Top 10 Longest Running Manga [Best Recommendations]

Like all good things, they all must come to an end or maybe they just keep on going. In the past couple of years, some of the biggest names in manga of this generation have just ended publication such as Naruto and Bleach, and they were in serialization for over ten years. And not too long ago in Sept 2016, Kochikame ended after forty years! However, there are some other manga that have been in publication for the past twenty to thirty years, while there are some that have probably been in publication since the beginning of manga itself.

Today’s list will cover some manga that has been running a long course that may not have any ending in sight. Some of what is going to be listed might be familiar to some of you readers, while some might be the first time you’ve heard of them.

10. Ginga Densetsu Weed

  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Shounen
  • Volumes: 100 (as of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1999-Present

Kicking off this list is Ginga Legend Weed. Though you may be familiar with the anime that came out a little over ten years ago upon uploading of this list, the manga has been in publication since 1999. In fact, the manga itself is a sequel to another manga from the eighties, Ginga. This series centers around Ginga’s son, Weed, who is on a search for him. The interesting thing about this series is that it centers on the animals of the wild. What happens when certain dogs that were once domesticated are abandoned to live on their own? How do they adapt?

This series answers those questions. The series touches on some serious issues that may be difficult for some readers may be sensitive to such as animal cruelty from humans to animals, and between the animals themselves. The touchiness of this series relates to how animals fight one another for their survival. The series does a great job of painting a point of view on what it could be like to live in the harsh cold mountains of the Japanese alps and how the animals must fight each other for food and territory.


9. Haguregumo

  • Genres: Comedy, Historical, Seinen
  • Volumes: 106 (As of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1973 – Present

Haguregumo, a comedy manga set in the Edo period about Kumo, a former samurai turned flawed family man who is trying to make a living, but rather spend his time getting drunk and messing with other women. What makes this manga stand out is that it features numerous historical figures within its stories such as the legendary revolutionary Sakamoto Ryoma and deadly Shinsengumi captain Okita Souji and they get caught up in all the hijinks that follows. Though some of the content can be rather racy to some Westerners with today’s decency standards, what makes this series a hit is that it is the very definition of being anti-establishment in Japan.

Deep down inside, most readers want to live like Kumo who just want to get drunk and fool around all day. At times there will be consequences to his actions, but still finds value with his wife and kids. Maybe some people want to live a life like Kumo where you can almost get away with messing around and the fact that Kumo represents a unique kind of escape from the average life of a Japanese salaryman.


8. Oishinbo (Oishinbo: À la Carte)

  • Genres: Drama, Slice of Life, Seinen
  • Volumes: 111
  • Published: 1983 – Present

At number 8is Oishinbo, a story of Yamaoka Shiro, a food critic whose job is to eat food and report on it. Who wouldn’t a job like that? Its domestic and international appeal is based on the fact it covers Japanese food from all over the country. So if you want to educate yourself on what Japanese food to try out in which region, this is the series for you! In addition, it also teaches how patriarchal Japanese society can be within society, the workplace, and in the family.

However, the series has been on a controversial hiatus since 2014 due to addressing Fukushima in a very direct manner. It talked about the consequences of the health of the evacuees such as nosebleeds. It was hot to the point that even Japanese politicians had to respond to the nature of those chapters. So if you want a manga that tells it like it is, this is the one for you!


7. Hajime no Ippo

  • Genres: Action, Comedy, Drama, Shounen, Sports
  • Volumes: 115 (as of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1989 – Present

At number 7 is Morikawa Jyoji’s knock out, Hajime no Ippo, which tells the story of Ippo’s journey from bullied teen to Japan’s champion. The main appeal of this series is the realism in relation to boxing. The series takes into account what techniques can be uses for this character’s natural attributes and how he can use it against a certain kind of opponent.

Fighters and trainers like to say at times that the real fight is won in the gym and the series does an excellent job of portraying that saying. Sometimes Ippo has to build up his cardio, power, speed, and reflexes or maybe even a combination of all of them. At times, Ippo may have to learn a new move like the gazelle punch or find a new way to modify his Dempsey Roll.

In other instances, Ippo will have opponents who specialize in working behind the jab and his training can focus getting passed the jab while doing what he does best on the inside. Ultimately, the series has a great message of finding a goal and if you want to succeed you need to put in the hard work and pay your dues. Sometimes hard work may not pay off, but those who succeed worked hard.


6. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 1: Phantom Blood (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood)

  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Historical, Horror, Shounen, Vampire
  • Volumes: 117 (As of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1986– Present

What allows this series to continue as long as it has is that Araki-sensei structures the series with story arcs that take place in various time periods with different main characters. The great part is you can jump into any story arc without any prior exposure to the previous.

A significant fraction of its appeal is in its unique artistic qualities. Though the first two story arcs were more of a parody of the typical macho Shounen stories of its initial debut back in the 80s, it just became its own thing and the style evolved to appropriately suit the progressive rock influences of the series. Last, what truly makes this series stand out (no pun intended) is the introduction and use of stands, a unique form of astral plane warriors from the third story arc with its various physical and combative characteristics that allow the series to have some of the most unique fights that manga (and its anime adaptations) has become iconic for.


5. Grappler Baki

  • Genres: Action, Martial Arts, Shounen, Sports
  • Volumes: 113 (as of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1991 – Present

When Grappler Baki made its debut in 1991 (and this was only a couple of years before the debut of the UFC in America and Pancrase in Japan), the concept of martial artists of various disciplines facing off each against each other was only a dream and was considered impossible to pull off in real life. The action is mostly pure fighting and does not really rely on energy projectiles like you would see in Dragon Ball Z. However, it can get over exaggerated such as Baki training himself against his imagination of a giant praying mantis and how his father can even be immune to AIDS and cancer. But the way it can get over exaggerated expresses a distinct creativity and appeal, which you have to read for yourselves.

Many of Baki’s friends and foes alike are based on famous fighters throughout history. Igari Kanji is based on Japanese wrestling icon Antonio Inoki (whose real name is Kenji), who actually faced Muhammad Ali in a controversial boxer vs. wrestler match in the mid-1970s to a draw. Speaking of the Greatest, his fictional son, Muhammad Ali, Jr. would become a character and an opponent for Baki in the course of the manga. But as the sport of MMA came to rise, and in order to stay in tune with its underground fighting roots, the series evolved to new stories that brought things over the top with opponents like Pickle, the unfrozen prehistoric warrior, and a clone of Miyamoto Musashi. So if there is any reason that has kept this manga going for this long, it probably has to be the overabundance of adrenaline, testosterone, and every steroid you can think of that is injected into this series.


4. Cooking Papa

  • Genres: Seinen
  • Volumes: 138 (as of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1984– Present

Ranking in at number 4 is Cooking Papa, and as the title suggests it is about a working father who is an expert cook. The name of the titular character is Araiwa Kazumi, who tends to keep the fact that he is an excellent cook a secret from his co-workers and lets people assume it’s his wife who does all the work (when in fact she can’t cook at all) out of fear that he can be seen as unmanly. One surface appeal of this series is that each chapter actually shares the recipe for the featured meal of that respective chapter. But how does a story about your regular Joe in Japan remain in publication for over 30 years? The appeal of this series goes beyond a man who can cook but tackles many of everyday life problems that people in Japan and around the world can relate to.

Even though the series debuted 30 years ago, it manages to evolve with the times and serve as a commentary on how Japanese society has changed between then and now. One basic example is how generic brick sized cell phones used to be for the corporate elite and in today’s society, children even use sophisticated smartphones that make those cell phones look like toys. The series also touches upon generic issues like raising a family, the struggles of working, and pressure of keeping up with expectations. At times, it also tackles difficult and dark issues such as bullying and truancy. The fact that it keeps up with what is going on and relate to all audiences is why people continue to love this series and why the author can inject life into it.


3. Minami no Teiou

  • Genres: Psychological, Seinen, Thriller
  • Volumes: 139 (as of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1992 – Present

Though virtually unknown to most non-Japanese fans, Minami no Teiou is domestically one of the hottest manga. The series is about how Manda Ginjiro, an ends justifies the means kind of loan shark who is feared as the Demon of Osaka’s Minami business district. Some people try to get out of it, but the devil comes to collect his due. The series debuted shortly after the bubble economy burst and how businesses were losing money.

A lot of the appeal of this series is the backdrop of Osaka. Like some of the long running manga on this list, a majority of the series is told in a more of a one-and-done style of storytelling and does not rely on using long-running story arcs. Minami no Teiou is one of the few that takes place in Osaka, which has a comparatively seedy reputation with other places due to being the base area for numerous yakuza gangs, which Manda does business with.

Though Manda has a very rough exterior, he is very understanding and is willing to hear all sides of the story when given the chance. The story tends to follow a formula that every time Ginjiro lends money to someone and they can’t pay back, he’s ready to break a leg and in some instances, he thinks he’s getting scammed when in fact some of the people he lends money to are in a tight spot. Sometimes the lender has their money scammed from a third party and Ginjiro has to go out and get that money back.

Though Ginjiro may be in a very questionable business (and is drawn in fashion that was popular in the early 90s in Japan) that makes him do bad things, in the end, he’s a very fair man and this manga teaches its readers that almost anybody can live by a code such as girl ninjo, meaning duty and obligation.


2. Golgo 13

  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Drama, Historical, Seinen
  • Volumes: 182 (As of Dec 2016)
  • Published: 1968 – Present

At a close second but still a bullseye, we have Golgo 13 by Saito Takao, which has been in publication since 1968 and presently has over 180 volumes with no end in sight! In a way, you can say this character is a mix of James Bond and The Punisher. Due to the nature of who can and do hire him, he is a wanted man by various agencies such as the CIA and has even been reluctantly employed by them. Despite the praise for the character, he has also been subjected to criticism that Saito-sensei is willing to admit.

Many stories have even acknowledged the ridiculousness on how he can accomplish his kills when you take into account the wind and coriolis effects but sometimes it is all pure skill and experience, and fans and Saito-sensei alike have admitted some of his kills have happened in the history of battle. Even after nearly 50 years, we still don’t know who Duke truly is and is always shrouded in mystery. This mystique to his character is most likely what appeals to his long-standing popularity. As for the ending, Saito-sensei has said in interview that he has an idea implanted in his head and when the time comes, he’ll put it on paper.


1. Dokaben

  • Genres: School, Shounen, Sports
  • Volumes: 195
  • Published: 1972 - Present

At number one we have Mizushima Shinji’s home run, Dokaben. The word Dokaben has nothing to do with baseball in Japan, it is a kind of bento that Yamada Taro, the main character, likes to eat. In fact, there was a Japanese baseball player in the 1980s that actually received the nickname Dokaben due to his similar rotund build to Taro’s. Throughout its publication history, the series has been separated into many story arcs that bring our characters from high school baseball to the big leagues after graduation.

Despite debuting in the seventies, many of the qualities of what makes Japanese baseball appealing from the high school to professional level still carry onto modern day. The fact that the characters age with its initial readers is probably one of many reasons why this series continues to resonate and the experiences of the characters as students are relatable to readers who likely participated in a sports team during their school days and had dreams of winning the nationals.

Win or lose, the series also teaches us that the experiences also give us memories and that working as a team is what’s most important. The series teaches us that if we work hard and never give up, our dreams can come true.


Final Thoughts

Many manga have found ways to keep their publication span for good reasons. Some are for storytelling reasons, some are for continuing popularity, and others are just because the artists are passionate about their work. In many of these titles we have shared, that passion is what stands out most and for some of them, these authors still find ways to keep it creatively fresh here and there.

Sometimes, a manga doesn’t have to be about the main character and at times, there can be story arcs or side-stories that focus on supporting characters who have just about as much appeal (or maybe even more appeal) than the main character themselves. So when you have the time, please read some of these great long-running manga!!!

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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