Best Manga Series For Complete Beginners

People all across the world are reading and enjoying manga. Find out what makes manga unique and which series is the best fit for you.
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Image Source: Manga Bookshelf

In basic terms, manga refers to Japanese comics or graphic novels. The art style of manga originated in the nineteenth century, although individual style varies based on the series and the manga artist. 

Manga is popular for so many reasons, but one of the main ones is variety. Unlike Western comics, which are mainly written with a younger audience in mind, there are manga series targeted at every age from very young children to adults. The inclusion of art allows an extra medium for storytelling, as well as giving artists the chance to showcase their talents through incredible and stylistic drawings. Manga may also be easier to read for those who struggle with the structure of novels. 

Another aspect of manga that makes it popular is its long-form storytelling. Many Manga has hundreds of chapters released weekly or monthly, which allows for multi-arc stories with fully developed characters that readers can follow for years. 

Finally, if you live outside of Japan, consider reading manga to diversify your media and the type of stories you consume. If you are an avid reader, selecting materials from countries and continents outside of where you live can add an entirely new perspective on storytelling that you may never have experienced otherwise. 

Manga vs. Anime: Which One is Better?

Just like western novels are adapted into films, many manga series are adapted into series of anime. However, not all anime are based on manga series; some are original works while some are adapted from other sources of media (such as light novels). Not all anime is adapted from the Japanese source material. And surprisingly, in some cases, manga is inspired by an existing anime series!

The quality of an anime, as well as its faithfulness to the source material, depends entirely on the show. Many anime choose specific story arcs to adapt due to the length of the manga. There is the possibility of adopting more story arcs through films, such as Black Butler does in the Book of Atlantic. In other cases, like Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul re, many important parts of the story are cut out due to time constraints. 

In general, a manga series will provide a clearer, more complete version of the author’s original story, especially if it’s the manga that came first. But anime can provide new layers to a story through animation, music, and voice acting. 

Why manga series have so many chapters: manga magazines 

There are many Mangas, like One Piece, that have hundreds or even thousands of chapters. One of the reasons this is possible is the format in which manga is released. In many cases, manga is released chapter by chapter on a weekly or monthly basis through manga magazines like Shonen Jump, which started in 1968. These chapters are later combined into full volumes, and in some cases, translated into English to make them more accessible. 

Different Types of Manga and What They Mean

In Japan, manga is categorized based on its target demographic. The four main demographics are shonen/shounen, shoujo, seinen, and josei. However, these categories should not deter readers from pursuing whatever stories they choose to read. Rather, they give readers an idea of what sort of elements and themes will be present in these stories, as well as giving age-based recommendations.

Shonen/shounen is the most popular manga demographic. Their target audience is tween/teen boys. These stories feature themes like friendship and coming-of-age while providing a sense of adventure and elements of comedy.

Shoujo is the next most popular demographic and is targeted at tween/teen girls. While similar to shonen manga in the coming-of-age element, these stories often feature more drama and romance. There is usually a female protagonist as well. 

Seinen is targeted at adult men and may feature, sex, violence, and language. These stories also contain storylines that older audiences will find interesting and relate to in ways that a younger audience will not. 

Josei is targeted at adult women. It contains a more realistic look at romance and friendships and usually has dramatic elements that older audiences will enjoy. 

Kodomomuke is another type of manga that is targeted at very young children. 

Top Ten Popular Manga Series for Complete Beginners

With so many existing manga series in every genre imaginable, it's hard to know where to begin. These ten popular manga series are easy to understand and cover a wide variety of genres and subject matter. If you've never read manga before, one of these ten would be a great place to start. 

1. Death Note (2003-06)

death note light yagami
Image Source: VIZ Media

Tsugumi Obha, Takeshi Obata

Shonen

108 chapters total

Psychological thriller, mystery, supernatural 

When a brilliant high school student called Light Yagami encounters the Death Note, a notebook from another realm that can be used to kill any human just by writing their name and picturing their face, he decides to use this power to change the world. Light becomes a godlike figure known as Kira, using his power to kill all criminals to create a perfect utopia. 

This series is full of twists and turns, fixating on the darker aspects of human nature under the promise of unlimited power and the cat-and-mouse game between Light and the eccentric, genius detective known only as L. 

Death Note is a great first manga for fans of crime shows and dark fantasy. It asks big questions about morality and idealism, which sticks with readers long after the story ends. 

Available here

2. Haikyuu!! (2012-20)

haikyuu!! Hinata
Image Source: Reddit

Haruichi Furudate

Shonen

402 chapters total

Sports, comedy, coming of age 

Haikyuu is a sports manga that follows Hinata (Shouyou), a high school student who loves volleyball and wants to be the best despite his small size. He joins his high school’s volleyball team where he must team up with Kageyama, formally a rival, and learn to work with him and his other teammates, all while reaching for his dream of playing professionally. 

This manga is an easier read that focuses on coming-of-age and friendship. It’s a good first pick for sports fans, as well as readers who love found family and stories driven by competition and action. 

Available here.

3. My Hero Academia (2014-)

my hero academia manga deku
Image Source: Medium

Kohei Horikoshi

Shonen

309 chapters so far

Coming-of-age, adventure fiction, superhero, fantasy

In a world where superpowers are ordinary, people can train to become professional heroes. Izuku Midoriya (Deku) dreams of being the best of them all; unfortunately, he is one of the very few people born ‘quirkless’ without any special abilities. His life changes when he meets All Might, the world’s greatest hero, who chooses Izuku as his successor and passes his own super strength onto him. Izuku then transfers to UA, an academy formed to make the next generation of superheroes. 

My Hero Academia is a classic superhero story. It’s a great fit for fans of Marvel or DC comics and anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories. 

Available here.

4. Naruto (1999-2014)

naruto manga panel
Image Source: Comic Book

Masashi Kishimoto

Shonen

700 chapters total

Adventure, fantasy comedy, martial arts 

Naruto tells the story of a boy who longs to be the leader of his village. When he was a baby, his father made him the host of a powerful fox entity called Nine-Tails at the cost of his life. The manga mainly follows Naruto’s life as he grows up training to become a ninja alongside new friends like Sakura and Sasuke. 

This manga is often compared to Dragon Ball. Both series are classics in manga and anime. Both follow the life story of their protagonist in the long-form manga. There is heavy debate over which series is better, and in the end, this choice mainly boils down to personal preference. 

Available here

5. Dragon Ball (Dragon Ball Z) (1984-95)

Dragon Ball manga goku
Image Source: CBR

Akira Toriyama

Shonen

519 chapters total 

Adventure, fantasy comedy, martial arts

This manga follows Son Goku from childhood to adulthood as he studies martial arts and journeys with his friend Bulma all over the world looking for seven Dragon Balls, which together will summon a wish-granting dragon. Its manga is split into two sections- part one follows Goku’s childhood while part two, known as Dragon Ball Z, features Goku as an adult. 

Dragon Ball is a classic in terms of manga and anime. It started in the nineties but has had a lasting influence on pop culture to this day. This is a great first manga for fans of action and battle-based stories or epic adventures who are looking for a longer, multi-arc read. 

Available here.

6. One Piece (1997-)

One piece manga monkey d luffy
Image Source: Bleeding Cool

Eiichiro Oda 

Shonen

1011 chapters (as of 4/23)

Adventure fiction, fantasy

One Piece follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a young boy who wishes to become King of the Pirates. To accomplish this, he leads a crew of pirates across the East Blue Sea in a quest to obtain the ‘One Piece’ treasure. Both a steampunk and a pirate story, this is another long-form classic that has yet to reach its end. 

This story is totally unique; it combines elements of several different genres and incorporates action, drama, and comedy into its plot. This is a great first manga for lovers of adventure stories and pirates and is a good choice for those looking for a story, unlike anything they’ve read before. 

Available here.

7. Ouran High School Host Club (2003-10)

ouran high school host club manga
Image Source: Comic Vine- GameSpot

Bisco Hatori 

Shoujo

83 chapters total 

“Reverse harem”, romantic comedy

Haruhi Fujioka is a level-headed student with big aspirations who attends a prestigious high school on scholarship. After breaking an extremely expensive vase, Haruhi decides to pay off her debt by joining the Host Club, a group of boys who entertain female students after school. However, Haruhi must pretend to be a boy to join the all-male club. 

This story is a romantic comedy that has several boys falling in love with a girl who wants nothing to do with them, the opposite of what is expected for stories like this. Despite being a comedy, the story has a surprising amount of heart and serious moments. It’s a good starting point for anyone who enjoys stories about friendship or young-adult romances without supernatural or life-and-death stakes. 

Available here.

8. Fruits Basket (1998-2006)

fruits basket manga tohru honda
Image Source: Fanpop

Natsuki Takaya 

Shoujo

136 total chapters

Romantic comedy, slice-of-life, supernatural fiction

Tohru Honda is an orphaned student who finds herself alone in the world until she meets the Soma family. This group of twelve boys have an unusual quirk- they transform into the different animals of the Chinese Zodiac whenever they embrace a member of the opposite sex. Tohru quickly bonds with this family, helping them as best she can through the difficulties of their lives. In return, these twelve boys become her friends and give her a sense of belonging. 

This manga is lighthearted and adorable, while also touching on complex emotional issues and darker undertones. It’s a good pick for those who enjoy fantasy, romance, and feel-good adventures. Some of the emotionally complex subject matter makes this series a better fit for slightly older readers. 

Available here.

9. One Punch Man (2012-)

one punch man manga
Image Source: Comic Book

ONE

Seinen

140 chapters so far

Action, comedy, superhero

Saitama is an extremely powerful superhero who can defeat any enemy with a single punch. However, his lack of opposition or challenge has left him extremely bored. He seeks a worthy opponent to face in battle in order to alleviate his boredom. 

This is another manga that would be a great starter for superhero fans. However, due to the amount of violence, One Punch Man is best suited for older readers. Those younger readers interested in this story should start with My Hero Academia, which also features heroes in an age-appropriate way. 

Available here.

10. Tokyo Ghoul (2011-14)

tokyo ghoul manga kaneki ken
Image Source: TWText.com

Sui Ishida 

Seinen

143 chapters total

Dark fantasy, horror, supernatural  

In this dark fantasy, the world is split into humans and ghouls- creatures that appear human but can only exist by eating human flesh. Ken Kaneki is transformed into a half-ghoul after an accident that nearly takes his life and must leave behind his quiet, introverted world and learn to survive as a half-ghoul, a creature with immense strength who now must feed on human bodies to survive. 

Darkly twisted and tragic, this manga tells a beautifully gripping story about humanity and the amount of control we have over our destinies. It’s a good fit for older readers who are okay with high levels of gore and violence and who enjoy psychological thrillers.

Available here.

Summary

Whether you have never even heard of the manga before or you've been a fan for years, these ten popular series are classics and will be enjoyable to readers all across the globe. There are much more manga series out there, many of which are still ongoing, that can be found through websites like Viz.com.  And with professional English translations making these stories more accessible, it's true that almost anyone can (and should) enjoy manga. 

A twenty-something writer trying to find her place in the world. I love my dog, mugs of hot tea, and all things make-believe.

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