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Anime-Planet Staff Picks - Classic Manga

These recommended 20th century manga classics are hand-picked by members of the Anime-Planet staff; personal favorites chosen for a variety of reasons such as exceptional art quality, compelling storylines, great character development or just an overall "can't put it down" feel that keeps you coming back for more. The A-P staff is a diverse group with a wide range of interests, so the manga recommended here is equally diverse. You'll find series from many different genres, and the titles can range from family friendly to adult-only fare.
1 Akira


Recommended by:  Funkgun

Why Funkgun recommends this:  "Akira will always be Katsuro Otomo’s crowning achievement. A labor of love, you can see in every panel. Some of the backgrounds will blow your mind with the amount of detail. The futuristic world created, more-or-less helped influence many manga later. The “heroes” of this title are hardly average and many of them share deep flaws of character. Futuristic vehicles and dystopian environment make you forget your reading something that was started in 1982. Akira was ground zero for many to the world of Manga outside of Asia in the late 80s, and for good reason."

2 Banana Fish

Banana Fish

Recommended by:  Starra

Why Starra recommends this:  "It's an emotional rollercoaster. You will feel so many things. And things you might not have thought you'd be able to feel. It's a really well-presented story about finding and understanding love, overcoming your past and the most important aspects of being human. Granted, it is very heavy, and deals with subjects not everyone will be comfortable with. If child abuse isn't your thing, stay far away. But if you're looking for a good (albeit somewhat unrealistic) drama that will tug at your heartstrings, I highly recommend it. But I also don't, because you will suffer."

3 Battle Angel Alita

Battle Angel Alita

Recommended by:  naveniel

Why naveniel recommends this:  "You might have seen the movie but have you read the manga? It was one of my first, with a chilling and horrifying story, so much so that I still remember the nightmares it gave me. Why recommend it then? Because even through all of that, I kept reading it until the end. You will need to know was happens to Gally, where she comes from, her past and her future. I hope you'll love her as much as I did and will you too appreciate and admire the beautiful art "Battle Angel Alita" offers."

4 Buddha


Recommended by:  AnnaSartin

Why Anna recommends this:  "Buddha is the epic journey of a man's life - from before his birth to his death in old age - and the lives of those he touches along the way on his quest for both the salvation of humanity and his own personal enlightenment. The story is broad-reaching, deeply moving, and will have you re-examining the way you see the world. Considered by many to be one of Osamu Tezuka's crowning achievements in manga."

5 From Far Away

From Far Away

Recommended by:  Helbaworshipper

Why Helba recommends this:  "The story of a girl taken into another world. This time, however, the crisis is something that builds over time, rather than being outright understood by the two mains. The romance they build up to the end is an investment worth going into."



Recommended by:  Zed

Why Zed recommends this:  "The former gang member who always dreamed of becoming a teacher Onizuka finds himself heading a class of delinquents who would do anything to get him fired, and he has to teach them a few harsh and meaningful life lessons, in order to slowly win them over as he learns about them and helps them get over their troubles. It's a story that manages to be both funny and inspirational, which in my opinion is what makes it a classic."

7 Hikaru no Go

Hikaru no Go

Recommended by:  TheOriginalMadD

Why D recommends this:  "When I bring up the topic of board game related manga/anime series I usually hear people talking about either 3-gatsu or Akagi, some talk to me about Ryuoou (to my great dismay) but few, if any ever name drop Hikaru no Go, which is a great shame in my opinion. Hikaru no Go has supernatural elements, ghosts possession/body sharing, tournaments and a lot of psychological battles, not to mention the great of Takeshi Obata of Death Note and all this for a manga series about the humble game of Go."

8 Kodocha: Sana's Stage

Kodocha: Sana's Stage

Recommended by:  AnnaSartin

Why Anna recommends this:  "Well-written and emotional, this manga has been a favorite of mine for many years. A humorous, heartfelt drama centering on a young girl who has a clear, positive spirit. Sana is a child actress who is always trying to solve everyone's problems. From getting a homeless man off the street (and employing him as her personal manager) to getting her disorderly classroom back on track, no issue is too great or too small. But she has a boatload of her own drama as well, and her new enemy-turned-friend Hayama becomes her support as she learns that not all of life's problems have easy solutions. Many painful real-life issues are dealt with in this series, addressed with both humor and compassion, and watching these characters grow was a joy to experience. A shoujo classic that stands the test of time."

9 Lone Wolf and Cub

Lone Wolf and Cub

Recommended by:  Funkgun

Why Funkgun recommends this:  "Ever want to read about a Samurai with a bad-ass, James Bond, weapons filled style baby cart? Then read this manga. You need not read any further. However, for everyone else: Ogami Itto, is not your average wandering samurai. Instead, he decided to take the dark path of vengeance with his son in tow. If you want to read a classic, even by the most literary terms of Japan, you don’t need to tread much farther than Lone Wolf and Cub. It is. Violent, but is almost zen-like with its philosophy. The artwork is dark and rich, with thick lines and looking like almost nothing from this era. Motion and action is plenty, but stories are complex at times. It is an on-going narrative but does have mini stories that can feel almost episodic. Highly mined for its brilliance, Lone Wolf is normally in discussions with Blind Samurai Zatoichi, Yojimbo, Samurai Executioner (another tale by LWaC creators: Goseki Kojima and Kazuo Koike), and Vagabond (also highly recommended)."

10 Mars


Recommended by: Rasacera

Why Rasacera recommends this:  "A classic ‘90s drama that explores youth, love, trauma, reconciliation, and deciding your own path in life. The character motivations are so realistic, and the emotiveness of each volume is so raw that you might need to put it down for a second just to take a breath. This was a different type of emotional rollercoaster that touched my heart in such a tangible way. Definitely worth a shot."

11 The Demon Ororon

The Demon Ororon

Recommended by:  Helbaworshipper

Why Helba recommends this:  "Two people born into situations that shouldn't endear them to love, yet they do their best to defy fate and the forces that will inevitably aim to stop it. A story I find almost more bitter than sweet, which is an interesting combo for a romance."

12 The Heart of Thomas

The Heart of Thomas

Recommended by:  Claptrap

Why Claptrap recommends this:  "Heart of Thomas is an overlooked gem, and of historical significance to manga. It is one of the first BL manga, and has some of the early staples that would become apparent in BL that followed: it takes place in a Catholic all-boys school filled with repression and tangled relationships. However, it also stands in its own right as a complicated story! Part of the reason it was so influential is because it is a heavily character-focused work that does write its drama in an interesting, compelling way. Suicide, repression, angst, webs of relationships, family issues. If you like well-written and sometimes over-the-top drama that isn't afraid to lean into what it knows its audience wants, this series has it all."

13 Vampire Game

Vampire Game

Recommended by:  AnnaSartin

Why Anna recommends this:  "What do you get when you mix a thirst for revenge, reincarnation and vampire cats? A fun fantasy series that's super-hard to put down after you start reading it. Our main characters, a mischievous teenage princess and the moody vampire king Duzell (reincarnated as a baby wildcat) are on a quest to find the soul of the man who slew Duzell a century ago, but the task is not an easy one, and many adventures await the pair. Vampire Game is more of a comedic medieval fantasy tale than your typical vampire story, and honestly, the series is much better for it. Why this amusing manga was never made into an anime is truly a mystery to me."

14 Venus in the Blind Spot

Venus in the Blind Spot

Recommended by: Kari5

Why Kari5 recommends this: "Junji Ito is the master of Japanese horror and my personal favorite horror manga author. Venus in the Blind Spot has some of my favorite Junji Ito stories including "The Human Chair" and "The Enigma of Amigara Fault". While some are not as great as the rest, there is an uncountable number of stories that leave me cringing and thoroughly creeped out. Some of the stories have so much of an impact, I consider stopping reading, but he taunts the reader with morbid curiosity and suspense, so I can't help but keep coming back for more. It's a must-read for horror fans, and I recommend it to anyone interested in trying some Japanese horror."

15 Wish


Recommended by:  Helbaworshipper

Why Helba recommends this:  "A romance story where every character is in love, despite the circumstances they were born into. One to be reread when in need of a bit of cheer."

16 Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Recommended by:  JamesSofort

Why James recommends this:  "This manga gives you a soothing effect, a truly iyashikei experience. It follows the daily life of Alpha while she learns new things, meets interesting people, and has relaxing cups of coffee at the cafe she's taking care of."

17 Yu Yu Hakusho

Yu Yu Hakusho

Recommended by:  TheOriginalMadD

Why D recommends this:  "If I were to select a list of the most influential battle manga series of the 90s, Yu Yu Hakusho would be at the very top of said list. This highly influential title gives great character development and plot development, high paced action and decent plot development. The ending may have been a little rushed due to the well known and well-documented health issues that Togashi-sensei has suffered from throughout his career but that's just a minor nitpick. Yu Yu Hakusho is a must read series for fans of Shonen battle manga."


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