Best Manga of 2015
No, that isn’t a typo. I’m going backwards before looking forwards to fill in a gap, and because in years to come, I will enjoy seeing a summary of what I was reading in a particular year. (I’ve just finished doing some archive maintenance, and it was interesting seeing the short rise and fall of JManga from 2011-2013, for instance. Remember them?)
As I’ve said before, for the purpose of this post, I’m using a highly idiosyncratic definition of “best”, based mostly on what I looked forward to and enjoyed re-reading. I have a few subcategories, under which I’ve ranked a maximum of five titles, with #1 being best. Links take you to reviews of the titles.
Best New Manga
This year brought a focus on humor, with all of these choices having a strong component of comedy.
- Horimiya — A cute, funny shojo romance with some observations on how we choose to present ourselves to others. A lot of potential and some great characters.
- Kiss Him, Not Me! — I know some people had problems with the artificial premise of the lead losing weight over her dismay at the death of an anime character, but I found this comedy about fangirling and fan behavior escapist fun. Volume 2 was also out this year.
- Love Stage!! — I’m a bad yaoi reader, because I don’t like the regular examples of the genre, only the ones with twists. (And many of the common conventions of the genre, such as ignoring a sex partner’s no or the way some of the characters are portrayed as children, creep me out.) But I enjoyed Love Stage!! because it adds a lot of comedy and an examination of what it takes to be successful as an actor or a manga artist. It was just so good-hearted. It helps that four volumes came out this year, which kept things moving along quickly.
- My Neighbor Seki — A refreshing read that unfortunately, for me, ran too long and wore out its welcome, but at the beginning, it’s full of creativity and clever observations. Volumes 1-5 were out this year.
- Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun — I used to run away from stories about comic-makers, but the industrial aspects of manga-making seemed to refresh the genre for me. This series of four-panel gag strips layers having a crush on top for more sources of humor.
Best Continuing Manga
Some obvious choices, as any year they come out, What Did You Eat Yesterday?, A Bride’s Story, and Ooku: The Inner Chambers rank in this category. They’re just that good.
- What Did You Eat Yesterday? — A bonus year for this series, as volumes 6 through 9 were released. After this, the release pattern delays significantly. A brilliant series that beautifully emphasizes relationships through making food for others.
- My Love Story!! — Simple, straightforward romance with unusual characters meant for each other. Volumes 3-6 came out this year.
- A Bride’s Story — Volume 7 is one of the most unusual of the series, with events that emphasize how different this culture can be. This is the one with lots of breasts, as much of the story takes place at the bathhouse.
- The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service — Volume 14 came out after a three-year hiatus, and it’s the last out here so far. I refuse to list is under completed, though, because I have hope in spite of the obstacles.
- Ooku: The Inner Chambers — Volume 11 provided a major turning point as the country begins recovering from the plague that killed most of the men.
Best Completed Manga
- Chi’s Sweet Home — Volume 12 ended the cute cat series as it began, with adorable animals and a surprising amount of emotional heft.
- Meteor Prince — In and out. Two volumes, that’s it, for comedy shojo with an alien on Earth. Sometimes you just want entertainment without a years-long commitment.
- High School Debut — I thought the series ended in 2010, but an omnibus re-release brought two sequel volumes, including a bunch of side stories with the supporting cast.
Honorable Mentions and Guilty Pleasures
Because I limit myself to five above, this is the place to mention the other things I enjoyed reading this year.
One great trend continuing is omnibus reprints, with the standouts being Yen Press bringing back Emma and Dark Horse Planetes. It’s such a good idea to see good reads rescued and kept in print, particularly in larger chunks.
And then there are the dishonorable mentions, those I have to note for other reasons. Like Happy Marriage?!, which finally ended (good riddance!) with volume 10. And The World’s Greatest First Love, which represented all the bad trends of yaoi.
Finally, there’s the benefit of hindsight. I enjoyed the setup of Idol Dreams, which launched this year, but it fell apart a couple of years later, with only four volumes out and the author not being careful with the creepier aspects of the storyline.