Essential Manga for Libraries

Fullmetal AlchemistImage result for Fullmetal Alchemist

Author/Artist: Hiromu Arakawa
Publisher: VIZ Media
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Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are alchemists who made the mistake of trying to push the limits of their craft a little too far, and it nearly cost them their lives and limbs. Recruited as a State Alchemist, Edward works with the military, which gives him the opportunity to travel around the country as he searches for the Philosopher’s Stone that has the power to restore the brothers’ bodies. However, there are many sinister and powerful people looking for it too.

This perennially popular 26-volume manga series offers a winning mix of action, drama, fantasy, horror and memorable characters that keeps fans coming back for more.

Naruto Naruto Volume 1 Cover Artwork by Masashi Kishimoto

Author/Artist: Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
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Naruto follows the adventures of a teen ninja-in-training, Naruto Uzumaki. Orphaned at birth, Naruto is a practical joker who’ll do anything for attention. His grades at the Ninja Academy suck, and he’s shunned by most of the adults. Naruto’s secret? His body is the living prison for the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon that almost destroyed his village 15 years ago.

At over 50 volumes and counting, Naruto remains one of the most popular manga and anime series in the world. The story took a darker turn after Volume 28, which started the “Shippuden” arc, where Naruto is three years older and the stakes are higher.


Bleach Volume 1 by Tite Kubo, published by Shonen Jump / VIZ MediaAuthor/Artist: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
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Ichigo Kurosaki is a relatively normal high school boy who just happens to be able to see ghosts. But when he meets Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki, Ichigo gets sucked into a world where Soul Reapers with powerful spiritual weapons battle the undead, monstrous Hollows. As Ichigo’s Soul Reaper abilities get stronger, so do his opponents, who are all out to see him dead.

Bleach starts out as a fairly simple story, but as Ichigo goes into the world of the Soul Society, he meets and fights a mind-boggling array of enemies, each stronger than the last. Can he survive his adventures in the world of the undead?

Vampire KnightVampire Knight Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino, published by Shojo Beat / VIZ Media

Author/Artist: Matsuri Hino
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
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Yuki Cross attends the prestigious Cross Academy — but she’s one of the few students that knows of its dark secret. By day, the classes are for human students, but at night, the halls of Cross Academy are filled with teen vampires.

Vampires are hot, and Vampire Knight is the reigning queen of the shojo manga supernatural romances. Why? Well, Matsuri Hino’s lovely artwork and hunky characters draw readers in, but its Vampire Knight‘s twisted drama, intricate/dysfunctional relationships between the characters and the swoon-worthy romance that makes it irresistable to goth girls and vampire lovers.


Death Note
Death Note volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi ObataAuthor: Tsugumi Ohba
Artist: Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Shonen Jump Advanced / VIZ Media
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Light Yagami is one of the brightest students at his school — but he’s also very bored. That changes when he finds a black “Death Note” notebook. Light then meets Ryuk, a grim reaper who explains that when a name of a person is written in the Death Note, that person dies instantly. Light uses his powers to kill criminals, but his killing streak doesn’t go unnoticed and soon he’s matching wits with L, an eccentric super-sleuth.

Death Note packs in a lot of action and supernatural suspense in 12 volumes; so much that a 13th “how to read” companion volume was published to help fans sort things out.

Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball Volume 1 by Akira Toriyama, a shonen manga published by VIZ Big / VIZ MediaAuthor/Artist: Akira Toriyama
Publisher: VIZ Big / VIZ Media
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Son Goku is on a quest to find seven magical “dragon balls.” Legend has it that the person who finds all seven balls will be granted a wish. But with so many other people after the dragon balls, Goku’s quest won’t be easy.

Robin Brenner:Dragon Ball gets a bit of a bad rap in libraries (it’s been challenged numerous times, most frequently by readers who are unnerved by the nudity and dirty old man character in the opening pages.) Nonetheless, it’s very popular, and as long as you place it in the right collection for your community (teen collections seem to keep it with little fanfare), it’s a strong bet.”

Akira Volume 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo from Dark Horse Manga / KodanshaAuthor/Artist: Katsuhiro Otomo
Publisher: Kodansha America
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In a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, a gang of biker punks live on the edge, looking for the next thrill. But they’re playing with fire, as they learn that the destruction of Tokyo has its roots in a government experiment gone wrong and a mysterious boy named Akira.

Considered to be the one of the first cross-over hits of anime and manga in America, Akira continues to be a benchmark that few manga titles have dared to surpass. Otomo’s artwork is stunning and the sci-fi action is epic in scale; it astounds readers even years after its debut in the 1982. Now that Kodansha is re-releasing it, there’s no reason to not have Akira in libraries.

One Piece
One Piece Vol. 1Author/Artist: Eiichiro Oda
Publisher: Shonen Jump VIZ Media
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While growing up in a small town, Monkey D. Luffy dreams of being pirate and sailing the high seas. But after taking a bite of the gum-gum fruit, he’s able to stretch his limbs and do amazing feats. The downside to these cool powers? He’ll sink like a stone if he ever falls into water. But that doesn’t stop Luffy from setting sail for adventure and finding crew members who join him on his quest to find treasure and raise a little heck along the way.

Robin Brenner: “This is another no-brainer, really, like Bleach or Naruto. It’s consistently popular and a great comedy adventure series.”

InuYasha Vol. 1 (VIZ Big Edition)Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: VIZ Big / VIZ Media
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Kagome is a modern teen who has modern problems, like studying for her exams and her crush on a cute classmate. When Kagome falls down a well, she ends up in feudal Japan and meets a half-demon/half-human boy named InuYasha. Kagome looks like the priestess who sealed InuYasha’s powers, and she discovers that she’s got powers of her own. She’s going to need them, as Kagome and InuYasha look for a mystical jewel that bestows great powers upon demons.

Besides the manga, InuYasha is a popular and long-running anime series. VIZ has begun re-releasing the manga in omnibus editions to make them easier to collect.

Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z Volume 1 by Akira Toriyama, published by VIZ Big / VIZ MediaAuthor/Artist: Akira Toriyama
Publisher: VIZ Big / VIZ Media
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In this sequel to Dragon Ball, Son Goku has grown up and now has a son of his own. But fate won’t let this legendary fighter live a quiet life. Goku finds out that he is from a race of aliens called Saiyans. Goku was originally sent to Earth to conquer the planet, a mission that he forgot because he lost his memory when he first arrived. Now the Saiyans want to complete Goku’s original mission — but they’ll have to get past Goku and his friends first.

A super-charged fighting manga that set the tone for many similar series, Dragon Ball Z is a shonen manga classic for the ages.

Black Butler

Black Butler Volume 1 by Yana Toboso, published by Yen Press


Author/Artist: Yana Toboso
Publisher: Yen Press
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Despite his youth, Ciel Phantomhive is the head of the very rich and powerful Phantomhive family. Attending to his every wish is his butler Sebastian, a cool, dark and handsome manservant. No request is too big and no crisis is too vexing for Sebastian to handle; he seems perfect — maybe too perfect?

Gorgeously Goth and sumptuously drawn with just a dash of wicked dark humor, Black Butler is a fan favorite that consistently appears in the New York Times Graphic Books Manga Top 10 bestseller lists. A popular current pick that readers will request and check out again and again

Lone Wolf and Cub

Cover artwork from Lone Wolf & Cub volume 1 graphic novelAuthor: Kazuo Koike
Artist: Goseki Kojima
Publisher: Dark Horse
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Former executioner to the Shogun Itto Ogami was framed for treason, but rather than live in unwarranted disgrace, Ogami and his infant son Daigoro take to the assassin’s road. Father and son travel the countryside in search of vengeance, and mete out their own brand of justice along the way.

Considered one of the finest examples of cinematic storytelling in graphic novels, Lone Wolf and Cub is the winner of numerous awards in Japan and the U.S., including the Eisner Award. Dark Horse has collected Lone Wolf and Cub in 28 volumes, making this classic samurai epic accessible to all.


Case Closed
Case Closed Vol. 1Author/Artist: Gosho Aoyama
Publisher: Shonen Sunday / VIZ Media
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17-year old Jimmy Kudo is a brilliant sleuth who has solved crimes that have stumped pros twice his age. Jimmy’s detective work has earned him some enemies, including one who goes as far as to poison him.  But due to a freak side effect, he’s turned into a 7-year old boy with all of his grown-up memories and deductive skills intact.

Case Closed a.k.a. Detective Conan is hugely popular with kids and teens in Japan. However, due to some grisly death scenes in its pages (it is a murder mystery series after all), it’s an OT-Older Teen rated title in the U.S., which is a shame since tweens and younger teens would love this too.


Fushigi Yugi
Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play Volume 1 by Yuu Watase from VIZ Big / VIZ MediaAuthor/Artist: Yuu Watase
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
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Best friends Miaka and Yui find a mysterious book in the library. When they flip through its pages, they are sucked into the fantasy world of The Universe of the Four Gods. Through a twist of cruel fate, Miaka and Yui are both chosen to be priestesses of rival clans of celestial warriors, each competing to fulfill a quest that will give them three wishes.

Robin Brenner: “When this series first came out, it was super popular. I remember many requests to purchase it. While it’s still popular, it’s not ragingly popular. However, with those shiny new VIZ Big editions, it’s a good time to invest in this classic.”

Ghost in the ShellThe Ghost in the Shell 1 by Shirow Masamune

Author/Artist: Masamune Shirow
Publisher: Kodansha America
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In the 21st century of Ghost in the Shell, machines are an integral part of everyday life, to the point where cybernetic components enhance the abilities of humans to create a new breed of superhuman beings. But where there are machines, there are hackers; including one who seeks to take control of the man/machine interface.

A classic of manga/anime sci-fi, Ghost in the Shell was recently re-released in a large-format omnibus edition by Kodansha, which has made it easier than ever to add this grown-up graphic novel to library collections once more.

Blade of the Immortal

Blade of the Immortal Vol. 1

Author/Artist: Hiroaki Samura
Publisher: Dark Horse
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Manji is a samurai who lives with an unusual blessing and a curse: he cannot be killed or wounded in a swordfight. Thanks to an encounter with an 800-year old nun, Manji is kept alive by mystical creatures who can heal his every wound and even reattach his severed limbs. So to make amends for killing over 100 men, Manji vows to use his abilities and make amends by killing 1,000 evil men.This long-running samurai action series has a lot to offer to older teens and grown-up readers: dramatic action scenes, moving historical drama and Samura’s beautifully rendered artwork.

Kekkaishi Volume 1 by Yellow Tanabe, a shonen manga series published by VIZ Media

Author/Artist: Yellow Tanabe
Publisher: Shonen Sunday / VIZ Media
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By day, Yoshimori Sumimura and Tokine Yukimura are childhood friends, neighbors and classmates. But by night, they’re kekkaishi or barrier masters, who must fight against supernatural creatures who are attracted to their school, which just happens to be built above a sacred site that makes demons more powerful.

Kekkaishi offers something a bit different than most shonen manga: funny and likeable characters who interact with each other in interesting ways, other than just endless fights against ever-more-powerful opponents. The Kekkaishi anime series is now airing on Cartoon Network, which only adds to its appeal with readers.

Hikaru no Go

Hikaru no Go Vol. 1
Author: Yumi Hotta
Artist: Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
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When Hikaru finds an old Go board at his grandfather’s house, he’s intrigued enough to learn to play the game. But to his surprise, the board is haunted by Fujiwara-no-Sai, a Japanese nobleman and legendary Go player from the Heian era. With Sai by his side, Hikaru learns how to play Go and comes to love it enough to want to play in the pro leagues someday.

Readers learn about the rules, strategy and gameplay of Go through Hikaru’s experiences. In Japan, Hikaru no Go inspired a new generation of kids to take up the game, and on a smaller scale, it’s had the same effect on U.S. readers.


Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Volume 1 by Naoki Urasawa from VIZ Media

Author/Artist: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: VIZ Signature/ VIZ Media
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Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a brilliant Japanese neurosurgeon based in Düsseldorf, Germany has the skills to save lives. His life turns upside down on the day he finds out that a boy he operated on nine years ago has grown up to be a murderer.

The anime adaption of Monster was featured on the SyFy channel. This 18-volume manga series also earned numerous Eisner Award nominations, and is well worth recommending to readers who appreciate smart, multi-layered suspense stories.