Out of sheer curiosity, and perhaps because my brain is a little leaky, I keep a reading log to track the titles I’ve read throughout the year. With 2023 drawing to a close, I’ve read a staggering 120 manga volumes (trust me, it’s better if you don’t calculate the cost), and with so many new volumes on my shelf, I thought I’d curate my Top 10. This list comprises both new series and “new to me” manga—so if you haven’t gotten around to starting some of these series, then they might be a perfect addition to your own 2024 backlog!
Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Manga of 2023!
10. Daemons of the Shadow Realm, Volume 1
Many people mistakenly think that Hiromu Arakawa vanished after the roaring success of Fullmetal Alchemist, but she’s been a prolific mangaka in the years since, chiefly working on the manga adaptation of The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Her newest original title, Daemons of the Shadow Realm (also known by its Japanese title Yomi no Tsugai) is Arakawa at her finest—a fusion of magic and machinery coupled with comedy and action. The first volume debuted in English in April 2023, introducing us to the brother/sister duo Yuru and Asa, who are dragged from their humble village origins into the modern world, all while slowly learning the truth behind the ‘daemons’ that only they can command.
If you loved Fullmetal Alchemist, then Daemons of the Shadow Realm deserves your attention!
9. Love’s In Sight, Volume 3
I could easily have picked any volume of Love’s In Sight, the beautiful disability romance written and illustrated by Uoyama, but the third volume in particular cemented my love for the growing roster of characters. The original Japanese run of the manga has already finished at eight volumes, with the English releases coming every two months from VIZ, starting in April of 2023. Ostensibly a yonkoma (4-panel) slice-of-life manga, the real highlight is the romance between the rough-looking Morio (who’s a total softie), and the vision-impaired Yukiko (who’s got a total attitude!).
Love’s In Sight is a beautiful exploration of love and disability, but with a comedic focus that distinguishes it from other, more serious titles like A Silent Voice.
8. Chained Soldier, Volume 3
A series that goes from strength to strength, it was the third volume of Chained Soldier that solidified the series as one of my “must buy” releases. Author Takahiro brings his expert writing skills from Akame ga Kill!, while illustrator Yohei Takemura (Listen to me Girls, I’m Your Father!) combines action and lewd comedy with surprising skill. Chained Soldier‘s gender-flipped universe where women have magical gifts and work to defeat demonic hordes in the parallel universe of ‘Mato’ provides an interesting commentary on modern shonen; meanwhile, the ecchi comedy and frequent (accidental) sexual situations keep the laughs rolling—although I’ll be interested to see how much of the latter survives 2024’s anime adaptation.
Chained Soldier is an absolute must-read for anyone looking for action and ecchi in equal measure!
7. An Older Guy’s First VR Love
I’ll come straight out with it—An Older Guy’s First VR Love is one of the most depressing manga I read all year; and yet, it’s sat at the back of my mind like an arthouse film, constantly turning over, growing to love its beauty until I felt it truly deserved a place on this list. As our real world’s virtual reality technology progresses closer to the fantasy vision of the future, VR-based stories are becoming more realistic than ever before. An Older Guy’s First VR Love, written and illustrated by Violence Tomoko, is an honest and brutal assessment of a lonely forty-year-old man who finds love in a VR world that’s shortly about to be turned off for good.
Melancholic and romantic in dizzyingly separate turns, An Older Guy’s First VR Love leaves a lasting impact, and is definitely one for the exploratory reader.
6. Asumi-chan is Interested in Lesbian Brothels!, Volume 1
You’ll definitely find this volume shrink-wrapped on bookshelves, and for good reason—Asumi-chan is Interested in Lesbian Brothels!, written and illustrated by Kuro Itsuki, is essentially yuri smut in all the best possible ways. But beyond the frequent, graphic scenes that you won’t want to read on public transport, you’ll find a rather honest and refreshing look at the sex work industry, all while the titular main character searches for her childhood crush.
Asumi-chan is Interested in Lesbian Brothels! is a smutty exploration of female sexuality in the modern age, and as thought-provoking as often as it’s erotic!