by Julian Quaye
For better or worse, everyone has a lot of free time because of quarantine. For me about half of that time has been spent reading manga. My love of manga started with Dragonball Z. Elementary school me thought it was the coolest thing ever, mostly because I just like seeing buff dudes with superpowers beat each other up, but also because it was unlike anything I had seen before. It was weird, fascinating and different. I still love manga as much as the first day I picked up a volume. I’ve read around 50 manga this quarantine and these are the best of the best.
Chainsaw man is an insane and violent manga that holds nothing back. It tells the story of Denji, a young teen working for the mafia to pay off his father’s debt by hunting devils with his strange chainsaw dog hybrid Poicha. After he’s betrayed by the mafia he works for and killed, he fuses with Poicha and becomes the “chainsaw devil.” soon after he is thrust into the world and politics of devil hunters as a deep conspiracy unravels around him. One of the largest strengths of this manga is it’s surreal and striking imagery, some panels and pages left me in awe for days after thinking about what they mean. Despite the absurd premise, Chainsaw Man is one of the darkest, most intriguing, and beautifully written manga right now and has me rushing to read each new chapter.
Dorohedoro is a hilarious, violent, and fascinating manga. The story revolves around Caiman, a lizard man, and Nikaido his charismatic and mysterious friend, as they try to find the wizard who turned Kaiman into the strange reptilian creature he now is. To explain any more would be to rob you of the insane ride that Dorohedoro brings you on. While this manga is ultimately a dark and violent show it’s surprisingly hilarious, this is owed to amazingly likable and unhinged characters, you will likely end up loving even the antagonists of the series. The best praise I can give to Dorohedoro is that you will NEVER see anything like it. Everything about this manga is endlessly creative and fascinating, with the beautifully realized dystopian world of sorcerers and magic that just begs to be explored.
Blue period is a down-to-earth and deeply compelling character drama about a young man finding his passion. Yatora is a highschool student who excels in his studies but he feels empty, that’s until he sees a painting, captivated, he leaves the safety of academic success to dive into the world of art. The illustration in this manga is phenomenal, displaying subtle emotion beautifully, so much that a single page with no dialogue damn near moved me to tears. Blue period is a simple but captivating story of passion and youth that needs more recognition.
Vagabond is a beautiful piece of fiction in every way, from the jaw-droppingly detailed and hyperrealistic art to the amazingly realized characters, it is an undeniable classic. Vagabond follows the life of a traveling samurai on his search for purpose and the people he encounters on the way. it’s a simple premise that allows for the story to flow from place to place beautifully making you feel as if you’re on a quiet journey. The action in Vagabond is second to none, with every strike of the sword you can feel the weight and power behind it, attacks flow from page to page almost as if they are animated. Vagabond is a masterpiece that stands as a perfect testament to manga as an art form and should be experienced by anyone and everyone. I do have to put a disclaimer because this manga is not finished and maybe never will because the author hasn’t put out a chapter in a few years so just know that you will be reading an incomplete story.
Monster is a slow burn that will make you question humanity and the nature of evil. The unforgiving suspense that permeates this masterfully written manga will have you up until 3 am needing to know what happens next. Monster begins with Dr.Tenma, a world-class surgeon choosing to save the life of a young boy instead of helping an influential politician. Years later the patient he saved becomes a genius serial killer and leads the doctor on a heart-stopping game of cat and mouse with an ending that will have you in awe for months after you finish it.
Akiras 1980s movie thrust anime onto the western scene and is considered by many to be a masterpiece, including me. But despite the movie’s success it barely holds a candle to the epic city flattening tale that unfolds in the mangas 6 massive volumes. I don’t really want to summarize the story here mostly because the number of layers Akira has would take me an entire essay to tell, but also because I believe Akira is best experienced blind. Katsuhiro Otomo’s eye meltingly beautiful artwork perfectly fleshes out the neon-soaked dystopia of neo-Tokyo and the characters that occupy it. Akira is one of the fathers of the cyberpunk genre and it executed beautifully on the scathing political commentary cyberpunk is known for. Akira is a masterpiece that continues to be relevant 40+ years after its release and I can’t recommend it enough
Jojo part 7 / Steel ball run
If you have spent any time on the internet, you’ve heard of Jojo’s bizarre adventure, but if you’ve been living under a rock for that past decade, or are over the age of 30 l will explain. Jojos bizarre adventure is a story that follows the Joestar bloodline through many, many generations, each generation is a part and each part is its own story and genre. Starting with 80s style action, to murder mystery, to crime drama to a prison break, and while each part is unique and amazing, in a multitude of ways I believe part 7 outshines all of them. Part 7 or Steel Ball Run, like all other Jojos parts, has a ridiculous premise. The president of the United States and an oil tycoon start a race across the country with a prize of 50 million dollars, the true goal of the race however is to find all the pieces of the corpse of Jesus, which gives the person who finds it supernatural powers. Our main character Johnny Joestar, a wheelchair-bound man finds a piece of the corpse and gains the ability to shoot fingernails (yes fingernails) and decides to join the race. Revealing much else would ruin the insane and bizarre ride that this manga brings you on. Steel ball run is able to balance many loaded themes such as nationalism, discrimination, and power, while still being hilarious and amazingly action-packed. The chaotic beauty of Part 7 is impossible to capture in a short review so I implore you to check it out. P.S the manga has not been translated into English officially yet so sadly the only way to experience it is on non-licensed manga websites, and I’m not super sure about the legality of it.