By Crys Sherman (they/them)
It was really hard to narrow all the things I’ve read in 2021 (I just hit my goal of 600 books!!) down to a small list of 5 titles. I decided to only count things I was fully caught up on or had read the entire series of in order to make things easier for myself.
So, here are some honorable mentions:
- Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue – The only reason it didn’t make my top 5 is that I just started and haven’t gotten very far into the series.
- After Hours by Yuhta Nishio – This is a fantastic queer story and I loved it a lot, but it just barely missed the top 5 after I finally narrowed down my list.
- Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa – While this manga is beautiful and well written, again I have not caught up with it and don’t feel right putting it in my top 5 just yet.
- Star Wars (2015) by Jason Aaron – While I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, this missed the mark because of the uncanny artwork when it comes to drawing the characters. I liked it, but something about copying the actors’ exact faces was weird for me and pushed this out of my top tier for comics.
- Bubble by Jordan Morris & Sarah Morgan – I loved the podcast this is based on a lot and the graphic novel was just as good! I wish it would have fleshed out just a little bit more than the podcast did though.
Now that we have the runner-up books all done, here is my top five for 2021:
5. Bloom Into You
2017, by Nakatani Nio and translated by Jenny McKeon
This queer romance / slice of life manga caught me from the very first volume. From the cute awkwardness of Yuu and Nanami as they discover how they feel about each other, to the complication of relationships and their twist and turns altogether, this series had me hooked. A high recommendation for fans of Yuri romance manga.
4. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
2019, by Jordie Bellaire and art by Dan Mora and Raúl Angulo
This comic is not finished, but it definitely had to be on my list! The action-packed life of high schooler Buffy Summers caught my eye with the amazing artwork by Dan Mora, one of my all-time favorite comic artists, and the story by Bellaire kept me reading until I was caught up within a few days. I had never been interested in the Buffy show but I ended up bingeing it immediately after reading this comic. It’s a solid 5/5 recommendation for anyone who’s into vampires and the supernatural. And of course there’s the fun romance and high school plots in there too.
2019, by Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel, illustrated by Edward Gauvin
Waves is a story based on Chabbert’s own experience with pregnancy loss. It is a melancholy and heart-achingly beautiful look into the loss, coping, and rebirth of someone who has lost their child, and it is a tear-jerker for sure. As someone who has experienced this myself, it grabbed my heart and held it tenderly the entire readthrough. A truly poetic experience and a solid all-time favorite of mine.
2. Slam Dunk
1999, by Takehiko Inoue
I was never really one for sports manga until I read through the entirety of Slam Dunk. It only took 3 days of binge reading after the first two or three chapters picked up and got me hooked on it. The character of Hanamichi Sakuragi is relatable, charismatic, and extremely determined to be the best ever at basketball. Not without it’s hilarious moments, this series went through one of the greatest character development arcs I have ever read in any book I’ve read this year – possibly in many years – and had me almost in tears by the end of it; something I didn’t expect from a shonen sports manga.
1. The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún
2017, by Nagabe and translated by Adrienne Beck
The Girl From The Other Side is the very first manga I ever collected in full; which I did immediately after reading volume one. There are eleven volumes in total, and they’re pretty quick reads overall, but they will leave you mesmerized with the story and in love with the simple yet perfect artwork. The minimalistic art and the entrancing storytelling talents of Nagabe are something to admire throughout the series. It follows two beings, a young girl named Shiva and her cursed “Outsider” Teacher, as they traverse the “Outside” – a land filled with cursed beings who can share this curse with a single touch. The soft, loving relationship between Shiva and Teacher is beautifully written in a way that will have you close to tears at times and laughing along with them at others. One of the greatest stories I have read in a very long time, hands down, and one that I beg friends to read as often as they let me.