A long time ago, I once talked about why comic books should be considered legitimate forms of literature. But today I’d like to take the discussion a bit further and put it out there that I prefer manga and anime over its Western counterparts: comic books and Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks/you-know-what-the-hell-I-mean.

Now obviously, it’s a bit semantic to rank cultural forms of media over the other because each will have distinct qualities that other doesn’t. But that said, I personally do lean towards manga and anime because I find that the emotional/intellectual payout of Japanese media is a bit more nuanced and thoughtful than its Western counterparts.

Now I’m a HUGE Pixar fan–this studio really knows what they’re doing as they deliver the whole package with good stories, clever humor, concise morals, and fun plot twists that everyone of all ages can appreciate. However, I do feel like the message in these cartoons are one-note at times: there’s not much else you can take away besides the morals the screenwriter presents you with. 

For example, even the deepest message of Up or Toy Story 3 (which are one of my favorite movies of all time) isn’t all that complex. It’s simply about aging and change, losing someone and how to live with that. Yes, it’s a great message to be reminded of, but there’s not much else that I’m being challenged to think about.

On the other hand, Japanese media really jumps leaps and bounds ahead of in that aspect because while Western animators/writers tend to spell their morals out for you (because they don’t really trust children to think for themselves) Japanese  media REALLY makes you work for the lessons you learn.

Like the meandering style of Durarara, the ambiguous conclusion in The Wind Rises, the philosophical confusion of xxxHolic, the questionable morals of Death Note…all of these show that sometimes these nuanced morals are better than being presented with an outright conclusion–because as a result of being challenged to think about what the story means, I’m learning these lessons for myself.

Of course, manga and anime aren’t perfect. There’s too many boobs and panty shots than I care for, and the portrayal of women as doe-eyed maidens in distress is frankly sexist at times.

However, the presentation of mature graphics and stories to children and adults alike indicate to me that perhaps Japanese media take their influence seriously and want to extend their message beyond what’s spelled out in a story, and in that, I truly appreciate what I gain from manga and anime, and probably why I prefer it over its Western counterparts

So let me know what you think. Are anime and manga more developed than Western media, or is it the reverse?

But for now, the argument ends here folks, because I’d like to share my favorite manga and anime with you in hopes that you might share the same passion for them. Cheers, and happy reading! 🙂


xxxHolic

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“Birds of a feather flock together. If you think there’s only stupid and worthless people around you, you just might be one of them.”

CLAMP always delivers some of the best artwork in the industry, and this one no exception. XXXholic is moving, funny,  mysterious, and most delightfully creepy. That eclectic jumble had me hooked on this manga right from the start, and although a lot of people hate the ending, I personally love it.

This is a controversial manga to say the least, but I personally think that it’s one of the most quality and underrated works out there. Highly recommended!


Kuroshitsuji

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“If we are to die one day, wouldn’t it be better to have no regrets?”

Now who doesn’t love a good demon butler? This series is dark and somewhat disturbing, but it still manages to maintain that fun and commercial appeal, and I think it’ll suit a lot of people’s tastes because it is so entertaining. So go check it out! I look forward to its release every month, and I don’t complain about the lack of updates because the quality NEVER disappoints:)


Naruto

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“How you grow up is up to you.”

Funny and uplifting, there are really strong lessons in Naruto about never giving up, and that’s why it resonates with me time and time again. The series stays so very true to itself, and I found most of the characters very compelling.

Now the anime does (understandably) get a lot of flak for excessive filler episodes; but then it also delivers some of the best opening and ending themes in anime  ever, like the Wind ending or the Blue Bird opening. I guess you lose some, you win some!


Annarasumanara

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“Mr. Magician, if you’re a real magician, won’t you free me from this cursed asphalt?  Once I break free, do you think I could wander in the field of flowers too?”

At first, I was tricked into thinking that this webtoon was going to be that typical “pretty girl meets hot guy” story….but MAN was I wrong! This story is ultimately about people breaking free from societal expectations, and seeing life in a way that gives them hope to live on, and I LOVE that this manga takes creative risks to convey that message.

The artwork is stunning, the feels made me bawl at the end, and I just love this webtoon. REALLY beautiful story.


Beelzebub

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“Whenever you feel like crying, just smile instead. That’s what it means to be a man. You understand?

A high school delinquent saddled with a demon baby, unable to get 20 feet away without being electrocuted half to death? I think I DIED laughing while reading this manga! Beelzebub has got this very Gintama sort of silliness to it at times, but it still manages to keep it grounded on a more serious note.

And although the story does meander at times, the comedy in itself is for anyone and everyone. The deadpan humor is soooo my jam, and I HIHGLY recommended this if you’re up for a gut-busting adventure!


Strobe Edge

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“You’ve always thought that I’d spread my wings and fly off somewhere without you one day, but just who was the one who had wings?”

Again, I’m not a big fan of the shoujo genre (too fluffy for my taste), but I like how the story focuses more on friendships and relationships between people than just your typical “puppy love” romance…Ren’s break-up with his ex-girlfriend and his friendship with Andou made me bawl like crazy. So yeah, this is a manga that you should definitely check out if you’re into the shoujo genre!


Fullmetal Alchemist

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“I’m not short, I just live in a big world!”

Everyone love FMA, and it’s really not hard to see why–the story is very well-crafted, it doesn’t waste any time getting down to the nitty-gritty, and the religious and political themes in this manga and anime are SUPERB.

So go definitely check it out if you haven’t already! It’s so funny, sad, and inspiring all at the same time…this is probably my favorite anime of all time!


Welcome To Room 105

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“Isn’t it strange, the way humans work? Who will stay, who will leave, or who will change, you never know. So how can you so easily judge a person? For your sake, don’t distance yourself from others, but live on in the hopes of meeting someone really special in your life tomorrow.”

Put together a gay and a homophobe, and what do you get? GENIUS, THAT’S WHAT. This webtoon is one of the damn funniest things I’ve read in a long while, and yet it makes me cry like a BABY. Some of the messages about love, friendship, and acceptance is surprisingly deep for its genre, but it always brings it back to those lighter episodic moments that are so entertaining.

Witty and perceptive, this webtoon is one that you HAVE to check out. HAVE TO.


Cat Street

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“Happiness that you obtain from others is very unstable. If you cannot capture it yourself, no one else will come and grab it for you.”

It kind of makes me sad that this has been forgotten over the years. Like Immortal Rain, it’s drawn in a very classical sort of way, but the story of misfit teenagers finding their way through life is still very relevant and just as touching as when I first read this manga. Highly recommended! Because this manga is just too good to be forgotten, and it’s a beautiful slice-of-life story.


Aishiteruze Baby

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“There’s nothing scarier than female unity.”

Once again, this manga does not focus primarily on love or romance. Instead, it’s about a normal teenager boy being forced to take on responsibility for his little cousin after she is abandoned by her mother, but finding that he’s really good at it and coming to embrace a side of himself he’s never known before. I think that this is a very short and easy manga to read, but extremely heartwarming and very much worth your time to experience.

Psst, it’s a happy ending, so don’t be scared going into it!


Durarara!

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“I’ll say it again, but I’m sure all of humanity hates you.”

I won’t claim to understand what this anime is about, or even why middle school kids are leading mass gangs…but I will say this: who the hell cares? The utter nuttiness of this anime in the context of a modern Japan is so entertaining to watch, and it merges the supernatural with slice-of-life drama so very well.

So what the hell–I’ll keep watching it. And you should too!


The One

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Uugh…I rarely fan girl because it goes against my pride, but the guys in this manga really do make my heart sizzle. There’s a lot of eye candy to enjoy, but I also love just how strong the female protagonist is as she fumbles her way to fame in the  modeling industry and learns independence. But along the way, she finds herself attracted to a scathing (but very hot) director who lends his hand from time to time, and that journey she takes is a really compelling story to read. So go jump on this ship, ladies…you won’t regret it.


The Breaker

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“When people get close to death they change.

The Breaker is probably one of my favorite mangas to re-read. It focuses on a high schooler, his badass teacher, and a martial arts organization that’s kinda corrupt and trying to kill everybody. Yup, that’s the gist of it.

But at the same time, this manga has a very realistic character growth with TONS of exciting action, so I very VERY highly recommend it. When I first started it, I thought I would hate it, but after the first twenty chapters, I became so damn addicted to it that I couldn’t put it down:)


Immortal Rain

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“If only this were a dream. If only I could open my eyes, then I could return to the flower patch…if I only could wake up.”

This manga is so beautiful that it physically hurts me to read it. If you’re the kind of person who’s able to wait out the slow and gradual plot developments, this manga is for you–because by the third volume, the feels, mystery, and drama all kick in to the MAX. And I was so floored by how good this manga was that I went out and bought the entire series! The one and only manga series that I own!

So needless to say, I recommend this. And don’t forget the prequel Touhou Shinigami….because it’s just as great if not better. YOU WILL LAUGH AND BAWL.


Skip Beat

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“If an apology could settle things, then there’d be no need for hell.” – Kyouko Mogami

I know that I said I don’t really like the shoujo genre, but whew! This manga makes me so happy and cheerful. Yes, it’s a lot of hot guys and an unrealistic romance as the shoujo genre goes, but I laughed so much reading this manga. The mangaka puts so much attention and detail in the speech boxes that it really add an extra layer of wit and humor to the story. Really recommended for those who like funny and compelling romance!


Terror in Resonance

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“It’s music from a cold land.” Nine

To me, Terror In Resonance is one of those anime that have glaring plot holes, but delivers SUCH an insanely beautiful and sensory punch that I can’t help but love it. And part of that punch comes from its really beautiful soundtrack, especially the song “Von.” I mean, the Ferris wheel scene in episode 9 nearly made me faint from the sheer beauty and heartbreak of the visuals and music, that the emotional comeuppance was what made this anime worth watching for me.

So go check it out it you have the time! If you don’t have the time, just skip to episode 9 and watch that damn Ferris Wheel scene…it’s gorgeous.


So what did you think about this list? Anything manga or anime that I forgot to mention? It’s very likely I did, considering I’ve read a ton of manga over the years, so be sure to remind me or let me know what I should check out. Cheers.