More than a few promising new manga series launched in the past year, but there were also plenty of returning favorites keeping us entertained. Here’s a look at 10 continuing series that kept us reading in 2016.
A Silent Voice, by Yoshitoki Oima
When we first meet Shoya, in grade school, he is a thrill-seeker and a bully. His restlessness leads him to push his friends to take uncomfortable risks, and when a deaf girl, Shoko, transfers into his class, he fixates on her and bullies her mercilessly. It is only after she drops out of school that Shoko realizes the tables have turned and he is now the one being bullied. This has a profound effect—feeling that no one likes him and he has no future, he withdraws from the outside world and eventually decides to kill himself. He is saved by one final gesture: He seeks out Shoko to apologize to her, and that simple act is what really gets the story going. Oima’s depiction of Shoya’s inner world is a powerful depiction of alienation, and all the characters have a naturalness to them that is refreshing. This seven-volume series, which ended earlier this year, is absolutely not to be missed.
Assassination Classroom, by Yusei Matsui
Yusei Matsui rides a wave of sheer absurdity to its farthest extreme in this action-packed spoof of shonen manga. A class of high school misfits is assigned to kill its teacher, a space alien who has threatened to destroy the earth at the end of the school year. The teacher, Koro Sensei, has superpowers, so he’s not easy to kill, and the weapons that affect him don’t harm humans. Also, there’s a bounty on his head, so plenty of adult assassins are trying to get in on the action as well. The surprise that keeps popping up in this story, and keeps it fresh, is that Koro Sensei is also a pretty good teacher who genuinely cares for his students. Of all the manga I read all year long, Assassination Classroom is the one that I genuinely enjoy the most, because it’s so much fun.
Tokyo Ghoul, by Sui Ishida
You really can’t have a best of the year list without Tokyo Ghoul; it’s hugely popular for a reason. Tokyo Ghoul is the story of Ken Kaneki, an ordinary college student who is attacked by a ghoul and becomes half ghoul/half human in the aftermath. In the beginning, Ken wrestles with his new desire to eat human flesh and is taken in by a group of ghouls who are looking for ways to live peaceably side by side with humans, despite the fact that they are predator and prey. Ishida builds up his world and the large cast of characters slowly and deliberately, and in the later volumes the story becomes more sinister and violent—all the more so because the ghouls have their own set of predators, the Commission of Counter Ghoul, so the dynamic of the story is constantly changing.
One-Punch Man, by ONE and Yusuke Murata
Saitama, an unemployed salaryman, becomes a superhero out of boredom, but it turns out that he’s such a good superhero (dispatching every enemy with a single punch) that even that is boring. This series got a bit bogged down earlier this year with a lengthy storyline about a battle between the superheroes and some space aliens, but the more recent volumes have become more episodic. The combination of over-the-top characters, good stories, and fantastic action scenes makes this a great superhero manga as well as a great parody of superhero manga.
Demon Prince of Momochi House, by Aya Shouoto
Shoujo time! This story of a girl living in a house that is the portal between our world and the supernatural world gets more complex as it goes along. When we first met 16-year-old Himari, she had just inherited the house and moved in to find three cute guys already living there. One of them, Aoi, is the guardian of the portal, a job that comes with some awesome transformations but also some onerous conditions. There’s more than a whiff of Fruits Basket to this story about the sweet girl who is determined to find a way to lift the curse, but it’s a lighter read. Shouoto’s art, which mixes the everyday with the fantastical, is definitely a selling point.
Vinland Saga, by Makoto Yukimura
This one just squeaks in under the wire—vol. 7 came out last December and vol. 8 comes out at the end of this month. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the holidays are a good time to catch up on this series, which is published in generous double-sized volumes. It’s a fascinating story with something for almost every taste: Historical drama, beautifully detailed art, action, violence, family conflict, double-crossing, berserk Vikings, hot Vikings, musings on the meaning of life—so there’s really something in it for everyone. If that piques your curiosity, I wrote about Vinland Saga last year, but the tl;dr is it’s a great read and well worth picking up.
Attack on Titan, by Hajime Isayama
Hajime Isayama’s story started out to be about teenagers fighting man-eating giants, and there’s still a lot of action in every volume, but the story has also gotten more complex as Isayama reveals the characters’ backstories and resolves some of the mysteries surrounding the Titans and the walled city. There are still plenty of twists to come, and one central mystery to be solved, as the series rounds the bend toward its climax. The long-delayed anime is set to debut in the spring, so this a good time to catch up.
Yowamushi Pedal, by Wataru Watanabe
All Sakamichi Onoda wants when he gets to high school is to join the anime club and make friends with his fellow nerds. He’s so devoted to his hobby that he thinks nothing of riding his clunky bike 45 kilometers each way to Akihabara, the center of the otaku universe. Riding his bike instead of taking the train allows him to spend more money on figurines and other goods, but it has also given him amazing stamina, and that doesn’t go unnoticed. Shusuke Imazumi, a serious, competitive cyclist, sees his potential and challenges him to a race. Onoda ends up joining the school’s cycling team, and the game is on. What could be a fairly standard shonen competition story in lesser hands becomes something special thanks to Watanabe’s skill in depicting speed and action, as well as the likeable cast of characters and Onoda’s cheerful-nerd personality.
Your Lie in April, by Naoshi Arakawa
Your Lie in April, like A Silent Voice, is a shonen romance that transcends its genre. The lead character, Kosei Arima, is a piano prodigy who can no longer hear music; his abusive mother drove him to play, and when she died, his talent seemed to evaporate. He even sees the world in monotone, a perfect analogy for depression. Then along comes Kaori Miyazono, who plays the violin for the sheer love of it, and his world begins to take on some color again. This story is a love triangle but also a story of renewal and hope, and Arakawa does a beautiful job of illustrating music and the emotions it stirs.
A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori
Yen Press is releasing new volumes of Kaoru Mori’s story of life on the Silk Road in the 19th century at a leisurely pace, one or two volumes a year. Fortunately, there’s not a lot of continuity to worry about, as the most recent volumes have basically been one-shots. This one focuses on Pariya, a young woman whose outspoken nature sometimes gets her in trouble, who goes to live with a friend after her family’s house is destroyed. Mori’s exquisitely detailed art is definitely the star here, and Yen does justice to it with its beautifully produced hardcover volumes.
What’s your favorite ongoing manga series?