I've been reading manga since about 2006. Back then I was in middle school, a kid wanting to draw pretty pictures and have something to talk about with my friends. I remember picking up a volume of a manga at my school's library, and falling in love with the story and the art. That's when the passion for Japanese anime/manga started, and I haven't looked back. In high school, I wanted to move to Japan and become a mangaka, someone who creates manga. It's nice to look back at our high school hopes and wishes, isn't it? While I hope to make working on comics my full time job, I still want to go to Japan someday!
In college, I decided to pursue comic art as my specialty. I worked on comics (and still do!), and my biggest manga influences kept me going. While it seems like an impossible dream, I would still someday like to travel to japan and visit a manga studio, or meet a famous manga artist like Kohei Horikoshi, Naoko Takeuchi, or CLAMP.
Here is, in no particular order, my top 7 favorite manga:
1. Sailor Moon
Lots of Sailor Moon fans look back on the original anime from the 90's and get nostalgic for that art style. While that style is timeless and holds a special place in my heart, I have a bigger spot for the Sailor Moon manga series.
The manga series by Naoko Takeuchi has some of the most beautiful comic pages I've ever seen in manga. I have tons of screenshots in my head of different panels of the manga to use as inspiration in my own comic art. I've read the manga several times through, and am blown away every time.
If you don't know the story of Sailor Moon, where have you been? It's about a middle school girl who awakens as Sailor Moon, the soldier of love and justice, and has to find and protect the Silver Crystal, a stone that has the power to give life. She also forms her team, other girls who awaken to the call of the sailor scouts, and they protect the Moon Princess and the Moon Kingdom. It's much more complicated than it sounds.
If you can't tell, Takeuchi is my favorite artist, hands down. Her artwork is so moving to me, and it influenced a whole genre of magical girl manga and anime series. Sailor Moon walked so PreCure could run.
2. Kitchen Princess
Kitchen Princess sounds like a silly little shoujo manga. I read this story in high school, and was blown away at how good the story was, despite its simple summary. If you don't know the story, it's about a girl who has a passion for cooking. She goes to an elite high school to learn cooking from the masters and to find her "Flan Prince", the boy that saved her from drowning when she was a kid. It sounds really silly, but the way the plot unfolds will surprise you. It's a great read, and I recommend it to any shoujo-lover.
Kitchen Princess is one of three manga on this list that never got an anime adaptation, which I'm STILL hoping for. I think it deserves a chance as an anime.
I have memories of reading this manga with my friend in high school and flaunting on about it. Good times!
3. My Hero Academia
My most recent pick. I am late to the "Boku no Hero" train, but I'm glad I'm on it now. The artist, Horikoshi, is an amazing mangaka; I am blown away at his comic work, and the way he portrays expressions, poses, and can make any character look super unique and sometimes super gross. His art is quickly becoming a big inspiration to me as I explore drawing more "shounen" subject matter. I found myself not being able to put the volumes down at the more hype moments, and I strive as an artist, to create something like that one day.
If you don't know about My Hero, it's about a world where people have developed "quirks", or superhuman powers that allow them to become heroes. The main character, Izuku Midoriya, was born without a quirk, but still strives to be a hero like All Might, the strongest hero and his biggest influence. The story follows Izuku going to the elite UA high school, and learning to control his new powers while facing new villains.
The fandom may sometimes be in shambles, but I love the series's characters, especially Katsuki Bakugou. His angsty, always angry at everyone and everything, and narcissistic nature is very interesting to me. It's interesting to see where he will grow as a character knowing that he may not be the best student at UA. It makes me want to write a character like him someday.
More of an obscure manga, +Anima is about a world where there are humans with animal powers. It follows a group of orphan kids who use their animal powers to get out of hairy situations. I read this manga as a kid as it was coming out, but I honestly have never finished it due to the fact that I could never get my hands on the final volumes. Nowadays, it's hard to find these volumes; I really want to know what happens at the end! I may just give in and read it online at this point...
This manga was a big inspiration to one of my stories, "Tetarra", especially one of the main characters, Husky. That character was able to transform into a merman and swim around, and I loved that as a kid. The art is also charming and easy to follow.
+Anima is the other manga on this list that didn't get an anime adaptation. I honestly don't think it needs one; the manga does a great job at portraying the story and it's characters.
5. Cardcaptor Sakura (original and Clear Card Arc)
This manga is another one that holds a special place in my heart. Along with Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura was the manga/anime that got me into Japanese culture, manga, and anime. Despite it's questionable moments in the story, I love the way the plot unfolds, and the mysteries that get solved. I love the charming characters in Sakura, her best friend Tomoyo, and her rival Syaoran. The artwork by CLAMP always blows me away; CCS itself is very soft and thin, with the action scenes being super beautiful, clean, and easy to follow.
The story follows Sakura Kinomoto, a little girl who discovers a secret book of magical cards that perform different things. The cards end up going missing, and Sakura, as the new owner of the cards, has to get them back, all while growing her own magical powers.
The Clear Card Arc, which is still ongoing, follows the formula for the 90's manga very well. Leaving off where the original manga ended, it follows Sakura as she attends middle school, and the mysteries crop up again. I am reading the volumes as they come out, and I love it! It's a beautiful return to a classic shoujo manga.
6. Azumanga Daioh
Probably the funniest manga on this list, Azumanga Daioh follows a group of girls as they navigate high school. One of the girls is a child prodigy, being only 11 years old, and the story revolves around their shenanigans both in and out of school. The manga is formatted in four-panel columns instead of the traditional comic layout, but utilizes this format very well. The comedic timing is spot on, and it leaves me laughing out loud. Its an easy read, only 4 volumes, covering each year of high school, and the artist makes a point to change the character's appearances as they age, and the artist's work improves. It's really great to see.
The same artist also made a popular manga called "Yotsuba&" which is another super funny manga, and one that people may recognize.
7. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle
This is a manga I have mixed feelings about, but I put it on my favorite manga list because the artwork by CLAMP is absolutely amazing. It follows an alternate dimension with an older version of characters from Cardcaptor Sakura, where Syaoran has to collect Sakura's memories in alternate universes. It's a huge, complicated multiverse where we meet characters from CLAMP's other works. It's like a celebration of all the works that CLAMP had made at that point.
I've never finished "Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle"; I got to a part in the middle of the series where stuff goes down, and I stopped due to it getting too complicated for my teenage brain to understand. I'd like to go back to it someday and finish it off, even though I know what happens at the end. I love the artwork too much to leave it hanging.
That's my list of favorite manga! Maybe someday I'll attempt to rank them, but for now, they all mean a great deal to me, and I wouldn't be the artist today without them.
What are some of your favorite manga/comics? I'd love to read some new recommendations. After I catch up with My Hero, I'd like to pick up something new.