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Manly Manga For Men (And Women!)

By Matthew Alexander     January 26, 2009

Junk - A Manly Manga
© DrMaster Publications

I read a decent amount of manga and a fair diversity, but I find myself constantly drawn back to titles that are more manly than most. By manly I mean titles reminiscent of R-rated movies from the 1980’s. You know, back when they had sex scenes, nudity, and vulgar language. Manly titles can come from many genres; science fiction, fantasy, historical, supernatural, mystery, crime drama, and horror. Manga titles that fall into this manly category have adult situations and themes and usually contain all or a mixture of sex, nudity, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, warfare, murder, and/or crime. Using these criteria, I present a Top 10 Manly Manga list.

left align imageBerserk
Publisher: Dark Horse and Digital Manga Publishing
Price: $13.95
Number of Volumes: 29 (33 – ongoing)
Anime Version: Media Blasters

Perhaps the manliest manga around, Berserk will fill anyone’s need for a feudal European based fantasy with a horrific edge and an extreme body count. Berserk follows the life of a mercenary named Guts. From birth, Guts lives with a band of mercenaries, learning how to wield a sword and enter his first battle at the age most readers were kicking around a soccer ball. Fighting from such an early age and wielding the largest sword on the battlefield, Guts becomes one of the strongest fighters in the kingdom by the age of sixteen. Unfortunately for Guts, his life doesn’t involve anything but fighting and he never developed the ability to interact with others. However, his life changes forever when he joins the mercenary Band of the Hawk led by the brilliant tactician Griffith. This starts Guts down a road that makes him a better fighter, introduces him to love and friendship, and the dark side of the human soul and the monsters from hell that will change his life forever. The art is amazingly detailed with sprawling visuals of armies battling across fields and castle walls, and the characters are highly varied from their faces to their armor and weapons. Incredible fight scenes, endless wars, and unique and disturbing monsters keep this manga moving along with never a dull moment.

right align imageOld Boy
Publisher: Dark Horse
Price: $12.95
Number of Volumes: 8 (8)
Anime Version: No

Old Boy is an impressively cerebral tale with very little bloodshed. Goto has been locked inside a windowless studio apartment for 10 years. Goto has no idea who locked him up or why. His only connection to the outside world is his television and his meals, which are always from the same take-out Chinese restaurant. On the 10-year anniversary of his incarceration, Goto is released without a word from his captors about why he was locked up. He has been locked away for so long that he refuses to seek out his old life, ignoring his old friends and family. He can’t begin to think about what he has lost until he finds out why he had to forfeit 10 years of his life. Thus begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Goto slowly discovers who had him locked up. The real kicker in this dangerous game is a bet between Goto and his tormentor. If Goto can figure out the identity of his tormentor and why he hates him, then Goto wins, if not he loses. The stakes are the highest they can be as in the end, the loser will die. I can’t say enough good things about this series.

left align imageJunk – Record of the Last Hero
Publisher: Dr. Master Publications
Price: $9.95
Number of Volumes: 7 (7)
Anime Version: No

Now that I am a lot older than when I was reading Marvel and DC comics, I realize how overdone the hero thing has become. That is why I like Junk – Record of the Last Hero so much. This series is about Asamiya, an antisocial high school kid in Japan. One day he wins an internet contest from a mysterious company. The prize is a super-powered battle suit that is light years beyond any known military devices. Asamiya is a pretty screwed up kid, so he quickly uses the suit to lash out at everyone that has picked on him. Things get a lot more complicated as the company that made the suit sends a ‘Counselor’ to watch over Asamiya and insure he doesn’t get captured by the police. Other than that, the company doesn’t care how Asamiya uses the suit. Will he continue to use the suit as he wishes even after accidentally killing his parents? This is a great story with a flawed protagonist and adult situations, especially when Asamiya gets caught up in strange sexual affairs with his counselor and girlfriends mother, all the while stalking a J-Pop idol. Yeah, Asamiya is a seriously flawed hero.

right align imagePath of the Assassin
Publisher: Dark Horse
Price: $9.95
Number of Volumes: 15 (15)
Anime Version: No

A favorite genre of mine is historical fiction, particularly the various samurai historical characters that have reached a near mythical status in today’s world. Path of the Assassin follows Hanzo Hattori and Ieyasu Tokugawa from their teenage years into their later adult lives. The author does an amazing job mixing political intrigue with large-scale battles between armies, all the while crafty ninja duels float just below the surface. What is truly amazing about this story is the way Hanzo and Ieyasu play off each other in both their personal lives and in marching forward towards the difficult goal of maintaining and increasing their clan’s power. At times this story becomes somewhat convoluted with the large number of characters, but the struggle between ninjas and political maneuvers between lords makes this series an exciting chess game of life with plenty of sex between lovers and enemies. Whether with sex or the sword, the true goal in life is outfoxing your opponent.

left align imageBlack Lagoon
Publisher: VIZ
Price: $12.99
Number of Volumes: 3 (8 - ongoing)
Anime Version: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

Guns, modern day pirates, badass chicks and a confused Japanese businessman in the middle make Black Lagoon a wild rollercoaster ride of blood and action. The Lagoon Company is a group of misfit pirates plundering the southern Pacific, or as they put it; couriers that every once in a while break the law to make a living. If John Woo-style gun battles is your thing, then this series is your ticket, especially if you are looking for a series full of adult themes. Assassination, drug abuse, drinking, extortion, gun and drug running, robbery, smuggling, sex clubs, pornography, if it is illegal then someone in the Black Lagoon series is into it. However, with all that great stuff, what really makes this a good series is variety of characters and how well they behave in their roles. Dutch, an African-American is a Vietnam War vet and the leader of the Lagoon company, he is cool under fire and keeps to himself. Benny, a blond Jewish guy from Florida is a tech junkie who will do just about anything he is told so long as he can play with his computers and drink beer. Revy, a Chinese-American, is the real star of the show with her psychopathic desire to shoot people barely held in check. Her rough past slowly reveals itself and it becomes easy to see why she behaves the way she does. Rock is a former Japanese salaryman that was kidnapped by Revy and abandoned by his company when Rock became a liability. With nowhere else to go, he joins the Lagoon Company and attempts to find his way in their dark world. Rock behaves exactly like he should; he refuses to carry a gun or kill people, and along the way he constantly crawls onto his soapbox to tell his partners why their actions are immoral. Much of the underlying tension of the series becomes Rock’s tug of war with the other members of Lagoon Company, his slow hardening of attitude and their slow softening.

right align imageBlade of the Immortal
Publisher: Dark Horse
Price: $14.95 - $19.95
Number of Volumes: 20 (23 - ongoing)
Anime Version: Unsolicited in U.S.

If the stuffy pomp of realistic historical samurai stories such as Path of the Assassin doesn’t appeal to you, but you still need your feudal era bloodletting, then I would like to suggest Blade of the Immortal. In his own words, the creator claims Blade of the Immortal came from his desire to create a new genre of manga that examined the problem of living in this world. To do this he decided the feudal era would be a perfect vehicle, but to avoid the criticism of ‘samurai freaks’ he placed his own creative spin for his world by giving his characters marvelously wicked fantastical weapons of which a samurai would never use. These unusual blade weapons range from double-ended swords, two-bladed daggers, double-ended sickles, to various chain weapons. Add a cool art style and shake it all around and the antihero Manji The Twelve Blades is born. After assassinating 100 men, Manji finds his ‘gift’ of immortality to be more of a nuisance. However, if he can kill 1000 evil men, Manji will be able to break his curse and finally die. Will the young girl Rin and her desire for revenge against her parent’s killers get Manji started down his bloody path of redemption? Is Manji the only person with immortality? Is he really immortal, or will his fierce battles someday catch up to him?

left align imagePlanetes
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Price: $9.99
Number of Volumes: 4 (4)
Anime Version: Bandai Entertainment

Space, the final frontier, does it get any manlier than that? Planetes takes place in Earth’s near future. Man has established colonies on the moon and near Earth space travel is an everyday occurrence. Unfortunately, space is unforgiving in many ways. Over the decades, man has created a large amount of space trash, which has remained trapped in Earth’s gravity. Something as small as a nut or bolt has the power to rip right through any spaceship or station, not too surprising considering it could be traveling at 11,000 mph! Planetes follows the dreams and fears of Hachi, a space debris collector with a dream of owning his own spaceship. Debris collecting is probably the most dangerous job in space, but everyone in his crew has their own personal reason for doing what they do. While in space, Hachi faces the fear of dying in any number of ways, attacks by environmental terrorists trying to stop space exploration, and the tests and training to become a pilot on the first mission to Jupiter. He doesn’t make much money hauling debris and spaceships are exorbitantly expensive, but if he can join the Jupiter mission, he will enjoy riding a wave of fame and fortune. Assuming the mission successfully reaches Jupiter and he can return to Earth alive. Will he reject love, his family, even his humanity for achieving his goal of traveling to Jupiter and ultimately owning his own spaceship? Or will his personal demons prove more dangerous than any physical danger in space?

right align imageCrying Freeman
Publisher: Dark Horse
Price: $14.95
Number of Volumes: 5 (5)
Anime Version: ADV Films

Okay, okay, so the lead character cries when he kills people and puts his life on the line for women. What is so manly about that you ask? Well, Freeman is like the Asian version of James Bond. Freeman is good looking, intelligent, women melt in his arms, and he is a master assassin who can kill people with a dagger held between his toes! How does it get more manly than that? Crying Freeman follows the life of an innocent man that is kidnapped by the Chinese crime syndicate known as the 108 Dragons, who transform him into their lead assassin. Killing is against his desire, so he cries after every assassination. In time, the 108 Dragons groom Freeman to become their leader. His adventures lead him to his true love and eventual wife, battles against opposing crime organizations in Japan and Africa, the beds of many women (his wife is strangely understanding), and many exciting death matches. The art in Crying Freeman is impressively realistic and there is more nudity and sex than most mature titles. At only five volumes, this is a great martial arts/crime series with a minimal financial investment.

left align imageREAL
Publisher: Viz Media
Price: $12.99
Number of Volumes: 3 (8 - ongoing)
Anime Version: No

I am not a basketball fan, I don’t think it is very manly compared to hockey, football, and mixed martial arts. However, I cannot deny that wheelchair basketball is definitely manly. Those athletes have to overcome all their disabilities and then train and practice just as hard or harder than athletes that are not handicapped. Take this aspect and use it for a vehicle to tell the story of teenagers dealing with all the normal problems of life in addition to their handicaps and you have one of the manliest manga out there. Real follows the life of three men as they deal with various aspects of being handicapped. Nomiya is a punk that crashed his motorcycle, leaving his passenger paralyzed for the rest of her life. Takahashi is the captain of Nomiya’s high school basketball team and a preppy boy jerk. He too finds himself in a wheelchair after being hit by a dump truck while riding a stolen bike. Finally, Nomiya tries to befriend the wheelchair basketball player Kiyohiko. Each character plays an equal role in this series as they try to get through life and deal with their own demons. The author does an impressive job exploring the mental and physical difficulties of being bound to a wheelchair.

right align imageEDEN: It’s an Endless World!
Publisher: Dark Horse
Price: $12.95
Number of Volumes: 11 (18)
Anime Version: No

No Manly Manga list would be complete without a cyberpunk postapocalyptic title like EDEN: It’s an Endless World!. This series takes place in a world that has survived a pandemic disease that has killed most of the human population. In South America, Elijah, the son of two survivors of the pandemic, scrapes out a living among the ruins of mankind. Elijah’s father has become a ruthless drug lord with an incredible amount of power and influence in this new world order. Can Elijah avoid his father and rescue his mother and sister from those using them as pawns against his father? In this world devoid of good and evil, Elijah finds himself mixed up in graphic battles between the descendent organization of NATO and the UN and mercenary forces. Nearly immortal supersoldiers, robots, full- and partial-body cyborgs, and humans struggle in a brutal world where it is every man and woman for themselves. EDEN: It’s an Endless World! is a psychological examination of mankind’s basic needs and darker side when pushed into a corner. Food, shelter, power, and sex; these basic needs can push nearly anyone to do things we would like to deny we had the stomach for. EDEN: It’s an Endless World! is truly a complex and oftentimes disturbing series.


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ChrisBeveridge 1/27/2009 12:23:52 PM

I've read quite a few of these titles, some I've just seen the anime of like Planetes or the live action movie for Old Boy. I'm not really sure what to make of REAL yet since I'm a big Slam Dunk fan and... well, he's done basketball already.

01DragonFly 1/31/2009 9:27:06 AM

wow i have never read anyothese mangas or see any of these series , i might give them a try



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