As temperatures drop outside, there’s nothing better than curling up with a good manga or two. Or five. Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love marathoning an entire manga series when cold weather keeps us indoors? But while many of us might not like experiencing chilly landscapes firsthand, who says reading about them is off-limits? In fact, reading winter-themed manga is often a soothing and contemplative activity—exactly the kind of cozy feels we seek during the colder seasons.
We can’t talk about Japan and winter without mentioning a premier figure of supernatural folklore: the yuki-onna. Literally meaning “snow woman,” the yuki-onna haunts snowy mountains and waits for unwary travelers to stumble across her path. Sometimes, she’s benevolent. Other times, she’s deadly. No matter which form she takes, she’s always beautiful and ice cold. The Shirahime featured in this single-volume manga isn’t a traditional yuki-onna, but she evokes the same aesthetic. Along those same lines, the three stories CLAMP penned here might leave you feeling melancholy like an old-time folk story.
Now let’s shift gears for something less somber. After all, who says a wintry landscape must serve as the backdrop for human folly? What if, instead, it serves as the stage for a story of mismatched love? We’ve all heard of the classic romance trope about how opposites attract. What if we see that play out in the animal kingdom? If you’re in the mood for something cute and quirky, this manga about a polar bear who falls in love with a seal—who mistakes that interest for actual flesh-eating hunger—might do the trick.
Before Weathering with You, before Your Name, Makoto Shinkai directed an animated film called 5 Centimeters Per Second. A few years later, he adapted that film to manga. The story centers Takaki Tono and his relationship, or lack thereof, with Akari Shinohara. While not as winter-centric as other selections on this list, snowstorms play a key role in the story.
We love stories about friendships between girls, and I especially love stories about friendships between outdoor-loving girls. There’s Nadeshiko, who legit tried to bike to Mount Fuji in terrible weather. And then there’s Rin, who loves camping. If the idea of camping outdoors during the colder seasons sounds appealing, this is the winter-themed manga for you. Even if it doesn’t, Laid-Back Camp is a cozy, relaxing manga that allows us to live vicariously.
Like 5 Centimeters Per Second, Mushishi isn’t a winter-centric manga. It’s an episodic slice of life manga about a wandering man who deals with phenomenon caused by a specific supernatural lifeform. Regardless, many of the stories take place during colder weather. Despite the premise, which sounds like an action-packed adventure, this manga is perfect for curling up under a heavy blanket and drinking a cup of tea. It has that kind of mood.
Manga is filled with winter landscapes and stories set during the colder seasons. Read enough series and you will eventually see your favorite characters trapped in a snowstorm and having to brave the elements. Even if your preferred genre of choice is contemporary slice-of-life, you will probably recognize the annual shrine visit where Japanese people literally ring in the new year and hope for good fortune.
But in winter-themed manga, the chilly temperatures play a bigger role. It also doesn’t hurt that manga depictions of winter can be very beautiful. And if it turns out you’re missing summer and want to forget that winter exists, maybe you’ll find something more suited to your tastes on this list of best manga.