Current Manga Rankings – 2011 – Part 2
15. Rosario + Vampire II
What a long, awkward trip it’s been. I remember back when I started this manga and it was just another boring harem series with various random monsters to fight. Since then it’s grown up into a surprisingly well done series about the relationships the previous series began, and it manages to provide a good amount of depth to what were previously uninteresting characters. It even manages to make the action more interesting, since it’s no longer just Inner Moka stomping on everyone. I’ve actually started looking forward to the newest chapters, which I would never have expected at first.
For whatever reason, I didn’t start up this series as soon as the anime ended. I probably should have, since I enjoyed watching Angel Beats, but I wasn’t all that interested in how things began for the SSS Brigade. It wasn’t until recently that I began reading, and it didn’t take all that long to get caught up. If I had to name my favourite and least favourite aspects of this manga, they would both be how the characters are different from the show. The characters were much more battle hardened when Otonashi first arrived, but now we’re seeing them when they were still confused kids who happened to wake up in the afterlife. While that’s good to see, some of the characterization can feel very off. Shiina and Noda seem to have switched personalities right now, and there’s a scene of Yurippe smelling Tenshi’s clothing that’s very hard to ignore. It’s still been an entertaining run so far, and like everyone else, I’m looking forward to seeing where TK came from.
13. Billy Bat
Naoki Urasawa has made some wonderful series in the past, and now the time had come for the youngest child, Billy Bat, to see if it can live up to it’s older brothers Monster and 20th Century Boys. So far it’s been around 70 chapters, and the story has created a dense net of conspiracies and planning that has been interesting to read so far. However, there’s a bizarre feeling I’ve been getting from the series that makes it feel like we’re still not in the thickest part of it yet. I remember how the beginning of 20th Century Boys was somewhat more subdued than the rest of it, although it was still entertaining. That’s where Billy Bat seems to be now, and even as I’m enjoying the recent chapters, there’s a rather depressing thought I’ve had that it may never rise to the incredible levels of the previous Urasawa works. It still manages to draw you in, though, and I’m looking forward to how in the nine hells a cartoon bat started preaching the future in the first place.
12. Soul Eater
This series holds that coveted position of being the first manga I got caught up on after I discovered scanlation sites. I’m not sure why I picked it, but it was a good choice. The characters here are much easier to relate to then in a lot of shonen, and I’m genuinely interested in where the story is going. I’ve heard other people say the plot has lost some of its steam over time, but I would have to disagree. It may go for much longer storylines than it used to, but the quality and tone are still everything they used to be. At least as far as I’ve seen. It looks like it will still be a while before this series comes to a conclusion, but I can see the story is still moving forward, and I’m eager to see it through to the end.
11. Princess Jellyfish
I’d like to think most anime fans have heard of this series, but regrettably it still seems to be a little too obscure for some. Let me just say that more than any other manga on this list, Princess Jellyfish is the series where I genuinely don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like it. Now I know there should exist people who this series won’t appeal to, but I’m having a hard time figuring out who those people are. It’s different enough that there aren’t many other things to compare it to and enjoyable enough to highly recommend.
Like Persona 4, the most negative thing I can say is that there’s a much better version out there. The anime had all the charm the manga has, but with improved production values and designs. It made the series come to life so much more. Of course the manga has the advantage of continuing the story, and the new material has been just as good as the chapters the anime covered. Once things start to get resolved, it may start to get closer in terms of actual quality, but for now it just barely misses the top ten.
I’m beginning to think I may have been a little harsh with Kenichi when I reviewed it. I still stand by my final recommendations, but I don’t think I portrayed it as the experience it really is. It’s difficult to understand if you aren’t reading it, or if you don’t read shonen action in general, but the greatest strength of this series is how it can continue to tell a unique story even after 450 chapters have gone by. The makeup of the different storylines can vary quite a bit from location, cast makeup and motivations, which means a trek through the mountains while mercenaries try to go after your classmates is only likely to happen once. I would still prefer it if the characters were around more often, but if it allows for this kind of diversity, then I guess there was some good in it after all.
This is probably the last series most people would have expected in the top ten. It’s not the best comedic series out there or even the best comedy on this list. The reason it placed where it did is because of the way it manages to portray itself as an identifiable series despite the outlandish events that occur. It has one of my favourite ensemble casts in any manga I read, and it’s one of the few series that can make even one-shot characters entertaining. My personal favourites are Nagisa and Chizuru, but I enjoy most everyone. Even Sanae, who I like to complain about receiving too much screen time, still manages to be entertaining now and then. There aren’t many other manga that are this easy to get into and stay involved with, which is why I placed it as high as I did.
I don’t know what it was that led to me starting up Toriko. I don’t usually read the kinds of shonen with this muscular artstyle, like Fist of the North Star. Whatever it was, I ended up seeing the true impact those fists had behind them. I’m told that one of the strongest points behind this series is how intense the fight scenes can get, but I really think there’s a lot more to it than that. There really aren’t enough intense moments in this manga for it to be popular solely because of them. What I always enjoyed was the scale of the world and the places the series is set in. It isn’t enough for the series to show, say, a waterfall with a kilometer diameter. No, it makes you truly feel just how intense these places are. Between the immersive world, the great fighting and the over-the-top characters, this series is really a sight to behold.
I think it says a lot when I say how easy it is to appreciate a series like Claymore. You would think that a more mature series like this would be much more difficult to read and follow, but I never had any trouble with it. In many ways it’s a lot simpler than your average seinen series, with the action being the most important part of the series 90% of the time. I do admit that I find it hard to feel for the characters, because while they do manage to look different, they have a hard time feeling different. It’s hard to notice, though, when you’re watching warriors and awakened beings dicing each other into pieces in more and more creative ways.
There are some manga out there which, for whatever reason, just manage to be immensely likable in how they’re presented. I’m sure everyone knows about Azumanga Daioh and the particular style it presented. I was a big fan, and so I was happy when Yotsuba&! managed to achieve that same style, albeit with a very different lineup of characters. It’s rare to find a cast where I don’t dislike anyone in the cast, since even Yanda manages to be funny most of the time. There’s something about Kiyohiko Azuma that lets him write perfectly believable characters that can still put a smile on your face in every chapter. Right now, my only regret is that the chapters haven’t been released here as often as they probably should, but I won’t hold that as a fault of the series itself.
I can’t be the only one who initially passed on this series based on the premise. A boy has to go around making girls fall in love with him? How could that be any good? Well give me a few weeks and I’ll have the long answer to that question.
The short answer is that while the series knows how silly the premise is and usually plays that up whenever possible, it also knows how to effectively use drama. This combination simply should not work, but the series manages it. I never feel like the dramatic moments are overdone, but that they just come naturally with the situation at hand. It’s easy to feel for the characters even when you know they won’t be around much after their story arc is over. I still wish they would stick around longer, but the fact that they can make me care this much says a lot. I have no idea how this series will end up, but I hope it stays entertaining all the way through.
4. Liar Game
If I had actually compiled a list of my 12 favourite moments of the year, the return of Liar Game would have been right at the top. You have no idea how excited I was to see it finally come back after more than a year passed since I got caught up. It’s only been around two months since then, and I can tell that the series is still as strong as ever. The writing still feels as tight and unpredictable as ever, which is an impressive feeling to present when the first game hasn’t ended yet. We’re only in the early part of the game and it still feels great, so who knows what’s going to happen once Akiyama starts to really get involved. If everything the manga has been setting up is true, I think we’re in for some really good action pretty soon, and that’s the sort of thing that makes me happy to be a Liar Game fan.
3. Mahou Sensei Negima
For every reviewer or blogger out there, there exists at least one story of that special series that got them into the medium of their choice. I have two manga that are almost entirely responsible for me getting into manga as a whole, and the first of those is Mahou Sensei Negima.
I was debating with myself over whether this series should be in the #3 or #5 spot. After all, while I do enjoy it, can I really say it’s on the same level as Liar Game or The World God Only Knows? Then I started thinking of what this series truly meant as I was reading it. It had some of the better characters and moments in any series, and it’s kind of impressive how many likable characters it was able to fit in. I enjoyed the kind of story it was telling because it definitely felt smarter than the average shonen, but in a way that’s easy to understand, which is the pitfall Blue Exorcist fell into. Mostly, I think what drew me into it was the same as Nichijou from the top anime list: it’s a very fun and enjoyable experience. And that’s something I wouldn’t trade for any other kind of series.
2. One Piece
You knew this was coming. One Piece was the second series that got me into manga, and I’m glad I read it when I did because I don’t think I could handle 600 chapters nowadays. Aside from the length, I know a lot of people who look down on this series because they think it isn’t deep enough for them. Ironic, considering it’s probably one of the deepest manga I’ve read so far. There’s so much going on all the time that it can be hard to tell everything that happens in individual chapters. In lots of other manga you can sometimes feel like the story is moving forward, but here you can tell from the storylines and the plot points that everything has been planned out to a fault. It also helps greatly that the world and the characters are interesting enough that you want to learn more about them, and the series doesn’t disappoint when it finally gets around to explaining. It’s some of the best action you can find in a shonen, and I could even argue that it’s the best quality out of all the series on this list.
Of course on a list of personal rankings, there are things that go above even the best quality.
Considering all the shonen and seinen that came before this, it may be surprising that I would choose a shojo like Kimi ni Todoke as my favourite manga. I know for a fact that this series isn’t for everyone, since it rivals My Little Pony as the girliest thing ever enjoyed by men.
Something you should know about me is that it takes a lot for me to get emotionally attached to a series. I can enjoy it quite a bit, and sometimes there are characters or scenes that affect me, but to become actually moved by the series as a whole is something that happens very rarely. In this regard, Kimi ni Todoke stands alone. The central couple isn’t even the best I’ve seen (that would be Lawrence and Holo), but they manage to be charming and heartwarming and likable enough that I want them to be happy together more than words can express. The great thing about the series is that it keeps finding new ways to get you invested. The secondary romances in this series could have easily been the focus of another manga entirely, and they’re unique enough to not feel repetitive. I know that not everyone will like this (in fact I think my review said that specifically), but this is my list, and I couldn’t think of anything else to give the top spot to than this.
That was my personal list of the best manga I’m currently reading. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to begin not making posts this long. I really should have thought these lists through a little better, but I think they turned out well in the end. I do have a few other things planned to come out, but they won’t be this long.
Posted on January 19, 2012, in Angel Beats: Heavens Door, Billy Bat, Claymore, Historys Strongest Disciple Kenichi, Invasion! Squid Girl, Kimi ni Todoke, Liar Game, Mahou Sensei Negima, One Piece, Princess Jellyfish, Rosario + Vampire, Soul Eater, The World God Only Knows, Top Lists, Toriko, Yotsuba&!. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.