Welcome back to another guest blogger week on simpleek! This week we have the very awesome Ashley Hagood of Robo♥Beat. Ashley’s blog focuses mainly on the things she loves the most, which are science fiction, fantasy, and video games. If you’re looking for a blog that focuses on film, TV, books, or games with a sci-fi and fantasy angle, most likely you will find it on her blog. Nothing Ashley blogs about is ever boring, and she brings fresh and insightful perspectives on the genres. She’s also a contributing writer for Population GO. Aside from her love of all things sci-fi, fantasy, and video games, Ashley is a new fan to manga. For her guest post, Ashley talks about what it’s like to navigate the wide and wonderful world of manga as a newbie. Read her picks for the best starter manga if you’re also a newcomer to manga like she is. If you love sci-fi, fantasy, and video games as much as she does, please visit her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter for updates on her current projects or if you want to just chat with her. Ashley is a lovely person to chat with, so tweet at her!
As someone who has always loved a good yard and lots of fantasy or sci-fi, manga has seemed like an exciting storytelling medium to tap. But for a long time, the idea of getting into manga overwhelmed me. Weaving through the many genres and foreign titles was confusing at first, and I quickly learned that the story and visual style of many manga series are not well-suited to manga virgins. I needed a gentle entrance to Japanese comics.
And so, naturally, I asked everybody who read manga for recommendations. I quizzed friends, bugged coworkers, and spent a lot of time surfing manga apps and forums for beginner-friendly series. There are still many that I can’t wait to dig into, such as Akira, Fullmetal Alchemist, Ouran High School Host Club, Black Butler, One Piece, Yotsuba&!… Yeah, I should stop. The point is there’s a lot of good manga out there.
Rather than diving straight into the series with over-the-top, whimsical premises – which are totally endearing but can be a bit much for newbs such as myself – I looked for series with lots of heart and drama. And as manga fans must know, those are not hard to find. What I love about manga is how daring and heartfelt many of the stories can be… and I’m looking forward to embracing the crazy chaos of manga’s madder stories soon, too.
Thanks to recommendations and online research, I found a few manga series that appealed to me as a newb. Some are popular, others I never heard about from anyone but deserve tons of praise, and one drove me nuts even though I couldn’t put it down. And I’m grateful to them for helping me kick open the door to the manga world.
My best friend in college introduced me to the live-action Death Note movies, and from there, I dove into the manga series. It’s insanely well-known for a reason, and I believe it’s a great starter manga for adults because of its dark story and sophisticated themes.
It revolves around Light Yagami, who discovers a notebook that allows him to write the names of people whose faces he knows to kill them; he can even specify how they die. Light decides to use the Death Note for what he believes is good, killing criminals – and then he’ll set himself up as the god of the new, honest world. Part of the fun is his interactions with the shinigami Ryuk, the former owner of the Death Note. And then there’s the detective “L” from the International Police Organization, who is determined to track down whoever is causing these mysterious deaths.
Death Note explores whether any human has the right to play god and toys with the definition of “criminal,” as Light, in judging and deciding the fate of criminals, essentially becomes one, too.
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle
I am nowhere near finished with this manga series by Clamp, but I might be in love with it. The art style, story, characters, comedy – everything about this manga feels rich and compelling. And what’s strange is that I can’t for the life of me remember where I first discovered it.
The series begins when Princess Sakura of Clow Kingdom loses her spirit, which disappears into alternative dimensions. To save her, Syaoran, her childhood friend and archaeologist (I love that he’s an archaeologist) visits these other worlds to track down the pieces of her soul, with the help of the Dimensional Witch and others who have reasons to travel. But Syaoran must pay the Dimensional Witch with whatever is most precious to him – and as heartbreaking as it is, that’s Sakura’s memories of him.
Also, the lovely simpleek has recommended the connected series Cardcaptor Sakura based on how much I love this series, so I’m excited to jump into that next and learn about these characters all over again!
Even though I started other manga series before Hot Gimmick, this is the first one I finished, because I could not put it down. Its art and layout make it easy to follow, and the story is addicting. It revolves around a sweet 16-year-old girl named Hatsumi, who sneaks into a store to buy a pregnancy test for her younger sister. But another high schooler, Ryoki, catches her and blackmails her into being his slave, doing his bidding anytime he commands it.
While this may not be the most stellar manga on my list, it’s easily the most controversial – and that’s what makes it so interesting. Most of the time while reading, I wanted to strangle the characters. Hatsumi is ridiculously passive, Ryoki is manipulative and abusive, and there are over-the-top scenes depicting despicable behavior, without the characters learning lessons or evolving much. When I finished this manga, I immediately jumped onto Goodreads to write a raging review about how much it upset me – yet I still gave it 3 out of 5 stars for being such an infuriating, gripping, totally-didn’t-expect-that-ending read.
When I was first researching manga a few months ago, this is the manga that caught my attention most. It’s hard science fiction, which is one of my favorite genres in any medium. And it’s beautiful. I’m not just talking about the art; the stories, characters, and emotions are also rich and thought-provoking. In the very beginning, the poignant chapter closings left me in awe and made me want to keep reading, even without cliffhangers.
Planetes follows the stories of the DS-12 “Toy Box” crew, who collect space debris to prevent it from colliding with and damaging space crafts. Though some chapters seem to be about the space debris, many others explore life in space and the character’s personal journeys – including why they would take a rather glamorless job collecting space debris like this. I also enjoy the scientific talk, which rings true and shows that the writers obviously did their research to depict space in a realistic way.
It’s no wonder that this series own the Seiun Award for best sci-fi series, and I can’t wait to watch the anime next.
Another popular manga by the creators of Death Note, Bakuman is a fun beginner reader because it’s a manga about manga – and what could be a better introduction than that? A coworker recommended it to me because I enjoyed Death Note. It follows the young, idealistic creators of a manga series as they first birth their plan and later gain success. There’s also a cute love story just over the horizon – with a girl who wants to be a voice actor. It reminds me a bit of Michael Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is one of my favorites; that book also follows a young duo, but this time writing a comic book series. Honestly, there’s nothing that feels quite as good as jumping into the far-fetched dreams of young, creative people and watching them come true.