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Best Continuing Manga of 2010

21 Picks, Including Best Series, Best Book and the Year's Worst Manga

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While many new titles made good first impressions this year, there were also several continuing series that really hit their stride in 2010. See which ongoing series topped my must-read list again and again, and see which manga got the nod for best reprint edition, best book, best under-appreciated gem and the two titles that irked me the most this year.

Also, check out my picks for the Best New Manga of 2010, and just for fun, see which titles made it to the 2009's Best (and Worst) Continuing Manga list.

Best Manga Series - Pluto

Pluto Urasawa x Tezuka Vol. 8
© Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts, Takashi NAGASAKI and Tezuka Productions

Author and Artist: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
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Mysterious forces are trying to kill the seven most powerful robots on earth, including Atom, the boy robot. Who is doing this, what to they hope to accomplish, and what does the name "Pluto" have to do with all of it?

After taking readers on an trip through a re-imagined version of a classic Astro Boy story, Naoki Urasawa's Pluto came to an end with its eighth volume. While Urasawa took several liberties from Tezuka's original tale, The Greatest Robot on Earth, the ending stayed true to Tezuka's original themes. A memorable, often moving sci-fi story that appealed to readers on both sides of the comics shop.

Best Manga Series (runner-up) - Ooku: The Inner Chambers

Ooku Volume 5
Ôoku © Fumi Yoshinaga 2009 / HAKUSENSHA, Inc.

Author and Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
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Ooku is 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 a fascinating story about a once-male dominated society turned inside-out and the political and emotional drama inside the palace walls as lived by several generations of female shogun and their consorts.

While the English translation of its courtly dialogue turned some manga fans off, it's hard to deny the thought-provoking quality of the story that Yoshinaga is telling here. A smart historical epic that is worthy of repeat readings.

Best Shonen Manga Series - One Piece

One Piece Vol. 55
ONE PIECE © 1997 by Eiichiro Oda/SHUEISHA Inc.

Author and Artist: Eiichiro Oda
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
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As a boy, Monkey D. Luffy did two things: He met Red-Haired Shanks, a pirate he came to idolize and he ate the Gum-Gum fruit, which gave him elastic limbs. Now with his rag-tag crew, Luffy is on a quest to become the King of the Pirates. If it means fighting shadow-stealing zombies, ruthless women warriors and breaking into prison, well, that's just part of the job.

In six months, VIZ Media released 30 volumes worth of One Piece, giving North American fans a mega-dose of this super-fun shonen manga adventure. If you haven't yet, try it and see why millions of fans worldwide have made this the best-selling manga of all time.

Best Shonen Manga Series (runner-up) - Cat Paradise

Cat Paradise Vol. 5
© Yuji Iwahara / AKITASHOTEN

Author and Artist: Yuji Iwahara
Publisher: Yen Press
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At Matabi Academy, each student is allowed to bring a cat to live with them at the dorms. Most of the cats are quite ordinary — but the five members of the student council have very special cats who team up with them to give them super-human powers. These powers are a necessity when these teens are charged to protect the school from an ancient curse and a menagerie of powerful spirit beasts who want to reclaim the earth from humanity.

Despite its cutesy name, Cat Paradise is a solid shonen manga fantasy adventure, kind of like X-Men with cats. Full of action, great art and unexpected twists, Cat Paradise is a fun five-volume treat.

Best Shojo Manga Series - Sand Chronicles

Sand Chronicles Vol. 9
SUNADOKEI © Hinako ASHIHARA/Shogakukan

Author and Artist: Hinako Ashihara
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
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After her parents' divorce, 12-year old Ann moved to a rural town with her mother. It's there that she meets Daigo, the good-natured, down-to-earth boy who will eventually be her boyfriend, and siblings Fuji and Shika, who are from the town's richest family. As Ann goes through her teens and twenties, Sand Chronicles captures the many moments of laughter, tears, love, friendships and fights between the four friends, and even their parents' history too.

Sand Chronicles goes beyond the usual teen romances and tells a thoughtful tale about difficult choices and complicated relationships. Touching and compelling.

Best Shojo Manga Series (runner-up) - Gakuen Alice

Gakuen Alice Vol. 14
© Tachibana Higuchi

Author and Artist: Tachibana Higuchi
Publisher: TokyoPop
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When her best friend Hotaru is sent to a school for 'gifted' children, Mikan can't take it sitting down. She goes to the super-exclusive Alice Academy and finds that she too has an "Alice," a special ability that qualifies her to enter the school. Mikan makes many wonderful discoveries and several close friends, but also finds that the school is layered with secrets, and that having an Alice can be a gift and a curse.

With its imaginative twists and emphasis on magical powers, political intrigue and friendship, Gakuen Alice is more like Harry Potter than a typical shojo school romance. A bit dark, but overall, a fun, intriguing read.

Best Seinen/Josei Manga Series: Action - Vagabond

Vagabond Volume 33
VAGABOND © 1998-2010 I.T. Planning, Inc.

Author and Artist: Takehiko Inoue
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
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Before he became Japan's most renown and respected swordsman / scholar, Miyamoto Musashi was an untamed beast who challenged all comers to be the strongest in the land. But as he meets (and defeats) ever-stronger opponents, he looks within and finds that there is much more to being "strong" than just physical strength.

With beautifully-drawn fight sequences that are both poetic and brutal, Takehiko Inoue takes samurai action to the next level. Sure, it's up to 33 volumes and Musashi still hasn't had his fateful duel with deaf sword savant Sasaki Kojiro, but when it happens, it's sure to be worth the wait.

Best Seinen/Josei Manga Series: Drama - Suppli

Suppli Vol. 4 - 5
© Mari Okazaki / SHODENSHA

Author and Artist: Mari Okazaki
Publisher: TokyoPop
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For Minami Fuji, life as a twenty-something advertising professional is not as glamorous as it seems. She works long hours, endures nights where she sleeps at her desk, and at the end of one particularly hard day finds that her boyfriend of seven years has broken up with her. But when one door closes, another opens when she meets a colleague who shows her that she can have a career and a love life too.

A sumptuously-drawn, sensual and sophisticated series about women with real careers making some tough choices about their relationships and their future. Suppli offers an oasis of smart, stylish romance in a sea of dumbed-down chick lit.

Best Seinen/Josei Manga Series: Comedy - Moyasimon

Moyasimon Vol. 2
© Ishikawa Masayuki / KODANSHA

Author and Artist: Masayuki Ishikawa
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
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Wimpy guys with super robots, move over! Make room for a manga hero like no other: Tadayasu Sawaki can see and talk with cute bacteria, molds and germs. He's been able to do this since he was a kid, but now that he's in agricultural college, his abilities are especially useful to a professor who specializes in fermentation science and classmates who are keen to brew bootleg sake.

A wonderful manifestation of the diversity and creativity in manga today, Moyasimon is a humorous and oddly educational series that is just a lot of fun to read. It's currently in limbo but here's hoping that more Moyasimon will be coming our way soon.

Best All-Ages Manga Series - Yotsuba&!

Yotsuba&! Vol. 9
Yotsuba&! © Kiyohiko Azuma / YOTUBA SUTAZIO

Author and Artist: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
Compare prices for Yotsuba Vol. 9

Every day is a day full of fun and discovery for Yotsuba, as this little green-haired girl heads to the beach, visits a dairy farm, attends a summer festival or just has fun with her neighbors, the Ayase sisters.

It looks deceptively simple, but it takes a fair amount of observational skill, draftsmanship and comic timing to make Yotsuba&! the consistently delightful, slice-of-life comic that everyone loves. It's rare to encounter a comic that actually makes a reader giggle out loud, and Yotsuba&! does that to me with every volume. A true all-ages gem that just never gets old.

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