10 Best Manga of 2010

2010 was another great year for manga.  The following are my favorite ten of the year, the best of which will also be ranked on my forthcoming overall best comics of the year.

1. Ayako (Osamu Tezuka) - He's the god of manga for a reason.  Ayako was crafted in the early 70's and contains plenty of World War II commentary as Osamu Tezuka beautifully unfolds this story of a family unraveling.  This story has action, murder, intrigue, love, mystery - everything you could ask for in an epic family drama.  Often brutal and dark, this unpredictable story is just another example of clear, compelling storytelling from an immense talent.

2. not simple (Natsume Ono) - Natsume Ono has constructed an amazing story here full of turmoil.  Very intense stuff.  She uses simple cartoony lines to illustrate her book, one that looks more alternative than most manga out there, and almost reads more like a graphic novel than what you'd expect picking something out of the manga section in the bookstore.  It almost looks deceptively juvenille at first glance, but the story is very mature, with deep issues touched on with finesse.  This is fantastic material: surprising, touching and refreshing.

3. Sand Chronicles (Hinako Ashihara) - This shojo series constantly impresses me.  It's very emotional, full of wonderful characters with deep emotional scars with revelations that keep coming as far as nine volumes into the series.  Not only is the main character Ann fascinating, but the secondary characters all have their hang-ups that can be just as interesting.  A truly amazing book.

4. Twin Spica (Kou Yaginuma) -  Twin Spica is about a girl who wants to be enrolled in the Tokyo Space School, where she would be trained to go on missions to the stars.  There are plenty of obstacles in her way, but with the help of friends she meets along the way, she may just realize her dream.  There's an old-fashioned feel to this book, from its soft cartoony art to the gentle tone of the story and the wide-eyed innocence of its protagonist Asumi.  As I was reading it, it just felt like I was reading a classic.

5. Ooku: The Inner Chambers (Fumi Yoshinaga) - This title from the creator of Antique Bakery just seems to keep getting better as it goes along.  Following an alternate history during Japan's Edo Period, where a disease has steeply declined the population of men, women take on important roles in society, including the all-powerful ruler, the shogun.  The inner chambers are full of men who serve at her leisure, with plenty of politics, and laws in place to ensure things remain proper.  A gripping historical drama.

6. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories (Moto Hagio) - Moto Hagio's artwork is stunning.  Her storytelling is fluid, her characters expressive, and her drawings in general are beautifully arranged and look effortless.  Each and every one of the ten stories in this "best of" collection of short stories featuring the talented Hagio are enchanting, full of warmth and wonderful characters, and brimming with emotion.  Fantagraphics does a fine job of presenting Hagio's work to American audiences, as they sample works from different decades to illustrate how her artwork progresses.  A very necessary project, done right.

7. Honey Hunt (Miki Aihara) - From the creator of Hot Gimmick is this shojo manga that follows celebrity-in-the-making Yura, who's trying to rise from the shadows of her two famous parents, and juggle a love life at the same time.  I'm constantly entertained by what Aihara has unfold in this book, which is full of complicated, messed-up characters.

8. Chi's Sweet Home (Konami Kanata) - These slim color volumes from Vertical are just delightful.  Chi is a little kitten who is adopted by a family who aren't supposed to have pets in their building, but can't resist Chi, who quickly becomes a member of the family.  The little kitten does plenty of cute things as he tries to figure things out, often to very humorous results.  Chi's Sweet Home is beautiful to look at and hard to resist.

9. Bakuman (Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata) - From the creators behind the super-popular Death Note is this drama about two kids who want to become professional manga creators.  It's a fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of the manga industry, and all set to that beautiful detailed art of Obata's.

10. House of Five Leaves (Natsume Ono) - Another Natsume Ono title.  This one follows a samurai who gets pulled into a criminal organization called "Five Leaves."  The story's full of great characters who kind of function as a family with one another despite their loathsome occupation.  Ono's art looks better than ever in this, her latest series.

Honorable Mentions
Arisa (Natsumi Ando)
Ax Anthology (Edited by Sean Michael Wilson)
Black Blizzard (Yoshihiro Tatsumi)
Saturn Apartments (Hisae Iwaoka)
Yotsuba&! (Kiyohiko Azuma)


Kenny Porter said…
"Not Simple" was one of the best books I read this year, graphic novel or otherwise, and I'm currently reading "House of Five Leaves" and I'm loving it just as much. I"ll have to check out some of the other titles you've listed.

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