Sweetpea: Manga can be hard to get into, simply because there’s so much of it. Just narrowing it down to find a series you might enjoy is a hassle. While Justin and I aren’t manga masters, we do have a few series that we think are accessable to the casual reader and are great jumping-off points for getting into it.
We’ve divided this section up into demographics, because those are the broadest divisions to make. There are innumerable genres within them, but we’re also looking at length, since longer series can be daunting for newer readers. For the youngest readers, I’m going to go with Happy, Happy Clover.
Sweetpea: Why? Simply put, this is one of the sweetest, most adorable things I’ve read. There’s a complete story with no loose threads, the characters are as individual as you can get in this sort of story, and there’s a lot that goes on. Now, it really is for the youngest of readers–there’s very little action and probably wouldn’t be very appealing to kids that like a little more action and adventure in their stories, but it’s a great one to start out with for kids in about first grade, maybe even older kindergarteners.
Justin: I’ve actually heard of that…and I say that because I’m not exactly the best in the business in looking up children’s manga! Some have mentioned Yotsuba as an option…except not only does it seem to be the easy choice to make, but the series has its moments where it could be hard recommending it to a child.
Justin: But yeah, again, I can easily admit child manga is not my forte. Everything else just about is. And if anyone decides they want to start out with a shounen title, then I’d tell them to read Nobuhiro Watsuki’s other series, Buso Renkin. The best part about it is it has an interesting story that involves someone who wants to help people however he can in Kazuki Muto, has some solid action scenes, and it’s not as overly long as most shounen titles, with it being only 10 volumes. Generally, you can’t go wrong with that! Of course, there are other titles, but this is one of the safer ones. Probably.
Sweetpea: Buso Renkin is one I’ve heard about, but haven’t really managed to get my hands on it…yet. I admit to not really being a fan of shounen, though, so this might be a good thing! But I do admit that there is a shounen title I’d recommend unequivocally to everyone: Hikaru no Go.
This is definitely one that managed to capture my attention from the get-go. While it’s a longer series, and that can make it a little more intimidating for the first-time reader, the main characters are wonderfully fleshed-out, and you really see Hikaru struggle to learn how to play, making the matches intense and exciting since a lot of them really could go either way. It fills my need for serious character relationships and ‘action’.
Justin: *shakes head* You ended up going with Hikaru No Go. (I wanted to go with it, but everyone knows about that!).
Fine, go take your easy way out In all seriousness, Hikaru no Go is an excellent choice. I remember learning about it, conveniently while going to Japan Day in NY a few years ago. They had a bunch of Go sets and had the manga on the side. Naturally I was curious. As it says in the author description, “The rest is modern Go History.” While 23 volumes is fairly long, from the characters to Takeshi Obata’s wonderful art (especially as the series goes on), it’s definitely worth a look.
Justin: But all right, enough of this stuff for the boys. It’s time to move on to…shoujo? Haha…this is the part where I admit reading shoujo is somewhat a challenge for me, as I mostly avoided it for years until finally trying to commit to the genre for good. I’m still wet behind the ears, but one shoujo that I found a good read is Seiho Boys High School. I could have gone with the only shoujo I’ve finished in Fushigi Yugi, but I’m going with the one which has a very misleading cover art and a manga that I got two volumes for free. See, it was at a panel for MangaNEXT 2010, and I had to embarrass myself a bit (name a title for a reason I don’t remember), and based on what was available for me to take (translation: not a lot to take), Vol 1 & 2 of Izumi’s series was available. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. Look at that cover art! But after reading it, I chuckled a bit, and some of the stories involving the boys was hilarious. Obviously this is what happens when you have an all-boys high school in the middle of nowhere.
Sweetpea: A title I’ve been meaning to check out, but maybe later, since I’ve been in a shoujo slump. I have said it many times before, and will say it again: I intensely dislike most shoujo. The clichès, the drama, the love triangles, the clichès that deal with the drama and the love triangles (and don’t even get me started on the reverse harems!)–it all just bores me to tears, and since I’ve been trying to expand my shoujo repertoire lately, I’ve been miserable!
NG Life is the exception to the rule. While it has some slapstick comedy that’s been done before (still manages to make it hilarious, though), it makes use of a fairly unique premise and deals with the effects of that premise in a really realistic way. Dealing with trauma, mistaken identities, and destined love (or is it?), this title stands out in a sea of sameness. It surprised me as much as Fruits Basket did, misleadingly happy at first but dealing with dark issues while managing to keep a bit of joy. While it was published by Tokyopop and hasn’t been relicensed (yet – make it happen, people!), and it’s now rare and expensive to get, at 9 volumes long it’s very worth the read.
Justin: Worth the read huh…well, someone needs to tell Viz (Shojo Beat) to get that re-licensing thing started!
Justin: All right. I’d say it’s time to move on to the last of the two demographics…and this is for the older people! Starting with seinen, there are a lot of titles I’d recommend–No Longer Human, 20th Century Boys, Kingyo Used Books–except, I need to recommend a manga for beginners. What title would I recommend to a beginner in that age group?
It may not only be just basketball–wheelchair basketball–but this is Inoue taking a realistic tone to a new readership. He’s creating drama out of three characters whose attitudes were rude and arrogant when they were healthy, but when they each get hurt, and in the case of one character his injury decimated his pro future, they have to learn (begrudgingly) to change. Inoue details their growing maturity that makes them overcome their stubbornness, and does it at such an entertaining pace that reading it is a joy.
Sweetpea: I read the first volume of that, and I have to admit, I was highly impressed! Definitely a great choice.
My own pick is Solanin. It’s an easy one to get into, at only 2 volumes (technically it was published as one large volume), and is a very simple slice-of-life about two young 20-somethings that are trying to figure out what they want to do with themselves. Several events push themselves into following their dreams, but a tragedy tears them apart and brings up questions that everyone deals with at some point in their life: what does it mean to love someone? How do you know you love someone? And how do you deal with the loss of someone that you love? It’s something that will connect with people who are at or have been at the stage of life where they’re looking for something…more.
Justin: Josei’s almost foreign territory for me, as I haven’t read a whole bunch of them. However, if there’s one Josei that I have read in the past few years that really is something I should pick up more volumes for is With The Light by Keiko Tobe. I had heard about this manga from some site I don’t remember talking about it and how it was pretty good, so I decided to try it out. The first thing that happened was that I read a chapter or two at Borders, pretty much engrossed in the story about a mother trying to raise her autistic child, Hikaru (I soon brought it some months later). From her struggles in actually taking care of him to the backlash and ignorance others–not only parents but people in the medical field–displayed in regards to his condition, Tobe really did a great job managing to talk about Autism without it slowing down the story. This Josei manga is a fun read.
Sweetpea: I read the first volume of that series, and completely agree with how brilliant it is. It does tend to paint the world in black-and-white when it comes to people, but it’s really a beautiful story. However, I’ll have to leave it at that. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read any josei manga besides that. It’s a little more difficult to get ahold of unless it has an anime adaptation, and I don’t feel like taking the easy way out with that.
Suggest Some Titles!
We set out to give a solid overview of manga that is easy for new readers to get into. But this is manga we think people who don’t read too much manga or want to get into manga might want to check out. But we can bet there are some titles beginners can check out that we haven’t listed. So are there titles you feel we overlooked? Can you share any manga that you feel a beginner can get into? Feel free to share!