Good morning, manga readers! I hope you all had a very lovely Christmas! 2010 is nearly over, and there were a slew of great manga titles that came out throughout the year. I was fortunate to be able to read a good deal of them, and as this is the time of year for “Best of” lists, I decided to lay out the best of the best. These are all (with just a couple exceptions) based on books I read this year, many of which I reviewed right here at Comic Attack (and will link to below). I tried to stick to books published in 2010 (specifically, that began in 2010), but cheated a couple of times with books that began in November or December of 2009. It doesn’t include much reference to books I haven’t read myself, as I don’t think it’s fair to list off something I haven’t been exposed to directly. So here are my picks for the best manga of 2010!
Best new series of 2010: The Story of Saiunkoku from Viz Media. I adored this one when I read it. It’s a great comedy, a great shoujo, good for teens, just as good for adults, beautifully drawn, well written, and interesting. The lead is a strong, intelligent, independent, and forward thinking young lady, a good role model and easy to love by readers. Of all the new series that came out this year I was able to read, I fell in love with this one the most.
Best new shoujo series: The Story of Saiunkoku from Viz Media. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cheat, since I just named it best new series, but I really think it’s great.
Best newly published classic manga: Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako from Vertical Inc. This dark, beautiful story was a treat to read (though it would have been better with an easier translation), and is great for older manga fans. Vertical published this in a beautiful binding, with crisp pages and a quality print.
Best new action thriller: MAOH: Juvenile Remix from Viz Media. This one was a big surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting much, but I soon became intrigued by its plot and mystery. It’s suspenseful and has some absolutely terrifying panels that gave me chills. If you’re looking for a book to fill the Death Note void, try checking out MAOH.
Best new manhwa: Time and Again from Yen Press. This beautiful manhwa started at the end of 2009, and continues going strong. Full of mesmerizing ghost stories and an exorcist with a tragic background, this is well worth a read.
Best new yaoi title: In the Walnut from Digital Manga Publishing. One of my favorite yaoi titles of any year, this pleasant, touching, and sweet series is light enough for yaoi newbies, and has just enough boy-on-boy love to satisfy veterans of the genre. It’s filled with beautiful stories revolving around works of art, and features a lovely, romantic relationship between the two male leads.
Best ongoing title: 20th Century Boys from Viz Media. As secret after secret is revealed, more mysteries build, and it’s easy to see why this title is still going strong, and why Naoki Urasawa is one of the best mangaka working right now.
Best new title from Viz Media: House of Five Leaves. I know it contradicts with my love for Saiunkoku, but I couldn’t not mention this title. It’s delightful, and great for an audience that has moved on from sugary sweet shoujo or never-ending shounen.
Best new title from Vertical Inc.: Chi’s Sweet Home. This one I have not read myself, but given the incredible amount of praise for this title, I feel confident putting this on the list. Go to just about any manga reviewer’s site and you’ll see this one praised up and down.
Best new title from Tokyopop: Songs to Make You Smile. It’s a one-shot, but it’s the only Tokyopop manga I read this year aside from the OEL Labyrinth series (which was mediocre) and Deadman Wonderland (which was OK, but failed to grab me). But it’s beautiful and a must read for Natsuki Takaya fans, or anyone who enjoys charming stories about love and hope.
Best new title from Yen Press: Black Butler. I think my love for this series is well documented on Comic Attack. I’m crazy about this young Lord and his demonic butler.
Best new title from Dark Horse: Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus. Dark Horse publishes some good manga, but their CLAMP omnibuses really take the cake. This year saw the beginning (and relaunch) of the adorable, kid friendly, classic Cardcaptor Sakura series (which I’ll get around to reviewing eventually, I promise!).
Best new (non-yaoi) title from Digital Manga Publishing: Itazura na Kiss. This classic manga (which actually began at the end of last year) is a shoujo jump starter. If you want to get someone into the genre, these over-sized collections are a great place to start.
Best new sports title: Cross Game from Viz Media. Well, the only sports titles I’ve read this year are this and Slam Dunk, and Slam Dunk is an ongoing. That said, I don’t want to diminish how delightful a manga Cross Game is. After a brutally depressing start, the book pushes forward with some great character development and a good story.
Best ongoing action title: Black Lagoon from Viz Media. Berserk is amazing, but it’s not one I’m currently reading. I also really enjoy Bleach, but it doesn’t have the the pull for me that Black Lagoon does (and the anime is one of my favorites). And I didn’t read any action titles that began this year that are worthy of mention here. This brutal, bloody, dark, fast-paced series is a must for action fans.
Best new horror title: Taimashin: The Red Spider Exorcist from Digital Manga Publishing. Demons, monsters, giant spiders, hidden pathways between life and death, bizarre possessions…and a mysterious man who searches them out like one would a good meal.
Best new sci-fi title: Saturn Apartments from Viz Media. With an interesting set up; charming artwork; vast, sweeping imagery; and beautifully depressing stories, this series is sure to warm the heart and maybe induce a tear or two.
Most improved title: Sarasah from Yen Press. This series got off to a rocky start with its incredibly unlikable heroine and silly story set up, but after a few volumes, it’s become one of my favorites and I get excited for each upcoming volume. The heroine has grown, and the story has evolved into something intriguing with more depth than I had expected. I am a little concerned about its future, however, as upcoming titles are not listed via Amazon or on Yen Press’s website. Please don’t cancel this one! I love it!
Personal favorites this year: Based on all the manga I read this year, new or old. The Story of Saiunkoku, Black Butler, MAOH, Skip Beat!, House of Five Leaves, Clover, How to Seduce a Vampire, La Esperanca, and every single Fumi Yoshinaga book I had the pleasure of reading. It was a good year full of amazing manga for me. I hope you all found and read some good titles, too! It was also a bit of a rocky road this year, with the dissolution of CMX, Aurora, and Del Rey Manga (which was sort of folded into Kodansha USA). But manga is still growing strong in America, and we’ve seen fantastic sales from some of the smaller publishers (like Yen Press, who had a stellar year thanks to the Twilight manga and Black Butler). What do you hope to see in 2011? Personally, I’m hoping to finish off my Fumi Yoshinaga collection (of her currently published works in America), and will continue to hope and beg for the licensing of Tokyo Crazy Paradise. Here’s to another great year of manga!