New year, new manga. This year looks like it’s going to be a great one for the medium, with some tantalizing new series, extensions of older ones, and a beautiful deluxe edition of a classic. Whether you’re interested in the traditional art of rakugo or cooking dragons for your dinner, there’s something for everyone this year. Here are 12 that caught our eye.
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, by Akira Himekawa
Akira Himekawa, the two-woman team behind the earlier Legend of Zelda manga, are back with a new story of adventure and magic, based on the 13th installment of the popular Legend of Zelda video game series. In this story, Link is living in a sleepy village but he swings back into action again when a new peril arises: evil wizards from the Twilight Realm are trying to find the Shadow Crystal to unseal their powers and rule the Zeldaverse. Link must take the form of a wolf and fight the minions of the Shadow King to save his homeland—and two princesses, Zelda and Midna.
your name, by Makoto Shinkai and Ranmaru Kotone
A country girl dreams she is a city boy, a city boy dreams he is a country girl, and somehow they change places in this adaptation of Makoto Shinkai’s anime film of the same name. Shinkai doesn’t play this situation for laughs, as many creators would; instead, he tugs at the heartstrings with a tale of love, longing, and the opportunity to cheat death. That’s typical of his work, which evokes the beauty of Japan’s landscape and traditional lifestyles as well as nostalgia for youth and love. In addition to the manga adaptation, Yen Press will publish Shinkai’s original novel, on which the movie is based, and the spin-off novel your name. Another Side: Earthbound! Don’t want to wait? Check out 5 Centimeters per Second and Garden of Words, two other adaptations of Shinkai’s anime.
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, vol. 1, by Haruko Kumota
Rakugo is the traditional Japanese art of oral storytelling with pictures, a medium that was one of the progenitors of manga. Descending Stories is about a young man who has just gotten out of prison and has one ambition: To train as an apprentice to the master storyteller Yakumo Yurakutei VII, whose performance he saw when he was behind bars. Yakumo grudgingly accepts the young man as a student but nicknames him Yakoto, “the fool.” This manga won numerous awards in Japan, and the translation is being supervised by the Rakugo Kyokai Association, the professional society for rakugo practitioners. Curious about rakugo? Check out Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Fallen Words, a collection of short manga stories based on traditional rakugo tales.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Legend of Piko Piko Middle School Students, by Yushi Kawata, Yukito, and Khara
Because you can apparently never have too many Neon Genesis Evangelion spinoffs, here’s one where Shinji, Rei, Asuka, and Kaworu are students at an elite middle school. There’s an alien menace to be fought, but the kids are too busy playing video games to put down the controller and suit up. Clearly this is not as heavy as the original; it’s peppered with video game parodies and appears to be making gentle fun of the whole concept of recruiting teenagers to save the world.
Delicious in Dungeon, by Ryoko Kui
Yen Press has a robust library of teen-boy fantasy stories such as A Certain Magical Index and Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? and this is a logical extension of that line. Or is it? Whatever the crossover might be between food manga and dungeon fantasy manga, Yen Press stands ready to serve. In this story, a band of adventurers is trapped in a dungeon and they decide to eat their way out by killing and cooking up the monsters they face. “Slimes, basilisks, mimics, and even dragons…none are safe from the appetites of these dungeon-crawling gourmands!” according to the blurb. Yum!
Revolutionary Girl Utena Complete Deluxe Box Set, by Chiho Saito and Be-Papas
Kodansha brought back Sailor Moon, Yen Press brought back Fruits Basket, and, not to be outdone, Viz is bringing back Revolutionary Girl Utena, one of the first shoujo anime/manga properties to catch on in North America. Rescued by a prince as a young girl, Utena decides she wants to become a prince herself. She ends up at one of those seriously weird manga high schools, where she must engage in sword fights and defend Anthy, the Rose Bride. The story is filled with action, emotion, and complex symbolism, and Viz is bringing it back in a deluxe boxed set of two hardcover volumes, all the better for old fans to rediscover it and new readers to appreciate it for the first time.
Anonymous Noise, by Ryoko Fukuyama
We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this shoujo manga, which builds its story from a classic premise: the search for a childhood friend. The main character, Nino Arisugawa, is a talented singer who is searching for two lost friends, her childhood companion Momo and a composer named Yuzu. She finds one, but what about the other? If you’re curious about the mask on the cover of volume 1, it’s not there because Nino has a cold—she has a tendency to start screaming when she is excited. Fukuyama is also the creator of Nosatsu Junkie.
Boruto, Vol. 1: Naruto Next Generation, by Kodachi Ukyo, Masashi Kishimoto, and Mikio Ikemoto
The Naruto saga continues with a new series about the next generation: Naruto’s son Boruto, first seen in the last chapter of Naruto and then in the one-shot Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, gets his own full-fledged series. The battles of the shinobi world have been over for some time, and Boruto is more interested in playing video games than practicing his ninja skills, but we all know that won’t last—especially as he is anxious to show up his father. Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto, is supervising the series, which is being written and drawn by new creators.
Kigurumi Guardians, by Lily Hoshino
A twisted take on the magical-girl genre, Kigurimi Guardians features magical girls and kigurumi (giant mascots) who transform into hot guys working together to save the world. It’s by Lily Hoshino, who has an interesting career: she’s best known among manga readers for yaoi manga such as Love Quest, but she was also the character designer for the anime series Penguindrum, which involves two brothers and three penguins going on a quest together.
Plum Crazy! Tales of a Tiger-Striped Cat, by Hoshino Natsumi
What would the new year be like without some cat manga? Vertical has reprinted Chi’s Sweet Home in nice omnibus editions, and there’s a new volume of Fuku Fuku Kitten Tales coming in February, but for something a little different, Seven Seas brings us Plum Crazy!, a story about a cat named Plum who lives with a single mom and her teenage son and only understands part of what is going on in the human world. When a new kitten arrives on the scene, Plum’s comfortable existence gets turned upside down; expect plenty of hijinks and cuteness!
She and Her Cat, by Makoto Shinkai and Tsubasa Yamaguchi
Yes, it’s a Makoto Shinkai cat manga! Well, it’s a story about a single woman and her cat, anyway. This is a new manga adaptation by Tsubasa Yamaguchi of Shinkai’s first anime, a short piece that he made on his own and hand-sold at small conventions and at Comiket. It won DoGA’s CG Anime Contest Grand Prix in 2000 and led to his first affiliation with a professional anime studio and distributor. This was one of the anime we discussed when I interviewed Shinkai in 2011.
Land of the Lustrous, by Haruko Ichikawa
In this series, humans are yesterday’s news and the earth has been taken over by gem-people (shades of Steven Universe?). The biggest problem with being a gem, it turns out, is that moon dwellers try to kidnap you and turn you into decorations. (You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding.) This results in lots of fighting, but of course, there’s always that one guy who isn’t battle material. In this case, it’s Phosphophyllite, who is brittle and basically incompetent until he is assigned to create a natural history encyclopedia. Somehow this leads to action and adventure. Apparently this series delivers the goods, as it was nominated for a Manga Taisho award last year and took the 10th slot on the 2014 Kono Manga ga Sugoi! list of top manga for male readers. It’s being pitched at readers of Sailor Moon.
What manga are you adding to your reading list in 2017?