As a school librarian, I’m no stranger to perennial requests from my students for specific books spanning a wide range of topics. Sometimes, it’s as easy as furnishing the latest “Dog Man” from everyone’s favorite, Dav Pilkey. Other times, it’s a bit more complex, such as a request for a nonfiction book on the cute (but slightly poisonous) slow loris. But over the past two years, there has been a noticeable uptick in requests from my students for … more manga!
Learning about manga became my No. 1 priority. I went on deep internet rabbit-hole searches to learn about manga from librarians around the world. Turns out, other librarians have been inundated with manga requests as well, so I had plenty of friends to lean on as I learned.
According to New York Public Library children’s librarian Amanda Pagan, “Manga is an umbrella term for a wide variety of comic books and graphic novels originally produced and published in Japan.” Japanese manga is usually published in black and white, and is read from right to left. Many manga series are published over a long period of time and have a prolific publishing rate of new volumes. Once you get started reading these series, it’s easy to dedicate an entire bookcase to your manga collection.
I learned that there are five orientations of manga targeted to specific audiences (though the actual readership of each type naturally extends beyond the target segmentation):
- Kodomomuke manga titles are literally “intended for children,” ages 10 and younger; themes include friendship and fun, with a splash of exploration into lessons of “right versus wrong.”
- Shōnen manga series target an audience of adolescent boys, ages 10–18; themes include coming-of-age topics, action and adventure themes.
- Shōjo manga titles target a primary audience of adolescent and young adult females; themes include coming-of-age topics, drama and romance.
- Seinen and josei manga are editorial categories of content directed at adult men and women (ages 18 and older); themes include the nuances of adult relationships, romance, sex, action and violence.
It’s important to note that manga is not a one-size-fits-all literary genre. For parents, it’s important to realize that there can be quite graphic and weighty content in manga, especially in the seinen and josei varieties. Please remember to do a bit of research on content if you have any concerns.
For me, the best thing about manga is that there is something for every reader. Whether you like the classics (such as “Manga Classics: Anne of Green Gables”) or you’re itching to learn more about encryption and decryption (“The Manga Guide to Cryptography”), there’s a manga genre to interest everyone. As a parent, teacher and librarian, I see manga as a bridge for reluctant readers, as it is a format that invites reading engagement in kids who just haven’t found their perfect-fit book yet. If you have a kiddo in your family who hates reading but loves Pokémon, manga might just be your in.
Here are a few titles to get you started on your family’s manga journey:
Manga for early readers
“Pokémon Journeys” by Machito Gomi (four volumes). Ash teams up with new friend Goh on a “gotta catch ’em all” adventure.
“The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home” by Konami Kanata (four volumes). When a completely adorable kitten is separated from her mother, she is rescued by a young boy named Yohei. The only problem? Cats aren’t allowed in his family’s apartment!
“Splatoon” by Sankichi Hinodeya (16 volumes and counting). Inkopolis is suffering through The Terf Wars, and the team that inks the most ground wins. Team Blue and Goggles may be expected to lose, but at least they have teamwork and creativity on their side!
“The Fox & Little Tanuki” by Tagawa Mi (five volumes, with more on the way). Senzou the black fox was born with great magical powers, but abused and lost them. To pay back the gods and earn his abilities once more, he must babysit a mischievous tanuki cub. Hilarity ensues.
“Yotsuba&!” by Kiyohiko Azuma (15 volumes). Curious and quirky Yotsuba moves with her adoptive father to a new city. This sweet and simple story follows the adventures of Yotsuba and her friends, who live by the series motto “Today is always the most enjoyable day.”
Manga titles for middle-grade readers
“Sailor Moon Eternal Edition” by Naoko Takeuchi (12 volumes). Usagi struggles through school, never being quite good enough at sports, academics, or even friendship. When she meets a talking cat, her journey from crybaby to superhero begins.
“Haikyu!!” by Haruichi Furudate (45 volumes). Shoyo Hinata has always wanted to be the best volleyball player ever, even though he isn’t very tall. When his rival, Tobio, becomes his teammate, he’ll have to figure out just how much revenge he’s willing to serve!
“Dr. STONE” by Riichiro Inagaki (26 volumes). One fateful day, all of humanity is turned to stone. A few millennia later, high school student Taiju awakens to find himself lost among a world populated by statues. Luckily, his science-obsessed friend Senku is awake, too, and together they use the power of science to save civilization.
“Waiting for Spring” by Anashin (14 volumes). Shy Mizuki is about to enter high school and wants to make friends. The four star players on the boys’ basketball team visit the café where Mizuki works, and soon she’s balancing friendship, jealous classmates … and maybe even… love?
“Silver Spoon” by Hiromu Arakawa (14 volumes). Academically gifted and ready to explore the world beyond his family life in the city, Yuugo Hachiken enrolls in an agricultural high school, thinking it will be easy. Unprepared for the hard labor of farm life, Yuugo begins to discover another side of himself — and a deeper connection to the land.
Manga reads for high schoolers
“Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition” by Hiromu Arakawa (18 volumes). When an alchemical ritual goes awry, brothers Edward and Alphonse lose their limbs — and almost their lives. Follow the brothers on their journey to restore what they lost using the power of the Philosopher’s Stone.
“Takane & Hana” by Yuki Shiwasu (18 volumes). In this sweet romantic comedy series, high school student Hana Nonomura agrees to take her older sister’s place in an arranged marriage meeting with business fortune heir Takane Saibara. Opposites attract and sparks fly!
“My Status as an Assassin Obviously Exceeds the Hero’s” by Matsuri Akai (4 volumes, with more on the way).
When Akira’s class is somehow summoned to a different world, he and his classmates are given powers that suit their personal gifts and talents. Disappointed in his role at first, Akira learns to use his powers to uncover secrets and reveal the true intentions of the Demon King.
“orange: The Complete Collection” by Ichigo Takano (4 volumes). Naho begins 11th grade and receives a letter from herself, written 10 years in the future. When predictions in the letter start to come true, Naho realizes that a new transfer student named Kakeru will become part of her life in a way she never thought possible. Part sci-fi, part romance, totally lovely!
“My Hero Academia” by Kohei Horikoshi (37 volumes). In a world where almost everyone is born with a superpower, Izuku Midoriya does not possess one. A chance meeting with the greatest hero of all time, All Might, changes Izuku’s future. There might just be a chance for Izuku to become a hero himself after all.