There’s always an element of uncertainty when you start a new manga—will it be exciting, disappointing, or just kind of average? Over the course of 2022, we’ve read and reviewed a ton of new manga from freshly-debuted mangaka and established Mangaka alike!
Now that the year is almost over, we’ve had the time to sit back and think about the best manga we’ve read over these past twelve months—and provide you with 5 of the manga that surprised us most this year! From rom-coms that enchanted us, to mind-bending mysteries, we’ve put together a list of manga that were unexpectedly amazing.
Join us today on Honey’s Anime as we discuss the Top 5 Most Surprising Manga of 2022!
5. Sakurai-san wa Kidzuite Hoshii (Sakurai-san Wants to be Noticed)
- Mangaka: Akinosora
- Genres: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 2+
- Published: July 2022—present
Starting our list today is a gorgeously-illustrated ecchi manga that we described as “flirty rom-com fun”!
From Akinosora, an artist well-known for their adults-only doujinshi work, comes the sugary-sweet Sakurai-san wa Kidzuite Hoshii (Sakurai-san Wants to be Noticed)—a surprisingly entertaining romance that skips the usual drama to focus on all the best heart-squeezing genre tropes.
High-schoolers Makoto and Sakurai have a flirtatious relationship that constantly borders on confession, but Makoto is too afraid to believe the beautiful Sakurai would like him—and Sakurai is terrified her feelings might be rejected. Their blossoming relationship is spurred on by the classic rom-com tropes we love—think beach-and-bikini reveals and sharing an umbrella in the rain.
The gorgeous artwork plays up Sakurai’s sexual charm a lot, while Makoto’s exaggerated reactions generate a lot of awkward blushes. If you’re a rom-com fan who wants all the squishy, flirtatious parts of a romance without the drama, then we found Sakurai-san Wants to be Noticed to be a surprising hit!
4. Karaoke Iko (Let’s Go Karaoke)
- Mangaka: Wayama Yama
- Genres: Comedy, School Life, Seinen, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 1
- Published: April 2022
We’re going to be honest—this reviewer isn’t exactly a “high-brow” arts sort of person. Ecchi manga, plot-punching shounen, maybe some heart-tugging yuri romance—that’s the normal bread-and-butter on the shelves. Not only did Karaoke Iko (Let’s Go Karaoke) surprise us on a literary and artistic level, but it surprised us with a superb narrative that still lingers in our minds almost eight months later.
A coming-of-age story at its heart, Let’s Go Karaoke follows Satomi Oka—a middle school choirboy who becomes the reluctant vocal coach to Kyouji Narita, a yakuza member attempting to improve his singing. Intertwined with this plot is an Achillean romance bubbling beneath the surface, and above all else, the resounding emotional strides each character makes left a profound impact on us as reviewers.
Let’s Go Karaoke is the type of manga that, as a reviewer, makes us step back and reexamine the multitude of possibilities in this fantastic visual medium. We’re often buried deep in mass-published genres, but this standalone slice-of-life felt like a reawakening to the type of stories that only manga can provide.
Overall, Let’s Go Karaoke taught us a surprising lesson. Sometimes it’s okay to step away from familiar, comfortable genres, and take the plunge into new territory—you might just discover something completely unexpected!
3. Loop 7-kaime no Akuyaku Reijou wa, Moto Tekikoku de Juukimama na Hanayome Seikatsu o Mankitsu Suru (7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy!) [Manga]
- Mangaka: Amekawa Touko (Story), Kino Hinoki (Art)
- Genres: Shoujo, Romance, Fantasy
- Volumes: 1+
- Published: September 2022—present
We’ve been loving the additions to the shoujo fantasy genre in 2022, with some real standout series—but as with any popular genre, tropes and repetitive plotlines can start dampening our enthusiasm for new series.
7th Time Loop (our preferred shorthand for 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy!) surprised us in every way, delivering a must-read shoujo fantasy that punched straight through shoujo-reincarnation tropes to deliver an excellent fantasy.
After having died six previous times, our heroine, Rishe Irmgard Weitzner, is once again about to be dumped by the Crown Prince—and for the seventh time, she faces the impending doom of her twentieth birthday, where death awaits no matter which action she takes. Each time she’s “looped,” she’s rebuilt her identity and gained new skills—from a traveling merchant, to a doctor, and even a swordsman!
Now on her seventh loop, Rishe decides she’s done with all that stressing and worrying—she’s set herself up as a hostage princess with the devilish Arnold Hein, heir apparent to the enemy nation. Of course, she’s a hostage in name only—she’s quite pleased to live a comfortable life lazing around…but six loops’ worth of information means she can’t help but interfere when help is needed, and her actions will soon draw unwanted attention…
7th Time Loop surprised us with an excellent narrative and pacing, and delivered a breath of fresh air to a shoujo fantasy genre saturated by otome games and villainess reincarnations. If you’re looking for something new and exciting, we highly recommend 7th Time Loop, or the light novels this manga adaptation is based upon!
2. Coffee Moon
- Mangaka: Bota Mochito
- Genres: Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Seinen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 1+
- Published: September 2022
Creepy atmosphere, time-traveling girls, and a bold art style combine to make Coffee Moon one of our most surprising reads of 2022. Certainly the blurb for this mystery drama leaves the reader (deliberately) in the dark, but we weren’t expecting anything like the zany plot and great characters Coffee Moon was hiding from us!
Coming across like the love child of Tim Burton and Magica Quartet, Bota Mochito’s Coffee Moon stars Pieta, a teenage girl repeating her sixteenth birthday for the 1,033rd time. Content to live out her “lucky day” ad nauseam, her endless loop begins unraveling when she accidentally pulls her best friend into the loop along with her. Together, they discover a strange girl called Chiaro—daughter of the city’s mayor, and target of assassins who despise her father’s policies.
On this infinitely repeating day, Pieta makes the decision to befriend the lonely and unapproachable Chiaro, and in doing so, might finally understand the significance behind this eternal sixteenth birthday party. But lurking in the rain-soaked streets is “another” Pieta, one who chastises “our” Pieta for willingly allowing this loop to run for so long—and Chiaro herself seems to know more than she’s letting on!
Coffee Moon plays heavily with “chiaroscuro”—an artistic style that creates layered depth through the use of strong shadows, playing heavily into the retro-futuristic vibe of this unknown city. Every page holds a brand-new surprise, which earned Coffee Moon a solid recommendation from us!
1. Mato Seihei no Slave (Chained Soldier)
- Mangaka: Takahiro (Writer), Takemura, Youhei (Artist)
- Genres: Action, Romance, Ecchi, Shounen
- Volumes: 2+
- Published: August 2022—present
Chained Soldier’s premise certainly turned heads when it was announced, but the first volume greatly surprised us with its near-perfect execution of a gender-flipped world where women stave off demons invading our world.
From Agame ga Kill’s author, Takahiro, comes another extremely ecchi action series aimed at fans of To-Love-Ru, with a fluid mix of high-octane combat and harem romance. In a parallel universe called “Mato,” where demons threaten our world, women with supernatural gifts serve in the Demon Defense Force—while men take care of household chores and menial jobs back in modern-day Tokyo.
Our protagonist, Yuuki, dreams of fighting demons, but his hopes are dashed by virtue of being a man—that is, until he accidentally ends up in Mato, and becomes the loosely-enslaved soldier of Kyouka, captain of a demon-slaying brigade. Kyouka’s slavery power incurs a penalty after usage—she must indulge Yuuki’s perverse “inner desire,” which usually involves some rather lewd kisses or other uses of her body.
The strange dynamic of slavery and reward reverberates back against the gendered societal divide; Yuuki is nothing but a caretaker for the girls while he’s not acting as Kyouka’s enslaved soldier, but Kyouka’s kickback robs her of the very power the gender divide has created.
This nuanced back-and-forth is executed extremely well, and thus earns Chained Soldier the top spot for our Most Surprising Manga of 2022!
On reflection, we read a lot of manga in 2022—if we started counting all the volumes of existing franchises…you know, let’s not! Financial ignorance is bliss, at least when it comes to being a manga and light novel reader!
These are just five of the manga that truly surprised us in 2022—from debuts that flipped the script to artistic manga that gently shook us out of a genre haze. We’re so glad to have read and reviewed these manga this year, and we’re even more excited for the surprises awaiting us in 2023!
Have you read any of the manga we mentioned today? If you haven’t, then you’re missing out—grab these titles before your 2023 backlog starts building up! Let’s talk in the comments below, and as always, thank you for reading!