Descriptions, Overviews, and Summaries
Disclaimer: Most of the summaries/outlines were done from memory,
so details of translation may not be correct. I may have some of the
last/first names reversed. There may also be various inaccuracies
here and there.
Particularly profound, enlightening, or otherwise worthwhile works
(all in my opinion :) are in boldface.
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Takahashi Rumiko (Big Comics Special). Two compilations of relatively
recent Takahashi Rumiko short stories (1994, 1999). Some truly
wonderful, funny, heartwarming shorts! Snapshots into the human
experience. Meant for emotional adults (as opposed to an adult
audience). The sheer quality of the stories make this a personal
- Akuma No Houteishiki (Devils'
Equation): Nakamura Rie (Bonita Comics Special) Comedy-romance
girls' comics about a couple of devils and the people they keep
- Ao no Fuuin: Shinohara Chie (Flower
Comics). A young woman discovers she's a nasty bloodthirsty creature
whose destiny is to take over the world. But not if she can help it.
To complicate matters, she falls in love with the arch-enemy of her
- Berusaiyuu No Bara (The Rose of
Versailles): Ikeda Riyoko (Margaret Comics). A classic 1970's
girls' comic about a woman-raised-as-a-man in Pre-Revolutionary
France. Semi-historical. The manga raises gender issues and has
probably affected the views of generations of Japanese women.
Beautiful artwork in the second half of the series. My overview of this
series (with some selected manga screenshots) at EX. More info
(D. Simmons' site). The impact of this manga makes it a don't-miss
- Black Jack: Tezuka Osamu
(Champion). Bradburyesque short-stories about a seemingly
cold-hearted genius Japanese surgeon. Some of the best stories by
Japan's "Father of manga" (who had a real medical background); many
should be considered short-story literary classics. Many moving
stories, even if the medicine is a bit impossible. The full-length
movie is a sad departure from the manga excellence. The series
is a personal must-read for its superb human stories.
- Chojin Locke (Superman Locke):
Hijiri Yuki (Hit Comics). Science Fiction epic adventure that follows
the psionic boy Locke as he travels through the centuries. Political
intrigue and upheaval and spectacular psionic combat.
- Cyborg 009 (reissued version):
Ishi(no)mori Shotaro (Shogakukan Bunko). An old (1960's) manga
classic about 9 cyborgs battling the evil BlackGhost organization.
See what must have been one of the inspirations for the animated
version of Giant Robo. My 009 Overview,
with some manga screenshots, at EX.
- Doubutsu No Oishasan ("The
Animal Doctor"): Sasaki Noriko (in Hana To Yume Comics). The humorous
adventures of a Hokkaido veterinary student, his friends, and his dog,
learning how to care for all kinds of animals. Full of dry humor.
Hamuteru's deadpanning and Chobi's (the husky) ugly-cuteness do
wonders. Hardly any "weird stuff" (unless you can count an eccentric
professor who dresses up in African dress as weird): just lots of
humor, funny animals, and real veterinary information. A must-read
for anyone who appreciates light-hearted human/animal stories.
- Captain Harlock: Matsumoto Reiji
(Shonen Sunday). Science-fiction. Captain Harlock is about a space
pirate who fights for freedom (set in the same world as Galaxy Express
999). A classic manga/anime!
- Doraemon: Fujiko Fujio
(Tentomushi (Ladybug) Comics). Worth knowing just to glimpse
childhood life in Japan. One of Japan's most recognized cultural
icons, Doraemon is about a round, cat-model robot from the
future sent back to help a 4th-grade boy. He has a 4D pocket of
wonders. Short-story format comedy; children's manga. My Doraemon Overview
(with manga screenshots) at EX. Both a reflection of and
a shaper of Japanese childhood.
- Fushigi Yuugi. Watase Yuu (Flower
Comics). Miaka gets sucked into a fantasy world in a well-done
visitor-falls-into-other-world romance/fantasy/action/humor manga.
Highly popular girls' manga.
- Galaxy Express 999 (Ginga
Tetsudou 999): Matsumoto Reiji (Hit Comics) (newer series: Big
Gold). Space fantasy, short-story format, about a boy traveling
through the galaxy and learning about the meaning of life and
mortality. (Set in the same world as Captain Harlock). Old series
much better than the new. My 999 Overview at
EX. Some thought-provoking stories
mixed in with beautiful science-fiction backdrops.
- Ghost Sweeper Mikami Gokuraku
Daisakusen!!: Shiina Takashi (Sunday). This is a refreshingly
humorous look at the art of ghost and demon banishment, featuring the
tall, beautiful, money-grubbing Mikami and her over-amorous helper
Tetsudou no Yoru (Night of the Galaxy Railroad) reivew at EX:
Miyazawa Kenji: NOT manga, but a classic Japanese children's book from
the early 20th century; is sure to have influenced many generations.
- Gunnm ("Gun Dream" (?)) ("Battle
Angel Alita" in the US): Yukito Kishiro (Business Jump).
Science-fiction. Story of a battle-trained female cyborg and her
search for herself and her role in a dark and dangerous world. Has
exquisite artwork, though it can get rather gory.
- Inuyasha: Takahashi Rumiko
(Shonen Sunday). The latest Takahashi series, this one is an
adventure manga about a girl and a half-dog-demon boy (Inuyasha) who
are seeking to collect the fragments of the dangerous Shikon No Tama
in both Civil War Japan and modern-day Japan. Romance, action,
adventure, comedy. What more could one ask for??
- My Jungle
Taitei ("Kimba the White Lion") review at EX. (His name's Leo, btw.) Some say
"The Lion King" borrowed heavily from this series.
- Maison Ikkoku: Takahashi Rumiko
(Big Spirits Comics Wide Edition (Re-issue)). A
more-serious-than-average Rumiko romance (never fear; there's still
classic Takahashi humor here). 1980-1987. More info on Maison
Ikkoku (great stuff at Berkeley!). A lot of people seem to get
addicted to this humorous soap opera.
- Me Gumi No Daigo: Soda
Masahito (Shonen Sunday). A young man tries to adjust to his new job
as a firefighter. He has an uncanny knack for saving
lives.... Intense psychological drama and great character insights.
No violence (except for what's needed to put out fires), no "weird
stuff" (except for our hero's unusual boldness in the name of saving
lives), just a good story. The characterization is why I especially
recommend this manga.
- Mitsu Me Ga Toru (Three Eyes Is Coming
Through): Tezuka Osamu (KC Special (reissue?)). Stories following
the 3-eyed descendant of an ancient race of brilliant conquerers. At
times, he's a cold, brilliant would-be dictator; at others, he's a
mentally slow boy.
- P No Higeki ("The Tragedy of
P") and Senmu No Inu ("The Managing Director's Dog")
Ranma 1/2: Takahashi Rumiko
(Shonen Sunday). The popular action-comedy series about a boy who
turns into a girl when doused with cold water. Lots of light-hearted
and often silly combat and adventure, with heavy doses of romance.
Senmu No Inu: See "P No Higeki."
1000(sen)-nen Jyo-ou (Queen
Millennial): Matsumoto Reiji (straight Shogakukan).
Science-fiction. Well-known to Matsumoto fans. A young man gets
embroiled in a bizarre attempt to save humanity from a stellar
disaster -- with or without the aid of the beautiful and mysterious
Millennial Queen. Ties into the Captain Harlock/Queen Emeraldas
universe through certain parental ties.
Shadow Lady: Masakazu Katsura (Jump).
By the author of the infamous Video Girl Ai, this series is
about a shy girl who transforms into a scantily-clad mischief-making
super-villain?hero? when she uses her magic eye shadow. Surprisingly
(given that description), there's real substance to the characters and
Yu Yu Hakusho: Togashi Yoshihiro (Jump).
A popular action series about a boy battling demons who threaten
humanity. He winds up teaming up with a group of friends to continue
Sweet Life (Amai Seikatsu): Yuzuki
Hikaru (Business Jump). Adult romance-comedy manga about a young
woman chasing a young underwear-designer genius who has little
interest in women.
(New) Vampire Princess Miyu, and Vampire
Princess Yui: (Hirano Toshihiro), Kakinouchi Narumi (Horror Comics
Special). Here's a pointer to more Miyu
info. An immortal vampire girl fights "demon-gods" who feed off
of human lives. This overview covers various Miyu series.
Other Memorable Manga
- Basara: Tamara Yumi (Flower Comics). Future fantasy about a girl
pretending to be her dead brother, who must bring peace and unity to
the war-torn future-Japan in which high technology has been forgotten.
Before she knows it, she has become a warlord out to topple the man
she has come to love. A lot of bizarre coincidences detract a bit
from the romance, adventure, and intrigue.
- Cat's Eye: Hojo Tsukasa (Jump). Classic. Three gorgeous, daring, and
superb female art thieves (all siblings) outsmart the police in their
daring heists. To make matters worse, one of the cops is their good
friend. And behind their daredevil art heists is a desperate attempt
to find their missing father. Author of "City Hunter."
- City Hunter: Hojo Tsukasa (Jump). The adventures of the perpetual
skirt-chasing underworld private investigator/mercenary Ryo and his
beautiful, hammer-wielding assistant Kaori. (The hammer is purely
used for knocking Ryo into the ground whenever he tries to get "fresh"
with someone). Plenty of action and some nice artwork. Author of
- Dandoh!!: Sakata Nobuhiro and Banjou Daichi (Shonen Sunday). A
young boy struggles to become a master golfer, in part in order
to meet his mother again. Along the way, his pure spirit manages
to overcome hardship and in fact redeem the spirits of many golfers
who had become jaded or insincere about their sport.
- Dokaben: Mizushima Shinji (Champion). Classic baseball
manga from the 1970's! It follows the high school careers of some
memorable young men with good hearts and high aspirations. The
eventual star (though not always the main character) is a heavy-set
young catcher (Yamada) with a heart of gold. Wow, some of the
characters are still going strong in a related series on professional
baseball. The author draws and writes with a lot of almost "rustic"
warmth. One of the most famous manga about Japan's favorite national
- JoJo No Kimyou Na Bouken ("Jo-Jo's Bizarre Adventure Party"): Hirohiko
Araki (Jump). Still running. The bizarre
action-adventure-weird-stuff adventures of the Joester family, from
England to Japan, across the centuries. In 1997, the story centered
around the son of one of the Joesters' old arch enemies, who is trying
to infiltrate a crime family in Italy. In 2000, the story centered
around a previous main character's sharp-witted daughter. Full of
encounters and battles with other psychic "stand-users." Most combats
require our heroes to outsmart the other in some clever way. Can
get gory in a weird, surreal way.
- Orpheus No Mado ("The Window of Orpheus"): Ikeda Riyoko (?). A
semi-historical romance-tragedy by the author of The Rose of
Versailles. I haven't read a lot of it, but it starts off with
another girl pretending to be a boy, and ties deeply into
revolutionary Russia. Tragic ending, of course.
- Natsuki Crisis: ? (Business Jump). Ended 1997 (I think). Action manga
about a female karate master and the hot water she often winds up
in. I liked this guy's drawing style.
- Noside: Ikeda ? (Business Jump). No longer running. A male rugby
player's spirit winds up in the body of a college-aged woman. S/he
fights to bring his/her rugby team to victory. To complicate matters,
the original woman's soul is still around --- in the body of a young
Yakuza man. And that guy's real soul is still hanging around, too.
And they want to concentrate on rugby??
- Rurouni Kenshin: Watsuki Nobuhiro (Shonen Jump). Also known as
"Samurai X" these days. A popular series about an ex-killer and
genius swordsman who now goes around with an "inverted" sword; he has
sworn to never kill again. However, keeping that promise looks pretty
hard in a late 19th-century Japan that is struggling with its
identity. Had some overly drawn out sword fights, but also some
interesting philosophy and some surprisingly deep moments.
- 3X3 Eyes (Sazan Eyes): Takada Yuzo (Young Magazine). A young man
(Yakumo) has been turned into a nearly-impossible-to-kill zombie
(luckily with personality intact), and guards his soul-keeper: a
young-looking girl with 3 eyes who has a split personality (one sweet
and innocent, the other wise and mysterious) and supernatural powers.
They and their (often non-human) friends explore ancient ruins (etc.)
and battle the minions of Shiva the Destroyer.
- Seito Shokkun!: Shouji Youko (Kodansya Comics). This
early 1980's shoujo series follows a remarkable girl called Nakki from
her school days, through college, and on into young adulthood as a
teacher. She's very smart and athletic, and winds up having many
school adventures with her good friends. The manga goes through the
standard jealousies and romances of girls' manga, but it also goes
through the death of one of the main characters, the rape of another
(and the nasty public ostracism she had to endure), many difficult
life decisions and personal mistakes, and the continuing maturation
and growth of the close-knit group. In many ways, a remarkable
series: a fictitious reflection of young adulthood that sometimes
dared to go into some of the nastier aspects of adult society.
- Uchuusenkan Yamato ("Starblazers"): Matsumoto Reiji (Shonen Sunday).
Space Battleship Yamato is about a desperate group of people sent out
from a war-ravaged Earth aboard the re-engineered WWII Japanese
battleship Yamato; they seek the device from a distant planet that
will return Earth to life. Another classic from the 1970's.
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