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Critics' Choice: Best Manga of 2011

Round-up of 2011's Top 10 Manga As Picked By Comics Critics Across the Web

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I made my picks for Best New Manga of 2011 and Best Continuing Manga of 2011 lists, but which new graphic novels made the cut on other critics' lists?

Here's a round-up of this year's standout new manga releases, as selected by over 45 comics and manga critics across the web. The titles are listed in order of popularity -- the ones that got the most mentions are listed first. I'll be updating this as more lists go live, so check back to see how your favorite fares in the next few weeks!

Also, check out the 2010 Critics' Choice list to see 10 more critically-acclaimed titles worth reading.

1. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths - 18 critics' lists

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
© Shigeru Mizuki

Author/Artist: Shigeru Mizuki
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
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  • "Mizuki’s powerful counterpoint to America’s enduring love affair with World War II doesn’t belittle America or make the Allies look disreputable. Even as American bullets rip through Mizuki’s characters, the true villains remain the Japanese leaders who send their men to pointless deaths. "
    - Garrett Martin, Paste Magazine

Also selected by: Publishers Weekly, Flavorwire, Manga Critic, Every Day is Like Wednesday (J. Caleb Mozzocco), Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman), Manga Worth Reading (Ed Sizemore), MTV Geek, National Public Radio (Dan Kois), NPR/Monkey See (Glen Weldon), Comic Book Resources (Brigid Alverson), Geek Chic Daily, The Onion/AV Club, Comics and More, Read/Rant, Library Journal, SDCC Best Manga Panel, About.com.

2. A Bride's Story - 15 critics' lists

A Bride's Story Volume 1
A Bride’s Story ©2009,2010 Kaoru Mori /PUBLISHED BY ENTERBRAIN, INC.

Author/Artist: Kaoru Mori
Publisher: Yen Press
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  • "A leisurely paced, richly detailed, beautifully drawn manga set in a 19th-century Central Asian village about a 20-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy entered into a political marriage for the sake of their respective families. Strong, clearly defined characters and vivid depictions of village life make this a book to pore over slowly."
    - Glen Weldon, NPR/Monkey See

  • "Beautifully drawn and full of quiet moments as well as exhilarating action, A Bride's Story is a masterpiece." - Brigid Alverson, MTV Geek

Also selected by: Publishers Weekly, Kuriousity (Lissa Patillo), Reading is Delicious, Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman), Manga Worth Reading (Ed Sizemore), Manga Critic, Panel Patter, Comics and More, Slightly Biased Manga, Comics Worth Reading, Kara Conner, SDCC Best Manga Panel, About.com.

3. Wandering Son - 13 critics' lists

Wandering Son Book 2 by Takako Shimura, from Fantagraphics
© Takako Shimura / ENTERBRAIN

Author/Artist: Takako Shimura
Publisher: Fantagraphics
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  • "Shimura Takako sensitively portrays the lives of transgender teens in a quietly ground-breaking series."
    - Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading

  • "Dealing with two children who come to realize they are trapped in the wrong gender, it's a story of secrets, revelations, understandings, and occasional cruelty. The book handles the topic with care and respect, however, which is part of why it is so good."
    - Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter

Also selected by: MadinkBeard (Derik Badman), Reading is Delicious,Manga Worth Reading (Ed Sizemore), Kuriousity (Lissa Patillo), Manga Critic (Kate Dacey), MTV Geek, National Public Radio/Monkey See (Glen Weldon), Comics and More, Kara Conner, SDCC Best Manga Panel, About.com.

4. The Drops of God - 13 critics' lists

The Drops of God Volume 1
© Tadashi Agi, Shu Okimoto / KODANSHA

Author: Tadashi Agi
Artist: Shu Okimoto
Publisher: Vertical
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  • "A manga with a brilliantly simple premise — two sons must compete in a wine-tasting competition to win ownership of their father's huge wine collection — executed with great wit and style."
    - Glen Weldon, National Public Radio/Monkey See

  • "Agi and Okimoto introduce the finer points of connoisseurship with humor and over-the-top situations, and it’s a brilliant read."
    - Shaun Manning, Comic Book Resources

Also selected by: New York Times (George Gene Gustines), Manga Critic, Reading is Delicious, Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman), Comics and More, Geek Chic Daily, Kara Conner, Comics Worth Reading, MTV Geek, A Case Suitable for Treatment, About.com.

5. 20th Century Boys - 11 critics' lists

20th Century Boys Volume 15
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts

Author/Artist: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
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  • "This sprawling story might be the most Western-feeling of all the manga I've read, as the plot and pacing remind me very much of Steven King and other similarly prolific writers. It's going to take me a long time to get to the end, but it's been a fun ride trying to figure out how the small band of friends can stop their rogue member from destroying the world."
    - Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
  • "With conclusion still roughly 800 pages away, 2011's crop of official translations of 20th Century Boys served as total onslaught: death followed death, with every heart on the table left broken, if they weren't stopped entirely. And yet, due to Urasawa's able hand, misery never became miserable. Maybe it's because we trust him, or maybe it's just because we're too invested in these characters to leave them hanging now. Whatever it is, each new volume was a jungle of emotions, enveloping us whole."
    - Tucker Stone, ComiXology

Also selected by: Manga Worth Reading (Ed Sizemore), Publishers Weekly, Reading is Delicious, Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman), Kuriousity (Lissa Patillo), Slightly Biased Manga, Manga Critic, SDCC Best Manga Panel, About.com.

6. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon - 10 critics' lists

Sailor Moon Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi from Kodansha Comics
© Naoko Takeuchi / KODANSHA LTD.

Author/Artist: Naoko Takeuchi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
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  • "Sailor Moon won't win any literary awards, but it's very good at what it does. The plot may be illogical at times, the art chaotic, and the characters rather thin, but it all adds up to a great magical-girl story that continues to captivate fans all over the world."
    - Brigid Alverson, MTV Geek

Also selected by: Manga Critic, Publishers Weekly, Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman), Kuriousity (Lissa Patillo), Comics and More, Geek Chic Daily, A Case Suitable for Treatment, Kara Conner, About.com.

7. Cross Game - 9 critics' lists

Cross Game Volume 4
© Mitsuru Adachi / SHOGAKUKAN

Author/Artist: Mitsuru Adachi
Publisher: Shonen Sunday / VIZ Media
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  • "I don't really care for sports, and yet, this manga is riveting! This is about a high school baseball team. It has love triangles, fully-fleshed out characters, a story that subverts shonen manga tropes. It's a really naturalistic, slice of life story."
    - Chris Butcher, SDCC Best Manga

Also selected by: Reading is Delicious, Madinkbeard (Derik Badman), YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman), Manga Critic, MTV Geek, Kara Conner, About.com.

8. A Zoo in Winter - 8 critics' lists

A Zoo in Winter by Jiro Taniguchi, from Fanfare - Ponent Mon
© Jiro Taniguchi / SHOGAKUKAN

Author/Artist: Jiro Taniguchi
Publisher: Fanfare - Ponent Mon
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  • "Jiro Taniguchi's semi-autobiographical story of romance and becoming an artist in the manga industry is quiet, gentle, and enthralling."
    - Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources

  • "I feel like Taniguichi is writing his stories for me. His sense of nostalgia, history, and character are almost identical to my own. I immediately identify with his lead characters and sympathize with what they're going through. Maybe it's a middle-aged man thing."
    - Ed Sizemore, Manga Worth Reading

Also selected by: Graphic Novel Reporter (John Hogan), Manga Critic, Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman), SDCC Best Manga Panel, Comics and More, About.com.

9. Twin Spica - 8 critics' lists

Twin Spica Volume 7
© Kou Yaginuma

Author/Artist: Kou Yaginuma
Publisher: Vertical
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  • "This is more of a soft sci-fi, where the focus is on the characters and their development over technology and world-building. A very moving story with lead characters you’re constantly rooting for."
    - Ed Sizemore, Manga Worth Reading

Also selected by: Panel Patter (Rob McMonigal), Manga Critic (Kate Dacey), Kuriousity (Lissa Patillo), Comics and More (Dave Ferraro), SDCC Best Manga Panel, YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Manga Widget (Alex Hoffman)

10. Stargazing Dog (a.k.a. Star Protector Dog) - 8 critics' lists

Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami from NBM Publishing
© Takeshi Murakami / FUTABASHA

Author/Artist: Takashi Murakami
Publisher: NBM Publishing
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Also available online as Star Protector Dog at J-Manga.com

  • "Consider yourself warned: Stargazing Dog is a five-hanky affair. The two interconnecting vignettes that comprise this slim volume explore the bond between Happie, a shiba inu, and Daddy, his owner. When Daddy loses his job, his home, and his family, he and Happie hit the road in search of a new life. Though the outcome of Happie and Daddy's journey is never in doubt - we learn their fate in the opening pages of the book - Murakami draws the reader into their story with an honest and unsparing look at the human-dog compact that may remind cinephiles of Vittorio de Sica's Umberto D."
    - Kate Dacey, Manga Critic

Also selected by: National Public Radio (Glen Weldon), Publishers Weekly, Panel Patter (Rob McMonigal), Comics Worth Reading (Johanna Draper Carlson), Manga Worth Reading (Ed Sizemore), Kuriousity (Lissa Patillo), Every Day is Like Wednesday (J. Caleb Mozzocco).

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