A few weeks ago, I talked about some ways to get manga for under five bucks a volume; now I'm going to push the price down a bit and take a look at some really good manga you can get for a dollar or less. Of course, your final cost is higher, because Amazon tacks on a $3.99 shipping charge, and used books are seldom eligible for shipping discounts, but books priced this low should be easy to find in most of the channels I mentioned last time—your library, Paperback Swap, used book sales, Freecycle. Check all those before slapping down your four bucks, and if you're the gambling kind, see if you can get a complete set on eBay—you could save quite a bit on shipping that way.
Also, I'm cheating a bit by averaging the cost of the whole series. There's a reason for this: As older manga go out of print, some volumes become hard to find, and so you end up with a series where a couple of volumes are going for $20 or more on Amazon. So I'm sticking to completed series where the average cost is a dollar or less a volume.
Crossroad: Crossroad is a great manga about a ready-made family that unravels and then comes together again. Kajitsu is the responsible teenage girl who is trying to keep the family together once their flighty mother disappears and deal with her conflicted feelings about her long-lost stepbrother Natsu, who has returned to the family after a long separation. When they were children, Natsu was fat and friendly, the one who always made Kajitsu laugh; as a teenager, he is slim, bespectacled, and strangely aloof. It's a stylish soap opera with bits of haiku, moments of introspection, and some good plot twists. Worth every penny. (7 volumes, reviewed by Julie Rosato at Mania.com)
Murder Princess: If ass-kicking comedy-action manga is more your style, Murder Princess delivers the goods in two tightly packed volumes featuring a timid princess who switches bodies with a fearless warrior, an evil pharmaceutical manufacturer, and little-girl androids who spew grenades and killer bees. It's good, clean, violent but not gory fun. (2 volumes, reviewed by me at MangaBlog)
Train + Train: Another good-natured action manga with plenty of humor, Train + Train is set in a high school that is entirely contained on a train. The plot is manga 101: A tough, rebellious girl is trying to escape from her rich family's goons, and she drags a wimpy guy along to help her. They end up handcuffed together on the train-school for high achievers, with a crazed nun thrown in just for kicks. (6 volumes; reviewed by me at MangaBlog)
Hikkatsu: There's often some environmental menace in books about the future, and in this case, it's rogue electromagnetic fields that turn household appliances into ticking time bombs. Lovable loser Shota is determined to remedy this by perfecting a Repair Blow that will bring rogue appliances back into line. Cheering him from the sidelines is Momoko, a girl who was raised by pigeons and has taken a fancy to him. This is a slapstick comedy by Yu Yagami, whose other books include Those Who Hunt Elves and Dokkoida. (3 volumes; reviewed by Theron Martin at Anime News Network)
Love Roma: Love Roma is a high-school romance that skips the more annoying conventions of manga romances: There is no blackmail or love-hate relationship, the girl doesn't crash into the boy, the boy doesn't rescue the girl from a gang rape. It's just a cute, sometimes awkward love story about a boy and a girl building a relationship despite their foibles. The art is closer to Scott Pilgrim than standard shoujo manga, and in fact this story ran in a men's magazine, but the appeal is universal. (5 volumes, reviewed by Bad Jew at Sleep Is For the Weak)