With so much great manga filling the shelves this year, picking out a small batch of the “Best” is an especially daunting task. Even now, I feel a strong sense of mourning for titles that haven’t made the list (some of which you can track down in my 2010 Gift Guide). Yet after much deliberation, I’ve managed to choose just ten, divided into demographic categories to ease the pain of choosing.
Best New Shoujo of 2010:
The Story of Saiunkoku (Viz Media)
The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (TOKYOPOP)
Though this was a competitive category this year, what pushed these two series above the rest for me is what they most have in common: smart, independently-minded heroines I’d be proud to share with any teen girl. Though shoujo heroines don’t need to be role models in order to be enjoyable to read about, and sometimes they’re more relatable when they’re not, it’s certainly a great pleasure when they happen to be both.
Best New Shounen of 2010:
Code: Breaker (Del Rey Manga)
Bakuman (Viz Media)
Unlike 2010’s shoujo catalogue, the year’s shounen offerings were a weak point for me, making this category tough in a very different way. Still, there were two shounen series that especially caught my interest, if not always is the most flattering way. Regardless of any quibbles, however, what these two series have in common is that they’ve compelled me to want to read more of them, which is not something I can say for most of this year’s new shounen series.
Best New Josei of 2010:
All My Darling Daughters (Viz Media)
Bunny Drop (Yen Press)
What a pleasure it is to have such choices amongst this year’s new josei releases! What’s particularly notable about both these manga is how deeply they speak to the experiences of women. Even Bunny Drop‘s male protagonist is living out a struggle between parenthood and career generally allotted only to women, even today. Both of these titles are thoughtful, warm, and emotionally complex–basically my ideal recipe for satisfying manga.
Best New Seinen of 2010:
Twin Spica (Vertical, Inc.)
House of Five Leaves (Viz Media)
Though these series may appear to have little in common, and perhaps that’s true, what they do both offer is careful characterization and an otherworldly tone, each different than the other. Both Asumi’s rich inner life and Masa’s avoidance of his own provide a glimpse into the human heart and mind I find especially appealing, earning them both, perhaps, the title of Favorite Manga of the Year.
Best Classic Manga of 2010:
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories (Fantagraphics)
Ayako (Vertical, Inc.)
2010 was a great year for re-issues, but it also offered up a number of wonderful older manga, published in English for the very first time. Both Moto Hagio’s collection of short manga and Osamu Tezuka’s post-war epic focus particularly on issues of family, delving deep into some of the ugliest impulses of our biological tribes and the damage they can do to their least valued members, if from wildly different perspectives.
For some alternate picks, take a look at these lists from Manga Critic Katherine Dacey and Manga Curmudgeon David Welsh. Or for a wider look at this year’s critical consensus, check out Deb Aoki’s 2010 Critics’ Choice roundup.