Manga have been a beloved reading material for me for quite a few years now. Through these years, I have read a fair amount of them, and so I decided to compile a list of my six most favourite titles. These are all stories that have touched me in one way or another, and though some of them may sound particular, they are all little masterpieces. I have included the summary of each title in quotation marks and some of my own comments below that. I hope you find something of your liking in this list.
1. Honey and Clover by Chika Umino
“Takemoto lives in a run down student apartment, where his greatest worry is when he’ll next be able to afford to eat meat and whether he’ll get to class on time. Although he’s away from home and living on his own, Takemoto is far from finished growing up. Along with his crazy cast of friends, Morita, Mayama, Yamada, and Hagumi, Takemoto sets out to discover life and his true self.”
Only 10 volumes short, this story can really speak to the soul of any person that has been through adolescence and early adult life. It masterfully combines humour and everyday happenings with greater tragedy and more serious life problems. The art is quite distinct from usual manga, but I believe it suits its artistic style very well. It is a story I will definitely find myself going back to again and again.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
“The rules of alchemy state that to gain something, one must lose something of equal value. Alchemy is the process of taking apart and reconstructing an object into a different entity, with the rules of alchemy to govern this procedure. However, there exists an object that can bring any alchemist above these rules, the object known as the Philosopher’s Stone. The young Edward Elric is a particularly talented alchemist who through an accident years back lost his younger brother Alphonse and one of his legs. Sacrificing one of his arms as well, he used alchemy to bind his brother’s soul to a suit of armor. This lead to the beginning of their journey to restore their bodies, in search for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.”
It sounds like the average action story (and it certainly has a lot of greatly played action), but it is so much more than that. This story manages to raise so many questions about the essence of human beings, letting go and whether “doing the right thing” equals “being happy”. I love the characters, I love the messages, I love the plot and its twists, I love the humour and I love the theme of the Seven Deadly Sins given to the main bad characters.
3. NANA by Ai Yazawa
“Nana Komatsu is a young woman who’s endured an unending string of boyfriend problems. Moving to Tokyo, she’s hoping to take control of her life and put all those messy misadventures behind her. She’s looking for love and she’s hoping to find it in the big city. Nana Osaki, on the other hand, is cool, confident and focused. She swaggers into town and proceeds to kick down the doors to Tokyo’s underground punk scene. She’s got a dream and won’t give up until she becomes Japan’s No. 1 rock’n’roll superstar. This is the story of two 20-year-old women who share the same name. Even though they come from completely different backgrounds, they somehow meet and become best friends. The world of Nana is a world exploding with sex, music, fashion, gossip and all-night parties.”
NANA is one of those manga that you are initially sceptical about, because it sounds just like an ordinary girl-story. It basically is a girl-story, but you can never call it ordinary. The way the lives of the two main characters intertwine with each other is really interesting, and it makes you ponder about the influence those little coincidences have in our lives. There is a lingering melancholy hanging about the story from the very beginning. I wish the author decides to give it a proper ending one day.
4. Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki
“The story of Rurouni Kenshin takes place during the early Meiji period in Japan. It tells the story of a peaceful wanderer named Himura Kenshin, formerly known as the assassin Hitokiri Battōsai. After participating during the Bakumatsu war, Kenshin wanders the countryside of Japan offering protection and aid to those in need as atonement for the murders he once committed as an assassin. When arriving in Tokyo, he meets a young woman named Kamiya Kaoru, who was in the middle of a fight with a murderer who claims to be the Hitokiri Battōsai from her swordmanship school. Kenshin decides to help her and defeats the fake Battōsai. After discovering that Kenshin is the real Battōsai, she offers him a place stay at her dojo as she notes Kenshin is a gentle person instead. Kenshin accepts and begins to establish lifelong relationships with many people, including ex-enemies, while dealing with his fair share of enemies, new and old.”
I just adore historical stories (and samurai) and this one surely quenched my thirst for them. Rurouni Kenshin is an action story, with quite a few historical events, that really finds a way to nestle to your heart.
5. Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
“Tohru Honda is a high school freshman who is having a serious bout of misfortune. Not only was she recently orphaned with the tragedy of her mother’s death, but she also has no where to live and is currently residing in a tent! However, when her luck to seems to be at its worse, she meets the Sohma family – and is invited to stay with them in exchange for taking care of the household chores. But it isn’t long before Tohru discovers the Sohmas have deep a secret. The family is cursed by the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac, and some of the children born into the Sohma family are possessed by these spirits. When possessed, they cannot be “huggled” by the opposite sex, or they transform into their respective Zodiac animal! However, this doesn’t phase Tohru, who promises to keep their secret. She continues living with them, and her grave humbleness and thankfulness never wanes. As a result, they come to be very important people in her life, and the Sohmas begin to realize how very lucky they are to have her.”
One of the first manga I ever read, Fruits Basket has a special place in my heart. It’s a heart-warming, sweet story that teaches you to never give up for what you want, to always try your best and good things will eventually come to you. The entire Zodiac sign premise is really engaging, and all of the characters are, at least, interesting.
6. The Voices of A Distant Star – Hoshi no Koe- by Makoto Shinkai & Sumomo Yumeka
“To what distance would you go for your one true love? In the midst of an alien invasion, Mikako joins the resistance, leaving behind the one young man she loves. As she goes deeper into space, Mikako’s only connection with her boyfriend is through cell-phone text messages. The war rages on and years pass, but Mikako barely ages in the timelessness of space while Noboru grows old. How can the love of two people, torn apart by war, survive?”
Being an oneshot (only one volume short), this story is simply powerful and harrowing. I admit I cried so much when I first read it, and all the other times I revisited it, as well. It’s a story about love and inevitability of life, and the lengths one can go in order to reach his beloved one.
Have you read any of these titles? If not, what are your own favourites?