December is a month of endings, and this month sees the end of two long-running manga series, Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Jack. That got us to thinking about what other series reached their final volume this year, and the list was surprisingly long. Here's a look at some of the series we won't be scanning the bookshelves for in 2012.
Yes, you read that right: Next week Viz will release vol. 27 of Fullmetal Alchemist, and the saga of the Elric brothers will come to an end. There's a climactic final battle, of course, and there will be sacrifices—maybe even the ultimate sacrifice. Will Edward and Alphonse get their bodies back? After 27 volumes, I certainly hope so, but you'll have to wait until next week to find out for sure.
2011 began with the end of InuYasha, Rumiko Takahashi's episodic tale of a modern high school girl, Kagome, who is pulled into a mythic past and paired up with a dog-eared half-demon, InuYasha, in one of the great love-hate relationships of manga. The two divided their time between squabbling and setting aside their differences to pursue the shards of the magical Shikon Jewel for 56 volumes, until one final showdown brings the end of the quest for the jewel.
Who would have guessed that a board game could be so exciting? Writer Yumi Hotta and artist Takeshi Obata (also a partner on Death Note and Bakuman) took an activity that is usually as exciting as... well... as watching people play chess and somehow made it into an action-packed battle manga. The story starts with slacker Hikaru being haunted by an ancient Go master and winds up with—what else—the suspense-filled final tournament. At 23 volumes, Hikaru no Go gets a lot of mileage out of one board game, and it never stops being entertaining.
Hero Tales is a short series, just five volumes long, that was set in ancient times and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa, the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist. It's your basic hero-finds-his-power story, with lots of good fight scenes, and Arakawa's clean-lined, crisply detailed style, which suits the material well. It's solid shonen manga with some nice flourishes, and definitely worth hunting down.
I mentioned Black Jack in yesterday's post, and I don't want to repeat myself except to say that it's a great series that could go on forever as far as I'm concerned, and that Vertical's final volume, volume 17, is worth the price just for its list of every Black Jack story in chronological order.
One of the great underrated manga (actually, it's Korean so technically it's manhwa) of the past two years, Time and Again is a lovely ghost story about two wandering exorcists who travel the country finding bad spirits to expel. It's basically a series of short stories, which means you can pick up any volume and enjoy it without reading the ones that went before, and at six volumes, it's short enough that you can read the whole thing without breaking a sweat.
Laon was a strange manga about a nine-tailed fox spirit who loses his tails in a bet, somehow ends up on earth as a little boy and teams up with a tabloid journalist to get them back. It's funny in an outrageous kind of way, but some of the humor is a bit icky. At just six volumes, though, it won't break the bank—or your bookshelf.
This one is a bit of a cheat: Gin Tama is still running in Japan, with over 40 volumes so far, but Viz wound up its licensed run with volume 23, confirming that they would not publish any new volumes but not saying why. It's not hard to guess—although Gin Tama had a coterie of hard-core fans, its combination of broad comedy and shonen action proved to be a an acquired taste for North American readers.