Fans of graphic novels and comics like Preacher or Watchmen are encouraged to try reading these excellent seinen manga series next.
Fans of Western comic book series and graphic novels such as mainstream Marvel, DC and Dark Horse titles are generally aware of Japanese manga, as it is the comic industry's general equivalent. Some comic fans embrace both worlds, while others might hesitate for various reasons. Perhaps manga looks to juvenile to them, or they don't like the black-and-white art or the right-to-left reading style.
Fortunately, the world of Japanese manga is extremely broad and has something for any potential audience, comic book fans included. Any comic collector who prefers mature, serious stories over lighter fare like Pokémon or Fairy Tail is encouraged to try a handful of well-regarded seinen titles instead. These select series are more like Western comics in their tone, content and artwork, making them a fine entry point for comic fans.
Manga author Naoki Urasawa has penned many popular titles, with the medical thriller Monster being considered his best. This tense thriller series takes place in West Germany and stars the young Japanese doctor Kenzo Tenma, who saves a brother and sister in his hospital at the expense of another patient's own life. The brother, Johan Liebert, grew up to become a killer — and Dr. Tenma faced his wrath nine years later.
Johan killed his sister's foster parents and another patient of Tenma's, leading the doctor to take responsibility for saving this monster's life. He will soon learn of Johan Liebert's twisted origins and why exactly he's such a human monster, all with Dr. Tenma grappling with his own guilt for his role in all this.
Author Naoki Urasawa has another hit seinen manga title to his name, that being 20th Century Boys. This series stars a group of friends who grew up in 1960s Japan, forming their own club with their mascot Friend, complete with the symbol of an eye and a hand pointing up.
On New Year's Eve 1999, the grown-up friends realize someone has stolen their Friend character and turned it into a sinister reality, leading a fanatical cult that's determined to reshape the world with acts of terror, biological weapons and more. The middle-aged friends gradually reunite to face their childhood Friend one last time, which may remind some Western fans of the Losers Club in IT.
All fantasy manga fans know Berserk, the long-running dark fantasy series by the late author Kentaro Miura. Any comic fan who enjoys stories like The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and the like will enjoy Berserk, with this famed title featuring nightmarish monsters, intriguing medieval-style politics, compelling characters and a sweeping story of ambition, revenge, personal loss and love.
The story is still not yet complete after 30+ years of publication but is now resuming, and the current content still tells an epic tale that any comic fan with a strong stomach may love. Kentaro Miura's art has to be seen to be believed, and the lore and characters feel deeper on each read-through, making it a rewarding experience.
Author Makoto Yukimura's epic seinen manga Vinland Saga plays fast and loose with real-life European history in the Viking Age, but it may still feel familiar to history buffs while there is plenty for comic fans to enjoy. Historical characters such as Thorfinn Karlsefni, his wife Gudrid, Leif Erikson and prince Canute come together in a part-history, part-fiction tale of medieval warfare and revenge, but there's more to Thorfinn's life than anger and swords.
Vinland Saga is a medieval war epic deconstruction, criticizing the pointlessness of war and violence in favor of constructive pursuits such as founding a peaceful colony, like Vinland, in a new land where war and slavery are a distant memory.
Author Takehiro Inoue is well-known for his basketball manga series such as Real and Slam Dunk, but he also created a dazzling historical seinen manga titled Vagabond. Like Berserk, this manga is not yet complete, but it has 37 volumes in publication, plenty of material for comic book fans to test the waters with. Vagabond takes place in the final years of Japan's feudal era, following the legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, also known by the name Takezo Shinmen.
Takezo survived the historic Battle of Sekigahara with his companion Matahachi, and they go their separate ways soon after. What follows is a breathtaking, mature and incredibly well-drawn manga epic of a swordsman's rise to fame and power in a rough time in Japan's past. It's perfect for comic book fans with a love of history.
Louis Kemner has been a fan of Japanese animation since 1997, when he discovered Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z in elementary school. Now he’s a bigger anime/manga fan than ever, and is ready to share what he knows with readers worldwide. He graduated high school in 2009 and received his Bachelor’s in creative writing from UMKC in 2013, then put his skills to work in 2019 with CBR.com. He’s always looking for a wonderful new anime to watch or manga series to read.