Comics, graphic novels, or whatever you call it, Japanese manga is very popular worldwide. You can see people in suits reading manga on trains and buses. Wide varieties of story, genre, and characters, these are one of many reasons why people love manga. Not just reading, you will also learn how to read Japanese characters through Japanese mangas.
In this article, (1) learn about the Japanese manga, (2) discover what popular Japanese mangas are in nowadays, (3) choose the right Japanese mangas for Nihongo learning, and (4) know where manga events and products are located in Japan upon visiting the land of the rising sun. Continue reading because this article is exclusively written just for you!
What is Japanese Manga?
The word “manga” comes from the Japanese word “漫画”. This is composed of the two kanjis of 漫 and 画. First is 漫 (man), which means “whimsical or impromptu“. Second, 画 (ga) which means “pictures”. Please note that manhwa(Korean comics) and manhua(Chinese comics) uses the same root words.
Japanese Manga(katakana: マンガ; hiragana: まんが) are like comics(DC and Marvel from America) or graphic novels from Japan. In Japan, manga refers to both comics and cartooning. There are many genres like:
3. business and commerce
11. science fiction and fantasy
12. sports and games
In Japan and even in different countries, people of all ages read the manga. That is because most Japanese mangas are translated into different languages.
In Japan, the manga is usually serialized in large manga magazines such as Shonen Jump Weekly, containing one or more chapters and to be continued in the next magazine issue. The collected chapters formed into volumes are called tankōbon. You can buy full volumes in many used-book stores.
Did you know? Mangas are printed in black-and-white because coloring may contribute a less impact of the artwork. Not just for artistic reasons, this contributes to low printing costs.
The person who works as a manga artist is called mangaka. One thing that excites many is that when a manga is popular, it has a higher chance to be adapted in anime (Japanese animation such as Ghibli movies).
Top 15 Japanese Manga You Must Read
Are you curious why the Japanese mangas below are popular? Try reading the storyline. Then you will learn lessons in life, cry your tears out, and laugh out loud on the hilarious characters.
Dragon Ball(ドラゴンボール) by Akira Toriyama
The series follows the adventures of Son Goku from his childhood through adulthood as he trains in martial arts. Spending his childhood from civilization until meeting a teen girl named Bulma, who encouraged him to seek the dragon balls(seven orbs which will summon a wish-granting dragon when all are gathered in one place).
Goku makes several friends along the way, got his own family, discovers that he is an alien while battling many villains who also seek for the dragon balls.
Naruto(ナルト, Naruto Shippuden and Boruto: Naruto Next Generations) by Masashi Kishimoto
This ninja manga series tells the story of Naruto Uzumaki, known as the orange ninja. Naruto is a young ninja who seeks recognition from his peers from his village and dreams of becoming the Hokage, the leader of his village.
The story is told in two parts. The first is set in Naruto’s pre-teen years focusing on Sasuke leaving the village. The second is in his teens pursuing his childhood best friend, Sasuke while battling powerful ninjas. A sequel called Boruto: Naruto Next Generations tells the story of Boruto, son of Naruto, and his adventures.
My Hero Academia(僕のヒーローアカデミア, Boku no Hero Academia) by Kohei Horikoshi
This superhero manga series follows Izuku Midoriya, a boy born without superpowers (called Quirks) in a world where most of the people gained Quirks. Still dreams of becoming a hero himself even though quirkless, he is scouted by All Might, Japan’s greatest hero, by sharing his Quirk( One for All) with Midoriya after recognizing his potential, and later helps to enroll him in a prestigious high school for heroes in training.
Attack on Titan(進撃の巨人, Shingeki no Kyojin) by Hajime Isayama
The series is set in a world where humanity lives within cities surrounded by enormous walls that protect them from gigantic man-eating humanoids referred to as Titans(Kyojin).
The story tells about Eren Yeager, who vows to retake the world after a Titan brings about the destruction of his home town and the death of his mother.
He is joined by Mikasa Ackerman, Armin, his childhood best friend, and later more friends along the way uncovering the secrets of their feared enemies.
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda
The story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body gained the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating a Devil Fruit and a boy who wants to become the Pirate King.
With his crew of pirates, named the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy explores the Grand Line in search of the world’s ultimate treasure known as “One Piece” in order to become the next King of the Pirates.
The story is a rollercoaster of emotion filled with drama, action, and comedy.
One-Punch Man (ワンパンマン, wanpanman) by One and Yusuke Murata
The series is originally a webcomic that follows the story of Saitama, a superhero who can defeat any opponent with a single punch but seeks to find a worthy foe after growing bored by a lack of challenge due to his overwhelming strength. He is then later joined by Genos, his self-appointed apprentice who is also an S-Class hero.
Bleach by Tite Kubo
Completed series, the manga follows the adventures of the hotheaded teenager Ichigo Kurosaki, who inherits his parents’ destiny after he obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper—a death personification similar to the Grim Reaper—from another Soul Reaper, Rukia Kuchiki.
Because of his new-found powers, this forces him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife and set him on journeys to various ghostly realms of existence.
Fairy Tail (フェアリーテイル, feari teiru) by Hiro Mashima
This manga series follows the adventures of Natsu Dragneel, a member of the popular wizard guild called Fairy Tail, as he searches the fictional world of Earth-land for the dragon Igneel. He is then joined by Lucy, Happy, Erza, Gray, and Wendy, defeating dark guilds and seeking adventures.
Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi
This popular manga series focuses on a young boy named Gon Freecss who discovers that his father, who left him at a young age, is actually a world-renowned Hunter. A Hunter is a licensed professional who specializes in fantastical pursuits such as locating rare or unidentified animal species, treasure hunting, surveying unexplored enclaves, or hunting down lawless individuals.
Despite being abandoned by his father, Gon departs on a journey to become a Hunter and eventually finds his father. Along the way, Gon meets various other Hunters such as Killua, Kurapica, and Leorio, encountering the paranormal such as chimeras.
Full Metal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) by Hiromu Arakawa
The manga series is set in a fictional universe, in which alchemy is one of the advanced natural techniques revolved around scientific laws of equivalent exchange.
The series follows the adventures of two alchemist brothers named Edward and Alphonse Elric. They are searching for the philosopher’s stone to restore their bodies( Edward’s arm and Al’s body) after a failed attempt to bring their mother back to life using alchemy.
Case Closed(名探偵コナン, Meitantei Konan) by Gosho Aoyama
This detective manga series follows the high school detective Shinichi Kudo (renamed as Jimmy Kudo in the English translation) who was transformed into a child while investigating a mysterious organization and solves a multitude of cases while impersonating his childhood best friend’s father and other characters.
The series is very popular to the point that it has a lot of movies and anime episode adaptations.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (鬼滅の刃, Kimetsu no Yaiba) by Koyoharu Gotoge
The manga’s story follows Tanjiro Kamado, a young boy who becomes a demon slayer after his family is slaughtered by demons and his younger sister Nezuko is turned into a demon.
He then is recruited to become a slayer and later joined by Demon Slayer Corps and Hashiras or Pillars.
Death Note (デスノート, Desu Noto) by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
The story of the series follows Light Yagami, a teen genius who stumbles across a mysterious otherworldly notebook: the “Death Note”, which belonged to the Shinigami Ryuk. The Death Note grants the user (such as Light) the supernatural ability to kill anyone whose name is written in its pages. This requires him to see the face while writing the name.
The series centers around Light’s subsequent attempts to use the Death Note to carry out a worldwide massacre of individuals whom he judges as morally unworthy of living to change the world into a utopian society without crime, using the alias of a god-like vigilante named “Kira”.
The series shows also the subsequent efforts of an elite task-force of law enforcement officers, consisting of members of the Japanese police force, led by L, an enigmatic, sugar-loving, an international detective whose past is shrouded in mystery, to apprehend him and end Light Yagami’s reign of terror.
Jojo's Bizzare Adventure (ジョジョの奇妙な冒険, JoJo no Kimyō na Bōken) by Hirohiko Araki
The manga series is divided into eight story arcs, each following the adventures of a new protagonist bearing the “JoJo” nickname. The story protagonist owns a Stand, a powerful entity helping them in battles.
Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki
The story is all about a wandering swordsman who protects the people of Japan with a vow never to take another life. Hitokiri Battosai, a former assassin disappears and becomes Himura Kenshin.
Learn Basic Nihongo with these Japanese Mangas
Learning through reading! Did you know that you can achieve knowledge like that of a JLPT N5 by reading the mangas below? Please also note that you need to learn first how to read hiragana and katakana. It is also better to study in Japan to learn the Japanese language at it’s finest.
Tip! : Buy a Japanese version and an English version. The advantage of the Japanese version is that any kanji (Chinese characters) written in the manga’s story will have the furigana(hiragana and/or katakana characters for those who can’t read the kanji) translation next to the kanji. The English version will be your reference. Try familiarizing the story of the manga and read the story by reading the gestures in the artwork too.
Pokemon which is very popular around the world in games has a children’s manga with simple and easy vocabulary and grammar.
The story is centered on fictional creatures called “Pokémon”(pocket monsters), which humans, known as Pokémon Trainers, catch and train to battle each other for sport.
Pokemon Adventures is divided into different storylines and different regions with a different protagonist. The story will follow the protagonist’s adventures and battles along with his or her pokemon.
Doraemon (ドラえもん) by Fujiko Fujio
This series revolves around an earless robotic cat named Doraemon, who travels back in time from the 22nd century to help a boy named Nobita Nobi (野比のび太, Nobi Nobita).
This long-running and popular series is targeted at the audience of children which means the vocabulary and sentence structures are fairly simple and easy to understand.
Slamdunk(スラムダンク) by Takehiko Inoue
The manga series is all about a basketball team from Shōhoku High School in the Shōnan area. The main protagonist is Hanamichi Sakuragi wanting attention to his crush by playing his hated sports, basketball.
Sports manga such as Slamdunk are almost always set in our present-day and usually take place at high schools or junior high schools. Because of these factors, the language will be current Japanese and the content and conversations will be full of useful everyday phrases and vocabulary in Japan.
A Town Where You Live (君のいる町, Kimi no Iru Machi) by Koji Seo
This series follows the daily life of Haruto Kirishima as he becomes in love with Yuzuki Eba.
The series is perfect for learning Nihongo because it is filled with commonplace Japanese words and phrases used in the home, in the dating scene, and in school. All of which can be applied to different situations in your life in Japan.
Yotsuba by Kiyohiko Azuma
The series depicts the everyday adventures of a young girl named Yotsuba as she learns about the world around her, guided by her adopted father, their neighbors, and their friends.
This is also perfect for learning Nihongo because it uses simple language. Because of the setting of a young child experiencing everyday problems and everyday life, the vocabulary will be of great use for every Japanese language beginner.
Japanese Manga Establishments and Events
If you love manga and anime, you would be happy to visit the places and modern architectures in Japan and events below when you visit Japan.
Manga Cafes( Manga Kissa)
This is the place where you can read from a library of manga for a specified time at a corresponding fee. You are free to borrow and return books as many times as you wish within the time limit. Manga Cafes offers private compartments that offer guests some privacy for their reading pleasure.
You can find manga cafes at almost all major city centers like Tokyo and Osaka which is usually located close to the train stations. They offer a free flow of non-alcoholic drinks and double as internet cafes.
Fees are typically about 300 yen per 30 minutes, but most of the manga cafes offer packages such as three hours for around 1000 yen.
Maid cafes are where you can experience the fantasy of maid-themed manga and anime. You will be served by waitresses in French maid uniforms with desserts and cakes in a cute way.
The waitress will converse in a friendly way and will play cards and video games for you. You can also take pictures with them by paying. Some cafes do not allow picture-taking.
Originally in Akihabara, the maid cafes are very successful that it inspired emulations at other locations in Japan and other countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, China, Canada, and the United States.
This event is formerly known as Tokyo Anime which is one of the largest animation related events in the world. This is annually held at Odaiba’s Big Sight convention center.
This event is a huge comic book fair which attracts hundreds of thousands of people. Comiket is held biannually, also at Big Sight in Tokyo.
Akihabara in Tokyo
Are you a self-proclaimed otaku? Then, visit your paradise at Akihabara. Akihabara is the center of gaming, manga, and anime culture in Japan. Electronics shops, maid cafes, and anime stores can be found here.
Stores are typically open from 10:00 to 20:00, although individual store hours vary.
Nakano Broadway in Tokyo
Nakano Broadway is a shopping mall with a large concentration of stores specializing in anime goods that includes numerous specialized branches of the Mandarake store.
Items on offer include a wide selection of figures, toys, and costumes from different mangas.
Stores are typically open from 12:00 to 20:00, although individual store hours vary.
Are you fond of the cute pokemon? Pokemon Centers are found in major cities, including Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka.
Pokemon Centers are stores wherein you can buy all things about Pokemon like trading cards, stationery, toys, and games, including some exclusive items.
DiverCity Tokyo Plaza
This shopping, dining, and entertainment complex opened in 2012 in Odaiba which features attractions related to the Gundam anime series includes a large, “life-size” Gundam statue in front of the building and Gundam Base Tokyo, a shop dedicated to plastic models.
Ghibli Museum is located near Mitake Station, a little bit outside central Tokyo. The Ghibli Museum is home to our favorite characters from Ghibli Studios films such as Totoro in My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Sen/Chihiro in Spirited Away.
The museum also features special animation exhibits and exclusive short films.
To visit the museum, you need to reserve in advance.
The Fujiko F. Fujio Museum, informally known as the Doraemon Museum, shows and tributes the work of manga artist Fujiko F. Fujio, creator of the influential and long-running Doraemon series.
The museum is located in Kawasaki next to Tokyo and also requires advanced reservations.
Ishinomori Manga museum is dedicated to the manga creator Ishinomori Shotaro, a prolific artist who drew several dozen influential manga series including Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider.
The museum also displays a collection of comics, statues, and artworks from Ishinomori’s numerous manga series. You can locate the museum near Sendai. Although it was damaged by the 2011 tsunami, it has since been repaired and reopened.
Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum
Osamu Tezuka is known as the “God of Manga” for his pioneering efforts in the industry, as well as for “Astro Boy” and much other manga series. A memorial museum was built in Takarazuka after his death.
Takarazuka is the city where he grew up. It is a 30-minute train ride north of Osaka. The museum displays the artist’s life and shows a wide array of his work in both permanent and temporary exhibition spaces.
- Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
- Closed: Wednesdays (except holidays), December 29-31
- Admission: 700 yen
The Kyoto International Manga Museum can be centrally found near Karasuma-Oike Subway Station. The museum displays a massive collection of manga available for browsing and reading. This museum also focuses on both the adoption and development of manga internationally.
The Kitakyushu Manga Museum introduces the history of manga with a focus on artists who have affiliations to Kitakyushu City which includes Matsumoto Leiji, the creator of Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999.
You can locate the museum in Aru-Aru City, a shopping center that also features several mangas and anime-related shops.
Denden Town is similar to Tokyo’s famous Akihabara area. It is a popular shopping destination for fans of Japanese anime and manga.
For travelers with an interest in the more, perhaps “geeky” pursuits like manga-related activities, Denden Town in Osaka is an absolute must-visit place!
How to Purchase Japanese Manga in Volumes
Purchasing books on the internet through websites is known nowadays. You can pay by using cards.
- You can buy manga in Amazon Japan for new and unused manga.
- You can also buy it on eBay.
- Rightstuff sells mangas too.
The other option is to buy used tankobons in bookstores like Book Off, a buy and sell chain of used goods such as mangas throughout Japan. You can find their stores in large cities.
Extra: 5 Sites to Read Japanese Manga Online for Free and Entirely Legal
Extra: Apps for Reading Japanese Manga
Japanese Manga is considered to be an art, opening one’s mind into a diverse world, either a fantasy or a reality. The drawing and the presentations give the reader an awe-feeling and imagination starts there. It kills time and sometimes adds knowledge.
Japanese manga has a rich history and a lot of manga are published until now. There are popular artworks, depicting the story of a protagonist whom the reader can relate to. There are also mangas that teach you the language of the Japanese people.
Whenever you visit Japan, try going to museums and events held there to fully experience the satisfaction of a manga-lover. You can purchase these series in volumes through online shopping and through book shops. Because of the trend, one can also read manga freely on the internet.
If you are into literature with arts such as comics and illustrated novels, why not try reading these awesome comics called “Japanese Manga”.
FAIR Japan provides useful information about Japan.