There are some truly exceptional stories being told in manga and anime, many of which will experience crossover in content, but that doesn’t mean that their stories are identical. It often takes an anime adaptation of a successful manga series to help elevate the property to a greater echelon of popularity. At the same time, a suspenseful season of anime will frequently push audiences to turn to the accompanying manga and consume as many volumes as possible before the anime’s next season.
One barrier that prevents some fans from checking out manga is that they’re usually published in black-and-white rather than the full spectrum of color that’s on display in anime. Fortunately, there are some exceptional manga series that have finished their runs and can be properly appreciated in full color.
Katsuhiro Otomo; 6 Volumes
Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, whether it’s viewed as a manga or an anime feature film, remains one of the most celebrated sci-fi cyberpunk narratives. Akira is set in an eerily prescient dystopian future where nuclear and government experiments have created dangerous psychic, biological weapons.
Kaneda does whatever he can to rescue his friend, Tetsuo, from a cataclysmic transformation that could level Tokyo. Akira‘s six volumes tell a totemic story across more than 2,000 pages, the events of which are only teased in 1988’s feature film. The fully colored Akira set is hard to come by and quite the collector’s item, but it’s the best way to experience this story.
9 Dragon Ball
Akira Toriyama; 32 Volumes
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is one of the biggest shonen series of all time and a real gateway vehicle when it comes to both anime and manga. Toriyama’s manga chronicles the ongoing adventures of Goku and the rest of Earth’s heroes as they protect the planet from intergalactic evils.
The extraneous filler and laborious battles that hold back Dragon Ball‘s anime aren’t present in the streamlined manga. While initially 42 volumes long, the re-released fully colored manga features longer volumes that condense Dragon Ball down to 32 colorful installments.
8 Paradise Kiss
Ai Yazawa; 1 Volume
Ai Yazawa is a prolific mangaka responsible for some deeply emotional and sympathetic josei series geared toward female young adults. Nana might be Yazawa’s biggest claim to fame, but Paradise Kiss is a succinct deconstruction of Japan’s fashion and modeling industries.
Yukari Hayasaka becomes a reluctant model, which helps her learn a lot about herself, her body, and her struggles with confidence in the process. Paradise Kiss was first published as five volumes, but Paradise Kiss: 20th Anniversary Edition combines the entire series into a single epic tome that’s also fully in color.
7 Death Note
Written By Tsugumi Ohba; Illustrated By Takeshi Obata; 12 Volumes
Death Note is one of this generation’s biggest manga and anime series largely because its basic plot is just too appealing to ignore. A magical book has the power to execute whoever gets their name written inside of it.
This alarming power fantasy brings out the true nature of the Death Note’s owners, and a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse between murderer and detective transpires. Takeshi Obata’s detailed artwork, especially for Ryuk and the series’ Shinigami, is at its best in manga form. It makes the whole story feel more intimate.
6 Attack On Titan
Hajime Isayama; 34 Volumes
Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has exhilarated a passionate audience for more than a decade. Its brutal indictment of humanity was able to end on its own terms rather than dragging out its conclusion for the sake of more story.
Attack on Titan begins as Eren Jaeger’s underdog journey to wipe out the monstrous Titans and bring peace to his people. However, over time, this becomes a devastating examination of how man is worse than any monster. Initially, select scenes and battles from Attack on Titan‘s manga were available in color, but upon the manga’s completion, a full-color edition was also released.
5 To Love Ru
Written By Saki Hasemi; Illustrated By Kentaro Yabuki; 18 Volumes
To Love Ru, which is a title that’s supposed to be a pun over the words “trouble” and “love,” proves itself to be one of the deeper romantic comedy harem series. There is no shortage of shonen series where hapless heroes are suddenly betrothed to a supernatural entity. In To Love Ru, Rito Yuuki ends up engaged to Lala Satalin Deviluke, an odd alien princess.
To Love Ru knows how to sell its comedy and characters, all of which gain a little extra life once they’re seen in full color. To Love Ru has received multiple spinoffs, some of which are also in color, but the original series remains the strongest.
4 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Hirohiko Araki; 131 Volumes
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has thrived for more than 35 years because Hirohiko Araki cleverly turns to generational storytelling that allows him to shift characters and settings to tell smaller stories within the grander Joestar narrative. Each JoJo fan has their favorite story in the saga, all of which have had colored digital re-releases that add depth to Araki’s rich characters and attack Stands.
Admittedly, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is still running, and Araki has just begun the franchise’s Part 9, The JOJOLands, which is not in color. Everything up to the completion of JoJolion has a beautifully-colored rendition available.
3 Yu Yu Hakusho
Yoshihiro Togashi; 19 Volumes
Yusuke Urameshi’s evolution from juvenile delinquent to courageous spirit detective and warrior makes Yu Yu Hakusho one of the most satisfying shonen series of the ’90s. Yu Yu Hakusho introduces a fun cast of powerful and demonic individuals that deliver constant action and suspenseful tournament showdowns.
Part of Yu Yu Hakusho‘s strength is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and 19 volumes of adventure help Yusuke get out of the game while he’s still at the top of his trade. Yu Yu Hakusho‘s anime is still popular, but a digitally colored re-release has also brought new fans over to Yoshihiro Togashi’s manga.
Hitoshi Iwaaki; 8 Volumes
Alien invasion stories are plentiful in manga and anime. Yet, Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte finds fresh ground through the unconventional pairing that it forces between its main characters: a lonely teenager and an extraterrestrial parasite. Shinichi Izumi slowly comes to terms with the fact that an alien, Migi, has taken up residence in his hand.
Shinichi and Migi do what they can to prevent a global alien takeover as a touching friendship forms between these two. At only eight volumes, a full-color re-release of Parasyte wasn’t a difficult decision, especially after the anime’s success.
Masashi Kishimoto; 72 Volumes
Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto is an inescapable property in manga and anime that’s still going strong through its sequel series spinoff, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. The original Naruto is still considered top-tier shonen storytelling, and Naruto Uzumaki is an anime hero who’s as popular as Goku, Sailor Moon, or Pikachu.
Naruto’s desire to become a legendary Hokage plays out over 72 volumes, which are broken up into separate stages. Despite the size of this manga series, Naruto: Color Edition, a digital re-release of the manga, started in 2012 and finally finished in 2015.
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