While 2021 was a challenging year in many respects, thanks to the ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s hard to claim that it wasn’t a great year for manga in terms of new releases.
Sales for manga have increased significantly over the course of the the last couple years, presumably because people have been staying home more and have had more time for reading. The North American manga market has responded accordingly and a plethora of exciting new series were released over the course of the past year.
As a result, I actually had quite a hard time narrowing down my top picks this year. There were just too many titles to consider! I managed in the end, however, and am ready to present you with my favourite new titles from 2021.
Please keep in mind, this is a personal top 10 list and is reflective of which series I enjoyed reading the most, not necessarily which titles I think are the best on an objective level. If there are any awesome titles that you think I’ve overlooked, be sure to let me know about them in the comments. Also, please note that I’ve limited myself to new series that were released in North America over the course of 2021 and focused on print releases, as that’s what I predominantly like to buy. As such, even if a book had an earlier digital release, if the print version came out during 2021 I’ll still count it as a new title.
With that out of the way, here are My Top 10 Manga of 2021 in no particular order!
1. The King’s Beast
2. Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
Frieren is a soulful series that explores the experience of a nearly immortal elf who must cope with watching those around her age and pass on while she remains young. Even the stalwart companions who braved many dangers with her during their quest to save the world eventually leave her behind. Frieren must learn to make the most of the time she has with her loved ones, so she can eventually say goodbye to them without any regrets.
This is a beautiful and melancholy manga that really made an impact one me. Something about the simple and gently paced story and its exploration of loss just stuck with me. I highly recommend that you give it a try, especially if you’re a fan of high-fantasy novels or games.
3. Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide
4. Skip and Loafer
5. Otherside Picnic
This series mixes together some of my favourite story elements: mystery, trippy sci-fi concepts and a yuri romance.
Our heroines team up to explore an alternate dimension and must fight off monsters and avoid having their mental faculties effected by the mind-altering phenomena of this strange new world. It’s an exciting read, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the alternate dimension and to seeing if the bond between the two main characters will continue to deepen over the course of their adventures.
6. A School Frozen in Time
7. I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss
This manga is on this list because it’s just pure fun.
The protagonist of I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss is a regular girl who finds herself reborn as Aileen, the villainess in her favourite otome game. In order to avoid an untimely death, Aileen considers her knowledge of the game’s plot and decides to romantically pursue the game’s ultimate antagonist: the Demon King! With her insider knowledge and the sly cunning of a villainess at her disposal, Aileen is determined to carve out a better future for herself – and the misunderstood demons too!
Aileen is a hilarious character; I loved watching her embrace her villainous side and scheme her way into the Demon King’s heart. I enjoyed this manga so much I wound up buying the light novel it’s based on, which was also super entertaining. This series is a must read for shojo isekai manga fans, especially if you’re fond of the “reincarnated as the villainess” trope.
8. The Vampire and His Pleasant Companions
This BL series has is all: heart-wrenching drama, shocking twists and a slow-burn romance between a brooding hunk and a bright-eyed vampire in need of a home. Oh, and cute bats! Let’s not forget that.
The Vampire & His Pleasant Companions is a tad more gory than your average vampire romance, so readers should be prepared for some upsetting imagery. That said, the story of how Al, a vampire who accidently finds himself stranded in a foreign country, befriends the prickly Akira and starts to bring him out of his shell, is ultimately touching and sweet. This series is funny, emotional and exciting. It even incorporates some crime drama elements into the story to keep readers on their toes. Boys Love fans should be sure to give this series a try.
9. Mashle: Magic and Muscles
I found Mashle’s silly humor and comedically simple art style funny from the start, but was initially a little concerned that this series would wind up flogging its central joke to death.
The manga follows Mash, a teenage boy who has no magical abilities, but who has honed his physical strength to such an extreme degree that he essentially has superpowers. This kid winds up attending a magic school and must use his strength, speed and agility to outmaneuver the snobbish elites of the academy so that he can someday change society for the better – somehow.
It’s a fun concept, but one I felt could get old fast if handled poorly.
Thus far, it seems I needn’t have worried. Several volumes in, I’m still getting plenty of laughs out of this series. If anything, it’s only gotten funnier as new ridiculous characters have been added to round out the cast. This is a series I can see myself continuing to enjoy well into the future.
10. Dick Fight Island
There was no way I could leave this manga off my top 10 list! With its attention grabbing title and hilariously outlandish premise, Dick Fight Island is a series that cannot be ignored.
This manga is hysterical! It’s also sexy and, at times, even cute. The story follows a group of men who’re participating in a tournament to determine the next leader of their archipelago, and the contest is pretty smutty in nature. With so many characters in the principal cast, there are plenty of different potential pairings to root for as the competitors all square off and secretly – or not so secretly – pine after each other.
This is a boys love series you won’t want to miss, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the release of the second volume.
Well, those were My Top 10 Manga of 2021. Be sure to let me know what you thought of these picks and what new series were your favourites in the comments.
I’ll be releasing my Top 10 Most Anticipated Manga for 2022 list within a few days, so be sure to check back to see what I’m looking forward to reading most in the upcoming new year. If you’re curious to see if any of the manga on this list were on my most anticipated list from last year, you can check it out here.
Also be sure to take a peek at my Top 10 Manga lists from previous years:
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