2016 GGNT: Manga Spotlight
Trying to decide what books to add to a collection can be tough for librarians, especially if they are short on space and/or money. Fortunately, groups such as YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, put together lists of recommendations that libraries—and really, anybody—can use. One such list is Great Graphic Novels for Teens, a list of the best graphic novels for readers 12-18; the criteria are that the books are good, quality literature and are appealing to teens.
For 2016, 170 titles received official nominations, of which 112 were chosen. Out of those 112, 15 of them were manga, comprising a total of 32 volumes. This is almost twice the number of titles and volumes that made it on the GGNT list last year. YALSA also released a top ten—a best-of-the-best—and one manga series, A Silent Voice, made that list as well. Covering several genres, among them sci-fi, horror, comedy, romance and drama, the list also included more titles directed at older teens.
Ajin: Demi-Human, vols. 1-2: Ajin: Demi-Human follows Kei Nagai, who died in an accident and miraculously came back to life as an Ajin, an immortal, demi-human. He goes on the run, trying to avoid both the government, which wants to capture and experiment on him, and a group of Ajin revolutionaries who want him to join their cause of exposing the government’s activities. All Kei wants is to be left alone as he tries to figure out what it really means to be Ajin, or if he was ever really human. This sci-fi/horror series has a riveting story, making it hard to put down. The first two volumes made the list and are rated for Older Teens. (Vertical Comics)
Akame ga Kill, vol. 1: Akame ga Kill takes place in a dark fantasy world where a corrupt upper class controls the young Emperor for their own personal gain while the rest of the country suffers in poverty and strife. Tatsumi, a young man who goes to the Capital to help his village, experiences some of this corruption first hand. He decides to join the assassin group Night Raid, which is part of the revolutionary forces and is led by a former general in the Imperial Army. Using supernatural weapons known as Imperial Arms, powerful items created by alchemy, they fight to overthrow the government. This series has some good potential, with exciting action and a character-driven story. It is rated for Older Teens. (Yen Press)
Assassination Classroom, vols. 1-3 and 5: In Assassination Classroom, a powerful being has destroyed 70% of the moon and threatened to do the same to the Earth. But he’s not unsporting: He makes a deal with Earth’s governments and becomes a teacher at Kunugigaoka Junior High for class 3-E, where all the poorly performing students are sent for one year. The students of Class 3-E are given the task of trying to kill the being who they name Koro Sensei, with a big reward as incentive. But Koro Sensei turns out to be a good teacher who actually cares about the students, making their task all that much harder. This series has a large cast but balances the humor and drama perfectly. (Viz Media)
Batman: The Jiro Kawata Batmanga, vol. 1: Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga is a Japanese take on the Dark Knight that was first published in the 1960s. It tells the adventures of Batman and Robin as they take on all manner of villains such as Dr. Faceless, the Human Ball, and Lord Death Man. Unlike the 1960’s Batman, this series focuses on Batman’s role as a detective and concentrates on his scientific knowledge (as well as those of his foes) to solve the crimes and stop the villains. While the science can be a little wonky (it was the 60s), Kuwata’s portrayal of Batman’s detective skills are a great alternative to the dark and gritty character portrayed in comics today. The first volume collects the first 19 chapters. (DC Comics)
Devil is a Part Timer, vols. 1-3: The Devil is a Part Timer is a comedy that is adapted from a light novel series of the same name. It follows Sadao Maou, former demon king and current part-time employee at a local fast food establishment. After being defeated in his own land, he escapes to another dimension, Earth. Following him is the hero Emilia, who defeated him and intends to finish him off. The only problem is, neither of them have any of their magic powers, so they are stuck here until they can figure out how to recharge their powers in this non-magical world. But Maou’s time on earth seems to be changing him, possibly for the good. Can a demon change his horns? The characters are charming and the story is funny. (Yen Press)
Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, vol. 1: Haven’t You Heard, I’m Sakamoto is a comedy series. The best way to describe high school student Sakamoto is that he is like Mary Poppins: Practically perfect in every way. He is good looking, smart, and able to keep his cool in any situation. This makes him the target of some of the other students, either to bully or to woo, but Sakamoto handles every situation with aplomb, often turning the tide on his opponents and making them into proponents. He helps his fellow students even when they don’t realize he’s doing it or even that they need it. It makes you wonder if he’s really human. The stories are funny and uplifting. (Seven Seas Entertainment)
Master Keaton, vols. 1-3: Master Keaton is about Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, a half Japanese-half English archaeologist who teaches part time, while also working as an insurance investigator. His unique background of archaeology and survival training in Britain’s special forces, the SAS, give him the knowledge and skills to not only discover the truth of his investigation, but also get him out of the sticky situations he often finds himself in. The series takes place in the 1980s, when the cold war was in full swing, and several of the stories use the political atmosphere as a backdrop. It’s drawn by Naoki Urasawa, creator of Monster, 20th Century Boys and Pluto. This one is rated for Older Teens. (Viz Media)
My Neighbor Seki, vols. 1-3: My Neighbor Seki is a gag series that follows the antics of high school boy Seki as seen through the eyes of his classroom neighbor Rumi Yokoi. Every day Seki goofs off in class, creating elaborate displays, playing games, and even bringing cats to play with and pet. Rumi tries to scold Seki for goofing off but always gets wrapped up in his scenarios and is inevitably the one who always gets in trouble for not paying attention. Seki’s antics are the heart of the series, but Rumi’s reactions make it truly funny. (Vertical Comics)
One-Punch Man, vols. 1-2: One-Punch Man is a superhero unlike any you’ve ever seen. Saitama is a man who trained so hard and became so powerful that he can defeat any villain with a single punch. But being so powerful can be boring, as villains are defeated before they can get their backstory out, and there’s not much money in it when you’re not well known. When self-appointed disciple Genos, a cyborg joins him, Saitama learns of and joins the Superhero Association where he meets other heroes and bigger foes, but still can’t seem to gain the respect his abilities deserve. This series is a genuinely funny take on the superhero genre, and Saitama is hilarious. (Viz Media)
Satoshi Kon’s Opus: Satoshi Kon’s Opus is a single omnibus volume with a strong Inception vibe. It is about Chikara Nagai, a manga artist who, while plotting the end of his series, is pulled into the story by one of his characters who isn’t too thrilled with their planned demise. Chikara and his protagonist, Sakoto, go on a wild trip through the pages of the series, trying to find the last page, and end up having to stop the antagonist, the Nameless Faith, from escaping the pages and taking over the real world. The action can be difficult at times to follow, but it’s worth it for the ideas the story presents. (Dark Horse Comics)
A Silent Voice, vols. 1-3: A Silent Voice is a powerful series about choices and second chances. Shoya Ishida, a boy who bullied transfer student Shoko Nishimiya, a shy, deaf girl, in elementary school gets the tables turned on him, which affects him for the rest of his school life. Regretting his life up to now, he contemplates suicide and finds Nishimiya one last time to apologize. Instead, he ends up reconnecting with Nishimiya and trying to bring other classmates from back then to give Nishimiya a second chance at the friendships she could have had, and ends up making some for himself along the way. It’s gained a lot of critical acclaim for good reason. (Kodansha Comics)
So Cute It Hurts, vol. 1: So Cute It Hurts is about fraternal twins Mitsuru and Megumu Kobayashi. Megumu goes to a co-ed school and loves history. Mitsuru, her brother, is a delinquent and goes to an all boys school. The twins trade places for a day, and they both meet a classmate with whom they fall in love at first sight. But as they try to get to know their first loves, other classmates, who might be friends or foes, may also become their rivals. The red string of fate ties a Gordian knot for Megumu and Mitsuru to unravel before they can claim their true loves. The love polygons created in this series are well woven and the characters are fun to read. (Viz Media)
Tokyo Ghoul, vol 1-2: Tokyo Ghoul is decidedly horror and follows Ken Kaneki, who barely survives a date with a girl who turns out to be a ghoul—a creature that lives in secret among humans but who must also eat human flesh to survive. Ken wakes up in the hospital to find that some of the girl’s organs were used to save him, making him a half-ghoul. He must now learn to live in ghoul society while keeping his new identity a secret from his old life as a human. This series has been immensely popular since its digital debut, with every new volume hitting the New York Times manga best-seller list. It’s very much an Older Teen series. (Viz Media)
Your Lie In April, vol. 1: Your Lie In April introduces piano prodigy Kosei Arima, who loses the ability to hear himself playing after his overbearing mother dies. Resigned to never playing again, he finds his life is turned upside down when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist who is Kosei’s opposite in every way: She is brash and a free spirit, determined to do things her way—even in competition. Despite his reservations, Kosei is drawn to Kaori, who may be the one who can break down the wall Kosei has built around him with her insane request that he be her accompanist at her next competition. This series builds some good drama around its complex characters, making it a compelling read. (Kodansha Comics)
Yukarism, vols. 1-4: Yukarism follows Yukari, a 17-year-old novelist who writes incredibly detailed stories about the Edo period. His secret is that he can remember his past life from that time. Enter Mahoro Tachibana, a fan he seems to feel a connection to. After their fated meeting, Yukari starts to wake up in the past where he is now a she, the famous courtesan Yumuraski. The past starts to intrude on the present as Yukari tries to work out the mystery of his past life’s death, which may have been murder. The blend of mystery, romance and sci-fi makes this series an irresistable read. (Viz Media)
Filed under: Manga
About Lori Henderson
Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!
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