Best Manga of 2012

So at the close of 2012, Chris, the editor over at the Fandom Post, asked his contributors to write a list of our top five for the year. That was a little challenging for me because I’m pretty bad about remembering exactly what I’ve read and when I’ve reviewed it. But after slogging through my manga pile and my 2012  reviews, these are the gems I pulled out.

1). Bakuman: Viz’s translation of this series is up to its 17th volume, and I still find myself eagerly anticipating each new release. A manga about mangaka might not sound too interesting, but the team of Ohba and Obata has turned Bakuman into a battle manga where the magazine Jump is the battleground their characters use to prove themselves. Although some of the recent challenges for Team Ashirogi have veered into the realm of unrealistic, the plot remains engaging and the main characters relatable even as they grow beyond their teenage years.

2) Bride’s Story: I love so much about this title – its historical setting, Mori-sensei’s exquisite artwork, its vibrant characters. It is a slice of life tale, meaning the story often slows to showcase different aspects of Amir’s culture, such as food and needlework, but a slower pace doesn’t mean a boring story. The bonds Amir forges in her new home draw readers in, and conflict between different tribes and European forces keep the tension up. The main reason Bride’s Story didn’t take first place is the age gap between Amir and Karluk. I don’t have a problem with their marriage per se; arranged marriages are the norm for many cultures. However, Mori-sensei draws Amir as a mature woman while Karluk looks like a little kid so there is a squick factor when Amir develops romantic feelings for him.

3) Spice and Wolf: Like many fantasy stories, Spice and Wolf has a medieval style setting with complex geopolitical elements, but what sets this manga apart is its economics bent. Knights, priests, and kings do exist in this world, but the main characters are a young merchant and his wisewolf companion, who is thoroughly knowledgeable about humans and their business dealings. The pair get into one exciting scrape after another in the pursuit of profit, and as you follow their adventures, you might just pick up some economics principles along the way.

4)  Bamboo Blade: A sports manga about a girls kendo team, this title is both uplifting and funny. Kendo may not be a mainstream American sport, but the quirky cast of Bamboo Blade presents it in a way even newbies can enjoy. Although it does go a bit overboard with its “alternative manga rendition” of events, you can’t help but get swept up in the characters’ enthusiasm as they strive to improve themselves.

5) 07 Ghost: A supernatural action title, 07 Ghost tells the tale of an underdog hero caught in an epic battle between good and evil. It’s definitely shonen fare, but female readers will appreciate the fine looking bishounen that make up the cast.  Go!Comi originally licensed the title but only released the first few volumes before they stopped publishing in October 2009. However, Viz Media has recently picked up the series so hopefully all the adventures of Teito and his friends will finally get translated to English!

First published at the Fandom Post.

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