Hors-série (Special issue in english) is a compilation of articles that doesn’t concern directly Keyakizaka46. However, i believe that reading various topics can open up our views on idols, or simply japanese culture in general. Setting foot in other realms helps us being curious and hungry to discover new things. Let’s start with mangas (not always the most famous one) that influenced me the most.
Gunnm became a classic as it marvelously mix a decadent Sci-fi universe and the troubled thoughts of Humanity. “What is life?” “What is my purpose?” Those thoughts clashes in a Dystopian world where billions of poors lives in dumping grounds while a few elites prosper in an unreachable paradise called Zalem. Gunnm is not your regular Action-packed manga, it also question the reader about our existence, our place in the world, and how our will can change things. Despite being surrounded by an hostile environnment, the main character Alita never gave up in finding her own answers, even if it means fighting with Foes ten time her size. This manga is a great lesson of what survival is : Most of the time life is unfair, but you need to get through it.
Nana (Yazawa Ai)
Run : July 2000 – June 2009 (on hiatus, 21 volumes)
Type : Shoujo/Seinen
Nana is by far my favourite Shoujo. Not only Yazawa’s art is one of a kind (very hard to copy), but also the depth of the story let you completely out of breath. You’re surprisingly stucked, following the characters growth and sympathize with them as they show lot of vulnerability and doubts. As soon as you empathize with one character, you switch your attention to another, because Yazawa genius lies in developing very interesting character, including 2nd role. Yet all their stories entangle perfectly well making one long and deep storyline. The relationship between the two nana shows that interaction between human beings is rich and complex. It strikes me how normal this plot is : a girl searching for love, a long distance relationship, being cheated on. It could happen to all of us. But because Yazawa handle the pace of her manga like a virtuose, it has become a masterpiece.
Berserk (Kentaro Miura)
Run : August 25, 1989 – present (39 volume)
Type : Seinen
Legend says that the author is capable to trash and rewrite one page of his manga a dozen of time until he is technically satisfied. It tells pretty much how a work of art Berserk is. This manga is dark, disturbing, obscene. Fascinating as your worst nightmares are being drawn into this manga. Disturbing because it goes beyond the mere concept of good and evil. In Berserk, all is evil, all is hopeless. The reader is brought in a storm of horror and agony, and we keep reading to know when will the main character finally end his suffering. We suffocate as we see him sink deeper in the darkness. Kentaro Miura himself has been inspired by Devilman, a well known old school manga about fights of biblical proportions.
Love hina (Akamatsu Ken)
Run : October 21, 1998 – October 31, 2001 (19 volumes)
Type : Shonen
It’s a rather unusual title here. But actually it was my first manga i’ve read, as i borrowed a few volume to my sister. Japanese high-school life, romance, candid atmosphere got introduced to me through this serie. I discovered Japan through love hina’s eyesight. Unfortunately i came to idealize japanese life thanks to this manga, but i regret nothing, as this manga is designed to cheer you up. There’s always this nostalgic feeling that brings you back when you read the short adventures of keitarou and his harem of pretty young girls, because you came to get attached to each of their stories : Shinobu who’s shy and pure, Motoko who act boyish to hide her weakness, Natsumi the ponkotsu and of course Keitaro. Love Hina has all the basics for a successful romance shonen : genuine relationship, heartful character, quipproco, and lot of love to give.
Phoenix (Osamu Tezuka)
Run : 1967 – 1988 (12 Volume)
Type : Seinen
Probably the hardest to read of the list. Old school, raw, thoughtful. Osamu Tezuka was not only the god of manga, but also the inspiration to a whole generation of mangaka. Big eyes? Him. How pages are cut to create dynamic? Him as well. His work was prolific (700 volumes), it was by no mean followed with subpar scenarios. On the contrary, Phoenix introduce difficult topics like eternity, existence, universe and history. To make a storyline with topics as vast as those would be suicide, and yet Tezuka sensei admirably manage to gather everything into a coherent universe. What a cruel pattern : you start a story, befriend with the character to only see his life snatched away. The following chapter proceed to introduce another character that you will befriend, and you sweat as you know he will disappear someday. This manga makes you emotionally unstable.
Hikaru no go (Takeshi Obata, Yumi Hotta)
Run : December 1998 – July 2003 (23 volumes)
Type : Shonen
This manga influenced me, but also influenced a whole generation of young japanese people to play this boardgame. To make a millenial, old-fashioned game looks cool again, without action-package or super powers, that’s when you realize how skillfull the author was. Obata-sensei was able to recreate an heavy, focused atmosphere through his artworks, and makes the reader excited of characters move even though most of them don’t know how to play the game. Sports manga are always popular among youth but Hikaru no go has the merits to mix cultural heritage and modern scenarii to fits young japanese taste. To add, it has pictured the beauty of the game quite accurately, recalling how it is easy to express world truth through this boardgame (Build is harder than destroy, Cooperate makes us stronger, From beauty comes efficiency).
Great Teacher Onizuka (Tohru Fujisawa)
Run : May 16, 1997 – April 17, 2002 (25 Volumes)
Type : Shonen
This manga is hilarious. I know comedy is a regular theme in manga, but this one is on top of the basket. The way Onizuka Eikichi is unpredictable, lazy, and adorably incompetent makes him even more likeable. But between this flood of gag and misunderstanding, lies great speeches about life, morality and society overall. The reason why this manga became so popular at his publishing time, is because it opened up on topics that japanese youth was very sensible about. How to behave with possessive parents, how to deal with absence, bullying, poverty. It reached youngster’s heart. Lesson is, it’s not always easy to open up to people, but you should not give up on that, as dialogue is always an exit to insurmountable situation.
Ichigo 100% (Kawashita Mizuki)
Run : February 2002 – August 2005 (19 volumes)
Type : Shonen
Like love hina, Ichigo 100% introduced me to the simple life of japanese youth. When i was bored at standard european education, i would often escape to club activities, karaoke, and foolish romance with this manga. I was particulary attracted by this manga artwork (i unsuccessfully tried to copy her style) because how she draws was closer than reality compared to other shoujos, picturing girls with small heads and big eyes. It is legit to raise concern on the value of this manga. Isn’t Ichigo 100% another well adjusted Harem comedy shounen? Why does this manga sits among masterpiece like Berserk? I have no answer to that, aside that the biggest asset of Ichigo 100% is his sincerity. Yes there’s a lot of fan service, traps, but what i loved about this manga is that i was following the story almost naturally. I was emotionally immersed. I felt the unfairness of some situation, urging the protagonist to make a move, tearing up when characters drove apart…I was not reading, i was feeling this manga. Reading it when i was the same age as characters helped me a lot sticking it in my memories.
Hokuto no ken (Tetsuo Hara, Buronson)
Run : September 13, 1983 – August 8, 1988 (27 volume)
Type : Seinen
Legend among Legend. Hokuto no ken is like red wine, it gets better as it gets older. This manga is 30 years old, but some epic quotes and fights remain nowadays, like in the meme world. People come up with bromance and manliness as recent topics, but Hokuto no ken introduced manliness much before them in outstanding fashion : Yes, strong men do cry. Yes people fight for the thrill of winning, but the strongest are those who wants to protect someone. It sounds lame, but you come to learn strong values like respect. Kenshiro fought valiantly against incredible foes, like Shin or Raoh. But Kenshiro victory didn’t come from hatred to them; he came to realize all his opponents were motivated by their own wound, scars. He fought with the respect earned to all fighters. Hokuto no Ken, is about respect, dignity, and manliness.
Hunter X Hunter (Togashi Yoshihiro)
Run : March 3, 1998 – Present (35 volume)
Type : Shonen
Last but not least. The formidable Hunter X Hunter. I willingly didn’t put a ranking on this list, but Hunta Hunta is an exception : It’s my favourite manga. Hunter X Hunter has been built over the archetype of Shonen : Strong characters, Years-long plot, Complex power system, immaculate artworks. But to become the best of the best, a manga needs to earn a definite style, aura. Hunter X Hunter has it thanks to the well thought “High risk – High reward” rule applied to Nen, the special power of this manga. The reader amuse himself to apply those rule in the real world, like “what would my nen look like?” and therefore, creating a connection with the reader. Togashi-sensei has a lot of experience, and he perfectly knows that a manga should not rely too much on his main character. Togashi takes the step upside down, developping tremendously sub character like Kurapika, the phantom troupe, Hisoka, or creating incredible enemies like the Ants. Everything is connected and lead the reader toward a bigger world, bigger adventure each time. You can’t get enough of it. It’s not a surprise that the most epic fights of the manga (Kuroro vs Zoldyck, Netero vs the king) didn’t have the main character involved. I hope that this manga will have an end, or it would leave a bittersweet taste.
Special mention to : Gantz, Saint Seiya, Black jack, Video girl ai, YuYu Hakusho, Akira, Slam Dunk, Monster.
What about you? What are your favourite manga? Comment below!