Last year, I did the inaugural version of the Top 5 Manga of the Year. Until then, I had only done anime but since I read so much manga these days (I’m now reading 51 series right now…), I figured that it was time I started doing one of these annually as well.
Just like with anime, it will only be new series that started in 2023 (in the U.S., not Japan). No ongoing series from a previous year will be counted. But, since this is the second annual editorial, let’s list off last year’s winner!
2022: The Music of Marie
Last year, the inaugural award went to a single-volume one-shot. I still love The Music of Marie and re-read it not long ago because I knew this column was coming up and I wanted to revisit last year’s winner. Plus, the story was so good, that I just wanted to experience it again for the sake of experiencing it!
That said, here are all of the new series I read this year!
Parallel World Pharmacy
The Shiunji Family Children
15 Minutes Before We Really Date
Boochi the Rock!
It Takes Two Tomorrow, Too
Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss but I’m Not the Demon Lord
My Clueless First Friend
Is Love the Answer
My Special One
Honey Lemon Soda
There’s quite a variety there with the last one on the list being an Original English Manga! Fun fact, it’s actually the second OEM I’ve read… the first being Brody’s Ghost from Mark Crilley. With that being said, let’s get to the list!
5. Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss but I’m Not the Demon Lord
In a world that is filling up fast with Otome Game Isekai stories, this one dared to be different. Instead of trying to manipulate a dating game, they went straight for the fantasy-style isekai approach! In other words… it’s just an isekai with hints of otome villainess thrown in… but that’s what made it enjoyable! Perhaps it was the surprise of the direction this series took that got me or the fact that I enjoyed the first volume so much that I wanted to keep reading it. Whatever the case may be, it dared to be different and it paid off I think, so far, it was one of the best starts to a villainess story so far… even if the market for these is becoming oversaturated very quickly.
4. Parallel World Pharmacy
I’m three volumes into this series so far and I can say that this one has also surprised me. Farma looks to open a pharmacy after being transported to another world and it sets you up thinking that the series is just going to be about bringing modern real-world medicine into a medieval world and curing diseases; however, there are some curveballs thrown in that suggest that this series will be more than just that. It managed to take a simple, straightforward concept and add a few layers to make it entertaining and enjoyable. This one stuck out quite a bit to where it made the list!
3. My Clueless First Friend
Who can resist a cute manga? Four volumes are out in the U.S……. at first glance. Then you realize that Square Enix is publishing them as a 2-volume omnibus so, in reality, eight volumes have been released. Taiyo is such a tremendous character. He represents the innocence of a child’s mind, completely oblivious to love, and yet, he continues to say things to suggest that he’s in love with Nishimura. Everyone around him knows it except him… hence the title for this series. It’s just one of those manga where you can sit back, smile, and enjoy a cute and wholesome story. Every time I read a new volume, it always brings a smile to my face.
2. Is Love the Answer?
We almost had a back-to-back one-shot winner but there is one series that captivated me more than this one but it was close. Is Love the Answer? Takes a deep look inside the mind of a woman who asks herself that very same question. Do we really need love in our lives? Is love really meant for me? There are a lot of people out there who go through those same problems (myself included) so it’s refreshing to see a manga call these problems into light and tell them in such a way that any reader going through the same thing can either relate or gain some retrospective into what they are going through. It was a great read and even if you’re not questioning love, this is still a nice slice-of-life drama to pick up and sink your teeth into.
But there was one series above all others and it, too, is a slice-of-life drama… one that makes me look forward to every single volume upon release…
With that… my personal 2023 Manga of the Year is…
1. Boy’s Abyss
Even though he’s not the author of this series, Inio Asano is my favorite mangaka because I like how he takes a dark and gritty look at life while tossing in mature humor. Boy’s Abyss is just like that… minus the mature humor
Reiji is a complex character caught between being there for his family and escaping his life to be on his own. Even though he’s there for his family, he’s completely miserable. He hates his life, hates the town he lives in, and wants a way out… whether that’s moving away with a friend or forming a suicide pact with an idol. His desperation to find a way out tends to get him used by quite a few people which only plunges him further into his personal abyss. Every volume has been well-written with incredible characters. Seeing Reiji’s journey makes you root for him to find a way out all while feeling sorrowful and disgusted with him at the same time.
When it came time to pick the five for this column, Boy’s Abyss was the instant #1. Picking the other 4 was the hard part. There is no other manga I have enjoyed this year more than this one.
So, that’s it! Those are my Top 5 Manga of 2023. Again, if you have something different, feel free to toss it down below!
Until next year,