For the most part, 2007 was a good year for manga. The latest volumes of Naruto, and Fruits Basket made the nationwide bestseller lists month after month. Several new manga publishers made their debut along with lots of new manga vying for your attention. Sure, there was a lot of dreck out there, but that only made what was really great shine even brighter.
So here's my take on the Best New Manga of 2007, plus my picks for The 10 Best (and Worst) Continuing Manga Series.
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Visit Del Rey Manga's Mushishi page
Read a review of Mushishi Volume 1
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Mushishi is a rare breed of manga: a smartly-written, original story that's told with simple yet mesmerizing imagery. It defies one-sentence descriptions: Is it a Japanese ghost story? Is it a haunting fable of strange events and supernatural beings? Is it a heartwarming tale of compassion, friendship and love? Mushishi is all of these things and more.
Artist: Eita Mizuno
Publisher: Yen Press
Visit Yen Press' Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning page
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Compared to the other new shonen manga series who were up for this title, Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning is free of demons, shinigami and swords. Instead, what you get is an entertaining detective story with a savvy sleuth who doesn't always have all the answers.
10th grader Ayumu is a fiercely intelligent teen who can solve crimes that leave older investigators baffled. But he's haunted by the specter of his older brother who's been missing for the last two years, and mysterious clues that lead to a group called "The Blade Children."
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
Visit Shojo Beat's Vampire Knight page
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I know, a tie is a cop-out. But it was hard to choose between Vampire Knight and Translucent because they succeeded on different levels.
Matsuri Hino's gothic high school fantasy got the nod for its dark, erotic undertones, cosplay-bait uniforms and luscious artwork. It's little hard to follow what's going on sometimes, with all the arcane vampire blood ties, twisted rivalries and romances. But maybe that's what kept me intrigued enough to buy the next two volumes that followed the first. And that's not a given when I read a first volume of anything!
Publisher: Dark Horse Manga
Visit Dark Horse Manga's Translucent page
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Like its publisher, Translucent was a definite "dark horse" in the race for Best New Shojo Manga. But its sheer originality, genuine sweetness and sincerity won me over.
Shy 8th grader Shizuka is ill, but not in the way you'd expect. She has Translucent Syndrome, and when she's stressed out, she slowly goes from translucent to transparent to invisible. Thankfully, Shizuka is not alone. Her classmates and her best friend/maybe boyfriend Mamoru is there to share their love, laughs and support that maybe, just maybe might prevent Shizuka from fading away forever.
Artist: Sho-U Tajima
Publisher: Dark Horse
Visit Dark Horse's MPD-Psycho page
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Dark, bizarre and totally mind-blowing, MPD-Psycho is a sci-fi/suspense/horror seinen manga that is definitely for grown-ups.
"MPD" stands for "Multiple-Personality Disorder" and the "MPD" in question is Yosuke Kobayashi. Kobayashi was a respected Tokyo Police detective until the grisly murder of his wife pushed him over the edge and uncovered the evil hidden in his soul. Now a profiler specializing in serial killers, Kobayashi has a knack for getting into murderer's minds, especially since his other selves are also cold-blooded killers. It's like Silence of the Lambs and Dexter, but much, much more twisted.
Best New Josei Manga - Suppli
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Once you get past its odd title, Suppli is compelling modern romance enhanced with stylish art and mature storytelling.
Minami is a young advertising executive who struggles to balance the demands of her career with her love life. This twenty-something single gal's inner dialogs about her insecurities and her matter-of-fact assessments of her prospective suitors are refreshingly real and relatable. Suppli is not for everyone, but for the manga reader who grew up with shojo but is looking for something more sexy and sophisticated, Suppli serves up the perfect vodka martini in a sea of Kool-Aid comics.
Publisher: CMX Manga / Kodansha Comics
Visit Random House's Gon page
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As a re-issued edition of a manga that was originally released by DC in 1996 and rated "T-Teen," this new CMX edition of Gon technically doesn't qualify for the best "new" all-ages manga series. But what can I say? 2007 was a wasteland out there for manga for readers under age 13, so I take what I can get.
This pint-sized dinosaur makes lots of big-time trouble wherever he goes. Giant grizzly bears, fierce bobcats and lions are no match for this tiny prehistoric terror. With no dialogue or narration to get in the way, the entire story is told solely with artwork, making it instantly appealing for readers from 8 to 80.
UPDATE: After CMX closed its doors in 2010, Kodansha Comics picked up Gon, giving it its third go-round with a North American publisher.
Publisher: Seven Seas Manga
Visit Seven Seas Manga's Hollow Fields page
Read a review of Hollow Fields Vol. 1
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As a runner-up in the First International Manga Award competition, Madeleine Rosca's Hollow Fields hardly needs my seal of approval. But this quirky story of a young girl who gets enrolled in a school for mad scientists certainly deserves your attention as one of the most enjoyable and inventive OEL manga stories published this year.
Hollow Fields is a skillfully-written tale full of suspense, adventure and yes, cuteness too. It's drawn in an intricate, appealing style that builds upon, rather than just imitates manga's artistic roots.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Visit Vertical's To Terra pages
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Keiko Takemiya's groundbreaking sci-fi saga To Terra… arrived on American shores this year and introduced many readers to this influential manga from the Seventies. To Terra… is part sci-fi, part social commentary and is almost always artistically innovative.
Raised in an environment where conformity is the norm, Jomy is a rebellious teen whose telepathic powers have caught the attention of a mutant race of psychics. A sci-fi epic that spans galaxies and decades, To Terra… asks the eternal question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we here, and what is our place in the universe?
Publisher: Last Gasp
Visit Last Gasp's Town of Evening Calm page
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Another "little manga that could" title, Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is an award-winning graphic novel about two young girls and the impact that World War II has upon their families and friends. Compared to its thematic predecessor Barefoot Gen, Town of Evening Calm is an atom bomb story that's told in whispers rather than screams.
Kouno's delicate artwork and subtle storytelling depicts the true human cost of war quietly but effectively. She resists the urge to pile on melodrama to convey a deeply moving story.
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Visit Random House's Parasyte page
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Shinichi is an ordinary Japanese teen whose right arm has been possessed by an alien "parasyte". Migi and Shin try to learn to co-exist and stay alive as other aliens seek them out and try to kill them, along with the rest of humanity.
Back in the day, Parasyte was one of the first manga published by a nascent TokyoPop. After the TokyoPop editions had gone out of print, Del Rey Manga picked up the license and spiffed it up with fresh translations and re-presented the story in its original right-to-left format. Now "Lefty" is "Migi" again, and all is right in the universe.
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
Visit VIZ Media's Tekkon Kinkreet page
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Another title rescued from publishing limbo, Taiyo Matsumoto's Black and White came back to the bookshelves in its new incarnation, a deluxe all-in-one edition with a new title, Tekkon Kinkreet. Even years after its first go-round, Matsumoto's story of two orphans battling for their place in a surreal, merciless city has lost none of its graphic and emotional impact. Tekkon Kinkreet proved that great manga can be even better the second time around.