Top 10 Manga of 2020

The manga that made our best-of-the-year list all have a little something extra: high school stories that go a bit deeper, a classic series published in a gorgeous hardcover edition, animal tales filled with heart and humor.

The manga that made our best-of-the-year list this year all have a little something extra: high school stories that go a bit deeper, a classic series published in a gorgeous hardcover edition, animal tales filled with heart and humor. Many of them are suitable for younger readers, as publishers have taken note of the demand for manga for preteens. Here’s a look at 10 of the best new manga series of 2020.




Akase, Yuriko. Sazan and Comet Girl. Seven Seas. ISBN 9781645052999.
Gr 5 Up –Mina, a girl filled with pure energy, flies through the universe on her space scooter, clad only in a bikini and pursued by bad guys who want to steal her power. When Sazan, a working stiff from Earth, misses the last spaceship home, Mina offers him a ride and kicks off an intergalactic adventure featuring blazing battles, daring escapes, and a bit of pathos. This full-color retro-style manga is complete in one 500-page volume.

Tagawa, Mi. The Fox & Little Tanuki: Vol. 1. Tokyopop. ISBN 9781427863188.
Gr 5 Up –In Japanese folklore, bakemono are shape-shifting animals with supernatural powers. In this manga, a fox, Senzou, has been imprisoned for 300 years because of his evil deeds; to get back into the good graces of the gods, he must raise a baby tanuki (a raccoon-like creature) and train him to be an assistant to the gods. Senzou can’t just walk off, as the gods have put a necklace on him that causes pain if he disobeys them or tries to hurt anyone. A charming, fable-like tale, drawn in a style reminiscent of classic Disney movies.

Ito , Mingo. Yuzu the Pet Vet: Vol. 1. Kodansha Comics. ISBN 9781632369413.
Gr 5 Up– Eleven-year-old Yuzu stays with her uncle and helps him with his veterinary practice while her single mother is in the hospital. She sees parallels between the experiences of the dying or seriously ill animals and the humans around her. Although there are sad moments, the stories are also rife with humor and optimism, and Yuzu openly talks about overcoming her fear of animals, her worries about her mother, and her problems making friends, often drawing lessons from the pets she cares for.


Middle School

Ikeda, Riyoko. Rose of Versailles: Vol. 1. Udon Entertainment. ISBN 9781927925935.
Gr 8 Up –Ikeda weaves history and fantasy in her lush retelling of the life of Marie Antoinette. The intrigues of the court are faithfully represented, but Ikeda also brings in a character of her own: the queen’s bodyguard, Oscar de Jarjayes, a woman who dresses as a man. This manga was phenomenally popular in Japan when it was first published in the 1970s. Today the style looks a bit dated, but Ikeda’s detailed renderings of costume and setting, along with plot twists and turns, offer plenty of appeal to modern readers.

Matsumoto, Hidekichi. With a Dog and a Cat, Every Day Is Fun: Vol. 1. Vertical Comics. ISBN 9781949980554.
Gr 7 Up –Matsumoto’s short, loosely drawn comics focus on the very different personalities of her two pets: Inu, her dog, is cheerful, tirelessly enthusiastic, and openly loving, whereas Neko, her cat, is aloof, glowering, and grudgingly affectionate. Matsumoto plays this contrast for maximum effect, showing both animals’ reactions to taking a bath, playing with a toy, and other moments of everyday life. Her energetic style is perfect for the subject matter, and her affection for her pets shines through on every page.


High School

Dr. Pepperco. Goodbye My Rose Garden: Vol. 1. Seven Seas. ISBN 9781645052913.
Gr 9 Up –Set in the year 1900, this gentle yuri romance stars Hanako, a bookworm who has traveled from Japan to England in hopes of meeting her favorite author, and Lady Alice, a noblewoman who takes Hanako in as her personal maid. Alice asks Hanako to kill her so she can escape the shame of being attracted to women, but that desperation fades as Hanako stands by Alice as a friend and advocate. Despite this dark moment, this manga is a delightful period soap opera, with upstairs/downstairs drama, caddish noblemen, and plot twists.

Endo, Tatsuya. Spy x Family: Vol. 1. Viz. ISBN 9781974715466.
Gr 10 Up –Twilight is a super spy, a chameleon who travels through life without attachments or family. His latest assignment, though, requires him to have a wife and child to get close to his target, whose child attends an elite private academy. With a bit of scheming, Twilight assembles a ready-made family, but his wife is actually a trained assassin, his daughter is a telepath—and none of them knows the others’ true identities. This spy spoof is filled with surprises, action, and over-the-top humor.

Makino, Aoi. Not Your Idol: Vol. 1. Viz. ISBN 9781974715169.
Gr 10 Up –Nina Kamiyama was living the dream as a member of the idol group Pure Club until a stranger slashed her arm at a meet-and-greet. Traumatized, she takes back her real name, cuts her hair, dresses like a boy, and goes to a high school where no one knows her. Well, almost no one. This is an intense, fast-moving shoujo romance with high emotions, untrustworthy characters, and action, but there’s more to it than melodrama: The story takes a serious look at sexual harassment and the objectification of men and women, a topic that comes up both implicitly and explicitly but always in a manner that works naturally with the characters and the plot.

Yamaguchi, Tsubasa. Blue Period: Vol. 1. Kodansha Comics. ISBN 9781646511129.
Gr 10 Up –High schooler Yatora walks the line between delinquent and model student; he gets drunk with his friends when they watch soccer, but he also studies hard and gets top grades. Still, he feels like he’s just checking the boxes until he discovers his true passion—painting. He’s starting from zero, but he’s also surrounded by fellow students and an outspoken teacher who offer practical advice. This smartly written manga features characters who are unusually self-aware and don’t stay in the usual boxes, and will inspire would-be artists.

Yoshino, Satsuki. Yoshi no Zuikara: Vol. 1: The Frog in the Well Does Not Know the Ocean. Yen. ISBN 9781975316242.
Gr 10 Up –A manga creator who lives on a small, rural island decides to write about his life. The first chapter is the story he is writing, and then the book pivots to follow the mangaka as he obsesses over how to write a slice-of-life story rather than fantasy, his previous genre. Yoshino is the creator of “Barakamon” (a manga about a calligrapher who takes refuge on a small, rural island).

Brigid Alverson, editor of the “Good Comics for Kids” blog, writes Stellar Panels, SLJ’s graphic novels column.

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