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As anime and manga fans, one of the major reasons why we love anime and manga so much is because of how incredibly engaging and captivating the stories can be. They can make us laugh, cry and even boil with anger, and as such, we relate to them and wholly enjoy them. But what makes some of these stories so compelling? Is it the art? The characters or even the plot? Sometimes, it’s none of those but the presence of the simple but brilliant element known as drama. And so, in dramatic fashion, we at Honey’s would like to tear at your heartstrings and have your faces buried in manga, so we’ve brought you ten works that are sure to grab you firmly and never ever let you go, so let’s get on it, Top 10 Drama Manga!
10. Black Bird
- Mangaka: Sakurakouji Nanako
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Shoujo, Supernatural
- Volumes: 18
- Published: July 2006 – December 2012
In a world of mystery, Harada Misao is a normal teenage girl who lives the life of a regular teenager, except for the fact that she is able to see strange things that no one else can. Misao keeps having dreams about a boy she met as a child who shares the same ability to see mysterious things. Her life changes; however, when she is attacked by demons who wish to eat her and her childhood friend Kyo returns to protect her from them. Misao then comes to understand that she is well sought-after in the demon world as they wish to either eat her or marry her and to top it off, Kyo is a demon himself. Misao and Kyo promised to marry each other when they were younger, but with her situation becoming increasingly complicated, and with Kyo becoming her homeroom teacher, will they be able to keep that promise?
Upon reading the synopsis, any seasoned manga reader or anime fan will get instant pangs of nostalgia as it reminds one of the situation surrounding Bleach’s Kurosaki Ichigo, but where the two stories diverge, it becomes apparent that this isn’t a copy, not in the slightest. With elements of action, mystery, romance and a dash of the supernatural, Black Bird is a manga absolutely saturated with drama, it leaks from the manga’s very pores and with a complicated relationship between the main characters, one can only begin to imagine the depth of the drama present in this title.
9. Chronos: DEEP
- Mangaka: Aikawa Yuu
- Genre: Drama, Josei, School, Supernatural
- Volumes: 3
- Published: April 2010 – June 2012
After the death of his family in a mysterious fire, Nanasawa Io has lived the life of an outcast. When animals strangely begin dying around him, a faction known as the Titans appears and begins investigating. Their goal: to hunt down and destroy the Kagetsuki; people who have been possessed by malicious shadows. However; the Titans’ investigation isn’t as straight-forward as either Io nor the Titans themselves expected.
A tragic protagonist with a past that continues to haunt him finds himself coming to understand that the supernatural world is dangerous and undulating under the very noses of normal human beings. With several unanswered questions being presented within the first chapter of the manga; such as the truth surrounding the fire that killed Nanasawa Io’s family, or the nature of the Kagetsuki and the origins of the Titan organisation, Chronos: DEEP launches a torrent of dramatic elements that have fans of the drama genre drooling at the very prospect.
- Mangaka: Sugimoto Iqura
- Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 4
- Published: 2004 – 2008
After her family is brutally murdered, Aiko wakes up on a laboratory table, surprised to be alive and well. Except, she’s not. Upon awakening, Aiko notices a grotesque sight: a horribly disfigured arm has been grafted onto her body and to make things worse, the arm comes from a monster known as a Chimera and acts on the urges of its master. Alone, afraid and powerless, how will Aiko manage the unfortunate hand she has been dealt?
There is a heavy element of suspense that permeates throughout Variante that immediately gives it a highly dramatic feel. Without warning, readers are tossed into the mix; into the chasm of disoriented grief and strange thoughts that the protagonist, Aiko, experiences on the end of the murder of her family. The manga is fairly violent and gory, but given the grim premise, this only serves to heighten the drama that reigns supreme in Variante. Because, what could be more dramatic than waking up with a foreign arm attached to your body?
7. Sekine-kun no Koi (Sekine’s Love)
- Mangaka: Kawachi Haruka
- Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 5
- Published: May 2009 – July 2014
Despite being winning the genetic lottery and being a complete all-round hunk who is popular, intelligent and handsome, Sekine Keiichiro has lived an unsatisfying life out of focus. Like clockwork, women love him until they notice his greatest character flaws: Sekine is plagued by his own stoicism and lack of passion. After intense introspection, Sekine begins to hunt, to search for anything which can make him feel.
“The world is made of two sorts of people: those who are happy, and those who are not”. Such is the reality in Sekine’s world, people are either one or the other and unfortunately, he is the latter. He lives a life of perpetual boredom, his lack of interest in anything makes him seem unsociable, but his conscious decision to change himself opens up the story to a wealth of interesting possibilities. As light-hearted as things may seem, Sekine is actually depressed and the mundane depiction of how he goes about his daily life may not be melodramatic in any sense, but his strangely sad life makes for fairly good drama.
- Mangaka: Suenobu Keiko
- Genre: Drama, Psychological, School, Shoujo, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 20
- Published: April 2002 - February 2009
Shiiba Ayumu is a middle-schooler studying for the important high school entrance exams, but she is struggling to get by. With the help of her best friend Shii-chan, she manages to get through the exams, but when the results are released, their friendship falls apart as it turns out Ayumu passed the exam and Shii-chan did not. Having lost her best friend, Ayumu resorts to self-harm. Now in her new high school, she hopes for a fresh start and opens up to her new friend, Manami. But will Manami prove to be the friend Shii-chan wasn’t, or will she send Ayumu further into the dark space from which she is trying to emerge?
It’s somewhat poetic that Life starts out fairly bright, cheery and refreshing before quickly morphing into a dark crevice in which beams of light, of happiness enter only in fleeting moments. The protagonist, Ayumu, upon entering high school, suffers a bout of depression, brought on by the loss of her friend. She wishes to live the life of a recluse, avoid all contact and she also begins to cut her wrists, noting that the pain makes her feel better. Such moments become her happiness; she relishes being able to “feel the pain that Shii-chan felt”. With themes as dark as depression being addressed in the manga, drama is the main vehicle through which such themes are dealt with. What’s life without a little drama, huh?
- Mangaka: Yukimaru Moe
- Genre: Drama, Romance, School, Shoujo, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 14
- Published: November 2009 – November 2014
After being hospitalised for an entire year as a result of an accident she suffered, a timid girl named Hiyori goes to school for the first time. She struggles with her social skills and finds it quite difficult to make friends. However, after meeting the popular and easy-going Hirose Yuushin, it seems that Hiyori could be in line to make a few friends; who knows, maybe even more than just friends.
This adorable manga is, in many ways, your generic “Boy meets girl” story, but strangely different to your traditional high school romances. The protagonist, Hiyori, is a sweet girl who struggles in various aspects of social life, but the popular kid, Yuushin, becomes a beacon of light, signifying the social life that she would love to enjoy. As a result of her timid personality, Hiyori finds herself unable to understand some of the behaviour of the people around her and as time goes on, even the timid Hiyori begins to make her mark on her environment, in more ways than she could’ve expected.
4. Watashi ni XX wo Shinasai (Missions of Love)
- Mangaka: Tooyama Ema
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School, Shoujo
- Volumes: 19
- Published: May 2009 - September 2015
Himuro Yukina is a high school girl feared by everyone because of her piercing glare, who is secretly the famous cellphone novelist, Yupina. While searching for material for her next chapter, she accidentally stumbles upon the secret of the popular boy in school, Shigure. Shigure is a womaniser who relishes every single “conquest” in his student ID book. Having found this ID book, Yukina cleverly uses it to blackmail Shigure into being a source of material for her cellphone novel, making him pretend to be in love with her so that she can learn about love. Yukina’s childhood friend and cousin, Akira, jealous of the new guy in Yukina’s life begins acting out. Understanding nothing about love, Yukina struggles to understand and deal with the ever-unfolding situation involving herself, Shigure and Akira.
From the get-go it is pretty simple to understand where the drama in this title would be found. The age-old love-triangle is presented in a fresh way and the characters are aggravating in their pursuit of each other, to say the least. That being said; however, the story is so interesting that one must simply push on and continue reading in order to see where the strange relationship between the ice-queen Yukina and cool kid Shigure will end up. In many ways, Watashi ni XX wo Shinasai is beautifully satisfying, annoying and gripping and at times, you lose sight of where you stand in terms of the characters. But that’s the kind of drama we like, no?
- Mangaka: Inoue Takehiko
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Historical, Seinen, Samurai
- Volumes: 37
- Published: March 1999 – May 2015
16th Century Japan. A young, wild and rambunctious man in both nature and appearance named Shinmen Takezou has, through his aggressive nature, earned himself the contempt and fear of his fellow villagers who dubbed him “the Devil Child”. This leads Takezou and his best friend, Honiden Matahachi to run away from the village in search of greatness. They then enlist in the Toyotomi Army, but shortly after, the Toyotomi Army suffers a crushing defeat, which the two barely survive. They then part ways. Takezou returns to his village, only to be falsely convicted of the murder of his best friend, Matahachi, and subsequently hung up in a tree to die. Takezou is then saved by a monk named Soho Takuan, who takes pity on him and christens him with a new name: Miyamoto Musashi.
Slam Dunk’s author, Inoue Takehiko uses his incredible art in Vagabond to portray his rendition of the life of the legendary samurai, Miyamoto Mushashi. The battle-hungry protagonist’s journey to maturity is exceptionally well-written and the battle scenes are captivating; Vagabond manages to marry the elements of drama and action and produce a work that is incredibly gripping and a manga classic in its own right. The characters’ lives are gracefully portrayed and the heavy sense of the humanity of the characters makes Vagabond a manga in which readers can find and somewhat relate to some of the characters. The use of fight scenes to present a different angle to the dramatic element that reigns supreme makes Vagabond an extremely satisfying read and in dramatic fashion we have to say; reading it might very well change your life.
2. Liar Game
- Mangaka: Kaitani Shinobu
- Genre: Drama, Game, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 19
- Published: February 2005 - January 2015
Kanzaki Nao was named by her father with the hopes that, as her name suggests, she would grow up to become an honest girl. Having lived up to, and even exceeded her father’s wishes, Nao’s honesty has earned her the label of “a foolishly honest girl”. One day, she receives an invite to play the high-stakes Liar Game, where winning requires deceiving your opponents out of their money and losing any round of the Liar Game results in incurring a massive debt. Unfortunately for the honest Nao; however, the Liar Game requires incredible intelligence and a gift for deception and even worse for her, she is tricked out of the entire sum of money she received in the first round. Hearing that the genius swindler Akiyama Shinichi is being released from prison, Nao tracks him down in order to enlist his help. Now the two of them journey into the dark abyss of greed and deception that is the Liar Game.
Liar Game is an incredibly addictive, exciting and intelligent story with several shrewd characters who make it interesting. The various rounds of the Liar Game feature very well thought out games and the sheer intellect of the main character, Akiyama Shinichi, is a complete revelation. As far as intelligence and powers of observation go, Akiyama is a deity. The art style is fairly unique and the manga features heavy emphasis on the characters’ facial expressions, which funny enough, is the same expressions develop on the faces of readers as they page through the story. As far as drama goes, Liar Game has a plot that allows it to continuously deliver hair-raising dilemmas within the lives of the characters as a result of the game and side-effect of such a well thought out story is that it is incredibly difficult to put down. No lies.
1. Nozoki Ana
- Mangaka: Honna Wakou
- Genre: Drama, Ecchi, Romance, School, Seinen
- Volumes: 13
- Published: January 2009 – February 2013
When technical school student Kido Tatsuhiko discovers a hole in the wall of his apartment room, he peeks through it and sees his neighbour, Ikuno Emiru, masturbating, but is also caught peeking! When he goes over to her room to tell her about the hole in the wall, she tries to shut him out, but the nimble Tatsuhiko manages to force his way into her room, accidentally tripping and falling right on top of her. The sly Emiru then takes a picture of their compromising situation and blackmails him into committing to a strange relationship in which they take turns in peeking on each other through the hole in the wall.
It may sound like a traditional ecchi-driven manga at first glance, but Nozoki Ana is more than meets the eye. The premise creates a situation in which the main characters experience an interpersonal relationship that is unique by all standards and before they know it, it becomes a part of their lives that they fight tooth and nail to protect. Nozoki Ana is by no means just another heavy dose of fanservice. Despite inspiring a hentai adaptation, the manga is more than raunchy scenes and funny misunderstandings. The manga manages to bring up the importance of human relationships, as well as their complexity. The characters are very foreign and yet very human in their interactions, despite the unique situation, they have incredible depth. One can find themselves liking a character in one chapter and hating them in the next; somehow Honna Wakou has turned something as banal as peeping into an analysis of interpersonal relationships and for that fact alone, Nozoki Ana can be seen as a manga ripe with drama. Take a peek and you’ll see.
As much as some of us may not admit, simple stories can be extremely satisfying to read if they have enough of… “that thing”. “That thing” gives any work a significant edge and can make it unforgettable; yes, “that thing” is the element of drama that makes each chapter more enjoyable than the last and each volume more desirable than the one before it. We’ve covered ten works that incredible amounts of “that thing”, but we all know that there are levels to this; we can’t cover all of them, and that’s where the comments section gets to shine. Drop a comment below and tell us about your favourite drama manga, and do it in the most dramatic way you can!