Top 10 Manga Cliffhangers [Best Recommendations]

As previously shared, there are some notable manga serializations such as X and Nana, which have been on hiatus for a good number of years, and readers want them to come back so they can see how they end. However, we’re going to go a different direction and talk about manga series that have finished, but with endings that feel rather ambiguous to the point that you could swear are pretty much a cliffhanger. Though a lot of anime can be notorious for ending with annoying cliffhangers (and force you to read the manga or play the original game), manga that get to run their full course on the other hand, will have definitive endings, but there are instances where that’s not always the case. So what are some top manga titles with cliffhanger endings? Read our list to find out!

And one last warning, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!!!

10. Koukaku Kidoutai 2: Manmachine Interface (Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface)

  • Authors: Shirow Masamune
  • Genres: Action, Psychological, Sci-Fi
  • Volumes: 1
  • Published: June 2001

The original 90s movie to Ghost in the Shell largely follows the same plot as the manga. Though the executions are different (with the manga having more humor and exploring Motoko’s bisexuality), they both arrive to the same conclusion – Motoko becomes one with the villain, the Puppet Master. Yes, the original manga does have a follow up, Man-Machine Interface, and Motoko assumes an entirely new identity (or identities), but is, yes and no, still the same Motoko. It has new stories, but in addition to the ending, a lot of what happens can be rather vague. Hell, Ghost in the Shell as a whole can be as intellectually consuming as Stephen Hawking’s A History of Time.

But what makes this ending a cliffhanger is whether or not Ghost in the Shell connects to another creation of Shirow, Appleseed. A lot of the plot in this manga revolves around the evolution of AI and that the villain is trying to invent a highly intelligent bionoid to achieve such an agenda. A lot of hardcore Shirow fans speculate that these bionoids share a lot of qualities with the bio-roids in Appleseed, and wonder if Man-Machine Interface serves as a prequel and/or tie-in to that respective series.

9. Kimi ni Happiness

  • Authors: Ruka Ichinose
  • Genres: Comedy, Romance, School, Shoujo, Slice of Life
  • Volumes: 1
  • Published: 2011

Teen romance in manga are a dime a dozen, but Kimi ni Happiness does have its distinctions in the genre. Yume, an ordinary school girl, falls in love with Kou, the hottest boy in school. So, what’s the bad news? He’s going out with the bad girl at school, Hitohana. The plot may seem very cliché but has a rather captivating execution. It knows how to appeal to your emotions. As this one volume title progresses, the cast gets fully fleshed out, and in the end, the girl gets the boy.

But what makes the ending difficult to swallow is that everything ends upon that moment. We don’t see them develop as a couple, nor does it try to explore the notion that true love conquers all. It’s just that the boy tells the girl he dumped another girl for her and that’s that. Try to watch Saved by the Bell with Zack confessing to Kelly, and having it end there and see how that works.

8. Akira

  • Authors: Katsuhiro Otomo
  • Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Seinen
  • Volumes: 6
  • Published: December 1982 – June 1990

A large number of you may be familiar with the hit groundbreaking movie where Neo-Tokyo is destroyed and Kaneda, Kei, and another friend ride off into the sunset (or sunrise?). As for the manga, Neo-Tokyo is STILL crumbled to rubble, but it does expand on that just a little bit. As opposed to Kaneda and Kei riding off like it’s still the good old days, the UN shows up saying they’re here to help. Kaneda refuses their help by saying they can take care of things on their own as they declare themselves as the Great Tokyo Empire. On one hand, we can see things end rather conclusively, but it’s an ending that no sensible person can take seriously.

How can a UN fleet seriously take the claims of a teenage gang leader of claiming sovereignty? So does Kaneda crown himself emperor? Or is Akira worshipped like a God in this new system that might as well be like the island in Lord of the Flies? How are a gang of misfits going to run a so-called empire with other powerful nations with fully weaponized and trained armed forces capable of invading them at any moment’s notice? Are they willing to risk more psychic explosions and wipe out the human race? Is it an empire where they go out and conquer like the old imperial Japan? Will they have democracy? Will it be communist? Or function like in a true dictionary definition of anarchy, meaning no rulers (not the colloquial definition of anarchy where you throw bricks at windows)? Kaneda’s claim of taking Tokyo as a new empire are just rather vague and silly, and the fact it ends it there without clear definition is why it’s classified as a cliffhanger.

7. Hikaru no Go

  • Authors: Yumi Hotta (story), Takeshi Obata (art)
  • Genres: Game, Supernatural, Comedy, Drama, Shounen
  • Volumes: 23
  • Published: December 1998 – July 2003

Ever wanted to learn about a traditional Eastern board game called go? Then Hikaru no Go is the manga for you. So after numerous volumes, do Hikaru and Fujiwara no Sai learn the Kami no Itte, aka the Divine Move? They don’t because it doesn’t exist. As opposed to thinking of it as a certain move like checkmate in chess, the Divine Move is a concept of playing the perfect game of go. Considering that playing style can differ between who the opponent is, there is really no singular way to perfectly play go, which is why the Divine Move is just an ideal theory.

While everyone can give the story credit for Hikaru trying to learn the game on his own without the assistance of Sai, its ending comes with its controversies. In the end of the manga, Hikaru and Akira play one last game of go in a tournament. So, who comes out on top? NO ONE KNOWS BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE IT ENDS! Considering that a significant portion of the story is driven by their obsessive rivalry, not giving them a definitive end is a let down. Can Hikaru beat Akira just with his own skills? Or will he always need Sai?

As to why the manga ended so abruptly where it did, there were rumors amongst the fanbase in relation to how the previous arc had Japanese go players beat players from China and South Korea. Some fans speculate that story arc triggered readers in those countries with how they were portrayed, and it got bad to a point that Shueisha had to cancel it. However, that’s just speculation.

6. Trigun Maximum

  • Authors: Yasuhiro Nightow
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi, Seinen
  • Volumes: 14
  • Published: July 1998 – February 2008

Just like in the hit anime, Trigun Maximum ends when Vash has one final battle with Knives, his evil twin. The fight was intense and crazy, and it puts their fight in the anime ending to shame. Though the anime clearly indicates that despite Vash winning the fight, he chooses to spare Knives’ life due to his personal no-kill policy. Maximum, the manga, is more vague in comparison to Knives’ final fate. There are a lot of people who dispute whether or not Knives dies when he planted that tree for a father and son sheltering him, or if he became that tree.

After all, that same tree was already displayed in an earlier chapter of a manga with Knives present, or was it just a mistake on Nightow’s part? The good news is that the ending does definitively show Vash and Knives making peace. Considering the nature of Vash’s morals, there is no way he would let him die, which is why fans can make a strong argument on what happens to Knives in the ending as Vash resumes his life as the $$6 billion man.

5. Boku no Imouto ni Koi wo Suru (I Love My Little Sister)

  • Authors: Kotomi Aoki
  • Genres: Comedy, Romance, School, Shoujo
  • Volumes: 10
  • Published: December 2002 – June 2005

Many good old American fans can think of a brother and sister falling in love as a run of the mill segment of Jerry Springer. To the Japanese, it’s the perfect formula to a tragic romance manga series, Boku no Imouto ni Koi wo Suru. This is the story of Yori and Iku Yuki, twin siblings who fall in love, and must keep a secret from everyone (until their mother walks in on them while they were making love). Unable to bare the shame, Yori leaves home and Iku vows to find him. After 10 years, they reunite in England and admit they still love each other.

On one hand, the ending is definitive and bittersweet. So, how does it have a cliffhanger ending? For starters, all we know for sure is that Yori still loves Iku, not that they get back together as a couple. Even if they do stay together, do they stay in London, go back to Japan, or somewhere else? Do they tell their parents, relatives, and other friends? While these questions are a bit excessive, we just feel that the ending to this manga doesn’t give full closure to a relation that is considered forbidden both in the world of manga and in reality.

4. Bitter Virgin

  • Authors: Kei Kusunoki
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, School, Seinen
  • Volumes: 4
  • Published: February 2005 – March 2008

With the recent controversies with Justice Kavanaugh, his supporters have argued why don’t accusers report to the authorities since they think the accusations were false, based on political sabotage. While we aren’t here to say whether or not Kavanaugh is guilty of such accusations, what we can address through the entry of Bitter Virgin is why victims, especially minors, don’t (or in many cases, can’t) report.

For years, Hinako’s stepfather has been raping her. When she got pregnant the first time, she got an abortion. As for her second pregnancy, she was told to take it full term and give it for adoption since an abortion would have endangered her health. For awhile, her mother ignores her pleas for help. Sadly, some victims, even if they try to tell someone, are never given justice due to a variety of reasons, and Japan is no different due to the power men have, even with solid evidence. Naturally, her abuse has given her a fear of men.

After accidentally sharing her experiences with her classmate in a church confessional under the assumptions he was a priest, that same boy falls in love with her, but her traumatic experiences makes her resistant. By the end of the series, Hinako’s mother kicks her stepfather out of the house (while threatening him with a knife), and Hinako accepts the boy’s feelings. The ending is bittersweet because it explicitly states there are no guarantees whether or not they stay together forever, but we do give them credit for trying to be realistic by ending things rather ambiguously since teenage relationships don’t last forever in reality, too.

3. Saint Seiya

  • Authors: Masami Kurumada
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Shounen
  • Volumes: 28
  • Published: December 1985 – November 1990

The anime version to Masami Kurumada’s classic manga is considered a hit in Western Europe and Latin America. Though the anime goes up to the Poseidon arc during its first run, the final arc of the manga, the Hades arc, wouldn’t get an anime for another 10 years. So if fans during the 90s wanted to know the true ending to Saint Seiya, they had to read the manga. Shortly after losing the Gold Cloths to Hypnos and Thanatos, the Bronze Saints’ original armors are upgraded to God Cloths thanks to the blood of Athena. Thanks to their new powers, they instantly defeat Hypnos and Thanatos to fight the final boss himself, Hades.

In order to save Athena, Seiya puts himself in harm’s way and takes Hades’ sword to the heart. As Athena tends to Seiya, she helps the Bronze Saints defeat Hades. While they save the world from Hades’ dark eclipse, the ending is very vague with what happened to Seiya. Everyone is smiling and we don’t know if Seiya lives or dies. Considering that in Ring ni Kakero––Kurumada’s break out manga––that Ryuji, the model of Seiya, dies in that manga, some fans can assume that Seiya may have died as well. What also makes this ending even more tragic is that we don’t get to see Seiya reunite with his long lost sister.

2. Slam Dunk

  • Authors: Takehiko Inoue
  • Genres: Sports, Comedy, School, Drama, Shounen
  • Volumes: 31
  • Published: September 1990 – June 1996

All what Hanamichi Sakuragi wanted to do was get Haruko, the girl he has a crush on, to like him back. So what does he do? He joins the basketball team to impress her. When he first starts basketball, he doesn’t know the difference between dribbling in basketball and soccer. However, Hanamichi was still blessed with the right genetics for the sport. He’s tall, he can jump high, he’s got unbelievable stamina, freakish strength, and can apply work ethic when he’s motivated. He becomes his team’s Dennis Rodman in every sense you can think of. Not only does he have the attitude, he’s got the hair, is assigned the number 10 on his jersey (Rodman’s number when he played for the Pistons and Spurs), and manages to develop crazy rebounding abilities just like The Worm.

Shortly before Hanamichi and Shohoku compete in the nationals, he works on his shooting abilities within the 3-point line. Thanks to the support of his team, coach, and friends, he makes the game winning shot at the buzzer beater against Japan’s top favorite to take it all, Sannoh Technical High School of Akita prefecture, in the quarter finals. Unfortunately, the severity of Hanamichi’s back injury during the game got bad to the point he couldn’t play basketball again if he continued to play for the rest of the tournament. So, he was pulled from the remainder of the playoffs and is immediately forced into rehab and without his assistance, Shohoku gets swept in the semi-finals.

Other than that, we don’t see if he makes a full recovery to win the following year or anything like that. As for the actual ending, they lose and the season ends. It ends during a point when Hanamichi finally solidifies himself as a player after all the hard work he puts in, and still has so much room for more development. For example, other than making a come back upon recovery, just like Rodman, does Hanamichi attempt to enter pro wrestling? Or co-star in a movie with Jean Claude Van Damme? Does he marry himself on national TV in drag? Or does he attempt to make peace with North Korea? All of these unanswered questions just give it the perfect cliffhanger.

1. Monster

  • Authors: Naoki Urasawa
  • Genres: Psychological, Mystery, Drama, Seinen
  • Volumes: 18
  • Published: December 1994 – December 2001

Try to imagine yourself as Dr. Tenma, a top of the line respected brain surgeon, and two dying patients who need immediate surgery are presented to you. One patient is a little boy with a bullet in his head, and the other is the mayor who got a sudden brain hemorrhage. Your bosses at the hospital are ordering you to operate on the mayor, but against their wishes, you choose to operate on the boy, and the mayor dies. Then years later, the choice comes back to haunt you ten-fold when that boy becomes a notorious serial killer.

After traveling throughout Germany to find Johan, the boy he saved, Dr. Tenma finally has him in his grasp. While the boy is held hostage, he is shot by that boy’s father. So what does Dr. Tenma do? He once again operates on the boy to save his life! As Johan recovers in the hospital, he talks to Dr. Tenma about his background and human nature. This is the first controversy because no one knows if this happened or not because Johan is supposed to be in a coma. Dr. Tenma leaves without saying a word (which further adds fuel to that fire) and when the readers are brought back to his room, Johan is gone. No one is sure if Johan dies, escaped, or whatever. After all the insanity that happens in this series, the ending is just strange. Is Johan going to continue his murder spree? Or live like a fugitive? Or finally live in peace? The fact that he doesn’t face justice for his crimes gives it the ultimate cliffhanger.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes contract reasons, low sales, personal boredom, or political reasons tend to be the reason why some manga are put on hiatus, or in worst case scenario, flat out cancelled. As stated earlier, there are political reasons to why people speculate Hikaru no Go ended, but no one knows for sure. However, we can confirm that declining sales and disputes with Shueisha tend to be the reasons why Kurumada had to end Saint Seiya. Some fans of Slam Dunk have heard rumors that Inoue just got bored of it and just abruptly ended it where he did. Considering how excellently built these listed manga are, dedicated fans feel that they deserve endings that are conclusively solid without any loose ends. So what do you readers say? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Hikaru-no-Go-Wallpaper-639x500 Top 10 Manga Cliffhangers [Best Recommendations]


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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