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Victoria’s Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 01)

Victoria's Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 01)

I’ve always been a fan of top lists, hence why I’ve made a couple of my own. However the lists I liked writing the most were always the ones about my personal favourites. Because of this, I’ve recently been trying to determine what my own favourite manga and anime are, since after almost ten years of reading/watching, I’ve had the chance to be exposed to quite a bit.

Now, this is a ranking based on personal preference, rather than just perceived level of quality, and with each choice I have also included my ranking of the series over at Anime News Network in parentheses (my username there is marie-antoinette, for anyone who is interested). And so, without further ado, here is part one of my Top 20 Favourite Manga!

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20) Love*Com (very good)

Love Com (Vol. 01)I’ve always loved series that take expectations and flip them around, even just a little bit, and that is exactly what Love*Com (or Lovely Complex) is all about. The two main characters are Risa, the tallest girl in the class, and Otani, the shortest boy. Add to these facts their rampant dislike for each other and you have a classic romantic comedy set-up on your hands.

The characters are definitely the main draw to this series, as the two leads are awkward and funny in the way that teenagers actually are. The supporting cast is very believable as well, and always enjoyable. But I think the thing with this series that really sets it apart for me is the fact that the story doesn’t end once The Couple (TM) gets together. They actually continue to show the ups and downs of a real relationship and that is something sorely lacking from most high school romances where getting together is the one and only pay-off.

Many of the series higher on the list (as well as Chobits) deal with themes and issues a bit more complex than this one but Love*Com is one that I love for sheer and pure entertainment value.

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19. Sailor Moon (very good)

Sailor Moon (Vol.01)Ah, Sailor Moon. Since I’ve reviewed this series before, I’m not going to get into great detail with it, especially since the volume I have reviewed remains my favourite of the series at this point.

Initially, I began reading this for pure nostalgic reasons but it has been surprising me in the latest volumes with just how good it is. I would not be surprised at all to see it continue to creep up this list as time goes by and I get pulled even deeper into its world.

With old series like this, it can often be easy to call things cliche, while neglecting the fact that it was this series that started to launch the cliche itself. While I have had many issues with Sailor Moon, and I don’t think the story as written would work in today’s market, I just have so much appreciation for the impact it has had. Plus, when it’s good, it is very good.

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18. Paradise Kiss (excellent)

Paradise Kiss (Vol. 01)Ai Yazawa is one of my favourite manga-ka. If more of her work was licensed, I am sure this list would be filled to the brim with them. Unfortunately for all of us, there are only two at the moment and (*spoilers*) both of them will be on this list. Just to note, I have only read the original Tokyopop release; I am, however, thrilled to see this one back in print. Thank you, Vertical!

What’s special to me about Paradise Kiss is how real it feels. These characters have flaws, sometimes serious ones, and they are allowed to make mistakes. Things don’t always go their way and not every relationship lasts. Even while some of the situations are strange and unusual, the people in this world are people we can recognize.

And it’s pretty. It’s very pretty, which is essential for a manga with such an emphasis on fashion. I know Yazawa’s style is not for everyone but I have always loved how it looks and Parakiss showcases it better than anything else of hers I’ve read.

Paradise Kiss is short (always a selling point) and bittersweet and wonderful. For me, this series is life distilled into art.

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17. Ouran High School Host Club (excellent)

Ouran High School Host Club (Vol. 01)Parody is very hard to do. Or at least it is very hard to do well. In that respect, Ouran High School Host Club is one of the best as it not only parodies the heck out of shoujo manga, but is also itself a shoujo manga.

I do have some issues with this manga – the biggest one being that I see the decision to ignore the passage of time as being very poor writing – and this does keep it from being higher on my list. However, there is enough to laugh and smile at that I always find myself enjoying each volume and adoring each character. And even the more serious moments usually work, showing that this is a series with great range.

This series contains some of the best comedy I have read in manga and it keeps bringing me back for more. Plus, it has one of the best ensemble casts in manga, who play off each other brilliantly. Whenever I open up a new or old volume of this series, I know I am going to have a good time reading it.

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16. Mars (very good)

Mars (Vol. 01)This list is very shoujo-heavy; specifically, it is very shoujo romance heavy. Mars is not he first of this type of manga to appear on the list (that honour goes to Paradise Kiss), but it is very representational of this type of manga, especially those set in high school.

Mars is a classic good-girl-meets-bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold story. In many ways, the actual plot itself is not all that strong, relying on familiar tropes and moments that are more than a little ridiculous. However, the manga works, at least for me, because the characters feel very real and identifiable and my heart literally aches for them at times. Even when the situations don’t necessarily work, the emotions ground it and allow for suspension of disbelief.

Mars also has one of the best opening volumes I have ever read, which has also made it the single volume of manga I have re-read the most and the book I gave to my mother when I wanted her to understand manga a bit better. Sadly, Mars is another older Tokyopop series and so is now out-of-print, but if you can find it, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Also noteworthy with this series is a Korean live action adaptation that I don’t believe gets enough recognition. The show is excellent and I actually consider it to be superior to the manga in many ways, as it did what more adaptations should: look at the source material’s flaws and find ways to improve them. While it may take a bit of work to track down, I definitely recommend watching it. That said, be prepared for it to be a little unnerving to have to see some of the manga characters as “real” people.

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Part two coming soon…!

Victoria K Martin

About the Author:

Victoria Martin has been a manga fan every since university, when a particularly evil, enabling friend introduced it to her (as well as re-introducing her to anime as well). Seven years later, she has quite the collection of books on her shelves, mostly shoujo/josei but with some others as well. She's always looking for the next series to love and cherish and religiously re-read for years.

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7 Responses

  1. […] Martin starts her countdown of the top 20 manga of the year at […]

  2. Justin says:

    After reading Paradise Kiss myself, I can definitely see why it has made your Top 20. Can’t wait for Part 2 :)

  3. Starr says:

    I adore Mars even though I’ve only read the first two volumes that’s at my school library. I would totally collect it if it somehow gets a re-prit from Viz or other manga publishers.

  4. starsamaria says:

    Glad to see lots of shojo on this list! What I love about Lovely Complex is that it’s a romantic-comedy that’s genuinely funny, and Risa’s a great relatable female lead. And Paradise Kiss has one of my favorite endings of all time. Can’t wait for part two!

  5. […] Welcome to the second part of my Top 20 Favourite Manga list! You can read the first part here. […]

  6. Agent355 says:

    Love*Com is a title that I didn’t mind being dragged out with filler, because I found it genuinely funny. Ouran lost me when it started down melodramatic paths that included a kidnapping plot…

    I didn’t watch much Sailor Moon as a kid, and without the nostalgia filter, I found the first volume a slog to get through and only read about half of it. But I keep seeing more and more reviewers write that it gets better in latter volumes. I really want to give it another try!

  7. […] third part of my Top 20 Favourite Manga list. If you missed the earlier parts, you can find them here and […]

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