Welcome back, manga fans! I think this month may be the most diverse set of publishers I’ve selected for the column, though I still picked a fair number of Seven Seas Titles. They’ve got a lot of weird shit! Not as weird as their Ghost Ship imprint but still. Get ready for a mix of old favs, new comers, and at least one head scratcher. Onwards!
10. King Me
That’s right. A Shonen Jump title NOT published by Viz. It’s rare but it does happen. That alone wouldn’t get me to put it on this list but the premise reminds me of an even more ridiculous version of “Hikaru no Go.” The cover is a little too sleek for me. But. But! There’s the ghost of Garry Kasparov on the cover. It may not be my jam, per say, but I’m sure this will be someone’s.
And yes I know it’s a checkers term. Don’t @ me.
Blitz, Vol. 1
Written by Cedric Biscay & Harumo Sanazaki
Illustrated by Daitaro Nishihara
Published by Ablaze
From the pages of Shonen Jump comes BLITZ, a shonen manga exploring the elite world of chess!
Immerse yourself into the world of chess, where intuition and mental agility are precious assets on the way to victory!
Tom, a young high school student, has a crush on his classmate Harmony. When he learns about her passion for chess, Tom quickly decides to sign up for the school’s chess club. But he doesn’t even know the rules! To impress Harmony, he is left with no choice: he must learn quickly and train seriously.
Soon Tom discovers the existence of Garry Kasparov, the greatest player in the history of chess. He stumbles upon a virtual reality machine that promises to help him analyze the most legendary matches of the master!
In an unexpected twist of event, Tom soon is granted access to the highest echelons of the chess…
9. Back to Life, Back to Samurality
“Afro Samurai” is a series I’ve always heard about but never got the chance to read/watch. Well, now I’ve got the chance to pick it up. It’s also a director’s cut version which I find fascinating for books like these. It’s not quite “uncut” like how the Kodansha “Akira” volumes are but it does have a definitive feel. Putting classics back in print is good and more black characters in manga that aren’t broad stereotype sidekicks is even better.
Afro Samurai, Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by Takashi Okazaki
Published by Titan Comics
NEW DIRECTOR’S CUT EDITION OF THE OUT-OF-PRINT CULT CLASSIC BOOK!
FEATURES A SPECIALLY COMMISSIONED COVER AND A BRAND-NEW FOREWORD BY TAKASHI OKAZAKI!
IN A FEUDAL, FUTURISTIC JAPAN, SAMURAI BATTLE TO BECOME NO.1 AND RULE THE WORLD, BUT WHEN HIS FATHER, WHO HOLDS THE COVETED POSITION, IS CHALLENGED AND KILLED, THE YOUNG AFRO SAMURAI VOWS VENGEANCE.
8. Just Your Typical Day at the Office
This comic. Looks. Bonkers. The cover’s art seems a little wonky, and I don’t know how kinetic the manga actually is, but when you promise inter-office hate sex AND hate punching and then a sinsiter conspiracy AT A BANK that these two lovers/haters have to stop, you’ve got my attention. “What even is this?” is all I can think. It’s a drama! Not a comedy! I gotta see this with my own two eyes and you all do too.
Black & White: Tough Love at Office, Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by Sal Jiang
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment
Sparks (and fists) fly in this violent yuri love story. Shirakawa Junko is an upstanding employee of a high-level bank. Her colleagues all respectfully admire her… except for Kuroda Kayo, a colleague who’s transferred to her department. Shirakawa is supposed to train Kuroda, and it does not go well. These women have a bizarre love-hate relationship that results in either violent office attacks or angry lesbian sex. When a sinister conspiracy seems to be afoot at their bank, can these two stop having bruised hate-sex on piles of documents and work together to investigate? This provocative LGBT+ drama is ready to rumble.
7. Easy. Breezy. Love Potion.
Sometimes, after reading about fist fights turned office hate sex, you need something simple to lose yourself in. “I’m a Witch” seems to fill that particular need, being as it were a typical seeming fantasy shojo series. I’m a big shojo fan so this is right up my alley. Simple premise, nice art, fun twist and NOT an isekai. That’s more than enough to clinch a spot on the list.
I’m a Witch: My Crush Wants a Love Potion, Vol. 1
Written by Eiko Mutsuhana
Illustrated by Kamada
Published by Yen Press
“I want you to make me a love potion.” With that single sentence from the object of her affections, the Good Witch of the Lake’s crush ended in heartbreak. In a desperate bid to spend more time with him, she sends him on a wild goose chase for ingredients…but when he starts visiting every day to take care of her, she might have gotten much more than she’s bargained for!
6. Living Dolls to Clean in the Dark
Did you see the anime? Were you perplexed by the final two episodes’ sudden shift in tone and pace? Are afraid that season 2 will pull a Promised Neverland? Have no fear. The “Shadows House” manga is here!
For those who don’t know the series, “Shadows House” is a series about autonomy, the parasitic and extractive nature of aristocracy, and one sunshiney and one gloomy girl learning about friendship and that maybe the system they’re in needs a right kick in the teeth. It’s also got these cute little soot creatures that turn into eldritch abominations if they get too big. Fun for the whole family!
Shadows House, Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by Somato
Published by Yen Press
Shadows House-a strange mansion that receives no callers, inhabited by a race of faceless shadows who play at being aristocrats and are waited on hand and foot by “living dolls,” who also serve as their masters’ faces. What goes on inside this enigmatic manor is anyone’s guess, but soot and shrieks billow up from within…
5. Obligatory Sad Literary Book
Yes, it’s another sad literary book by Drawn & Quarterly. Yes, it’s an older title that’s finally made its way over here. And yes, it did originally run in “Garo.” But this is my list and I’m gonna put it as #5! Not only is it highlighting a female creator – not super often in this particular sphere – it looks to be a poetic and insightful look at 80s suburbia in Japan from the time rather than looking back. It’s sure to be an excellent, if challenging, read.
At least it won’t be another book about a guy lamenting his misfortune to have a mistress and a wife that are both hot.
Talk to My Back
Written and Illustrated by Yamada Murasaki
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Set in an apartment complex on the outskirts of Tokyo, Murasaki Yamada’s Talk to My Back (1981-84) explores the fraying of Japan’s suburban middle-class dreams through a woman’s relationship with her two daughters as they mature and assert their independence, and with her husband, who works late and sees his wife as little more than a domestic servant.
4. Stage Dreams
“Monologue’s” cover and blurb give me serious The Aquatope on White Sand vibes, which considering it was one of my favorite shows of 2021, should tell you all you need to know about why this is so high up. I’m ready to cry and laugh but mostly cry but not because it’s sad in that sad literary way. It’s a cathartic cry. You can’t judge me.
Monologue: Woven for You, Vol. 2
Written and Illustrated by Syu Yasaka
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment
Two college students with a shared dream and opposite paths collide; will their ambitions bring them together or pull them apart? Haruka has abandoned her dreams of the theater, but finds herself still haunted by memories. Meanwhile, Nao chases her aspirations for the stage head-on, refusing to back down or let obstacles obscure her way. When the lives of these two women cross, despite their contrary feelings, they end up entangled… as romance sparks between them.
3. Spooky Deluxe Hardcovers
As sad as my wallet gets, I love the trend of major series getting nicer, larger and many times, hardcovery-er re-releases. It appeals to the collector and the archivist in me. For those who need selling on “Girl from the Other Side,” it’s a dark fantasy/fairy tale about a girl and her Teacher and the world that’s hunting them. It’s not dark because it’s horrific, though it can be, or edgy, as it’s often not, but because it’s contemplative, full of shadows, and heavy.
It’s also a short series so there won’t be too many editions. Just enough to make a forest out of your bookshelf.
The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by Nagabe
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment
This bestselling and critically acclaimed series is soon to be a feature-length anime, and now, readers can experience the entire fantastical tale in stunning collectors’ hardcovers! In a world split between the Inside and the Outside, those living in both realms are told never to cross over to the other side, lest they be cursed. A young girl named Shiva lives on the other side, in a vacant village with a demonic guardian known only as “Teacher.” Although the two are forbidden to touch, they seem to share a bond that transcends their disparate appearances. But when Shiva leaves Teacher’s care to seek out her grandmother, the secret behind her mysterious living arrangement comes to light.
2. The End and the Beginning
Like I said last time: it’s “Chainsaw Man.” One of the best series of the last few years’ final volume. It has to be here and that’s all I’m gonna say.
Chainsaw Man, Vol. 11
Written and Illustrated by Tatsuki Fujimoto
Published by Viz Media, LLC
Chainsaw Man has escaped Makima’s attempts to control him so far, but she now reveals the full extent of her plans. Denji will need the help of his remaining friends if he is to have any chance of topping Makima in their final confrontation!
1. Wholesome Content
Much as I love “Chainsaw Man,” the top spot couldn’t go to any other series but this one.
“A Man and his Cat” is one of those rare series’ where every page is a delight and will make you feel deep, big emotions. Originally I recommended it because it seemed sweet and heartwarming. Then I read it and yes, it is those things, but it is also so much more.
I haven’t laughed or cried or smiled this hard while reading a comic in forever. It’s a silly gag series, I hear you say. It can’t have that hard an impact. WRONG. The character work is impeccable. The humor? Puts all other comedy cats to shame. The drama? You will be sitting on the edge of your seat, a pit in your stomach, hoping that all will be OK.
Volume five may have been the strongest volume of them all, though lighter on the humor than the others. I only have the highest regards for “A Man and His Cat.” You go get ‘em Fukumaru!
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 6
Written and Illustrated by Umi Sakurai
Published by Square Enix Manga
Mr. Kanda knows loneliness all too well. But thanks to a little help from his friends, furry and otherwise, he’s come back out of his shell and into the world, where he touches the lives of those around him too. So when Mr. Kanda beholds his fellow music teacher and Fukumaru fanboy Mr. Moriyama standing frozen onstage after having been deserted by his bandmates mid-gig, Mr. Kanda must overcome his own trauma-induced stage fright to help his friend. Will the courage and determination Mr. Kanda has regained with Fukumaru’s help be enough to put on the ultimate performance and rescue Mr. Moriyama from a potentially disastrous turn of events?
Anything I missed? What are YOU looking forward to? How much do you love Fukumaru and/or Power? Let me know in the comments!