The word “manga” is often used to describe Japanese comic books, but manga actually has a long and rich history that dates back to the 12th century. While Western literature largely consisted of prose-based novels until comics became popular in the 1930s, Japanese storytellers have been using the combination of pictures and words for centuries.
With all the history and diversity that manga has to offer, it’s no surprise that it’s such a widely-read genre. Fantasy adventures, superhero comics, historical fiction, and monster stories are just a few of the many genres that manga has to offer, appealing to readers of all ages. No matter what kind of story you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in the world of manga.
1. One Piece (1997)
One Piece is the best-selling manga series of all time. First published in July 1997, this long-standing, epic manga series follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy who accidentally eats a Devil Fruit and gives his body the properties of rubber. Together with a crew known as the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy bounces around the world in search of the famed “One Piece,” a treasure that will allow him to become the next King of the Pirates. With characters that include a skeletal musician, an antique collector, and a doctor with a talking reindeer sidekick, One Piece is an unforgettable adventure that has captivated fans for over 20 years.
2. Naruto (1999)
Drawing from Chinese mythology and the history of ninja warriors of Japan, Naruto is the famous tale of one boy’s quest to become the heroic leader of his village. The series follows Naruto throughout his teenage years, as he learns the unusual truth of his birth and trains to become a ninja. Brimming with imagination, adventure, and, lest we forget, friendship, Naruto has become the go-to coming-of-age read that’s gripped the imaginations of more than 250 million fans around the world.
3. Vagabond (1998)
Vagabond is a thrilling martial arts manga that’s loosely based on the real life of a swordsman from the 1600s. It’s been running since 1998, but has been on a very extended hiatus since 2015.
The story follows young Takezō and Matahachi, who escape the Battle of Sekigahara and seek shelter. They swear to become “Invincible Under the Heavens,” but their plans are complicated when their attackers track them down and they are separated.
Takezō sets out on a journey that will ultimately lead him to become the famed sword master Miyamoto Musashi. Along the way, he faces many challenges and overcomes great odds.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist (2001)
In the steampunk world of Fullmetal Alchemist, alchemy is a highly respected science. The only things that are not allowed to be transmuted are humans and gold. This rule is so deeply ingrained that those who attempt to transmute humans not only lose a piece of themselves, but they also face further punishment from the ***-like being of Truth.
However, when Edward and Alphonse lose their mother, it’s worth the risk. Unfortunately, their daring efforts don’t go to plan, and soon Edward has lost an arm and Alphonse is a body-less spirit bound to a suit of armor. Together, the brothers set off on an arduous quest for the next solution: the philosopher’s stone…
5. Bleach (2001)
Many people have questions about what happens after death, so it’s no surprise that fiction often centers around these themes. In the world of Bleach, supernatural beings known as Soul Reapers help transfer human souls from the world of the living to the Soul Society. However, when a Reaper is injured while hunting a Hollow (a monstrous creature that can harm both ghosts and humans), she gives her Soul Reaping powers to a teenage boy who has the ability to see ghosts. Now Kurosaki Ichigo has to juggle his new responsibilities with the world of high school — and, as expected, many hauntings and hijinks ensue.
6. Inuyasha (1996)
Manga legend Takahashi Rumiko tells an epic, time-traveling, demon-fighting adventure in this imaginative work of fantasy. Kagome, a young girl who falls down a well and into feudal Japan, discovers that her destiny is linked to a dog-like half demon called Inuyasha, and a powerful jewel that she’s unknowingly brought into this world. The adventure that follows requires powerful magic to defeat the demons and protect the jewel.
7. Hunter x Hunter (1998)
In Togashi Yoshihiro’s manga, Hunters are a highly esteemed group of people who are skilled in uncovering hidden things, from rare animals to secret treasure, unexplored frontiers to lawless individuals. When Gon Freecs discovers that his father, who he thought was dead, is a world-renowned Hunter, he sets out to find him and takes the Hunter Examination. What follows is a series of tournament battles, training sequences, puzzles, and more.