Over the years, multiple manga books have been published and animated. Manga books are Japanese comics. For decades, a large number of epic manga have kept fans on their toes. While new-generation manga like Demon Slayer broke records, we also find ourselves immersed in the jaw-dropping arts of the likes of Berserk. It’s not always the plot that carries the brilliance of these books. Its illustrations also play a key role in its popularity count. A lot of times, readers seek an art style that goes along with the plot perfectly. Over the years, they have become insanely popular overseas as well. So, we bring forward the OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021 to appreciate some of the best.
As the origin of most anime, manga books hold a major influence in the Japanese Entertainment Industries. Publishing houses like Shueisha, Kodansha, and Kadokawa have delivered masterpieces over masterpieces to us. Some were enriched with love and drama, while others talked of unreachable fantasy islands filled with demons and fairies. In today’s age and generation, many manga books are available digitally as well, making their access so much easier no matter where you are in the world. With so much privilege, many previous anime fans have found their peace amidst the pages of some of the best manga.
With the wide range of manga available, a single best out of these limitless choices is impossible to pick. So, with ten categories, we present the OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021 to the most deserving in the field.
Also Read: OtakuKart Anime Awards 2021 Winners
Best Slice-of-Life Manga
Best Slice-of-Life Manga: Oyasumi Punpun
Author: Inio Asano
Illustrator: Inio Asano
Serialized By: Weekly Young Sunday (2007-2008) and Big Comic Spirits (2008-2013)
Release Date: 15 March 2007
Number Of Volumes: 13
11 year old Punpun Onodera meets Aiko Tanaka. He is shy but is taken in awe by the eccentric nature of the new girl. One day his parents divorce, and Onodera faces his first look into reality. Oyasumi Punpun revolves around the harsh realities of people as Punpun grows up.
Oyasumi Punpun lets its readers dive deep into reality instead of idly scraping the surface. It can be addressed as a coming-of-age type of story. The world is not perfect, and nothing is always roses and cherry blossoms. This is depicted beautifully in this manga. We step into Onodera’s boyhood, and we see the world as he sees it. But, as he grows up, we find ourselves relating to it more and more. The manga touches the readers’ hearts, and on more occasions than one, they will find themselves in tears.
Oyasumi Punpun has a heavy aura surrounding it. For the OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021, the manga easily wins the Best Slice of Life manga award breaking through the walls with its beautiful story and intriguing art.
Best Romantic Manga
Best Romantic Manga: I Sold My Life for 10,000 Yen Per Year
Author: Sugaru Miaki
Illustrator: Shouichi Taguchi
Serialized By: Shonen Jump+
Release Date: 10 August 2016
Number Of Volumes: 3
When Kusunoki cannot make ends meet, he finds out about a suspicious shop where you can sell your lifespan. Finding no other way, he decides to do it. On reaching this shop, he meets the clerk, Miyagi, who tells him that the value of his lifespan is barely 300,000 yen. Kusunoki, fighting his poverty, makes his decision and sells 30 years of his life at the cost of 10,000 yen per year, leaving behind only three months that he plans on living lavishly with the money he earned.
Back home, he meets Miyagi again, who introduces herself as the ‘observer’ who will be monitoring him for the next three months until the last three days of his life. With limited time on his hands and no specific goals in mind, Kusunoki heads ahead, intending to live a good life till he dies.
The manga is based on a novel titled ‘3 Days of Happiness’ by Sugaru Miaki. Romanticism in this manga does not merely limit to ‘boy meets girl.’ It constantly paints a picture of how beautiful life could be if we chose to love it. Every panel continues to radiate with a certain serenity that reaches its readers unhindered. There is peace in the story that will make you laugh, smile, feel pain, and feel love.
Best Horror Manga
Best Horror Manga: Homunculus
Author: Hideo Yamamoto
Illustrator: Hideo Yamamoto
Serialized By: Big Comic Spirits
Release Date: 17 March 2003
Number Of Volumes: 15
Susumu Nakoshi, a homeless person, lives in his car. He is approached by Manabu Itoh, who presents him with an absurd request. The young doctor is looking for participants who might be interested in taking part in trepanation. He claims that trepanation is a procedure in which a hole is drilled into the skull. Doing so awakens the sixth sense, including the ability to see ghosts. Naturally, Susumu Nakoshi declines the offer, but when his car gets towed, he agrees to take part in it for the cost of 700,000 yen.
The surgery ends successfully, but Nakoshi shows no effect. But, eventually, he starts seeing the homunculus in people.
The manga takes a psychological turn and remains philosophical. While the plot might give its reader absurd nightmares, it also gives them a lot to think about. Its take on the concept of perspectives taken very finely. Many spine-chilling horror mangas have been published in the years, but none have been as thought-provoking as Yamamoto’s Homunculus. The art is very interesting and even eerie at times. If you are a horror manga fanatic and have not read this masterpiece, it’s time that you pick it up and enjoy its uncanny plot.
Best Action Manga
Best Action Manga: Holyland
Author: Kouji Mori
Illustrator: Kouji Mori
Serialized By: Young Animal
Release Date: 13 October 2000
Number Of Volumes: 18
Yuu Kamishiro, in the beginning, does not belong anywhere. He is bullied and abused in school and craves to be treated as a human somewhere in the world. This brings him to live the nigh life, where he feels he’s worth. He takes up violence as the only route that will ever suit him. With the help of a book, he learns boxing moves and thus trains hard. As time passes, his skills and strength increase. He protects himself from thugs using his strength and gains the name of ‘Thug Hunter.’ But as the word spreads, people starting acknowledging his strength, and people come looking for him, challenging him to duels.
In this dark side of society, Yuu fights against the fighters and the darkness against him while constantly searching for his holy land.
A truly satisfying action manga is difficult to find. Holyland, however, fulfills all requirements of an action manga effortlessly. It has some of the most exciting martial arts illustrations. The fights are not only brutal but also clever and tactical, which makes it fun to read despite its simple plotline. Holyland, in a single sentence, can be described as about a boy who grows strong. But even in that simplicity, the author places several realistic checkpoints that make it a blissful read. For its outstanding presentation and touching panels, Holyland stands as the winner of the Best Action Manga category in the OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021.
Best Historical Manga
Best Historical Manga: Vagabond
Author: Takehiko Inoue
Illustrator: Takehiko Inoue
Serialized By: Morning
Release Date: 17 September 1998
Number Of Volumes: 37
In the 1600s, Shinmen Takezou and Matahachi Hon’iden enlist in the military of Toyotomi. But in the Battle of Sekigahara, Toyotomi loses, leaving the two friends wounded. When the survivor hunters arrive, they escape and swear to become Invincible Under The Heavens. Under the Tsujikaze gang’s attack, the two separate. After challenging many strong men, Shinmen returns home to inform that Matahachi Honiden is alive. But, Matahachi’s mother instead accuses Shinmen of the survivor’s murder. He escapes but is soon caught and tied to a tree and left to die.
However, a monk, Takuan Soho, saves him and bestows a new name to him: Musashi Miyamoto. The story follows the journey of the now named Musashi Miyamoto into becoming the legendary swordmaster.
Musashi Miyamoto is a historical figure in Japan, but Vagabond is a mere fiction based on the legend. However, the turns that the story takes are magnificent. It has brilliant sword fighting panels and a breathtaking take on the philosophical side of the story. The manga depicts nudity and brutality boldly to show the uglier sides of war and battles. There is growth and evolution and occasional fun that continues to keep the readers indulged until its last chapters. It is one of the most brilliantly executed historic manga that does not feel overdone despite its long run. Hence, the manga is very captivating and thus undebatably crowned as the best historic manga in the OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021.
Best Mystery Manga
Best Mystery Manga: 20th Century Boys
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Illustrator: Naoki Urasawa
Serialized By: Big Comic Spirits
Release Date: 27 September 1999
Number Of Volumes: 22
As kids, Kenji, Otcho, Yoshitsune, and Maruo build a secret base where they had fun reading manga and making up fantasy stories. They also, later, invite their friends Yukiji and Donkey. In their broad minds, they would imagine themselves saving the world and called it the Book of Prophecy. Years later, Kenji owns a convenience store. Things start getting suspicious when he hears that Donkey has committed suicide. At the same time, he learns about a cult led by someone who identifies as ‘Friend.’
Slowly, Kenji draws parallels between the current events and the events in the Book Of Prophecy. Starting to realize that uncanny resemblance, he realizes that he and his childhood friends are being targeted. Even worse, the world will soon be facing a threat, and the ones who can stop any of this from happening are Kenji and his friends.
At first look, the story looks simple and quite typical but only on reading does one realize the beauty of the conspiracies that the manga begins to flaunt. It goes beyond the typical “only I can save the world” bottom line and changes gears towards an epic mystery-packed plot within the first volume. We find ourselves constantly mind-blown by the story, and that is just a fantastic experience to begin with. Over its evolution, readers are left on their toes as an unpredictable sequence of events starts unfolding. A definite must-read for manga lovers, 20th Century Boys is easily crowned as the Best Mystery manga in the OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021.
Best Mecha Manga
Best Mecha Manga: Pluto
Author: Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka
Illustrator: Naoki Urasawa
Serialized By: Big Comic Original
Release Date: 9 September 2003
Number Of Volumes: 8
When several human and robot deaths occur where objects penetrate the victim’s head to resemble horns, Europol robot detective Gesicht enters the scene. The suspect in the crime is a robot, which makes it tough to believe. On investigation, Geischt discovers that the killer targets the eight advanced robots and people connected to the International Robot Laws, granting robots and humans equal rights. With so much at stake and such little time, how will Gesicht solve the case and protect those under threat?
Pluto is a spin-off manga of Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atom manga. Naoki Urasawa brings back the manga cleverly and introduces his elements of thrill and suspense to it. The manga takes a side character from the original story and turns him into an amazing lead. Urasawa makes clever use of the characters to spin a completely unique story that continues to shine bright. For readers who are constantly in search of a good mecha manga, Pluto is highly recommended by us.
Best Supernatural Manga
Best Supernatural Manga: Spirit Circle
Author: Satoshi Mizukami
Illustrator: Satoshi Mizukami
Publisher: Shonen Gahosha
Serialized By: Young King OURs
Release Date: 30 May 2012
Number Of Volumes: 6
14-year-old Fuuta Okeya has the ability to see ghosts. He is born with a mark on his cheek that he hides with a band-aid. The new transfer student, Kouko Ishigami, enters accompanied by a ghost. When Fuuta has a dream related to her, he decides he is in love with her and plans to befriend her. But, when Kouko Ishigami sees the scar on his face, she declares that they are enemies and she must defeat him. He learns that their’ enmity goes back to their previous lives and that Kouko also gave his scar. She develops a ‘spirit circle’ and pushes him back. Now, Fuuta must find the truth behind the situation by learning more about his reincarnation.
What will he find as he travels back and forth from his past, and how will he overcome this trouble?
Spirit Circle develops in its pace and reaps a fantastic ending. It is fun and filled with all types of fantasies. Spirit Circle uses constant humor but does not fail at evolving at the same time. As the story progresses, we see some great development in all the characters in their own way. It does not go too deep into emotions, but it does manage to focus on the things that matter: good bonds and positive thoughts. The manga makes good use of magical elements and stands as the best supernatural manga on OtakuKart Best Manga Awards 2021.
Best LGBTQ+ Manga
Best LGBTQ+ Manga: Our Dreams At Dusk
Author: Yuhki Kamatani
Illustrator: Yuhki Kamatani
Serialized By: Hibana and Manga One
Release Date: 6 March 2015
Number Of Volumes: 4
Tasuku Kaname realizes he is gay at a young age. One day, his friends discover gay pornography on his phone, and rumors start spreading about his sexuality. Unable to take the embarrassment of being found, he decides to commit suicide by jumping off a building but is suddenly stopped when he sees a woman jump. He is surprised to see her land unharmed and changes his mind about giving up his life. He realizes that the lounge is filled with different types of people. As he starts spending more time with them, he understands them and learns to accept himself.
In Our Dreams as Dusk, we learn more about the people of the LGBQ+ community through Kaname and of the issues they face in society. Every character represents a specific sexual orientation and purely executes how they feel and how they are nothing different than straight people. The art of the manga is extremely beautiful, and the story flows like a river. Its pace is very peaceful, and its beauty is enough to make the readers drive to tears. Kaname represents a typical teenager; nervous and afraid of being found. His development is slow but definite, and it’s incredible to see him grow from wanting to die to take control of his life.
A genuinely empowering manga, Our Dreams as Dusk, is a must-read for everyone, especially my dear homophobes, to understand the LGBTQ+ better and be compassionate towards them. For the beautifully bold execution, this manga deserves to be the best LGBTQ+ manga on the OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021.
Also Read: Anime Review: Fruits Basket The Final Season
Best Comedy Manga
Best Comedy Manga: Yotsuba to!
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Illustrator: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: ASCII Media Works
Serialized By: Dengeki Daioh
Release Date: 21 March 2013
Number Of Volumes: 15
The story revolves around the daily life of a strange child named Yotsuba Koiwai. She is an energetic 5-years-old and lives with her father. Throughout the manga, we see her meet different people and learns new things; some very simple and trivial and some very impactful.
Yotsuba To! appears very generic in the beginning, and perhaps it even is so at times. The story is very random, but that’s what makes it so much fun to read. It continues to revolve around Yotsuba’s naive yet weird nature. She does absurd things, including swinging on level crossings and drawing on the walls in front of the houses. All of these events are pretty childish. However, these elements are what make it funny. Deservedly so, Yotsuba to! is the Best Comedy Manga at OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021.
OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021
For OtakuKart Manga Awards 2021, we were constantly conflicted about the choices we were making. But, in the end, all the winner manga feel rightfully deserving. Certain manga books like Otoyomegatari and Totsukuni no Shoujo were highly considered but had to be omitted for certain reasons. These mangas have been awarded based on their popularity among fans in addition to the plot and art. Another important note that has been strictly followed while deciding the winners is Anime Adaptation. We have strictly omitted manga books that have an existent or upcoming anime adaptation simply to appreciate those without one better.
Deep inside, we wish to see these brilliant books someday adapted into an anime, so we enjoy their glory further. Until then, we continue to glorify the brilliance in their writing style, art, and heart-touching plots by awarding them our ‘best’ titles. Most mangas listed here are available digitally on Viz Media, Crunchyroll, and even the Manga Plus app. Their physical editions are also available on websites like Amazon and eBay.