The Best New Manga of May 2019

What manga are you in the mood for this month? A subversive fairytale romance? An isekai manga about a hapless guy trapped in a game with two beautiful, much stronger women? A heartfelt story about a teenage boy coming to terms with his sexuality? How about another volume of One Piece? No matter what your taste, this month’s roster of new releases has you covered.

I’m Standing on a Million Lives, Vol. 1, by Naoki Yamakawa and Akinari Nao
Yusuke Yotsuya hates living in Tokyo, doesn’t care about getting into a good high school, and just wants to get home to play video games. Then, rather abruptly, he finds himself inside a video game, together with two of his female classmates—one a wizard, one a warrior. And Yotsuya? He’s a farmer. It gets worse: They are all taking instructions from a man with half a head and a defective vocabulary. This goofy trapped-in-the-game isekai manga is closer to That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime than Sword Art Online, but there’s enough action within to please fans of both.

Our Dreams at Dusk, Vol. 1, by Yuhki Kamatani
Tasuku knows he is gay, but he’s deeply in the closet and uncomfortable with it. When his classmates find gay porn on his phone and taunt him, he denies it—but the taunts leave him reeling. Just when he’s about to jump off a building and end it all, he catches a glimpse of a woman leaping out a window in the distance. His troubles forgotten, he rushes to her aid—but she’s not there. (The woman, Someone-san, simply likes to start her walks that way.) What he finds instead is a drop-in center with a casual, welcoming group of strangers, a place where he can say things he can’t say to anyone else and see gay adults living their happy, if not completely untroubled, lives. This manga is worth reading for the art alone: Kamatani keenly depicts Tasuku’s emotional states, showing the world spinning and distorting around him when his anxiety peaks. The setting, the mountain town of Onomichi, is almost a character in itself, with its winding mountain paths and antique houses (which some of the drop-in center guests are renovating). Our Dreams at Dusk is a sophisticated, beautifully drawn story about the different paths people find to happiness, no matter what their starting point.

Snow White with the Red Hair, Vol. 1, by Sorata Akizuki
This shoujo romance flips standard fairy-tale tropes on their heads. When the prince hears of the beautiful Shirayuki, who has hair as red as apples, he sends for her to be his concubine. Shirayuki responds by cutting off her hair and sending it to him, then fleeing to the next kingdom. There she meets a few andom folks in the forest, one of whom turns out to be (spoiler alert!) royalty himself: Zen, a prince. Although the attraction between them is obvious and mutual, Shirayuki opts to remain outside Zen’s palace and study to become a professional herbalist. Zen respects Shirayuki’s desire to be independent, but whenever she is in danger (which is often) he lurks nearby, though he usually lets her take care of it without his intervention. Shirayuki is pretty badass, but she’s also a foreigner and a commoner, so factions within the kingdom are plotting to keep her away from the prince. This is a cute story that manages to throw in some twists without ever straying too far from the conventions of shoujo romance. It’s a great pick for fans of the genre.

Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey, Vol. 1, by Akiko Higashimura
How do you become a manga-ka? Higashimura, the creator of Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Girls tells her own story in this series, which was published in-between those two popular josei hits. It starts when she is in high school, dreaming of making her own manga someday. Seeing her lack of artistic ability as an obstacle, she signs up for a drawing class, but the instructor, who wields a bamboo sword, has no time for manga. Higashimura’s memoir offers a glimpse into the career of a successful manga creator, told with her signature style and humor.

Emanon, Vol. 1, by Kenji Tsurata
Tsurata’s Wandering Island is one of the most beautifully drawn manga in print right now, and has been nominated for an Eisner Award. This new story is set in 1967, and starts with a night ferry ride during which a young man meets a young woman and becomes her unwitting accomplice in an escape from a creepy drunk. There’s an air of mystery around the woman, who calls herself Emanon (“no name” spelled backwards). Tsurata loves to draw beautiful women, and he also loves to place his characters in detailed settings that take on a life of their own. In Wandering Island it was Mikura, her seaplane, and a mysterious island; in Emanon, it’s the title character, the ferry, and the events of 1967, which set the scene for the story. With its combination of strong characters and dreamlike setting, this manga is a serious candidate for best-of-the-year lists.

Black Torch, Vol. 4, by Tsuyoshi Takaki
For the first three volumes of this series, Jiro Azuma, our hero, was bonded to a cat-shaped mononoke (spirit) named Rago, sharing his powers. As this volume opens, however, another mononoke, Asagi, has defeated the pair and forces Rago to swear loyalty to him. Rago tricks him, leaving his powers behind in Jiro. Now, Asagi is furious, Rago is just a plain ol’ cat, and Jiro suddenly has tremendous abilities he can barely control. Black Torch is a fast-paced action-packed story that puts enough twists on the standard yokai-fighting manga to keep things interesting.

One Piece, Vol. 90, by Eiichiro Oda
The tale of Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hats is still going strong, 90 volumes in, as Oda brings as much energy to this volume as he did to the very first. Maybe more! This volume concludes a story arc about the Straw Hats’ mission to the territory of Big Mom, who rules over a cake-themed island and armada, to stop the wedding of their crewmate Sanji to the lovely, three-eyed Charlotte Pudding. In addition, one of Big Mom’s pirates has defected to the Straw Hats, and Mama doesn’t like defectors. After an exciting sea chase, the next story arc begins with world leaders assembling for the Reverie, a sort of World Council, and new conspiracies immediately begin to take hold. One Piece is a manic tale filled with adventure, action, and crazy characters, and it’s not surprising that it remains the bestselling manga in Japan even after more than 20 years.

One-Punch Man, Vol. 16, by ONE and Yusuke Murata
This volume kicks off with monster hunter Garo hiding in a shed and studying a hero manual to figure out how to fight off the actual heroes who have him surrounded. The lineup includes Wildhorn, a former construction worker with a battle pile driver; Smileman, who wears a smile face logo and wields a giant toy hammer; and Chain Toad, an ordinary middle-aged man with a sickle-and-chain weapon who wears a frog mask so that kids will like him. ONE and Murata seem to delight in thinking up ever more extreme superheroes and villains to send into battle against one another. As always, this volume includes plenty of superhero action punctuated by moments of sheer goofiness.  Let the battles begin (again)!

Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki, by Mamoru Hosoda
This slim hardback volume is a novelization of Hosoda’s anime film of the same name, which was also adapted into a one-volume mangaa few years ago. It’s a heart-tugging story about a mother who must raise her two children alone after their father mysteriously disappears. The twist is that he was a wolf, and the children have the ability to change their form between human and wolf as well. The question that underlies the story is whether it is better to use or conceal their abilities in order to live a happy life, or to be true to their natures.

What new manga are on your list this month?

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