My Year in Japanese Language Manga: 2015

I read a lot of Japanese language manga last year, so this is going to be a rambling post. (I apologize now for the numerous typos that slipped past my proofreading.)

Here are the manga magazines I purchased regularly in 2015:

Lala, Lala DX, Ane Lala, The Hana to Yume, Cheese!, Cheese! Extra Edition, Betsucomi, Deluxe Betsucomi, Betsuma, The Margaret, Wings, The Dessert, Betsufure, Gekkan Princess, Petite Princess, and Petite Extra Edition.

Here are the manga magazines I purchased on an issue-by-issue basis in 2015:

Hana to Yume, Aria, Betsuhana, Margaret, Mystery Bonita, Princess Gold, Hatsu Kiss, Ribon Extra Edition, Dessert, and Petite.

My favorite magazines from 2015 are:

  • Cheese! — Had a nice mix of lite smut, psychological stories, comedy, and relatable sugary-sweet romances. Most of the series I enjoyed only ran one volume (3 chapters), which lead to a variety of fresh stories to keep me buying the magazine. This magazine was my guilty pleasure escape. I was disappointed toward the middle of the year when my favorite “WTF” light-smut mangaka, Hina Sakurada, got swamped with a series telling yet another retelling of “The Tale of Genji”.
  • Cheese! Extra Edition — Like Cheese! but mostly oneshots. Wonderful!
  • Betsucomi — Like Cheese! last year’s Betsucomi had a lot of one-volume (3-chapter) short stories, which led to a variety of fresh stories to keep me buying the magazine. Betsucomi had a good run of excellent romantic oneshots. Even though they were all high school stories, variety was provided with strong characters and fantasy elements. Also, the longer running series like “A Hedgehog in Love” and “Hatsu Haru” remained engaging.
  • Betsufure — This magazine was great this year because of the number of excellent new series that began in 2015. Any month in 2015 would have been a good entry point for new readers. The new stories featured strong and sometime quirky characters, dealt with real love anxiety, and had rom-com elements that felt more universal and less specifically Japanese. Nearly all the new series felt like they’d be good US licenses. I think 2015 betsufure deserves a separate post, so I will write a post in a few days about what went right with Betsufure.

Magazines that disappointed me in 2015:

  • Lala — This year’s Lala had lots of stale series (“Akagami no Shirayukihime”, “Gakuen Kindergarten”, “Ookami Heika no Hanayome”,” Usokano”, “Last Game”, “Natsume Yuujinchou”), with many that needed to end so we could have gotten some new series. There was the continuation of lackluster follow-up series from hit mangaka (“Yuki wa Jigoku  ni Ochiru no ka?”, “Shuriken to Pleats,” and “Urakata”). There wasn’t a good entry for point for new readers because of the lack of new series, and  most of the oneshots were forgettable. I went from regularly buying Lala to buying issue by issue based on new series (which there were few of) and oneshots. The last issue of 2015 did not leave me with much hope of improvement because only one fantasy series debuted and its male MC is shota, so it gets creepy when it gets to the romance in the story.
  • Hana to Yume — Hana to Yume similarly has too many long-running series (“Skip Beat”, “Kamisama Hajimemashita”, “Oresama Teacher”, “Akatsuki no Yona”, and “Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii”) that needed to end so we could get new fresh stories. There was only one oneshot that caught my eye and it was a fantasy story. Earlier in the year, the new series that were introduced were slice-of-life and school-life stories that didn’t interest. I ended up buying series (“Namaikizakari” and “Takane to Hana”  in tankoubon from Hana to Yume, rather than dealing with the avalanche of magazines for only two series. Unlike Lala, I have some hope for Hana to Yume in 2016 because of the new Fantasy series “Prince of Sacrifice and King of the Beasts” and “Seishun Away”.

I didn’t buy much of or read Betsuhana last year. I only bought issues for the oneshots and the series debut of “Pochamani” which was moved from Hana to Yume.

Aria went too far to the Asuka magazine side of shoujo for me. There was lots of “K” content and series that seemed modeled after otome games. I ended up buying the tankoubon of series I liked and bought issue for select series debuts and oneshots.


I liked a lot of series that debuted in 2015. I couldn’t come up with a reasonable top 10 list, so I’ll list my favorites by Publisher instead. (Sorry, but I can never remember names, so bear with me.)

Kodansha

  • “Gozen 0-ji Kisushini Kite yo” (Come to Kiss at Midnight) by Rin Mikimoto — A high school girl struggles to manage expectations as she is being courted by an ass-loving A-list actor. This series has lots of heart and terrific ass gags.
  • “Ore ga Mahou wo Kaketeyuru” (I’m going to Cast a Spell) by Ishiko — A baby-faced high school girl, who is often mistaken for an elementary student, is crushing hard on the school’s volleyball ace. The volleyball ace’s best friend, who is training to be a beautician, helps boosts the girl’s confidence by giving her a makeover and prettying her up every time before she meets with the volleyball ace. However, over time, the beautician trainee succombs to the girl’s natural charm. This is a feel good story from start to finish with a love triangle that features two wonderful guys.
  • “Kudrak no Bansan” (Feast of the Kudrak) — A vampire girl who must take a mate on her sixteenth birthday takes an interest in a tough-guy heart-of-gold boxer that everyone in the school is afraid of. An overprotective bishounen big brother is thrown in too. This series has wonderful characters, comedy, heart, and a good amount of action and gore. Is not for timid shoujo readers.
  • “Suki ni Naranai yo, Senpai” (I’ll Never Fall in Love with You) — A first year high school student finds out the guy she met who was representing the art club at last year’s cultural festival is a womanizer. I could watch skeevy senpai mess with this girl’s mind FOREVER. At the same time, I appreciate a shoujo in which the female MC rejects senpai for being a bad person. This series is a page-turner!
  • “Kuchibiru ni Kimi no Iro” (Your Color on My Lips) by Keiko Iwashita — A half-Japanese returnee takes an interest in a girl who’s trying to fade out of existence after she’s blamed for having a teacher force a kiss upon her. This series has gorgeous artwork and sharp leading characters.
  • “Otome Junjou — Erotic Heaven” — This is a collection of short smutty stories set in the Taisho era. This series is beautifully written and illustrated and is rather classy for smut. It’d be a nice shoujo for women license.

Shogakukan

  • “Kagi no nai Torikago” (The Birdcage without a Key) — Sensing vulnerability, a skeevy teacher lures a diligent female student into a master/pet relationship with S and M undertones. By the end of the short series, the central question becomes who really has the power in the relationship? This is a tense psychological story that at times is hard to read because it touches on so many taboos. Although this is set in high school, I think it’s more suited to older shoujo readers who will understand the subtleties of the main couple’s relationship.
  • “Koi desu ga Koi Janai” by Aya Asano — A confident high school girl takes a fuck-buddy, but the fuck-buddy is actually in love with her. This is another shoujo that’s more suited to older shoujo readers.
  • “Lip ni Shadow” (Shadow on your Lip) by Lily Izuki —  A boy, who everyone mistakes as gay, helps pretty up his childhood friend so she can confess to another guy. The guy’s frustration is so palpable that I teared up in places because I understood his breaking heart. This is well done typical shoujo.
  • “Kyou no 3600 Byou” by Risa Konno — after having an incident at a small shrine on a field trip, a high school girl finds herself time slipping for an hour.
  • “Hana ni, Kamitsuku” by Yakko Kago — A high school girl find herself uncontrollably attracted to a vampire with a tragic past. It’s basically “Vampire Knight” stripped down and distilled into two-volumes of suspense and smoldering sexual tension.
  • “Barairo no Yakusoku” by Kaho Miyasaka — It’s a retelling of Cinderella in the Taisho era. The artwork is lovely and the storytelling is top notch. Unfortunately the series is unfinished with no signs of resumption.

Here’s the list of continuing series that I liked in 2015:

  • “Kageno Datte Seishunshitai” by Yuka Kitagawa (Kodansha)
  • “Kanno to Detchi” by Ammitsu (Kodansha)
  • “Baraou no Souretsu” by Aya Kanno (Akita Shoten)
  • “Kanojo ni Naru Hi” by Akane Ogura (Hakusensha)
  • “Kanojo ni Naru Hi Another” by Akane Ogura (Hakusensha)
  • “Sabaku no Harem” by Yumeki Mitsuru (Hakusensha)
  • “A Hedgehog in Love” by  Nao Hinachi (Shogakukan)
  • “Hatsu Haru” by Shizuki Fujisawa (Shogakukan)
  • “She Doesn’t Know Love Yet” by Shizuki Fujisawa (Shogakukan)
  • “Sora wo Kakeru Yodaka” by Shiki Kawabata (Shueisha)
  • “Mermaid Prince” by Yuana Kazumi (Tokuma Shoten)

There were too many to document series that I didn’t like last year. Most of these series fell under the categories of:

  • Bland girls gets tooled by much older men, but she’s in love with the old guy the whole time.
  • I’m a fujoshi, and I fantasize about the guy who’s inexplicably crushing on me having romantic relationships with other guys in my class. Look at me write doujinshi, tee hee!
  • I inexplicably hate this boy only so I can end up loving him.
  • Personality opposite brothers vying for a bland girl with baby-face.
  • I’m a girl who has no personality and just goes along with the crowd. I like senpai… what should I do?

My guilty pleasures oneshot categories:

  • Men who cook and clean and lick food off the female MC.
  • Women who are perverts or have fetishes.
  • Sentimental family stories

My Manga Reading Goals for 2016

  • Continue to increase my Japanese literacy so I can read more manga quickly.
  • Set aside more time for magazine reading and documentation on Twitter and blog posts.
  • Check out Betsuma
  • Read more adult-oriented manga series that don’t have furigana. There are a lot of rom-coms and light fantasy manga series in my collection that I’d like to read.
  • Do a mid-year manga post.

Note: If you are interested in the series and magazines I mentioned in this post, please take a look at my Haul Posts and Magazine posts for images and more details on some of the series.

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