There was someone from the past who stated “humans are such foolish things”. Maybe he was right, considering how much people have suffered due to self-destructive choices and way of thinking. From the dawn of time, humans have proven to be violent-natured and corruptible beings, often prioritizing personal interests upon tolerance and understanding.
Memories of the wars and the consequences they left are unforgettable, but it is certain that we can learn from our past mistakes and able to build a new peaceful world where people won’t need to fight each other anymore. Is it really possible to create such an idyllic place? Maybe we are still far away from that goal, but we can always give our contribution to avoid repeating the same destructive experiences and improve ourselves. How? Trying to analyze the depths human nature and people's’ diversity better.
With this article, Honey’s Anime wants to introduce you some of today’s most popular military illustrated works – manga with both anime adaptations and not – and invite you to see with your own eyes what war, military, martial law, death are as perceived by the most famous Japanese authors. Enjoy our Top 10 Military Manga countdown.
- Mangaka: Takahashi, Ryou
- Genre: Action, Military, Shoujo
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: Jun. 2010 - 2011
Position #10 is all for the shōjo manga Toxic. Very particular and very much its own, Toxic takes place in an unknown year after a hypothetical World War III in a society dominated by the Nazi and their ideals of perfection. The Führer has, in fact, gathered all the world’s nations under his control and had established the so-called Unified World Government, a sort of empire in which there are severe and restrictive rules to attain. Indeed, the Führer’s perfect world doesn’t tolerate believers of different religions, people who have different viewpoints than the empire’s, traitors, who are exterminated without mercy. To guarantee the Führer’s personal safety, a special protection guard unit was created; it is called “Black Rose” and Luka Ogami, top graduate of the academy of unified army officers, joins it with an ulterior motive.
History tells us that, after a war, there are always bad consequences. The one which Toxic talks about is a world that is perfect only in his inventor’s eyes. Under an oppressive military control, people are deprived of their freedom and right to have personal opinions, because what is really important is not how they feel and what they desire for the future, but what is the ruler’s mood and how the empire undergoes changes according to it. Toxic is able to show this point of view very well through experiences lived and words spoken by all those soldiers who are treated like puppets just to satisfy the Führer’s whims.
9. Koukoku no Shugosha (Imperial Guards)
- Mangaka: Satou, Daisuke (Story), Itou, Yuu (Art)
- Genre: Seinen, Military, Action, Historical
- Volumes: 5
- Published Date: Jun. 2004 – Sep. 2007
Many people have defined Kōkoku no Shugosha as “one of the best military manga for decades”. In Kōkoku no Shugosha the main character is Shinjō Naoe, First Lieutenant of the Kōkoku army, an elite military unit that conducts its duties alongside the so-called “tiger brigade”, wild animals trained to assist their masters in battles. Kōkoku is, in fact, an imperial country at war with Teikoku Empire, that possesses an immense battalion and that has invaded the country some time before for world supremacy. With only 600 soldiers at his back, Shinjō will desperately fight to stop Teikoku empire from advancing.
In Kōkoku no Shugosha, military is the reflection of two sentiments that are specular: desire for supremacy and love for your country. Although being two faces of the same coin, desire for supremacy is the act to offend another country just to impose your own way of thinking, while love for your country is the desire to protect your people from an enemy that is trying to swipe away your identity, roots and companions. This aspect is superbly depicted by Satō and Itō through accurate dialogs and fine vintage art. A masterpiece that is really worth reading for all of lovers of this genre.
8. My Life With You
- Mangaka: Tsurugi, Kai
- Genre: Drama, Yaoi, Military
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: Dec. 2007 – Aug. 2008
“Simple” doesn’t mean “empty”, while “yaoi” doesn’t just mean “erotic”; bearing this in mind, it’s easy to understand why a yaoi military manga as My Life With You could become so popular. My Life With You is pretty straightforward, indeed; Scientist Eric Stuart had been kidnapped and The Crow, the elite soldier Steve McDaniel, must infiltrate the enemy base to rescue him and take him back home safe. Steve manages to save Eric who, grateful to his savior, becomes his best friend. Through the battles, they will fight on the same side, a feeling that is more than just friendship will start developing between Steve and Eric soon.
There are many authors that uses war times to set their stories, and for a wide range of genres. Tsurugi Kai’s My Life With You is one of the best examples of the fact that it doesn’t matter what the genre is and what kind of audience the story is for, you can always create a meaningful and heartbreaking work that can both tell about the cruelty of the war and the beauty of love. In war times, hope is the last to die and, in My Life With You case, it keeps on surviving into the hearts of two lovers whose feelings are stronger than any weapon existing.
7. Kakumeika no Gogo (A Revolutionist In The Afternoon)
- Mangaka: Matsumoto, Jiro
- Genre: Military, Drama, Fantasy
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: 2007
At #7 we find Matsumoto Jiro’s Kakumeika no Gogo. Kakumeika no Gogo is not really a typical story with a structured and linear plot, but a collection of short tales that mainly focus on the darkest sides of human’s nature and morale. Explored by a kooky perspective which can be appreciated most of all if you can easily digest black humor, Kakumeika no Gogo can really make you experience the darkness of human’s soul and the fear of living in an ironic world by which you are constantly betrayed.
In particular, the collection begins with a story with a raw military setting. It is about a wry love affair between a revolutionist and a writer who finds herself taking her neighbor’s identity on a whim. In a decadent society plagued by war, the fear of getting killed and the awareness of the ephemerality of the existence are source of a deep concern for the revolutionist, who is deeply in love with his woman. But where there is selfishness, life can suddenly turn into an unpredictable tragedy. Really an original and perfectly illustrated title that shouldn’t be missing in your “to-read” list.
6. Gunka no Baltzar (Baltzar Militarismus)
- Mangaka: Nakajima, Michitsune
- Genre: Historical, Military, Seinen
- Volumes: Unknown
- Published Date: Jan. 2011– currently
#6 is for Gunka no Baltzar, a manga exquisitely military from the beginning to the very end. Indeed, in Gunka no Baltzar war is not just a pretest to tell about a story that focuses on something else, but it’s the very core of the narration. Set in a pseudo-fictional 19th century, Gunka no Baltzar follows the adventures Bernd Balzer, a prestigious officer who lives in a world in which peace doesn’t exist and it’s just a time to prepare for the next battle. Thanks to his abilities, Balzer could quickly advance in rank and becoming a well-known soldier in his country. As his latest task, he will be assigned as an adviser to a military school in an allied country that has recently formed a pact with his own. Relying only on himself and his experience, Balzer will have to train young undisciplined cadets while trying to deal with civilians of the opposition party.
If you are searching for a military manga that is all about political matters, intrigues, diplomacy, strategies, then you should definitely give Gunka no Baltzar a chance. The setting through which Balzar moves is complex and situations that he will have to face look real, though Balzar’s world being fictional. Balzar acts like a sort of ambassador who has to take into consideration both the opinions of the country to which he was assigned and the international laws set out by his own; his task is not easy, since he can’t disobey orders, but can’t even risk causing a diplomatic incident.
5. Oooku (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers)
- Mangaka: Yoshinaga, Fumi
- Genre: Drama, Historical, Military, Samurai, Josei
- Volumes: Unknown
- Published Date: Aug. 2004 – currently
At #5, we find one of the best josei manga set in wartime ever written: Ōoku. Conceived by the talented Yoshinaga Fumi, Ōoku takes place in a feudal Japan that never existed and starts with a plague that only affected the male population, reducing it drastically. Having become the minority, men are now prized only for their reproductive function, while women become the primary workforce, tending to all fieldwork and all the burdens of government. After eighty years of women’s domination, Japan has become wholly matriarchal. In this kind of society, only the most powerful woman, head of Tokugawa shogunate, can keep a harem of handsome, but unproductive men: the Ōoku.
Ōoku is not exactly about military and war, but it traces all the most important events of Japanese history; starting from the reign of Ietsuna, Ōoku accurately covers all the main incidents occurred before the advent of the eighth Tokugawa Shogun, such as the plan to burn Edo, the circumstances surrounding the Forty-Seven Ronin and the Eijima-Ikushima affair. In a period when conflicts between two clans were a commonplace, Yoshinaga’s women will have to defend their supremacy not only against the neighbors, but also against Christians’ attempts of ideological invasion. Really, Ōoku is a work of fine art told from a fresh perspective every historic Japan lover should take a look at.
4. Adolf ni Tsugu (Message to Adolf)
- Mangaka: Tezuka, Osamu
- Genre: Military, Historical, Drama
- Volumes: 4
- Published Date: Dec. 1982 – May 1985
Adolf ni Tsugu follows the events of a Japanese reporter in Berlin for the 1936 Olympics, Sohei Toge, whose younger brother got mysteriously killed after receiving an important document. While investigating the murder, Sohei also finds out that all information regarding his brother have been erased and it seems like he had never existed. All roads seem to be leading to three Adolfs related to each other; while half-German and half-Japanese Adolf Kauffmann and his Jewish-German best friend Adolf Kamil appear to be involved in the incident, they are also interwoven around the biggest secret of the third Adolf. That is Adolf Hitler.
Old but gold; though being a manga of the late Eighties, Adolf ni Tsugu definitely deserved a position in this list. After all, what could be considered more related to military and the insanity of war than stories involving the Nazi Germany? Adolf ni Tsugu’s plot revolves around Hitler’s domination period and focuses on the tragedy of two characters that don’t want to be enemies, but can’t even freely decide for themselves. Trapped in a country that aims to ethnic cleansing, in which one of the two Adolfs is forced to be the executioner while the other one the victim of a madness, Adolf ni Tsugu it’s not a simple reminder of the cruelty of some humans’ contorted ideologies, but it’s a stunning portrait of that emotional part of a country hostage of an insane nationalism about which no one talks.
3. Ilegenes: Kokuyou no Kiseki (Ilegenes: Track of a Black Gleam)
- Mangaka: Kuwabara, Mizuna (Story), Ishizue, Kachiru (Art)
- Genre: Military, Drama, School, Sci-fi, Shoujo
- Volumes: 5
- Published Date: Oct. 2007 – Jul. 2010
Cool and collected Fon F. Littenber enrolls Ilegenes military school with a precise goal: avenge his parents’ deaths by destroying the Black Market. This is a secret organization lying in Ilegenes underground that produces human clones on a mass scale in order to sell them and gain great profits. Life is not easy for Fon in school; targeted by rival students due to his father’s connection with the experiments led by the Black Market.
Often underestimated because of its light tones, Ilegenes: Kokuyō no Kiseki is actually a very good manga with a well-structured plot and several complex elements, that was able to capture not only school-life manga lovers’ attention, but also military and sci-fi ones. Who has studied the world’s history knows that genetic manipulation was a common practice in the military during war-times, with the objective of creating an army of perfect soldiers, slaves or just for profit. Ilegenes is undoubtedly an artwork that aims to questions the ethics of genetic engineering and human corruption.
2. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Mangaka: Taniguchi, Gorou (Story), Okouchi, Ichiro (Story), Majiko! (Art)
- Genre: Shoujo, Military, Sci-fi, Mecha, Drama, Action, School
- Volumes: 8
- Published Date: Aug 2006 – Feb 2010
Let’s pretend to be in the year 2010 when Britannia established itself as a dominant military nation – the Holy Empire of Britannia. Japan is one of the countries that has fallen under Britannia’s control, but it still keep on fighting its invaders in order to expel them and regain its lost independence. Lelouch Lamperouge, a young man bestowed on Geass super power by a mysterious girl named C.C., is fighting against the Holy Empire. Lelouch will embark on a journey of merciless revenge against that Britannia which has banished him.
Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch is the first manga with an anime adaptation in our list, and also one of the most famous in the world. Everything in Code Geass is about war, military and battles, narrated by a disillusioned perspective. Lelouch’s revenge, the vow he makes with his Japanese friend Suzaku, his own existence are all inevitably linked to the fighting between a home country which has betrayed him and the nation he thinks to be victim of a supremacist empire. But the conflict and Lelouch’s affords to destroy the empire are just useless, because there isn’t who is right and who is not in a war; it simply is a never-ending death chain with no winners or losers.
1. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Mangaka: Isayama, Hajime
- Genre: Military, Drama, Horror, Action, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: Unknown
- Published Date: Sep. 2009 – currently
And the top of our countdown could only be for Isayama Hajime’s Shingeki no Kyojin, one of the most original ideas of the last decades. Shingeki no Kyojin is the story of humanity’s last survivors; caged between tall walls erected to prevent themselves from being eaten by mindless titans who wander on the other side. Humans struggle to get their freedom back. After experiencing titans’ ferocity, Eren Jaeger, a reckless young boy whose mother got killed during an invasion of titans, and his childhood friends Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlet will decide to join the Survey Corps, an anti-titan military force, to exterminate all of them and win back that world titans have taken away from humanity.
Shingeki no Kyojin isn’t just a manga about a conflict between two different parties – titans and humans, in this case – but also a new idea to talk about how prejudice against the enemy could ironically turn into an act of self-destruction. Too many are the elements that the characters in Shingeki no Kyojin can’t understand about their condition of prisoners, and constantly being deprived of their beloved by creatures which don’t even devour them for an anatomical need. They blindly slaughter them out of fear and frustration. But what is even scarier about this manga is the tragedy of humans’ powerlessness. Though having created an amazingly strong military division, none of the soldiers is special in any way when it comes to fighting titans and conflicts. Just like it happens in real wars, in Shingeki no Kyojin there is no (wo)men with amazing powers and everyone, no matter if it’s an essential character or not, could eventually die for the smallest mistake.
What do you think about our list? We hope you found it interesting! If you think there is some other manga that should be on the list, you agree with us or you have a different opinion, let us know with a comment!
See you on the next article!