The Panels 2015 Read Harder Challenge consists of 26 challenge categories spanning the breadth and depth of all things that may be considered comics. Every week we’ll give you reading recommendations from one of the categories.
Manga readers are passionate about their medium, and with little manga experience under my belt, I was excited to see what our Panelteers would recommend for this part of the Read Harder Challenge. They didn’t disappoint!
Pluto by Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka: Based on a story from Tezuka’s Astro Boy series, this manga has all the robots, complex politics, and murder you could want. It might also get you excited to go back to the original source material, which is absolutely classic. – Jenn Northington
What Jenn said. Really anything with Naoki Urasawa’s name on it. Pluto. 20th Century Boys. Monster. Master Keaton. Any of those books are a great place to start because they’re so accessible, and written with an older audience (20s and 30s on up) in mind. I think one of the major hitches keeping western readers from checking out manga for the first time as adults has a lot to do with the hyperbolic nature of teen manga that tends to catch on. Urasawa’s work tends to appeal to mature readers, even if the subject matter includes fighting robots. But, man, I hope I’m never so jaded that I turn down robot fiction. – Paul
Drops of God by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto: If you haven’t read manga, then Drops of God is a great place to start, especially if you love reading about food. Shizuku is the son of a world-famous wine critic, and when his father dies, he must compete with his father’s protege in order to inherit his father’s priceless wine collection. It’s a fun read AND you can learn a thing or two about wine! – Swapna
Gantz by Hiroya Oku: This epic length manga is creative, violent, suggestive, and rife with gore. If prefer the strange and longform adventures, this is for you. From the wiki: Gantz tells the story of Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato, both whom died in a train accident and become part of a semi-posthumous “game” in which they and several other recently deceased people are forced to hunt down and kill aliens armed with a handful of futuristic items, equipment, and weaponry. Both the manga and anime are noted for their heavy violence and sexual content. – Dana Silver
All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka with illustrations by Yoshitoshi ABe: The inspiration for the recent Tom Cruise flick Edge of Tomorrow, this is a fast paced adventure featuring a young soldier caught in a time-loop as he tries to save the world from an alien invasion. Exciting and slightly twisted. It’s a very fun read. – Dana Silver
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura: The story centers around two young people, about 12 at the start of the story, who are confronting issues of gender identity. The boy and girl become friends, confessing to one another that they each feel compelled to dress and act differently from their assigned genders. The story is a thoughtful, slow build, focusing on friendship and puberty as they mix with the central issues of identity. The lovely art helps emphasize the level of subjectivity in the way we see and differentiate gender. – Amy Diegelman
Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) by Hajime Isayama: The recent anime adaptation of this series has thrust it into recent popularity. This is the story of Eren Yaegar and his friends, who live inside a system of huge walls that keep out their enemies: the Titans. The Titans are seemingly mindless, human-like giants who appeared mysteriously one day and destroyed most of humanity. Those inside the massive walled system of cities are the only people left. The books follow a class of recruits in the military that protects the people. The action (and there is a LOT of it) is drawn masterfully and the emotion and depth of the story pulls you in. Bloody and devastating in the best way. – Amy Diegelman
Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura: Vinland Saga is a historical manga taking place in 11th century England then controlled by the Dane. On the background of political intrigues and violent wars, Thorffin witnesses his father murdered when he was only 16.. The journey of Thorffin from orphan warrior to slave to farmer includes enemies as mentors and unlikely friends. Beware, it is a very violent book (there are a few people getting stabbed in eye in the first volume alone), but the emotional journey of the characters is as gripping as the action. – Hélène
Bloody Monday by Ryou Ryumon and Kouji Megumi: I found this one rather gripping. It’s about a boy who is a brilliant hacker, and whose father is framed for murder. He tries to use his skills to clear him, and uncovers a huge plot that would end in millions of Japanese dead. I liked the drama of a young protagonist getting involved in some heavy stuff. (Kristina Pino)
Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima: This is one of my favorite manga out there – it’s been ongoing for a while, and follows a group of teenage mages who are part of a wizards guild called Fairy Tail. The main protagonist who the perspective is generally framed around is Lucy Heartfilia, a bookish girl who uses summoning magic. You’ll have pleeenty of reading material if you pick this one up for a while, and there’s even an animated adaptation. I love this one because it has a lot of heart, has a lot of kick-ass ladies, and it doesn’t shy away from romance as much as some other properties in its genre. Lots of fighting and excitement as well. (Kristina Pino)
Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends by Yomi Hirasaka and Itachi: This is a comedy sort of story about a group of outcasts who form a club for the purpose of learning how to make friends. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but it also manages to be touching and poignant in places. In the first series, it tackles topics like fandoms and friendships and jealousy, while the second series, Haganai: NEXT tackles gender identity, bullying, and other topics I was really happy to see in manga. There’s an animated series as well, if you’re into that. Memorable characters and relatable gags and story points are what make me recommend this. (Kristina Pino)
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