2016. What a year.
It’s been a tough year for many of us and personally, it was a challenging one. I was so busy with the last stretch of my dissertation that I hardly read any manga at all! When things finally slowed down in December, I started thinking of the titles I should put on this list and honestly, I hardly remembered five titles! I know I enjoyed a couple of reads, but I can’t even remember why I enjoyed them! Isn’t that sad!?! My head was totally out of it that I spent the last week recalling all the good things I read. Thankfully, there were a few that reminded me of good things about 2016. Just like before, these are titles that I have read in the last year and are not necessarily published that same year.
Black Clover by Tabata Yuuki
There’s a time when I said, “I’m not gonna commit to another shonen series!” Too long. Too many characters. Too much drama. However, with Gintama coming to an end, I was tempted this year to entertain a new shonen title. Fortunately, the magical world of Black Clover was such an enjoyable read! The story’s about two orphans who dreamed of living a better life by becoming wizards. As orphans who live on the periphery of the capital, these two boys had to do be exceptional in using (or not using) magic. I was initially drawn by how well the political narrative was woven seamlessly into the story. The story established early the social contexts of the protagonists. You immediately understand that these boys are potential proponents of social change. Tabata does this in an engaging and entertaining manner that you don’t feel lost in the politics of the story. Instead, you enjoy Asta and Yuno’s magical journey as they prove to everyone their magical prowess.
Fujiyama-san wa Shishunki by Ojiro Makoto
Seinen | Action Comics | Amazon & EbookJapan
I have always been fond of young romances and this year, Kanba’s affection for Fujiyama warmed my heart. The romance between a short boy and a tall girl is nothing new for fervent shoujo readers, but I love Ojiro’s quiet and subtle approach to this tale. It’s a heart-warming read, a beautiful balance between Lovely Complex and Love at Fourteen.
Okusan by Ooi Masakazu
Seinen | Shonen Gahosha (JP) | Amazon & EbookJapan
Somehow, this year, I found myself enamoured by stories about wives. I was telling a friend about how much I enjoyed this story about a wife with gigantic boobs and her domestic adventures. I primarily picked this up for the lulz, and it was not long before I enjoyed the protagonist’s wifely shenanigans. The story’s H-aesthetic is almost appealing given how funny and heartwarming this story is. Maybe I enjoyed this because I just want a peaceful married domestic life like hers. Maybe I can relate because children have sunk their faces in my boobs. Maybe it’s also because I was just laughing at the end of every chapter.
Gohan no Otomo by Tana
Seinen | Jitsugyo no Nihonsha (JP) | Amazon & EbookJapan
What is a list of best manga without a food manga? This manga’s a collection of stories tied by significant “side dishes” in people’s lives. While it appears that these side dishes are the star of this manga, it’s a manga about people’s relationship and lives enriched by different kinds of side-dishes. It’s reminiscent of IOU Kuroda’s Nasu with a more colourful and light-hearted tone. Gohan no Otomo is a visually beautiful and heartwarming manga. A treat for food manga enthusiasts like me.
Escape Journey by Ogeretsu Tanaka
Boys Love | Be-boy Comics Deluxe (JP) | Amazon & EbookJapan
I think it’s safe to say that 2016 was Ogeretsu Tanaka’s biggest year where she published a lot of crazy titles left and right. Along with Harada, Ogeretsu’s leading this “new wave” of hard erotic BL stories that can certainly send us to hell. While I know Yarichin Bitch’s quite popular among her readers, my favourite among her works is Escape Journey (which I always mistakenly type as Escape Johnny). Unlike the madness of Yarichin, Escape Journey highlights an irrepressible love between two damaged people who reunited when they entered the same university. I thoroughly enjoyed the tension between these two characters and the efforts they made to make their relationship work.
Birdmen by Tanabe Yellow
Shonen | Shogakukan (JP) | Amazon & EbookJapan
This year, I discovered that Tanabe Yellow didn’t disappear into oblivion after Kekkaishi. When I found out she wrote Birdmen, I immediately burrowed myself in its pages, hoping to see her beautifully capture good and evil. Interestingly, her new work, Birdmen, is a much darker story, a world that questions humanity as she transforms young children into “birds.” Birdmen reminds me of Gatchaman’s aesthetic except everything looks black and the series focuses on their situation rather than their heroism. The story almost has the same brutality as Bokurano yet Tanabe manages to bring hope through her protagonists. Dark as it is, Birdmen is an engaging read. Hopefully, this will be licensed in English soon.
Tomo-chan wa Onna no Ko by Yanagida Fumita
Seinen | Seikaisha (JP-webcomic) | Amazon
This year, Tomo-chan’s hilarious quest to transform her friendship with her best friend into a romantic relationship is my guilty shoujo-esque pleasure. I just love how her best friend fails to see her allure, but I also sympathise with Tomo’s frustration. Her “friendzone” shenanigans are quite different from the annoying “are-we-or-aren’t-we” dances often seen in shoujo manga. In fact, the humour of this story rides on Tomo’s failures. You eventually learn to cheer her on and hope that Tomo and her friends have another crazy plan to win her best friend’s heart. I think he already does like her, but just like every boy, he’s a quite of an idiot.
Mohaya Watashi wa Kifujin desu by Tsuru Yumika
Seinen | Pixiv / Kodansha (JP) | Amazon & EbookJapan
Whenever I speak about boys love in cons and online, I become increasingly conscious of how old I am as a fujojo. The pace girls just dive into fandom is so fast that before I even remember the characters in a story, girls have written 20k fanfics for the same series. It’s crazy to live a fangirl’s life these days, but somehow, I still can’t get rid of my fujoshi life. This manga is for women like me who may have been betrayed by time but are still fangirls at heart. Kifujin (貴腐人, rotten lady) is a play on the Japanese word for noblewoman (kifujin, 貴婦人). This term describes older fujoshi although I honestly don’t know how “old” one must be to be called a kifujin. This manga is about a group of ladies’ unshakeable fujoshi spirit that continues to influence their lives even when they’re no longer “rotten girls” but have become “nasty women.”
Minori no Te by Scarlet Beriko
Boys Love | Dear Plus Comics (JP) | Amazon & EbookJapan
I started this year giving love to this title, and since then I’ve been a fan of Scarlet Beriko. Out of all the titles, she has published in the last year, Minori no Te remains my favourite. I enjoyed the cohesion of this story. I also loved how Scarlet Beriko drew my attention. Unlike Harada and Ogeretsu who are batshit insane with their stories, Scarlet Beriko’s madness is more refined and contained. This title best captures Beriko’s madness and serves as a wonderful introduction to her work.
Machida-kun no Sekai by Yuki Ando
Shoujo | Shueisha (JP) | Amazon & EbookJapan
Sometimes, it’s refreshing to read a shoujo title without the bright, cheery energy of its heroes and heroines. Machida Hajime is a boy who is not necessarily cool or impressionable, but he views the world so positively that it’s infectious. In a year steeped in pessimism and hate, Machida’s love for people was admirable and heartwarming to read. Like a hopeful josei manga, Machida-kun no Sekai‘s positive outlook on life helps make the world a little better.
You might say that I didn’t read a lot of josei or shoujo titles this year. I did read a couple, but sadly, they were not impressive enough for me to put on this list (ex. Itsuka Tiffani de Choushoku wo and Boukyaku no Sachiko). Technically, I have a couple of female writers here so that counts, I guess. Apart from Black Clover, I also didn’t bother reading any English titles. I know there were a couple of awesome titles licensed this year but *sigh* I haven’t kept up. I’m hoping that Bookwalker Global really brings in a couple of titles in English. Their BL collection’s still pale, but their seinen collection is amazing. ERenta, on the other hand, has quite a lot of English-translated titles. I’m quite excited because it seems that On Blue authors such as Kii Kanna are publishing directly on ERenta!
I’m not exactly sure how frequent I’ll be reading manga next year. For certain, I miss being able to read manga as much as I want. Perhaps it’s because I have far too many distractions (kthx Netflix and Stan) or maybe I’ve just been hella busy. Hopefully, next year eases up, and I get to read more and write about more things next year. owo)/ Here’s to an awesome year ahead and a merry new year to all of you!!!