Note: Individual volumes don’t have titles; they are just numbered.
Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Slice of Life
Publication Date: July 1998
What’s Fruits Basket about:
Tohru Honda was an orphan when one day fate kicked her out of the house and on to land belonging to the mysterious Sohma family. After stumbling upon the teenage squatter, the Sohmas invite Tohru to stay in their house in exchange for cooking and cleaning. Everything goes well until she discovers the Sohma family’s secret, when hugged by members of the opposite sex, they turn into their Chinese Zodiac animal!
Our Thoughts: It is a hilarious, angst drama. (Yes, we said hilarious and angst. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other!) The main male and female characters in the series broke the well established shoujo manga stereotypes (more about that later in this list.) She was nice, could actually cook and clean, and was not overly bumbling. He could express his emotion and wasn’t a perfect athlete, student, well perfect everything without putting in some effort. The romance between them is very sweet, but there is more to the story. You will find some mystery, drama, and action in this well written manga series. Though the male lead’s family is slightly dysfunctional (the secrets abound, lots of skeletons, lots of closets), the main female lead and her mother do enjoy a good relationship. This is a very cute manga that’s writing alone is worth the read.
From Far Away by Kyoko Hikawa
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Publication Date: 1993
Publisher: Viz Media
What’s From Far Away about:
On her way home from school one day, Noriko is unexpectedly plunged into a strange and extraordinary fantasy world. Her troubles compound exponentially when she is rescued and befriended by a handsome young man by the name of Izark.
He may be brave and courageous, but inside Izark lurks the darkest evil imaginable. And according to an ancient prophecy, Noriko possesses the power to unleash that evil. Now, inexorably bound together, these two unlikely allies must navigate a world both wondrous and hostile.
Our Thoughts: For the majority of us this would easily be voted one of the best mangas we have read! (Some of us say it ties with Kimi Ni Todeke, but we try to keep from coming to blows over this.) This is an action/adventure with a very sweet romance woven through it. The manga opens with a young girl from Japan, Noriko, who finds herself pulled into another dimension were it is prophesied that a monster will be suddenly born at the time and in the exact location where she is found; this is as far as we can describe with out giving away too many spoilers. We really loved her character. The way she works so hard to be of help even when it’s not glamorous, and the way the manga has her actively learning the language (the transition between languages was well written.) The main hero, Izark, is not perfect, but he strives to do what is right, is cool and collected, and rarely looses his temper. This drama has many great side characters and a rich plot. Be aware that there are some new age beliefs (mainly the power of light and dark) in this series, and some of the volumes can be very pricy. Of all the series that we own, this is the one that gets read over and over the most.
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fantasy
Publication Date: May 3, 2005
Publisher: Viz Media
What’s Fullmetal Alchemist about:
Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…
Our Thoughts: We weren’t sure what we were getting into when we first started this particular manga (the opening is bizarre), but we asked a cousin of our father’s who had read it, and he said that it was good but deep. Crazy enough this series is really funny and full of great characters including a warrior that introduces herself as a housewife (which we thought was great!). It is very strong in regards to family (both the family that you are given and the family that you make) with a great example in the two main male leads who have an excellent brother/sibling relationship. This is an action packed shounen manga so be prepared for a great deal of what we girls feel was unnecessary gore (though our Dad also thought that it was a little gory, but that could have been because his daughters were reading it.) You should also know that the author writes the world as if there is no God; but as Orson Scott Card explains it is the only way you can truly explore such a world because God is real which then teaches us just how much we need Him. Whether the author meant us to or not we did learn because we saw an over arching theme of how there are consequences to your actions and you have to live with your choices if you try to play the part that should be God’s. Our cousin was right; it is a very deep manga series.
Bleach by Tite Kubo
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Publication Date: August 7, 2001
Publisher: Viz Media
What’s Bleach about:
Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach, has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.
Our Thoughts: Bleach is your classic male shounen manga. The male lead is your average on the cusp of delinquency good kid with a deceased mother, crazy father, and two younger twin sisters. He loves his family, and they enjoy a healthy relationship with each other. He is the definition of a hero without the hero complex. With his unique E.S.P., he finds out one day that the dead can attack for their own gains, and of course, he has to keep them from hurting the living with the help of the Soul Society (well, actually despite the help of the Soul Society.) The author must have a love for the South American culture because he includes a good deal in this series (which is something we really enjoyed); and though you wont find many people of color in mangas this one has several including a Hispanic character that is one of our favorites. You know it is a good story when you are reading not just because you enjoy the protagonist but because it has a unique supporting cast (which this one has in spades.) We do have to say that the antagonists can be a little boring (we neither liked nor feared them) and found ourselves skipping sections that were devoted to just them (as well as some of the fight scenes because after a while they started repeating themselves just a little, but there is not as much gore as Full Metal Alchemist.) Now when deciding whether this ongoing series is for you, do keep in mind we are girls and this may not bother guys; and in determining if we should include this series on the list the good definitely outweighed the bad.
Kimi Ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life, Drama
Publication Date: May 25, 2006
Publisher: Viz Media
What’s Kimi Ni Todoke about:
Sawako Kuronuma is the perfect heroine…for a horror movie. With her jet-black hair, sinister smile and silent demeanor, she’s often mistaken for Sadako, the haunting character fromRingu. Unbeknownst to but a few, behind her scary façade is a very misunderstood teenager. Shy and pure of heart, she just wants to make friends. But when Kazehaya, the most popular boy in class, befriends her, she’s sure to make more than just that–she’s about to make some enemies too!
Our Thoughts: Kimi Ni Todoke, or From Me to You, is a cute and very sweet romance that as we mentioned earlier is one of our favorites. This ongoing series is about not one but multiple couples as they try to make their way into adulthood. The mangas start with a girl Sawako, nicknamed Sadako, who is the spitting image of her nickname-sake; and therefore despite the fact that she desperately wants friends hasn’t made any (for those of you like us who don’t know, this is a horror movie character.) Her kindness, bravery, and perseverance soon pays off and she gathers around her a group of friends that are completely loyal and highly protective of her. She strives so hard to make these friends as well as help those in her class to not fear her, that you at first want to give her a huge hug and then cheer her on (Fighting!!!) We love how innocently the love is handled. (There is not a lot of “kissy kissy face face” all the time – Moira. What do you mean “not a lot”? The main couple kisses a total of two times in twenty-one volumes – Idelle.) Love, friendship, and family are constant themes as the group of friends mature and now find themselves deciding whether to go to college or stay in their small town and look for work; as well as, how all these choices should not be taken lightly because they effect so many aspects of our lives and those that we care for’s lives. We decidedly like how this is handled in this series. This manga is not all drama though there are some very funny moments, but this series is definitely a safe one to check out.
My Little Monster by Robico
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Publication Date: August 23, 2008
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA
What’s My Little Monster about:
Mizutani is a self-absorbed overachiever, concerned only with maintaining the highest grades in school. Haru is an impulsive short tempered brute, who scares everyone with his explosive bursts of violence. Haru gets suspended on the first day of school when he encounters some bullies harassing a student and dispatches the bullies with great bloody violence. Mizutani is tasked with delivering school materials to Haru who interprets this as an act of friendship and latches on to Mizutani, much to her dismay. And so begins a strange and potentially combustible relationship!
Our Thoughts: The general plot of this ongoing manga will sound similar to the previous one: a few students struggling to make friends are brought together by a single girl and the romantic relationships between one or more couples; but that is were the similarities end. Where the first has a sweet innocence, this one focuses so much more on silliness. The main female character, Shizuku, seems rather robotic at first; but as she allows herself to have friendships and opens herself up for a relationship with Haru, she finds that feelings don’t disrupt your life as much as one might fear. We also love the one sided competition between her and Haru to be first in the class especially since Haru is so distract-able. This is a rather unconventional couple (or romance) though it is still very innocent in its own way. Shizuku may have been robotic but Haru was more like a bottle of emotions that were always being shook up. His constant attempts to make friends is both admirable and hilarious, as is his obsession with animals especially the chicken. The first group of friends that he gets thanks to Shizuku are a very unusual assembly of complete misfits that are either very loveable or ridiculously funny (we haven’t decided ourselves yet.) Some of them are almost perfect but then have a bizarre flaw that just…makes you laugh. They do talk about attraction between male and female, but it’s some what generalized with no specifics. This is a cute, funny manga series about a variety of relationships with issues stemming from the various characters’ unusual personality traits that keeps you laughing until the very last page.
Itazura Na Kiss by Kaoru Tada
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life
Publication Date: 1991
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
What’s Itazura Na Kiss about:
High school senior Kotoko Aihara has had a crush on Naoki Irie since his freshman year. Unfortunately, a few things are discouraging her from him: he’s a member of “Class A,” the top ranking class in school, whereas she’s in “Class F”; he gets the top score on every exam; and he’s so smart, popular, and handsome that he’s been class president every year. When Kotoki finally musters up the courage to present him with a love letter, though, Naoki outright refuses it, telling her point blank – with a look of disgust and boredom – that he doesn’t like “stupid girls.” Poor Kotoko’s worst nightmare!
Our Thoughts: This is an older manga which became immensely popular and inspired a slew of shoujo mangas. This is the series that helped cement the stereotypes that are in many mangas such as: the girl that can’t cook or clean and is not intelligent or athletic, yet the power of her love wins the young man over; and the guy who is perfect in every way. Since it’s release, there has been a Japanese anime, two Japanese dramas (the second with a sequel), a Korean drama, a Thailand drama, (and our favorite) a Taiwanese drama and it’s sequel. There were even rumors of a Hollywood version but as far as we know it has come to naught. The manga itself is one we own and enjoy. We like her perseverance and that after their marriage he slowly (oh, so slowly) becomes more human. The side characters are very funny, and there are many cute endearing moments. Here is where the “but” comes in. Some of us didn’t like the manga as much as the dramas, and some of us wanted to punch the male leads face especially at the beginning of the series – he can be extremely arrogant and condescending. You should also be aware that the series was not completed due to the untimely death of its writer in the 1990’s, and the last two volumes have not been published in English as of September 2015 (and they are over a year passed their original expected release date.) There is a homosexual man in the series, but it is really not discussed. There is no premarital sex; and after marriage, it is handled in the same way as a very modest PG 13 movie. If you love I Love Lucy reruns, there is a good chance that you will like this series.
Wedding Peach by Sukehiro Tomita
Genre: Magical Girl
Publication Date: 1994
Publisher: Viz Media
What’s Wedding Peach about:
One day cute little Momoko Hanasaki is daydreaming about the school’s soccer captain; the next she’s fighting evil as the angelic Wedding Peach. She and her pals Angel Lily and Angel Daisy unite to battle the wicked Rain DeVilla. Will the power of love help them save the day? Only Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, knows for sure in this hit that has inspired a television series, CDs, videos, video games, and more.
Our Thoughts: If you think this is similar to Sailor Moon, then you would be right. The person who wrote the basic idea for this manga before handing it off to the artist, worked on Sailor Moon. Let’s be truthful with one another though; if we were going to get picky about whether a manga was totally original before we read it, we would severely limit our choices. When we were discussing what we thought about this series, the words silly, cute, comical, and “adorbs” was thrown out (the last was by the fourteen year old so…) Someone actually used the words, “It’s like a marshmallow fluff wrapped in cotton candy.” (That was a pretty vivid picture, but then we all wanted marshmallows and cotton candy which wasn’t helpful.) But all weight gain aside, this is a very sweet and comical romance about love angels (but cupid would be a better term) who fight for goodness and love against the demons of darkness that specifically attack love (and the occasional wedding.) We really like how sacred marriage is treated, but be prepared for ideas were “love” and “goodness” can be used to purify or remove evil. (There is also one cuss word in all six volumes which only stands out because of the lack in the rest of the series.) There is an anime; but only one of us has seen it, and it was a long time ago. (I’m sorry everyone it was seven years ago, and I don’t remember much. What I can remember is it was pretty much the same as the manga.) This is a series that is light and fluffy and will leave you with nothing but warm fuzzy feelings as the wedding bells toll!!!
Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Publication Date: August 2, 2006
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA
What’s Fairy Tail about:
Master of magic and mayhem!
Lucy is a young, rebellious celestial wizard with a dream: to join Fairy Tail, the world’s most rambunctious and powerful magical guild! When she happens to meet one of Fairy Tail’s top wizards, he turns out to be not quite what she expected: a slob traveling with a flying cat. But the promise of adventure is real, and together they escape from pirates and a devious magician! Their next task: to steal a book from the evil wizard-killing Duke Everlue, and outsmart his death trap. Eccentric new friends join along the way in this lushly-drawn modern classic, reissued from the beginning in a large size with a small price (for discerning guild masters).
Our Thoughts: Fairy Tail is an imaginative fantasy world where a wizard must join a guild in order to make a living. It is through the guilds that quests are presented. It has the feel of a collection of short stories tied together with a central theme, much like many longer running mangas that have a main story arch as well as many smaller story archs. (If this is sounding like a role playing game than you wouldn’t be far off the mark because that’s the feeling we had also.) This shounen manga series is very comical and utilizes more physical humor such as slap stick and accidental face plants (and speaking of physical, we would like to warn you that some of the women are drawn well endowed to put it nicely, and we would also say could be dressed a little more modestly.) In most shounen mangas the fight scenes can be hit or miss, we believe this was a definite hit with a good balance of story and fighting to keep us interested. For the girls out there, there is a promise of romance in this one; because though like most male manga writers, to say there is romance in his manga is stretching it a little. He does at least have precedent for giving affirmation for all those characters that you have “shipped” since the beginning of the manga series. Be prepared because though he is one of the best at hinting at some romance; he is also known for torturing you with the almost confession and/or kiss. This is clearly a well rounded manga series given to us from the creator of Rave Master (an earlier manga series of his that we have read and liked and intend to share with you later.)
+Anima by Natsumi Mukai
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Publication Date: January 2001
What’s +Anima about:
The +Anima are beings who possess animal-like powers. They walk among us in an alternate universe–shunned by society–as they search for others who have similar powers.Cooro is a boy with crow-like powers who is on a quest to find other +Anima. When he meets Husky, a disrespectful boy with a past shrouded in mystery, he finds a kindred spirit who also possesses animal-like powers. Together, they try to gain acceptance in a world cruel to anyone or anything that is different…Already a hit in Japan and Europe, Mukai-sensei’s epic fantasy series is a journey of wonder and awe!
Our Thoughts: Our ten year old brother has read this series and was exited about putting in his two cents so this review is from almost the whole group of us. We’re not sure why this one is 13+ because we reviewed it right before letting our younger sibling read it and couldn’t see anything our parents would find objectionable. It’s silly and cute but not in a romantic way. Our brother put it well, “everyone is friends; all the Anima were friends.” We may be all in the same family, but we enjoy very different styles, but this manga has a little something for everyone – some mystery, adventure, a little action, and interesting plots. This is a series about children who receive abilities once they are placed in a stressful situation. It touches on abuse and near death experiences without being traumatizing for the reader. We feel it was “awesome” because getting their anima rescues them, and their anima gives them a sense of security. Despite all that happens in the main character’s life he retains some of his innocence and joy. He spreads this innocence as well as hope that someday they will reach a point in their life when they will feel safe enough where they will no longer require their animas presence. Once again this was a helpful manga series because it reminds us just how blessed we are to have the parents we have because they shared God with us sense infancy so we have always had His wing as shelter.
Final Thoughts: Japan has a long and rich history that can be fascinating in its newness. We personally have enjoyed learning about their culture, and growing to love the people. Bear in mind that it is a history of believing in something other than the Christ we serve. If you are a new believer that has not been discipled, or taught what is true, then you may need to wait; but other than that learning what others believe is not only interesting but useful in helping you to tell them about Christ. That said don’t feel bad about setting down a comic or manga, or book for that matter, that bothers you. You should listen because that is the Holy Spirit speaking to you (we have set down many ourselves.) Another thing that we have done (and this is only in the volumes that we own) has been to add a little clothing to people that are not dressed quite enough or marked out words that are not necessary. (This is something that we learned from our father. Oh, by the way, we wouldn’t recommend using a sharpie…) We don’t regularly suggest defacing books, but sometimes there are things you just have to do to survive in this world.