Beyond Bestsellers: Manga & Manhwa

by Kimberly P. 

In honor of Beyond Bestsellers: Graphic Novels, I’ve been devouring my favorite form of graphic novels–manga and manhwa!

Manga and manhwa are comics created in Japan and South Korea (respectively) and have a distinct style. Black and white illustrations fill their pages. They reflect every genre from romance to speculative fiction to gritty detective stories.

My first manga love was Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi. I was (actually, let’s be honest, I still am) a huge Sailor Moon fan. The artwork, storyline, and characters nabbed me and as a child I wished I could be a superhero and protect the solar system with my friends.

Interestingly enough, I was more interested in the other sailor senshi (sailor scouts) than Usagi, the main character. I felt she was too whiny. My favorite senshi is Rei Hino, Sailor Mars. She’s a princess of Mars, has two companion birds Phobos and Deimos, controls fire and is a Shinto priestess-in-training. What’s not to love?

Some other favs in the milieu of Sailor Moon are Sakura Hime, Kiss of the Rose Princess, and Magic Knight Rayearth.



But sometimes, I just want to read something dark and haunting. For that, I turn to X/1999 by CLAMP. Taking place at the end of days (1999!), this manga of apocalyptic fiction bursts with gorgeous illustrations, mythology and gruesome violence. Kamui Shirou must choose a side–either the Dragons of Heaven, or the Dragons of Earth. Depending on his allegiance, the world will either be saved or condemned.

Along the same line of epic good versus evil battles that leave characters with a host of physical and mental scars, I also adore The Betrayal Knows My Name. The artwork is beyond beautiful, and I love the gender fluidity of the main character, Yuki.

And who wouldn’t want a beautiful demon as a personal bodyguard?



Speaking of demons and darker manga, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Black Butler! I’m borderline obsessive about this series with its dark humor and occult themes.

Some other beloved titles (with varying degrees of humor, but all tinged with horror) are Vampire Knight, Black Bird, Trinity Blood, Uzumaki and Bizenghast.






When I want to layer on the drama, I turn to Goong by So Hee Park. It has all the trappings of my favorite Korean dramas: Betrayal, backstabbing, love triangles, arrogant-but-gorgeous boys, disapproving in-laws who plot your demise . . . I can’t get enough.

Goong explores highs and lows of an arranged marriage between a commoner and a crown prince in modern day South Korea. (Be forewarned: it’s seriously addictive, like a juicy soap opera).

Some of my other favorites in the genre of modern life include Say I Love You, My Love Story!!, Kare Kano, and Hot Gimmick  (WARNING: Hot Gimmick includes an emotionally abusive relationship).



For the high-action, adrenaline pumping, fight-scenes-that-last-for-volumes graphic novels, I can’t be without my all time favorite: Bleach by Tite Kubo. When he accidentally obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper (death god), Ichigo Kurosaki must protect humanity from evil spirits.

Aside from high octane fight sequences, I’ve grown attached to Bleach’s unique characters. Like Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, I find myself more obsessed with its supporting characters.

(My favorite is Byakuya Kukichi, captain of the Soul Reapers’ 6th Division.)

Titles similar to Bleach include Fairy Tail, Attack on Titan, Naruto, Dragonball Z, Rurouni Kenshin, and One Punch Man.

Do you have a favorite manga or manhwa? Let us know in the links. In the meantime, check out my list of manga and manhwa titles.

Tags: , ,


12 responses to “Beyond Bestsellers: Manga & Manhwa”

  1. Michelle C. says:

    I watched the K-drama for Goong, Princess Hours, and I never realized it was based off a book! Now I will have to read it.

    • Kimberly P. says:

      Oh you absolutely have to. It’s so much fun. I must confess, I haven’t watched the k-drama version beyond the first 5 episodes–mostly because I just didn’t sleep. But this holiday season, I’m absolutely bingeing.

  2. Isaac says:

    This list reminds me that I have to finish to Bleach anime! I’ve been wanting to get back to it for years. Also if you like Dragonball Z, it’s latest incarnation ‘Dragonball Super’ is amazing.

    • Kimberly P. says:

      Thanks, Isaac! I’ve been in love with the anime since forever. I basically went from DBZ to Bleach. Do you have a favorite character or story arc (so far)?

      • Isaac says:

        Sadly, I only barely finished the substitute arc in Bleach. For DBS, I’m still finishing the Goku Black Rose saga, who is probably the most interesting villain in the entire DB epic.

      • Kimberly P. says:

        Oh man, that’s a great arc. I also happen to have a low key crush on Trunks, so . . .

  3. Alez says:

    As much as I love CLAMP (and I really LOVE CLAMP), X/1999 leaves me frustrated! It’s been on hiatus for over a decade, and they are unlikely to ever finish it. There is so much of the story left to tell, and it leaves it at such a critical point. If I’m going to read the darker side of CLAMP I tend to go more for XXXholic (, which is a supernatural tale of wishes and spirits. Though, if you read that it’s a good idea to also read Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles (, as the two stories are very closely linked.

    If one does decide to try X/1999, I also suggest that they first pick up and read Tokyo Babylon ( This is the predecessor to X/1999, and will fill in a lot of the backstory for Subaru and Seishiro.

    • Kimberly P. says:

      Thank you for breaking things down and offering some further guidance Alez. I absolutely have been hoping CLAMP would come back to X/1999. I still hold out hope–someday. Of course, the anime and movie versions each have different endings, so I’ve always been like “How does it actually end…?” (BTW: ADORE XXXholic!) I’ll have to read Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. Ugh. So much great stuff!

      • Alez says:

        I’ve been a manga and manhwa fan for years, and CLAMP has always been one of my favorite mangaka groups! If you’ve read other CLAMP classics, then many of the characters in Tsubasa will be familiar, especially the main two. It’s a tale about traveling through many different dimensions, and CLAMP has fun bringing in their favorite characters in different ways. Though XXXholic and Tsubasa intertwine the most, including each tale having their own Mokona (who are actually named after one of the members of CLAMP)!

      • Jackie P. says:

        I think that we sometimes take CLAMP for granted; it’s been around and appreciated for so long. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Nicole says:

    I am so happy to see Black Butler on a list (FINALLY!) I stumbled across the anime and have been impatiently waiting for each new manga release since.

Leave a reply (comments are moderated before posting)