Something old, something new, something popular and something unexpected –- 2012 has lots of surprises in store for manga readers. 2012 marks the year that long-awaited classics by manga masters Moto Hagio, Shigeru Mizuki, and Yoshihiro Tatsumi will make their English language debut. Titles abandoned by the closure of TokyoPop will be making their return to the shelves, and new manga based on popular anime series and young adult novels will also have readers eagerly placing their pre-orders weeks and months in advance.
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 2012. Also, see the rest of the new series and one-shots that are due out this year in the 2012 New Manga Preview Gallery.
Fantagraphics is following up A Drunken Dream, their critically-acclaimed collection of short stories by shojo manga pioneer Moto Hagio with one of her most beloved and influential works, Heart of Thomas, a tragedy/drama that was one of the earliest examples of shonen ai (boys' love) manga. This 3-volume story from 1974 has been on many manga connoisseur's wish lists for years, so it's a real joy to see that Fantagraphics will be publishing the entire saga in English in one volume.
At a German boarding school, a young man named Thomas commits suicide and leaves a note that confesses his unrequited love for his classmate Juli. This leaves Juli shaken to his core. Juli's roommate Oscar tries to console and keep his friend from going over the edge himself, but things get complicated when a new student enrolls at the school, and he just happens to look a lot like the recently deceased Thomas.
Author and Artist: Shigeru Mizuki
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Release Date: March 27, 2012
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Before he created GeGeGe no Kitaro, one of the most beloved and influential manga series about yokai (Japanese spirits and demons), Shigeru Mizuki was introduced to the supernatural world by NonNonBa, an elderly woman who had a very special relationship with the creatures that go bump in the night.
Much as Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths was influenced by his stint as an infantryman in WWII, NonNonBa tells a memorable tale about another key period in this manga master's life. If you're fascinated by the kitsune, kappa and tengu in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan and Black Bird, you kind of owe it to yourself to read this work by the man who made yokai a big part of manga culture.
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 30, 2012
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Yes, I know, this isn't technically a new manga series, but it is a revolutionary development that's been years in the making and one that fans have been begging for, for years. After over over 10 years in print, the English language version of Shonen Jump Magazine is making a quantum leap into the future by going from a print monthly to an all-digital weekly magazine starting in January 2012. Now fans will be able to read the latest chapters of Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Bakuman and Toriko only two weeks after they hit the newsstands in Japan.
What's the catch? Well, it's only online, it's only available to readers in North America, and after March 2012, the print edition will end its run. A tip of the the hat to you Shonen Jump, to what you've accomplished so far, and all that's to come.
Author and Artist: Atsushi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: July 24, 2012
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Speaking of breaking new ground in the digital publishing realm, Yen Press is upping the ante by publishing the latest chapters of Soul Eater NOT! online in the pages of Yen Plus Magazine the same time as it appears in Japan AND is making it available to readers all over the world. That's right. Not just North America -- the WORLD. (Well, okay. As long as you have a computer and you subscribe to Yen Plus.) What? You prefer to read your books in print? Not to worry -- the first volume of Soul Eater NOT! will be out in July 2012.
In this sequel to his Soul Eater series, the action focuses on Tsugumi Harudori, a new student in the NOT class at Death Weapon Meister Academy. What Tsugumi is NOT is she's not a Meister-in-training -- she's training to transform into a weapon that will reap souls. But first, she must find a partner who will bring out her potential.
Author and Artist: Hajime Isayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: June 19, 2012
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In a world dominated by man-eating giants, what remains of humanity hides from these powerful beings in a city surrounded by 100-meter-high walls. But things start going horribly wrong when an even larger-than-usual giant appears and is poised to breach the walls.
An instant hit in Japan, Attack on Titan has sold over 5.5 million copies of its first five volumes. Kodansha Comics is hoping that this action/adventure series will catch on in North America as well, when this new series launches in Summer 2012.
Author and Artist: Moyoco Anno
Release Date: July 17, 2012
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From the manipulative makeover artists in Flowers and Bees and the manic/selfish single girl in Happy Mania to the competitive young witches in Sugar Sugar Rune, Moyoco Anno has shown that she has a knack for creating strong, complex and memorable female characters who are anything but boring. In Sakuran, Anno focuses on the world of the Kyoto's high-end courtesans.
A rebellious orphan grows up into a gorgeous geisha, but discovers that being desired is not the same thing as being loved. In fact, reading Sakuran offers readers a glimpse behind the makeup, the luxe silk kimonos and social rituals and traditions of the world of the geisha and reveals some of the heartache of the women who lived in that world. A beautifully-told one-shot that will likely be on many critics' top 10 lists of 2012.
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Artists: Akiyo Satorigi, characters by Suzuhito Yasuda
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: January 24, 2012
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Maybe you saw Durarara!! on Crunchyroll.com or on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, or maybe you heard the buzz from other anime fans. Now the much-talked about action/suspense anime series will be found at a book/comics shop near you when the Durarara!! manga hits the shelves in January 2012.
New to Tokyo, Mikado discovers that Ikebukuro is full of strange and interesting people, including a mysterious biker in black, who is rumored to be headless.
Artist: Mamenosuke Fujimaru
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Release Date: June 5, 2012
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When TokyoPop closed their North American publishing operations in mid-2011, many fans bemoaned the loss of several popular ongoing series. One such series was Alice in the Country of Hearts, a retelling of Lewis Carroll's tale, except Alice is a spunky teen girl who is the object of desire of almost every denizen of Wonderland.
Yen Press picked up the 6-volume series Alice in the Country of Hearts, and will be publishing all the entire series as three double-sized volumes in June 2012 (including Volume 6, which was on TokyoPop's Summer 2011 schedule but was never printed). On top of that, Seven Seas announced that they picked up two additional 'Alice' titles, Alice in the Country of Clover: Bloody Twins and Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz
This time, a new artist will be spinning tales of Alice's adventures in Wonderland, as she encounters the very hunky (and very devious) twins Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and the Cheshire Cat, who is (in this version) a young man with cat ears, a tail, and a fondness for piercings and tattoos.
9. Fallen Words
When gekiga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi came to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival to promote the release of A Drifting Life in 2009, he mentioned that his current project was a series of stories based on Japan's rakugo oral storytelling tradition. Now these stories will be available to his English-speaking fans in Fallen Words, a new collection of short stories about love, betrayal, jealousy, and human foibles, told as only Tatsumi can.
Drawn and Quarterly is continuing the Tatsumi love in 2012 by re-releasing Good Bye, The Push-Man and Other Stories and Abandon the Old in Tokyo in affordable paperback editions in April 2012. This'll be especially good timing if the feature-length animated film Tatsumi gets some attention come Academy Awards time.
10. A Message to Adolf
Once published as five volumes by VIZ under the title Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century, A Message to Adolf tells a story of three young men named Adolf, and how their lives intersect against the backdrop of World War II. One Adolf is a Jewish boy living in Japan. The other Adolf is a boy of German and Japanese descent. The third Adolf is the most infamous Adolf of them all: the dictator who led Deutschland to war.
Vertical's edition of this work from the latter part of Tezuka's career will be a two volume series with a new translation. As with anything by the Godfather of Manga, this series will likely catch the eye of comics connoisseurs, and possibly fans of historical comics too.