As I dip my toes into the wide world of reading manga, I’ve found nonfiction to be my favorite place. It’s a fun way for me to get to know people on the other side of the world with their distinct illustration style and direction of reading (right to left!). The pool of nonfiction manga currently available in English is quite small, though it is growing larger these days. Hooray for that!
Much of the nonfiction manga I came across was strictly educational: biographies of historic or religious figures or guides on how to draw in manga art styles. But I’m much more interested in the personal stories. I’m delighted to have found a bunch of memoirs to share because they all touch on things that are deeply personal and emotional. A trans woman getting married. A child whose father is an alcoholic. An introvert who wants to understand human connection. Stories of people with developmental disorders and disabilities. And to top it off, we have two fun educational manga: a history of Western fonts and a guide to makeup and skincare. Fun!
I hope you find something in this list of nonfiction manga to brighten your day or widen your world.
The Bride Was a Boy by Chii, Beni Axia Conrad (Translator)
The Bride was a Boy is a heartwarming story about a transgender woman and how she found love. It covers her childhood struggles with sexuality and gender, her transition, and then her marriage to a man who is absolutely gaga over her. Each chapter ends with an explainer on terminology around queerness and the Japanese legality surrounding queer life.
A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad’s an Alcoholic by Mariko Kikuchi
Soul-crushingly poignant, A Life Turned Upside Down is Mariko Kikuchi’s life story told through the lens of a child watching her father fall apart to alcoholism. She and her sister grow up taking care of him after their mother dies by suicide, and the resentment they feel toward him only grows.
The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story by Marie Kondō, Yuko Uramoto (Illustrator)
Learn the Konmari method through Chiaki, a young woman living in a messy Tokyo apartment who decides to turn her life around after her very cute neighbor complains about the trash she keeps on her balcony. Marie Kondō pops in throughout the story with tips on how to declutter her apartment and find a direction in life.
Former beauty consultant Ikumi Rotta is here to teach you everything you ever wanted to know about makeup and skincare. She breaks down the fundamentals, answers frequently asked questions, and shows how to turn the basics into not-so-basics. Because makeup isn’t magic — it’s an art form.
My Brain is Different is a beautiful manga anthology of stories from nine people living with various developmental disorders and disabilities. It covers people of all age groups with neurodivergence. A junior high dropout finds another way to get an education, a man learns to see the world anew thanks to a new medication, and more inspiring — though not always optimistic — stories are here.
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata, Jocelyne Allen (Translator)
Anxious and reclusive Nagata Kabi seeks out an escort agency to help bring her out of her shell. In this deeply introspective memoir, she works through her mental illnesses and learns how to be intimate with another person. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is the first in a series of manga memoirs with our author and artist divulging her deepest fears and struggles.
Secretly, I’ve Been Suffering About Being Sexless by Togame, Alexandra McCullough-Garcia (Translator)
Togame and her partner have opposing sex drives, and it sends their marriage into a spiral. Secretly, I’ve Been Suffering About Being Sexless is a candid memoir about all the ways Togame tries to seduce her husband — losing weight, wearing extravagant makeup, buying new lingerie — to no avail. In the end, it turns out all they needed was a little communication.
What the Font?! – A Manga Guide to Western Typeface by Kuniichi Ashiya, Masayuki Yamamoto (Contributor)
Follow Marusu, a sales rep who has to learn about graphic design when a designer at her work disappears, through the history of Western fonts via anthropomorphized depictions of each font! Helvetica is a cool, helpful guide. Gill Sans is serious. Garamond is happy to be here. For any font nerd, this is a super delightful way to get to know the history — and a vague timeline — of common fonts.