The Best New Manga of January 2018

A new year brings new volumes of old series, first volumes of new series, and a new edition of a classic one. Whether you’re spending January hunkering down to avoid the cold or sunning on the beach, there’s plenty for you to read while you do it. Here’s a look at some of the best manga titles out this month.

RWBY, by Shirow Miwa
Cultural exchange comes full circle with this manga, a Japanese adaptation of an anime-style American animated series. For those (like me) coming late to the party, there’s a handy fold-out chart in the front of the book that explains who everyone is. Basically, RWBY is a team of fighting females who all go to Beacon Academy, where they are training to become Huntresses. There’s another team, JNPR, which is co-ed. Several chapters are devoted to the backstory of the RWBY characters, based on the trailers for the anime, and then it goes into an epic fight. Actually, the manga is mostly fighting. This volume, by artist Shirow Miwa (Dogs: Bullets and Carnage) is self-contained, and all the context is given, although it ends with some clear foreshadowing of the anime.

Sailor Moon Eternal Edition, Vol. 1, by Naoko Takeuchi
Kodansha Comics pours some old wine into new skins—but what gorgeous skins! Sailor Moon, a classic and longtime fan favorite, makes a new appearance in the Eternal Edition, which rebundles the story into 300-page volumes with a larger trim size and higher quality paper than the original. The translation has been revised, and the first volume sports a special cover with a “glittering holographic coating” and French flaps, as well as a new cover illustration. This is a keepsake edition for the serious Sailor Moon fan.

Imperfect Girl, Vol. 2, by NISIOISIN and Mitsuru Hattori
In the first volume of Imperfect Girl, the title character—a fourth-grader who is somewhat robotic and appears to live alone—locked the narrator, a 20-year-old aspiring writer, in the closet of the house where she seemingly lives alone. The situation should be a no-brainer, because the unnamed narrator has his cell phone with him, and the girl is armed only with a box-cutter. He goes along with it anyway, refusing to call for help because he’s waiting for the situation to become sufficiently desperate. While much of the first volume takes place inside the closet, as the narrator reasons with himself and tries to figure out what the deal is with this strange girl, in volume 2 he gets out and into her apartment, and they begin to communicate aa bit more. It’s an intriguing story that sets up a mystery and solves it in just three volumes. Nisioisin is well known to light novel readers as the author of the Monogatari books, while Hattori is the creator of Sankarea.

Nekomonogatari (White), by Nisioisin
And speaking of Nisioisin, here’s his latest novel to make it into English. Nekomonogatari, which translates to “cat tale,” is the story of Tsubasa Hanekawa, who grew up in a severely dysfunctional family. Now she is plagued by a destructive white tiger that sets fire to whatever place she slept in the previous night. The cast of characters from the other novels puts in an appearance as well, but this story focuses on Tsubasa’s attempt to take control of her own life.

Nameless Asterism, Vol. 1, by Kina Kobayashi
Yuri (lesbian) manga came to prominence like never before in 2017, with a wave of new releases, from schoolgirl stories (Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Sweet Blue Flowers, Bloom Into You) to the more adult, more self-aware My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, to the decidedly adult, and very violent, Murcielago. Now, Seven Seas is kicking off 2018 with another yuri series, Nameless Asterism, a school-love story about three classmates and the tensions between romance and friendship. It’s a classic love triangle with some extra elements thrown in, and plenty of humor to keep things from getting too heavy.

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 18, by Kazue Kato
In volume 17, which came out last summer, Rin and Yukio’s teacher Shura Kirigakure disappeared, and the pair went off to find her. That story arc culminates in this volume, when the Okumura twins fight the dark serpent from her past, and then a new arc begins as Lightning and Suguro head to the library to dig up some old secrets that are probably better left undisturbed. This is a solid volume with plenty of action and story reveals for fans of the series to enjoy.

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 1, by Carlo Zen
We’ve had our share of reincarnation stories recently, with characters coming back as slime and a spider; here’s one that at least brings the dearly parted back to life as a human. A hard-nosed businessman finds himself reincarnated as a little girl—a child soldier in a world caught up in a war with supernatural creatures. The newly created Tanya Degurechaff may have a young girl’s body, but she’s got the shrewd smarts of a grown man, and she plans to use them to move up in the world to a comfortable lifestyle, consequences be damned.

Naruto: Chibi Sasuke’s Sharingan Legend, Vol. 2, by Kenji Taira
This short series (three volumes in all) is a goofy take on the brooding, revenge-seeking Uchiha Sasuke, turning him and his teammates into super-deformed cartoon characters and sending them off on slapstick adventures. In this volume, the wacky foursome takes a break from their quest to kill Sasuke’s brother Itachi and enjoys their summer vacation. Plenty of comedy fun for Naruto fans who just can’t get enough of the characters.

Black Butler, Vol. 25, by Yana Toboso
Ciel Phantomhive and his perfectly devilish butler Sebastian head to London to deal with a music hall that seems to be putting its audiences into a trance. They set up their own music hall next door to lure the audience away—hey, it’s easy when you inherited a toy fortune!—but things go south in a hurry, as they are wont to do in this series. A new bad guy pops up and starts nosing around as well.

Baccano!, Vol. 1, by Ryohgo Narita
Set in New York City in 1927, the Baccano! manga (adapted from the light novels of the same name) follows the fortunes of Firo Prochainezo, an up-and-coming member of a small organized-crime family. Prochainezo’s quest to make a dramatic crime debut is set against a backdrop of intersecting stories about monsters and immortality in Prohibition-era New York.

What new manga are you looking forward to this month?

Shop Manga Comics at Barnes & Noble >

Follow B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy