2020 was an incredible year for manga and there were many opportunities to read them. A hidden classic is seeing the light of day for the first time. This was released way back before many of you were even born. Slice of life manga dominates this list as they made this horrendous year a little bit better. Some had me pulling out my hair for how tragic they were but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Some comedic manga went off the deep end and were absolutely absurd. I couldn’t keep my list down to 10 and I went with the twelve best manga for 2020.
12. Kaiju No. 8
Written by Naoya Matsumoto. Available through Viz Media and Manga Plus
Kaiju No. 8 falls into the typical shonen tropes but it manages to reinvigorate the genre. It uses those tropes to appeal to a different audience to appeal to a wide audience. Having the protagonist, Kafka, a 32-year-old man be a hopeless loser is an interesting twist that most shonen manga won’t dare go into. Such as The Metamorphosis written by Franz Kafka, this manga faces a constant metamorphosis to survive the rot. Naoya Matsumoto designs for Kaiju are wonderful and terrifying that will knock your socks out.
11. A Witch’s Printing Office
Written By Mochinchi and Drawn by Yasuhiro Miyama. Published By Yen Press
This is a fresh spin on the isekai genre. It follows a different path than what has been created before. Her passion lies with the massive event known as Comiket. She creates her own version of a Comiket where wizards and witches create grimoires to sell. Part of the allure of this story is how it merges one quirky section of the real-world with the fantasy world. Even her special isekai ability, which allows her to make copies of grimoires ties into the struggles of the book market. It’s a merry old time about the magical wonders of the business of making books.
10. How Do We Relationship?
Written By Tamifull. Published by Viz Media
I hate to be cliched but this manga is about discovering yourself and your place in the world. But this manga does an explicit job of exploring the steps of this journey. Two college women, Saeko and Miwa fall in love with each other but as anyone knows romance always comes with difficulties. To make matters worse, Saeko is more open with her status as a lesbian while Miwa doesn’t know how to live in this new world. I just couldn’t help see these two partake in a journey of realization as they learn to accept each other and themselves.
9. Pleasure and Corruption
Written by You Someya. Published by Denpa Books
Out of this list, this is the most unconventional book out of all of them. Every single character is a piece of shit. Even so, they insist on wearing the mask that society expects or forces some of them to wear. The absurdity begins when Zen, is caught taking upskirt pictures of girls. With these types of actions, you can only go so far until trouble catches up to a person. One of his classmates catches him in the act and forces him to be her slave. She wants to see how far she can push him till he gets to his breaking point. This is the perfect recipe for utter chaos as their personas are broken and forced to see beneath the mask.
8. The Apothecary Diaries
Written by Natsu Hyuuga and Illustrated by Nekokurage. Story Developed by Itsuki Nanao. Published by Square Enix Manga and Books
Life is never easy and some people are constantly reminded of this fact. Maomao, a young woman is sold into slavery and becomes a servant of a palace. Luckily all is not as it seems as she was trained in medicine. Her knowledge will lead her down an uncanny path in this feudal era. The castle will never be the same as she takes this world by storm with her impressive knowledge.
7. Blue Period
Written By Tsubasa Yamaguchi. Published by Kodansha Comics
High school is a wonderful time where students are at the step of their innocent youth. It is the last chance to fool around and discover who you want to be. The beauty of this manga is how it encompasses a student’s path to their true path. When a person finally reaches their path, nothing else matters. Yatoro is a genius but life is tedious and there is very little excitement in his path. He discovers his calling as he lays his eyes on a painting and dreams of being an artist.
6.Wave, Listen to Me
Written By Hiroaki Samura. Published by Kodansha Comics
Wave, Listen to Me is similar to The Office but way more hilarious. Some people never know what they want to do with their lives and just wander around aimlessly. But you just have to get up and make your part with what life has given you. That part of the beauty of life. At the center of this story, you have Minare creating endless chaos wherever she goes. There is no end to the laughs as you follow her journey to become a radio DJ after she experiences an endless lifetime of failures.
5. I Don’t Know How to Give Birth
Written by Ayami Kazama. Published by Yen Press
Having a child is a blessing but being pregnant is a joy but also hell. I Don’t Know How To Give Birth is a wonderful exploration of what it takes to be pregnant. Ayami Kazama touches upon her experience to go into excruciating details of the pains of being pregnant. She doesn’t feel a need to shy away from taboo topics and lays it out bare for all to see. Ayami’s rendering of pregnancy had me wondering if I should laugh or cry at the tumultuous steps of being pregnant. This is the best sex education course that will you ever need.
4. The Rose of Versailles
Written by Riyoko Ikeda. Published by Udon Entertainment
For this list, I wanted to keep it mostly to manga that was brand new to 2020 but I had to make an exception for this one. This is a masterpiece that was released in 1972 in Japan but it finally crossed the seas and is being published in English for the first time by Udon Entertainment. It comes in a beautiful hardcover with amazing color pages to start this thrilling adventure. Set to the backdrop just right before the French Revolution. Stories concerning royalty and the burden that comes alongside are a delight to read. Historical fiction has been on the rise but this set the standard way before anything available on the literature or cinema market today.
3. BL Metamorphosis
Written By Kaori Tsurutani. Published by Seven Seas Entertainment
No matter the age, there will always be new joys to discover. An elderly lady at the edge of the spectrum unknowingly picks a Boys Love manga at a bookstore. As she reads this subject for the first time, she becomes enamored with this new material. She shares this journey with a high school girl who works at the bookstore. The seeds are planted for these two women to forever connect both of them with this hobby.
2. A Man and His Cat
Written by Umi Sakurai. Published by Square Enix
Dogs have been man’s best friend for eternity but cats are slowly encroaching that role. Cats may have a rough surface but beneath that surface, there is a lovable pet that needs your attention. A Man and His Cat explore how that connection is a two-way street. Fukumaru, an older cat, has been at a shelter for most of his life until one faithful day where he meets Kanda, a widowed man. The two spend the rest of their days as they brighten each other days. It has the right amount of comedy and heartful moments.
1. My Broken Mariko
Written by Waka Hirako. Published by Yen Press
This is my favorite manga of the year because of how it tackles depression. This isn’t the best manga to read if you want something fluffy and will cheer up your day. Reading this will create endless sorrow in your heart as you stare into the abyss. Depression is one of the hardest subjects to tackle in life and people prefer to keep this hidden in the shadows. It captures the downfall as one person gets entangled by the most unfortunate of situations and how it snares their beloved ones. Life is hard and unfortunate some people will face an even harder life and are met with an unjust miserable fate beyond their control. But the end doesn’t have to be the end for everyone. There is always a path forward and this manga exemplifies how to move one step forward.