I don’t know what possessed me to even try to write a blog post about sci-fi manga. It’s like the attempt at making the Ender’s Game movie: it could be done, a lot of the great things that made the story awesome are going to be left out for the sake of brevity (ha, sorry, I couldn’t resist).
To give credit where it’s due; I wouldn’t even have known where to start had I not looked at Manga: The Complete Guide, edited by Jason Thompson (Del Rey, 2007). In there, he writes a terrific history of sci-fi in manga and lists down the various series that fall under this category (as of time of publication). Even looking through the list of manga that are classified as sci-fi and are translated in English, I think I’ve only read a third or a quarter of them. Since then, the universe of US manga publication has also gone through an overhaul: publishers have gone away and titles have gone out of print, but at the same time, new titles have been licensed and digital versions have been made available.
Anyway, since I already know a lot of these recommendations are going to be a little dated, I welcome suggestions on titles that would fit the bill. I only ask that you limit your recs to US-licensed titles, thanks!
If you want to read manga about aliens…
Please Save My Earth by Saki Hiwatari (Viz, 21 volumes, Certain volumes were out of print for a long time, but now all volumes are available digitally, yay!). A group of aliens with psychic abilities living on the moon are reincarnated on Earth and have to figure out how their past lives, powers, and drama are going to work in the present.
I know that twenty-one volumes is such a big investment, but I think this series has the legs to justify the time and effort to get fully involved in the story. Almost, if not, all the characters are flawed and weak but their motivations and their reactions are very human and believable. The “moon episode” flashbacks are well-scripted and give a sense on how aliens may perceive humanity and how we treat our planet.
You may also enjoy Moon Child by Reiko Shimizu (13 vols, CMX, out of print but all volumes still available on Amazon). Loosely based on The Little Mermaid, but with undifferentiated mermaid spawn/clones. This was published in the 1980s so the art style and fashion choices of the characters truly reflect this era, but that shouldn’t deter you from haunting, almost creepy, story a try.
If you want to read manga about genetically altered humans (with psychic powers)…
Eternal Sabbath (ES) by Fuyumi Soryo (8 volumes, Del Rey, OOP but still available). Fuyumi Soryo was the reason that I really got into manga in the first place. I read Mars back in 2002 and down the rabbit hole I went. ES is more mature, delving in to the world of mind control and and literal mind-fuckery.
Ryousuke Akiba, also known as ES, is the product of genetic manipulation which has given him the ability to get into people’s minds and change what they perceive and remember. When someone with similar powers terrorizes Tokyo, Ryousuke teams up with neurologist Mine Kujyou to find the culprit.
If you want to read manga about space life & travel…
Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma (12 volumes, Vertical, certain print volumes are harder to find, but now available digitally so yay x2!). Set in the near-future, this is a heart-wrenching story of a group of Japanese high school kids training to become astronauts. The story is set in a backdrop of a tragic events –both on a national and personal scale — yet the main character Asumi persists with astronaut training, which has been her fervent childhood dream. I like how this story shows how difficult and possibly harmful astronaut training could be. In some movies/tv shows it appears that anybody who’s reasonably fit can pass the rigors of training. If it were that easy, you’d think we’d have more astronauts/cosmonauts than we already have now.
If you liked that, you may also enjoyed Planetes by Makoto Yukimura (5 volumes, Tokyopop, OOP but still available). Realistic sci-fi series featuring space debris (“space garbage”) collectors who are orbiting the area between the Earth and the moon. The characters are funny, empathetic, and relatable. They’re just ordinary people with not-so ordinary jobs.
If you want to read manga about AI and robots…
Chobits by CLAMP (8 volumes in 2 omnibus editions, Dark Horse). Not my favorite series by CLAMP but I think that they make an interesting statement on how humans could/would interact with sentient android technology, as well as the nature of humanity and love and various sentimental stuff. Best to stick with the manga version though and don’t even try to look for the anime, which will rot your brain the second you hear Sumomo’s chirpy voice.
As I mentioned above, comments and suggestions are welcome! Am I missing out on a truly worthwhile sci-fi manga read? Let me know!
This post is part of #RRSciFiMonth hosted by RinnReads