Manga has been my practically been my sole resource for reading lately (reading rut wise). With the world going to shit over and over again recently, it’s been mighty difficult to concentrate on novels. So, I’ve turned to Japanese graphic novels and old-school comics for refuge and the experience has quite possibly been life-saving, particularly for my mental health.
Since I have been reading a bunch of manga, and also because I get messages for suggestions and requests all the time, I thought it would be neat to do one of those If You Like This, Try That recommendations thingamajig. Instead of giving y’all straight rips of serials that are essentially identical, I tried to mix it up and choose titles that share elements but are still different enough to evoke curiosity. Let’s hope that this won’t majorly flop in my face.
I tried chatting about similarities and differences that make each title stand out individually. Hoping my prattling makes sense. Clicking on the Japanese titles will take you to the AniList pages, whereas clicking on their English/Romanised counterparts will take you to GoodReads pages.
Black Butler (黒執事) »»»»» Spy x Family (スパイファミリー)
Black Butler and Spy x Family are both shōnen serials that are quite a bit different in storytelling dynamics but share so many basic traits that I feel if you like one, you’ll probably like the other to various degrees. Both titles have morbid black humour that consists of dry wit and whimsical satire (more with the latter than the former). Both have characters that waltz in the decidedly darker shades of moral ambiguity with even some veering into straight-up villain territory. Both explore dysfunctional families. Where Black Butler’s approach to this topic is twisted, serious, and psychological, Spy x Family’s is heart-warming, charming, and hopeful. Both manga also have excellent action. Black Butler is a bit more violent and graphic whereas Spy x Family is a complete tossback to the cheesiness of original 1930s to 1950s Western comics. Lastly, both manga have superb artwork that really complements the overall storytelling style of the narrative; things that make them so easy to dive into and just keep reading volume upon volume.
Fruits Basket (フルーツバスケット) »»»»» Yona of the Dawn (暁のヨナ)
These two shōjo, romance serials have quite a bit more in common than one would think. Even though Fruits Basket is a contemporary supernatural romance franchise and Yona of the Dawn is a historical fantasy one, they both have one specific thing in common that fans of one shall adore about the other: the exploration that years of abuse has on an individual. In Fruits Basket, we see how so many of the characters struggle with self-love and self-identity due to the psychological and physical abuse they undergo, especially at the hands of a very specific self-entitled asshat of a dude. In Yona of the Dawn, the depiction of abuse is one that stems from a community-based assault rather than the actions of a single person. This creates a whole separate dynamic of fucked-up self-loathing. Both serials tackle these issues with care while still being unfiltered and straightforward in their depiction, including the effects and the challenging road towards combatting these systemically ingrained ideals of dehumanisation. They also have marvellously entertaining humour that’s wholesome and cutely flirty, healthy friendships (including female friendships!), slow-burn romance to make you weak at the knees and giddy from head to toe, and breathtakingly exquisite illustrations.
Elfen Lied (エルフェンリート) »»»»» ES: Eternal Sabbath (エス エターナル サバス)
Elfen Lied and ES are both seinen, science-fiction serials that immediately came to mind when I sat down to do this gig. In fact, I am astonished more people don’t yell about Eternal Sabbath because it’s such a brilliant series. Both titles involve scientific experimentation due to unique characteristics. Both have dualist characters who show two sides of the coin for how said abilities can be used or interpreted. They also get pretty heavy with their themes on revenge and superiority. Elfen Lied and ES don’t require a long investment (12 volumes for the former and 8 for the latter). Lastly, they also have somewhat bittersweet finales that lead a bit more towards the tragic, depending on your interpretation of the ending. Those are most of the similarities between them. The differences are what makes ES such a great recommendation. It has a much more sincere representation of an adult relationship with two consenting adults. It is the truest examination of the key facets of sociopath versus psychopath that I have seen in the manga medium. Also, the artwork in ES is a fucking masterpiece.
After the Rain (恋は雨上がりのように) »»»»» Honey & Clover (ハチミツとクローバー)
These two manga are some of my favourites with regard to young adult relationships (older teen to college aged folx). They are both so wonderfully sincere and mature and incorporate key qualities of Japanese literature, which give them tons of depth. Both serials have relationships in them between a student and their elder, whether a boss or mentor or educator. They also highlight unrequited romance and the woes of trying to find oneself after a tragedy. In After the Rain, Akira is trying to adjust to life after her leg injury and losing her ability to remain an athlete. In Honey and Clover, Hagumi also faces an injury that becomes an obstacle between her and her craft (artist). The deeper critique on self-discovery and the grief that comes with growing up is rendered quite beautifully in both serials. Honey and Clover has humour that will be fitting for people that enjoy shōjo comedic components, but it’s overall story is far more mature that shall appeal to people that are looking for adult stories in the manga medium. They both have some of the most exquisite artwork around as well.
My Love Story!! (俺物語!!) »»»»» Nodame Cantabile (のだめカンタービレ)
My last recommendation on the list is for the romance lovers. I know that one is shōjo and about teens, while the other is josei following much older kids, but they have so much in common while being distinct, separate creations that pairing them felt like a no-brainer. My Love Story!! and Nodame Cantabile are both, at their core, about two people who are so completely different from one another that you’d never expect them to fall in love, let alone formulate a relationship. Yet, in spite of the odds and appearances, the individuals come together and make things work. Gōda Takeo and Rinko are the epitome of pure and sweet love and healthy relationship undercurrents with their open communication and mutual respect. Chiaki and Nodame, on the other hand, are a depiction of how mutual respect is built through the formation of friendship first via natural flowing conversations and a shared passion for music, as well as the intimate familiarity that stems from these sorts of exchanges. The biggest difference and the one that some readers may not care for is that one series has a happy ending while the other’s is far more bittersweet. The romance aspect in both titles is tremendously crafted, as is their visual and aesthetic creation.
Please let me know in the comments if you’d like me to make these gigs more genre specific! I really enjoyed putting it together and am totally open to ideas or requests with future postings.