Manga for Adults

So as not to hijack the Manga for Girls thread,

is there any manga for grownups out there?

I’ve been told that there are many different kinds of stories across many different genres. But when I’ve checked the covers at bookstores, I’ve yet to see any protagonists over 21 years old, and the overwhelming majority are under 16. Is it that teenage heroes and heroines are just part of the convention? Is it just aimed and targeted at the young adult market?

Are there titles for 20-30-40-somethings about 20-30-40-somethings and their issues and lives out there anywhere?

Yes, but they’re a little bit rarer. The best one, by far, is Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku, about a young man who moves into an odd apartment building populated by eclectic characters, and his dual efforts to both get into college and to forge a relationship with the young widow who runs the place.

Dance Till Tomorrow is a much raunchier tale, about a young man living on his own who is set to gain an inheritance, and the rather…“free spirited” young woman who enters his life and turns it upside down.

Gunsmith Cats is an action-movie romp about two female freelance bounty hunters who are of legal age (one doesn’t LOOK it, but she’s 18 in the story).

Berserk is a dark fantasy about a mercenary soldier and the traumatized woman he travels with.

Welcome to the NHK is a really twistedly funny satire of the whole otaku phenomenon in Japan, starring a “hikkikomori”, a high school graduate who lives a socially isolated existence.

There’s lots of manga for adults… in Japan. Unfortunetly, most Americans still consider comic books to be kid’s fare, so most of the stuff that gets imported is aimed at children. But a fair amount of non-kids stuff still makes it over. It’d help aim you at something you’d like if you told us a bit about what sort of stories you’re interested in? Genre? Non-genre? The Japanese comic market is about as diversified as the American novel market, so there’s all sorts of stuff out there to choose from, if you know where to find it.

While most manga translated into English is aimed at teenagers, some does have adult protagonists. Examples would include Cowboy Bebop, Rurouni Kenshin and Trigun.

Kokopilau, according to your own descriptions 3 of the 5 books you recommend are still about 21-and-unders, and according to the reviews, so is a fourth.

That’s why I wrote the thread, I wasn’t seeing anything older than college age main characters.

Giles, thanks for the suggestions. I’ll look to see if those are in my bookstore.

Miller, my tastes in text-based novels are varied. I read a lot of classics, some standard fiction, chick lit, mysteries, best sellers… I wouldn’t be looking for anything ultra-violent.

Agreed with Miller, there’s a lot of good stuff in Japan, but you’re limited here by what gets translated or not.

Though some of the stuff featuring and targetted at kids is pretty good, like One Piece.

But anyways, I’d recommend:

Anything by Yukito Kishiro
Anything by Mitsukazu Mihara
Those Who Hunt Elves

Obviously, read the book description before buying as that’s a pretty diverse bunch.

I would also recommend ‘Read or Die’ and its sequels as an ‘adult’ title. ‘Petshop of Horrors’ would also qualify. (Don’t read the second unless you like horror. REALLY like horror.)

Manga do tend to have a mixture of characters of varying ages. This makes some titles really hard to classify. (Like ‘Excel Saga’. But that would be hard to classify in any case…)

I mostly read yaoi (it’s similar to slash) in Japanese but one excellent manga that has been translated into English and is not yaoi (though it is gay friendly) is the Antique Bakery series (there are four volumes). It’s a series of little vingettes and character studies revolving around a bakery (well, obvioiusly). The series won a couple of awards in Japan for excellence in manga. I’d highly recommend it as an example of “everyday” manga that is popular in Japan and very, very different from both super hero comics and the typical fantasy or scifi inspired manga typically seen in the US.

Another interesting thing you’ll notice is that food is always lovingly rendered in manga. You often see very fancy desserts and bento boxes drawn in great detail. The manga above has lots of interesting dialogue about and drawings of desserts.

I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in adult anime – the XXX kind. It’s not at all unusual to see lovingly drawn images of meals set out on a table in them. It’s sort of like watching U.S. made softcore porn and regularly having the camera slowly pan over a lovingly set up buffet table – lookit those lobsters! Only the dishes are Japanese, of course.

I’ve noticed it in all sorts of manga. It’s very interesting. In US comics, you rarely see a meal depicted and, if you do, generally the actual food isn’t drawn in any sort of detail. I think the attention of detail you see in Japanese manga indicates the value the Japanese put on food presentation but I don’t know for sure. It’d be an interesting topic to research and write a paper on.

I don’t know…I’ve noticed the focus on food mostly in a lot of photographs I’ve seen (from magazines and photobooks) of cute girls eating. It’s an interesting phenomenon, regardless.

I’ve just read a manga which is definitely adult – even though the central character is a high-school girl – and which verges on the hentai side, even though the manga-ka are the very popular group CLAMP. Unusually, it’s only in one short volume: Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, and it’s a very strange take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. There’s a short anime too, which is equally strange. Definitely not for young children.

Uh… reviews aren’t exactly a reliable source of information.

But okay. Try Ghost in the Shell (especially the recent 1.5 series), about a SWAT-esque special police unit in a really well-thought-out near-future Tokyo.

Read or Die, about the bespectacled, bookish Agent Paper of the British Library Secret Service.

Nana, about two young women with the same name, one a singer in a punk band, the other a naive country girl, and their relationship.

Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack, about a brilliant surgon who works on the very fringes of the law.

Monster, the dark tale of another surgeon who saves a young boy’s life, only to learn to his horror nine years later that the boy has grown up to be a serial killer whom the doctor dedicates his life to finding and stopping.

Blade of the Immortal, about a samurai made immortal by blood worms, and his efforts to finally attain the release of death by slaying one hundred evildoers…and the young woman he meets who sidetracks his nihilistic goal.

Crying Freeman, about a Yakuza assassin who sheds tears for each of his victims.

Eagle: the Making of an Asian-American President, pretty much exactly what the title says - a reporter follows the campaign of the first asian-american candidate for US president.


The Phoenix series by Osamu Tezuka
Kedamono Damono (Warning: lesbian relationship)

Lone Wolf and Cub, or anything else by Kazuo Koike.

Lone Wolf and Cub is my favorite of this type. It’s the story of an exiled samurai and his toddler son, out to avenge the murder of the samurai’s wife and meanwhile wandering the countryside as mercenaries, doing what is right and cutting down anyone foolish enough to get in their way.

What I really like about it is the trickery that’s often involved in the samurai’s triumph over a given enemy. Often he is put at a severe disadvantage, many times he’s lied to by his own employers, but he always manages to figure things out and usually humiliate the bad guys in the process. I also like that the son really does play an instrumental part in his success.

It’s sold in the manga section, but it’s really more like a graphic novel than a manga, if you ask me. It’s full of grit and gore and realism, as opposed to the magical fantasy lands you see in a lot of manga today. It’s also not cute, trendy, or humorous… darkly amusing, yes, but not humorous. Some might consider these downfalls, but I personally find its un-trendiness refreshing.

That’s interesting: I’ve never seen anyone make a distinction between manga and graphic novels before. What’s the difference in how you use the two terms?

There’s also a ton and a half of working man comics (of either the comedic or dramatic category) featuring salarymen and/or office ladies, but I don’t know if many of them are translated into English. Most of the stuff that makes it stateside are still aimed at the kids ~ teenager market.

(Ah, the advantages of being able to read Chinese - just about everything that gets published in Japan gets translated very quickly and produced in Taiwan, at much cheapter prices.)

Wiki can probably answer this better than I can, but to start, they’re both types of comic books.

Graphic novels are usually bigger/longer, thicker, better bound, sometimes better illustrated, and more likely to be directed at mature audiences than standard comic books.

Manga specifically refers to Japanese (or Japanese-style) comic books, which are often printed on small sheets of paper and bound thickly. The overwhelming majority of the ones that make it to the states are done in an art style called moe, which features the very large eyes (esp. on females) and colorful hair (again with the females) most of us associate with Japanese illustration. Lots and lots of manga (esp. the moe-type) are aimed at the older-kid-to-teenager crowd, and thus they’ll have lots of cutesy stuff, trendy phrases, and often take place in magical or fantastical settings, or in high school, or even both. There are as many types of manga as there are types of (Japanese) people, but none of them are as immensely popular as that kind.

I don’t know if that clears it up any, but that’s the best I can do. Check out the wiki pages on them if you need further clarification.