Seinen manga is my favourite demographic of the medium. Most of the time, it has everything that I crave in my graphic novels. It can be incredibly psychological and violent, doesn’t shy away from adult humour that can also be intelligent and dry, and follows characters that aren’t in their teens, to name a few. As I was pondering some of my favourite seinen serials one evening, I began to contemplate my love of books and how similar my taste in them are to manga. Then I started thinking about manga editions of my favourite novels. Suffice to say, I became thoroughly enthused, so much so that I tossed together a list of books that I feel would make badass seinen adaptations!
Most of the books on this list are science-fiction novels (and serials) as that is probably my favourite genre in literally everything that I consume for entertainment. I could go on and on about why I love sci-fi, but I’ll save that for another day. These books are ones that completely took me by surprise with how marvellous they are in their own unique ways. When I think about a visual yet literary version of stories I’ve read and delighted in, these four titles immediately came to mind.
The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa
This time-travelling, artificial intelligence sci-fi novel is about a sentient robot who goes back into time over and over again to help prevent the decimation of the human race by an alien nemesis. The final period of time he returns to is Ancient Japan where he assists Princess Himiko with the invading aliens.
This would be an excellent manga because the scenery would look fantastic in a graphic novel format, between the highly technologically advanced civilization that’s been built in space to the sweeping landscapes of Ancient Japan to the intense battles taking place between this incredible alien beings and humans that are much smaller by comparison. I also feel the time-travelling story and the dynamics of how it happens would make for a marvellous visual, one that truly encapsulates the depth of this battle that has been going on for so very long, literally spanning decades and huge eras of human civilisation.
The Voidwitch Saga by Corey J. White
A space-opera novella trilogy that follows a young woman who spent her youth in a laboratory where she was raised to be a psychic soldier. After escaping, she spent her life on the run. But when a supposedly dead blast-from-the-past resurfaces, she stops running to get answers that have plagued her for years; answers that will take her down the dark and bloody path of vengeance.
I love space operas (and I’m totally weak for vengeance stories) and there really aren’t enough of them within the manga medium (when compared to fantasy and romance). This trilogy surprised me with how fantastically crafted it is. The main character walks a very fine line between anti-hero and villain that I appreciated immensely, plus all of the chaotic shite that she gets herself into is breath-taking. Seeing her struggling to survive in a ship that is falling apart in all the worst ways would be awesome. So would the depiction of her being stuck in a high-security prison or hanging out in space where she uses her special psychic abilities to destroy and entire platoon of baddies.
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
This artificial intelligence, sci-fi adventure series follows an android that becomes sentient and self-aware after some prohibited tinkering. This leads it to developing an existential identity crisis and severe anti-social tendencies. They then get caught up on a huge conspiracy surrounding the company that they and their human superiors were working for. Spurred onwards by curiosity and some strange, jaded sense of honour, they investigate this company and its shady shenanigans, getting deeper and deeper into dangerous shite along the way.
Murderbot has the best personality that I have seen in an android since Erasmus (if you know, you know). They are so sarcastic and sassy and vulgar. Their anti-social persona matches my own so often that it makes my heart full of warmth. Their character is one of the aspects that would make it a superb seinen manga. I love older characters who are just too tried from life’s bullshite and aren’t afraid to be vocal about it. Additionally, much of the series takes place in space and/or involves Murderbot travelling—under the radar, of course—from one planet to the next as they investigate the treacherous discoveries one by one. The scope of all that amazing galactic scenery would be so kick-ass. Plus, I honestly believe the intrigue and air of tension that fills the first two books would be portrayed quite well in a graphic novel format.
The Test by Sylvain Neuvel
A speculative fiction novella by someone who’s grown into my favourite writer of the medium, the story is a mindfuck of societal critiques wrapped into quite an unsuspecting little package. It follows Idir, an Iranian, Muslim man that is taking the British citizenship test that consists of twenty-five simple questions. However, whilst taking the exam, something godawfully dangerous and deadly starts to take place.
Unlike the other suggestions, this story is entirely character-centric and chock full of social commentary and psychological anecdotes on human behaviour, and insights in what it’s like to have your beliefs and morals challenged in the most extreme circumstances possible. I think my favourite part (and most disturbing) is the lengths that a colonist civilisation shall go to in order to “filter out” things that they feel don’t fit their narrow-minded perceptions of perfection.
This is precisely why I feel it would make a brilliant manga adaptation, to witness the terror and sense of insanity that begins to overwhelm Idir the deeper that he gets into this test. With careful planning and execution, the artwork would facilitate his sense of entrapment and the ultimate price paid to be accepted into a colonist society that really doesn’t give two cents of a fuck about him or people like him. Reading this manga would be incredibly mind-blowing and evocative and definitely an unforgettable experience to say the least.
While seeing manga adaptations of these novels are extremely unlikely (at least for the non-Japanese works), I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that at the very least someone will decide to turn one (or more) of them into a Western comic one day. They are all excellent books that definitely need more love and attention, and they all have something to offer that can exceed the confines of their literary existences that I feel other sci-fi nerds like me shall appreciate wholeheartedly.