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Four 'lesser-known' gems of the manga world

Dananjaya Rijaluzaman
Dananjaya Rijaluzaman

A student and a servant to stories along with mildly interesting, yet debatably useful, tidbits

Jakarta | Wed, August 9, 2017 | 09:46 am
Four 'lesser-known' gems of the manga world

Rows of Japanese manga on display in a bookstore show off their colorful spines and font styles. (Shutterstock.com/spatuletail)

Manga is a Japanese literary form that has been exported and experienced around the world since its artists raised the artistic literary genre to popular culture in the mid-20th century.

Manga is consumed by quite a large number of countries outside Japan, including Indonesia, where its fan-base has increased markedly thanks to the popularity of iconic series like Dragon Ball Z.

Here are four ongoing series that may be lesser known outside Japan for readers interested in whetting their manga appetite, from generational epic to romcom. Each of these, published in English, signify the differing approach to the medium aside from the now-common rom-com and/or isekai (a sort of sci-fi with normal people transported to another dimension).

JoJolion: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Part 8

Released monthly since 2011, JoJolion is part of the cult-like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure that started in the 1980s. A mix of mystery, action and romance, JoJolion has next to no fan-service moments.

JoJo has had immense influence on the development of manga. The JoJo series, crafted by venerable mangaka (manga artist) Hirohiko Araki, is legendary for its depiction of fabulously styled characters of all genders (and even different species) and the uncanny characters’ names. The multigenerational story centers on the family of title hero Josuke, ensuring that there will always be a character named JoJo in every era.

JoJolion, touted as "Part 8" of the ongoing series, tells the story of Josuke Higashikata, who is found stuck to the mysterious Wall of Eyes by a local woman named Yasuho Hirose.

In a strange turn of events, Josuke is revealed to have – I kid you not – four testicles, which is actually rather relevant to the plot. JoJolion is spirited and full of outrageously creative powers that are defined and change as the person they come from grows.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War

Made by the creator of the intriguing Instant Bullet series, Aka Akasaka, this manga series deals with two highly intelligent students struggling with their feelings for each other.

They are the affluent but sheltered multi-talented genius Kaguya Shinomiya and the thrifty yet hard-working Miyuki Shirogane, both refusing to confess their feelings for one another. Their reluctance to confess? Well, the one who confesses first obviously loses!

Incredibly funny, surprisingly sweet and unlike quite a few romance manga, Kaguya-sama contains mostly minor fan service and presents a noticeable progression in the genius duo's relationship (its endlessness hinted at, unlike most romance manga).

The manga tends to keep up with current trends, including Pokemon Go, Twitter, and the hydraulic press video (yes, really). A monthly manga turned weekly for its popularity, Kaguya-sama is a heartwarming offering after Akasaka’s previous work was canceled.

Grand Blue

It's a diving – wait, no – drinking – uh, no – betrayal manga! A monthly series, Grand Blue deals with the subject of college life, a rarity in manga.

Set in a diving club owned by his uncle, the protagonist Iori Kitahara and his friends happily spoil each other's plans for misadventure and shenanigans – or try to survive the sudden but inevitable "traitors" who appear.

One of the earliest running gags of the series shows friends conspiring helpfully to preserve their peers' virginity, indicating how its creator is comfortable with the typically taboo topic while not descending into the pitfall of sleazy treatment.

Fan service in Grand Blue is surprisingly few than most high-school romance manga, and the occasional censored male nudity is merely comic relief. Sex is a subject it also explores, but mostly through "after the deed" scenes and without any explicit depictions.

A Bride’s Story

Available in English since 2011, A Bride’s Story is a romantic tale focusing on the joys and strifes of married couples set in Central Asia and focusing on the central tale of Amir Halgal.

By acclaimed mangaka Kaoru Mori, the award-winning series deals with the theme of 19th-century Muslim society against the spectral backdrop of the Great Game between Britain and Russia as the Ottoman Empire grows ever weaker.

There is some fan service, but subtly, and the story is both lighthearted and well researched.

Mori is committed to the historical accuracy of the period, so the escapism offered transports readers from manga to historical realism, even if romance is the main storyline. (dev/kes)

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Dananjaya Rijaluzaman is a student drawn to uncovering human-interest stories, along with mildly interesting, yet debatably useful, tidbits.

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