The Best New Manga of March 2019

Want a second helping? This month’s new manga releases include a new series by the creator of One-Punch Man, a collection of Fullmetal Alchemist gag manga, and the return of the classic Aria, as well as some new manga with familiar storylines. And on top of that, there’s a new light novel featuring mechas with a side of social commentary—OK, that last one is not at all familiar, but it sounds like a lot of fun.

Mob Psycho 100, Vol. 2, by ONE
Mob Psycho 100 is by the writer of One-Punch Man, and shares that series’ deadpan humor—although Mob Psycho 100 is about spirits and exorcists, not superheroes and villains. The joke starts with the title, which seems to promise crazy violent Yakuza action. In fact, “Mob” is the name of the lead character, a mild-mannered eighth-grader who blends into the crowd (in other words, he’s just one blip in a mob scene). Mob has superhuman powers, and he has apprenticed himself to a phony medium who exploits them shamelessly, but he doesn’t seem to care much. In fact, he is disinclined to use his powers at all, unless pressed to the limit. Most of the time he is pretty straight-faced, like Saitama of One-Punch Man, but when his inner emotional gauge hits 100, his psychic energy goes haywire. Mob Psycho 100 pokes fun at manga tropes—the club that will be dissolved if it can’t find one more member, the endlessly fighting gangs of tough guys in gakuran (military style) school uniforms—so the more manga you have read, the more you will enjoy it. Since ONE draws Mob Psycho 100 himself, it doesn’t have the polished look of One-Punch Man (which benefits from the artwork of Eyeshield 21 creator Yusuke Murata), but the style fits the story well. This month marks the release of the second volume, so it’s a good time to jump onboard a promising series.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics, by Hiromu Arakawa
This volume pulls together all the bonus 4-panel gag strips that ran at the end of the individual volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist or were included with the anime DVDs and various booklets, websites, and other products. Like most manga creators, Arakawa takes the opportunity to poke some good-natured fun at her characters and their quirks, and she even drew a set of “Fullmetal Masterpiece Theater” strips spoofing famous fairy tales. Since all the strips are about Fullmetal Alchemist,the book won’t make much sense to those who haven’t read the series or watched the anime, but FMA fans will certainly enjoy the sly digs and insider humor.

Aria: The Masterpiece, Vol. 1, by Kozue Amano
Aria is a slice-of-life manga set in a beautiful fantasy world. In the future, Mars has been terraformed for human habitation, and when the ice caps melted, the imagineers in charge created Neo Venezia, a canal city based on Venice. Naturally, there are gondolas, and Aria follows the adventures of Akari, who has traveled from Earth (now called Manhome) to train as an Undine, or professional gondolier. This is the sort of manga you read just for the pleasure of being in a particular world. It doesn’t have a lot of action, but a character in the first chapter describes the gondolas as “strangely calming,” and the same could be said of the series as a whole. Aria was first published in English in 2004, and Tokyopop picked up the license after the original publisher became defunct. Now they are bringing it back in a deluxe edition; this first volume contains the prequel series, originally known as Aqua.

86?EIGHTY-SIX, Vol. 1, by Asato Asato and Shirabi
This light novel from Yen Press is fantasy with a sting. The San Magnolia Republic has successfully deployed unmanned weapons to defend themselves from an attack from a neighboring empire, but all is not as it seems: the “unmanned” weapons are actually piloted by the young men and women of the Republic’s 86th District, which does not exist in any public and official sense. In other words, the government has been lying about the whole project. With a mix of mechs, military action, and politics, this is an interesting light novel that goes beyond the usual tropes.

Boruto, Vol. 5, by Ukyo Kodachi, Mikio Ikemoto, and Masashi Kishimoto
After charging through 72 volumes of adventures, Naruto finally settled down and had a son, Boruto. This series picks up the story of the younger Uzumaki, who is headstrong, resentful of his father, and inclined to go barreling off on his own adventures. With Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto supervising its creation, this new series is a worthy match for the original. The Boruto manga initially followed the storyline of Boruto: Naruto the Movie, but has moved on to original material. Currently, Boruto is grappling with a mysterious organization called Kara, and in this volume he also goes up against his father, satisfying the desires of meme creators all over the world.

Love in Focus, Vol. 1, by Yoko Nogiri
Sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned shoujo romance manga, and Love in Focus fills the bill. Mako, our heroine, loves photography, and after suffering a loss, she dives deeper into it. At the suggestion of a childhood friend, she leaves home to attend a new school that has an elite photography club—and she’s soon living in a dorm with her friend and another student who hates to have his picture taken. Have we checked all the Shoujo Bingo boxes yet? This one looks like it will be good fun, with the photo angle to add some extra interest.

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 1, by Tsunehiko Watanabe and Neko Hinotsuki
If, on the other hand, you want a good old-fashioned wish-fulfillment seinen manga, here’s the one for you. Zenjiro is a totally ordinary guy with a boring office job and not much else going on, until a beautiful queen of an unearthly realm summons him to be her husband. If he accepts, he gets to live a life of leisure with his beautiful spouse—but the catch is that there are no backsies on this offer, and he will be saying goodbye to everything dear to him on Earth, including his family and the internet. It’s also possible that all is not quite as it seems, and the queen has some sinister motives. With its everyman hero and gorgeous supernatural heroine, The Ideal Sponger Life is a solid seinen romantic comedy.

10 Dance, Vol. 2, by Inouesatoh
Two “kings” of ballroom dancing go head to head in this steamy yaoi romance. Shinya Sugiki is a champion in the world of traditional ballroom dancing, while Shinya Suzuki is the top Latin dancer. The twist is that in order to compete in the prestigious 10 Dance competition, each has to learn the other’s style, so they agree to teach each other. While they share a first name, the two have very different personalities and teaching styles, so there’s plenty of tension—and tension is the magic ingredient in yaoi!

What new manga is on your list this month?

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