Let's talk about my manga 3 x 3.
Cutting right to the chase.
Here is my 3x3 as of 2022:
If I had to put them in order from 1-9, then it would be:
Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi
Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo
Skip, Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura
Something's Wrong With Us by Natsumi Ando
Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Akiko Higashimura
Butterflies, Flowers by Yuki Yoshihara
Ten Count by Rihito Takarai
Hotaru's Way by Satoru Hiura
Peach Heaven by Mari Yoshino
And that's it! Phew! It's always hard choosing my favorite manga (and anime), but as of 2022, these manga are my faves. Maybe I'll revisit this in a year to see if anything changed, but I doubt it. The list of faves above pretty much summarizes what I really enjoy. Lots of comedy with romance. Some mystery and smut. Most of these series are fairly short, clocking in under 20 volumes. Finally, they are series that I enjoy re-reading, and when I do, they still "spark" joy. Before I dive deep into my faves, let me tell you what missed the cut.
Yellow by Makoto Tateno
Yellow is my fave manga by Makoto Tateno. Also, Makoto Tateno is one of my fave old BL mangaka. Yellow (along with Gorgeous Carat by You Higuri) will always have a special place in my heart as being one of my first starter BLs.
Monster and the Beast by Renji
Monster and the Beast is a human x inhuman yaoi fantasy story, and I am here for it! Lots of action and adventure with a good dose of mystery plus really great art!
Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase
A girl x robot romcom with a bittersweet ending. Yuu Watase is my fave shoujo mangaka, and Absolute Boyfriend is my fave series by her besides the Fushigi Yugi saga.
Case Closed by Gosho Aoyama
Case Closed will always be an anime first, manga second property to me. I'm a long-time fan of the anime. Like, I remember it's disastrous run on Adult Swim. (Maybe I'll touch upon that in a later post...) I finally broke down and collected the manga under quarantine. Solid, classic mystery series. If you're learning Japanese, put this on your list. I can't tell you how many times I could have solved the case... if I understood Japanese. 🤣 Aoyama uses a lot of word play.
Love of Kill by Fe
A fast-paced action/mystery/romance featuring a yandere male lead and a cold female lead? Yes, please. The anime has been a little disappointing due to the pacing, but it is still enjoyable. The manga, however, is great. I am really loving it so far.
Guilty by Ai Okaue
I am starved for mystery romance stories and just mystery stories in general. Guilty is a melodramatic thriller that just keeps going. It's a doughnut hole within a doughnut hole where you're watching unlikable, trashy characters get what they deserve. If you live for tea, and I mean all the tea, then read it. It's glorious. 🤣
Wish by Clamp
If I had to make a list of my favorite mangaka (and perhaps I will), Clamp would definitely be on it. Clamp has solid manga (and anime!) under their belt. So about Wish— It's a short slice-of-life supernatural romance between an angel and a doctor. The angel is cute and bubbly, and the doctor is the strong, stoic type. Not really sure why I'm quick to call this series my "fave" Clamp series. I just like it. It's short, sweet, and straight to the point. It has an ending. The art is great as always. Besides Wish, I enjoyed Chobits (my first Clamp story) and xxxHolic.
Alright, with honorable mentions out of the way, let's talk about why I love these 9 manga.
My Fave Manga
1. Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi
First, Rumiko Takahashi is hands-down my #1 all-time favorite mangaka. Besides Maison Ikkoku, I enjoyed her other series like Mermaid Saga, Inuyasha, Ranma and her short stories like Came the Mirror & Other Tales and Rumic Theater. The jury is still out on Mao, and while I have never finished Rin-ne, I thought it was okay. I really, really tried hard to like Lum, but I can’t get into it. Not the manga. Not the anime. Love the characters just not all of the episodic shenanigans they get into. Really love the second film Beautiful Dreamer tho. Back to the topic at hand.
Maison Ikkoku is my favorite Rumiko Takahashi work. It’s her best series. It’s her best story, and I will gladly die on this hill. It’s a romcom from the 80s that follows a loser ronin named Yusaku Godai. Yusaku lives in a wacky boarding house and falls in love with the new manager, a widow named Kyoko Otonashi. 95% Comedy and 5% romance ensue over the course of 15 volumes (now smushed into 10 omnibus editions).
There’s character growth. There’s lots of laughs. There's even some heart towards the end, like tearing up just a little at what happens. (I appreciate how she wraps up the antagonist Coach Mitaka’s story.) The entire series is solid from beginning to end. Takahashi sticks the landing on this one. 10/10. 5 stars. 2 thumbs way, way up! Go read it.
2. Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo
I enjoy the mystery genre (from Sherlock Holmes style-locked murder mysteries to police procedurals to spy thrillers and everything else in between), and I enjoy comedies, and this book has both spy shenanigans and comedy in spades. I love that it's different from the various fake family, spy family, and spy infiltration stories out there.
I love the setting—a vague Germany-esque country during the 60s Cold War. (It's a bit anachronistic.) I like all three characters—Twilight, Anya, and Yor. I love the budding family dynamic and the fact that Anya knows what her "parents" do for a living. The whole "will everyone find out who each other really is", doesn't factor into the story, and I find that refreshing. Maybe Twilight will find out about Anya's telepathic ability and Yor's an assassin, and maybe not. Maybe Yor will find out that Twilight is a spy and Anya is a telepath, and maybe not. There are bigger stakes involved namely the overall plot, The Mission.
I love the cover art which is why I had to get the series in print. Otherwise, I would have just been fine with digital. You can read it for free or on the cheap via MangaPlus and VIZ's Shonen Jump app. I kept up with the bi-weekly chapters starting from Yor's arc (Ch. 44) onwards; so once I read vol. 7, I will be fully caught up. (If you must know when I got on the hype train, I got on board when VIZ started to release the series in print back in 2020.)
3. Skip, Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura
I got into the series super late, like 2016/2017 late so I’m not feeling as fatigued as some fans. Skip, Beat! Is a comedy first, slice-of-life second, and romance, dead last. Seriously, if you’re there for romance, be prepared to wait as Kyoko, our lead heroine, is refusing to fall in love, and her refusal is a big part of the story. 🤣
I love the artwork. It’s expressive and funny, and sometimes, it can really be pretty. I love Kyoko and the other cast of characters, and finally, I enjoy the arcs. There is forward momentum. You do see Kyoko get better at acting. You see her become a better version of herself throughout the story. There’s no “reset button” on character’s growth and relationships.
There aren’t too many long-running and ongoing shoujo series licensed in English. Japan is about to get v. 48. We just got v. 46 in April. If you like comedies or stories about actresses and acting, I can’t recommend Skip, Beat! enough. Don't let the high volume count scare you off. There are omnibuses, and the series is an easy binge read.
4. Something's Wrong With Us by Natsumi Ando
This is my favorite Natsumi Ando manga. (#2 is Arisa.) I love the mixture of romance, mystery,and drama. I love the setting, and I love the characters. I really love the artwork too. It reads like a NYT bestseller romance a la a Sandra Brown novel but set in Japan. Something's Wrong With Us is a series that I've constantly been picking up off my shelf and just keep flipping through as I impatiently wait for the next volume.
The series follows a Japanese sweets maker and the man who framed her mother for murder. If you're looking for a mystery, some steam, a childhood friends to enemies romance, and a marriage story all rolled into one, read this.
5. Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Akiko Higashimura
Akiko Higashimura is my second favorite josei mangaka, and Tokyo Tarareba Girls is my favorite series by her. Tokyo Tarareba Girls is about a 33-year-old career woman and her two friends finding success in love and work before the Tokyo Olympics. This is a female friendship story and a gut-busting romcom. The girls are messy. The ending is fantastic and what it needs to be. If you're looking for a neat ending tied in a bow, look elsewhere.
Tokyo Tarareba Girls Returns serves as an epilogue to the story, and Kodansha released it as a digital-only title in English. While not necessary reading, Tokyo Tarareba Girls Returns does give you more time with the girls. If you enjoyed Higashimura's other stories like Princess Jellyfish or A Fake Affair, then read Tokyo Tarareba Girls. If you enjoy TV series like Sex in the City, then definitely read this.
6. Butterflies, Flowers by Yuki Yoshihara
Yuki Yoshihara is my favorite josei mangaka, and while I have enjoyed many of her other works, especially her short stories, Butterflies, Flowers will always have a special place in my heart.
Butterflies, Flowers is a raunchy, office sex comedy between an ex-aristocratic young woman named Choko Kuze and her "lover, boss, and servant" Masayuki Domoto. I still find this story hysterical, and every time, I revisit this story, it just makes me wish more of Yoshihara's works made it into English. If you enjoy raunchy sex romcoms with some dank (for lack of a better word) humor in it, I would suggest reading her works. I can't really recommend her to everyone as...her works contain lots of sex, sexual harassment as humor, perverted characters, and more things that make you go "oof." Definitely, big content warning stuff. Consider this your warning.
7. Ten Count by Rihito Takarai
I couldn't make this list without at least including one BL title. Ten Count by Rihito Takarai follows a neurotic OCD office secretary named Shirotani who is forever changed after a chance encounter with therapist Kurose. Kurose sets out to cure Shirotani of his compulsions through a 10-step program (hence the title). Drama, romance, and sex ensues.
Like the last title, Ten Count is problematic on a few levels. First, it's a romance between a doctor and a patient, which means ethics and power dynamics. (But, it's hot tho!) Also, there's the old standby of consent issues. (No, small complaint in bl and in the the greater romance genre.) Nonetheless, I love the seme Kurose (shown on the cover here). I love the art, and I love the S&M going on. There was news of an anime adaptation forthcoming, but it's been three years, and no updates. Keeping the faith just a little longer, but in the meantime I have this manga and my bunny boy figure to keep me occupied.
8. Hotaru's Way by Satoru Hiura
Now, let's talk about my favorite Himono. Hotaru's Way is a15-volume tome about a 27-year-old OL named Hotaru, who leads a double life. At work, she's competent and put together, but at home, she's a wreck. However, she's content, living her days working hard at her job and lazing around at home drinking beer and reading manga. (Is...is she me!?) That all changes one day with the arrival of her new roommate, her boss. Thanks to her boss' advice, Hotaru starts a romantic relationship with a younger co-worker with confidence, and little by little, she changes.
This manga is a lot of things. It's a co-habitation, roomies to lovers story. It's a boss x subordinate story. It's a romcom with a little bit of drama to spice things up. This is the story where the second love interest actually wins. (I'm a little tired of romance in general, focusing on the first pair of legs that walk into the main character's sight line. I mean shop around a little at least, jeez.) Hotaru's Way is a lot of things, but most of all, it's a story that speaks to me. I see a bit of myself in Hotaru, the bad and good. I really enjoy this imperfect, old josei, and it looks like I'm the only one as it's a digital-only release in the U.S.A. (I kid, but moving on...)
9. Peach Heaven by Mari Yoshino
Last, but not least, Peach Heaven is the first Mari Yoshino work I read, and it is by far, my fave from her catalogue. Peach Heaven follows Momo, a high school girl who writes erotic stories under her dead dad's pen name to support her precocious younger brother and her sick mom. Momo hides her work and dire situation from her friends and school, but the school prince and famous model Ranmaru learns her secret in the worst way possible. Comedy and romance ensues.
It's an older girl x younger guy story. (They are only a year apart in age.) It's a rich boy x poor girl story, and it's a (tame) smut romcom. Finally, and most importantly, it's hysterical. I love the characters and their chemistry together, and I especially love the art, which manages to make Ranmaru hot and give him the funniest of expressions.
And That's a Wrap!
So, do you have any favorites in common with me? What are your fave manga? What's your 3x3? Share with me below in the comments or on Twitter @ThatMangaHunter.