Today’s T5W is my favourite topic so far, but it’s also my hardest one to put together. The topic is “Your Top 5 Gateway Books to Your Favourite Genre”. OBVIOUSLY, I’m going to recommend some good “starter manga”, but actually I don’t consider “manga” as a genre.
But, that’s a discussion for another post.
Here are my suggestions for 5 great “starter” or “gateway” manga. If you’re interested in trying some manga, you might want to give some of these a try. Or, if you want some personal recommendations, send me a message describing your favourite book and/or what you look for in a book and I’ll recommend you some good manga titles to try!
AKIRA / by Katsuhiro Otomo
For the American comic book reader, I would recommend Akira. I’m sure you’ve already picked this up, and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
Akira features a fast-paced, intense, post-apocalyptic, political, cyberpunk story featuring children with psychic powers. It’s a brilliant series. Plus the art in it is fantastic; more reminiscent of “American-style” comics and graphic novel work than modern manga.
It is one of the first published in English, and probably has remained published in English the longest. And it has remained in the “English” left-to-right reading orientation, which means my American comic book reading friends won’t be disoriented from the “Japanese” right-to-left orientation.
[Kodansha has announced an upcoming reprint with a reverse back to the Japanese reading direction. But all previous editions should be in the English “flopped” reading direction.]
YOTSUBA&! / by Kiyohiko Azuma
For the “comic strip” reader, I would recommend Yotsuba&. Though it is technically not a comic strip, it is written by someone versed in writing comic strips: a pattern of scenario/punch line stories. Kiyohiko Azuma is more famous for his 4-koma/panel comic strip series called “Azumanga Diaoh”. Now, I don’t recommend that you pick that series as a first timer, since gag-comedy doesn’t always translate very well, but his other series Yotsuba& is the perfect title for any first-time manga reader. And, especially for people who are fans of reading comic strips.
It is a genuinely funny slice-of-life comedy series about a young pre-schooler named Yotsuba, & her father, and their friends. It is incredibly easy to get into, features short stories that don’t necessarily need to be read in order, and is gentle enough that it appeals from children-to-adult readers. I highly recommend it!
ORANGE / by Ichigo Takano
This is a fairly new series, and really easy to find in stores at the moment. And, a great gateway into manga. It’s about a teenage girl who receives a letter from her future self asking her teenage self to do some things to prevent a tragedy from happening to a new student.
It’s a great series, that I think would really appeal to contemporary YA readers. Features wonderful characters, important hard topics, a great friendship, and a bit of magical realism. It’s also quite short at 2 omnibus in English (5 volumes in Japanese) so not a terribly big commitment for a first-timer.
DRAGON BALL / by Akira Toriyama
This might not initially appeal to you, but I recommend you read 3 volumes, and then see if you can put it down.
Akira Toriyama writes great characters, has created a fun world, and has a great sense of humor. This probably would appeal to a slightly younger audience who likes to read adventure stories, but there is enough in it to even entertain adults.
It is inspired by the Chinese folklore story of the monkey king. About Goku, a young monkey boy who meets a girl named Bulma who is searching for the 7 dragon balls. When she collects them all, a dragon will appear to grant her a wish. He joins her on her quest, and they meet many friends, and have lots of adventures.
This is also a good representation of what you can expect from a HUGE percentage of manga; particularly battle, fantasy, or sports series. It’s a foundational series, and an incredibly engaging, and fun read. I’ve read it many many times, and my love of it never wavers! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND / by Hayao Miyazaki
If you’re even remotely interested in picking up manga, I’m assuming you’ve already dipped your toe into Studio Ghibli (pronounced GEE-buh-REE) movies, including the adaptation of this classic manga series by Hayao Miyazaki.
It’s the title that launched me into being a manga reader, and it is absolute perfection! About a poisonous post-apocalyptic world that is on the verge destroying humanity. It features Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, a strong young woman who has a strange and wonderful connection to the natural world. It has all of the themes that Miyazaki likes to deal with in his series: a young woman coming-of-age, flying machines, war, and environmentalism.
It’s an epic series that is beautifully written, beautifully illustrated, incredibly engaging, exciting, heart-breaking, and hopeful. I can’t recommend this enough. I think you owe it to yourself to read this series… and yes, the movie adaptation is great! but no, it isn’t nearly as great as the manga. Please read this manga!
This post was written in response to T5W (Top 5 Wednesday). T5W is a group on Goodreads that hosts weekly book list memes. Interested in joining? Click here.