Manga—literally 'whimsical pictures,' is a form of comic or graphic novel originating from Japan. "Manga has deep roots in Japanese visual and a literary tradition," Susan J Napier, a professor at the Japanese program at Tufts University, explained when we asked her to recommend five of the best books on manga and anime. "Unlike in American comics, they have a huge variety of themes and topics, including some very, very serious and very, very adult ones. There are manga that are erotic and there are manga that are great for children. They have adventure manga, detective manga and etiquette manga. They have manga to fit every niche you could think of." She particularly recommends Nausicaa by Hayao Miyazaki—the legendary manga artist and animator best known for his work for Studio Ghibli.
As well as Napier's recommendations for adults, we also asked 13-year-old Oscar to recommend his favourite manga aimed at children and teenagers. The Given series, featuring four young men in an amateur rock band, also comes highly recommended for fans of Alice Oseman's Heartstopper.
Many people have heard of manga and anime, but would be surprised to learn how deeply this niche is steeped in Japanese tradition and culture—or how often manga features strong, smart female leads, says Susan Napier, anime expert and Professor of the Japanese Program at Tufts University. Here, she picks five books that encapsulate manga and anime as both forms of art and cathartic re-workings of Japanese history.
Battle Angel Alita
by Yukito Kishiro
The Promised Neverland
Kaiu Shirai, Posuka Demizu (illustrator)
The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas, adapted by Crystal S. Chan, illustrated by Nokman Poon
Pokémon Adventures (Red and Blue)
Hidenori Kusaka, Mato (illustrator)
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
by Koyoharu Gotouge
Long associated with Japanese popular culture, manga are now found in translation across the world. In North America, this dynamic form of visual narration is overtaking comics and graphic novels in popularity. Oscar, age 13, recommends his favourite manga for children and teenagers.