Often I find myself having spent hours scouring the internet and manga reading sites in search of the next great one. When finally I happen upon a new series that catches my interest and I then find myself falling in love with the characters/storyline, I feel as though I have somehow unearthed a great treasure. Like many enthusiasts of anime and manga, I imagine I am not the only person who loves to discover a new manga that one can become immersed in. While many are content with keeping up with the most popular and main stream manga, others, like myself, may be craving something new that they haven’t read yet, or others just want something that the mainstream hasn’t burnt them out on. Whatever the reason for the search I think all can sympathize with the joy of falling in love with a new series and the pride felt in recommending the gem to friends. My goal for this article is to introduce readers to a few manga that they may not have yet heard of, as well as letting readers know where they can be found and if they are completed. Let’s get started.
This issue I bring you a number of shorter manga series. The ones you may have seen on the shelves one month that then seemed gone the next. Some you may have simply speculated discontinued or lacking a reliable publisher after so few volumes graced the shelves. Undoubtedly I am not the only one to have suffered this irrational fear after the TokyoPop incident. I myself have experienced the same fear of being left high and dry without a conclusion to hope for. That’s why I bring you these short but pleasant series.
Think, more classic vampire meets cyborg tech., but with the comedic value of any dramatic young romance. Or perhaps I should say a romance a good century in the making. Alas, I fear my description doesn’t do this manga justice. To say the least Vassalord is one of my favorite manga. Again and again I come back and continue to be delighted by these characters’ whimsical and heart racing interaction. Here is probably the best place to inform the readers its shounen ai, recommended for readers ages 16 and up, but then again, who doesn’t love a little sexy blood play amongst their vampires. With the spice of Action, Drama, Sci-fi, and Horror, among other genres in the mix, I don’t believe its a stretch to say it has a little bit of everything. Added all together it makes for a diverse and compelling read. The plot is developed, if at times chaotic, the characters amazingly deep, and the villains both varied and to a degree enigmatic.
A few years old at this point the series was completed in March of 2013. At seven volumes in length and approximately 35 chapters, I’m sad to say not all sights have all the chapters up to date, and if they do, many still do not have it listed as complete. Some good news, there is a Vassalord OVA. Go check it out!
Bitter Virgin is not a manga I would recommend to those who are looking for something lighthearted. This is more one of those ‘smack you in the face with reality’ kind. Unsurprisingly genres include Slice of Life, Drama, Psychological, and Tragedy. Perhaps what makes the manga so catching is how it’s also a Romance. Despite its’ touching on quite a number of sensitive topics such as abortion and rape, it also speaks of moving on and striving for a better future. Considering the heaviness of the topics covered in the manga the story also manages to carry some lightheartedness, giving it an ending I would consider happy. Over all, the manga make its readers think, engaging both genders and combining a variety of perspectives.
Four volumes and 32 chapters complete this series. I recommend the manga for an older audience due to the semi graphic nature of some scenes.
Offbeat is a special series in the sense that it is an OEL manga (Originally English Language) manga. The art is also unique to its author Jen Lee Quick, differing from the manga artistic norm. This mixed with the very real setting of Queens New York gives it a different feel from most manga, which some may find disorienting. Otherwise the story follows along the simple lines of an awkward boy with issues meets another awkward boy with mysterious issues, and together they find a kindred spirit. So yes, this is another Shounen ai, though an admittedly very tame one. Being so short and clean makes it difficult to pin point just what make the series so good, but I can certainly say that the characters are unique but believably This is sadly also one of the series that had been dropped by TokyoPop. At only three volumes long and having the first two already published when TokyoPop crashed, this left quite a big gap in time before most readers could get their hands on the conclusion. Now here is the upside. Finally the series is readable through Sparklermonthly.com.
Mizuki Hakase’s Demon Flowers/Kuruizaki no Hana is one of those manga I happened to pick up and immediately knew it was a treasure that check marked all my boxes. Each character has a back story worthy of tears, but together the main characters form a family whose love and connections is tangible. They grip you with the sincerity of their emotions and make you invested in their future. The overall effect leaving me unable to let go of their story even as the concluding fifth volume becomes convoluted and seems to jump genres. As a Horror genre with a flavor of Sci-fi and BL (boy love) there is plenty of blood and suggestive material, but no happy romantic ending, not to say the ending can’t be called happy. Hopeless romantics will seek to remedy this through fanfiction which I have yet to find a slot for. This is of course another of those that was dropped by TokyoPop. Whast worse, is the series has fallen so far under the radar most sites don’t even carry it, and those that have record of it have all been blocked by licensing issues. So at this time there is nowhere one can read the series but perhaps a chapter here and there on Youtube. There is hope however. As a series that I love, it is my hope to bring about its resurrection through fan based demand. An investment that I guarantee is well worth the effort.
At only two volumes in length, lovers of the anime may find themselves at a loss. By this point I’m not sure there are many who have not heard of the series. Wolfs rain in its manga form I feel however is underrepresented. The original two volume story progresses along a similar line as the anime’s, but ends long before the plot gets too twisted and difficult to follow. All the same characters you fall in love with, but with a comparably happier ending for the wolves. If you find you don’t like the anime adaptations ending then you may enjoy the manga’s.
March Story is much more resent to the shelves. A beautiful story of the mature variety, with plenty of violence, bloody gore, and nudity to keep any lover of the female form and horror satisfied. Not to denigh the story behind all the gore is fabulous. In five short volumes my heart was violently taken through the ringer. Rare it is to find a story that can bring you to tears in five volumes or less. Then again every chapter runs high with emotion, so every new story, new character adds to the depth and growth of the main cast. By the end of only the first volume the readers heart is invested, and when the end comes it is met with a mixture of both abject joy and utter sorrow. This is most definitly one of those manga that stick with and strengthen you for years to come. Categorized as Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Gender Bender, Mature, and Seinen readers should be pleased to find that though not explicitly labeled as such there is also an element of romance infused into the story. Girls will likely be just as in love with the manga as any male. It is in print and available for purchase through Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.
Absolute boyfriend, a romantic comedy packed with school life drama and a twist of Sci-fi. As a Shoujo geared for teen girls it explores the complexities of love through the filter of a custom order robotic boyfriend. Of course romantic rivalries and electronic malfunctions pop up creating ample teenage drama and humor aplenty. Six volumes and 33 chapters make the series complete.
Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives is a short three volumed little number that hits a variety of genres. I’d recommend it esspecially however for those looking for a delightful gothic romance, truly ideal for the vampire loving little goth girl in all of us. It is a refreshing and light story of romance and family drama suitable for all teens. There are some chapters on YouTube.
After School Nightmare
After School Nightmare is another manga with mixed genre, but perhaps the most notable of them being Gender Bender and Psychological. The main character had me asking many of my friends if I should consider it heterosexual or homosexual in nature. Then I realized that was kind of the point. It’s a great manga for introducing the concept of gender binary spectrum and gender identity in conflict with body. That most of the conflicts occur within a dreamscape makes the manga all the more interesting as the reader desperately tries to make sense of each individual character whose problems are entirely different from the main characters. Plot twists near the end make it all the more confusing. At ten volumes that makes this the longest series I’ll be introducing to you today.
Blue Dragon: Ral Grad/Grado
Blue Dragon: Ral Grad/Grado much like March Story is packed with action, character development, and plot, despite its brevity. At only four volumes in length Ral Grad is even shorter than March Story but no less eventful and gripping. Also being rated mature with Action, Adventure, and Ecchi in its genre box, there is no shortage of boob groping hilarity. The main enemy is an evil Shadow Queen ruling over a collection of shadow based monsters from a different plane. We continue to pick up new characters as the story goes and the ball never stops rolling. So, you end up reaching the ending before you know it and it comes as a bit of a surprise. I would call the ending a little sad but not unfulfilling. If asked if there was anything to be learned from the story I’d say yes. Some scenes really open up a different perspective for things and invite consideration on one’s other everyday opinions or preconceived notions.
Millennium Snow is another four volume series. It’s also an older manga. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, and perhaps you’ve pondered what the title could mean. Because it’s so short you get thrown into the thick of things pretty quickly. Right away you find out the lead character has a weak heart and every year she sees the first snow is a miracle. Enter love interest, a vampire boy who refuses to drink blood and take a partner with him into the next millennia, for fear of their falling into despair at having to watch those around them die. The story progresses with the passage of the main characters’ everyday life as their lives and relationship progress. They of course end up together, but the steps in between speak a lot of lessons in life. Add in an energetic werewolf friend, a bookworm character, and a cousin with a sister complex and you get a pretty entertaining read.
Chrono Crusade the genres it falls under includes Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Shounen, Supernatural, and Tragedy. Basically though Chrono Crusade is a story that follows a crazy nun and her adorable demon partner, but wait, the demons are technically aliens. Yeah, sounds weird, just go with it. Set roughly in the 1920’s with flashbacks to a time with Marry Magdalen and an epilogue that takes us into modern times, we get a nice perspective and appreciation for the passage of the characters lives. Not to mention the amazing character depth.
The main conflict is the duos journey to find their little brother/friend, who was stolen away from them years ago by another demon that wants to kill and take over the demon mother ship. The good news is, if you weren’t happy with the anime’s conclusion you may like the manga’s better. Much like what happened with Fruits Basket the anime caught up with the manga and then ran off and continued on its own, making up its own conclusion. I’m not sure the ending is much happier, but somehow for me it does feel more satisfying. With eight volumes it isn’t the longest series but is may be one of the most creatively detailed.