With so many different anime and manga hitting the airwaves and the shelves every single season, it is quite frankly impossible to keep up with everything. That unfortunate fact creates a situation in which some of the most incredible stories go almost unnoticed, or without the critical acclaim that they so rightly deserve. Fans of such titles could resent the current state of the manga world, wishing that some really popular titles could swap places with their favourites. We’re going to assume the role of such fans and bring to you ten manga that are brilliant in every sense of the word, but somewhat invisible – it’s our job to show them to the world, so here we go, Top 10 Underrated Manga!
- Mangaka: Yamamoto Hideo
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Horror, Supernatural, Psychological, Seinen
- Published: March 2003 – February 2011
- Volumes: 15
In psychology, the homunculus is the little human inside our minds – the entity whose form is moulded by the collection of experiences over the course of their lives, their subconscious self-image developed by those experiences. Trepanation is a procedure which involves drilling into the skull and it is said to bring out a person’s sixth sense. When Nakoshi is offered a large sum of money in exchange for undergoing the procedure, he comes out of it being able to see other people’s homunculi, the metaphysical manifestations of the sum total of people’s life experiences and their deepest image of themselves.
Homunculus is a beautiful, dark, harrowing analysis of the human condition. We all have deep-rooted fears, anxieties and insecurities developed over time and locked away in our subconscious. These project outwards and can even govern our physical interactions with the world – a fact which Homunculus tackles expertly. It is an educational read, one which can change the way in which you see yourself and with an effect so profound, it is surprising very few people know about it, let alone rate it highly.
9. Apocalypse no Toride (Fort of Apocalypse)
- Mangaka: Inabe Kazu (Art), Kuraishi Yuu (Story)
- Genres: Action, Mystery, Horror, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Psychological
- Published: September 2011 – August 2015
- Volumes: 10
When falsely convicted of murder, Maeda Yoshiaki is sentenced to Shouran Academy Juvenile Detention Centre and placed in Cell 4. Sharing a living space with other inmates, Iwakura Gou, Yoshioka Masafumi and Yamanoi Mitsuru, Maeda finds himself uncomfortable in an environment fuelled by violence. His discomfort reaches unbelievable levels when one day, a routine delivery of new inmates goes horribly wrong and said inmates turn out to be flesh eating zombies. While they were locked away in prison, the world had gone under. Together, the four of them escaped from Shouran and began a dangerous journey of survival in a world filled with people now trying to eat them.
Apocalypse no Toride is, in many ways, the breath of fresh air the zombie subgenre of horror needs. The overarching plot of a zombie apocalypse holds true to the very word “apocalypse” in the fact that it isn’t just about reanimated corpses dragging their legs and pining for brains, but it is treated as the next step in human evolution – it is every bit as deep as it is creepy and that is why Apocalypse no Toride deserves a lot more praise and a lot more recognition than it currently does.
8. Scumbag Loser
- Mangaka: Yamaguchi Mikoto
- Genres: Mystery, Horror, Shounen, Supernatural, Psychological
- Published: November 2011 – December 2012
- Volumes: 3
Murai Masahiko is the worst kind of teenager. He is a complete pervert who has a thing for the smell of the “lame and hopeless”, the total losers in his class. Completely obsessed with issues of self-image, he views himself as one who is above these people he regards “scumbag losers” and will do anything to keep it that way, so when the beautiful Mizusawa Haruka transfers into his class, he says he is dating her. But in reality, the girl named Mizusawa Haruka died 5 years prior. So who this Mizusawa he’s currently dating?
Scumbag Loser is short but definitely not sweet and much like many other titles on this list, it does a good job of having readers really think about themselves. It is the kind of horrific, creepy and gruesome manga that does a really good job of freaking you out but also presenting a very profound and relevant message about what it means to be yourself, to accept yourself and to maintain a positive opinion of yourself as that shapes how you interact with the world around you.
- Mangaka: Sakuishi Harold
- Genres: School, Shounen, Supernatural
- Published: December 2012 – April 2016
- Volumes: 14
Ever since he was a child, Fushimi has dreamed of one day becoming a mangaka with a serialisation of his own. Spurred on by the flurry of compliments he had been receiving about his artistic talent from a young age, his dream takes a hit when an editor at a large magazine sees one of his manuscripts and tells him to quit. Meanwhile, Rin, an aspiring model with the ability to see the future attempts to find herself a fulltime gig – how are these two linked?
From the creator of Beck, a story about a mangaka not unlike the super popular Bakuman series, Rin is a story which tackles what it means to follow your dreams, all while being an interesting story of two completely different protagonists whose interests eventually overlap. Rin takes a different approach to the up-and-coming mangaka story trope, using the protagonist’s passion for manga as the driving force for the rest of the plot.
6. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Log)
- Mangaka: Ashinano Hitoshi
- Genres: Drama, Sci-Fi, Slice of Life, Seinen
- Published: April 1994 – February 2006
- Volumes: 14
Due to rising sea levels and several natural disasters, the human population has decreased immensely, and most political institutions and industries have shut down. Nations have become considerably smaller and new animals exist. Life for humanity has changed considerably and intelligent humanoid robots exist among the human population. One such robot, Alpha, runs a café outside what used to be Yokohama, travelling around on her scooter and using a camera to make friends with humans and robots alike, immune to the passage of time.
This sci-fi slice of life manga takes us into a very surreal world in which everything as we know it has changed and humanity has adopted a much slower way of life. The manga’s pacing varies, a feature which draws the reader closer to the work and closer to the main character, Alpha the robot, a being who is quite obviously immune to the passage of time which has led to the current state of things within the story. It is a beautiful work of art which captures the imagination and the mind and quite frankly, deserves a lot more recognition for what it is.
- Mangaka: Mase Motoro
- Genres: Action, Mystery, Drama, Psychological, Seinen
- Published: January 2005 – February 2012
- Volumes: 10
Modern day Japan. A law has been passed which warrants the selection of random individuals between the ages of 18 – 24 for death. The law, dubbed the National Prosperity Law, sentences people to death for the good of the nation. 24 hours before their deaths, these individuals are notified via letter. These letters, called “Ikigami”, are used by the government as a tool to remind people of the value of life, something that the masses seem to have forgotten in a time of laziness and apathy.
Ikigami is a brilliant manga specifically because it presents itself as a profound work which intends to start something in readers. The idea of people’s lives being cut short in order to get the rest to really question the value of their lives has the same effect in readers and at least for some, such thoughts are necessary for them to direct the trajectory of their own lives. Generally such dark elements are not so well received by many people and as such, Ikigami has existed under the noses of many people who would absolutely love it.
4. Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil)
- Mangaka: Oshimi Shuuzou
- Genres: Drama, Romance, School, Shounen, Psychological
- Published: September 2009 – May 2014
- Volumes: 11
Kasuga Takao is a middle school bookworm who loves nothing more than to tuck into the pages of Budelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. However, there is one thing he loves almost as much – the class sweetheart, Saeki Nanako. After forgetting his copy of Les Fleurs du Mal in the classroom one day, temptation gets the best of him as he finds himself alone in the classroom, with access to Saeki’s gym uniform. On impulse, he steals it, and soon after the entire class begins the hunt for the “pervert” who stole it. The manhunt piles on Kasuga’s guilt and to make things worse, the friendless class weirdo, Nakamura, saw the whole thing and blackmails him into a very strange friendship under the guise of finding a kindred deviant spirit.
Aku no Hana is disturbing. It is a thrilling ride through teenage angst and unbelievably dark youths and it shows a very odd kind of human relationship. In wanting to protect his secret, Kasuga did a lot of questionable things; however, what makes Aku no Hana brilliant is the way in which we see what could have been a run-of-the-mill middle school romance turn into a mind boggling journey into the land of the deranged – but also an insight into what it’s like being lonely and finding someone who seems to understand you for who you are.
3. Iris Zero
- Mangaka: Takana Hotaru (Art), Shiki Piro (Story)
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, School, Supernatural, Psychological, Seinen
- Published: April 2009 -
- Volumes: TBC
At some point in human history, it became normal for human beings to have special powers. These powers which reside in the eye and manifest as the ability to see a variety of different things was hence called “Iris”. Naturally, a small portion of the population who do not have these powers exists, and they suffer the most at the hands of their peers. These individuals, dubbed “Iris Zero” are ostracized and alienated and due to his past experiences, Iris Zero Mizushima Toru has decided to live a life of “minimal exposure”, choosing to spend his high school career blending in and not bringing too much attention to himself. However, his minimal exposure life is shaken to the core when he receives a confession from the school idol, Sasamori Koyuki. Now with all eyes on him, how will Toru’s life change?
Iris Zero is a beautiful story used as a vehicle to poke around many different challenges faced by people in life. It tackles the issue of prejudice and discrimination and expertly shows togetherness as a remedy for many different social ills. Toru as a character is your classic “weak but overpowered” character whose unique life experience gives him the ability to become the gel that heals and keeps everyone else together. Seeing how well the different characters’ individual problems are portrayed and dealt with.
2. Real Account
- Mangaka: Watanabe Shizumu (Art), Okushou (Story)
- Genres: Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Psychological
- Published: January 2014 –
- Volumes: TBC
Real Account is a popular social network used by millions of people around the country of Japan. In this society driven by online social acceptance, ripples begin to form when the online platform sucks its users into an alternate realm where they are forced to come to terms with their online dishonesty in a series of deadly games. Kashiwagi Ataru is drawn into the game and with the deaths of users resulting in the deaths of their followers, he finds himself in despair when everyone but his little sister abandons him. Now in this new, hostile environment, can Ataru find a way to beat the game and return to his normal life?
In a fashion that is reminiscent of titles like the .hack\\ franchise, Sword Art Online and Psyren, Real Account is a much more current take on the concept of technology leading to our main character’s involvement in an extremely dangerous situation. Real Account takes the relevance of the impact of social media on our lives, our relationships and our general outlook on everything. Naturally, the story focuses on themes of truth, self-image, self-esteem and friendship, jarring readers with the way in which betrayal happens all too easily.
1. Nozoki Ana (Peeping Hole)
- Mangaka: Honna Wakou
- Genres: Drama, Ecchi, Romance, School, Seinen
- Published: January 2009 – February 2013
- Volumes: 13
Kidou Tatsuhiko is a student at an art school living at the school dorms. One day he finds a hole in the wall and upon further inspection, he ends up looking into his neighbour’s room, catching her in the act of masturbating; however, she catches him peeking. When he goes over to tell her about the hole in the wall, she tries to shut him out but he dashes into her room before she can get the door shut. He slips and falls on top of her and she gets a picture of them in this compromising position. She then uses this image to blackmail him into doing some really questionable things…
Nozoki Ana finds itself on the top of this list for being more than what its synopsis makes it out to be. It finds itself at number 1 for being the kind of story that nobody expects it to be – a beautiful exploration into human relationships. Tatsuhiko and Emiru’s relationship and everything that transpires as a result of the hole in the wall creates one of the most beautiful and gripping development of the relationship between two characters that many agree is the best they have ever seen. Emiru as a character is an enigma for the longest time and unlike most romance titles, Nozoki Ana does not shy away from being both heartwarming and disturbing. The art is unique and other Honna Wakou works prove it, the character development is excellent and the kicker, the main reason why it is on this list is that it does not get much credit for being the story that it is.
While opinions surrounding art will almost always be completely subjective, there are certain aspects of the media we enjoy that general consensus will show that they are appreciated. However, just because the masses enjoy something does not necessarily mean that the attention is deserved and likewise, just because something is obscure and ignored, doesn’t mean it isn’t good at all. As people who love anime and manga it is our job to enjoy the media but also to be consumed by it and to try various different things and bring hidden gems to people’s attention. Should that happen, we are sure to have a lot more people willing to create the art that we love. Are there any manga that you think are underrated? Drop a comment below and tell us about them!