A Beginner’s Guide to Manga

PART 1: SHOUNEN

First up is shounen, which is the most popular type of manga both in Japan and in the West. Almost all of the titles that are familiar to Western audiences come from this genre, including what’s come to be known as the “Big Three”: NarutoBleach, and One Piece – all of which are/were published in Japan’s most popular manga magazine, Weekly Shounen Jump. Other titles in this genre that you’ll probably recognise are Dragon BallYu-Gi-Oh, Death Note, and the super-popular Attack on Titan.

As I said in the introduction, shounen manga is mainly targeted towards a young male audience, and the word “shounen” itself can be literally translated as “boy”. Common characteristics of the genre are intense action, friendship and teamwork, and comedy – and romance is often included as well, but it usually takes a backseat to the action. Most shounen manga have young male protagonists, and the series tend to be quite long-running.

RECOMMENDATIONS

[Please note that the following recommendations are not necessarily my favourite shounen manga – but they are series that I think will make good starting-points for people unfamiliar with the genre.]

Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata//Hikaru no Go vol. 11Hikaru no Go by Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata (Weekly Shounen Jump). This story follows a young boy called Hikaru, who one day discovers an old Go board while searching his grandfather’s attic, and it turns out to be haunted by the thousand-year-old ghost of a former emperor’s Go-tutor. Luckily for Hikaru, Sai is not a malicious spirit – he just wants to play Go. Constantly. Masterfully-written and distinctively-drawn, with characters who’ll really stick with you, and an incredibly touching storyline. No actual knowledge of Go (a Japanese strategic board game) necessary.

Hiromu Arakawa//Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 27Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa (Monthly Shounen Gangan). The tale of two brothers, both talented alchemists, on a search for the legendary philosopher’s stone, that will enable them to recover the bodies that they lost in an unfortunate attempt to resurrect their dead mother. The elder brother, Edward, lost an arm and a leg, while the younger brother, Alphonse, lost his entire body, and now exists only as a soul, bound to a suit of armour. Once again, fantastic art and storytelling. There’s a little more humour in this series, as well, as well as a complex, politically-driven plot.

Haruichi Furudate//Haikyuu!! vol. 1Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate (Weekly Shounen Jump). A sports manga that follows a high-schooler called Hinata, who dreams of being an ace volleyball player despite his small stature and lack of experience. The art in this series lovely (some of the best I’ve come across in a sports manga) and the matches are super-exciting, but the real strength of Haikyuu!! is in its characters – there’s not a single one that you won’t fall in love with, and even the ones who would just be extras in most series are surprisingly well fleshed-out.

CLAMP//Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle vol. 1Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE by CLAMP (Weekly Shounen Magazine). Lastly, I bring you a fantasy adventure manga, which follows a teenage boy named Syaoran and his companions on a quest through the dimensions, in order to recover the scattered memories of Princess Sakura, the girl he’s in love with – but with a catch! Syaoran had to sacrifice something in exchange for the ability to travel through dimensions, and the price that the Dimension Witch demanded was Sakura’s memories of him, so she will never remember what he meant to her. This story is more romance-heavy than the others on the list (which makes sense, since CLAMP are a group of mangaka who’re best-known for their shoujo manga), but it’s also a really fun adventure story, set to a backdrop of basically every series CLAMP have ever written (though you don’t need to be familiar with the rest of their work before reading this).

[Navigation: INTRODUCTION | SHOUNEN | SHOUJO | SEINEN & JOSEI ]

Advertisements

T5W: Favourite Series Endings (Spoiler-Free)

I finished a couple of different series’ recently, so this week’s theme, favourite series endings, is quite fitting, I think. I’ll be keeping this list spoiler-free, so there’s no need to worry if you haven’t got round to reading these series yet…

Garth Nix//Lord Sunday5) The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix

It took me a long time to finish this series: I read Mister Monday around 12 or 13 years ago, but ended up not reading Lord Sunday until late last year. That said, it was well-worth the wait. The series itself, while fun, wasn’t the most impressive thing I’ve ever read, but the twist at the end was incredibly gripping, and really well-excecuted, which is why it’s earned the number 5 spot.

Stephanie Perkins//Isla and the Happily Ever After4) The Anna and the French Kiss companion trilogy by Stephanie Perkins

When I started considering books for this list, I didn’t think I’d be including any contemporary series, since for most of the ones I’ve read, the books are only very loosely connected, but Stephanie Perkins did a wonderful job of bringing her three romances together at the end of Isla and the Happily Ever After, when the main couples met up, and we got a glimpse of what the future was going to be like for all of them – it was incredibly heartwarming.

Hiromu Arakawa//Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 273) Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

Long manga series quite often seem to derail as they go on, and end in rather a rush, as the authors hurry to wrap things up before their titles get cancelled, but Fullmetal Alchemist was a glorious exception to this trend, and stayed on point for the entire 27-volume run. The ending was both touching and full of dramatic tension, as Ed and Al finally achieved their dreams, and were able to return home to begin a new life together.

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork Princess2) The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare

This series came ridiculously close to an incredibly unsatisfying ending, and then the epilogue happened – which was a huge surprise for me. Epilogues have rarely fixed bad endings in my experience, and, in fact, can often spoil a good ending (*cough*Harry Potter*cough*). But the way Cassandra Clare tied up this series was absolutely perfect.

Philip Reeve//A Darkling Plain1) The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve

As far as the main plot goes, I read this series so long ago that I can’t even remember what happened at the end, but I’ll always remember the final moment of the book very clearly. A Darkling Plain wrapped up in the best way that it possibly could, with my favourite character (& a lot of people’s, I think) finally figuring out his true purpose. It was incredibly bittersweet, but still wonderful, which is why it’s become one of my all-time favourite series.

[Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey, and to find out more or join in, please check out the Goodreads group.]