Exceptional Manga That You Might Not Know About

It’s hard to compile a list of manga that other people are not familiar with. After all, if I learned about them, how hard would it be for others to do the same? Hopefully, there will be at least one recommendation here that leads you to an unfamiliar book that you feel merits the praise I give.  

Green Blood
Written by Kakizaki Masasumi
Original run: (June 2011 – ongoing)
Not yet published or translated in U.S.
Genre: Action, Historical

Want a Japanese take on the end of Civil War and the start of the Industrial Revolution from the perspective of poor immigrants in the roughest ghettos of the United States? If you are like me, you wouldn’t have thought to want it because you didn’t think it existed. Well it does, and so now I do, and you should too.

The immigrants survive through prostitution, theft, extortion, and murder – sadly, that has become their perversion of the American Dream. The police protect gangs and politicians have vested interest in Five Points for their own reasons. Stuck in the middle is the book’s protagonist, Brad Burns, a hired gun known as Grave Digger, and his younger brother who has no clue about Brad’s night job. Great art and an Eastern take on Western history makes this young manga worth a try.

Eden: It’s an Endless World!
Written by Hiroki Endo
Original run: (1998 –  2008)
Published and translated in U.S. Dark House Comics
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Tragedy, Drama

Set in the near future, a deadly virus kills fifteen percent of the world’s population and turns countless others into breathing vegetables. Entire nations are incapable of sustaining civility and the whole world is set into pandemonium. We begin our story with a brother, a sister, and a robot alone on the isolated island of Eden, and their journey to survive. Later volumes bring us to civility where we witness how this virus has exposed humans’ collective frailty in the light of an invisible enemy that can destroy an entire city’s population without warning. Where do people turn in such tragic times?

Eden is one of those stories that challenges the concepts of good and evil, religion, quantum physics, love, loyalty and forgiveness. If you can handle the graphic violence, sex, and drug use, the book will make a great impression on you as well.

Vagabond (published and translated by Viz)
Written by Takehiko Inoue
Original run: (1998-ongoing)
Published and translated in U.S. by Viz
Genre: Historical, Martial Arts, Action, Drama

In the era of swordsmen, it was customary that a young man would travel the land in search of strong warriors for duels to determine one’s strength. Vagabond is a fictional account about one of those great swordsmen, Miyamoto Musashi whose legacy is still revered today in Japan.

As Musashi travels around Japan, we get to see him grow from an arrogant teenager who reacts with no forethought to a young man who now understands the wisdom his predecessors attempted to bestow on him a decade earlier. The book contains philosophy, sex, graphic violence, heartbreaking bromances, a blind genius swordsman, a 1 vs 100 man duel, the most phenomenal manga art on the planet … I could list more reasons to read Vagabond, but just give it a shot. You aren’t likely to regret it.

Written in collaboration by Naoki Urasawa, Osamu Tezuka, and Takashi Nagasaki
Original run: (Sept 2003 – April 2009)
Published and translated in U.S. by Viz
Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction, Suspense, Psychological

A series of murders have begun that involve the grisly deaths of humans and robots marked by horns the killer leaves behind after each crime. The tangible evidence suggests that only a robot would have the physical strength to commit the murders, but there’s one problem with that theory: Robots are programmed to never kill humans.

What does it mean to be human? This is the primary question that Pluto seeks to answer. In doing so, it challenges contemporary understandings of memory, free will, and human society. When scholars finally recognize this medium as art worthy of study, this will be one of the books our posterity return to.

Photo Sources: Spectrum Nexus, MangaHere