While many publishers cut back on their release schedules in recent years (and a few faded away) in 2010, there's no shortage of interesting new manga due to debut in 2011. Zombies, demons, mermaids and wizards are all here, but so are gender-benders and artists, disillusioned soldiers and fierce women warriors, and some bean dogs too. It's quite a mix, so no matter what your taste, there's something cool waiting for you at the comics shop in 2011.
Based on the previews I've seen at conventions and blogs, here are the top 25 graphic novels that I'm most looking forward to buying and reading in 2011.
Author and Artist: Kaoru Mori
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Compare prices for A Bride's Story Vol. 1
For her latest series, Kaoru Mori, the creator of Victorian-era romance Emma, sets her tale in the Middle East.
The "bride" is Amira, a young woman who is a skilled hunter and horsewoman. She has been sent to a neighboring village to marry Karluk, a young man who, at 12 years of age, is 8 years her junior. While her new family and young husband accept Amira, circumstances have changed with her family back home, so her brother has been sent to annul the marriage and bring her back.
Yen Press is publishing A Bride's Story in a first-class hardcover edition, to showcase Mori's gorgeous artwork. A must-buy.
Author and Artist: Shigeru Mizuki
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Compare prices for Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths
Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths is a semi-autobiographical account of the desperate final weeks of a Japanese infantry unit at the end of World War II as told by manga master Shigeru Mizuki.
Mizuki, the creator of yokai manga classic GeGeGe no Kitaro, fought in WWII and lost an arm during his tour of duty. In this tale, he depicts a group of soldiers who are told that they must go into battle and die for the honor of their country, with certain execution facing them if they return alive. A deeply personal and darkly humorous tale about the senselessness of war.
Author: Daisuke Sato
Artist: Shouji Sato
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Compare prices for High School of the Dead Vol. 1
After a world-wide pandemic turns many humans into zombies, a few scrappy student survivors try to fend off the undead from the not-quite safe confines of their high school. As society collapses around them, the students find that their own sense of right and wrong starts to morph into something almost as dangerous as the zombies who want to consume them.
Zombies, hot girls, action to spare and a fan-favorite anime series too? High School of the Dead has been on many fans' licensing wish lists for a while. A can't-miss pick that will be on many readers' pull lists.
Ruthless and seductive Toshiko Tomura is the mistress of reinvention. As she becomes an actress, a designer and a novelist, she leaves a path of destruction in her wake.
Yet another dark and complex graphic novel for grown-ups from manga's master storyteller. Also known as Human Metamorphosis, The Book of Human Insects will be published as a single volume hardcover edition that's sure to please comics connoisseurs and Tezuka enthusiasts alike.
Author and Artist: Shimura Takako
Release Date:March 21, 2011
Compare prices for Wandering Son Book 1
Shuichi is a 5th grade boy who wants to be a girl. Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. As the two go through puberty, they find solace in the fact that they're both struggling with the same issues of their gender, sexuality and identity.
After dazzling manga readers with their edition of A Drunken Dream by Moto Hagio, Fantagraphics is once again teaming up with translator and manga scholar Matt Thorn to publish Wandering Son (Hōrō Musuko), a sensitive and ground-breaking story about two children who are struggling with growing up as transgendered pre-teens.
Author and Artist: Usamaru Furuya
Release Date: April 19, 2011
Compare prices for Lychee Light Club
Based on the French Grand Guignol Theater tradition of gruesome, Gothic horror, Lychee Light Club (from the creator of Genkaku Picasso and Short Cuts) has numerous reasons for being rated 18+ and shrink-wrapped to protect the easily offended.
For one thing, there's a bunch of fascist teenage boys who create a robot designed to abduct women. Why do they do this? Because they want to find a perfect and "pure" woman to fulfill their fantasies. But things don't go according to plans, when the girl they find ends up turning Lychee against his creators. A decadent, yet compelling story like no other.
Sakura is the descendant of Kaguya, the moon princess of Japanese fairy tale fame. Since she was a child, Sakura was warned to never look at the moon. But when her curiosity gets the better of her, she looks at the moon, and has makes herself a target for demons who want her dead. Now Sakura must learn to wield the magic sword that she can pull out of her palm to protect her friends and herself.
Sakura Hime is one of two new titles due out in 2011 (the other is the one-shot Mistress Fortune) from the superstar shojo manga creator of The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross.
Author: Yuyuko Takemiya
Publisher:Seven Seas Manga
Release Date: March 2011
Compare prices for Toradora Vol. 1
Ryuuji Takasu is a kind-hearted teen who just happens to look like a tough guy. As a result, many of his classmates avoid him, especially the cute girl he has a hardcore crush on. Things are rough, but they're about to get worse when Ryuuji gets on the wrong side of Taiga Aisaka, a pint-sized terror whose fiery temper is legendary.
In Japan, the Toradora light novels and manga were bestselling titles, and the anime quickly became a fave among fans in the know. As a result, this series has a built-in audience just waiting to check out the manga version of this odd couple romantic comedy.
From the creator of the best-selling series Chibi Vampire comes another tale of a strange, supernatural girl, the normal schlub who has his life turned upside down by her presence, and the bizarre misadventures that ensue as a result.
This time, it's not vampires, but mermaids and parasitic sea demons who make poor little rich boy Tatsuya Tsugawa's life extra strange, when he tries to protect his stand-offish classmate Seine from being bullied. But Seine doesn't need protection, especially when she's an immortal being with a shadow dragon named AiON living in her chest.
10. A Zoo in Winter
Author and Artist: Jiro Taniguchi
Publisher: Fanfare - Ponent Mon
Release Date: June 23, 2011
Compare prices for A Zoo in Winter
From the creator of award-winning graphic novels for grown-ups like The Walking Man and A Distant Neighborhood comes a semi-autobiographical story about a young man making his way in Tokyo as he struggles to make a name for himself as a manga artist.
Originally published in 2008, A Zoo in Winter (Fuyu no Doubutsuen) is one of Taniguchi's most recent works, and the latest of many published by English/Spanish indie publisher Fanfare Ponent-Mon. Look for this new Taniguchi title to make its debut at Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May 2011.