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There are manga that everyone recommends. Manga that everyone you know says is the best manga ever, that tops every single top 10 list, and some people claim that if you haven’t read, you can’t call yourself a manga fan. And of course, there’s this implied idea that you must like those manga and agree they’re the best or else your taste is questionable. However, some of those stories are actually quite overhyped, as they’re good, but they’re not that good.
Now, it’s important to note that when we say a manga is overrated, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means that perhaps it deserves a bit less hype than it has, that there are other less known manga that are more deserving of the same praise. It doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t like them, recommend them, or enjoy them.
With that made clear, here are the top ten most overrated manga we’ve read in the last few years.
10. Elfen Lied
- Mangaka: Okamoto, Lynn
- Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Supernatural, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 12
- Published Date: 2002 - 2005
Lucy is a Diclonius, a member of a strange human evolutionary off-shoot that has small horns on her head –that look like cat ears from a distance- and telekinetic abilities. Because of this, she is also kept prisoner inside a research facility where she’s used for very cruel experiments trying to understand her powers –or to replicate them. One day, she manages to escape after massacring about every security guard that was keeping an eye on her, but a bullet wound to her head had made her forget everything about her past and powers. And so, when two cousins, Kouta and Yuka, find her, she is an innocent girl with no idea about anything around her, who is later named Nyuu. However, Lucy’s violent personality still emerges from time to time, usually triggered when Nyuu or Kouta are in danger.
Elfen Lied is a very dark manga that includes scenes of graphic violence, blood, gore, nudity, sexual situations, child molestation, and torture. This can make very easy for critics to highlight the negatives in the narration, to call it an exploitive manga that just tries to hide that it’s just a collection of torture scenes with fanservice by trying to connect a deeper plot that at times may be hurt by the fanservice and gore. However, a lot of readers found that it was the other way around: they found that despite the fanservice and at times unnecessary graphic scenes, the story held itself through the manga, exploring the dark side of humanity as it did.
The thing is, it is neither the worst manga ever made, neither one of the best. It’s pretty middle ground and thus, as it always ends in fan lists of great manga, it deserves to open our list in the tenth place.
9. Ao Haru Ride
- Mangaka: Sakisaka, Io
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, School, Romance, Shoujo, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 13
- Published Date: 2011 - 2015
Yoshioka Futaba has decided to make a clean break from her old junior high self. She used to be very quiet and gentle, but that only made her female friends jealous, and thus, she ended up alone and ostracized. Even worse, that made her unable to confess her feelings to her crush, Tanaka, due to a terrible misunderstanding. So now that she is moving to a new school with new classmates for high school, she has decided to be as outgoing and confident as she can, to keep her female friends from being jealous. She claims she’s happy, but the truth is a bit more difficult than that. However, things shake themselves up when Tanaka appears at the school, under the name Mabuchi Kou. Even worse, he tells her that he felt the same for her back when they were in junior high, but now, two years later, they can’t be together anymore.
Ao Haru Ride is a recent shoujo that has become really popular in the last few years. And much of its popularity is really deserved, as the art is beautiful and the story is very good. However, like many other long shoujos with a similar premise –meeting your childhood crush again and the obstacles to be together- it has the problem that it goes on a bit too long, and certain arcs can make readers bored as it’s obvious to every reader that Futaba and Kou should be together, and the way in which they end up separated once and again can be very grating. And yet, it is always well recommended and has a good standing in most, if not all, manga rating sites.
And since said rating is more about popularity than about actual quality, Ao Haru Ride definitely earns the ninth place on our list.
8. Wild Adapter
- Mangaka: Minekura, Kazuya
- Genre: Mystery, Action, Comedy, Drama, Shounen Ai
- Volumes: 7
- Published Date: 2001- ongoing
Kubota Makoto and Tokito Minoru live together since the former picked the latter up in the street, as if he were a stray cat. As Tokito has no memories of his past, the comparison with a stray animal in need of help was very on point. However, they can’t spend their time just playing videogames. They mostly help those in need, and when they can, they start investigating a new drug named Wild Adapter that pretty much turns their users into monsters, and may have to do with Tokito’s amnesia (especially as Tokito’s right hand is mutated in the same way as a fatal Wild Adapter overdose looks).
Wild Adapter’s publishing story is a bit more accident-prone than Kazuya Minekura’s other popular manga, Saiyuki. Not only the manga is plagued by long hiatus due to Minekura’s health, it also had a troublesome start as it was originally published in a BL magazine, Margaret. This made a lot of fans hype it as Minekura’s first 100% BL manga, but unfortunately for readers, it didn’t deliver. The relationship between Kubota and Tokito remains completely platonic up to volume 7. And, given that neither seems that fond of the other, it doesn’t look as if that is going to change; much less that the manga is now serialized in Zero Sum Ward, which is a Seinen magazine.
Because of this confusing labeling at first, and because just as Saiyuki, it doesn’t seem that it will end anytime soon, Wild Adapter earns the eighth place on our list.
- Mangaka: Iwashiro, Toshiaki
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Game, Romance, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Superpowers, Supernatural, Psychological
- Volumes: 16
- Published Date: 2007 - 2010
Ageha Yoshina is willing to help anyone who needs it for 10,000 yen. No matter what the problem is, he’ll do it for that rate. And he is pretty happy with his life until the day he ends up involved in the strange game named Psyren, where a payphone leads him to another world where he and a couple of his schoolmates who are also in the game, have to fight against monsters that they call Taboo until they reach another payphone to return home.
Psyren is a manga with an interesting plot, even if the plot twist about the true nature of the Psyren world where the game is played can be considered a bit cliché as it has been used in many other manga before it, and some after Psyren ended. Still, it makes things better with a great cast of characters, charismatic heroes and interesting villains. The problem is that while it’s a good story, it’s not the best story in the genre, so it comes as a surprise that it’s one of the most recommended.
Since it’s good but not absolutely amazing, it earns the seventh place on our list.
6. One Outs
- Mangaka: Kaitani, Shinobu
- Genre: Sports, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 20
- Published Date: 1998 -2006
Kojima Hiromichi is a great batter playing for a terrible team. Tired of the Lycans always being at the bottom of the league, he decides to go to Okinawa, trying to figure out what the team is missing. This is where he meets Tokuchi Toua, a blond pitcher that makes his living playing “One Outs”, a game where you win or lose everything in just one pitch. Convinced that he has found the player that can help him lift the Lycans to first place, Kojima makes a wager of his own, a million yen for each strike out that Tokuchi makes.
Fans of baseball know how hard it is to pitch a perfect game, a game where there are no hits and no runs against the opening pitcher. This makes the wager really hard to fulfill on both ends, but quite thrilling, as Tokuchi would lose a smaller amount of money for each run he allows. However, it detracts a bit from the actual baseball playing when it makes everything hinge completely on the pitcher, and doesn’t focus much on the rest of the team. Which is why it is weird to see this particular manga being recommended over other baseball manga which are more balanced between their plot and the sport.
Because of this unbalance, we can’t see One Outs as the best baseball manga out there, and so it earns the sixth place in our list.
5. Oyasumi Pun Pun
- Mangaka: Asano, Inio
- Genre: Drama, Slice of Life, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 13
- Published Date: 2007 – 2013
Punpun is a young child that has a very hard life. He has no dreams of his own, his father is mostly absent, his mother regrets having him and spends her day drinking. With such a life, there’s no surprise that Punpun has an imaginary friend, an afro-wearing “God” that sometimes talks to him when Punpun summons him with a childish chant. Later on, his life starts to get better when he meets a young girl named Aiko, whom he immediately falls in love with. Unfortunately, Aiko’s life is not much better, as her mother is part of a strange cult that seems to be obsessed with music.
Oyasumi Pun pun is a very dark and cynical view of the world. It’s a Seinen where everything that can go wrong, goes wrong, as we see the titular Punpun grow from a child into a teenager and finally into an adult, discovering all the darkness in the world, both in his family and the actions of the adults around them at first. However, it wouldn’t be as highly rated if it wasn’t for two things: The beginning, which is a lot lighter with some humor, and the strange decision from Asano to draw Punpun as a badly drawn bird, which in some reader’s eyes made the manga more symbolic.
Since this manga is sometimes more praised for the strange style choices than for the story itself, it earns the fifth place in our list.
4. Re: Life
- Mangaka: Yayoi, Sou
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, romance, School, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 7
- Published Date: 2013 - ongoing
Kaizaki Arata is having a lot of troubles. At 27 years old, he quit his job and now he can’t find another one. Which leads him to enough economic grief that he decides to accept the offer made by Yoake Ryou, and become a human guinea pig for a drug that can make him look like a 17-year-old again. This is not the experiment; the real challenge is that he has to go back to high school and see how he deals with it, in order to make the drug available to the public. If he manages to finish the year, he’ll get a job in a different company, but if he is discovered, everyone will forget about him and the experiment will end. Sounds like a good way to change his life, so he accepts without realizing that it’s a deal that definitely sounds too good to be true.
Re: Life has a very intriguing premise, and the fact that it started as a free comic in an app before becoming so popular it earned a printed version gave it a bigger boost in popularity. It also has a good cast of characters, and enough mysteries that can keep the story going as more than just a Slice of Life about a man wanting to relieve his high school years on a whim. And yet, there is the problem that at some points, it seems that the story starts to add twists just to make it longer, and sometimes the plot advances so slowly that it’s easy to lose interest in it.
Because of all this, Re: Life earns the fourth place on our list.
3. Grand Blue
- Mangaka: Inoue, Kenji (Story), Yoshioka, Kimitake (Art)
- Genre: Comedy, Slice of life, Seinen
- Volumes: 8
- Published Date: 2014 – ongoing
Kitahara Iori has a very clear plan for his college career. He’s moving in with his uncle to work in his diving store “Grand Blue” while he studies, and will take advantage of the beautiful ocean to meet gorgeous girls. Unfortunately for him, he gets forcibly drafted into the diving club of his college pretty much the first day of school, and soon he discovers that everyone in the club is far more interested in partying and having crazy escapades while drinking than in actually diving.
Grand Blue has the same problem that many of the similar coming of age stories of the last few years have shown: They rely more on the fan service than in the story and the characters in order to attract readers. And while it is fun, and the characters are endearing, it is like reading a manga version of Animal House on the Beach; instead of a fraternity, we have the Peek-A-Boo Club, and their escapades are a bit less extreme at times, but one does wonder where the story is going, given that the plot is also more about just enjoying college life.
Given that it’s fun but not really deep, Grand Blue earns the third place on our list.
2. Death Note
- Mangaka: Obata, Takeshi (Art), Ohba, Tsugumi (Story)
- Genre: Mystery, Drama, Shounen, Supernatural, Psychological
- Volumes: 12
- Published Date: 2003- 2006
Light Yagami has a dream: he will rid the world of criminals and wrongdoers, making sure only the righteous have the right to live without fear. Problem is, he’s not doing this with politics or like a superhero sending criminals to jail, no. He is using a Death Note, a notebook owned originally by a Shinigami, where he can write the names of criminals and his enemies and see them die in 40 seconds. And here is where the lines between right and wrong start to fade, as while the idea of a world without crime is very noble, a college student can’t be judge, jury and executioner. This is why L, the best detective in the world, joins forces with the Japanese police to try and stop Kira, as the news have dubbed Light, before he strikes again.
One can’t deny that the first volumes of Death Note are a very intriguing manga, and that the art of Obata, together with Ohba’s tightly knitted plot made it worthy of praise and being recommended everywhere. However, we have also to admit that the yakuza arc, when Light gave up the Death Note to keep his secret, went on too long. Later on, all the events after volume 7 made the story lag, as if the authors had no idea how to end it. It’s because of this that we believe it earns the second place on our list.
1. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
- Mangaka: Isayama, Hajime
- Genre: Action, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Shounen, Super Power, Supernatural
- Volumes: 23
- Published Date: 2009 – ongoing
For more than a century, mankind has survived in a small kingdom surrounded by three huge walls that protect them from man-eating giants that they call Titans. After the Titans destroyed most of humanity, the three walls created a stalemate: The walls were too high for the Titans to climb, and humanity couldn’t venture out of them without being eaten. And yet, humanity tried to thrive and managed to even forget the danger behind the walls until the day one Colossal Titan, taller than the outer wall, broke a hole through it, leading other titans inside. There weren’t many survivors, but among those were three children, Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlet. Due to the trauma of that day, Eren convinced them to join the military, since he was sure it was the way to figure out the titans, and kill them all for what they did to his family.
Attack on Titan is currently one of the most popular and recommended manga in the world. It has surpassed long-time favorites in a relatively short time, and the animation and live action movies have only helped to make it even more popular, as everyone is waiting for the new chapter, the new revelations, and how humanity will survive. However, with all the hype, there’s one thing that is sometimes forgotten, and it is that at 24 volumes, the pacing of the story is incredibly slow. Not only that, but the art is not some of the best, which sometimes makes it hard to figure out which character is which.
Due to this, and the fact that we have to admit it has suffered a bit of over-hype, Attack on Titan more than earns the first spot on our list.
Rating stories is always a tricky thing. After all, what works for one reader may not work for another. And while vote systems seem to be a very democratic way to decide what stories are to be considered great and which ones should be forgotten, it doesn’t take into account that some stories have faithful fans who will make sure their favorite stays in the top ten, no matter what. So with that in mind, many manga can be considered over, or underrated.
Do you agree with our list? Or think we’re missing some popular manga that are popular just for hype’s sake? Or maybe we were too hard on your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.