If it's crap ... We'll tell you
I want to point out that I try to avoid things we have spoken about on our previous podcasts because I'm not a fan of rehashing. Seriously, just listen to our podcasts before asking what I think about this or that title. We do those for you, not ourselves.
Manga you should be checking out if you haven't yet
Basilisk: Can't recommend this series enough to people who want action. Real action. A story about two ninja clans fighting to the death. The death. A more sort of realistic approach to the ninja genre with beautiful artwork and great action and thrills. This beats the shit out of Naruto period. This series is really on the cusp of being in my hall of fame, but I am extremely stingy with praise (if you've never noticed before) and have held onto the philosophy of making my HOF more special by only having five. If I extended that to ten, this is the first one getting in and in a heartbeat at that. First Class
Shamo: A martial arts centric title that is extremely dark. Off the top of my head, this is the darkest story I've ever experienced in terms of anime or manga. Yes, darker than Berserk. The main reason for this is that the protagonist may come off as borderline to totally unlikable to the reader (I do not like the protagonist at all on a personal note, though there are things I admittedly admire about him). This is overcome however by the deeply moving story the young man is a part of, and the largely ignored philosophical views on martial arts that haven't been picked up by other stories in my mind..ever. If you were ever interested in martial arts, this is a series you need to read to understand a lot of what's not being mentioned or explored in any modern day dojo you can just walk into nowadays. I did martial arts for seven years and I have to say that I came to a lot of the conclusions that are touched upon or that the protagonist comes to realize throughout the story of Shamo. The story comes off as very tragic to me, but that's me. It might be infuriating or revolting to others, but I'd be surprised if you were not moved strongly in some way by this story. It is one of my Hall of Fame series for it's uniqueness. The only knock I have on it is that sometimes a lot of the characters look the same because they're muscular martial artists that often shave down their heads.
All Rounder Meguru: Another martial arts focused title. I recently picked this up and was intrigued with it. Not a lot of it has been translated so far, but it looks promising. ARM has managed to avoid nearly all the typical and boring pitfalls of other "martial arts" series. And again, if you're interested in martial arts it does a good job at what it tries to do: show the reader just how difficult it actually is to try to be a pro MMA fighter. Very good, technical fighting. The artwork is so-so, but certainly not bad. Solid B for me, though I'd like there to be more of it out there before I could really validate that rating.
Holyland: The final of the only three martial arts based stories I find respectable (and therefore recommendable). Holyland is specifically about street fighting and delinquency, though it like most things I try to recommend to people avoids most of the tired tropes or horrid flaws of its genre. I think the largest flaw a "martial arts" or at least a fighting centered series can have is coming off as cartoony, which Holyland totally does not. Not the greatest or most original story, but it was interesting enough for me to follow it as it was being translated and stick with it to the end. While I became attached to some of the characters and found the evolution of the protagonist interesting, I could see it being a bit flat in those areas for others. A bit of a longer series but if you're interested in fighting, be sure to hit the trifecta by adding this to your to read list with Shamo and All Rounder Meguru because it's biggest draw is it's realistic, gritty take on street fighting. Solid B.
The World God Only Knows: As some of you may know I greatly disdain romance comedy. It's become extraordinary in its boring formulaic tropes. Throw in "harem" on the genre tags and it's not worth the effort to even give a chance for me. TWOGK is the series I picked up and was pleasantly surprised with right when I was about to totally write off the romance comedy genre. I still am pleased with it to this day, though it's been slowly moving away from it's roots which is a little worrisome in my mind. Very metaphysical in its humor of the genre's flaws which came off as rather refreshing to me. Only real knock on it is that it's not always translated great. Seriously, no one on earth has some crazy reaction and says something..only to say that's what they'd like to say. That's a Japanese thing that doesn't translate at all to western audiences. Solid B here.
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa (Legend of The Strongest Man Kurosawa): A rather goofy, off beat slice of life that has a pretty different protagonist - a middle aged loner who's only wish is to be more popular. Only he really, really sucks at it. Also rather interesting with this is that it's Fukumoto Nobuyuki's only(?) story that isn't gambling based. I think. For those of you who don't know, Nobuyuki did Akagi and Ten - Tenhodori No Kaidanji which we've spoken about before on earlier podcasts. Kurosawa also holds one of my favorite endings to a story ever, a rare praise I feel worthy of mentioning. It might be a little out there for some people some times (poo samurai!), but I enjoyed the entire ride for many different reasons. First Class. Also..Kurosawa got two pictures cuz I really liked it..haha.
I Am A Hero: When I think of zombie apocalypse stories for anime/manga, only two come up. And one of them I almost feel isn't worth the effort of even mentioning it's so bad. But I will later because I don't want you to think anime and manga is always that flippin stupid. I Am A Hero on the other hand is a very strong series. It made a very strong push for one of those yearly manga awards when it came out and you can find out why when you read it. A rather different take just in general for the zombie apocalypse genre. The main character can be a little annoying but I have trouble imagining a Japanese protagonist in a very anti-gun country being much different. First Class.
Jisatsutou: Being a survival enthusiast myself, it's very difficult to find survival series that make the cut. Which is worsened by the fact there really aren't that many out there to begin with. I found Jisatsutou to be a very moving story that hasn't totally had to rely on the survival aspect of it to be interesting. Don't worry, the survival aspect isn't done poorly which is a very good thing when you look at what's out there. Anyways, if you're into that kind of crap, don't check your litter box. Check this out instead. Solid B.
Itou Junji's work: Rather than post a bunch of titles by this master of horror..just search him up by name. Uniquely dark and disturbing artwork, plots and characters have flowed out from this guy. I do have to say that if you like cats, be sure to check out Itou Junji's Cat Diaries. Pretty funny stuff once you're familiar with his work. Most of it falls in the solid b category for me, though if you're really into horror his stuff may just be your thing.
Mirai Nikki (Future Diary): I really liked this one pretty much from the get go. The only thing is once the plot got started, one character stood out in a way that really bothered me. And if you're like me, the same will happen to you. The only thing I have to say is stick with it, you'll either figure it out and it won't bother you or when the explaination for the character being that way is given, you'll head palm yourself like I did. Pretty good thriller involving murder. Lots of murder. My only knock on it is after the big reveal they go to the well a little overly much for their own good. Solid b.
Billy Bat: Always been a fan of historical fiction. The whole "what if" thing usually can entertain me through the toughest of times. Billy Bat is a history fiction thriller that I found fascinating, though I admit that it's hard to keep with the story if you don't do it in one go. It deals with history so it jumps around in time, and if you have trouble focusing then I recommend reading it in large chunks rather than keeping up with its weekly release. Done by the same author of Pluto, Monster, 20th Century Boys, Happy! (wtf buddy..stick to your guns), and Master Keaton. If you've read any of those sans Happy! and you liked them, Billy Bat will probably be your thing. If you read..uh..Happy! and it was your thing..then this is probably not so much. Urasawa Naoki has made a living doing mystery thrillers and this is probably my favorite of his bunch and I believe is the most recent of his works which is why I chose to talk about it out of all his other works I liked. First Class.
Rokudenashi Blues: Another title I only recently happened across, but was happy to have done so. "Rokudenashi" I think is slang for "no good"..so you can kind of get an idea what kind of series this is gonna be. If you can't, it's about a sort-of-delinquent-sort-of-trying-to-not-be-delinquent boy going through high school and growing up. I liked the series, but I could see a lot of people look at the description and continue on looking for something else. A large draw to this story is the offbeat humor which suited me. Might not suit everyone though. I liked it quite a bit but beyond making me chuckle usually, not anything to go crazy about. But if Japanese delinquent humor is your thing, this might be worth your time. Readable
Life: Not usually my style, but this angsty shoujo title actually had me squirming quite a bit. Haven't read it in a while though I'm going to pick it back up and try to finish it. More of a hard edged gal with problems read, but as a guy I did not have trouble admitting I liked it. I do have a little trouble reading it though, cuz bad things have happened to characters and very possibly may happen when they get into bad positions. Or at least that's how I felt, which helped me be able to read it. Readable
Life Is Money: Not to be confused with the title above, Life. This series is a psychological mystery thriller involving murder again..not 100% but believe it's done by the same guy who did Mirai Nikki or at least the artwork looks very similar. Hasn't been translated much yet, but the little I've read is projecting to be a first class. Check it out if that's your thing.
Manga you should be checking out of
"Wow Oldboy, that's a big list. Thanks a lot" Well your welcome, but it's not really depending on what your tastes are. But I can probably do you a bigger service by telling you what to avoid. Here's some titles I found to end up being time wasters. And no, it's not gonna be anything common like Naruto or whatever. Telling you to avoid really well known stuff I don't think is even mediocre is a waste of both of our time.
Dragon Head: I can't tell you where this went wrong. Actually I can. About 99% of the story. End of the world "survival" title, but not really a whole lot of surviving going on. Some interesting things happen, certainly the cause for the survival scenario is a pretty intriguing mystery, but ultimately I was kind of like, "I'd rather have the time I spent reading this back" when I finished reading it. Stupid characters, stupid goals, stupid decisions, all of which are very important to not have in a survival series. Clownshoes
Happy!: Hey, something I mentioned earlier! While this isn't really a terrible story, you may become a fan of the author Urasawa Naoki and go into this misleadingly thinking it's another mystery thriller. Like I did. It's not. It's about some broad trying to be a pro tennis player to support her kid siblings who can't support themselves. Again, not terrible, but avoid this if you were thinking this is gonna be like Urasawa's other mystery thrillers. Not a bad Vanilla. I read it for a while but ultimately it just wasn't what I was looking for or am into.
Highschool Of The Dead: Ah..I remember fondly when I first came across this title. I was like, "oh shit finally! A zombie apocalypse manga." Ha ha ha ha ha. . .check out Dragonhead's explaination and move on, except add excessive fan service. No, don't. Because this touches on a pet peeve of mine being a recreational shooter. I've actually come across another one of this artist's series and unsurprisingly it has lots of guns in it. This guy's portrayal of gun physics and mechanics are worse than movies. And I know everyone loves katanas but I want to warn all you Japanophiles that if you don't have a knock off (which I could feasibly see a kendo practitioner from a wealthy family in Japan not having a knock off in HSOTD's defense), they're nefariously breakable blades. Something I don't care to find out if they consider in the series or not. Also..they're only in the fuckin high school for like a couple of hours (like three episodes in the anime). Why would you call it that? Clownshoes that stepped in my unchanged litterbox fuck this bullshit. If you like this then we're probably not gonna see eye to eye very often.
Kimi No Iru Machi: Can't say how disappointed I am in this. The romance actually started off kind of magical...but it quickly begins to hammer you upside the head with irritating characters doing irritating things you see them do in other irritating and predictable romance stories that I just could never see people doing in real life. Does this kind of shit really happen in Japan? Who's the guy who's moving to Japan? Keep me informed on that cuz I'll fuckin suplex some of these 90lb clowns if I ever go visit. Through collapsible furniture. Just for you. Anyways I can't say I'm not surprised that I didn't like it, as I didn't like the author's other work..what's it called..Suzuka. So if you liked Suzuka, you'll probably like this. I didn't, so I didn't. The worst kind of Vanilla in my mind. The aggravating kind stemming from wasted potential.
History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi: Oh man am I disappointed with this fighting series. Can you guess why? I suppose I shouldn't hold it's main flaw against it - that it ends up becoming too cartoony for my tastes but considering how the series started and progressed..I won't napalm this for taking that route. Ultimately I enjoyed it quite a bit for a while because the characters were amusing / interesting, but eventually the cartooniness just sort of overwhelmed me and I couldn't continue on much further than what's a little after where the anime ends. Still though, if you don't mind martial arts that aren't actually martial arts, knock yourself out. Vanilla
Hajime No Ippo: What can I say? Boxing that ain't boxing. Would say 'nuff said but I can't because this also suffers another huge flaw: the first biggest plot point of the main protagonist facing his arch rival in a match still has not happened. A thousand chapters later. That's not hyperbole. This series has gone on for more than one thousand chapters and the two dudes still have not had their penultimate rematch! I read this until shortly after the 900's, I can't imagine why..but anyways if you want real boxing don't read this. I'm not exaggerating that in the world of Hajime No Ippo you're allowed to do crap like jump off the turnbuckles and ring ropes and constantly duck under your opponents belt and crap. It's a bit goofy though so the humor might charm you..for 900 chapters. But ultimately you want what you've been reading all this time for...and they still haven't given it yet (you listening Naruto..with the whole Hinata and Naruto romance thing there?). They're in different weight classes for gods sake that shit ain't happening forever more. It finally suffers from the worst flaw any series can have..super predictable whenever the protagonist is involved in a match. In fact, I can predict the final match of Ippo (the protagonist) and his arch rival (if they even ever fight): Ippo does what he does every match and goes in swinging since he's a short, power hitter. His arch rival hits him with a counter, which is his style. Ippo goes out on his feet. His trainer yells something that brings him back to consciousness and Ippo wins! But I'm not waiting another five years to get to that point. Vanilla
Eden No Ori (Cage of Eden): Perhaps the title I am most disappointed in out of everything here. Another survival series that had a very good intro but quickly became too cartoony and generic for its own good. For me however, the only other genre I have a very hard time disconnected my disbelief for cartooniness is fighting. In a survival story, it's important to me to be fuckin realistic or I lose interest. Sort of like going to a buffet that only serves condiments comes to mind. If you're not turned off by this, then it's still probably worth a read because it did manage to largely avoid the giant pitfall of stupid people doing stupid things in a scenario where you can't have that believably happening. Sometimes their decision making can be a little irritating, but no one's gonna be shooting 100%, let alone kids. The mystery is probably what's most interesting in this title, because I didn't find the characters to be terribly interesting (and naturally there are a lot of them), though a large part of that is because when it comes to survival scenarios involving inhabitants of the island it's just not realistic enough for me. Anyways a not feelin this for me, though I could see this being rated pretty highly for those who the cartootiness does not bother them. Picking up Jisatsutou was the death of this for me though.
Eyeshield 21: I've never been big on sports series..and in fact I still am not. Sadly, I have read (and watched) Eyeshield 21 through its entirety because I love the NFL that much. More sadly..I can't recommend this on any level. Even as an American Football lover it's just not good..the characters are bland, the artwork ain't bad, but artwork should be superb if that's the only reason you're recommending it to someone. And it's not really football. I can tell you right now that if you ran up to someone and spin moved before they made any kind of commitment you will get creamed and boy do they love to do this in series. Vanilla
Well, maybe I'll add more to both lists later. It's late, and I haven't done this sort of thing for a while so it took me a long time to dig into my hamburger patty sized feline brain just to give you what I've given off of memory. I seriously have barely read any manga the last few months. Hope you're all doing well and find something (or avoid something you won't) enjoy. Be sure to swing by our anime podcast group and check out our podcast Damn Right Everything Anime / Manga. Peace.