I Got Way Back Into Manga In 2017

I've never really fallen off the manga bandwagon, admittedly. I've read (conservatively) around 2,000 - 2,500 different manga series in my life, whether from collecting or libraries. Problem is, I can't even remember some of them by name, so I never go to the hassle of aggregating them on my Anime Planet account. Unlike my anime, which I'm much better at keeping track of.

Anyway, I've never been off manga entirely, but slowed down a lot in college. Only starting a handful of new series per year, only keeping track of one major series (RIP, Dance in the Vampire Bund,) et cetera. But 2017 introduced plenty of good stuff. Here's some of that. Also, keep in mind that I'm including older manga that were released in America for the first time this year.


Murcielago


It doesn't feel fair putting anything else on this list after Murcielago. Because, for all intents and purposes, it's my new favorite ongoing series. Following a former serial killer who now kills for the government, it's a pulpy piece of trash drawn exceptionally well, and a series that is unafraid to get batshit crazy early on. Each chapter ups the ante of the last, both in terms of scope and the extremity of its content, and I can't ever fully predict where it's going next. If you're gun-shy towards gratuitous sex and heinous violence, you probably won't be a fan, but for my money, a long-tongued lesbian murderer getting into gay antics, infiltrating a nunnery, facing off against a preteen serial killer, and battling a roid-raging pro wrestler is the kind of shit I come to manga for.


Please Tell Me, Galko-Chan!


Look, I understand that Galko-chan started its American in late 2016, but three of the four volumes came out this year, and late 2016 is basically 2017. Plus, I haven't gotten to talk about how much I love this series on her yet. Anyway. Galko-chan is my second-favorite ongoing series. Some are put off by its fetishy art, and frankly, I understand that entirely. It's genuinely fucking awful at times, and many of the occasional in-between illustrations feel more suited to a porn manga than a slice-of-life at times. However, I can't think of a manga I'm currently reading that does as good of a job at characterization than this one. It presents an honest, frank portrayal of the life of three high school girls, in a way that intentionally rubs against the grain of similar series. These characters talk about body hair, shitting, periods, underwear chafes, questioning their sexuality, et cetera, in a way that's immensely refreshing when held up against the pure, naked molerate preschoolers most anime and manga try to pass off as high schoolers. It's crude, goofy, and occasionally heartwarming, and one of the better comedy manga in a while - even if that art is just... yeesh, sometimes.


Dragon Ball Super 


The Dragon Ball Super manga jumps straight the good parts of Super without the first 34 episodes of chaff. If that isn't enough, Toriyama himself is heavily involved in the manga, informing the artist and contributing the scripts for each chapter. In a way, it feels like Toriyama watching Super, then adapting it in his own weird way. The result is a tight, compact package of a manga that feels like the true return of a classic, with Toyotarou's art lending a layer of authenticity to the whole package. As the anime got truly exceptional, the manga started and followed suit. Arguably, this is the best time to be a Dragon Ball fan since the late 80's and early 2000's.

My Brother's Husband 


A vast swath of boy's love and yuri manga seem to exist in a vacuum, where homophobia doesn't exist. Sure, some manga flirts with the idea that, hey, stuff might kind of suck sometimes for queer folk, but for the most part, the focus is on the relationship. And, you know, that's actually kind of great sometimes. It's nice to read something where my own sexuality is normalized. However, My Brother's Husband, done by a prolific bara yaoi artist, is a series that tackles contemporary Japanese homophobia head-on. As an American bi dude, then, the whole thing was both familiar and informative to me, as some facets of it are unique to Japan's social climate, something I haven't experienced firsthand. Following the awkward family dynamic that buds between single father (and pretty flagrant homophobe) Yaichi and his late brother's widowed husband, Mike, My Brother's Husband is a heartfelt manga that's sweet and sad in equal doses, and aided by an art style that you just don't see in most mainstream manga.

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness 


After attracting a large following via Twitter, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness finally got a proper Western release this year. And if you were under the impression that the entire thing is as much of a funny romp as the isolated panels that got shared around Twitter, buddy, you're in for a shock. Kabi Nagata's autobiographical manga certainly has good gags and funny character expressions, but much of it is based entirely on hoping through desolation. It candidly explores the fears of being a lesbian in modern society, pitfalls of mental illness, the crippling anxiety that comes with eating disorders, and a wealth of other bleak topics. The whole thing is a fantastic read, all-around, and I'd argue a vital piece of queer literature along with My Brother's Husband. Just expect to be taken aback by the casual, sometimes irreverent depictions of pretty desolate topics, akin to Moyocco Anno's masterful In Clothes Called Fat.

Delicious In Dungeon


Manga could do without another fantasy story for a while. It could especially do without another, "it's a fantasy story, but with this W A C K Y twist!" One can only read so many I'm In Another World But I'm A Titty Slime Creature or My Life As A Fantasy Protagonist But Actually I'm A Piece Of Armor or Something. But hey, Delicious In Dungeon is pretty fucking good! It undercuts potential tedium by introducing us to an affable trio of protagonists, and gives us a novel hook in that its protagonist loves to cook weird shit. The result is something that turns the idea of hunting monsters and grinding dungeons into a process whose end result is a tasty dish. A really compelling aesthetic ties it together, resulting in an alternative fantasy manga that manages to be better than all the other stuff of its ilk out there. Charming, cute, and fun.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card


On the one hand, I'm hesitant to put this place of another lesser but enjoyable manga I read a bit of this year, like After Hours or Splatoon. But also, I'm a Clamp apologist to the end, and no matter how many pages were devoted to Li and Sakura making goo-goo eyes at each other, I just couldn't help but to be overjoyed to see my childhood heroes back again. I've been into Cardcaptor Sakura since Nelvana called it "Cardcaptors" and slapped a terrible dub on it, and it was honestly one of the most formative pieces of media I've ever consumed. Plus, the original manga is a masterpiece. While Clear Card, at least so far, isn't even close to that good, all the hallmarks of Clamp's expert craftsmanship are there, and the central hook (new cards show up, they're clear, also Li might be part of a shadowy organization) is enough to make curious where they're going with this thing. Also, it's nice seeing Sakura in something that isn't that fuck-awful Tsubasa garbage again.

Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana) 


Aoi Hana is considered a landmark in both the shoujo and yuri genres, and four volumes in, it's easy to see why. It's a perfect storm of those melodramatic bullshit shoujo tropes that you can't get enough of, and of dainty yuri romance that's a nice alternative to the fucking garbage that passes for yuri these days, like Citrus and that NTR fetish series. Plus, the art's gorgeous, and there's some nice discussion of bisexuality in there that actually has a subtlety to it. It's fun, romantic, and full of juicy drama that's hard to say "no" to.

Unmagical Girl 


I was almost tempted to not recommend this for the same reason I wouldn't recommend Murcielago or Galko-chan to a lot of people. It's... I mean, it kind of has some gross tendencies. The panty shots feel out of place, and the joke-y implication that the protagonist's deceased anime director father might be a pedo is pretty awful in a post-Nobuhiro Watsuki bust world... or any world, really. Yet there's no denying that Unmagical Girl is an incredibly well-written, clever, ingenious little series that imagines a washed-up magical girl from a Z-grade anime coming to life and being a thoroughly repugnant human being. Its visual gags are genuinely clever, its jokes well-crafted, its characters super well-defined, et cetera. In terms of comedy manga, it's one of the funnier ones I've read in a while. While I find some of its pervy tendencies thoroughly repugnant and unnecessary at times, it's still a good series in spite of that, and an R-rated twist on Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the anime crowd.

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