There’s the good, the great, and then there’s the BEST. Welcome to MTV Geek’s Best of 2012 — what we thought were the cream of the crop this year in the world of GEEK!
10. ALICE IN THE COUNTRY OF HEARTS by Quinrose and Soumei Hoshino – This quirky manga goes far beyond its roots in a dating-sim game. Quinrose takes the world of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” as a starting point and fills it with engaging characters, some guileless, some menacing. This was hugely popular when Tokyopop published it a few years back, and Yen Press has picked it up in beautifully designed omnibus volumes that really do the story justice.
9. DURARARA!! by Ryohgo Narita, Suzuhito Yasuda, and Akiyo Satorigi – This is an odd little story of strange doings in Ikebukuro, filled with quirky characters and surprising plot twists. The art is competent but not mind-boggling, but that’s actually OK because it doesn’t get in the way of the complicated story. A dark but fun read.
8. YOUNG MISS HOLMES by Kaoru Shintani – This series about Sherlock Holmes’s clever niece could have gone into cuteness overload, but Kaoru Shintani keeps it cool with crisp, detailed art and snappy writing. The plots are all taken directly from Sherlock Holmes stories, but Shintani throws in a lot of fun and imaginative twists, including providing the heroine with two badass maids who can get her out of any situation.
7. JIU JIU by Touya Tobina – This is shoujo manga at its shoujo-est, with an angsty heroine who goes to high school by day and fights demons the rest of the time, and her companions, two wolves (one black, one white) who can change into hot guys at will. As I pointed out in my review of the first volume, the dense, layered storytelling may make the story hard for beginning manga readers to follow, but shoujo fans will find a lot to like here.
6. A DEVIL AND HER LOVE SONG by Miyoshi Tomori – Tart-tongued Maria Kawai is the antidote to all those spineless shoujo heroines who make you want to tear your hair out. Maria calls things as she sees them, without any sort of internal censor, and her assessment of things is usually dead on. This is not the recipe to high school popularity, though, and the fun of this book is watching Maria navigate both bullying and romance while keeping things strictly on her terms.
5. PARADISE KISS by Ai Yazawa – It’s about fashion, it’s about romance, but mainly, Paradise Kiss is about a girl who has been following the safe, parent- and teacher-approved path in life until she meets a group of free-spirited fashion students and realizes there is more than one way to live. Tokyopop published this series years ago as a five-volume set, but Vertical is doing it in three larger-sized volumes with a new translation, so it feels fresh.
4. THERMAE ROMAE by Marie Yamazaki – Time travel takes a classical twist in this story of a designer of public baths from Ancient Rome who somehow gets sucked into present-day Japan and marvels at the many technological improvements in bathing that modern people enjoy—improvements that he then tries to replicate when he returns to the distant past. Creator Marie Yamazaki uses a unique style reminiscent of old engravings, and she tosses past and present together in interesting and often hilarious ways.
3. 5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND by Makoto Shinkai and Yukiko Seike – This one-volume manga is based on the anime by Makoto Shinkai, but it is far more than a simple adaptation. Shinkai’s story of love and longing is told at a leisurely pace, and artist Yukiko Seike creates small but detailed panels that really pull the reader into the spaces of the story. Wistful and beautiful, this is both a romance manga and a manga for romantics.
2. NONNONBA by Shigeru Mizuki – Shigero Mizuki drew on his own childhood experiences to create a this series of interconnected stories about a young boy growing up in a seaside town with all the normal accoutrements of childhood—fights with the other boys, squabbling parents, sibling rivalry—and something more: A grandmother who views the world as filled with the Japanese spirits known as yokai. Mizuki evokes the bygone world of his childhood not just in its physical aspects but also as a place where spirits were part of daily life.
1. SAKURAN by Moyoco Anno – Moyoco Anno’s “Sakuran” is the tale of an Edo-era prostitute who becomes the top girl in her house through sheer strength of personality—and then founders when she becomes infatuated with a client. It’s a harsh story beautifully told, filled with period detail and spiky, interesting characters.