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Victoria’s Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 02)

Victoria’s Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 02)

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

(Just a reminder, this is a ranking based on personal preference, rather than just perceived level of quality; however, with each choice, my ranking of the series over at Anime News Network is noted in parentheses.)

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15. Dramacon (excellent)

Dramacon (Vol. 01)Yes, I just put an OEL (Original English Language) book on my Favourite Manga List. I know the debate over OEL is still hotly disputed but Dramacon has the same look and feel as many of the other titles on this list and that’s good enough for me. Also, having been a part of the anime club that founded Animaritime, any fictional portrayal of the convention scene is enough to get me interested.

This book really mixes some of the elements from previous titles on my list well. It has the slapstick humour of Love*Com and the tangled romance of Mars and manages to merge both in a way that is surprisingly cohesive. Add in a good dose of anime/manga-fandom in jokes and this is a great read.

As funny as some of the other series here can get, Dramacon is what I consider the best in its comedic moments, probably mostly because of my own personal connection to the con world, as well as the fact that it is not translated humour. This series is short and sweet and hilarious and, in my opinion, should be required reading for anyone who has been to a convention or plans on going to one (assuming again that you can get your heads on it, since this is another casualty of Tokyopop). It is also, interestingly enough, the series I have been thinking the most about re-reading since I started this list.

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14. Sand Chronicles (excellent)

Sand Chronicles (Vol. 01)This one is a bit tricky for me to talk about because I’m not certain if I’ve actually read the whole thing or not. I initially came across Sand Chronicles back when it was running in Shojo Beat magazine, a publication I still sorely miss (and which introduced me to other titles yet to come on this list). When the magazine stopped, I waited for the collected editions to catch up to where I’d been in my reading but I’m not certainly I started again at the right place. However I have definitely read the beginning and the ending which are the most important parts of a story.

So, here we have another angsty, sometimes melodramatic, shoujo romance. At this point, none of you should be surprised. And we also have many time jumps, just for good measure.

What I love best about Sand Chronicles is how it takes the themes of growing up and shows them across time, following the main cast from being “tweens” until they are adults. As they grow, the story grows alongside them and you see the situations get more and more complicated as the characters themselves grow into more complex people. However, the heart of Sand Chronicles is still pure and often simple emotion. This emotion is needed to keep things grounded, though I’ll admit there are points where it gets a bit too soap opera-like for my tastes (and I actually enjoy a good soap opera now and then). It’s a lovely series that I definitely need to re-read soon, to make sure I haven’t missed any parts of it.

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13. xxxHolic (very good)

xxxHolic (Vol. 19)Oh xxxHolic, you would have ben so much higher on this list (and have a higher ANN ranking), if the ending hadn’t been so terrible. But I still really enjoy you. Just not as much as I could have (I also could have done without all the crossing over with Tsubasa but that’s another story, in more ways than one).

xxxHolic is an amazing blend of folklore, mystery, and the supernatural. The basic premise behind the series really isn’t all that original but the art is beautiful. How CLAMP makes those character designs work is beyond me, especially given how terribly they often look in the xxxHolic anime. The writing is (usually) superb, blending a monster-of-the-week formula with some incredible character arcs. The most important of these is Watanuki’s as he changes completely from the character he was initially, which is good since he was really annoying in the beginning.

The series also had some great twists and turns, particularly around the reveal of what exactly was going on with the character, Himiwari, as that arc is easily the high point of the series. Again, this is a series where the characters and emotional moments keep things grounded, and I always enjoyed the fact that I learned something new with every volume. So, even while things were never quite as good after the time-skip (this trend is something that will come up fairly frequently with other manga on this list), this manga still remains one I think of very fondly and will gladly re-read in years to come.

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12. Bunny Drop (very good)

Bunny Drop (Vol. 02)And right away we hit another series with a dreaded time skip, as Bunny Drop gets to be lucky number 13 (my birthday is the 13th, so it really is lucky for me).

The problem with talking about Bunny Drop is that, inevitably, the discussion always turns to the ending. Despite the fact that most people discussing it haven’t actually read it*. I personally plan to withhold final judgement about the spoilers that everyone knows until I have actually seen how its done and can really tell if it works or not.

Leaving aside those concerns, I do completely adore the pre-skip story. Rin is one of the best written child characters I have seen in any media. And the story addresses a lot of issues about parenting and family in different ways, with widely different characters, and does so with charm and more than a little adorableness.

And even the post-skip story has been okay so far, though it isn’t quite as unique. I’m invested enough in these characters to keep reading and hope the time skip will turn out to have more good than bad.

*Editor’s Note: As of the date of this article’s publication, Yen Press has published 7/10 volumes

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11. Solanin (excellent)

SolaninThe first review I ever wrote for a website (the now defunct Manga Life) was for Solanin, but even if that was not the case it would still hold a dear place in my heart.

I don’t read all that many done-in-one titles when it comes to manga, mostly because it seems that the available selection skews towards yaoi titles, which aren’t something I usually look for. But I would like to read more because I tend to be more interested in shorter series than the ones that go on and on forever (though I will be eating those words later on this list!).

I don’t love Solanin just because of its length though. So many of the series I read feature characters in high school and, while I obviously still love them, I’m quite a number of years past that myself. The characters in Solanin are in their twenties and trying to find their ways in the world and that is something I can 100% relate to, even if the specific situations they find themselves in are different from mine.

It also helps that the presentation for this one is just beautiful, with a larger-sized trim and a greater page count than most releases. It’s a lovely package for a beautiful and often heart-breaking story of what becoming an adult really entails.

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Part three 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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3 Responses

  1. […] Martin presents the second part of her countdown of the top manga of 2012 at […]

  2. Agent355 says:

    Is “OEL manga” still a controversial topic? I hope not! IMHO, The world is small, everything can be influenced and inspired by a variety of sources, and OEL lends itself to more variety in the Western graphic novels market, which is always a good thing! I like superheroes as much as the next gal, but variety is the spice of life.

    That said, Svetlana Chmakova in particular is amazing. Dramacon is good, Nightschool is even better (imho) and I started to love her art so much I want to check out her Witch & Wizard adaptation even though another James Patterson YA seems so “meh”.

    Sand Chronicles is very good, but the ending took away the edge of the story. Or maybe it was just a mediocre ending to an otherwise excellent manga that made it stand out to me.

    xxxHolic…I’m not overly found of CLAMP or monster-of-the-week stories, but if it has a good overarching character plot I’d love to at least read that. When does Watanuki start to change and the plot start to take shape?

    So far, everything on your list is shojo or josei. Solanin might be seinen, but otherwise it fits into a similar story type mold. Wonder if you’ll surprise us in the next installment with a shonen battle manga or a hard scifi philosophical tale? ;)

    • Victoria says:

      Hi Agent335, thanks for the comment (and sorry for the slow reply, busy holiday season and all).

      OEL may be becoming a bit less controversial these days but there are still naysayers out there, unfortunately. I think hits like Scott Pilgrim are definitely improving things out there though.

      I haven’t had the chance to check Nightschool out yet though it is on my (very long) to-read list. Hopefully I’ll get to it soon because the one chapter I read years ago in Yen Plus was pretty good.

      It does take awhile for Watanuki to start developing and he can be pretty annoying at the beginning, but he gets much better. And the rest of the cast is pretty awesome, though I actually don’t overly care for Yuuko. I do recommend the series though because even when it is monster-of-the-week (which I don’t care for that much either), it is interesting monster-of-the-week, based firmly in Japanese folklore.

      I did warn you all when we started that it was going to be a shojo/josei-heavy list! I definitely wouldn’t be expecting any shonen battle manga on my list anytime soon, though I have decided to start reading Soul Eater since I enjoyed the volumes I’ve reviewed for the site.

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