Must-Have Manga | Collection Development

Build your collection of manga in translation, with this list of recent and backlist manga titles in a variety of genres that will be of interest to adult audiences.

Though manga have been beloved by Japanese audiences of all ages and social strata since the 1950s, the first manga made available in translation for English-speaking audiences, in the late 1970s, were frequently subject to poorly formatted and hastily translated editions that were of interest to a tiny fraction of comics readers. Despite this inauspicious introduction, the classic Japanese form of graphic novel and comics saw its popularity in the United States steadily increase over the decades. In 1984, Frank Miller’s cyberpunk/samurai series Ronin introduced many American readers to illustration and storytelling techniques borrowed from Kazuo Koike’s classic series Lone Wolf and Cub (1970). In 1988, an enthusiastic response greeted Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime adaptation of his own manga series; this resulted in the importation of more anime and manga for English-speaking audiences throughout the 1990s, including the massively successful properties Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Pokémon. Manga publisher VIZ Media became the largest publisher of graphic novels in the United States in 2017. In 2020, manga accounted for seven of the year’s 10 best-selling adult graphic novels; in the same year, graphic novel sales increased by 29.1 percent over 2019 sales.

Patrick Godfrey, co-owner of Velocity Comics in Richmond, VA, attributes the massive popularity of manga to the fact that “manga fans tend to be younger and much more diverse. They grew up inundated with superhero stuff, they’re hungry for narratives reflecting a wider range of experience. And there’s a manga about pretty much whatever you can imagine.”

Godfrey highlights a distinction that may hold the key to understanding manga’s enduring international popularity. A survey of just a few of the titles available in translation suggests that there is manga for every interest. For sports fans, there’s Slam Dunk (translated in 2008), an award-winning series that played a huge part in popularizing basketball in Japan. Monster (translated in 2014) is a chilling crime drama about a surgeon’s quest to defeat a ruthless serial killer. The series One-Punch Man (translated in 2015) offers an absurd and uproarious spoof of superheroes. Inuyasha (translated in 2008) follows a young girl as she time-travels to feudal Japan to help save the world from hordes of demons. Over the course of his four-decade career, Osamu Tezuka—sometimes described as the father of manga—authored the science fiction–infused adventures of children’s hero Astro Boy, as well as medical dramas, psychosexual thrillers, historical fiction, and Princess Knight (translated in 2011), a series hailed as the first manga in Japan to be aimed particularly at girls.

The following list highlights recent and backlist manga titles in a variety of genres that will be of interest to adult audiences. All have been translated to English from Japanese.

Starred (redstar) titles are considered essential for most libraries.


Adachitoka. Noragami: Stray God, Vol. 1. Kodansha Comics. 2014. 200p. tr. by Alethea Nibley & Athena Nibley. ISBN 9781612629063. pap. $10.99.
A god without a single worshipper performs services ranging from locating lost pets, to battling grade school bullies, in hopes of raising enough money to construct a temple in his own honor.
redstarAkiyama, Yoko. My Hero Academia, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2014. 208p. tr. by Caleb Cook. ISBN 9781421582696. pap. $9.99.
Aspiring superhero Izuku Midoriya teams up with his idol, the professional hero All Might, to defeat leagues of supervillains in this action-packed and wildly popular series.
Akutami, Gege. Jujutsu Kaisen, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2019. 192p. tr. by Stefan Koza. ISBN 9781974710027. pap. $17.95.
A high school student becomes host to a powerful cursed spirit in the first volume of this increasingly popular series.
redstarArakawa, Hiromu. Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition, Vol 1. VIZ Media. 2018. 280p. tr. by Akira Wantanabe, with Alexander O. Smith & Rich Amtower. ISBN 9781421599779. $19.99.
After an experiment with alchemy goes awry, costing Edward Elric an arm and a leg and turning his brother Alphonse into a spirit trapped in a suit of armor, the two venture out in search of a powerful artifact that they believe can make them whole once again.
redstarFurudate, Haruichi. Haikyu!!, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2016. 192p. tr. by Adrienne Beck. ISBN 9781421587660. pap. $9.99.
A pair of rivals must work together to lead their school’s volleyball team to victory in the fast-paced first volume of this award-winning series.
redstarGotouge, Koyoharu. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2018. 192p. tr. by John Werry. ISBN 9781974700523. pap. $9.99.
After his family is slaughtered and his sister is transformed into a demon, mild-mannered Tanjiro embarks upon a quest in search of the means to change his sister back. One of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed manga of all time.
redstarKishimoto, Masashi. Naruto (3-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1: Uzumaki Naruto / The Worst Client / Dreams. VIZ Media. 2003. 192p. tr. by Katy Bridges & Mari Morimoto. ISBN 9781421539898. pap. $14.99.
A collection of the first three volumes in the long-running series about a mischievous young man who is determined to become the greatest ninja of all time. With more than 250 million copies sold worldwide, “Naruto” is the fourth best-selling manga series in history.
redstarKubo, Tite. Bleach, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2004. 192p. tr. by Lance Caselman. ISBN 9781591164418. pap. $9.99.
One of the most popular manga of all time, this saga about a supernaturally gifted teenager who is recruited to do battle against malevolent spirits has inspired television and film adaptations, trading card and video games, and even a series of musicals.


Araki, Hirohiko. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1—Phantom Blood, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2015. 256p. tr. by Evan Galloway. ISBN 9781421578798. $19.99.
The opening volume of this multigenerational saga finds Jonathan Joestar, son of a 19th-century British landowner, racing to stop his adopted brother’s sinister plan to conquer the world.
redstarBuronson (text) & Tetsuo Hara (illus.). Fist of the North Star, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. June 2021. 306p. tr. by Joe Yamazaki. ISBN 9781974721566. $17.99
A warrior named Kenshiro wanders a postapocalyptic wasteland, using his mastery of martial arts to defeat a variety of vicious gangs in this new hardcover collection of one of the best-selling and most influential manga series of all time.
redstarMizuki, Shigeru. Tono Monogatari. Drawn and Quarterly. Mar. 2021. 256p. tr. by Zack Davisson. ISBN 9781770464360. pap. $24.95.
Legendary creator Mizuki adapts a classic collection of folklore and adds an autobiographical element, in which he explores how his own work has evolved alongside Japanese culture throughout the 20th century.
Samura, Hiroaki. Blade of the Immortal, Deluxe Vol. 1. Dark Horse Manga. 2020. 576p. tr. by Dana Lewis & Toren Smith. ISBN 9781506720999. $49.99.
A ferocious samurai sets out to kill a thousand evil men, in order to remove the curse that makes him immortal, in this acclaimed Eisner award–winning series.
Tsuge, Yoshiharu. Red Flowers. Drawn and Quarterly. Jul. 2021. 284p. tr. by Ryan Holmberg. ISBN 9781770464346. $24.95.
One of Japan’s most revered cartoonists offers deeply empathetic and humorous tales of postwar rural Japanese life, in this newly translated volume of highly influential short stories.
redstarTsurita, Kuniko. The Sky Is Blue with a Single Cloud. Drawn and Quarterly. 2020. 384p. tr. by Ryan Holmberg. ISBN 9781770463981. pap. $29.95.
Idiosyncratic and frequently surreal short stories depicting bohemian life in Tokyo in the ’60s and ’70s, from an indie woman creator with a distinct vision and a resonant voice.


Aso, Haro (text) & Kotaro Takata (illus.). Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2021. 160p. tr. by Nova Skipper. ISBN 9781974720569. pap. $12.99.
An impending zombie apocalypse inspires a young office drone to complete every item on his bucket list, in this humorous riff on well-trodden horror tropes.
Fujimoto, Tatsuki. Chainsaw Man, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2020. 192p. tr. by Amanda Haley. ISBN 9781974709939. pap. $9.99.
A young man seeking to settle his father’s debt to the yakuza sets out to collect a bounty on a powerful demon—only to be killed and reborn with amazing powers. The debut volume in this darkly funny ongoing series.
Hayashida, Q. Dorohedoro, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2010. 176p. tr. by AltJapan, Inc. ISBN 9781421533636. pap. $16.99.
A man with amnesia and a reptilian head seeks vengeance against a group of sorcerers he believes to be responsible for his condition, in this bleakly humorous, gory fantasy adventure.
Isayama, Hajime. Attack on Titan: Colossal Edition 1. Kodansha Comics. 2014. 970p. tr. by Sheldon Drzka. ISBN 9781612629711. pap. $59.99.
More than a century after massive giants drove humanity to near-extinction, a boy named Eren Jaeger leaves the walled city where he was raised, determined to join the fight to retake the planet for humankind. This omnibus collects the first five editions of the controversial best-selling series.
redstarIto, Junji. Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection. VIZ Media. Apr. 2021. 408p. tr. by Jocelyn Allen. ISBN 9781974719846. $19.99
A collection of terrifically disturbing tales, featuring a student exploring his mysterious connection to a sinister apparition, a group of ghoulish siblings who torment their sister’s potential suitor, and more.


Endo, Tatsuya. Spy x Family, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2020. 220p. tr. by Casey Loe. ISBN 9781974715466. pap. $9.99.
This ongoing action-comedy centers on the misadventures of a family consisting of a superspy, an assassin, and a psychic.
Ohba, Tsugumi (text) & Takeshi Obata (illus.). Death Note, Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2005. 200p. tr. by Pookie Rolf.ISBN 9781421501680. pap. $9.99.
A brilliant high school boy named Light discovers a notebook belonging to a Shinigami death god and discovers that anyone whose name he writes within soon drops dead, setting the stage for a brilliant and sophisticated blend of horror, thriller, and police procedural.
Spike Chunsoft & Kyousuke Suga. Danganronpa 2: Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair, Vol. 1. Dark Horse Manga. 2018. 160p. tr. by Jackie McLure. ISBN 9781506707334. pap. $12.99.
This clever companion to the popular video game franchise of the same name (in which students at an elite academy are tasked with murdering a classmate) takes the adventure to a tropical island.
redstarUrasawa, Naoki. Asadora! Vol. 1. VIZ Media. Jan. 2021. 208p. tr. by John Werry. ISBN 9781974717460. pap. $14.99.
Flashing between 2020, when a monster is rampaging through Tokyo, and 1959, when a young girl and her kidnapper are forced to work together to survive a typhoon, the first volume in this ongoing series features memorable characters and an intriguing mystery.


Aidalro. Toilet-bound Hanako-kun. Yen Pr. 2020. 180p. tr. by Alethea Nibley & Athena Nibley. ISBN 9781975332877. pap. $13.
Ghostly Hanako-kun and his mortal assistant Nene Yashiro battle with malevolent supernatural forces in this fantasy-comedy mash-up.
Fe. Love of Kill, Vol. 1. Yen Pr. Mar. 2021. 196p. tr. by Eleanor Ruth Summers. ISBN 9781975322816. pap. $13.
A pair of assassins find their burgeoning romance tested by professional obligations, family expectations, and the dark secrets at the heart of their shared past.
Ikeda, Riyoko. The Rose of Versailles, Vol. 1. Udon Entertainment. 2020. 496p. tr. by Mari Marimoto. ISBN 9781927925935. $38.
In this majorly influential classic historical romance, a young woman becomes commander of Marie Antoinette’s palace guard at Versailles, where she bears witness to the decadence and intrigue running rampant in the period just before the French Revolution.

Tom Batten has written for the New Yorker, the Guardian, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He lives in Virginia, where he teaches creative writing at the College of William & Mary.

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