Comics/Graphic Novels

The Best Manga Inspired by Mythology

Erica Ezeifedi

Associate Editor

Erica Ezeifedi, Associate Editor, is a transplant from Nashville, TN that has settled in the North East. In addition to being a writer, she has worked as a victim advocate and in public libraries, where she has focused on creating safe spaces for queer teens, mentorship, and providing test prep instruction free to students. Outside of work, much of her free time is spent looking for her next great read and planning her next snack. Find her on Twitter at @Erica_Eze_.

Yen Press

Deep below the earth lies the abode of Lord Hades, the ruthless king of the Underworld. Ruling over the realm of the dead, he swears to never fall in love… Except, well, he kind of just took an arrow to the face courtesy of the primordial god of love, Eros, so…In any case, if someone could please pull this thing out of his head anytime this week, the lord god has places to be and people to see. He’ll even make a wish come true, so step right up! Chop-chop! Who will be the lucky duck to claim Hades’s prize…?!

As a longtime lover of manga and its adapted form anime, I’ve long appreciated the vast sources manga artists have gotten their inspiration from. These inspirations have included everything from modern, everyday Japanese life to historical events to, yes, mythology.

Late nights in the early 2000s, I got a taste of Japanese mythology through Inuyasha and later through shows and movies like Spirited Away and Noragami. Becoming more acquainted with the various deities and yōkai, or demons, across stories has provided an interesting context for me to not only better understand Japanese culture but also connect with the stories on another level.

But Japanese mythology isn’t the only one that’s been explored in manga. Below, mangaka (or manga artists) have centered their characters in various cultures’ worlds. There’s romance and Chinese mythology, trapped desperation in an ancient Greek world, the many sections of Hell in a Buddhist reality, and even an ancient Egyptian priest who traverses time and space to hunt mischievous creatures.

Fushigi Yugi by Yuu Watase cover

Fushigi Yûgi by Yuu Watase

Years ago, I was really into the prequel to this series, Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden. I remember hunting around for a full set and feeling pretty accomplished when I finally found one. Set 200 years after the events of Genbu Kaiden, Fushigi Yûgi follows 15-year-old Miaka Yuki and her bestie after they open an ancient Chinese book and get transported to a new world. This new world runs parallel to ancient China, and Miaka finds herself there more and more to escape the mundanity of teenage life. But she also finds it’s more dangerous — and romantic — than she expected.

The universe she travels to is the Universe of the Four Gods, which is based on Chinese mythology.

cover of Olympos by Aki

Olympos by Aki

Our first Greek mythology-inspired manga on the list, Olympos, is about Heinz, who’s about to have an odd response to his prayers. Suddenly, Apollo appears and takes him to a godly plane with limitless flowers and stars. But there in this new place is also the Trojan prince Ganymede, who has been there since he was first taken from his family by the gods for their entertainment. Ganymede is said to be trapped there by his own mind, but Heinz will eventually wonder if it’s really the prince keeping himself there or something else.

cover of Saint Seiya by Masami Kurumada

Saint Seiya by Masami Kurumada

Here’s another one centered around Greek mythology. Athena, daughter of Zeus, is the goddess of wisdom and war. Whenever she goes to war — to fight defensively — she’s surrounded by a group of young protectors called the Knights of Athena. Years in the future, in modern Greece, two Japanese tourists see a meteorite shaped mysteriously like a man crash to earth. They soon learn it’s Seiya, one of Athena’s Knights, who must train hard to win a coveted protective armor.

cover of Hozuki’s Coolheadedness by Natsuki Eguchi

Hozuki’s Coolheadedness by Natsumi Eguchi

Based on Buddhist and Japanese mythology, Hozuki’s Coolheadedness tells how Heaven and Hell exist, with the latter being quite expansive. Hell is made up of the Eight Greater Hells and the Eight Colder Hells, which have 272 subsections. To keep everything in order, King Enma, the King of Hell, has a chief of staff — former human Hozuki. His titular coolheadedness comes into play as he navigates Hell’s daily messes.

cover of Hoshin Engi by Ryu Fujisaki

Hoshin Engi by Ryu Fujisaki

This is an interesting mix of ancient China and futuristic visions. In it, young Taikobo becomes the head of the mysterious Hoshin Project after his family is killed by the beautiful fox spirit Dakki. He sets out to get revenge on Dakki but questions his reasons for what he does along the way.

cover of Eden - It’s an Endless World by Hiroki Endo

Eden: It’s an Endless World by Hiroki Endo

This post-apocalyptic manga is set in the near future when a big part of humanity is killed by a brutal new virus. With the population lessened and survivors barely hanging on, paramilitary forces stepped in to take advantage and try to rule the world. Naturally, a resistance forms, whom young Elia meets when he goes looking for his mother. This has elements of cyberpunk, philosophy, and Gnostic mythology.

cover of Im: Priest Imhotep

Im: Priest Imhotep by Makoto Morishita

The Great Priest Imhotep is newly resurrected and travels through time and space to hunt the devious little Magai, who impersonates the gods and causes destruction. One day, schoolgirl Hinome and the ancient priest meet, and things change forever.

cover of The Ring of the Nibelung by Ryo Azumi

Ring of the Nibelung by Ryo Azumi

Wagner’s opera “Ring of the Nibelung” — based on Norse mythology — gets new life here in manga form. Alberich, who was hated by the fairies of Rhine, spread his nastiness and made a ring from the gold of the river. This ring is said to grant limitless power over the world, but only if the wielder forsakes love.

cover of Record of Ragnarok by Shinya Umemura, Takumi Fukui, and Azychika

Record of Ragnarok by Shinya Umemura, Takumi Fukui, and Azychika

This is the most recent on the list and is the perfect one to end with since it encompasses various mythologies — though its name is taken from Norse mythology. It features the great battle between gods and man for man’s survival. Every millennium, the gods gather to decide if humanity should continue to exist. The answer this time is “no,” but the Valkyrie Brunhilde convinces the gods to give humans a chance to prove themselves one last time in a combat arena. Now, humanity’s greatest warriors will fight the gods for survival. This was adapted into a fairly popular anime on Netflix.

Mythology-inspired is but one sub-category of manga. There’s also mystery, horror, and even manga bout musicians. If you prefer a more broad and recent selection, make sure to look out for our new manga releases round up every month.