By Deb Aoki
Besides the Best New Manga of 2009, there were many continuing and concluding series that also deserve a nod. While they didn't make their debut this year, these manga series consistently made it worthwhile to come back for more again and again.
Also included in this list are a few miscellaneous categories, including Best Book About Manga, Best Magazine/Anthology and even a few of the Worst Manga of 2009.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year: William Jones, a gentleman of the gentry is marrying Emma, a maid who has won his heart, and the heart of many manga readers. After several volumes of dramatic ups and downs, Kaoru Mori's historical romance finally came to a close with its 10th volume.
If you've already been introduced to the joys of Emma, you already know that Volume 10 is about as satisfying an ending as anyone could hope for from a manga. If you haven't picked it up yet, what are you waiting for? Beautifully drawn and thoughtfully told, Emma is manga perfection personified.
With all the ninjas, soul reapers and shinigami stealing the spotlight, it sometimes seems that Kekkaishi is a shonen manga that doesn't get the attention and love it deserves. Filled with action, intrigue and humor, Kekkaishi has its share of exciting fight scenes like Bleach, drama between warring clans like Naruto and fun, likeable characters with interesting relationships like One Piece.
Now that VIZ is giving its Shonen Sunday titles its own imprint and featuring regular online updates at ShonenSunday.com, perhaps more readers will discover this worthwhile shonen series in 2010.
As one of the most popular shojo manga series ever published in the U.S., Fruits Basket has kept readers counting the days until each new volume was released. In 2009, fans were treated to the finale of this romantic fantasy series as Tohru Honda, along with Yuki, Kyo and the rest of the Sohma clan dealt with their mixed feelings at the end of their karmically-cursed realities.
To her credit, Takaya gave fans an ending that was bittersweet, touching, and oh-so-satisfying. Sayonara Fruits Basket, we'll miss you.
After making its debut in 2008, Real continued to deliver volume after volume of compelling sports drama and more of Takehiko Inoue's outstanding visual storytelling. With each volume published in 2009, readers got a deeper understanding of each player's past, their struggle to come to terms with their disabilities, and their unquenchable passion for basketball.
In the forth and final volume of this uncommonly smart suspense series, astral traveler Masahiko gets closer to discovering the secret behind his sister's untimely death. But as strange as things already are, they're about to get stranger, as the jazz CD Masahiko has been playing to project his consciousness on the astral plane is played on the radio and sends more souls into the psychic realm.
Written by the author of Old Boy, Astral Project wrapped up almost too quickly to fully explain all its twists and turns, but nevertheless, it offered a compelling alternative to most dumbed-down, fanservice-laced seinen stories.
After completing her music college education in Japan, ditzy but loveable piano prodigy Megumi Noda (a.k.a. "Nodame") joined her classmate, boyfriend and aspiring conductor Shinichi Chiaki in Paris. As Nodame struggles to learn French, make the cut at her composition classes at the Conservatory and support Chiaki as he takes up the baton at a small chamber orchestra, she often finds herself more than a little lost in translation.
Nodame Cantabile is a bestselling josei manga in Japan, but has yet to win over a sizeable US readership for its eccentric brand of romantic comedy. Nevertheless, it's a fun series that's worth picking up.
The island of Opal is known for being the home for an astonishing array of colorful, magical birds. It's also home to numerous wizards called Palettes, who can "borrow" hues from their avian companions' plumes to color other things. Cello is a Palette in training whose power has great potential if she could only learn how to control it.
Light-hearted and fun with just a touch of romance, Palette of 12 Secret Colors is a great 'starter' series for younger readers who are ready to be introduced to the joys of shojo manga.
Now that she's introduced her cheerful hero Hamachi and his quest, Nina Matsumoto kicks the adventure into high gear in the second volume of Yokaiden. Accompanied by Lumi the lantern, Hamachi meets the Nine-Tails, a powerful kitsune (fox god) diva. The wiley fox offers to help, but she's got just a few teeny, tiny errands that she'd like Hamachi to complete for her. Trouble is, she doesn't explain how dangerous and difficult these tasks really are.
Packed with wry humor and sly nods to Japanese myths and manga, Yokaiden Volume 2 is just as fun as its first volume. An entertaining, fast-paced adventure that'll hopefully be followed by many more.
With the recent release of volumes 7 and 8, Vertical is now more than half-way through presenting their 13-volume deluxe edition of Osamu Tezuka's medical manga Black Jack.
No case is too tough, no circumstance too bizarre for this super surgeon who can perform medical miracles, often for astronomical fees. While many Black Jack stories follow a familiar formula, several stories step outside the norm to reveal some of the secrets from Black Jack's past that drive his need to profit from the sins of the rich, powerful and arrogant.
In this fanciful version of the future, the once dry, desert planet of Mars has been terraformed into a water-filled wonderland that is an almost exact replica of the romantic (and very un-futuristic) city of Venice, Italy. Navigating the serene waterways of Neo-Venezia are undines, a guild of gondola-rowing guides who are all cute young women.
After a brief absence, Aria returned to TokyoPop's regular line-up and a sigh of relief was heard from fans far and near. And why not? Kozue Amano's lovely art, Venetian-inspired scenery and slice-of-life storytelling makes reading Aria feel like taking a mini-vacation without ever leaving home.