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50 Essential Manga for Libraries

Timeless Classics and Popular Titles for Kids, Teens and Adults

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Want to add manga to your library's collection, but don't know where to start? Or want to get your local library to stock more of what you want to read? This list of 50 essential manga for libraries include a mix of timeless, critically-acclaimed classics and some of the today's most popular titles for kids, teens and grown-up graphic novel readers, as selected by About.com readers. Librarian and author Robin Brenner also chimes in with her thoughts on why these titles deserve a spot on more library shelves.

1. Fullmetal Alchemist

Full Metal Alchemist Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa
© Hiromu Arakawa / SQUARE ENIX

Author/Artist: Hiromu Arakawa
Publisher: VIZ Media
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Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are alchemists who made the mistake of trying to push the limits of their craft a little too far, and it nearly cost them their lives and limbs. Recruited as a State Alchemist, Edward works with the military, which gives him the opportunity to travel around the country as he searches for the Philosopher's Stone that has the power to restore the brothers' bodies. However, there are many sinister and powerful people looking for it too.

This perennially popular 26-volume manga series offers a winning mix of action, drama, fantasy, horror and memorable characters that keeps fans coming back for more.

2. Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya, a shojo manga series published by TokyoPop
© Natsuki Takaya

Author/Artist: Natsuki Takaya
Publisher: TokyoPop
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When Tohru Honda moves in with the very rich and mysterious Sohma Family, she discovers the family secret almost immediately: several members of the clan are cursed to turn into one of the 12 zodiac animals when they're touched by the opposite sex.

A longtime fan favorite, Fruits Basket has all the elements that makes shojo fans swoon: Cute girls and beautiful boys, light-hearted romance, slapstick humor and addictive drama. It starts out light and fun, but it's in its later volumes that the true emotional depth and one-of-a-kind charm of this series really kicks in.

3. Naruto

Naruto Volume 1 Cover Artwork by Masashi Kishimoto
Masashi Kishimoto

Author/Artist: Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
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Naruto follows the adventures of a teen ninja-in-training, Naruto Uzumaki. Orphaned at birth, Naruto is a practical joker who’ll do anything for attention. His grades at the Ninja Academy suck, and he’s shunned by most of the adults. Naruto’s secret? His body is the living prison for the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon that almost destroyed his village 15 years ago.

At over 50 volumes and counting, Naruto remains one of the most popular manga and anime series in the world. The story took a darker turn after Volume 28, which started the "Shippuden" arc, where Naruto is three years older and the stakes are higher.

4. Bleach

Bleach Volume 1 by Tite Kubo, published by Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
© Tite Kubo

Author/Artist: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
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Ichigo Kurosaki is a relatively normal high school boy who just happens to be able to see ghosts. But when he meets Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki, Ichigo gets sucked into a world where Soul Reapers with powerful spiritual weapons battle the undead, monstrous Hollows. As Ichigo's Soul Reaper abilities get stronger, so do his opponents, who are all out to see him dead.

Bleach starts out as a fairly simple story, but as Ichigo goes into the world of the Soul Society, he meets and fights a mind-boggling array of enemies, each stronger than the last. Can he survive his adventures in the world of the undead?

5. Yotsuba&!

Yotsuba&! Volume 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma, published by ADV Manga / Media Works Inc.
© Kiyohiko Azuma / MediaWorks Inc.

Author/Artist: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
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Since Yotsuba moved into the neighborhood, this little green-haired girl immediately befriended her neighbors the Ayases and discovered the joys of things that are new to her, like air conditioning, swing sets and fireworks.

Robin Brenner: "This is one of those titles that is talked about in library circles, but it's tough to understand in terms of audience. Kids love it, teens love it, adults love it. Sometimes librarians aren't sure where it goes — it doesn't go automatically in a teen collection. Children's librarians don't see it reviewed, and adult librarians think it's too young for their collection. A good one to suggest."

6. Vampire Knight

Vampire Knight Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino, published by Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
© Matsuri Hino / Hakusensha Inc.

Author/Artist: Matsuri Hino
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
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Yuki Cross attends the prestigious Cross Academy -- but she's one of the few students that knows of its dark secret. By day, the classes are for human students, but at night, the halls of Cross Academy are filled with teen vampires.

Vampires are hot, and Vampire Knight is the reigning queen of the shojo manga supernatural romances. Why? Well, Matsuri Hino's lovely artwork and hunky characters draw readers in, but its Vampire Knight's twisted drama, intricate/dysfunctional relationships between the characters and the swoon-worthy romance that makes it irresistable to goth girls and vampire lovers.

7. Death Note

Death Note volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata
Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Artist: Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Shonen Jump Advanced / VIZ Media
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Light Yagami is one of the brightest students at his school — but he's also very bored. That changes when he finds a black "Death Note" notebook. Light then meets Ryuk, a grim reaper who explains that when a name of a person is written in the Death Note, that person dies instantly. Light uses his powers to kill criminals, but his killing streak doesn't go unnoticed and soon he's matching wits with L, an eccentric super-sleuth.

Death Note packs in a lot of action and supernatural suspense in 12 volumes; so much that a 13th "how to read" companion volume was published to help fans sort things out.

8. Nana

Nana Volume 1 by Ai Yazawa from Shojo Beat Manga / VIZ Media
© 1999 by Yazawa Manga Seisakusho / SHUEISHA Inc.

Author/Artist: Ai Yazawa
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
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Two young women named Nana meet on a train to Tokyo: Nana Komatsu is eager to live a glamorous city girl's life. Nana Osaki is a rock star on the rise. How their destinies intertwine make Nana an addictive drama that rises above the rest.

Robin Brenner: "There was a problem in the library world when its rating suddenly jumped to M (mature) as most libraries had started collecting the series in their teen collections. This series demonstrates the need for an adult collection. There's no reason libraries shouldn't own this series, but if they don't because there's no adult section, it's time to start requesting that they build one."

9. Chi's Sweet Home

Chi's Sweet Home Volume 1 by Konami Konata, from Vertical
© Konami Konata

Author/Artist: Kanata Konami
Publisher: Vertical
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An adorable kitten gets separated from her family, and gets adopted by a young boy and his parents. Chi the kitten soon wins the hearts of this young family, but there's just one problem: they live in an apartment that strictly forbids pets.

Robin Brenner: "Chi's Sweet Home isn't in too many libraries' collections yet — but it's a new title, so this makes some sense. Also, as it's a title aimed at younger readers, librarians who work with kids have been one of the hardest groups to market to in libraries. It's getting better, but Chi definitely needs help to make it on to librarians' radar."

10. Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball Volume 1 by Akira Toriyama, a shonen manga published by VIZ Big / VIZ Media
© Akira Toriyama

Author/Artist: Akira Toriyama
Publisher: VIZ Big / VIZ Media
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Son Goku is on a quest to find seven magical "dragon balls." Legend has it that the person who finds all seven balls will be granted a wish. But with so many other people after the dragon balls, Goku's quest won't be easy.

Robin Brenner: "Dragon Ball gets a bit of a bad rap in libraries (it's been challenged numerous times, most frequently by readers who are unnerved by the nudity and dirty old man character in the opening pages.) Nonetheless, it's very popular, and as long as you place it in the right collection for your community (teen collections seem to keep it with little fanfare), it's a strong bet."

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