Sporadic Sequential
Friday, March 16, 2007
An Incomplete List of Completed Manga

Well, that wasn't as easy as I thought. Following up on an idea from an earlier post, I was trying to compile a list of my recommendations for the top ten completed manga series. Several people offered suggestions in the comments (see list below) but I had trouble putting together my own list, unable to quite reach ten series. I suppose it could be taken as a sign that I don't read as much manga as I thought, or perhaps I'm forgetting something and I'll remember right after I post this. In any case, here's my list of recommended completed manga series. [I limited my picks to series that run between two to ten volumes (no Lone Wolf and Cub mega-series here), mainly because I thought this list could be a useful reference for those who want to start reading manga but worry about having to invest in series with 20-plus books released and no end in sight.]

Akira (6 volumes) - A classic. Six thick volumes of psychic snot-nosed punks blowing the #$@% out of Japan. I'm not as enamored with the plot as some die-hard fans, but I do think creator Katsuhiro Otomo does truly astounding work in terms of visual storytelling here: his pacing, panel transitions, and detailed backgrounds that always hang together are unmatched in Western comics. And as unlikeable as I find the main character Kaneda, I absolutely adore several of the supporting characters Otomo has created for this story, especially Kei.

Love Roma (5 volumes) - This series was a wonderfully quirky little book. How many romantic comedies start with the couple getting together and then get their mileage from watching the characters grow closer throughout their relationship? From the way most romantic comedies work, you'd think it was impossible to make a relationship interesting without inane misunderstandings and nonsensical fights. But Love Roma avoids all those clichés and is all the better for it. I don't ever think I've seen a better portrayal of what relationships (especially first relationships in high school) can be like. And Love Roma manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and truthful and honest at the same time. Simply delightful, this book puts a smile on my face every time I read it.

Mail (3 volumes) - I'm going out on a limb here because the third and final volume hasn't been released yet, so I could be tempting fate by listing it a week before Dark Horse says the last book comes out, but assuming this series does reach its end, it's definitely one worth picking up. Creator Housui Yamazaki puts together a great collection of short, smart horror stories in each volume. And I like the device of the main character, excorcist Reiji Akiba, addressing the reader directly in many of the intros — reminds me of old horror comics like House of Mystery and House of Secrets where the host greeted the reader.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (7 volumes) - Another classic, and yet another one that I appreciate more in terms of world-building and artistic vision that actual plot. Still, the characters and settings (not to mention the stunning artwork by creator Hayao Miyazaki) are engaging enough to engross me every time I pick up this series.

Planetes (5 books) - I think I'll always remember this series as the original critical darling (manga division) of the comics blogosphere. Back when I was blogging at Grotesque Anatomy, it seemed like everyone was reading and loving this series. For many, I think it served as a gateway book into manga. And while I thought the quality dropped off a bit towards the end, it was still an excellent series overall.

Short Cuts (2 volumes) - Sick, twisted comic strips centering around cute Japanese schoolgirls. All done with a perverse sense of humor by creator Usamaru Furuya. (If you scroll down on this page, you can see one of my favorite strips from volume 2.)

Uzumaki (3 volumes) - How can a simple shape be frightening? Well, when the shape in question is a spiral that's driving an entire town mad, and the person depicting these events is Junji Ito, you might start looking at springs and coils differently. I actually read this series out-of-order, starting with book two, so that's the one that made the strongest impression on me, but the whole series is full of Ito's trademark weirdness. The ending disappointed me when I first read it, but now I think it fits well with the overall theme/motif of spirals. Soon to be reissued in unflipped format as part of Viz's "Signature" line.

Series marked with ** aren't technically one-shots — they're really just the first volume of longer series that will probably never see subsequent volumes published.

Anywhere But Here**- A delightful collection of surreal silent comic strips by Tori Miki. (I believe this may be out-of-print, but Shaenon Garrity found it available directly through Fantagraphics' online store. Shaenon also has more info on the book, including several great scans.) [According to the description on Fantagraphics' site, this is a selection of strips from the first two volumes of the series, which apparently has had five volumes published so far in Japan. So yet another manga series for The List!]

Domu - More psychic sci-fi action from Katsuhiro Otomo, only on a much smaller scale. (Only one apartment building is damaged as opposed to all of Japan in Akira.)

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga** - Hey, wait a second! This isn't really a one-shot; it's just another series abandoned by Viz! Oh well, since we'll probably never see the second and final volume translated, I'm listing this here. A vicious takedown of all the manga clichés you've noticed (and many you probably never even stopped to think about), Monkey is a hilarious primer on how to succeed in the fast-paced world of manga publishing. (Hint: provide plenty of fanservice.) Shaenon Garrity has some representative samples here.

Sand Land - I read this when it was first serialized in Shonen Jump and I don't really remember much about it other than I enjoyed it at the time, but it's a nice single-volume introduction to manga legend Akira Toriyama.

Suggestions from others (see comments on earlier post for more details on many of these manga; entries marked with * are one-shots)
  • Adolf
  • Angelic Layer
  • Anne Freaks
  • The Antique Bakery
  • Apocalypse Meow
  • Baby Birth
  • Bakune Young
  • Banana Fish [will be complete 4/10/2007]
  • Battle Royale
  • The Big O
  • Black & White
  • Blue Spring*
  • Buddha
  • Chikyu Misaki
  • Chobits
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Crying Freeman
  • Cyborg 009
  • Dance till Tomorrow
  • Dead End
  • Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders
  • Genshiken [still two more volumes to go]
  • Great Teacher Onizuka
  • Gyo
  • Haunted House
  • Ikebukuro West Gate Park
  • Island
  • Lady Snowblood
  • Lament of the Lamb
  • Maison Ikkoku
  • Mermaid Saga
  • Ode to Kirihito*
  • Ohikkoshi*
  • Paradise Kiss
  • Planetes
  • Pure Trance
  • Redrum 327
  • SaiKano
  • Samurai Champloo
  • Samurai Legend*
  • Sanctuary
  • Sexy Voice and Robo* [I think there's a second volume not yet released in the U.S.?] [Apparently the single English edition collects the two tankoubon released in Japan]
  • Shirahime-Syo*
  • Short Program
  • The Skull Man
  • Smuggler*
  • Spirit Of Wonder*
  • Strain
  • Suki: A Like Story
  • Sword of the Dark Ones
  • Telepathic Wanderers
  • Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms*
  • Uzumaki
  • Who Fighter With Heart of Darkness*
  • X-day
Additional resources for researching completed manga series:
Manga Updates list of manga, filtered to show only completed licensed series. [Note: the 'completed' filter seems to refer to series that are completed in Japan, so this list does show licensed series that aren't complete in the U.S.]

Manga Updates list of manga one-shots

Anime on DVD list of manga, which has a column indicating volumes released in the U.S. and whether the U.S. release has been completed. [This info doesn't always seem to be accurate. For example, Club 9 is listed as complete in the U.S. with all five volumes published.]

Wikipedia's list of manga
If I've missed any completed series that should be listed, please let me know in the comments.