Top 20 Manga Must-Reads

New to the joys of manga? Before you read the rest, check out some of the best. Our top 20 list includes recommended reads for every age and every taste. Choose from action-packed and romantic shojo manga for kids and teens or cutting-edge graphic novels for adults -- you're sure to discover a comic book that will blow you away.

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Writer: Kazuo Koike / Artist: Goseki Kojima
Publisher: Dark Horse

Considered one of the finest examples of cinematic storytelling, Lone Wolf & Cub follows samurai assassin-for-hire Itto Ogami and his young son Daigoro as they slash their way across feudal Japan toward their ultimate goal, vengeance. Winner of numerous international awards, including the Eisner Award, Lone Wolf and Cub has influenced many comics creators, including Frank Miller (Dark Knight Returns, Sin City). More »

02
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Mushishi

Author & Artist: Yuki Urushibara
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Visit Del Rey Manga's Mushishi page
of Mushishi Volume 1
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Mushishi is a rare breed of manga: a smartly-written story that's told with simple yet mesmerizing imagery. It defies simple descriptions: Is it a Japanese ghost story? Is it a cautionary fable of strange events and supernatural beings? Is it a heartwarming tale of compassion, friendship and love? Mushishi is all of these things and more. Full of heart, humor and wisdom, Mushishi is one of the best new manga to arrive in the states in years.

03
of 20

Nana

Author & Artist: Ai Yazawa
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
Visit Shojo Beat's Nana page
Read a review of Nana Volume 1
for Nana Volume 1

Ai Yazawa's is a fashionably fun and romantic shojo manga series that captures the energetic pulse of life as a twenty-something in Tokyo. Two very different girls named Nana meet on a train, and by a series of coincidences, become roommates. Nana Komatsu is a young girl looking for love and a halfway decent career in the big city. Nana Osaki is a rock and roll singer on the rise. With stylish art and sophisticated storylines Nana follows the interwined lives and loves of these two young women.

04
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Writer/Artist: Katsuhiro Otomo
Publisher: Dark Horse / Kodansha

Set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, Akira is a sci-fi/cyberpunk epic that raised the bar for manga in the '80s. Otomo's impeccably-drawn artwork and the epic scale of his story opened many people's eyes to the vast possibilities for manga as a mature storytelling medium. More »
05
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Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Artist: Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Shonen Jump Advanced / VIZ Media
Visit VIZ Media's Death Note page
Read a review of Death Note Volume 1
for Death Note Volume 1

Light Yagami has got it all: Good grades, good looks and a good family. Trouble is, he's bored out of his mind. After he finds a notebook that gives him the power to kill anyone just by writing their name, Light faces the ultimate test of wits: Can he use his power to rid the world of criminals before the police, the FBI and the shinigami grim reapers catch up with him? Death Note is a brilliantly-written supernatural suspense story that hooks readers in and won't let go until the surprising climax in Volume 12. More »

06
of 20

Yotsuba&!

Author & Artist: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: ADV Manga
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The simple joys of summer have never been so delightful as when they're seen through the eyes of Yotsuba, the little green-haired girl who just moved into the neighborhood. A trip to the fishing hole, the playground or to the neighbor's house to enjoy the air conditioning turn into hilarious adventures. Yotsuba's quirky take on everyday life will have readers of all ages smiling from cover to cover.

07
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Fruits Basket

Author & Artist: Natsuki Takaya
Publisher: TokyoPop
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Through a series of wacky circumstances, schoolgirl Tohru Honda takes up residence at the swank residence of the very wealthy, but very cursed Sohma family. Their magical burden? They turn into Chinese zodiac animals whenever they're hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Fruits Basket starts off as a goofy romantic comedy, then develops into an emotional roller coaster that mixes humor, fantasy, profoundly moving romance and family drama for an addictive series that has made it the best-selling shojo manga title in America.

08
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Author & Artist: Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
Visit VIZ Media's Naruto page
for Naruto Volume 1

One of the world's most popular shonen manga series, Naruto is the extremely addictive story of a misfit junior ninja with a powerful secret: He is the living prison for a destructive nine-tailed fox demon. Full of action and unforgettable characters, Naruto is more than a martial arts comic -- It's a story full of emotional depth and humor. Definitely worth a look for any reader age 12 and up. More »

09
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Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White

Author & Artist: Taiyo Matsumoto
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
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Bold and surreal, Tekkon Kinkreet (a.k.a. Black and White) is a story that defies expectations. It's essentially about two streetwise orphans in a corrupt city, but this witty, gritty multi-layered story reveals much more to the reader who reads it several times. While it's not your typical manga tale, Tekkon Kinkreet is a truly original creation that dazzles the eye and touches the heart.

10
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Author & Artist: Kaoru Mori
Publisher: CMX Manga
Visit CMX Manga's Emma page
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Set in Victorian England, Emma is a historical manga centered around the intertwined lives of a maid and a wealthy aristocrat. The strict hierarchical rules of English society forbid their relationship, but they can't stop this star-crossed couple from falling in love. Meticulously-researched for historical accuracy, Mori sets the mood beautifully and tastefully. There are lovely wordless moments, stolen glances and subtle smiles that reveal her characters inner lives more effectively than any narration or dialogue ever could. More »

11
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Vagabond

Author & Artist: Takehiko Inoue
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
Visit VIZ Media's Vagabond page
for Vagabond Volume 1

Boldly written and beautiful to behold, Vagabond offers a modern take on legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. The twist? The Musashi we meet in Vagabond is a fierce, untamed animal, a young man looking for his purpose in life, even if it means having to kill or be killed to meet his goals. Manga creator Takehiko Inoue has a knack for drawing adrenaline-pumping fight scenes that put the reader right in the middle of the action, and for creating believable characters with intriguing imperfections. Vagabond transcends the samurai genre and delivers a story that's raw, real and memorable.

12
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Uzumaki

Author & Artist: Junji Ito
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
Visit VIZ Media's Uzumaki page
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Venture if you dare into the bizarre and terrifying world of , Junji Ito's masterpiece of horror manga. Centered around a haunted seaside town, the story of Uzumaki is a frightening descent into madness that will make your skin crawl and have you sleeping with the lights on.

Writer/Artist: Kosuke Fujishima
Publisher: Dark Horse

Nerdy technical college student Morisato Keiichi is brilliant with machines, but a dunce in romance. After dialing the "goddess hotline" by mistake, he ends up with a real live, magic-wielding goddess living in his home. While this manga series starts off like any "geek meets magical girl" story, Oh! My Goddess evolves into a beautifully drawn series that somehow manages to mix principles of mechanical engineering with the workings of the human heart. More »
14
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Author & Artist: Kyoko Ariyoshi
Publisher: CMX Manga
Visit CMX Manga's Swan page
Read a review of Swan Volume 1
for Swan Volume 1

A classic shojo manga title from the '70's now available in English from CMX, Kyoko Ariyoshi's Swan follows Masumi, a talented but insecure ballet student as she competes against world-class dancers to become a prima ballerina. Ariyoshi's emotionally-driven storylines and dramatic artwork style makes Swan a benchmark in shojo manga. More »

15
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The Walking Man

Author & Artist: Jiro Taniguchi
Publisher: Fanfare / Ponent Mon
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In today's 70 mph rush-hour, traffic jam, city streets, wi-fi, multi-tasking world, it's refreshing to be reminded that sometimes, you just gotta stop and smell the roses. Or in the case of Jiro Taniguchi's The Walking Man, just take the dog out for a walk. Beautifully drawn and quietly meditative, The Walking Man is a delightful detour from the usual frenetic blood-and-guts action of most seinen manga.

16
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Dragon Ball

Author & Artist: Akira Toriyama
Publisher: VIZ Media

Wildly inventive and just plain fun to read, Dragon Ball starts off as an adventure quest story that was influenced by the Monkey King tales of Chinese folklore. Goku, an oddly strong little boy with a monkey tail embarks on a quest to collect the magical Dragon Balls that grant wishes. Along the way, he meets a motley array of friends and enemies who challenge him, heckle him and teach him to become one of the best martial arts masters of all time. Dragon Ball and its 'hopped up on steroids' sequel, Dragon Ball Z provided the inspiration (and story templates) for an entire generation of shonen manga artists who followed, including Naruto and One Piece.

17
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Phoenix

Artist/Writer: Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Viz Signature

An epic tale that spans centuries, Phoenix explores themes of life, death, love, cruelty and redemption that sweeps the reader away to another time and place. Considered Tezuka's masterpiece, Phoenix offers nothing less than mind-blowing storytelling and gorgeous artwork.
18
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Bleach

Author & Artist: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
Visit VIZ Media's Bleach page
Read a review of Bleach Volume 1
for Bleach Volume 1

Average teen Ichigo already had a not-so-average life: His father acts like an overgrown child, his younger sisters practically run the house and oh yeah -- he can see ghosts. As if that wasn't enough, Ichigo meets a "soul reaper," a metaphysical warrior who battles demons and helps the deceased find their way to their final reward. By accident, Ichigo acquires the powers and responsibilities of a soul reaper. Now he not only sees ghosts, he has to battle the undead "Hollows" and eventually, face "real" Soul Reapers who don't take kindly to his newfound powers.

19
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InuYasha

Writer/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media

Arguably one of the most popular manga artists ever, Rumiko Takahashi draws stories that mix humor with horror, exciting action sequences and memorable characters that make her works can't-miss manga must-reads. Her most recent series, InuYasha transports Kagome, a modern teen, to feudal Japan where demons are as common as samurai. While there, she teams up with InuYasha, a half-demon/half-human on a quest to retrieve a magical jewel. Action-packed and full of humor and heart, InuYasha is fun read for teens and young adults alike.
Writer / Artist: Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

You'll find no doe-eyed school girls or magical ninjas in Tatsumi's gritty and dark manga. Instead, be prepared to visit the seedy underbelly of life in Japan, meet its most desperate souls and experience their lives at street-level realism. The Pushman and Other Stories is a great example of avant-garde/alternative manga created by cutting-edge artists for mature readers. More »