Welcome to my seinen manga recommendations.
Not a lot of people know much about seinen manga as it is overshadowed by its cooler younger sibling, shounen manga. Seinen manga was more prominent during the 80s and 90s, with its target audience being older men 18 years and older. The themes are usually more mature and violent in comparison to shounen benefiting the demographic.
Related post: What is Seinen Manga?
Now, most popular seinen manga are older series that have long been completed, reminiscent of days gone by. While some recent series are putting the genre in the spotlight again, it is not going to be as popular as shounen as the current publishing ratings is not gonna allow a huge audience to form. To my knowledge, most seinen is rated M-Mature so it kinda limits the number of people that are able to read it.
Despite that little problem, there is seinen manga that can be read by at least teens. Not all seinen manga is full of violence and sexual scenes. It is the underlying themes and character dynamics that define the genre and not the graphics.
I’ve been reading seinen since my teens and coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of horror, there are seinen manga that isn’t scary or graphic. Of course, I will put those options in this list but there is no running away from the slightly graphic nature of some seinen manga.
So without further ado, here are my 5 recommendations for manga in the seinen genre.
Related post: 5 Best Seinen Manga
Let’s start this list with a non-violent/gory title.
Emma is set in the Victorian Era, specifically around the 1890s when the Industrial Revolution is at full swing. Emma, our titular character, is a maid (specifically a maid of all works) working for a retired governess, Kelly Stowner. One fateful day, one of Kelly’s former students, William Jones, a member of the gentry stops by for a visit. He meets Emma and is immediately taken with her (awww love at first sight (｡♥‿♥｡) ). The rest of the story follows Emma and William as they try to make their romance work in an age of social status and propriety.
While the story is super simple, the themes are not. The two characters will suffer much criticism for being who they are and loving each other as they are. The manga isn’t so dramatic but the emotions that the characters express through the wonderful dialogue and Mori’s art style will hit your heart like a brick wall.
Although not graphic, this series touches on the theme of social hierarchy and to a certain extent, discrimination. In a rigid society like the Victorian age, it is impossible to climb the social ladder if you are not born lucky. What’s more, if you are unlucky enough, you may be forced to take drastic measures to ensure your survival. Emma may not explicitly say it but some of the side characters who are actresses (considered a disgusting profession at the time) or prostitutes have not had it easy. Some of London’s most impoverished have their stories told in this manga during the extra chapters where Mori touches on the desperation some people do to live.
Related Post: Emma Manga Review
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (The City Where Only I am Missing)
Known as Erased to international audiences, the anime adaptation has catapulted this title to fame as one of the most exciting murder/time travel mysteries in Japanese animation.
Fujinuma Satoru is an aspiring mangaka but at the age of 29, he is working part-time as a pizza delivery driver while barely getting any manga-related work. It is safe to say that Satoru is living a pretty dead life and he knows it. One day though, during his normal work hours, he discovers he has the ability to rewind time and prevented an accident from occurring. From then on, Satoru’s life changes drastically. When he is implicated in a murder he didn’t commit, he goes back in time to his days in elementary school and vows to solve a murder that has continued to plague him to this day. Satoru realises that this murder was the start of everything and he vows to catch the killer responsible.
This manga is incredibly popular because of Satoru’s ability to essentially rewind time around him and prevent things from happening before they even occur. The readers understand his desperation to save the ones they love and to prevent regrets because of inaction or ignorance. Satoru regrets not taking action and his determination is clearly shown during his rewind into the past because he wants things to be better, for his family and friends.
This supernatural murder mystery is exciting to read which will keep readers at the edge of their seat until the end when Satoru eventually finds out what happened and who the killer really is.
Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (Our Happy Times)
Trigger Warning: This title talks about suicide and rape. If themes like this disturb you, please skip this title and move to the next one. Thanks!
Now we have a psychological tragedy that will leave you contemplating for a few hours after reading it.
Adapted from a Korean novel, this manga talks about a young woman, Mutou Juri, who has attempted suicide multiple times as she believes that there is nothing worth living for as everything and everyone in her life has made her so unhappy. She is a pianist but has not performed for years due to her mental health issues and her dark past. Juri is recruited to talk to a prisoner on death row who has murdered three people. This prisoner, Yuu, is like Juri in more ways than one. He has attempted to kill himself as well because there is nothing that can make living any more bearable. Surprisingly, to both of them, talking with each other helped and they both grew closer, understanding how important their lives really are and aspire to live.
Juri and Yuu are extremely depressing characters, I’m not gonna lie. There is nothing happy about this series at all. It is short but a lot is expressed through it. Support from those in similar situations and having the strength to forgive is just one of the few themes that this manga has to offer. It is such a reflective piece that talks about the healing process of people that have gone through so much in life.
I put this here despite the distressing themes because it is so liberating. Even if the whole manga is so depressing that makes Edgar Allen Poe cry, I think reading such tragedy can allow one to appreciate the people we trust, hence liberating.
However, I stand by my warning to those who don’t wish to read it. If you’re not keen, don’t force yourself to.
Love Japanese history? Then this manga is for you ー( ´ ▽ ` )ﾉ
In the 16th century Japan, Shinmen Takezou was a wild and rough young man, in appearance and in his actions. He and his best friend leave their village for something grander that provincial life which led the pair to enlist in the Toyotomi army. However, things take a drastic turn as the Toyotomi suffer a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Tokugawa forces at the battle of Sekigahara. Takezou and his friends barely escape the carnage. Separated from his best friend, Takeszou finds himself a wanted man for a crime he didn’t commit so he changed his name, avoiding authorities and developing his new-found philosophy as an enlightened swordsman. This is the story of Miyamoto Musashi, the ‘Sword Saint’.
According to history, Miyamoto Musashi was not just a wandering samurai, he was also a thinker who wrote works on the truths of the world and human nature. The Book of the Five Rings was particularly memorable and is still used as sound advice for businesses. His fame as a thinker probably came from the violence characterised by Japan during the time he was alive. He is one of the most idolised figures in Japanese history and rightly so. His teachings are still being used by many today so no wonder he is so well-known.
If you are of the thinking kind, I think reading Vagabond will be really engaging. It is not just a biography of one man’s achievements but also the creation of his philosophy.
Trigger Warning: This manga is NOT for the weak-hearted. Very graphic displays of violence and sexual content.
As you can see from the trigger warning put up, I have not read this manga. I don’t have the stomach for it. I have watched the anime though which is slightly toned down but still pretty gory enough that I had to catch my breath a few times. The gore in this series is a lot more than normal seinen series so the warning is necessary.
This title won awards for its story and writing but man it still doesn’t make me wanna read it. It’s on this list because of how popular it is. There is no way I’m not mentioning it even though I haven’t read it. This is the only series out of all my manga lists that I have not read. Everything else on this list and more I have read.
Guts seeks sanctuary from demonic forces attracted to him and his woman because of a demonic mark on their necks. He is also out for revenge against the man who branded him as an unholy sacrifice. He must fight against those who have wronged him and those after him and the people he cares about even if he has to lose his limbs, literally.
From the information I’ve gathered from my friends who have read this series, Berserk is one of the greatest adventure manga they have ever read. It has such a deep compelling story that will make you want to read more. Guts is such a tragic hero who has lost so much and you can’t help but pray for him and those he cares about. It seems unfair that the world is trying to get rid of him and all you wish is for him to have a day where he isn’t fighting or running.
Despite the story though, the graphic violence and such limits the fanbase sadly. Though the manga is popular and it’s on this list as such, my advice to those who are hesitant is still read at your own risk.
Even though seinen manga is well-known for graphic violence and sexual themes, not all seinen manga has them. I have managed to put three titles that are pretty ‘neutral’ in a sense. There may be some violence here and there but it is not so graphic that is needs a warning label.
Seinen manga is exciting to read and I’m a little disappointed that it is not as popular as before. The dynamics in the genre itself are a lot more real than shounen manga with more real characters and situations that we can’t push to just whims and fancy.
If you like a little spice in your adventures in the manga world, I highly suggest reading a seinen series. As always, if you have opinions on my suggestions, feel free to comment down below, I’d love to hear it 🙂