Kodansha Comics has once again put its whole line up for sale (until the 25th of June 2018). Every time one of these sales comes around I want to make recommendations, so here they are.
First, make sure you have picked up the Kodansha Humble Bundle, there is an absurd amount of manga there for an absurdly low price!
- Land of the Lustrous - Anthropomorphised gems search for existence in a far flung desolate (but beautiful) world full of mystery and sorrow. Hauntingly stark, frequently experimental, always surprising. My Number One Pick.
- BLAME - Almost-mute dude journeys through an infinite discarded city to find someone who has the genetic password to the WiFi. Finally available again after a long time out of print, the new edition does justice to the amazing designs, vistas, and unbridled imagination on display.
- Wotakoi (Love is Hard for Otaku) - Working nerds navigate relationships and the gap between societal expectation and their own situation. Jumps the main characters into a relationship quickly so you don't have endless volumes of "will they wont they" but instead the more interesting (and thorny) material of actually being in a relationship. One of the couples can be a little uncomfortable and at times almost abusive(?) so some caution recommended.
- Flying Witch - Teenage witch in training moves in with a mundane family in the countryside, relaxing antics ensue. Cute and charming without being saccharine. Wonderful characters and expressions. Contains talking cats, so it can't be bad.
- Tsuredure Children - Instead of having a couple blunder into every single misunderstanding on their way to their first kiss, how about you have 12 or so couples each with their own situation and imbalance? It's a 4-panel manga so its a quick read and if you dislike a couple you can easily skim over it. In time the various couples and characters come to interact, which can admittedly test your powers of memory, not helped by a case of sameface in the males. Still, its unfailingly adorable and I just want to hug all of these idiots.
- Happiness - The Flowers of Evil creator does a modern melancholic vampire story, and brings all their power to bear on it. Its upsettingly good and emotionally powerful. Fantastic art and keeps you on tenderhooks the whole way.
- All-Rounder Meguru - Mundane dude joins an MMA gym and discovers he is average at it, but is good at adapting and taking on new techniques which makes for a great progression in manga form. Great character work and art - people look and feel "unfinished" as they are still working that out themselves, which is a really great touch. Really engaging, strikes a great balance between exposition and action that many other series grapple with.(hurr) I wish the publishing schedule was faster because I want to devour all of it.
- Tokyo Terareba Girls - A raw, unflinching, ripped-from-real-life and still dripping tale of dating in your early-mid thirties and how it is hell on Earth. Does an outstanding job balancing all the pressures (external and internal), horrors, what-ifs, and contradictions of relationships and people's attitudes to them with a complex and messy cast who you dearly want to hug but also slap around the back of the head for their own good. The pacing is a little bit of a let-down in the back third as up to half a volume gives way to a weird advice column format I was not a fan of. Koyuki is the best.
- The Full-Time Wife Escapist - Part romantic comedy, part sociological dissertation. part eyeball-drawing masterclass. Mikuri is an accomplished young woman, but cannot for the life of her find a job no matter what she tries. Through a series of contacts she ends up doing housework for Hiramasa, a withdrawn mid-thirties man - things escalate from there as both characters try and hammer out a future for themselves in exhausting circumstances. The series feels very ripped from real life and makes this clear, providing a lot to think over as it's cast try and figure out what to do. Very relatable and perhaps even "big mood".
- Nodame Cantible - Wonderful story of romance, growth, self-examination, family, and betrayed expectations. Nodame is a lazy prodigy at the piano and Chiaki is a proud, standoffish, grumpy sod with talent and drive - both are self-sabotaging in their own way and end up falling in together into an emotionally co-dependent relationship that neither is fully willing to commit to and be serious about. Around them orbit a wonderful cast of other colourful musician characters with their own trials to undergo. Also refreshing is that the cast are of University/ Postgrad age rather than the usual procession of bloody high-schoolers!
- The Flowers of Evil - Smart kid in a backwater town thinks he is above everything gets blackmailed by the only other person in the class who is more of a pariah than he is. Both of them then enter a binary-star orbit spiralling down into mutual destruction, ensnaring themselves more and more as they go, even dragging others in. Wonderfully paced, the series follows three general arcs before settling in for a true rarity for manga - a well considered comprehensive conclusion and ending. I have previously sold this manga to people using a line graph of "Oh Shit!" against the volume number, if that helps. Amazing art and atmosphere, nigh-upon unbeatable. If nothing else, get the first three volumes to see the first arc - after that you can eject if you wish but I doubt you will want to put it down!
Less Recommended, but still worth a shot:
- To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts - Good if you are experiencing Claymore withdrawal. Series undergoes quite a lot of reconfiguration in the first two volumes as it finds itself, but certainly worth a shot if you want your ironic monster hunting.
- Heavens Design Team - Comedy manga focussing on a group of marketing execs who have had the act of animal creation outsourced to them. Its nice and absurd as you would expect from the premise and also has a nice educational angle to it. First volume feels a little thin, but looking forward to more. Good clean character art.
- Genshiken - I want to love Genshiken, and at one point I really did, but with hindsight I have cooled on it. This counts for both the original series (now in omnibus format) and Second Season, its sequel series. Both of the runs set up a relatable cast of characters mirroring the typical dynamics of an anime club or group, setting them against each other in the normal situations and arguments. In both cases, they feel somewhat like historical artefacts of the time they were started, preserving a shot of fandom in amber. Then both series get in way too deep in a long running and frankly exhausting romantic storyline for the second half/third that utterly infuriates me because it neglects the rest of the cast and then oops series over.
- Knights of Sidonia - Tsutomu Nihei's most recent completed series, this 15-volume space opera charts a small fragment of humanity trying to find respite among the stars from an unstoppable force. No, not the in-series enemy of the Gauna, but the meta-fictional force of trying to find a firm storyline to base itself around. While still a great romp with some amazing world building (the same design chops from BLAME are on display), the series spends a lot of its time flailing around between many different issues and possible core conflicts but never quite sinks its teeth into one in a convincing fashion. Also suffers from a bad case of sameface and too many characters to comfortably track all of them.
- Chii's Sweet Home - Kitten gets adopted by young family, hijinks ensue. Kitten hijinks. It's adorable and also great for younger readers and people who normally don't read manga.
- Interviews with Monster Girls - A story about interpersonal communication and respecting differences that nearly avoids the pitfalls that typically plague series with demi-human characters. It still falls face-first into some of them, but to a personally forgivable degree. The cast are adorable dorks and you just wanna hug them.
- Witchcraft Works - I wrote a previous review on this very blog- while not a perfect series it is a wonderful fun romp with some amazing art to back it up.
Not personally read, but people I hold in high esteem Recommend them:
- Princess Jellyfish
- Descending Stories (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)
- Sweetness and Lightning
- A Silent Voice
- Space Brothers
- Missions of Love - Aggressively awful trash. The main characters are terrible, their actions are terrible, the way events are shown and laid out is terrible. I bought the first two volumes physically and felt angry I had wasted my money on it.
- Magical Senpai - Kinda just lame? Cute lass snares boring main character boy, embarrassment comedy ensues with a side of lewd moments that all feels weak.
- School Rumble - I hate the entire cast. I didn't initially, but after a few volumes of them tripping over nothing at each other I was done.
If I missed anything, give me a shout!