Yukiko Seike$18.95 $17.43
Based on the anime film of the same name by industry giant Makoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters Per Second is wonderfully adapted into manga form by Yukiko Seike. Whether or not you've seen the movie or heard of Shinkai, there's so much to this story it's almost scary. So much to relate to, to understand, to puzzle through. With main character Takaki Tono being so flawed, all of that is only multiplied. He's among the most unbearable protagonists (if he even classifies as one) I've ever read, and I mean that in the best way possible. Following along as he makes -- or doesn't make! -- decisions is simultaneously frustrating as all hell and as compelling as it gets.
Mentioning A Bride's Story without mentioning Kaoru Mori's art is a crime punishable by the revocation of your right to read manga, so let me just say... WOW. There's no real way to describe it in brief, so just think of it this way: you will feel bad every time you turn the page, wondering just how much detail you missed. Art aside, though, A Bride's Story is a wonderful exploration of what it's like to navigate the treacherous waters of cultural differences. Set in 1800's Turkey, a beautiful setting not often chronicled, the characters are fun to follow, and the narrative takes its fair share of unexpected turns along the way. Just all around excellent stuff.
Yoshiyuki Sadamoto$19.98 $18.38
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a powerful name in the world of anime, often praised as the cream of the crop, the show that saved the anime industry, and any number of similar (and well-earned) monikers. The manga adapted the events of the anime, keeping some things the same and others not so much. Whatever your relationship with the anime is like -- whether you love it or never saw it -- the manga deserves its own place in history. It weaves a complex tale that on the surface seems only to be about giant mechs fighting alien-like creatures in post-apocalyptic Japan -- which, let's be honest, is awesome in its own right. Its story, characters, and overall execution are nothing less than legendary. You won't finish Evangelion without getting something out of it, guaranteed.
Inio Asano$17.99 $16.55
Solanin is a manga for anyone who feels or has ever felt stuck -- stuck in their job, stuck with the people in their life, stuck with tedious routine, anything. That's something we've all felt at some point or another, whatever the reason, and Inio Asano (famous for Goodnight Punpun) uses Solanin to drive the point home, and to push it beyond its boundaries. Protagonist Meiko Inoue may be in her mid-twenties, but her struggles are as ageless as they are timeless. Throw in love, music, and humor, and you have a masterpiece in the making.
Shuzo Oshimi$22.95 $21.11
I almost don't want to put The Flowers of Evil on here for how dark and intense it can be, but it's so damn good that I can't resist. Thanks to a healthy dose of psychological horror, Shuzo Oshimi's story is not for the faint of heart, probing themes like identity, sexuality, and coming-of-age in all their glory and grime. For those who can grit their teeth and push through, however, the rewards are plentiful: amazing characters, art that improves as the pages turn, and a massive tonal shift that somehow manages to feel right at home. It's a series that grips hard and doesn't let go even after you've finished the final volume, always tugging at your subconscious with a new question, a new feeling. There's nothing quite like it.