The Best New Manga of December 2015

decembermangaThree mismatched astronauts clear up space debris, a bumbling otaku shocks everyone with his cycling prowess, and worlds go to war in December’s new manga series; this month also brings a bumper crop of new volumes in popular series, headlined by vol. 17 of Attack on Titan and vol. 4 of Tokyo Ghoul.

Attack on Titan, Vol. 17, by Hajime Isayama
One of the things that makes Attack on Titan so compelling is the slow unfurling of the mysteries behind the story—why people become Titans, how the walls were created, and what Eren Yeager’s father did all those years ago, before he disappeared. In the aftermath of these revelations, the characters are faced with new dilemmas and must make grave decisions. This volume is available on its own or as a special edition that includes a DVD of the anime Ilse’s Notebook, a side story that is not available anywhere else.

Planetes, Vol. 1, by Makoto Yukimura
Hachimaki, Yuri, and Fee have an unglamorous but important job—they clear the clutter of space. For Yuri, it’s personal: His wife was killed when the spacecraft they were traveling in was struck by debris, and a memento still floats out there in the void. Scrappy Hachi is trying to save up enough to get his own spaceship and become an astronaut like his father. Fee is just looking for a place to have a smoke, but space terrorists are targeting the smoking areas in the spaceports. Like Vinland Saga, Yukimura’s other manga, Planetes often takes a philosophical turn, with the characters talking about what it really means to colonize space or to be an astronaut, but that never bogs down the story. This manga was originally published by Tokyopop in four volumes; Dark Horse is delivering this new edition to us in two larger-format omnibus volumes with color pages and lovely covers.

Yowamushi Pedal, Vol. 1, by Wataru Watanabe
The jocks and the nerds aren’t all that far apart in Wataru Watanabe’s cycling manga. Sakamichi Onoda doesn’t just ride his bike to high school, he rides it to the nerd paradise of Akihabara, 40 km distant, so he can spend his money on capsule toys rather than train fare. With all that pedaling, he’s sort of a cycling savant, riding a one-speed “mommy bike” with the speed and cadence of a pro, while singing the “Love Hime” theme song at the top of his lungs. His prowess catches the eye of two of his more savvy peers, Imaizumi, a serious biker who dreams of being a champion someday, and Naruka, a fellow otaku who also knows his way around a bike. Onoda just wants to round up enough people to re-start the school’s defunct anime club, but he ends up in the cycling club instead—and with help from a friendly bike enthusiast, he starts upping his game. Watanabe, who wrote and drew one of the Train Man manga, has a nice touch with his characters: Onoda is driven by his enthusiasms but eager to make friends; Imaizumi is ambitious but not inhuman; Naruka is just over the top. The art is wonderfully expressive, with explosions of fierce brushwork during the action scenes, and Watanabe explains a lot about bicycles and biking in the course of the story.

Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 4, by Sui Ishida
The ghouls of this story are supernatural creatures who must devour humans to survive—the only other food they can stand is coffee. College student Ken Kaneki received an organ transplant from a ghoul and acquired the taste for human flesh—but not the cold-blooded detachment he needs to actually kill and eat people. Over the first three volumes, he began to navigate this new landscape, finding safe harbor in a coffeehouse run by ghouls who are trying to figure out how to coexist with humans; complicating this is the fact that the ghouls are not only being hunted by a special anti-ghoul squad but also split into factions themselves. A new and troubling character emerges in volume 4. This manga is astonishingly popular—the first three volumes are all over the manga and graphic novel best-seller charts—and there’s an anime as well.

Aldnoah Zero, Season One, Vol. 1, by Olympus Knights
It’s a war of the worlds, with teenagers caught in the middle! While they were on the moon, the Apollo 17 astronauts found a hypergate to Mars. This leads to a war between humans and a people called the Vers that ended with the destruction of the moon. Years later, the Vers Princess Asseylum comes to Earth on a peace mission and is apparently killed, and in revenge, the Vers Empire unleashes a new set of attacks. Adapted from the anime of the same name, this fast-moving story features teens in mechs and strangely organic-looking technology.

What manga are you reading now?

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