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50 Essential Manga for Libraries

Timeless Classics and Popular Titles for Kids, Teens and Adults


11. Akira

Akira Volume 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo from Dark Horse Manga / Kodansha
© Katsuhiro Otomo / MASH Room / Akira Committee

Author/Artist: Katsuhiro Otomo
Publisher: Kodansha America
Compare prices for Akira Vol. 1

In a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, a gang of biker punks live on the edge, looking for the next thrill. But they're playing with fire, as they learn that the destruction of Tokyo has its roots in a government experiment gone wrong and a mysterious boy named Akira.

Considered to be the one of the first cross-over hits of anime and manga in America, Akira continues to be a benchmark that few manga titles have dared to surpass. Otomo's artwork is stunning and the sci-fi action is epic in scale; it astounds readers even years after its debut in the 1982. Now that Kodansha is re-releasing it, there's no reason to not have Akira in libraries.

12. One Piece

One Piece Vol. 1
© Eiichiro Oda

Author/Artist: Eiichiro Oda
Publisher: Shonen Jump VIZ Media
Compare prices for One Piece: East Blue Vol. 1, 2 & 3

While growing up in a small town, Monkey D. Luffy dreams of being pirate and sailing the high seas. But after taking a bite of the gum-gum fruit, he's able to stretch his limbs and do amazing feats. The downside to these cool powers? He'll sink like a stone if he ever falls into water. But that doesn't stop Luffy from setting sail for adventure and finding crew members who join him on his quest to find treasure and raise a little heck along the way.

Robin Brenner: "This is another no-brainer, really, like Bleach or Naruto. It's consistently popular and a great comedy adventure series."

13. Cardcaptor Sakura

Card Captor Sakura Volume 1 by CLAMP, published by Dark Horse Manga

Author/Artist: CLAMP
Publisher: Dark Horse
Compare prices for Card Captor Sakura Omnibus Vol. 1

Fourth grader Sakura Kinomoto finds and opens a mysterious book and accidentally releases a set of magical cards onto the world. Sakura must now find and defeat the Clow Cards to seal them away once more.

Robin Brenner: "It has always been a strong circulator, and continues to be even as our poor volumes have gotten more and more battered. It's definitely a good time to let your local librarians know about the series with the Dark Horse omnibus editions coming out -- they'll be an easy sell to libraries with the good value, and the high quality of presentation and binding that Dark Horse always achieves."

14. InuYasha

InuYasha Vol. 1 (VIZ Big Edition)
© Rumiko Takahashi

Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: VIZ Big / VIZ Media
Compare prices for InuYasha Vol. 1 (VIZ Big Edition)

Kagome is a modern teen who has modern problems, like studying for her exams and her crush on a cute classmate. When Kagome falls down a well, she ends up in feudal Japan and meets a half-demon/half-human boy named InuYasha. Kagome looks like the priestess who sealed InuYasha's powers, and she discovers that she's got powers of her own. She's going to need them, as Kagome and InuYasha look for a mystical jewel that bestows great powers upon demons.

Besides the manga, InuYasha is a popular and long-running anime series. VIZ has begun re-releasing the manga in omnibus editions to make them easier to collect.

15. Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z Volume 1 by Akira Toriyama, published by VIZ Big / VIZ Media
© Akira Toriyama

Author/Artist: Akira Toriyama
Publisher: VIZ Big / VIZ Media
Compare prices for Dragon Ball Z Vol. 1 (VIZ Big Edition)

In this sequel to Dragon Ball, Son Goku has grown up and now has a son of his own. But fate won't let this legendary fighter live a quiet life. Goku finds out that he is from a race of aliens called Saiyans. Goku was originally sent to Earth to conquer the planet, a mission that he forgot because he lost his memory when he first arrived. Now the Saiyans want to complete Goku's original mission — but they'll have to get past Goku and his friends first.

A super-charged fighting manga that set the tone for many similar series, Dragon Ball Z is a shonen manga classic for the ages.

16. Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 1
Ouran High School Host Club © Bisco Hatori 2002/HAKUSENSHA, Inc.

Author/Artist: Bisco Hatori
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
Compare prices for Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 1

Haruhi Fujioka attends the ritzy Ouran Academy — but unlike her very rich classmates, Haruhi is there on scholarship and lives modestly. When Haruhi accidentally breaks an expensive vase, she gets recruited by the Ouran High School Host Club, a group of very rich and very cute boys who run a lounge where they flatter and flirt with Ouran High girls for a fee. With her short hair and boyish good looks, Haruhi dresses up as a guy and becomes a "host" to pay back her almost insurmountable debt.

Ouran is a popular "reverse harem" series that serves up a mix of cute guys, romance and comedy that shojo manga fans adore.

17. A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life
© Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Author/Artist: Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Compare prices for A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life is a one-of-a-kind graphic novel memoir by a comics creator who had a front row seat during manga's formative years. From his early days as a school boy cartoonist who becomes overwhelmed with giddiness upon meeting Osamu Tezuka to his trail-blazing days as a leading artist in the gekiga, or "dramatic pictures" movement, Yoshihiro Tatsumi weaves post-WWII Japanese history with his personal recollections of manga legends like Takao Saito (Golgo 13) and Masahiko Matsumoto (Cigarette Girl).

A Drifting Life was mentioned on almost every comic critic's top 10 list for 2009 and won two Eisner Awards in 2010.

18. Buddha

Buddha Vol. 1
© Tezuka Productions

Author/Artist: Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical
Compare prices for Buddha Vol. 1

Osamu Tezuka, the "god of manga" took on an ambitious task: to depict the life of prince-turned-priest Gautama Buddha in graphic novel form. In eight volumes, Tezuka shows Buddha's birth and childhood as a privileged Indian prince, his spiritual awakening when he discovers the suffering in the world outside the palace walls, and his struggles to reach enlightenment and to share his learnings with the world.

Tezuka's Buddha is much more than just a dry historical biography — Tezuka includes fictional characters whose struggles bring to life the principles of Buddha's teachings. A cross-over title that will appeal to even non-manga readers.

19. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories
© Moto Hagio

Author/Artist: Moto Hagio
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Compare prices for A Drunken Dream

A misunderstood free spirit. A girl who is rejected by her mother. A couple whose love ends in tragedy each time they're reincarnated. A family haunted by the death of a child. A pair of conjoined twins with an unusual love-hate relationship. This is just a sampling of the characters in ten moving and memorable shojo stories collected in Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream.

Collected for the first time in a gorgeous hardcover edition, A Drunken Dream offers a rare glimpse into the work of one of Japan's most distinctive and influential creators in shojo manga, and heck, manga, period. Worth recommending to both older teen and adult readers alike.

20. Barefoot Gen

Barefoot Gen Vol. 1
© Keiji Nakazawa

Author/Artist: Keiji Nakazawa
Publisher: Last Gasp
Compare prices for Barefoot Gen Vol. 1

6-year old Gen Nakaoka and his family struggle to make ends meet during World War II. While the rationing has forced his family to make do with less, Gen tries to make the best of things. But when the U.S. military drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Gen finds that his world has been turned into hell on earth.

Barefoot Gen is author Keiji Nakazawa's semi-autobiographical eye-witness account of the bombing of Hiroshima and the effect that it had on its citizens even years after. Last Gasp recently released the last two books in this historical and harrowing 12-volume series, making now a good time to complete your collection.

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