Since I started my reading journey as a child, manga has always held a special part in my heart. Some of the most emotional and thought provoking books I’ve read have been manga. If you’re a manga lover, you probably understand what I mean, when you read a manga that pierces your soul, makes you take on a new outlook on life, leaves you frustrated when things go wrong, and has you thinking of the characters for years after reading about them. Sounds dramatic right?
From fantasy manga to sports manga to slice-of-life manga, below are nine manga that will take you through a rollercoaster of emotions, some with unexpected twists and great characters, others with predictable endings that still hurt you anyways.
With gorgeous art and great stories about friendship, family, love, betrayal, reality and trying to survive as humans in a world that isn’t always fair, these manga leave an impact on you long after you finish reading them.
If you’re new to manga, this list contains great manga, from several genres, that can serve as starting points for your manga journey as well. A warning, though: Be prepared to experience a lot of emotions with these manga. Enjoy!
Kimetsu No Yaiba by Koyoharu Gotouge
Demon slayer follows Tanjiro, a boy who comes home to meet his family members slaughtered and his sister turned into a demon. Thus begins his journey to become a demon slayer and find a cure for his sister. This manga has touched a lot of hearts with its great plot, profound character back stories and great fight scenes as well as its empathetic protagonist, who despite all he’s been through, still shows sympathy to very demons who he is tasked to slay.
You’ll find yourself cheering the demon slayers on, heartbroken over characters that die, and with a bitter sweet feeling when the manga finally ends. But at least we have the anime to keep us company for now.
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Fumiyo Kouno
This manga follows a family of survivors of the Hiroshima bombing and shows the effects it had on their lives and the lives of those around them. Told in two parts, the first one set ten years after the bombing, which follows a young girl trying to overcome her grief and pain as she lives alone with her mother, the other part taking place decades after and follows her niece. This manga is one that will stay with you for a long time as it explores themes of grief, growth, the loss of innocence and how a war has far reaching consequences even decades later.
To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Oima
Prepare to have your heart ripped out by this manga. It starts with an Orb, a being who is able to copy the shape of any matter. It starts out as a stone and gradually starts to take the form of living things. We follow as he takes the form of a young boy, travels across the land and starts to develop a personality as he meets a different people and experiences various events.
This manga touches on themes of grief, friendship, and survival told through the eyes of a being that you grow with as the manga progresses. Yoshitoki Oima is also the author of A Silent Voice, another emotional manga that I recommend you check out if you haven’t read it.
Akame Ga Kill by Takahiro & Tetsuya Tashiro
A group of assassins come together to protect their nation from a threat within. But this isn’t your normal emotional ‘hero saves the day’ manga as the conflict is bloody and no holds are barred. From bloody and tragic fights to bloodthirsty villains and tragic back stories, tempered with a bit of comedy, this manga takes you for quite a ride.
Haikyuu! by Haruichi Furudate
If anyone had told me I’d be so engrossed in a manga about volleyball, I’d think they were joking as I had no interest in volleyball before reading this manga. Haikyuu follows Hinata Shoyou, who loves playing volleyball. His lack of height and experience playing it isn’t going to stop him. And his journey begins when he joins the volleyball team of Karasuno high school.
This manga really makes you feel the heat of the matches, the dedication the players put into improving themselves, their sorrow when they lose and their joy when they win, along with some slap stick comedy. This manga about volleyball, friendship and improving oneself is one I recommend to manga lovers. It also has a pretty great anime adaptation.
The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu
Emma is a young orphan who lives a peaceful life in the Grace Field orphanage and eagerly awaits the day she’s adopted. But things take a dark turn, when she and the other orphans realize that they’re in a human breeding farm in the demon world and when they come of age they will be adopted and fed to demons. Emma and the orphans set out to escape from the orphanage and find their way to the human world, but their journey is filled with danger at every turn.
Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
We definitely can’t forget this classic manga. Naruto is an outcast in his village, due to being the host of the nine tailed fox. He dreams of becoming the village Hokage, as he works to become a ninja and get acknowledged by his team mates and the village as a whole. What starts out as a normal shounen with the ‘idiotic but perseverant’ type protagonist ends up taking us on an action filled and emotional journey as Naruto matures, takes on missions outside his village and tries to save his best friend. It also has a sequel manga called Naruto Shippuden, as well as a manga continuation focused on his son, Boruto.
Your Lie In April by Naoshi Arakawa
Kosei is a piano prodigy who loses his ability to hear the tunes he plays on the piano and isolates himself from the world after his mother’s death. But his life is forever changed when he meets Kaori, a girl who loves music, playing the violin and living life to the fullest. Her bright outlook on life and music helps Kosei start to have a brighter view of life. With beautiful art and a touching story, this manga is one that will make you bawl your eyes out as you follow the characters, as they try to overcome their trauma and fears, play music with abandon and and live life to the fullest.
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromi Arakawa
One of the first manga I ever read, this shonen manga follows Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse Elric as they try to get their bodies back to normal. After their attempt to resurrect their mother led to the loss of Edward’s hand and leg and Alphonse’s whole body, Edward signs up as a state alchemist in the hopes of finding a philosophers stone that will fix their bodies. This leads them to uncovering a deadly secret about their nation and the philosophers stone. Let’s just say I haven’t fully recovered from some of the tragic scenes in this manga.
My Girl by Sumomo Yumeka
Twenty-three-year-old Masamune lives a pretty mundane life and he still can’t get over his ex-girlfriend. Then he receives a call from his ex-girlfriend’s mother, stating that she’s passed away and left behind a young girl who is his daughter. And so begins Masamune’s life as a single father. My Girl is a manga about family, loss, the unpredictability of life and the struggles of a single father.
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
This list wouldn’t be complete without this manga. Humanity is being hunted by Titans, gigantic humanoid beings who prey on humans. Eren, Mikasa and Armin witness this first hand when their village is attacked by Titans. They end up joining the survey corps to help defend humanity from the titans. There’s no dull moment with this manga, from the plot twists and secrets revealed to the titan fights, you find yourself on the edge of your seat as the survey corp members fight the titans and other humans for the betterment of humanity. Let’s just say this is a manga you can hardly predict.
If you’re looking for more great manga to read, check out these book lists.