I’ve been reading manga since Pocket Mixx (aka Tokyopop) released volume 1 of Sailor Moon over here in the US. From Sailor Moon I moved on to Cardcaptor Sakura, and from there I put all my efforts into affording every CLAMP manga I could lay my hands on. Back then Tokyopop was the sole source of CLAMP over here and I loved them for it. It wasn’t until Viz reduced their prices and stopped flipping their manga that I bought anything but Tokyopop. However as much as I praised and respected Tokyopop, without realizing it I got to a point where they weren’t my #1 distributor source of manga anymore. Tokyopop has recently announced that it will be closing its doors here in the US and this post is a dedication to my top ten favorite Tokyopop series. Tokyopop and I have had our ups and downs, and our most recent down of some cancellations left me extremely grumpy. But recently they had been bringing over series that have really caught my eye again, and I’m sad to see them go when things felt like they were on their way up again. Mangacritic’s Top 10 Tokyopop post inspired mine.
#10 The Queen’s Knight (12 Volumes Released – 17 Total)
I bought this series on a whim because I liked the cover art of the first volume a lot, and I was not disappointed with my purchase. Yuna whisked me away to the world of Phantasma that is one of the most interesting parallel worlds that manhwa/manga has to offer. I really looked forward to pulling away more layers of this world to better understand its history and secrets. I admired Yuna as a female protagonist, she is determined to protect those she cares about and has a lot of guts and pride. Plus I’ll be honest I’m a bit enchanted by Rieno, he’s definitely easy on the eyes and is undisputably one of the most powerful beings on Phantasma. I really enjoy the complex and unsure relationship between him and Yuna. However I have to admit that when this series was indefinitely delayed I was INCREDIBLY disappointed and pissed off at Tokyopop. The announcement came right when I hit the cliffhanger at the end of volume 12. It also killed me that The Queen’s Knight was put on the same level as the Hannah Montana series when they were making cutbacks. I admit this letdown resulted in a bit of a fallout between myself and Tokyopop. I really hope that someday I can read the end of this story
#9 Fruits Basket (23 Volumes Released – 23 Total)
This is one of the first series that I experienced that blended comedy and tragedy well. I entered this series to get a zany story about people who changed into animals when hugged by members of the opposite sex, and ended up getting a whole lot more than I bargained for. I was forced to fully comprehend how such a seemingly humorous situation can destroy those that are affected by this curse, and ruin their chances at happiness. I was definitely brought to tears at least once by Fruits Basket. Almost all the characters have incredible traits with a deep and well portrayed personality. As for the protagonist Tohru Honda herself…I admit she’s a bit plain, but the series completely acknowledges this. Fruits Basket is filled with so many explosive characters that it seems that Tohru’s plain and simple personality serves as an anchor for them all to hold onto. I suppose this is a situation where I like a character not for who they are, but for how they change those around them. Another aspect of Fruits Basket that was a head above a lot of the available shoujo at the time was that initially it was hard to say which way the prospective love triangle for the heroine would go. Up until that point it was easy to guess from the first volume. But to be honest perhaps my inability to guess might have also stemmed from still being a bit of a shoujo manga newbie.
I should note that my high school self would beat my current self up with a Kyo Plush and my Shigure Bobblehead if she saw me putting Fruits Basket at ONLY #9 on a list that JUST calls out Tokyopop favorites. HOW INSULTING! Yes, Fruits Basket used to mean the world to me. But I have to admit as the manga series went on…I started to grow apart from it a bit. Lots of interesting plot points were being revealed, but I wasn’t having as much fun with it as I used to. I think what it all boils down to was that I liked the way the anime presented this story the best, and when I went on to continue reading the manga a lot of the humor that balanced out the tragedy was lost for me.
#8 V.B. Rose (11 Volumes Released – 14 Total)
I had read the summary about this series, something about a girl working in a bridal shop with two men…it didn’t strike me as interesting. I saw this series pop up a few times on the manga Bestsellers list though, and decided to give it a try. The always present theme of weddings that initially scared me off from this series became my favorite aspect. Seeing the characters working with all their might towards their goals of bringing joy to their customers was really great. Volume after volume we see these characters working hard in the bridal shop, and seeing them create such beautiful items is far more entertaining than it sounds. I also really like all the characters themselves, each one makes me laugh out loud and has interesting connections to the others. The protagonist Ageha herself is especially enjoyable, she’s flawed but she is able to recognize her faults and tries to overcome them. With only 3 volumes to go my stomach is in knots anticipating someone coming to my rescue and releasing the ending.
#7 Pet Shop of Horrors (10 Volumes Released – 10 Total)
A customer enters the shop, has a certain desire, the Count gives them a pet with careful instructions. When the instructions are ignored…that customer has a terribly unhappy ending. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I loved each tale of the Count and his customers, I was set up with an interesting personal story (the customer’s), and an EVEN more interesting creature that often has mythological roots that affects that customer’s situation. I’m the type that LOVES a series that can skillfully incorporate lots of smaller stories with a moral/lesson into it. Although I should note that this series isn’t all about punishing greedy customers, oftentimes good hearted customers will show up and receive a pet that protects their life. I’ll admit the art looks a bit dated but I feel that this is easily overlooked, the Count and the fantastic creatures are drawn with wonderful details.
#6 Planet Ladder (7 Volumes Released – 7 Total)
This was one of my first manga series and its still one I like to pull off the shelf and read every now and then. Kaguya is thought to be the “Girl of Ananai” and as a result she is given the task of choosing one of the nine worlds that will survive the oncoming apocalypse. Kaguya grew up as an adopted orphan on earth, which is the only world that seems to be blissfully unaware of the other worlds and the oncoming end. I found all the other worlds fascinating and enjoyed the politics that played out in trying to win over Kaguya. I also was amused that other worlds didn’t seem to think that there was much threat that Kaguya would choose the planet she grew up on, because earth is considered backwards and undeveloped place compared to the rest. But what truly won me was the strong bonds Kaguya formed with some of the other characters she encountered. I was particularly fond of Seeu and his awkward ways/personality, you could say he was the tipping point that made this series so dear to me.
#5 Great Teacher Onizuka (25 Volumes Released – 25 Total)
This is the hardest blurb to write…GTO is shocking, offensive, and downright unbelievable at times. But it’s a series a lot of heart that often had me laughing out loud, followed by being on the edge of my seat worried for Onizuka and his career as a teacher. The main character Onizuka treats everyone equally regardless, that’s an aspect of this series that I really respect despite some of the shocking images Onizuka creates when he is teaching someone a lesson. Basically he tries to help out everyone he can and when punishment needs to be handed down an individual’s age, gender, and status means nothing to him. He’s also absurdly open about his desires as a greedy/horny man, but despite how openly he talks about it he won’t take advantage of a situation where he might be able to satisfy his more primal desires. Whereas it seems the rest of the adult male faculty lock up all of their absurd desires/fetishes and put on airs about being strict and sensible…but will take advantage of situations whenever possible. Not only is Onizuka himself amazing, but the way he (believably) inspires all the suffering characters around him makes him absolutely epic.
#4 Paradise Kiss (5 Volumes Released – 5 Total)
The relationships in this series grabbed my heart and kept a tight grip throughout, I completely felt the seriousness of the feelings these high school students felt for one another. I want so badly for everyone to be happy and be with the ones they love most, but each character is forced to face decisions that will make them decide between the things they hold dear. This series was a shocking experience for someone who had only read magical girl series where it seems almost everyone gets a “happily ever after” ending by the closure. Also the art style and outfit designs were out of this world beautiful and completely different than everything else out there. It took me many years to realize that this series was a genre called josei (and not shoujo).
#3 Aria (6 Volumes Released – 12 Total)
I love the beauty of the world, and the beauty (inside and out) of all the characters. The theme of this series seems to be to enjoy everything, and it’s a wonderfully peaceful and inspirational message. The characters work hard but still take the time to enjoy the world around them, this manga captures them in those moments of enjoyment. As much as I love manga I really have no desire to be a part of their worlds, the people in manga may have great experiences but they face terribly difficult trials for my amusement. This was the first series I’ve ever read where I felt that I wanted to visit the world. I definitely want more volumes released in the US, but I admit that this is a series where I found the rest of it on fan scans. However, I have every intention of purchasing more of Aria if it becomes available.
#2 Cardcaptor Sakura (12 Volumes Released – 12 Total)
Cardcaptor Sakura is the ultimate magical girl series for me, not only did I LOVE her powers the most but it was always so innovative with so many beautiful costumes. I essentially switched my obsession from Sailor Moon to Cardcaptor Sakura the moment I realized Sakura existed. The characters have such whole hearted and wonderful personalities and their relationships with one another are sweet and inspiring. This series makes me feel so happy. Plus this series was probably the first to push some surprising boundaries with me (keep in mind I was a kid) and made me realize to not be so closed minded about the differences between those in love. It took socially taboo relationships and showed me how beautiful they can be.
Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my all time favorite manga series but I hesitated to put it on the Tokyopop list. Dark Horse is currently releasing this series in omnibus form and is doing a stellar job, besides the fact that these volumes are a bit heavy on my wrist they’re completely superior to Tokyopop’s format. So just taking this into consideration I probably shouldn’t have Cardcaptor Sakura on this list for Tokyopop. But at the end of the day Tokyopop released Cardcaptor Sakura at a time in my life where I think I could appreciate this series the most. These days my tastes are a bit more mature, and reading Cardcaptor Sakura today for the first time might not have had as much of an impact on me. This series changed everything for me and was a major gateway towards my development in this hobby. It’s series like this that makes the difference between someone whose into manga for a few years or 15 years. I’m constantly trying to seek out series that have this much of an inspirational impact on me.
#1 The Kindaichi Case Files (17 Volumes Released – 58 Total)
This series has my ALL TIME favorite murder mystery stories, nothing gets my horror excitement up like a situation where you open on a set of people and try and guess the murderer as everyone dwindles down. When the tricks of the murder were revealed I was usually impressed and I can’t once recall a time where I thought “well that seems a bit far fetched”, each mystery had me completely absorbed. This series has everything that I was yearning for in a horror, humor, intelligent killers, emotional background stories, and revenge! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoy well done tales of vengeance. By the end of each story I was half cheering on for the killer who had been so terribly wronged by their victims in the past. When Kindaichi isn’t waist deep in murder victims he’s a cheerful, goofy, slacker. He also loves the sight of beautiful girls (much like any other high school boy). Although it’s apparent he has more special feelings for his childhood friend Miyuki over all the rest. I like Kindaichi the most because the more impressive the mystery is, the more I like him when he reveals the truth. Although truthfully…the body count is pretty high by the time they figure out the culprit but that’s how these stories (in general) usually go. This is my #1 favorite series and I’d give up a lot to get more, but right now my hopes aren’t too high on getting more translated anytime soon.
The Secret Notes of Lady Kanako (2 Volumes Released – ONGOING)
Kanako is a middle school student that prides herself on being an observer of her classmates and their drama. She reminds me of someone who likes to read shoujo but doesn’t like drama in their actual life, so she reminds me of myself in that sense. This series plays through those same old shoujo stories you’ve seen hundreds of times before, except gives them a refreshing new point of view. Kanaoko usually ends up interfering and directing the plot down a different route. Kanoko herself is especially amusing as she easily avoids and insults the typical shoujo traps laid down by classmates that other heroines always seem to fall for far too easily. Her gruff and sarcastic personality has surely won my heart. I have high hopes this series will be rescued.
Alice in The Country of Hearts (5 Volumes Released – ONGOING)
A manga based on an Otome video game? Not a chance in hell this is going to be good, it’ll probably be a cheap excuse that allows the reader to pretend a group of hot men like her…huh that volume is on the Bestsellers list? This volume too? Wow some of the people on my forums really seem to like this series…maybe I’ll give it a try. And the end result is that I can’t believe how much I like this series and its heroine. I judged this series by its original material roots and was proven wrong. To be honest I haven’t been able to stomach series that took a harem approach to so many male characters throwing themselves at the protagonist in a long time. Alice is a protagonist I like a lot, in this series with so many crazy situations where she could also act out however she wants, she actually often says things that make me realize how well grounded and thoughtful she actually is. I’m also unsure which romantic path Alice will follow in this series but I definitely have someone I’m rooting for, I hope this series is rescued so I can see it through to the end. To be honest I’d REALLY love to play the original game too and would love the opportunity to buy it officially/translated.
Still to Read
Rozen Maiden, Dragon Head, Immortal Rain, Hanako and the Allegory of Terror, Kamen Tantei, Gatcha Gacha, Rave Master, Priest, and DeadMan Wonderland
These are series where I own everything that’s been released, but haven’t gotten around to reading yet.