Best New Manga of June 2019

Turn that cliché upside down! This month offers up a stack of genre-bending manga: it’s school culture festival time in My Hero Academia, and that cues a villain who’s ready to take down U.A. High School for good. The super-shy girl in Komi Can’t Communicate decides to fight her malady head-on by making 100 friends. And Kaiju Girl Caramelise blends love and monsters in a one-of-a-kind high school drama that really brings the action. Plus: Boruto finally gets comfortable with technology, Gou Tanabe adapts H.P. Lovecraft, and more! Get your summer reading in order with this month’s new manga releases.

H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, Vol. 1, by Gou Tanabe
“I was interested in adapting the works of H.P. Lovecraft,” Junji Ito said in a recent interview, “but Mr. Gou Tanabe did what I consider the definitive version, so I gave up on that.” You can’t ask for a better endorsement than that, Ito being one of the masters of Japanese horror. Tanabe draws the human characters, the Antarctic landscape, and the 1930s technology (airplanes, radios, and ships powered by both sail and steam) of this Lovecraft classic with the same precision as Jiro Taniguchi, but a bit more verve. The inhuman creatures are more of a struggle, but he hits a nice balance between the anatomically convincing parts and the sheer weirdness of the whole. While it is not for the squeamish, it is a real treat for fans of Lovecraft, horror manga, and tales of explorers going to the extreme areas of the world. This is the first of two volumes.

Classmates, Vol. 1: Dou kyu sei, by Asumiko Nakamura
Rihito is your classic glasses-wearing high school boy, very smart and very self-contained—except it turns out he isn’t. He’s going to a subpar private school because he choked on the high school entrance exams, and singing a song in music class paralyzes him with anxiety. Hikaru, a happy-go-lucky type with flowing blond hair who plays guitar in a band, finds Rihito practicing his song alone and offers to tutor him. Thus begins a romance that, while it hits some of the usual boys love tropes, also feels refreshingly honest. Nakamura’s art is reminiscent of classic manga-ka such as Ryuko Ikeda, with elongated figures and an emphasis on line over tone. The story is broken into episodes set over the course of the characters’ high school years, with a bit more revealed in each. Classmates was adapted into an anime movie in 2016.

Komi Can’t Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda
Komi, the dark-haired, long-legged beauty on the cover, can’t communicate because she can’t speak—she gets tongue-tied whenever anyone addresses her. Everyone thinks she never talks because she’s just too cool, and she does cover it well, but her classmate Tadano finds out the truth. They form a tentative friendship, communicating by writing on the blackboard, and decide the best way for her to overcome her disability is to make 100 friends. Much awkwardness results! This is a good-hearted shonen rom-com delivered in short chapters, so it’s easy to pick up and put down.

Elfen Lied Omnibus, Vol. 1, by Lynn Okamoto
If this title seems familiar, it’s because the anime was a huge sensation when it was first released back in 2005. This is the first time the manga has been (legally) available in English, however, and it differs from the anime in important ways. The world of Elfen Lied contains both humans and the Diclonii, a new type of mutants who have horns on their heads and invisible, telekinetically controlled arms called “vectors.” Lucy, one of the Diclonii, was being held in a scientific facility in Japan but escaped, causing danger to others and damage to herself, including the development of a second personality. She is taken in by two locals, but she is far from free, as the Special Assault Force and an array of others attempt to recapture her. As much as it’s an action tale, this story also raises some intriguing questions about human—and mutant—nature. The series was originally 12 volumes, but Dark Horse is publishing it as four omnibuses, each containing three volumes.

Whenever Our Eyes Meet…. A Women’s Love Anthology, by ASCII Media Works
The stories are short and sweet in this collection of workplace yuri romances: a designer is hired to do a CD cover for a mysterious singer who always keeps her identity hidden behind a horse mask—and who turns out to be a secret fan of the artist; a one-night stand pops up as the new contractor at work; a cab ride brings old colleagues together. There’s a lot of variety here, but all the stories are well told and well drawn. A good read for fans of yuri and workplace romance in general.

Kaiju Girl Caramelise, Vol. 1, by Spica Aoki
Kuroe Akaishi is quiet, solitary, and suffers from a rare disease that causes her body to change in frightening ways, even more so than most teenagers. She keeps to herself as much as possible, but with adolescence comes the awakening of certain feelings, and while love can change people in strange ways, it’s seldom as extreme as in Kuroe’s case: when her heart goes pitty-pat, her body grows claws and scales and she literally turns into a monster. The cover says it all; this is story of teen romance that runs far, far off the rails.

For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams, Vol. 2,by Kei Sanbe
Kei Sanbe’s followup to Erased is another murder mystery involving a supernatural power. This time it’s about twin brothers who are so in tune with each other that when one is hurt, the other feels pain—growing up, their father was an abusive alcoholic, so one twin protected the other by taking the beatings, even though they both felt his blows. When they were five, their parents were found brutally murdered, and one of the twins disappeared. Senri, the other twin, knows his brother is dead—because he felt him die—and has sworn to avenge his murder. Now a teenager, Senri lives with his grandparents but hangs out with a violent gang, pulling cons and getting into fights. As in Erased, Sanbe comes up with intriguing characters and an original premise for a mystery, constantly playing with what the reader does and doesn’t know to ramp up the suspense.

Hinamatsuri, Vol. 3, by Masao Ohtake
Saddling a gangster with a kid is always comedy gold, but Hinamatsuri ramps it up by making the kid in question telekinetic. Nitta is a rising star in his yakuza organization, and he enjoys spending his money on fine living and precious antique vases. So when an expressionless girl arrives in his apartment in some sort of capsule, he first pretends she isn’t there, then can’t figure out what to do with her. The only thing the girl knows is her name, Hina, but she immediately realizes she can get Nitta to follow her commands simply by threatening one of his vases. It takes Nitta a while to realize that Hina’s powers are more valuable to him than any vase, and the two form an uneasy alliance. Once they reach this rapprochement, of course, more characters come in to complicate things, and the series gets crazier and goofier at every turn. With volume 3 just out, it’s not too late to jump onto the crazy train and enjoy the ride. The anime is available on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Sailor Moon Eternal Edition, Vol. 5,by Naoko Takeuchi
Sailor Moon kicked off the shoujo manga boom back in the late 1990s; back then, Tokyopop published it, first in a short-lived magazine and then in tiny paperbacks with questionable translations (Usagi was called “Bunny”). Many years later, Kodansha Comics republished it in standard tankoubon with a new translation. Now they are really giving the series its due with the Eternal Editions, which feature a larger trim size, new cover illustrations by Takeuchi, and a newly revised translation. Each volume is 300 pages, equivalent to about one and a half volumes of the original.

Boruto, Vol. 6,by Ukyo Kodachi, Mikio Ikemoto, and Masashi Kishimoto
Much of this volume is taken up with a battle with Ao, the technologically enhanced former shinobi. Boruto, despite his previous objections, uses the technology himself, with some clever double-crosses. It’s a good fight, but an even better reason to check out this volume is to see the Steam Toad that follows. Six volumes in, Boruto still has a lot of energy, a lot of imagination, and a lot of heart.

Tokyo Ghoul: re, Vol. 11, by Sui Ishida
The Commission on Counter Ghoul has a new leader, and he’s crazy in the worst possible way. Nimura Furuta has stepped in after the mysterious disappearance of the previous bureau chief, and his strange behavior has some of the investigators alarmed but the rest of the CCG staff convinced. The clincher is his announcement of a public execution. Tokyo Ghoul: re continues the same mix of action, horror, and drama that made the original Tokyo Ghoul so compelling, bringing those characters into new situations and unveiling new information about them at every turn.

My Hero Academia, Vol. 19, by Kohei Horikoshi
With the massive battle with Overhaul behind them, Class 1-A turns to focus on something essential to every manga set in a school: The class culture festival. Midoriya is running late, and as he is hustling back to the school with supplies for the festival, he encounters a stranger on the street. And not just any stranger: As Midoriya quickly realizes, he has just run into Gentle Criminal, a villain who has some spectacular plans for taking down U.A.—and only Midoriya can stop him.

What new manga are you eyeing in June?

Follow B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy