now are the ten series from 2018 you should absolutely put your nose into with all your might!
10. Dragon Goes House-Hunting (Seven Seas Entertainment)
One of the most stressful things in the world to do is buy a new house. Well imagine you’re a colossal dragon with a tiny backbone, and you need to find a place to lay your wings. That’s what Letty is going through in the comedic fantasy Dragon Goes House-Hunting! With the aid of elvish architect Dearia, the not-very-ferocious beast sets out from one magical home to the next to find the perfect house. However, with each new place comes ghosts, traps, and other hinderances that make it as frustrating for Letty as it is funny for us to read! While the journey for his home may be far from over, the adventure to find it in Dragon Goes House-Hunting will nonetheless still entertain both the heart and funny bone.
9. That Blue Sky Feeling (VIZ Media)
Making friends can be a tough thing, especially if you’re not entirely true to one’s self. New student Noshiro finds this out single-handedly when he meets Sanada, who sometimes keeps his distance due to him not coming out fully to everyone. What follows in That Blue Sky Feeling is a strong bond that is slowly made between the two newfound friends, with Noshiro doing his best to get to know Sanada through the best ways possible. Okura’s series captures the realistic aspect of people coming out to somebody, as well as the teenage mentality of wanting to know everything about it. That Blue Sky Feeling is a slice-of-life tale that plants its feet firmly in the ground while showcasing a warm and genuine mentality.
8. Ran and the Gray World (VIZ Media)
It took nearly a decade for Aki Irie’s Ran and the Gray World to arrive in the US, and it was truly worth the wait. The story of its titular character and her magical running shoes may raise an eyebrow or two at first, but it delivers strong both in its heart and spirit. Ran’s adventures may place her in unexpected danger, but the more she experiences these hiccups, the more she understands how the world truly works. Irie’s art style alone is worth grabbing Ran and the Gray World, flashing unbelievable levels of beauty and enchantment on every single page. It may take some getting use to its narrative, but Irie’s American debut is definitely worth soldering through to discover its beauty and soul.
7. Sorry For My Familiar (Seven Seas Entertainment)
Humans being familiars isn’t such a new concept, but Sorry For My Familiar makes the idea feel more refreshing. When demon girl Patty gets rough-as-nails researcher Norman as her familiar, the quest to find her deadbeat dad becomes all the more tough. Not because of the giant beasts they come across, but rather because Norman cannot stop wanting to study them. Soon the two find themselves in many a wacky and hazardous adventure, with new creatures and unfortunate circumstances thrown in their path at every waking moment. Sorry For My Familiar is one silly and fantastical adventure that any fan of the genre would gladly want to take, thanks to its imaginative character designs and the banter between our downtrodden demon and her enthusiastic partner.
6. Black Torch (VIZ Media)
A big problem I have with most shonen series is that they tend to throw in way too much exposition instead of just getting to the meat of the action. Black Torch, the debut series from Tsuyoshi Takai, just wants to showcase something cool for readers to enjoy, with its tale of a Dr. Doolittle-type that’s dragged into a supernatural organization. Our hero Jiro would rather think with his fists than his brain, giving way to some pretty badass battles and some humorous misunderstandings. It cuts the fat off of the boring stuff that shonen series tend to throw in, giving way to an action-packed story that’s all fist-pumping adrenaline without getting too weighty. Though the series ended far sooner than it should’ve, Black Torch is one shonen series that will have you excited to see what’s bound to give you a punching on the next page!
5. My Solo Exchange Diary (Seven Seas Entertainment)
After her successful one-off autobiographical manga My Lesbian Experiences With Loneliness, Nagata Kabi brings us more of her daily struggles in My Solo Exchange Diary. What Kabi goes through is one of the most relatable series about living in this modern age, never sugarcoating the rough patches in life that anyone faces. From moving back-and-forth from her parents’ place to her trying to find some solstice when her series becomes successful, My Solo Exchange Diary is a series that will have you laughing and crying all throughout her relatable conflicts. She may not realize it, but Kabi's honest look into daily life may potentially transform her into the Harvey Pekar of the 21st century!
4. After the Rain (Vertical Comics)
A tale of a seventeen year-old falling in love with her mid-40s manager may cause a grimace or two, but Jun Mayuzuki’s After the Rain is not about that. Instead, what appears to be about a weird romance transforms itself into a tale of regret and rekindling of lost dreams. Akira’s injury makes it hard for her to get back into the spirit of running, whereas Masami’s self-doubt and past mistakes keep him from being the author he wishes to become. It’s in their interactions with one another where both Akira and Masami slowly find their true callings once more, leading to heartache and determination from both co-workers. With its beautiful art style and relatable storytelling, After the Rain is one comedic drama worth running through a storm to read what happens next!
3. The Bride Was A Boy (Seven Seas Entertainment)
When was the last time you’ve read a very positive story about growing up transgendered? Chii’s The Bride Was A Boy takes her real-life story about transitioning from male-to-female, and manages to make one hell of a feel-good romantic comedy. Though it does skip on many of the hardships most transgendered people go through, it makes up for it with some real knowledge about the community, not to mention how Chii laughs at her past actions before coming out of her shell. Reading what she and Husband-kun go through in order to achieve a marital state is both funny and inspiring, with The Bride Was A Boy acting as a reminder to those in the LGBT community that happiness will come, even if one has to jump over many a hurdle to get there.
2. CITY (Vertical Comics)
How does Keiichi Arawi follow up an iconic comedy like Nichijou? With the way he’s tackled CITY, it’s to go all in with the crazy! Where his previous work placed most of its focus on a high school, Arawi goes even further with the antics of an entire town! An old landlady with kung-fu skills, a struggling manga writer, and an elderly man watching everything unfold on multiple screens are just the surface of what this offered in CITY. As always in Arawi’s fashion, the end result of each story is one that will have your sides aching and your heart melted. CITY is simply a blast to read, with its unpredictability and means of getting a laugh out of any reader being one of this year’s strongest and most absurd misadventures witnessed in manga form!
1. Dr. STONE (VIZ Media)
Very rarely does a shonen manga series deliver something that’s both equally smart and exciting. Eyeshield 21 creator Riichiro Inagaki and Korean artist Boichi make such a task look like child’s play with Dr. STONE, the story of humanity slowly waking up from a stone-encapsulated slumber. The brains of Senku and the brawn of Taiju concoct a best friends pairing that has both shouldering one another’s strengths and weaknesses. They tackle the harsh and wild world they’ve woken up in with the aid of science and a couple of powerful muscles, sometimes with success and other times…well, not so much. On every page, Dr. STONE delivers with strong intelligence, beautiful art, and some fantastic bonding between two pals on a race to save their friends and the rest of the world. As Senku often says, "Get excited."