Introduction

Manga is very popular in many libraries, and middle schoolers are some of the most voracious manga readers. For adults unfamiliar with the format, it can be challenging to pinpoint which manga are appropriate for middle schoolers.  The No Flying, No Tights staff is here to help! 

Astra, lost in space

Kenta Shinohara

Elevator Pitch

This 5 volume series includes hints of romance, lots of character development and background stories, and the growth of various relationships, as well as plenty of adventure and excitement. The blend of both action and adventure as well as realistic, relationship-focused fiction is sure to attract a wide audience of manga fans.

Appeals to

Middle school and up

Content Notes

Some mild fan service in the later volumes. The characters also wear skin-tight spacesuits.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Intersex Characters
Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Delicious in Dungeon

Ryōko Kui

Elevator Pitch

Middle school D&D fans will gobble up this series and older teen readers will appreciate its quiet humor and points for discussion. For school libraries struggling to find manga acceptable to their population’s Westernized taste buds, this is a great choice. It’s funny and includes plenty of monsters and adventure, but has no fan service and little to no questionable jokes or behavior. In short, there’s something to meet the tastes of every reader in this manga menu of monsters.

Appeals to

Middle school and up

Content Notes

As the series progresses, there is a little more graphic violence but it's no more than Harry Potter level. There are a few risque jokes.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese
Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Flying Witch

Chihiro Ishizuka

Elevator Pitch

Novice witch Makoto and her black cat familiar move in with her cousins to learn flying, spellcraft, and everything else she needs in order to become a full-fledged witch. In addition to Magic 101, the story is a laid-back look at life in northern Japan, including seasonal festivals, enchanted gardening, and a variety of outdoor trips.

Appeals to

Fans of Kiki's Delivery Service, sweet slice of life

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Thomas Maluck

Giant Spider & Me : A Post-Apocalyptic Tale

Kikori Morino

Elevator Pitch

Can a young girl make it on her own with a giant spider as a roommate? So goes the adventure of Nagi, a girl who did not expect to become such close friends with an eight-legged creature, but it turns out they have a lot to learn about each other. She leads a life of seeming domestic bliss, complete with delicious recipes, and the spider acts as a guardian able to signal its emotions through colors and sounds. This series is complete at three volumes, making it as easily digestible as Nagi's cooking.

Appeals to

Fans of human/monster bonding, cooking, slice of life with a surreal twist

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese
Recommended by

Thomas Maluck

Haikyu!!

Haruichi Furudate

Elevator Pitch

Despite being very short, Shoyo Hinata wants to be a star volleyball player. He's devastated after he loses his only middle school game to the other team thanks to “King of the Court” Tobio Kageyama. When Hinata starts high school he's ready to make up for the loss but finds out that Kageyama is also a first-year at the same school. They will have to play on the same team! Can they work together, and can Hinata become a star?

Appeals to

Fans of realistic comedy, sports manga, and friendship stories.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Hikaru no Go

Yumi Hotta

Takeshi Obata

Elevator Pitch

This series turns the strategic board game of Go into a team-centric hero’s journey that can match any shonen for heightened drama and competition. Great coming-of-age story with likeable characters.

Appeals to

It has general appeal for boys and girls of various ages. However, teens looking for a series with non-stop action may want to look elsewhere.

Content Notes

High quality, “clean” series. No violence or romance. Includes a few flashbacks to Japan’s past, but always with context for the reader.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Robin Brenner

Kitaro

Shigeru Mizuki

Elevator Pitch

Kitaro is a yokai (Japanese monster of folklore) child who lives on the edge of society. The only surviving part of his father's body is a sentient eyeball that is able to give him some amount of guidance, but by and large, Kitaro must survive on his wits and observations. Though he is a yokai, he will act to protect humans if other yokai try to harm them. Some yokai are recurring characters and relatively friendly in nature. Readers will enjoy meeting Mizuki's grotesque yokai in all their forms, especially from a safer distance than Kitaro often experiences.

Appeals to

Lovers of all things spooky, monstrous, and fantastical

Content Notes

Fantasy violence

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Thomas Maluck

Laid Back Camp

Afro

Elevator Pitch

Rin and Nadeshiko absolutely love to camp. They have adventures hiking, making friends, and eating delicious food.

Appeals to

Fans of the great outdoors and those who enjoy cute, slice of life stories.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

My Hero Academia

Kōhei Horikoshi

Elevator Pitch

In a world where many people have superpowers called "quirks", Izuku Midoriya has none but he is determined to be a hero anyway. When he meets a famous hero called All Might who shares his powers with him he is able to enroll in a high school for heroes in training. Can he change his destiny as a hero with no powers?

Appeals to

Fans of shonen manga, superheroes, friendship, and team stories.

Content Notes

Mild language and some characters wearing tight clothing.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

My Neighbor Seki

Takuma Morishige

Elevator Pitch

Seki is a professional procrastinator, to the point that the distractions he manufactures for himself are far more elaborate and creative than whatever he's supposed to be doing in class. His desk neighbor, Rumi, is often taken in by his productions, either enjoying or disrupting his games by association. Her imagination and ability to read Seki's face makes her an interpreter for the reader, the third individual caught up in wasting time during class. Everyone will have a ball of it, though!

Appeals to

Anyone in need of a laugh, DIY types, and crafters.

Content Notes

There is a short story partway through the series in which a friend's mother is oddly obsessed with Seki and he must hide throughout her house while searching for an escape. There is nothing sexual about the scenario, but it is still jarringly threatening and surreal compared to the otherwise wholesome premise of the series.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Thomas Maluck

Naruto

Masashi Kishimoto

Elevator Pitch

This classic shonen manga tells the story of a troublemaker named Naruto who aspires to graduate from a Ninja Academy. This series has inspired many spin-off manga and current series and remains popular.

Appeals to

Fans of shonen manga, ninjas, friendship and rivalry stories, and mischief.

Content Notes

There’s a good amount of violence and some slight gross-out and sexual humor.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Naoko Takeuchi

Elevator Pitch

This classic magical girl hero story never gets old. Middle School student Usagi Tsukino has always lived a normal life until one day when she meets a cat named Luna who can talk! She tells Usagi that she's really a sailor guardian named Sailor Moon and gives her a brooch that allows her to transform into a superhero!

Appeals to

Fans of magical girl stories, superhero, friendship stories, and slapstick comedy.

Content Notes

Mild violence

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Splatoon

Sankichi Hinodeya

Elevator Pitch

Squid kids from the Splatoon videogame series are squadding up and playing through a massive turf war tournament. The main protagonist Goggles isn't terribly talented, and neither are his teammates, but they've got heart and creativity on their side, and those count for something, right? Each team they battle for ink-spreading supremacy has a different strategy or team dynamic that must be considered and countered, often in humorous fashion. These characters do not always play by the rules of the videogames, but they relay messages about sportsmanship and teamwork that apply to any kind of competition.

Appeals to

Fans of Splatoon, online shooters

Content Notes

The main character sometimes loses his clothes and inadvertently shocks surrounding players with his nudity. This is strictly played as a limited gag, with he and his teammates embarrassed by his behavior.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Multiracial Characters

  • Squid kids in this series have a variety of skin tones

Recommended by

Thomas Maluck

Strobe Edge

Io Sakisaka

Elevator Pitch

A first love story with all of the ups and downs that can come with a new romance.

Appeals to

Big fans of romance and the rush of finding your first love.

Content Notes

None! A clean manga romance

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Robin Brenner

Tegami Bachi

Hiroyuki Asada

Elevator Pitch

The action centers around the exploits of ‘letter bees’ – couriers who have to traverse dangerous territories as part of their delivery routes.

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy stories set in a detailed fantasy world with its own magic, culture, and creatures, as well as tales of heroism, heart, and never giving up

Content Notes

There are some battles with insect-like monsters called Gaichuu, but the letter bees’ weapons carry ‘heart’ and not bullets, so the battle scenes feature sparkly stars more like a kids’ video game than a blood bath.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese
Recommended by

Robin Brenner

The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún

Nagabe

Elevator Pitch

A young girl, Shiva, has lost her way and found herself in the company of a cursed, supernatural-looking being she calls Teacher. There is a plague upon the land that is transmitted by touch - Teacher has it, though he wishes to look after Shiva for the time being. His existence attracts fear and danger from the townspeople and guards who attack his seemingly immortal body. Will Shiva be able to reunite with her family, or will the plague find its way to her? How did she become lost in the first place? And how many more creatures like Teacher are out there?

Appeals to

Fans of high-contrast black and white art, gently disturbing fairytales, and human/monster bonds

Content Notes

Fantasy violence with swords and arrows

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese
Recommended by

Thomas Maluck

The Legend of Zelda (series)

Akira Himekawa

Elevator Pitch

When the fantasy kingdom of Hyrule is in danger, the hero Link is there to save it! These ten volumes - many of which stand alone and can be read in any order - follow the plots of the wildly popular Legend of Zelda video games.

Appeals to

Fantasy fans, Legend of Zelda fans, fans of other video-game based manga series such as Pokémon

Content Notes

Cartoonish violence

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creators are Japanese
Recommended by

Nic Willcox

Voice Over!: Seiyu Academy

Maki Minami

Elevator Pitch

Hime Kino only wants to be one thing in life - a voice actor like her hero Sakura Aoyama. And Hime is on the right path after she gets accepted to the prestigious Holly Academy's voice actor department. But, Hime's got some problems - first, her rough and gruff voice leads everyone to question whether voice acting is right for her. Plus, Sakura's son is in Hime's class, and all he does is question Hime's talent and call his mom's show stupid. Hime is in for some tough times ahead, but she won't let anyone or anything get in the way of her dreams!

Appeals to

Fans of laugh out loud manga and tales of empowered protagonists who follow their dreams no matter what.

Content Notes

Name-calling, put-downs, and minor bullying.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese

Main Character Representation

  • Japanese
Recommended by

Traci Glass

Witch Hat Atelier

Kamome Shirahama

Elevator Pitch

Coco's dream is to become a witch, but witches are born, not made, and it seems like Coco doesn't have any magical ability whatsoever. She is this close to giving up her dreams, but one day she meets a mysterious traveling magician, and after watching him and the strange and different way he performs magic, Coco is convinced that she, too, can be the witch she truly wants to be.

Appeals to

Fans of Harry Potter and Kiki's Delivery Service. A beautifully drawn story that will enchant magic and fantasy fans.

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Creator is Japanese
Recommended by

Traci Glass

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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