Two more days, chums! Today and tomorrow and then this hellfire of a fucking year shall be over! I cannot express in words how ecstatic I am to put 2020 behind me as I drift off into the future. Although, I will admit that these last twelve months have taught me many life lessons (a chat for a near-future Self-Care Sunday), so as much as I hated it with the fiery fires of my soul, I am grateful to it. A tiny, teeny bit. Like a cookie crumb’s worth.
As I began thinking about the next set of twelve months to come, I tried to focus on the things I wanted to accomplish with respect to my hobbies and the activities that I enjoy the most in life. Manga instantly popped into my brain as I’ve realised that I love the medium quite vehemently, yet I haven’t read nearly as many volumes and serials in 2020 as I would’ve liked. Naturally, this led me to creating a high-priority reading list to conquer in 2021!
I did try to give the list a spot of variety in terms of demographics and genres, but I think it’s safe to say I definitely have my favoured brands (violent shōnen and seinen supernatural fantasy mostly). Either way, I’m stoked to dive into these serials and engage with stories that have either intimidated me for a myriad of reasons, or merely because they’re big ass titles that I wanted to set time aside for specifically. Starting Berserk definitely shoved my arse into the direction of taking action. Thank you, Berserk-chan. Let’s take a gander at the twelve series’ on my list thus far. Clicking the titles shall take you to their AniList pages.
A shōjo, fantasy romance manga series by Sorata Akizuki, it follows a young woman with apple-red hair who is chosen by the king of her kingdom to become his concubine, by force if necessary. Refusing to become his love puppet, she chops off her hair and flees the kingdom, where she meets a trio of strangers who shall change her life in beautiful ways.
I recently finished watching both seasons of the anime and I am obsessed. I don’t typically enjoy mostly pure romance serials anymore, maybe because I’m older or I have my emotional baggage with respect to relationships. Whatever the reason, romance is not really my gig unless there’s some other shenanigans going on. But this series is so marvellously wholesome and sweet and uplifting. Plus, I’m low-key smitten with a character named Obi whom I need more of in my life as soon as possible. Given my adoration for the anime, I really wanted to read the source material!
A seinen, science-fiction, mecha, space opera series by Tsutomu Nihei is about humans in a futuristic setting as they sail through space on an incredible spacecraft, avoiding a sentient shape-shifting alien race, the Gauna, that’s been hunting them for a thousand years after humans fled earth. Humans have evolved and can now photosynthesise and have developed gender fluidity, which helps in their long-term survival in the vastness of space. Then one day a young boy living in the slums pops out into the city proper, a human who has never evolved in the manner as the rest of his race, but someone who is also incredibly skilled in piloting the Gardes and may be humanity’s only hope in defeating the Gauna once and for all.
This is another series where I watched the anime first. In fact, Knights of Sidonia is one of my favourite mecha anime series of all-time. There are a multitude of qualities that I am a hardcore aficionado of, and the series does an excellent job of encapsulating those things. So, when I got to the end of season two and the cliff-hanger of an ending that it left off on, I became so frustrated yet simultaneously exhilarated beyond belief (only other series’ that have done this to me are Initial D and Golden Kamuy; leaving me madly excited in the wake of gnarly cliff-hangers, I mean). I needed more. I need more. What better way to satisfy my urges than by reading the original material that inspired the anime?
This seinen, martial arts, fantasy manhua (Chinese manga) by Jing Wu Hen (story) and Yun Duan Manhua (art) is set in a world where one’s strength in martial arts dictates everything in their everyday lives, such as their social class and statuses. The strong bully the weak and the only way to survive is to battle to become the best of the best.
It has been years since I’ve read a manhua series. Back in the day, I used to read a lot of them because I loved the culture and storytelling aspects. It was different than Japanese manga and I was awesomely intrigued by that. Of course, life got in the way and I stopped. Plus, finding English translations can be quite a challenge as well. Well, I miss them, and I want to get back into reading them. I asked my cousin for a list of recommendations (he’s an outrageously voracious as fuck reader of everything) and this title was on that list. When I looked it up, I loved the artwork and the premise sounded kinda cool too, so I figured this would be a good place to begin again.
A seinen, historical fiction, epic fantasy series by Makoto Yukimura that follows a dude named Thorfinn who was regaled by stories of a land to the west. However, when he learns that the Vikings that raised him are responsible for murdering his father, he works hard to become a badass warrior hellbent on vengeance as well as the glory of finding that land in the west known as Vinland.
Yukimura is one of my favourite mangaka in existence. His science-fiction series Planetes is basically a masterpiece and ever since then, I have been obsessed with Yukimura’s storytelling and artistic prowess. When I learned they were going to make an anime adaptation of Vinland Saga, I was ecstatic and planned on reading the manga prior to watching the anime. Then life did it’s lifely thing and everything was postponed. Well, in 2021, I want to read this manga by one of my most-loved creators and finally catch the anime.
A seinen, gangster, martial arts series by Korean-Japanese creator Boichi, it follows a delinquent brat who travels to Korea in the pursuit of his girlfriend where he gets mixed up in some shady gang business that eventually leads him towards becoming the Boss of said shady gang.
In a post I did last year, I chatted about manga that intimidated me, and this was on that list due to some of its hefty content triggers. Nevertheless, after picking up Berserk and facing the things that intimidate me, especially in media consumption, I am ready to tackle the next title of serials that give me the mental shivers. Plus, I flipped through some of the volumes and I’m absolutely mind-blown by the artistic style of the series. It’s positively fabulous and that ultimately made me weak at the knees for it.
A seinen, mystery thriller manga by Naoki Yamakawa (story) and Masashi Asaki (art) about a salaryman who also writes mystery novels in his free time. One day he discovers bruises and other injuries on his daughter and learns that the Yakuza are involved. Unable to tolerate what’s being done to his kid, he vows to do anything to protect her, even the absolute unthinkable.
This premise sounds so unique and super captivating. It also sounds like it’s going to be dark and fucked-up and possibly even heavily violent, even so, it’s very different than anything else I’ve come across in the medium lately that I was at-once fascinated by it. I wanted to dive in and know what happens. How did his daughter get involved? Does it have to do with his writing? What constitutes as being the “unthinkable”? Any snippet that can make me starting thinking about it in this much depth without reading a single page of it is definitely worth the investment, I hope.
Another seinen, jidaigeki series by Takayuki Yamaguchi about a tournament held during the Edo era where warriors fight with their katana rather than bokkun (bamboo swords). The story revolves around two specific warriors who battle—a one-armed swordsman and a blind samurai—and the circumstances that led to them entering the tournament.
The anime was incredible. I watched it shortly after it aired in 2007-08 and I had never seen anime that was this level of violent (by this point). Yet, the ending was painfully abrupt and left everything unresolved. That finale left me feeling so unbelievably hollow and frustrated. My hopes for a continuation via a second season eventually dissipated into dust. Recently, I was chatting with my nephew about anime that desperately needed second seasons and when this title came up, all of my feelings surrounding it came tumbling back. Instead than dwell on it, I considered picking up the manga and viola. It became it a must-read for me in 2021.
A shōnen, supernatural title by ONE that is about a middle-schooler dude named Shigeo Kageyama who has psychic abilities and a ridiculous bowl-cut hairstyle. He’s always had the ability to bend spoons and move objects but due to the negative attention it brought, he began to keep his powers hidden away. Now there’s a girl who’s caught his interest and in order to woo her, he’s going to have to learn to control the abilities he spend so long avoiding.
I’ve seen GIFs of this anime on Tumblr and it looks so fricking dope. One day, I got curious and AniList’d the show and saw it was an adaptation of a manga. The premise, like most of the stuff on this list, sounded really interesting to me. When I flipped through some of the manga and, once more, I was taken by the drawings and illustration style (can you tell I’m a big lover of art things?). The last shōnen manga that I read (I’m in the middle of it, actually) was Naruto and I appreciated that this felt and looked quite different than the phenomenon that is Naruto. On the list it went.
A shōnen, supernatural, dark fantasy manga by Gege Akutami about a kid who tries to rescue his friends from some shady supernatural shite and ends up becoming a vessel for one of the most powerful (and sexy) cursed beings to have existed. He’s then captured and trained how to tackle other cursed beings with the understanding that one day he’ll have to be executed so as not to become a plague of doom and gloom to the whole world.
I’m sure most of y’all shall recognise this as it’s been the bombshell hit of the Fall 2020 season. Well, when the anime was announced, I tried to read the manga, but I was in a terrible headspace for it. As a result, I paused my reading of it (I was about two or three chapters into it). Now that I’m just as floored by the anime as the masses, I wanted to return to it and give it a proper chance as I’m sure that it’ll become a favourite rather hastily. Plus, any excuse to see more of Ryōmen Sukuna and Gojō Satoru is one I’ll take in a heartbeat.
A seinen, mystery drama adaptation of the original novel series authored by Natsu Hyūga, the story follows a young woman named Maomao who’s trained in herbal medicine and forced to be a lowly employee in the inner palace. When she uses her talents to break a “curse” afflicting the royal heirs, she draws the attention of the palace eunuch, Jinshi, and is promoted to food taster. But Jinshi has other plans for the young woman, hoping to utilise her unique talents in order to solve mysteries. The manga adaptation is co-authored by Itsuki Nanao with art from Nekokurage.
The snippet sounded cute and then it became a bit bizarre and that’s when I became interested in it. I’m a sucker for mystery anime and as a pharmacy student I’ve also developed a very sweet spot for historical pharmacist-type tales (I blame Snow White with the Red Hair). When you combine the two together, it becomes a fairly irresistible combination for me! Plus, the art is so flowy and dainty, which I think shall be a great complement to the story.
The shōnen, adventure, dark fantasy manga by Kazue Kato follows a kid named Rin Okumura. Having never known his real dad, he was raised by Father Fujimoto who’s a famous exorcist. One day after having a terrible argument with his adopted dad, Rin learns the horrible truth of his bloodline—that he’s the son of Satan. Determined to defeat his demon king pops, Rin enters the True Cross Academy so that he can also become a badass exorcist. However, he quickly learns that in this line of work, keeping his ancestry a secret is no easy feat.
Another quite famous series that I’ve had my eye on for a stupidly long time, I finally decided to read the manga because I think it’s the right moment for it. Not only am I in a strong manga-reading state-of-mind, I’ve also been craving some great supernatural-centred storytelling. Chock it up to my re-watching of Natsume’s Book of Friends or my current infatuations with shows like Jujutsu Kaisen. Whatever the reason, I want to take full advantage of the feeling while it’s here. I also feel a little guilty for having a series such as this one on the back burner for such a long ass chunk of years.
This is a seinen, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery manga authored and illustrated by Norihiro Yagi. The story is set on a fictional medieval island where humans are plagued by Yōma, or shape-shifting demons that feed on said humans. An organisation takes advantage of the situation by creating human-Yōma hybrids for the sole purpose of killing the Yōma for a fee. These female warriors are referred to as Claymores due to the giant swords they utilise.
This is another series that has been on my reading and watch lists for a ridiculously long time. I think I initially stumbled across this anime back in 2007-08. I was still pretty new to anime back then, so the supernatural element sort of intimidated me and I ended up putting it on a list to check out later. Little did I know back then that the supernatural genre would become a favourite of mine for these mediums. Amazing how life works that way, no? Anyhoo, in light of my recent ghostly and demonic narrative cravings, I thought it was perfect to bring it off the shelves, give it a good dusting, and a prompt reading.
Those are the twelve manga serials that I’m hoping to read through in 2021. I know a couple of them are still ongoing, so it’s more a matter of catching up to the recent chapters rather than completing them. Either way, I’m supremely excited to get back into reading manga more regularly. I have missed this medium enormously and the artist and art-appreciating nerd in me is looking forward to receiving more inspiration to keep practising my own artisty things.
What about you, are there are any manga—new or old or in-between—that you’re looking forward to checking out in the upcoming year?