Manga Recommendations: September 2018
Have you ever visited the manga section of your nearest bookstore and felt overwhelmed? I have. Quite often, actually. There are so many choices, most of which might not be instantly familiar unless you’ve already steeped yourself in the manga-reading community.
For those who feel just like me in those moments, I’ve got a few suggestions to at least help you get started. Every month, I’ll recommend one long series for people who are looking for an established story that can keep your attention for volumes on end, as well as a few other series that I’ve only just started that managed to grab my attention right from volume one.
Long Read of the Month
Seraph of the End
With volume 14 finally getting its US release on September 4, it's only fair to feature the hugely-popular Jump SQ series for this month’s recs. Seraph of the End is an intriguing and unique take on the vampires vs. humans story. The world is thrown into disarray after a virus decimates a majority of the population, leaving the humans who survived to fend off vampires and other beings that suddenly appear.
It's a story that's dark and mature, with an ever-growing cast of complex characters that are always developing. If you're looking for something happy and bright, Seraph of the End isn't for you. But if you're ready for a dystopian fantasy that will have you flipping through the volumes like they're your lifeblood, then check it out.
Seraph of the End is ongoing, with 15 of the 16 published volumes available translated in both print and digital via VIZ. The translated version of volume 16 is slated to be released in early March 2019.
The Case Study of Vanitas
The Case Study of Vanitas is similar to Seraph of the End, in that also deals mainly with humans and vampires. Set in a steampunk-style Paris, the series centers around a mysterious and powerful grimoire called the Book of Vanitas, which was created by a vampire born on the night of the blue moon. Most vampires are told that the book will bring about the end of their kind, but in the hands of the creator’s apprentice (a human who has taken on the Vanitas name), the book can help cure cursed vampires.
The first volume is an interesting metaphor for reality, using the main character to clearly set up the sort of expectations-versus-reality duality that the series’ whole premise is based on. The characters are all still fairly fresh and undeveloped, however its clear almost immediately that Vanitas is not all that he seems.
The first volume is big, almost 50 pages larger than the other first volumes on this list, and the story sometimes struggles with pacing. However, the concept is interesting enough to carry it through the more exposition-heavy moments. If the stakes get raised moving forward and the pace picks up a little, this series has the potential to be something really interesting.
The Case Study of Vanitas is ongoing, with all four of the published volumes available translated in both print and digital via Yen Press.
Dawn of the Arcana
The first volume of Dawn of the Arcana definitely meets all your expectations when it comes to shoujo manga. There’s an independent-minded female lead that has goals and ideals, a close male character that acts as her protector, and a second “outsider” male character with a bad attitude that we all know will eventually become someone lovable.
However, despite these common tropes, Dawn of the Arcana manages to set itself up with an interesting premise. The world building in the first few chapters is just enough to plant questions that will keep readers coming back to learn more, while still delivering exactly what’s expected from a shoujo series.
Dawn of the Arcana has some beautifully intricate art and, despite being over 10 years old, features a style that ages really well. Nakaba seems competent and it’s afraid to bet her life for the people or causes she cares for, which makes her a decent lead. Whether or not she’ll be a truly memorable main character, or if she’ll become someone who constantly is being saved by her battling male love interests isn’t obvious in the first volume. It’ll take some further reading to find out.
The series is complete at 13 volumes, all of which are available translated in both print and digital via VIZ.
That Blue Sky Feeling
That Blue Sky Feeling is a simple school romance turned on its head. Centering around Sanada, a boy who has let himself become socially isolated after gossip about him spreads, and Noshiro, a popular new transfer student who is confused and intrigued by Sanada’s self-enforced isolation, the first volume is filled with relatable teenage feelings.
Unlike most school romance stories, though, That Blue Sky Feeling also deals a lot with figuring out your own identity. Noshiro is forced to consider his own feelings on certain topics, along with his developing crush on his classmate, all while still acclimating to his new surroundings and the pre-established relationships around him.
The story is one that will leave you feeling giggly and craving more, both critical feelings for any teen romance. The only part that comes off a unsettling is Sanada’s past relationship with someone who’s much older than him (think mid- to late-20s). It’s not like it’s something that doesn’t happen in real life, but the Sanada’s-still-underage aspect of it still makes the situation feel a little yucky.
That Blue Sky Feeling is ongoing, with the first of the two published volumes available translated in both print and digital via VIZ. The translated version of the second volume is slated to be released in March 2019.