If you love a good story accompanied by compelling graphics and visuals, try diving into one of the 10 best manga series. Manga are comics published in Japan which are serialized in magazines and later published in book form known as tankōbon. Although many titles appeal to a cross section of genres, there are also specific types based on demographics. Shōnen are targeted at boys and seinen for young adult males. Shōujo is made for girls and josei is for young adult females; kodomomuke is made for younger children. Many titles have won manga awards both in Japan and internationally.
1. Best Seinen Manga: Vagabond
Comicsverse picks Vagabond as number one on its top five list of seinen manga. The manga tells the story of swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, a well-known figure in Japanese history. Vagabond won a Kodansha Manga Award (2000) and the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize (2002).
2. Best Manga With an Anti-Hero: Death Note
When a bored death god shares his “Death Note,” a notebook capable of spelling out anyone’s death, with a high school student, the result is a reign of terror over criminals. Light Yagami begins with good intentions to create a better world, but he quickly spirals out of control. Death Note is included on Buzzfeed’s list of essential manga to read.
3. Best Manga With Societal Themes: Full Metal Alchemist
One of the top-selling manga of all time, Full Metal Alchemist tells the story of two brothers in a world based on Europe during the Industrial Revolution. Using the power of alchemy, they try to restore their dead mother with results that lead them on a far-flung journey to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. The series won a Seiun Award at the 50th Japan Science Fiction Convention in 2011.
4. Best Josei Manga: Nana
A chance meeting between two women named Nana leads to a strong friendship. The series takes readers along as two very different young adults strive to make their mark on the world and find what they want most. Nana won a 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award and is the number one josei manga chosen by readers on GoodReads with an average 4.2 star rating.
5. Best Shōnen Manga: One Piece
One Piece was first published in 1997 and is found on many reading lists of the top manga of all time. It’s a fantasy story featuring a boy and his pirate crew searching for a fabled treasure known as “One Piece.” The story has been adapted into several films and video games. It’s the highest selling manga in history, having sold 460 million copies across 43 different countries. It also set a Guiness World Record for having the largest print run of a comic.
6. Best Dark Fantasy Manga: Attack on Titan
A series that hits many top manga lists, Attack on Titan is the story of humans who live behind giant walls to keep out Titans. The Titans kill and eat any humans they can find. Manga awards won by the series include the 2014 Harvey Award and the 35th Kodansha Manga Award for best shōnen manga.
7. Best Manga With a Message: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki, director of some of the best anime movies of all time. Beyond its quality pedigree, it also offers a timely message about the dangers of not taking care of the earth. The characters in the manga struggle in a post-apocalyptic world after industrialization destroys life as people know it. The series has sold over 10 million copies in Japan and is thought of by many manga enthusiasts as an essential title to read or own.
8. Best Shōujo Manga: Fruits Basket
Winner of the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award and considered a manga “must-read,” Fruits Basket is a sweet story about finding a place to belong. The fact that the main characters turn into cute animals doesn’t hurt its appeal, either. In the grand shōujo manga tradition, there’s also a love triangle to draw in romance fans.
9. Best Manga for Stylish Fighting: Bleach
At its core, Bleach is a typical Shounen Jump title, with an endless string of fights and power-ups. However, Tite Kubo brings a distinct style to his world, and creates a large cast of characters readers can care about, putting it a step above its peers and making it one of the 10 best manga series. The series won the 2005 Shogakukan Manga Award.
10. Best Manga That Inspired a Run: Naruto
If you’ve seen the internet memes and videos featuring people running with their arms stretch behind them, you’ve experienced the “Naruto run.” It originated with the popular Naruto manga about a boy who learns to become a ninja. Naruto has sold over 235 million copies world wide. The game has also inspired several movies, books and videogames. In 2006, Naruto won a Quill Award for Best Graphic novel, which is the first time a manga won.