Irina’s First Five Mangas

This is a post that first appeared on Bloodthristy Little Beasts as part of a collaboration with Jordanne. However, as Jordanne has recently made her blog private I figured I would repost this top 5 on my blog since I did enjoy writing it

I hope you guys enjoy it too. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, The 5 first mangas I remember reading. You should know that I read all of these in French so I can’t vouch for their English translations but I assume they’re EVEN BETTER!

gunnm

5) Gunnm – Battle Angel Alita

This steampunk despotian high action adventure with heavy religious overtones and a badass female cyborg heroin was my first manga and my favorite for a long time. Yukito Kishiro has said in interviews to have been strongly inspired by Frank Miller’s work and it shows. There’s this sense of foreboding and classic “noir” aesthetic that seeps out of every page. I must say, as a dorky teenager with occasional goth tendencies, it really spoke to me.

The narrative can get suffocatingly bleak at times. Even in its brightest moments, the story aims for the lesser evil rather than anything close to good. You may see hints of Madoka or Yuki Yuna in there. I would call it a precursor to the magical girl narrative and Alita certainly fits the tragic heroin trope. This manga is a classic for a reason.

I must admit, that I did try to reread it recently and just couldn’t quite get into it like I use to. I’m not sure which one of us hasn’t aged well. It could also have been a question of timing. This said, I still smile whenever anyone mentions loving this manga and if you are interested in brutal dystopian sci fi, you will certainly find something to enjoy in this manga.

Image result for blame manga

4) Blame

Blame was amazing. It’s another dystopian sci fi…I guess I have a type. I’m gonna recommend Evangelion next!

I still love Blame. Not necessarily for the story or characters, but for the presentation. Blame is brilliantly executed in manga form. You see, the story is somewhat nebulous. We are thrown in the middle of an ongoing quest (if you will) with no establishing narration or exposition. In fact, there is little to no exposition at all throughout the series. Most of the story has to be inferred through the images and dialogue. Also…there’s almost no dialogue! You can go through entire volumes with roughly 3 pages worth of text.

To top it off, the images look like this:

Dark line art, with fluid detailing and heavy emphasis on shadows….

Blame is an experience. There is absolutely no way to explain the impact of reading this manga to another person and no way to capture it through anime. It’s one of a kind. This series opened my eyes to the potential of the medium. I had never seen anything like it before and suddenly, possibilities seemed endless.

I enjoy comic books in general – and find that they allow for experimenting with narrative styles more readily than in conventional formats. However, even in comic books, I had not encountered anything quite like blame. Even the black and white (by necessity) images and smaller manga page size seem to add something to the narrative.

When I was recently asked to pick the manga that describes me best – this is the one I picked. I also have to be experienced first hand!

homme qui marche

3) L’Homme qui Marche – The Walking Man

The Walking Man is a one shot manga that you should read… OK so what it really is, is a haiku in manga form. At least it is to me.

This is a simple story, almost a non story really, that follows a businessman as he goes for a walk through his neighbourhood and just contemplates on life and existence. It’s basically a simple plea to stop and smell the roses. A love letter to all the little miracles that we take for granted. Most of it is one again conveyed through images…

Look it’s not that I don’t like reading words or anything but if you’re going to have a manga, might as well take full advantage of the visual aspect, right? No listen…I said I can read!!!

Honestly, if you’re having one of *those* days at work, you should find this book. I was perhaps a bit too young to fully appreciate it at the time but I could still tell that it was something special. A little compact shard of serenity and peaceful contentment to carry around with you through those harsher times.Image result for Naruto manga

2) Naruto

Yup, one of the first manga I read was Naruto. And I still like never ending shonen with genki male protagonists. I have since moved on to other titles in the genre (HxH being my favourite) but Naruto is what opened my eyes to one of the most prolific and popular manga and anime types.

I loved it. It’s what you think about when you think stereotypical Japanese comic. Super powers with weird names that get shouted out in battles. Occasionally awkward translations. Huge casts of characters. Never ending story line. Ninjas!!! The straightforward format, happy go lucky mood and slapstick comedy felt light and easy to digest for my younger self. It was a much brighter and more lighter counterpart to those american superhero comics. And much funnier too.

Then things got real… Naruto mixes in some truly brutal scenes and unthinkable betrayals with it’s lighter moments, in a way that american comics hadn’t quite caught up with at the time. I remembered being floored and staring at pages in disbelief. By now, this is somewhat par for the course. HxH or FMA take it much further. However, back then it felt novel.

Sure you could probably pick up Fairy Tail or One Piece for a very similar experience nowadays. For me though, it was the young Hokage wannabe that started it all. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’ve convinced myself to go reread them. See you all in 6 months!

Related image1) Akira

Akira was one of the very first animes I ever saw. This is probably a common experience for a lot of cough, older, cough fans. I did like it. I liked it quite a bit but also…I kinda felt like I had to like it. It was a bit odd and not that easy to follow, but I was afraid that admitting it had some serious plot holes would simply prove that I “didn’t get it”. And I desperately wanted to get it. At the time, in my neck of the woods, there weren’t really any alternatives. You had a handful of animes to choose from and Akira was the gold standard. If you didn’t like that, you just didn’t like anime. For some reason, little me had firmly decided to like anime.

It wasn’t until some time later that I stumbled across the full collection of large bound full colour volumes at the library and decided to give it another go.

It changed everything! Of course, trying to condense 6 very large volumes into a single movie was going to be difficult no matter what but the experience was simply not the same. The rich story (um…dystopian sci fi….) the layered and complex characters, the intricate political background and mesmerizing plot twists, all of it had completely been lost in my viewing of the movie. I had to go through these manga to finally get it but once I did… I never looked back. 

Extra mention

Image result for Natsume manga you just want free booze

Natsume’s book of Friends

I actually finished Natsume’s book of friends volume 21 yesterday – sigh…… so it’s hardly one of the first I’ve read. I just want to mention it because, well I love Natsume and mention it whenever I can. Please read Natsume – it’s beautiful. Also, it is NOT dystopian sci fi. It will give you a new appreciation of the little miracles all around us. 

There you have it. These five series managed to capture my imagination and kept me reading manga for years to come. I don’t know that they are my favorites but I certainly did enjoy all of them. Maybe you will as well.

Actually, I also once found a hardcore eroge mange on a bus… It was clean (as in not soiled…) – don’t worry. I didn’t include it here. Maybe I will next time.

Image result for manga girl blushing

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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34 Responses

  1. Peter Ahola says:

    Naruto wasn’t my first Manga, but it became my favorite. I actually first subscribed to Shonen Jump because I wanted to see the uncensored One Piece. I actually read Naruto just to see it, I liked it and made it a secondary read in the magazine. But as time went on I found myself more excited about Naruto than One Piece and I eventually accepted the truth that I liked it more. I actually bought the whole manga series and it takes up about 90 percent of my Manga library

  2. Raith says:

    At first I thought you were complaining about having to like Akira (the manga). I was like “I wonder what her problems with it were?”. Then it clicked you were talking about the anime, and tbh, big same. The movie kinda left a lot to be desired when I first watched it, and honestly it wasn’t until after I had read the manga that I could start appreciating the better and more iconic aspects of the movie.

  3. otakudreamnation says:

    From your list , I think you might really like the Girl’s Last Tour manga. I need to check out Blame asap !

  4. Kelly says:

    My first three were Godchild, Full Moon, and Death Note

  5. Pinkie says:

    My first one was Pokemon Adventures, though i did not know it was manga at the time, it got a totally western release here intially like dutch text and you read it like a normal comic.

    My first owned manga were Is this a Zombie and D Gray Man but the volumes I need next are hard to find.

    My first two completely digital reads are Naruto and Bleach. I wanted to pick up One Piece as the show began to annoy me with the fact that 30% of an episode was recap and those weird maps.
    Than the little folk in the Dress Rosa arc I found really dumb and I just tuned out also getting major spoilers straight away.

    One Piece really is written quite strong though , imo better written than others, I just started to resent the anime to much to enjoy it.. i might pick it up from 0 if I ever get a e-reader

    • Irina says:

      I read the early volumes of One Piece and really just stopped because of finance and distraction. They were great

  6. Akira was my first manga, and I have the entire original Alita and Alita Last Orders (and just started Mars Chronicles). Blame #1 is on my TBR list. Revolutionary Girl Utena was one of the first I read, too, and Neon Genesis Evangelion…It’s really good, much deeper than the anime.

  7. wingking78 says:

    Even though I started watching anime in the 90s, it wasn’t until 2007 that I actually read my first manga. I had to read some for a library committee I was on that year.

    The very first manga across my desk was v1 of Gravitation EX, which was a sequel to a yaoi series, so you can imagine how that went: me trying to learn how to read right-to-left for the first time, at the same time I’m getting dropped right into the middle of a story where I don’t know what’s going on, in a genre that’s of no interest to me anyway. I struggled through about a quarter of it and finally gave up.

    Fortunately the next manga that came to me was v1 of Princess Resurrection, which I enjoyed the hell out of; I ended up buying the whole series up until Del Rey stopped publishing print editions after v7. Out of the four manga we read for the committee that year, it was the only series I continued with. The other two were Kitchen Princess, which I liked but not quite enough to keep going, and Black Sun Silver Moon which was thoroughly meh.

    The first manga I picked up and started reading on my own after that committee ended was Naruto, sometime in 2008/09, and I was into that for quite a while. That’s the only one on your list that I’ve read, though.

    My favorite manga series is still Rurouni Kenshin, but I didn’t get to that one until a few years later.

    • Irina says:

      Man I love Kenshin…

      It’s interesting how many people seem to randomly get a surprise BL series as their first manga. You’re the second in the comments and it’s a story I’ve heard a lot before as well. Maybe there’s a conspiracy…

  8. Anonymous says:

    Here’s my first mangas i’ve read and these were the ones that i could have find in high school

    Attack On Titan
    Death Note
    Naruto
    One Piece
    Bleach

    -(Krogueotakugamer)

  9. The weird thing is that, in most cases I can think of (including “anime” and “manga”), the plural of Japanese words is the same as the singular. I don’t think many people adhere to that rule.

    My first manga, if my library records are to be believed, was Detective Conan but since Chris mentioned the Pokemon manga, I’m trying to think of where that fits in my manga history and…I come up blank. I’ve read a big chunk of it (at least, the volumes that aren’t the small, thin ones Viz has been putting out for the past few manga series) and even own a few volumes, thanks to library sales (in fact, I’ve been rereading a volume I got from a sale around the type I type this comment), but my memory tends to fail me in times that aren’t that significant. Digging back into my library records also says my first 5 series, in order, were roughly DC > Inuyasha > Tsubasa > Xxxholic > Kindaichi Case Files, which is interesting because none of those, aside from the first for obvious reasons, made a big impact on me, although it may have had an unconscious impact on my preferences in manga and stories in general.

    • Irina says:

      That is weird.

      I had an early CLAMP phase as well. When I was a kid I just thought everything they did was the coolest for some reason. I still like CLAMP but for the life of me I can’t remember why I was so in love with those manga back then

  10. Akira was one of my first manga too, although I read it serialized in a magazine. A couple years back I got all of the hardback copies and went through them in a week. I love the anime, but the manga is on another level.

    I’ve also seen the Blame movie which was good, but the manga looks incredible. I will definitely check that out, so, thanks.

    • Irina says:

      I do hope you like Blame. It’s a pretty unusual experience so probably not for everyone but for those who like it…

  11. Back when I was just starting to get into Japanese culture, I decided I would just… start reading a manga. Any manga. With almost no knowledge of what I was getting into, I went to a scanlation site, clicked ‘random manga,’ and started reading. It was a steamy BL series about a master magic user who falls in love with his apprentice. Or the other way around. Can’t remember the name, unfortunately. In retrospect, I think it was a pretty run-of-the-mill story as far as BL goes, but even so, it was enough to open my eyes to the infinite potential of the medium.

    I binge-read it all in one night, all the while thinking to myself, “So… I’m pretty sure I’m straight, and definitely NOT the target audience. Why am I enjoying this much?”. And that’s the thing: I don’t think western media would have the ability, the sociocultural toolset, or let alone the courage, to tell a story like that. I was actually kinda blown away at the time. The first kanji in “manga” is 漫, meaning “unrestrained,” or “reckless.” Given the amount of spirit and passion that goes into making even the most middling of manga, I feel it’s a very fitting description.

    …And the next random manga I read immediately after? Highschool of the Dead. Talk about polar opposites! That was what sort of solidified my realisation that I’d stumbled across something truly unique.

    • Irina says:

      I read my manga pretty randomly as well yet they all have a sort of thematic connection now that I think about it.

      Thank you for that tidbit about the kanji reading in manga. I love that sort of info. One day I will stop being entirely made out of laziness and actually look that stuff up for myself.

      One can dream…

  12. ospreyshire says:

    Great choices. I’ve read Akira and Blame. I’ve heard battle Angel was really good even though I’ve only seen the anime which was last year.

    Some of my first manga was Pokemon Adventures (before I knew what manga was), Initial D, and Whistle.

    • Irina says:

      I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know Pokemon had a manga. I guess I should have

      • ospreyshire says:

        Don’t feel bad. I remember getting these thin paper trades. It was certainly different from the show, but it was still interesting from what I remember. The Pokemon manga was the first time I read any graphic novel series in black and white.

  13. Cool list. I’ve only read Naruto and Alita, but Blame has certainly caught my attention.

    My first mangas were:

    1. Pokemon Adventures – I didn’t even know what manga was when I picked up a couple of volumes for this, but I was obsessed with Pokemon growing up.

    2. One Piece – This is really the series that started it all for me, I was just learning what manga and anime were and obviously I’m still buying the series to this day.

    3. Cardcaptor Sakura – I adored the anime as a kid and as the UK still doesn’t have a legal release of the whole series on DVD, I had to go an buy the omnibuses of the manga just to keep myself going.

    • Irina says:

      Blame is very interesting for what it is.
      One Piece was fantastic but I think it had already been out for a while when I got to it and I got scared by the number of volumes. Still I have the first few and they are great

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