9 Manga Titles for Teens, from Single Volumes to Series Starters

These recent manga titles for teens feature something for everyone, from slice-of-life family stories to action-packed fantasy adventures.

Asakura, Akinari. Show-ha Shoten! Vol. 1. tr. from Japanese by Stephen Paul. illus. by Takeshi Obata. 192p. (Show-ha Shoten). Viz. Feb. 2023. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781974736829.
Gr 9 Up–Azemichi wants to become funny as a way to prove to his former crush, whose family has resettled somewhere unbeknownst to him, that he’s more than just an ordinary, nice guy. Higashikata is looking for a comedy partner in order to create laughter so loud, it reaches his former partner (who passed away) way up in the heavens. When these high school boys join forces, they’ll let nothing stand in their way as they pursue their comedy goals at full tilt. This manga title is edutainment excellence when it comes to comedy. Not only will readers learn about the Japanese comedy scene but they’ll also learn about the fundamentals of creating the art form from scratch. Fans of “Bakuman” and “Carole & Tuesday” will appreciate the protagonists here, as the dissimilarities in their talents mean they end up complementing each other quite well. Obata returns with his familiar art style, lending a light yet detailed quality on every page. Certain jokes, particularly ones by Azemichi, may go over readers’ heads due to their not being unconditionally translatable from their original Japanese into English. Regardless, this shonen story about two dark horses in the world of comedy is sure to delight teens. VERDICT One of the best manga series debuts of 2023 so far, and one teens will be able to rally behind as they pursue dreams of their own. –Joe Pascullo

Galadima, Issaka with Frederick L. Jones. Clock Striker, Vol. 1: “I’m Gonna Be a SMITH!”. illus. by Issaka Galadima. 224p. (Saturday AM TANKS/Clock Striker). Quarto/Rockport. Feb. 2023. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9780760381571.
Gr 7-10–In this manga-style graphic novel, Cast is a young Black girl determined to help her family by becoming a SMITH, a legendary group of engineering fighters. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with her plan; her town doesn’t offer many educational opportunities, the SMITHs were thought to have been destroyed in the last war, and having only one hand means Cast’s teacher doesn’t believe she can do the complex tasks required for the position. When a mysterious substitute teacher takes an interest in Cast, she is given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to prove her dedication as a SMITH’s apprentice. Cast’s situation quickly changes from a life of limited possibilities to an epic journey of nonstop skirmishes as she uses science and combat skills to protect the helpless. Following in the tradition of action-packed shonen manga, this title leads readers through a steampunk world of gloriously excessive fight scenes where the villains consistently underestimate Cast and her mentor’s abilities. The energetic black-and-white illustrations perfectly convey the over-the-top intensity of both the fight scenes and Cast’s spirited personality. VERDICT This action-packed graphic novel adventure featuring tenacious female leads will leave shonen manga fans counting down to future ­volumes.–Amanda Melilli

Hiranishi, Mieri. The Girl That Can’t Get a Girlfriend. illus. by Mieri Hiranishi. 208p. Viz. Feb. 2023. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781974736591.
Gr 9 Up–This heartfelt autobiographical manga follows Mieri as she tries to find a hot, short-haired girl to become her girlfriend. Mieri initially despairs that such a girl is more likely attracted to a feminine girl than to her less fashion-conscious self, but, after a few years of dating and college classes, she becomes romantically involved with the girl of her dreams. In this deeply personal manga, readers travel with Mieri through her self-discovery and acceptance of her attractions and sense of worth, but also dive deep into despair and heartbreak with her. Hiranishi employs many popular shjo elements when illustrating anything pertaining to her crushes, including styling her crushes themselves into the perfect shjo ideals. Her own self-portrait is basic and undetailed, which adds comedic effect but also speaks volumes to the mangaka’s idea of herself. Many young readers will see their struggles in Mieri and relate to her journey, regardless of the types of people to whom they find themselves attracted. This is a more high school–friendly version of the poignant memoir, “X-Gender.” VERDICT Recommended for most libraries serving teens, especially where demand for more wholesome yuri is high.–Sara Smith

Komori, Yoko. Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand. illus. by Yoko Komori. 408p. Viz. Feb. 2023. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781974734658.
Gr 6 Up–After her mother abandons the family, Tokiko and her father move in with Tokiko’s grandmother in a cozy hamlet next to the ocean. The townsfolk say there are mermaids in the sea, and they even have a yearly festival to honor the protection they get from the creatures. Tokiko believes the townsfolk, especially as she was saved by a merman when she was four, swimming off the coast of this very town. As she befriends some of the children in her class, she discovers that there might be a darker side to the town’s folktales—something the adults are hiding from the children. Interwoven in this sparse tale of mystery and intrigue is a poignant depiction of Tokiko and her father dealing with grief, loss, and abandonment. Neither fully knows how to express their feelings to the other, so they struggle together in silence. Employing clean drawings and relatively few word bubbles, Komori nevertheless conveys the tone of sadness and growing hopefulness as Tokiko and her father adjust to their new lives in an odd town. VERDICT Recommended for readers who appreciate pared down, powerful art and tear-jerking stories.–Sara Smith

Mamecyoro. The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices, Vol. 1. illus. by Kazusa Yoneda. 162p. (The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices). Yen Pr. Feb. 2023. pap. $13.00. ISBN 9781975348748.
Gr 7 Up–Maki Tazawa found herself in a situation that was stranger than fiction. In her previous life (which ended much too soon), she was a huge fan of BL (Boys Love) novels. Her favorite romantic pairing was between the crown prince Sirius and Lord Sil. Maki didn’t dwell too much on the fate of princess Octavia, who basically sacrificed her own happiness by agreeing to an arranged marriage so that she could produce an heir to the throne. But when Maki is reincarnated as the character of Octavia, she decides to flip the script. Maki would rather try to find a guy who’s willing to be her fake boyfriend, or even better, find her own true love. This book effectively weaves emotions and humor through the entire story. Readers will have their heartstrings pulled as they watch Maki struggle to forge her own path and change her destiny, but they’ll also laugh as they see all the differences between what she says and what she’s really thinking. The expressive and energetic artwork will pull readers along the highs and lows of this emotional roller coaster, as Maki keeps trying to find romance of her own in a Boys Love story. VERDICT For fans of Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here and other imaginative stories about supporting characters trying to find their place in the world, as well as fans of LGBTQIA+ ­stories.–Andrea Lipinski

Nanao, Nanaki. Helck, Vol. 1. illus. by Nanaki Nanao. 208p. (Helck). Viz. Jan. 2023. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781974736720.
Gr 7 Up–In a faraway land, a powerful demon lord has been slain by a hero—but that doesn’t mean the demons are ready to throw in the towel. They hold a tournament in their realm to crown the next demon lord, but it’s an indestructible yet merry human entrant named Helck who stands head and shoulders above any other competitor. This irks tournament organizer Vermilio to no end; she doesn’t want a member of the “enemy race” to be the next demon lord. Helck may be saying all the right things, but does he have an ulterior motive? Readers will love the characters. Helck (whose over-the-top character design is worth the read alone) is a master at playing both sides of the fence, making the story unpredictable. Readers will have fun dissecting clues as to which side he’s really on, making this first volume a total page-turner. Vermilio is nothing if not conspicuous, with humorous outbursts that steal every scene she’s in. The art style flows well with the story, which is for the most part a comedy. It’s a refreshing take on the fantasy-action genre, where a hero-esque human is openly auditioning for…the villain’s role? VERDICT Fitting for a young adult audience with its light, fun premise, this first volume sets the series up nicely, giving readers plenty to chew over as they await the next volume.–Joe Pascullo

Ojiro, Makoto. The Insomniacs After School, Vol. 1. illus. by Makoto Ojiro. 192p. (The Insomniacs After School). Viz. Mar. 2023. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781974736577.
Gr 9 Up–Nakami and Magari suffer from similar things: they’re cranky constantly, judged by their peers as standoffish, and insomniacs. While helping prepare for the school’s festival, Nakami discovers the door to the supposedly haunted old astronomy tower is unlocked. He goes in searching for cardboard but finds a relaxing hideout in which to take a nap. But, he also discovers Magari doing the same! The two confide in each other and decide to make a secret club devoted to celebrating the nighttime they can’t sleep through and stolen daytime naps in the astronomy tower. Despite this being about two teens with a pretty severe and untreated illness, it is overall sweet and satisfying to see them get a modicum of the peace they’ve been longing to have. This might turn into a romance later, but it’s refreshingly pretty platonic in this first volume. Ojiro uses plenty of soft lines and calming settings in this book’s illustrations, conveying the elusive peace our ­protagonists continuously seek. VERDICT This story is a comforting read and incorporates a disorder that is becoming all too common amongst teens. Recommended for all libraries serving teens.–Sara Smith

Senko. My Sister, the Cat, Vol. 1. tr. from Japanese by Liya Sultanova. illus. by senko. 176p. (My Sister, the Cat). ­Seven Seas. Jan. 2023. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9781638586531.
Gr 7 Up–Human teenager Nekota is adopted into a family of anthropomorphic cats in this sweet-natured slice-of-life comedy. Centering the bond between Nekota and his younger sister, kindergartener Neneko, this first volume comprises 10 chapters and interstitial extras that serve almost as self-contained short stories, charting everyday moments of kindness and support between siblings. Mischievous humor prevents the sweetness from becoming saccharine; when, for example, Nekota decides to run a marathon so that he can buy his sister a gift with the prize money, a training montage foreshadows that he might be out of his depth before the results of the race land like a punch line. Neneko does not speak, and her character design, with expressive eyes that perfectly convey the mix of roguishness and innocence that cats and younger siblings have in common, is a frequent source of laughs. Nekota’s perspective as a teen with a part-time job may resonate more with older readers, but so far, this first volume promises a series that tweens can enjoy as well. A final bonus story depicts the funeral of Nekota’s birth mother, when Nekota first asked family friend Tamayo if he could join their family, leaving readers with the sense that this sibling relationship has been life-affirming indeed. VERDICT A cute, quirky comedy for manga readers who enjoy cats and upbeat family stories.–Andrew Eliopulos

Umino, Chica. March Comes in Like a Lion, Vol. 1. tr. from Japanese by Jocelyne Allen. illus. by Chica Umino. 186p. (March Comes in Like a Lion). Denpa. Mar. 2023. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781634428125.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Rei Kiriyama is a prodigious shogi (also known as Japanese chess) player who turned pro in junior high. With a rank that now requires him to play 30 to 40 tournament matches per year, and living alone in a mostly empty apartment, Rei has little free time for anything besides training; he thinks of going pro as “jumping onto a train that never stops…not until you lose.” In this first volume of the series, which was adapted into an acclaimed anime, Rei gradually peels back the layers of his past, from the loss of his parents and sister in a fatal automobile accident to his meeting Akari, a hostess at a bar who found Rei passed out one night and began inviting him over to share meals with her grandfather and younger sisters. Readers meet some of Rei’s competitors as well, including Harunobu Nikaido, his rival and self-proclaimed best friend (Nikaido has an unnamed illness that affects his kidneys, and other characters comment on his diet and body shape; he is described in a chapter endnote as being modeled after real-life shogi player Satoshi Murayama). While readers familiar with shogi will especially appreciate the detailed looks at game boards and players’ moves, the foregrounding of players’ emotions in the visuals ensures that all readers will be able to follow the excitement of the matches. Umino’s expressive artwork effectively steers the book’s tone between moments of action and comedy and moments where Rei feels his sense of isolation acutely. VERDICT A character-driven story about the complex emotions that turn players into competitors, recommended for gamers and fans of sports manga.–Andrew Eliopulos

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing