15 Most Essential Dark Horse Manga - Mania.com

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15 Most Essential Dark Horse Manga

The Best Manga Dark Horse Has to Offer

By Thomas Zoth and John Rose     March 30, 2010

15 Most Essential Dark Horse Manga
© Mania/Bob Trate

After much debate, we have selected the following titles for Dark Horse's Essential Bookshelf. These titles either belong in all collectors' library, or are especially representative of a publisher's brand. All titles come highly recommended.


15. Gunsmith Cats

Gunsmith "Rally" Vincent and sidekick "Minnie" May Hopkins find trouble to spare as they hunt the highest bounties from Chicago's seedy underbelly. The ne plus ultra of fanservice and paean to the urban America that only exists in action flicks. Author Sonoda demonstrates his love for beautiful women, stylish cars and deadly weaponry in his crisp linework and attention to detail.

14. Orion

Technofetish eroticist and esoteric philosopher Shirow's nigh incomprehensible fantasy is a perfect yin to Ghost in the Shell's yang. Much as Ghost compared the development of artificial intelligence to the evolution of gestalt consciousness using the internet as a potential noosphere, “Orion” extends the conceptual paradigm of a binary reality through Shriow's pseudo-scientific syncreticism of Taoist metaphysics and quantum phenomenon. There's also a giant monkey.

13. Blood+

Blood+” is the rare manga adaptation that equals or even bests the original property. With a darker and more violent edge that the anime series, “Blood+” explores the life of teenage Saya, a girl trying to fit into high school despite remembering nothing that happened over a year ago. As always, the past refuses to stay buried, and when monstrous chiropterans attack, Saya is once more called to duty as a warrior.

12. Gantz

Gantz takes xenophobia to new extremes in this voyeuristic exploitation manga. When Kei Kurono is killed by a speeding train, he is kept alive to play a brutal survival game overseen by a malevolent black sphere. Social commentary on the value of life and of sacrifice can be found amongst exploding heads and explosive breasts in Oku's pulp page-turner.

11. Reiko the Zombie Shop

For a fee, necromancer and sexy schoolgirl extraordinaire Reiko will raise the dead. After that, she's not responsible. A madcap seinen jump extravaganza that plays out like One Piece meets Evil Dead. Mikimoto's transcendent grindhouse aesthetic combines cute, sexy, and disgusting, often all on the same page. Oh Dark Horse, hear our prayer--bring “Reiko” back from the dead!

10. Oh My Goddess

In the single most fortuitous wrong number in the history of the telephone, Keiichi Morisato is put in contact with “Goddess” Belldandy to have a wish granted. Struck by Belldandy's unearthly beauty, Keiichi wishes for a girlfriend just like her. Little do they expect the system force of the universe to bind the two together forever. A classic that defines manga romantic comedy.

9. MPD Psycho

An ero-guro freakshow in the Grand Guignol tradition, Psycho follows the investigation of a serial murderer slash detective afflicted with dissociative identity disorder. Detective Amiyama is on the trail of a mysterious group attempting to cultivate killers. The hunt for the truth is complicated by the fact that Amiyama's other personalities may be involved in the conspiracy. Released completely uncensored by Dark Horse.

8. Cardcaptor Sakura

A precious gem of a manga, CLAMP's biggest hit is the story of Sakura Kinomoto and her quest to recapture magical cards that are running amok in her hometown. While focusing on the fun and whimsy of being a magical girl, CLAMP also makes you appreciate how hard Sakura works to reclaim the cards. Not the first, but certainly the best magical girl series. Ganbatte, Sakura-chan!

7. Lone Wolf and Cub

A true epic, in both the grand scope of its narrative and its intricate and detailed art and scenery. With his young son in tow, Ogami Itto follows the path of the assassin, seeking the justice he feels he has been denied. The beauty of nature in feudal Japan is juxtaposed with the stringent demands of the samurai code of honor, and the brutality of one man's desire for revenge.

6. Hellsing

Guns, grins, glasses, and gore galore in a bloody bacchanal recounting the timeless struggle between vampires, Nazis, and Nazi vampires. Incidents of vampirism are on the rise in Great Britian, and it is up to the Hellsing Organization to get to the bottom of it. Hirano's psychedelic art shows that style can trump substance when it is polished to a sinister gleam.

5. Ghost Talker's Daydream

Le petit mort et le grand mort meet in this tale of a virginal albino dominatrix who can speak with the dead. This vulgar ghost daydream has a lot of fun with its salacious premise, most of it at heroine Misaki's expsense. Beneath the gimmicks and gags, Ghost Talker's Daydream is a haunting exploration of the lonely and alienated individuals of 21st century Japan.

4. Blade of the Immortal

Taking place in a sinister and supernatural vision of feudal Japan, “Blade” follows swordsman Manji in his quest to earn the right to die. In rebelling against a corrupt master, Manji killed 100 good men who upheld their oaths of loyalty. He is cursed with immortality until he slays 1,000 evil men as repentance. A stylish and atmospheric journey through the meaning of death and the morality of revenge.

3. Berserk

Sturm und Drang and blood and Guts in the epic saga of the Black Swordsman and his one-man war against the machinery of fate. Powerful and driven, Guts travels the world seeking revenge on Griffith, the man who betrayed him and destroyed all that he loved. Unfortunately, Griffith is now in the embrace of the demonic Godhand, whose corruption is spreading throughout the land.

2. Oldboy

Shinichi Goto is captured and held in a private jail for 10 years. Then, one day, with no fanfare, he is simply released. Confused and angry, but nowhere near broken, Goto begins a search for his unknown enemy. Tense, suspenseful, and marvelously placed, “Oldboy” keeps you on the edge of your seat as Goto pieces together the mystery of the man who stole his life.

1. Eden: It's an Endless World

A plaintive elegy for an innocent world forever lost, “Eden” is Hiroki Endo's ambitious and personal prayer for mankind. In a post-apocalyptic future that is uncomfortably close to the headlines of today, young Elijah Ballard struggles to find meaning in the world's casual cruelty. Interspersing family drama and philosophy with suspense and brutal acts of violence, “Eden” explores the evanescence of life and the importance of hope. An under-appreciated masterpiece of literary excellence.

Speaking of essentials, here are 5 Manga That Need an Anime.  If Anime is more your flavor, check out 5 Anime That Should Be Brought Into the Mainstream. While we are thinking about it, check out 10 Great Out of Print Anime We Want Back.

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Calibur454 3/30/2010 6:07:23 AM

a really good list-

Chris- have you heard any rumors of dark horse releasing the rest of ghost talker's daydream. I think there were 8 volumes in all and they have only released 3 of them so far.

TheStormrider 3/30/2010 6:42:37 AM

id love to see:

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As I personally get confused at the way the photos preceed the listing,  which is bold.  Especially when various other lists bounce around between where the photo,  callout and text fall.

skyn3t 3/30/2010 6:56:04 AM

Finally saw the Gantz anime series, AWESOME STORY, but the ending was the typical Japanese cop-out variety.  If the manga is a more thought out tale than the anime, the readers will be in for one HELLUVA ride!  This totally should get commissioned for an American movie adaptation.

everdreaded 3/30/2010 8:44:54 AM

 Blade the immortal is the dopest !

gimpythewonder 3/30/2010 10:20:29 AM

 no Akira???  somebody slipped up there

Chris Beveridge 3/30/2010 12:41:34 PM

 Akira is out of print from Dark Horse and now part of Kodansha Comics as distributed by Del Rey.

Wyldstaar 3/30/2010 3:17:07 PM

I have to agree about the complete incomprehensibility of Orion.  The artwork is amazing (as always from Masamune Shirow), but the sheer volume of self indulgent nonsense in this work makes it nigh unreadable.  To make matters worse, it took years to publish due to Shirow's notoriously erratic publishing schedule.  How am I supposed to follow the story when the previous issue came out nine months before?

doubleO7 3/30/2010 3:36:30 PM

Wait. How long has Dark Horse had Cardcaptor Sakura? I know Tokyopop lost it afew months ago, but I dont remember hearing anything about Dark Horse picking it up.

gimpythewonder 3/30/2010 5:00:05 PM

Dark Horse was still the one who brought it over, the new edition still has an afterword by Mike Richards. Most people own the Dark Horse edition.  Should have been on the list.

ABCBTom 3/30/2010 6:20:02 PM

Actually, Epic Comics, a division of Marvel, was the company that started releasing Akira back in 1988. If the intent is to start with the original licensee, the proper place for it would be in the Marvel essential manga bookshelf.

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