The Best New Manga of March 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Want a second helping? This month’s new manga releases include a new series by the creator of One-Punch Man, a collection of Fullmetal Alchemist gag manga, and the return of the classic Aria, as well as some new manga with familiar storylines. And on top of that, there’s a new light novel featuring mechas with a side of social commentary—OK, that last one is not at all familiar, but it sounds like a lot of fun.

Mob Psycho 100, Vol. 2, by ONE
Mob Psycho 100 is by the writer of One-Punch Man, and shares that series’ deadpan humor—although Mob Psycho 100 is about spirits and exorcists, not superheroes and villains. The joke starts with the title, which seems to promise crazy violent Yakuza action. In fact, “Mob” is the name of the lead character, a mild-mannered eighth-grader who blends into the crowd (in other words, he’s just one blip in a mob scene). Mob has superhuman powers, and he has apprenticed himself to a phony medium who exploits them shamelessly, but he doesn’t seem to care much. In fact, he is disinclined to use his powers at all, unless pressed to the limit. Most of the time he is pretty straight-faced, like Saitama of One-Punch Man, but when his inner emotional gauge hits 100, his psychic energy goes haywire. Mob Psycho 100 pokes fun at manga tropes—the club that will be dissolved if it can’t find one more member, the endlessly fighting gangs of tough guys in gakuran (military style) school uniforms—so the more manga you have read, the more you will enjoy it. Since ONE draws Mob Psycho 100 himself, it doesn’t have the polished look of One-Punch Man (which benefits from the artwork of Eyeshield 21 creator Yusuke Murata), but the style fits the story well. This month marks the release of the second volume, so it’s a good time to jump onboard a promising series.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics, by Hiromu Arakawa
This volume pulls together all the bonus 4-panel gag strips that ran at the end of the individual volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist or were included with the anime DVDs and various booklets, websites, and other products. Like most manga creators, Arakawa takes the opportunity to poke some good-natured fun at her characters and their quirks, and she even drew a set of “Fullmetal Masterpiece Theater” strips spoofing famous fairy tales. Since all the strips are about Fullmetal Alchemist,the book won’t make much sense to those who haven’t read the series or watched the anime, but FMA fans will certainly enjoy the sly digs and insider humor.

Aria: The Masterpiece, Vol. 1, by Kozue Amano
Aria is a slice-of-life manga set in a beautiful fantasy world. In the future, Mars has been terraformed for human habitation, and when the ice caps melted, the imagineers in charge created Neo Venezia, a canal city based on Venice. Naturally, there are gondolas, and Aria follows the adventures of Akari, who has traveled from Earth (now called Manhome) to train as an Undine, or professional gondolier. This is the sort of manga you read just for the pleasure of being in a particular world. It doesn’t have a lot of action, but a character in the first chapter describes the gondolas as “strangely calming,” and the same could be said of the series as a whole. Aria was first published in English in 2004, and Tokyopop picked up the license after the original publisher became defunct. Now they are bringing it back in a deluxe edition; this first volume contains the prequel series, originally known as Aqua.

86?EIGHTY-SIX, Vol. 1, by Asato Asato and Shirabi
This light novel from Yen Press is fantasy with a sting. The San Magnolia Republic has successfully deployed unmanned weapons to defend themselves from an attack from a neighboring empire, but all is not as it seems: the “unmanned” weapons are actually piloted by the young men and women of the Republic’s 86th District, which does not exist in any public and official sense. In other words, the government has been lying about the whole project. With a mix of mechs, military action, and politics, this is an interesting light novel that goes beyond the usual tropes.

Boruto, Vol. 5, by Ukyo Kodachi, Mikio Ikemoto, and Masashi Kishimoto
After charging through 72 volumes of adventures, Naruto finally settled down and had a son, Boruto. This series picks up the story of the younger Uzumaki, who is headstrong, resentful of his father, and inclined to go barreling off on his own adventures. With Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto supervising its creation, this new series is a worthy match for the original. The Boruto manga initially followed the storyline of Boruto: Naruto the Movie, but has moved on to original material. Currently, Boruto is grappling with a mysterious organization called Kara, and in this volume he also goes up against his father, satisfying the desires of meme creators all over the world.

Love in Focus, Vol. 1, by Yoko Nogiri
Sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned shoujo romance manga, and Love in Focus fills the bill. Mako, our heroine, loves photography, and after suffering a loss, she dives deeper into it. At the suggestion of a childhood friend, she leaves home to attend a new school that has an elite photography club—and she’s soon living in a dorm with her friend and another student who hates to have his picture taken. Have we checked all the Shoujo Bingo boxes yet? This one looks like it will be good fun, with the photo angle to add some extra interest.

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 1, by Tsunehiko Watanabe and Neko Hinotsuki
If, on the other hand, you want a good old-fashioned wish-fulfillment seinen manga, here’s the one for you. Zenjiro is a totally ordinary guy with a boring office job and not much else going on, until a beautiful queen of an unearthly realm summons him to be her husband. If he accepts, he gets to live a life of leisure with his beautiful spouse—but the catch is that there are no backsies on this offer, and he will be saying goodbye to everything dear to him on Earth, including his family and the internet. It’s also possible that all is not quite as it seems, and the queen has some sinister motives. With its everyman hero and gorgeous supernatural heroine, The Ideal Sponger Life is a solid seinen romantic comedy.

10 Dance, Vol. 2, by Inouesatoh
Two “kings” of ballroom dancing go head to head in this steamy yaoi romance. Shinya Sugiki is a champion in the world of traditional ballroom dancing, while Shinya Suzuki is the top Latin dancer. The twist is that in order to compete in the prestigious 10 Dance competition, each has to learn the other’s style, so they agree to teach each other. While they share a first name, the two have very different personalities and teaching styles, so there’s plenty of tension—and tension is the magic ingredient in yaoi!

What new manga is on your list this month?

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8 Manga for the Boys Love Beginner

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The last few years have seen a growing interest in LGBTQ manga in the West, with titles like My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness and My Brother’s Husband connecting with readers and collecting major awards recognition. Yet there’s a particular category of manga with queer-identified characters that is also quietly increasing in prominence: boys love (BL) manga.

What the heck is BL? Though its primary subjects are often gay men, BL manga, contrary to what the name seems to suggest, is not actually manga written specifically for or by gay men. Rather, it’s a broad category of manga portraying romance between men, primarily written for and by heterosexual women. Think of it as shojo romance wherein both characters happen to be dudes, and there are way more spicy bits.

Though BL manga used to be exclusively published in English by smaller specialty imprints, after a spate of recent licenses from mainstream manga publishers like Kodansha and Seven Seas, BL may be—dare I say it?—becoming respectable. Curious to discover what it’s all about? Here are eight recently released and upcoming BL manga to get started with, from the softly sweet to the downright dirty… caveat lector.

Go For It, Nakamura!, by Syundei
Painfully awkward gay high schooler Nakamura has fallen head over heels for his outgoing classmate Hirose. The only thing standing in the way of true love? Nakamura isn’t actually sure Hirose knows his name . . . or that he exists. Sporting a delightfully retro art style that recalls the work of Rumiko Takahashi, this one-volume BL comedy is as charming as they come, balancing the humor of Nakamura’s uncoordinated attempts to strike up a friendship with his unrequited crush with some genuinely aww-worthy moments. If you like what you see here, good news: Syundei’s Total Eclipse of the Eternal Heart, by all accounts much darker fare than this episodic romcom, is set to follow from Seven Seas in March.

I Hear the Sunspot, by Fumino Yuki
Kohei’s hearing disability has always kept him from forming close relationships with others, and given him a reputation around his college campus for being aloof and unapproachable. When classmate Taichi crashes into his life, his straightforward attempts at friendship begin to break down Kohei’s defenses. As the two grow closer, Kohei and Taichi aren’t sure they’re friends, or something more. Both a sensitive treatment of disability and a light college romance, I Hear the Sunspot is a great starting place for those looking to dip their toe in the shallow end of the BL pool. And with two sequel volumes already published in English, you can be sure that Kohei and Taichi’s story will continue.

Classmates: Dou kyu sei, by Asumiko Nakamura
Hikaru Kusakabe, popular guitarist in his high school band, and Rihito Sajou, uptight honor student, never had a reason to cross paths. When Hikaru stumbles across Rihito practicing alone for an upcoming class choir performance, he becomes intrigued and offers to be his music tutor until the recital. But as the two spend more time together, Hikaru realizes his feelings for his classmate are growing beyond interest or even friendship. Asumiko Nakamura’s distinctive loose lines and free-flowing anatomy add striking visual character to this coming of age high school romance. Look out for a newly translated print edition from Seven Seas this June.

10 Dance, by Inouesatou
Shinya Sugiki is the undisputed champion of Standard Ballroom, while Shinya Suzuki rules the passionate world of Latin Dance. With ambitions of becoming 10 Dance champions, a title that requires competing in both five Standard and five Latin dances, the two set aside (some of) their pride and agree to tutor each other in their rival’s specialty. As their dancing heats up, so does their relationship, until both begin to wonder if it’s more than the rumba drawing them together. This upcoming rivals-to-lovers manga from Kodansha is one for those who enjoy romance set to a slow-burn simmer, with heaps of sexual tension between bouts of the Viennese Waltz.

Stray Bullet Baby, by Kei Ichikawa
Murakami has always admired Honna, the stylish and capable editor at a magazine his firm regularly collaborates with, from a distance. When his office goes for after work drinks with Honna’s team, Murakami sees his chance to finally introduce himself. But instead of the genial conversation Murakami imagined, he ends up dragging a barely coherent (and not especially cool) Honna home after three too many drinks. Murakami isn’t sure what to make of his mercurial new acquaintance, but also can’t seem to stay away, and their odd friendship deepens. Kei Ichikawa’s naturalistic pacing, gray tones, and slightly undone lines lend a pleasing softness to this one-volume adult office romance.

Candy Color Paradox, by Isaku Natsume
Reporter Onoe and photographer Kaburagi are worlds apart—Onoe can’t handle Kaburagi’s cockiness and unscrupulous methods, while Kaburagi has nothing but contempt for Onoe’s hesitance and rigidity. The two can barely stand to be in the same room, but when an assignment from their editor throws them together for a celebrity stakeout, a grudging partnership gradually turns into something sweeter. Isaku Natsume’s straightforward storytelling makes this a lighthearted (and a little steamy) opposites-attract workplace romance with a fun reporter/photographer angle. Four volumes of this ongoing series are out in Japan; look out for the first English volume in March.  

Jackass!, by Scarlet Beriko
Keisuke’s best friend Masayuki has always seemed frivolous to down-to-earth Keisuke—handsome, popular, and wealthy, Masayuki tends to flit from interest to interest and girl to girl. But when Keisuke accidentally wears his older sister’s pantyhose to school (a mistake that could happen to anyone, I’m sure), he discovers Masayuki has a very particular fetish that leaves both boys questioning their friendship, not to mention their sexuality. With a style characterized by bold, fluid lines and eyelashes a mascara model would kill for, Scarlet Beriko is a world champion at drawing beautiful men in ahem heated situations (note the explicit content warning on the cover of this one). Despite honing in on a racy fetish, this single volume friends-to-lovers story is a surprisingly sweet read with a memorable supporting cast and easy to root for couple.

Escape Journey, by Ogeretsu Tanaka
Naoto has nothing but bitter memories from his turbulent high school relationship with classmate Taichi, and is determined to start college with a clean romantic slate. All goes as planned until he runs into his ex on the same campus. Despite his determination to hate Taichi’s guts, Naoto can’t help getting sucked back into the rhythm of their friendship, and to Taichi’s credit, he’s matured a lot since their acrimonious split—or so it seems. Ogeretsu’s polished and detailed art, dramatic storylines, and spicy sex scenes (again, please note the explicit content warning) have made her a hit in Japan, and now English-speaking audiences can jump on the bandwagon. The first two volumes of this romantic drama are available now, with the third hitting shelves June 2019.

Have you discovered a beloved BL manga we didn’t mention?

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