Creating manga, like any other type of story, is hard. So much goes into writing it, from creating compelling characters to worldbuilding to effective pacing. The same goes for the artwork: drawing memorable designs, visually arresting settings, and polished page compositions is no easy feat. Any manga that accomplishes all these things is worthy of praise, but there’s something particularly special about successful long-running series. It’s that much easier to falter when crafting a saga, but the potential payoff after years worth of story build-up is huge.
On that note, the AiPT! staff decided to share some of their favorite long-running manga of all time. These are series that, whether now finished or still ongoing, have managed to earn and sustain our love for years on end.
Hunter x Hunter
By Yoshihiro Togashi
If you’ve ever talked to me about manga, chances are I’ve gushed about HxH for an immeasurable amount of time. It is by far my favorite manga ever, and while it has had a lot of hiatuses (so it doesn’t have as many chapters as some other long running manga–only 380 chapters in its 20-year run), it’s one of the most well-crafted and thoughtful deconstructions of the shonen genre ever made. Even outlining the premise is difficult, but at its most basic it’s a story about adventure and growing up.
If I had to recommend a format in which to first consume HxH, I would have to say the 2011 anime because the manga really loves explaining things in detail, so it can sometimes feel like a chore to read. With that said, the anime does this too, so it can still sometimes be a chore to watch. (The part of the Chimera Ant arc where it can take an entire episode for a few minutes of in-world time to pass comes to mind.) Also, the manga’s art can sometimes be…less than stellar. (The panel from the Greed Island arc where there’s a beautifully rendered turkey dinner next to an almost childlike scrawl of a party comes to mind.)
Despite all this, Hunter x Hunter has touched me like no other, and besides Fullmetal Alchemist, I can’t think of a story in any medium that has come close to the scope and consistently stellar and affecting storytelling of Hunter x Hunter. P.S. The x is silent.
By Hidaeki Sorachi
Gin Tama is a very different kind of long-running shonen. At first, it’s an episodic, almost farcical comedy about a world where aliens called Amato have populated Edo period Japan, but it grows to be so much more than that without ever losing its core. The series follows Gin, a former samurai (due to the aliens it is now illegal to be a samurai) who runs a business that does odd jobs and never turns down a chance to get paid. Joined by Shinpachi, a nerdy young man who runs his father’s dojo, and Kagura, a young Amato girl with super strength, Gin does whatever it takes to pay their rent.
Along the way, things become much more serialized and take on a more serious tone. While some of the jokes can be hard to understand if you’re not familiar with Japanese culture and politics, it’s still insanely funny to the point that I’ve cried laughing more than once while reading it. The best part about Gin Tama is that it can flip switches between funny and serious with ease and make you laugh just as much as it can bring tears to your eyes. Don’t let the chapter count scare you away because Gin Tama is well worth the binge read.
By Masashi Kishimoto
Naruto was one of the first manga series I ever read. It was 2004, I had just been hired at Borders and a colleague asked if I had ever read manga before. It was a totally new form of media for me, as I’d only ever read books and western comics prior to that. The two series he recommended were Love Hina and Naruto. I instantly fell in love with both and read through Love Hina in a matter of weeks. After that I read through every available volume of Naruto and then found myself searching out the newest chapters in their translated form online. It would take ten more years before I finally got to the finish line with Naruto.
During those years I watched the main character who shares his name with the title of the series grow up and become a man. I watched him compete with his rival, fight for his friends, discover his family, fall in love and save the world.
The story revolves around a young boy in a secret ninja village who wants to become the Hokage, which is the most powerful ninja in the village as well as its de facto leader. Naruto is a pariah of sorts due to the circumstances surrounding his birth, and because of that the villagers shun and avoid him. If Naruto can manage to become Hokage then the villagers will be forced to acknowledge him, which is really all he wants–friends and acknowledgement.
I won’t spoil anything for you, but please trust me when I say that this is one of the best original stories I’ve ever read. It’s an investment for sure, I mean the series went on for fifteen years, but the journey is so worth it.
The Promised Neverland
Written by Kaiu Shirai, Art by Posuka Demizu
Sometimes you stumble upon your next favorite thing totally by chance. Such is the case with me and The Promised Neverland. I never would have picked this series up on my own, but I received a review copy of one of the tankobon volumes, and I’m really glad I did. This series grabbed me in from the very beginning with its unique premise–a group of orphans find out that their caretakers are raising them to become demon food. The children then struggle to escape from their orphanage, and upon leaving they must find a way to survive in their demon-infested world.
There are several long-running mysteries throughout the series, and every time we get some answers further questions pop up as well. This sounds like a potential recipe for disappointment (ala Lost) but Shirai and Demizu do a great job keeping the reader hooked and satisfied with what answers are provided. There’s a clear sense that the creators know what they’re doing, and watching the story unfold is a lot of fun. Each new revelation about human or demon civilizations on this world is fascinating.
I also have to mention Demizu’s artwork. She has a unique style that might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I personally grew to love it. There’s so much detail to everything, and Demizu definitely sells the idea that this is a dangerous world. There are a variety of different demon types, many of which are both disguting and frightening.
The Promised Neverland is relatively young compared to other series on this list, but I think it more than qualifies. It runs in Weekly Shonen Jump after all, and it’s nearing its hundredth chapter, plus it shows no sign of stopping any time soon. This is one of my favorite manga period, regardless of length or current publication status. An anime adaptation was just announced, and I’m excited to see that version of the story as well.
By Eiichiro Oda
You can’t get much longer than One Piece–and according to Oda, there are a lot of pirate adventures still to come. I must admit I’m not fully caught up with this series; I actually just started reading it recently. I decided to finally give it a chance after hearing a friend sing its praises repeatedly. The series is a lot more fun than I expected, and its goofy characters provide a lot of humorous moments. Oda’s artwork is charming, and Roronoa Zola is just plain cool. What more could I ask for than a swordsman who wields three blades at a time, including one that he clenches between his teeth? It’ll take me a while to catch up on this series, but I’m very much looking forward to the experience of doing so.
By Makoto Yukimura
I’ve read a lot of manga over the years, but the only series I’ve stuck with past five volumes is Vinland Saga. Currently ongoing in Japan, this series is reaching its 10th translated volume in America, with each volume bursting at 400+ pages. This series captures a unique time in human history around 1,000 A.D. when Vikings ruled the seas. It’s historically accurate, well, as accurate as it can be given the historic record, and it’s rendered in deliciously detailed artwork. What keeps me interested is the main character who has gone through some serious trials and growth over the years. At first he was an angry youth who became a master killer. Over time however, he’s learned that peace is the only way to live life. Unfortunately for him, he lives at a time when violence is the only way of life. I’ve been itching to see if he can finally attain true peace over the last four volumes, but dammit does the violence of Vikings pull him back into tough situations.
Do you agree with these picks? Are there other long-running manga that you’re especially fond of? Sound off in the comments below!