Introduction

Want to pick up a new manga but don’t want to end up committed to a 30+ volume story? Try a pick or two from this list, guaranteed to end with just the one book. 

Hana-chan and the Shape of the World

Ryotaro Ueda

Cover Image

This manga features a series of vignettes about a young girl named Hana living in a rural Japanese village in the 80s. The title follows the adventures of Hana, her cat, and her best friend Uta. Some of their exploits include journeying through a storm at night to get a stash of chocolate hidden in a tree, and an attempt by their village to remove weeds from abandoned rice paddy causing some strange changes to the people in the village. While this manga was not originally intended for children, younger readers who like magical realism which is sometimes absurd and sometimes a little scary will enjoy this manga.

Appeals to

Fans of Goosebumps or other stories that are scary with a dash of silly will find this manga right in the wheelhouse.

Content Notes

Mild body horror, Death of a side character implied.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

I Had That Same Dream Again

Yoru Sumino

Idumi Kirihara

Cover Image

This manga is a meditation on the meaning of happiness through the eyes of a grade-schooler. This young girl is not your ordinary young student, her closest friends are a single woman in her 20s, a high schooler who loves to write, and an old woman living out the end of her life alone. When she is given an assignment at school to present on what happiness is, she looks to her unique acquaintances to help her figure it out, and along the way learns a lot about the different people in her life and what can lead someone to unhappiness as well as happiness.

Appeals to

Anyone looking for a though provoking slice-of-life story with a touch of magical realism.

Content Notes

Depictions of self-harm, discussions of suicidal ideation

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand

Yoko Komori

Cover Image

After her parents separate, Tokiko and her father move to her mother’s hometown by the sea. Tokiko wants to find the mermaid who saved her life when she was four years old, but Yosuke, a boy from her class, warns her against talking about it with others. Soon, Tokiko discovers that the town has multiple mysteries.

Appeals to

With lovely black-and-white illustrations and a story that slowly builds, Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand will appeal to fans of stories that focus on a strong sense of place, big feelings, and blurry realities. I would especially give this title to readers who enjoy Studio Ghibli’s attention to setting details and quiet, yet expansive stories.

Content Notes

Brief nudity, but nothing is really visible

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Never Open It: The Taboo Trilogy

Ken Niimura

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In this manga split into three parts, Niimura explores the Japanese folk tales he was told as a child and what it means for something to be taboo. With inspiration from popular Japanese tales like Urashima Taro and The Crane Wife, Niimura uses his unique storytelling style to explore why there are rules around keeping certain things hidden.

Appeals to

Fans of folklore and literary comics will enjoy this title.

Content Notes

Violence and blood, Death of a parent, Animal cruelty, Manipulation, Kidnapping

Creator Identities:

Spanish-Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Sand Land

Akira Toriyama

Cover Image

It's the distant future and the Earth is now almost entirely a desert, with a small supply of water under the control of a self-styled king. To try and find another source of water and fight back, all things demons are enlisted to help. Thus begins the adventures of Beelzebub, the demon prince, and the ragtag crew cruising the desert for water and fighting the king's army.

Appeals to

First: yes, this manga is out of print. However, the ebook is available, and there have been a lot of recent developments around it (an anime, a game, and a sequel) so it's likely to get a reprint soon.
As a manga recommended for kids, Sand Land falls outside the norm because it does have high drama and darker story points, but it also shows that sometimes bad people can change, and expectations don't always match reality. This is a great read for kids who enjoy series like Dragon Ball because it's the same creator so it has a lot of the same kind of humor, but also for kids who like post-apocalyptic stories or just stories with a little more bite and action.

Content Notes

Though there's no blood or guts, there are a lot of guns, tanks, and fighting, as well as some partial nudity (the main character mostly just wears shorts and no shirt) and depictions of smoking.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Solanin

Inio Asano

Cover Image

Twenty-something Meiko despises her unfulfilling office job and struggles to feel part of the world; her boyfriend Naruo lives with her as he pursues music and works part-time as an illustrator. Follow Meiko as she figures out her life alongside Naruo and her other friends.

Appeals to

With excellent art and a story that skillfully moves between reflective, sad, and funny, Solanin is a powerful coming-of-age story. I first read Solanin in my twenties and found it relatable and comforting as I was also in the process of figuring out my own life. While rereading it for this list, I still found it relevant and especially enjoyed the quirky, funny, and little quiet moments that built up the characters' relationship. Teen and adult readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories and/or are going through a transition period may want to pick up Solanin.

Content Notes

Depictions of alcohol and drinking; character death (with blood); brief discussion of depression and grief

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Bride Was a Boy

Chii

Cover Image

In this heartwarming story, transgender woman Chii tells the story of her transition and marriage. Within the story's bite-sized chapters, Chii uses adorable drawings of herself and loved ones to tell her story and educate readers on various vocabulary surrounding the transgender experience.

Appeals to

Readers looking for a positive story featuring a transgender character will enjoy The Bride Was a Boy. Readers who are curious about transition stories set in other countries will also be interested.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Trans |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Wolf Children

Mamoru Hosoda

Yu

Cover Image

This story begin with Hana meeting a mysterious stranger in one of her college classes. They are quickly enraptured with each other, but this man has a secret, he is a wolfman and can transform into a wolf at will. Hana is undeterred by her lover's secret, and they start what is looking to be a wonderful life together. But soon after the birth of their second child, the wolfman dies in a tragic accident, leaving Hana to raise two children, who are part wolf themselves, on her own. This story is a portrait of the joys and hardships of motherhood.

Appeals to

Anyone who knows a mother who has had to make sacrifices for her children, but still loves them fiercely will enjoy this story.

Content Notes

Depiction of character death, depiction of a dead animal

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

  • Tayla

    | She/Her Branch Librarian

    Features Writer

    Tayla Cardillo (she/her) is the Branch Librarian of the Oaklawn branch of the Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI. She is also a member of the ALA Graphic Novel and Comic Round Table and the chair of the Rhode Island Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee. She completed her MLIS at the University of Rhode Island and her B.A. in English at Rhode Island College. Tayla has known that she wanted to be a librarian since she was 17 years old. When not doing library wizardry, she enjoys playing tabletop games and cosplaying.

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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