I recently remarked to my brother that Akira and Lone Wolf and Cub (and similar works by the creators of those works) were the only mangas (I’m going to pluralize it with an “s” because that’s how we fucking indicate pluralization in English) I’d ever read that weren’t retarded. Further review reveals that assertion as impulsive and over-general, as I really enjoyed the 3 volumes of Hiroshi Hirata’s Satsuma Gishiden that Dark Horse bothered to publish, and I’ve died laughing at the 4 volumes of Cromartie High School that I’ve read. Still, with as many comics as I read and how little of it is Japanese, it seemed like I must have been missing some good stuff.
I surfed around, consulted “best-of” lists, and did that sort of nonsense and came up with a list of works that I want to check out. Then I downloaded or checked out the first volumes of these series from my local library and read them. Here are the opening volumes that I thought were great and convinced to read the rest of the series (which I will do in the future).
Uzumaki by Junji Ito, 1998
You won’t need a Japanese-English dictionary to figure out that uzumaki means “spiral”. The things are everywhere in this story and inspire major obsessions and eventually supernatural happenings. The characters are flat as hell but the events are creeeepy.
The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu, 1972
An entire school is suddenly teleported to a hostile wasteland and everyone. Barely any time passes before kids started gettin’ fatal.
Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki, 1990
I actually read some of this series back in the 1990z when Tokyopop was serializing it in some wacky magazine my brother was buying. Anyway, I think of Parasyte as a horror version of the 1960s Spider-Man comics. A run-of-the-mill teenage boy is randomly gifted with an incredible power. However, this gift is a parasitic alien with a mind of its own that really enjoys eviscerating its alien peers.
Biomega by Tsutomu Nihei, 2004
This is really the most cliche of the mangaz that I’m covering in this post, as it’s mostly brainless with stupid fashions and wussy heroes. However, the whole atmosphere is so gripping and several wide-lens type landscape shots are so epic that I was sucked in (also, there is a bear sleeping in a bed). A lame android rides around on his motorcycle avoiding zombies and firing RPGs at nuke missiles.
Eden: It’s an Endless World by Hiroki Endo, 1998
The story takes place in your basic, near-future, post-apocalypse but with a multi-generational twist. The character development and long stretches between major events almost give it a “slice of life” feel.
20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa, 1998
The story jumps back and forth in time, showing the same group of males as pre-adolescent boys and then as early middle age men. In the past, the boys hang out and have fun while in the present, a cult gets busy and starts a murder mystery.
Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi, 2005
Full of beautiful depictions of the ocean and shoreline areas, as well as the animals one might find in those areas. Also, there are some kids that are kinda magic in water or something and a girl gets kicked off of her handball team.
Well, if I included a premiere volume in this post it means I think it was overall excellent and worth your time and, most importantly, I intend to read the remaining volumes in the respective series. There were definitely some first volumes that I didn’t get into but I’m just keepin’ it positive here. Also, there are several others that I haven’t gotten to yet and I’ll give a full report when I have!