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Victoria’s Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 03)

Victoria’s Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 03)

Time for the third part of my Top 20 Favourite Manga list. If you missed the earlier parts, you can find them here and 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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10. Clover (masterpiece)

CloverThe first masterpiece ranking has arrived. There will be two others later, which are the books that I not only adore but consider to be damn close to perfection as far as the medium goes. Yet, as the fact that Clover is only ranked 10th proves, being perfect doesn’t necessarily mean most beloved (in fact, the highest “masterpiece” title is ranked 7rd overall but more on that later).

I am actually a bigger fan of CLAMP than this list might suggest (though Chobits was only just barely off the list) and I think Clover is them at their best, probably because its length required them to tell a more concise story than some of their more recent titles. One thing I have always found with CLAMP is that they are really good at getting the reader to care for characters in a short amount of time.

Even though Clover only had a few volumes released – now packaged together in the rescue from Dark Horse, which is the version I’ve read – the characters are well fleshed-out. Also I cannot mention Clover without talking about the art, which really is CLAMP at their best. The designs are creative and the pared-down, simplicity of the art style gives this book its own look that I wish we saw more of.

Clover is still technically considered unfinished by CLAMP and this fact actually kept me from buying it for some time. However, after hearing that it really did work in its current form, I picked it up and I’m very glad I did. Unlike with xxxHolic, the not so conclusive ending that isn’t necessarily an ending at all works with this story and so, while I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing it continued, it really is complete enough in its current form to be a wonderful and worthwhile read.

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9. Imadoki (excellent)

Imadoki! (Vol.01)

With this entry on the list, we’ve reached the manga that I absolutely, positively love to squee-enducing levels. And so it is very fitting that the first of these titles is another Yuu Watase work.

Most of Yuu Watase’s work lies more in the fantasy realm, both in historical and modern settings. Imadoki, however, breaks from the mold and is just a sweet story of high school friendship and romance. I particular love the emphasis on the former, as I find it often gets overlooked.

However, as much as I love the premise, the thing that really makes me love Imadoki is the lead character, Tanpopo. She is the character I most personally identify with out of all of manga and anime. And I think a lot of other people can likely see themselves in her too, as she’s a very human character who has a positive outlook despite being bullied but isn’t always so strong that she can brush everything off. She really is a great character and one of my favourite Watase heroines, though it is very hard to pick favourites there.

A line from this series also really touched me: “A cherry blossom is a cherry blossom; a plum blossom is a plum blossom. They’re different but they’re both beautiful … Everything blooms according to its own nature.” I try to keep this quote in mind as I go throughout my day, which is helped by the fact that I have a tattoo on my ankle inspired by it (I did end up going with a cherry blossom and a dandelion, in honour of Tanpopo, whose name means dandelion in Japanese).

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8. Ooku (masterpiece)

OokuIn all fiction, I prefer characters over theme. I discovered this pretty early on when, in high school, I hated Lord of the Flies but loved The Great Gatsby. I also tend to find exposition to be something best left avoided. Knowing both of these things about my personal tastes, I should not like Ooku, let alone rank it so high. Yet somehow it proves the exception to the rule and is one of the series whose releases I await with the most anticipation.

I always feel like I learn quite a bit from reading each volume, albeit with a grain of salt since Ooku is about an alternative history, which for me makes things even more intriguing, since the past is full of a million ‘what if’ scenarios. The art is also striking, though I do wish the character designs were a bit more distinctive as it can be hard to keep track of who is who at times. Finally, although it did take some getting used to, I do love the translation choice of using Middle English to translate the formal language which would historically have been used. Viz’s release of this series is beautiful and I love seeing it on my shelf.

It just goes to show you, even when you know what you normally like and dislike, it sometimes never hurts to try something new.

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Saikano (Vol.01)7. Saikano (masterpiece)

Saikano is a book which frustrates me. Not because of it’s story or characters, I love those, but because I have not yet been able to track down the final volume, since it is currently out-of-print. Volumes 1-6 however were quite easily available when I picked up the series (it looks as though 4 might now be OOP as well but not the others), so I was able to buy every book until the very last one, which means my collection of this series sadly sits incomplete and looks to stay that way for some time.

Despite the fact that the ending is near impossible to track down, I still love this series. I consider it to be the best on this list as far as objective quality goes, because even now, several years after having last read it, I can remember how well-written and drawn some pages in this series are. It is the work of someone who really understands the manga medium and for that reason alone it is worth ranking high.

But to make it this high, the series needed to have substance as well as show and in that area, Saikano delivers in spades. The premise does, I admit, border on the ridiculous but once you have accepted that, the series does not push suspension of disbelief any further, instead being a really tragic and believable depiction of what would actually happen, if the government was to turn a high school girl into a living weapon. The series takes chances with its story and they always deliver, creating one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever read.

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6 . Honey & Clover (excellent)

Honey and CloverLike so many of my other favourites (almost all of them, in fact), Honey and Clover’s main strength is its characters. The cast is very diverse, which means there are many opportunities to find a character to sympathize with, often to an almost painful degree (for me, this happened with Ayumi).

The plot of Honey and Clover unfurls itself slowly and feels very life-like, with even the most dramatic of moments firmly grounded in reality. Those who have been in university, as I was when I first read this series, may recognize themselves and those they know in the pages. It is a wonderful story about growing up and finding who you were meant to be. Through its highs and lows, I was always laughing and crying alongside a cast who have become so dear to me.

Honey and Clover is another series I first read in Shojo Beat magazine. Before this run started, I had seen the first episode of the anime and, quite frankly, had not really been that impressed as I found the pacing far too slow. I am very thankful that I was given the chance to check the manga out, as the pacing not only worked better but it also inspired me to try the anime out again and now it is one of my favourite series in that medium as well.

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Part four 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.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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