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Ani-Gamers’ Top 3 Manga of 2008

To begin our countdown of the best titles of 2008, we present to you our picks for the Top 3 Manga of 2008. These titles had to have started their English-language publication in North America during the 2008 calendar year to be eligible for the Top 3. Unfortunately, we have a limited staff that actually reads manga, so this is far from a comprehensive list. We apologize, but trust us when we say that this list has some really fantastic titles on it. The writeup for each winner has the author’s nickname next to it. [Vampt Vo], for example.

Following the steady downturn in the American economy, the manga industry also had troubles this year. Riding into 2008 on the coattails of a massive rise in manga popularity over the past half-decade, publishers expected more big sales to come. However, the industry faltered, and sales figures began to show small decreases. Eventually former manga giant Tokyopop cracked under the strain, cutting their production in half, and newer players like Del Rey and Yen Press jumped in to take its place. These new companies (as well as the ever-present Viz and the retro-centered Vertical) have defined the manga world in 2008 with fantastic new titles covering a wide range of topics.

Below, our staff-voted choices for best manga of 2008.

Me and the Devil Blues
Third Place ••• Me and the Devil Blues

Story and Art by: Akira Hiramoto

Published by: Del Rey

Who would have thought that a Japanese manga – much less one from the creator of a childish “gag comic” – could provide a gripping story about an American blues musician? Akira Hiramoto does just that in this starkly illustrated and disturbingly realistic manga. Everything from faces to guitars are shown with exquisite attention to detail, and no historical reference is spared as legendary blues musician Robert Johnson meets thieves like Bonny & Clyde and faces cold-blooded Southern racism. Dark, brooding, and downright cool, Me and the Devil Blues easily deserves a spot in our Top 3. [Vampt Vo]

Second Place ••• MW

Story and Art by: Osamu Tezuka

Published by: Vertical, Inc.

Tezuka’s darkest book is full of nothing but nasty: murder, rape, genocide… This isn’t exactly what you’d expect from the guy, but he knocks it out of the park with a great story that’s full of characters you love to hate. The killer ending that caps off the epic tale of a vengeful sociopath is one of the biggest “OH SNAP!” moments in manga history (despite being sort of predictable), and Tezuka manages to hammer home every point with uncomfortable poignancy. [MitchyD]

Black Jack
First Place ••• Black Jack

Story and Art by: Osamu Tezuka

Published by: Vertical, Inc.

Osamu Tezuka wrote Black Jack in the 1970’s, but that doesn’t make its 2008 U.S. release any less relevant. Readers both new and old who come to Black Jack for the first time will not find an “old,” dated manga, but a vibrant work that still manages to touch readers’ hearts three decades after its original publication. The mysterious Doctor Black Jack’s battles with strange (and improbable) diseases are more than interesting mini-plots for Tezuka to try out – they are complex studies of the human condition. No other manga this year can compete with the brilliance and beauty of Tezuka’s classic. [Vampt Vo]

Personal Choices

(The top manga choice from each of our staff members that voted)

  • Evan “Vampt Vo” Minto: Black Jack (Tezuka)
  • Mitchell “MitchyD” Dyer: MW (Tezuka)

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