So you want to buy manga for either yourself or as a present for the winter holidays. First of all let me say, if you know nothing about manga and arbitrarily order something over the Internet or purchase a book in the bookstore without flipping through the pages first, you could be in for a nasty surprise. There is a lot of violent, sexual, weird, and close to illegal content out there lurking under innocuous covers. So here are some hints to steer clear “mature manga” or to identify it, if that is what you are looking for:
- “Hentai” = xxx-rated content
- Manga has a rating system similar to movies and video games. This rating is usually displayed on the back of the book near the ISBN and UPC code block. Respect this rating system because it, in my opinion, is fairly accurate.
- If the manga is wrapped in plastic, then it probably contains nudity and/or gory violence
- Some of the manga rated 13+ can be racy and/or include matters that may be morally or religiously challenging (homosexuality, incest, age inappropriate relationships, pre-marital sex, anti-Christian themes, and supernatural themes) so review the manga and make sure you are comfortable with it before gifting it to anyone under 18.
Yes, manga in the wrong hands can be downright terrifying, but there are plenty of wonderful series and one off books out there for every taste. Here are some of my favorites:
Shoujo — manga for girls. These manga are usually romantic in mature and focus on the relationships between people. They can either be comedies or dramas or somewhere in between.
- “Fruits Basket” is the #1 manga title in the US. It starts off well and ends well, but drags in the middle. This is a good one for the over 13 set.
- “His and Her Circumstances” or “Kare Kano” — this is a high school romance that centers around the lives of the top two students in a high school. This manga is a very beautiful and involved drama with some funny moments. I recommend this for older teens and adults as it does have some sexual and violent themes.
- Anything by Arina Tanemura (“Fullmoon wo Sagashite” (Search for a Fullmoon), “Kamikaze Kaito Jeann”, and “Gentleman’s Alliance”) — again this is one for older teens due to some sexual themes. Besides having very engaging stories and characters, the artistry of these manga series are top notch.
- Anything by Hino Matsuri — “Vampire Knight” is hot both in the US and Japan. “Meri Puri: Marchen Prince” is nice too. Both I recommend for folks over 16, especially Meri Puri. Like Arina Tanemure, the artistry of these manga series is amazing.
- “Crescent Moon” — this a good one for the younger set. It the story of the Moonlight Bandits, jewel thieves who steal to save their world.
Shonen — manga for boys. These manga generally focus on adventure or they are stories of a single boy in the middle of a girl harem. Most of the girl harem manga contain “fan service” which depending upon your perspective may be quite offensive (and there are debates as to whether “fan service” runs afoul of child protection laws — so be careful). I will steer clear of these types of manga in my recommendations.
- “Deathnote” — a freaky manga series that was too exciting for me. I couldn’t sleep after reading the 4th volume because I was too pumped with adrenlin. This is a good one for older teens and adults.
- “Full Metal Alchemist” — 13+
- “Kekkaishi” — high school barrier masters with ghost dog side kicks 13+, my husband likes this series too.
- “Samurai Kyo” 16+ — very violent
Good manga for everyone:
- “Xxxholic” — despite its name, there is nothing XXX about this series. The series contains stories akin to stories from the “Twilight Zone.” The stories are centered around the relationship between Youko (the Time Witch) and Watanuki Kamishiro, a boy with psychic perception. 13+
- “Tsubasa” (by Clamp) — this manga series intersects occasionally with Xxxholic and takes the characters from “Card Captor Sakura” (another wonderful manga series) and re-imagines them in a different universe. Other Clamp characters appear in this series. 13+
- “Crest of Stars” — this is a sci-fi epic. It is also being novelized. 13+
- “DNAngel” — this is like “Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne”. I recommend this for 13+
That’s all for now. I’ve read a lot of anything, so if you are looking for a more specific recommendation or want to ask about a series, please ask! I’m more than eager to discuss manga. Oh, and anime too :).