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Victoria’s Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 04)

Victoria’s Favourites: Top 20 Manga (Part 04)

The hardest part about making this list was assigning the order and I replayed with the rankings over and over again. Nailing it down was the most difficult for the top ten titles or so, because all of them are ones I absolutely adore and it was very challenging to say I liked one more than the other. In fact, I only came up with the final order when I asked myself a question concerning the top five, which I am about to finally share.

That question was this: if there were only five manga series I could read for the rest of my life, which ones would I choose?

Without further ado, here are my choices.

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5. Vampire Knight (excellent)

Vampire KnightWhenever I talk about Vampire Knight and the great love I have for it, I wonder whether or not it should be qualified as a “guilty pleasure.” However, in the end I do honestly consider it a well-written book and believe it is the best series on this entire list for handling melodrama, as Matsuri Hino is adept at knowing just how far to push things without crossing the line into ridiculousness.

I initially had this series ranked lower, until I asked myself that question about the five series I would want to read most. And thus, it ended up here. This is another series I was introduced to by Shojo Beat magazine and I was hooked from the very beginning. I will admit, I have been a long-time vampire fan and still am not quite sick of them, probably because there are still so many good vampire stories being told, both in manga and other mediums as well. And while I don’t consider Vampire Knight to be the best vampire story out there, it is one that I thoroughly enjoy and also features one of my favourite anime characters of all time, Zero Kiryuu.

So, guilty pleasure or not, if I was stuck on a deserted island, I would feel much better if I had these books with me to past the time.

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4. Nodame Cantabile (excellent)

Nodame CantabileNodame Cantabile quite possibly tells the best written love story I have ever read. The pacing is absolutely perfect and I just love how much the two leads grow, both together and individually.

It probably does help with this series that I grew up playing the piano and can (or at least could at one point) also play a couple of other instruments. But even for those who don’t care about classical music, this series has a lot to offer. Crazy antics, drama that concerns things that actually matter, and probably the most memorable cast on this list.

The only thing I don’t really like about this series is the art style itself, which I’ll admit did turn me off the series for a bit. But I did eventually decide to go ahead with the series anyway and I am very glad I did.

Out of all manga that gone out-of-print, it is this series that saddens me the most, though I console myself by re-watching that live action series which in many ways defines this series even more than the manga does, as that cast will always be these characters to me.

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3. Alice 19th (excellent)

Alice 19thAnd of course, Yuu Watase must make an appearance (or two) here in the top five.

Alice 19th is the most beautiful of any Watase book I have ever seen, which is saying something because I absolutely love her art style. This series though has the most moments in it where I just had to sit back and stare at a page because it just looked so pretty.

And, like all Watase work, there is plenty of substance to go with that style. I find Alice herself to be an amazing character because she is very different from the standard Watase heroine as she is shy instead of spunky. She also comes across as a bit younger than most of the others, though at 15 she is the same age as Fushigi Yuugi‘s Miaka. I adore the rest of the cast as well but Alice really is something special in the Watase world.

Finally, I love the idea of her magical girl powers coming from words. As a writer and reader, words are very important to me and making them, and the emotions they convey, the basis for a magic system is really intriguing.

I’ve always hoped that Alice 19th might get adapted into an anime series; alas, the chances of that seem unlikely now. However, it still does make an excellent short manga series that deserves all the love it can get.

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2. Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden (excellent)

Fushigi Yugi Genbu KaidenThe first time I ever came across anything Yuu Watase was watching the Fushigi Yuugi anime. Because of this, that series is very near and dear to my heart, despite the fact that I can acknowledge that it is very flawed. However, the original Fushigi Yuugi is not going to appear on the list as it has been almost entirely eclipsed by Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden.

While I was less than wowed by the last volume on an individual basis, as a whole this series is Yuu Watase’s best work. The art is amazing and the world-building begun in the original series is expanded upon and to this point there has never been a moment where I can recall anything being retconned, which is always impressive when prequels are involved.

Also notable for me is the fact that this is the first time when my favourite character has been the love interest. Limdo is completely fascinating and his relationship with Takiko, who is another amazing character, is very engaging as they have real chemistry.

Also, without saying too much for those who haven’t read the original series, I am really, really interested in seeing how Yuu Watase tackles the ending of this one. And it looks like we’ll be seeing it soon, since the Japanese run of the manga is expected to conclude early this year.

I really can’t say enough about how good this series is and how much I adore Yuu Watase. However, despite her being my favourite mangaka on a whole, she actually did not write my favourite manga series. Of course, if you’ve been paying attention, you should already know who did write it.

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However, before we get to the big reveal, let’s take a moment for a blatant stalling tactic … I mean, let’s recap the list so far!

20. Love*Com
19. Sailor Moon
18. Paradise Kiss
17. Ouran High School Host Club
16. Mars
15. Dramacon
14. Sand Chronicles
13. xxxHolic
12. Bunny Drop
11. Solanin
10. Clover
9. Imadoki
8. Ooku
7. Saikano
6. Honey and Clover
5. Vampire Knight
4. Nodame Cantabile
3. Alice 19th
2. Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden

You can read my thoughts on them in  Part 01 | Part 02 | Part 03

And finally, here it is, the number one pick!

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1. NANA (excellent)

NANAI was absolutely and completely hooked by this series from chapter one (another thing I read in Shojo Beat, have I mentioned how much I miss that magazine?). The reasons for this are all things I have mentioned before with other series: the appeal of older characters, a great cast, emotion, emotion, emotion! NANA has all of this and it does things better than anything else (except art, which is what inches Yuu Watase into my favourite mangaka spot, though Ai Yazawa is a very close second).

This is another series that is soap opera-like but I still always feel like it stays on this side of realism because I’ve known people who got into situations like the NANA cast does. Heck, I’ve even been in a couple myself.

This is another series that bucks some of my preference trends, as I tend to be a fan of shorter series and this one is currently sitting at 21 volumes overall with an indeterminate number to (hopefully) follow. But I’ve found that each volume is just so engaging that the series is always a joy to read and thus keeps me hooked all the way. I’ve actually been picking up the books in an unusual order but reading them always feels a bit like coming home to good friends and good times.

I could talk about this series for a long time but to summarize, I completely love it. It’s not only my favourite manga but also my favourite anime, though that is a list for another time and place. If you haven’t checked out NANA yet then I cannot recommend it more.

Also, please join with me in hoping that Ai Yazawa recovers and is able to finish this series because the idea of her never returning to write and draw manga is just absolutely heart-breaking.

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So, that’s the list. Thank you so much everyone who read it. Please let me know what you think in the comments, I was recently checking and realized comments had appeared on earlier parts of the list that I didn’t notice soon enough and I apologize but I will be watching this post more carefully because of it.

And now back to my regularly scheduled reviewing!

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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