While several manga publishers made major cuts in staffing and publishing schedules in 2008, there's still a lot of exciting new releases planned for 2009. In fact, there were so many intriguing new manga to choose from, it was hard to limit this list to only 20!
Based on the previews I've seen at conventions, in magazines and online blogs, here are the top 20 graphic novels that I'm most looking forward to buying and reading in 2009. But what's on your must read list? Add your comments to the forum!
Set in an alternate reality, 20th Century Boys weaves a complex and compelling mystery tale about a group of Japanese kids whose past imaginary adventures and dreams have spawned a strange cult that threatens the world at the dawn of the new millenium.
The first of two critically-acclaimed Urasawa series to debut in 2009, 20th Century Boys was adapted as a big-budget, live-action feature film trilogy. VIZ Pictures debuted the films in the U.S. at VIZ Cinema, and will be releasing the DVDs starting in December.
Yes, yes, I know... this was on my 2008 Most Anticipated Manga List. But this time, Dark Horse is pretty confident that this first-of-its-kind, international manga publishing project will see the light of day this year.
And really, only a superstar manga-ka group like CLAMP (Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles, Card Captor Sakura, xxxHolic could pull off a feat like this: create a new story in monthly mini-digests called "Mangettes", and release it simultaneously in Japan, U.S. and Korea, cutting the usual lag-time between Asian and American releases.
UPDATE: As of Sept. 2009, Mangettes is not on Dark Horse's 2009 release schedule.
A college agriculture student can see and talk to various bacteria, germs and micro-organisms, and it being Japan, of course, they are very cute and funny little critters. And this being Japan, Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture is a huge hit that spawns a flotilla of related merchandise like toys, t-shirts and anime. But could this smart and quirky hit make its way to American shores? Why, yes! Yes, it can!
A geek with a rice-bowl haircut and a guitar comes to Tokyo with a dream: to be a singer of twee pop songs. But alas, fate has other things in mind as he finds success (reluctantly) as Krauser II, the lead singer of Detroit Metal City, a death metal band (complete with demonic makeup, over-the-top costumes and angry, "kill everyone" lyrics peppered with profanity).
DMC is already a huge hit in Japan, where this madcap rock and roll comedy has already spawned an anime series, a record label, and a live-action film featuring a cameo appearance by Gene Simmons, the lead singer of Kiss.
5. Maximum Ride
Max Ride seems like an ordinary teen -- except that she and her 'family' of fellow orphans are the result of strange scientific experiments: they are 98% human and 2% bird, and their 2% avian heritage have given them wings.
Best-selling author James Patterson teams up with Korean manga-ka newcomer NaRae Lee to give his sci-fi adventure series, Maximum Ride the manga treatment. Maximum Ride has been a part of the line-up in Yen Plus magazine since the manga/manhwa monthly debuted in July 2008, but January marks the release of the first graphic novel volume.
Author and Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
Release Date: August 18, 2009
From the creator of smart, sensual and wry stories like Antique Bakery and Flower of Life, comes a historical manga set in the era of samurai with a twist: What if most of the men were wiped out by a plague, and what if the shogun was a woman? The result is Ooku: The Inner Chamber, a historical fantasy series about a once-male dominated society turned inside-out, and a female Tokugawa-era shogun who keeps a harem of handsome male consorts for her pleasure.
Ooku was awarded the Excellence Award for manga at Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006, and is sure to generate lots of critical buzz in the U.S. too.
In Japan, most manga stories and characters are the creations of a single creative team or artist, never to be tweaked or reinterpreted by others. But leave it to master manga storyteller Naoki Urasawa (Monster, Yawara!) to break new ground as he takes an Astro Boy story by Osamu Tezuka and tells the same tale from a different character's point of view.
With this radical remake, Urasawa takes a kid-friendly story and transforms it into a grown-up sci-fi mystery featuring a robot detective trying to stop a series of human/robot murders.
Authors and Artists: Various
Editors: Sean Michael Wilson & Mitsuhiro Asakawa
Publisher: Top Shelf
Release Date: July 2010
Much like Western comics, Japanese comics has its mainstream and its "indie" side. Now that the ninjas and magical girls of mainstream manga have invaded America, it's perhaps time for experimental manga to build its own following, and leading the charge is AX.
Borne from Garo, the seminal avant-garde manga magazine that had its hey-day in the late '60s and '70s, AX is one of Japan's premier alternative comics anthologies. Now Top Shelf is presenting a mega-sized 'best of' collection in English, giving manga fans a rare look at comics created outside of the mainstream.
UPDATE: Release date for AX pushed to July 2010.
Put together a teacher who constantly tries (and fails) to commit suicide with a hopelessly optimistic high school girl, and a cast of neurotic classmates and you have the absurdly hilarious world of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.
Subtitled "The Power of Negative Thinking," Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei features some stylized, distinctive artwork and more pop culture references (both modern and traditional) and sly social commentary than you can shake a chopstick at.
A very different kind of story from the creator of Fruits Basket, Tsubasa: Those With Wings is set in the 22nd Century, and centers on an odd couple: a young girl who is a master thief and a man who is a former military leader. There's also a mysterious object called a "Tsubasa" that is rumored to grant wishes, so this pair must elude sinister forces who want them to find the relic.
Originally published as a 6-volume series in Hana to Yume magazine between 1995 and 1998, Tsubasa will be released as three double-sized volumes, starting from March 2009.