The Best of Japanese Manga for Tween Visual Readers

Your kiddos seem to always have their nose in a book, but to your dismay it always seems to be the comic variety. Don’t be so quick to judge! There are plenty of great comic books out there with intriguing plot lines, fantastic characters, and honest-to-goodness storytelling.

Still, if you’re looking to broaden their horizons so to speak, stick with the format they like best. Manga, a Japanese style of comic book/graphic novel, has captured the imagination of America for decades – and there hundreds of series to choose from! Not only will manga keep them reading, it will give them a taste of Japanese pop culture, and let them know that kids are kids – no matter where in the world. Check out these best manga series and get reading...left to right, please!



By Masashi Kishimoto

No list of manga would be complete without mention of Naruto. This quintessential martial arts series journals the adventures of Naruto, an adolescent determined to become the Hokage (most powerful ninja) of his village. He starts life under a black cloud: nine-tails, a vicious fox, has been terrorizing his village until his father captures the fox’s spirit and hides it within his infant son – losing his life in the attempt. Naruto is at first shunned and does not know why until he learns the truth as a young teenager. He becomes a ninja and after many adventures (and misadventures!), then saves his village from those who are trying to capture the tailed animals to gain their power. But is that enough to become the seventh Hokage?


By Kentaro Miura

Enter the dark, medieval-style world of Midland, populated by knights, lords, and soldiers-of-fortune and follow the adventures of Guts, who is taken in by a group of mercenaries known as the Band of the Hawk, led by the fearless Griffith.

At first, it looks as though Guts has found a home. Things begin to go wrong, however, when Griffith, in a bid for power, seduces Princess Charlotte and is thrown in jail and tortured. When he gets out, his body has been nearly destroyed and he is a cripple. However, still power-hungry, he makes a pact with the God Hand demons and sacrifices his band of men to them. Guts and his girlfriend, Casca, escape, and Guts begins to take revenge on the God Hand apostles. Griffith, however, is down but not out: he eventually is restored to his body, revives the Band of the Hawk and defends the kingdom from the invading Kushan army.

The art in this series is fantastic, alternating between the very delicate and the very intense. However, it is recommended only for teens due to its violent content.

Detective Conan

By Goushou Aoyama

This manga centers on Jimmy Kudo, a brilliant teen detective who helps police in fighting crime. While he’s working on a case against the Black Organization, a secret and sinister criminal group, the organization tries to kill him with a poison they’ve just invented. However, a rare side effect occurs and rather than being killed, Kudo is turned back into a child! Kudo calls himself by a new name, Conan Edogama, and continues his crime-fighting work, undeterred.

The plot thickens when a young girl, Ai Haibana, joins Conan’s school: She, too, is operating under an assumed name. Her real identity is Shiho Miyana and she was once a member of the Black Organization before the death of her sister led her to give it up. What’s more – it is Shiho herself who invented the poison.

The charming illustrations and clever plots make this one of the best mystery mangas and one which your kids are sure to enjoy.


Slam Dunk

By Takehiko Inoue

This is the story of Hanamichi Sakuraji, a delinquent high schooler who finds his place when he joins his school’s basketball team and discovers his unexpected talents on the court. He’s drawn to the game by Haruko – his love interest. In fact, he actually joins the team to impress her. He soon finds out, however, that his love of basketball rivals his affection for Haruko. The storyline receives its tension from Hanamhichi’s fierce rivalry with Kaede – a fellow basketball player who is also interested in Haruko – and by the guys’ efforts to take their team to the national level.

This manga series has been so popular it has actually increased attendance at basketball games throughout Japan and influenced middle school and high school sports programs throughout the country!


Boys Over Flowers

By Yoko Kamio

This romantic (and comedic!) manga follows the tale of Makino Tsukushi, a girl from a poor, but hard-working, family who winds up in one of Japan’s most elite private schools. At first, she feels completely out of place with the wealthy (and spoiled) kids around her. And then she crosses paths with the F4, the four richest boys in the school who pretty much run the school itself.

The leader of the F4 is Tsukasa Domyougi, and though he’s angry with Makino when they first butt heads, he finds himself quickly attracted to her – mostly because she is the only girl in school who does not flirt and fawn over him! To begin with, Makino finds herself attracted to Tsukasa’s best friend, the quiet violinist Rui, but as Tsukasa begins to grow up, she starts to return his feelings. There are still many obstacles in the way of their romance, including Tsukasa’s scheming mother. Will the two ever seal the deal?

Romantic and delightful, this manga series is sure to appeal to the females in your family.

From Me to You

By Karuho Shiina

A sinister-looking (but very sweet) school-girl named Sawako is teased by her classmates and nicknamed Sadako, after the girl in The Ring. But after she strikes up a friendship with Kazehaya, her popularity soars and she blossoms, opening herself up to people and making a lot of new friends. Slowly, a romance springs up between her and Kazehaya, though there are many obstacles to overcome for them to be together: Sawako is so modest she doesn’t believe that Kazehaya could have any romantic feelings for her (though it’s obvious that he falls in love shortly after they first meet). Will she ever find out that he only has eyes for her?

Like Boys Preferred over Flowers, this manga is incredibly sweet and romantic (without being suggestive) and is perfect for tween and teen girls.

Will you give manga a go? Where will you start?

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