Top 10 Manga of 2023

Manga is more popular than ever before, and the explosion in popularity has brought a wave of new titles. Here are 10 of the best new manga published in 2023.

Manga is more popular than ever before, as this year’s SLJ survey revealed, and the explosion in popularity has brought a wave of new titles, some in familiar genres and others that are truly unique. Here are 10 of the best new manga published in 2023.

Kawamura, Taku. My Clueless First Friend, Vol. 1. Square Enix. ISBN 9781646092048.
Gr 5 Up–Nishimura’s classmates bully her, calling her the “Grim Reaper” because she has a dark and gothy look. Meanwhile, new kid Takada thinks that’s the coolest thing he’s ever seen. He’s “clueless” because he refuses to accept the bullies’ insults, turning each one around into something awesome about Nishimura. He seems over-the-top at times, but his good humor never flags, and Nishimura sees and appreciates it. The art is simple and gestural, with bold blacks and exaggerated expressions. The series has been adapted into an anime.

Mizushina, Takayuki. Lovely Muco! Vol. 1. Kodansha/Vertical. ISBN 9781647292393.
Gr 5 Up–Muco is a dog who finds joy in everything she encounters, whether that’s snow, food, or the sudden appearance of her own tail. Her owner, a glassblower named Mr. Komatsu, makes her happiest of all, although she is hoping he will turn into a dog someday. The two don’t communicate very well, and much of the humor in this slice-of-life story comes from their mutual misunderstandings. The simple art paired with Muco’s unbridled enthusiasm for everything makes this manga a fun read, and the series has been adapted into an anime.

Iwamoto, Nao. Gold Kingdom and Water KingdomSeven Seas. ISBN 9798888433072.
Gr 8 Up–In a region that vaguely resembles Central Asia, two neighboring kingdoms live in poverty after years of war. The rulers arrange two marriages to keep the peace, then double-cross each other by sending a dog and a cat instead of the groom and bride. The humans who were supposed to marry them, Princess Sarah and an engineer named Naranbayar, meet each other and hatch their own plot to get the two kingdoms to cooperate rather than fight. Iwamoto has created a detailed fairy-tale world, with elaborate costumes, clever characters, and ingenious technology, as well as plenty of palace intrigue, making this stand-alone manga a delight to read.

Mitsuboshi, Tama. Call the Name of the Night, Vol. 1. Yen Pr. ISBN 9781975352004.
Gr 8 Up–Whenever Mira is anxious, she turns everything around her into night. The young girl lives with a kindly doctor named Rei who is trying to treat her, and she also has a couple of cute little fuzzballs as her companions. The art is beautiful and immersive, with richly detailed costumes and surroundings, but there’s a powerful underlying theme of darkness and anxiety in these slice-of-life stories. The characters believe that emotions come from stars, and that’s part of the magic of this story, but the emotions themselves are very real and will be relatable for many readers.

Mokumokuren. The Summer Hikaru Died, Vol. 1. Yen Pr. ISBN 9781975360542.
Gr 8 Up–Hikaru and Yoshiki have been best friends since childhood, and as teenagers they began to develop deeper feelings for each other. So when Hikaru returns after disappearing for a week in the mountains, only Yoshiki realizes that the Hikaru who returned is an impostor: an alien creature took over the real Hikaru’s body and memories just before he died. Yoshiki knows this false Hikaru is dangerous, but he prefers life with it to life with no Hikaru at all. Mokumokuren uses cross-hatching and chiaroscuro to give this story a classic horror manga look, with sinister shadows lurking even on blazing-hot summer days.

Osawa, Yusuke. Spider-Man: Fake Red. Viz Media. ISBN 9781974738786.
Gr 8 Up–This one-shot Spider-Man manga has all the ingredients that made the original so popular: a reluctant superhero, great side characters, and plenty of fighting and wise-cracking. Teenager Yu finds a Spider-Man suit discarded in an alleyway, puts it on, and is soon called into action, as the real Spider-Man has mysteriously disappeared. Yu only has minimal skills and barely knows how to use the spider-suit features, but he feels responsible to the people who are calling on him for help, even if he is a fake Spider-Man. Eventually he liberates Peter Parker (who has been captured by a symbiote), and the manga ends with a chaotic but satisfying pileup of heroes and villains. Osawa’s art is detailed, dynamic, and captures the essence of the characters and their story in a recognizable yet refreshingly new way.

Shinya, Shima. Glitch, Vol. 1. Yen Pr. ISBN 9781975370275.
Gr 8 Up–Minato (who uses they/them pronouns) and their little sister Akira have just moved to a small town, and they immediately start seeing odd black shapes that sometimes resolve into figures, such as a giant deer. The townspeople don’t talk about it, but after Akira sees an odd creature peering in her window, she and Minato team up with two friends to investigate. The creature and its origins are only a small part of this story, which unfolds at a deliberate pace. Shinya’s art is clean and very simple, with flat areas of gray and black, so the hard-edged shadows both stand out and look like they belong in this world.

Suenaga, Yuki. Akane-banashi, Vol. 1. illus. by Takamasa Moue. Viz Media. ISBN 9781974736485.
Gr 8 Up–Rakugo is a traditional form of Japanese storytelling in which a single performer sits on stage with only a fan and a piece of cloth as props and acts out a multi-character story. Akane is a teenager whose father, an aspiring rakugo performer, left the field after a humiliating incident. Determined to avenge him, she becomes an apprentice in his old master’s school. Akane is willing to work hard at her craft, but her bigger challenge is learning to connect with the audience. This story is drawn in a clean, classic shonen style, with the characters in the rakugo stories appearing as brush-and-ink drawings in the background when the story is being told.

Umino, Chica. March Comes in Like a Lion, Vol. 1. Denpa. ISBN 9781634428125.
Gr 8 Up–Orphaned at a young age, Rei was taken in by a friend of his father’s, who is a high-ranked player of the Japanese board game shogi, which is similar to chess. Rei is a shogi prodigy, but his talent drives a wedge through his new family, and eventually, he leaves to live on his own. His loneliness begins to dissipate when he befriends three sisters. Their home is filled with warmth and laughter, and by watching them mourn their mother and grandmother, he begins to get in touch with his emotions about his own loss. Umino, the creator of Honey and Clover, has a gift for drawing lively and expressive characters. This series was a best seller, won numerous awards in Japan, and was adapted into an anime.

Umezawa, Shun. The Darwin Incident, Vol. 1. Kodansha/Vertical. ISBN 9781647293161.
Gr 10 Up–Charlie is a human-chimpanzee hybrid created in a lab. He was raised by a scientist and his wife, and at 15, he is starting high school. His friend Lucy and his foster parents seem to be the only people who care about Charlie. Most people regard him as odd and possibly dangerous. The real danger, though, comes from a violent animal rights group that is determined to kidnap Charlie, and they are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. This is a smart story about humans, animals, and how we treat one another. Charlie, who is depicted with a blend of human and animal traits, is a compelling and sympathetic character.


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Brigid Alverson

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

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