My Viz 25

Viz is celebrating will celebrate its 25th anniversary this summer, which is quite an accomplishment. Given how many English-language manga publishers have fallen away over time, you have to give Viz credit for sticking around, no matter how well resourced they may be. They’ve always struck me as grown-ups and professionals, which certainly helps. Beyond that, I appreciate the range of material they’ve published over time and that they continue to try and publish.

So, in preparation for the milestone, I thought I’d list 25 of my favorite Viz manga. It’s impressive that it was actually difficult to limit this list to 25, and I ended up having to institute a one-title-per-creator rule to make it possible. Here they are in alphabetical order:

  1. 20th Century Boys, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa: my favorite of Urasawa’s paranoid thriller, because it’s as frisky and funny as it is suspenseful.
  2. A, A1, written and illustrated by Moto Hagio: dreamy science fiction about people with too many feelings for the universe to contain.
  3. Benkei in New York, written by Jinpachi Mori, illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi: beautifully drawn (because it’s Taniguchi) and slyly written noir tales of a mysterious Japanese man in the Big Apple.
  4. Children of the Sea, written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi: some of the most viscerally absorbing art I’ve ever seen in a comic used to tell a solid environmental fable.
  5. Cross Game, written and illustrated by Mitsuru Adachi: simply the bet, funniest, most heartfelt sport manga I’ve ever read.
  6. The Drifting Classroom, written and illustrated by Kazuo Umezu: an elementary school gets blown into a dangerous wasteland, and everything falls apart in the most gruesome, hilarious ways.
  7. Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, written and illustrated by Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma: much more than a parody of instruction manuals, it’s a hilarious take-down of the form itself and the sausage-factory elements that can produce it.
  8. Fullmetal Alchemist, written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa: a great shônen adventure series with some of the crispest, most focused storytelling you’re likely to find in this category.
  9. GoGo Monster, written and illustrated by Taiyo Matsumoto: gorgeous art used in service of an imaginative, emotionally complex story, beautifully packaged for bonus points.
  10. Hikaru no Go, written by Yumi Hotta, illustrated by Takeshi Obata: the series that will make you ask how a comic about a board game can be so exciting.
  11. Honey and Clover, written and illustrated by Chica Umino: art-school students give a master class in mono no aware.
  12. House of Five Leaves, written and illustrated by Natsume Ono: elegant, character-driven examination of a group of kidnappers in Edo era Japan.
  13. I’ll Give it My All… Tomorrow, written and illustrated by Shunju Aono: one of the few comics about losers trying to make comics that I can truly love, because Aono knows he’s writing about a loser and spares his protagonist virtually nothing.
  14. Maison Ikkoku, written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi: further evidence, as if it was needed, that Takahashi is queen of the well-told situation comedy.
  15. Nana, written and illustrated by Ai Yazawa: the lives and love of two very different young women who share the same name and an enduring friendship through life’s ups and downs in rock-and-roll Tokyo.
  16. Oishinbo, written by Tetu Karia, illustrated by Akira Hanasaki: gone too soon, but much appreciated for its food-obsessed tour through Japan’s culinary culture.
  17. One Piece, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda: an absolutely magical blend of high adventure, low comedy, heartbreaking drama, and whatever the hell else Oda feels like throwing into the mix.
  18. Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga: an engrossing alternate universe where most of the men have died, leaving the survivor to sly, courtly intrigue and surprising emotional brutality.
  19. Phoenix, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka: a sprawling example of Tezuka at his peak.
  20. Real, written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue: as smart and sensitive as it is gorgeous and visceral, telling the stories of wheelchair basketball players.
  21. Sand Chronicles, written and illustrated by Hinako Ashihara: heartfelt melodrama about a girl’s troubled journey from early adolescence to womanhood.
  22. Saturn Apartments, written and illustrated by Hisae Iwaoka: another example of why I love slice-of-life science fiction with down-to-earth people in out-of-this-world circumstances.
  23. Secret Comics Japan, written and illustrated by various artists: long before Ax came this wooly and marvelous collection of alternative manga shorts.
  24. Sexy Voice and Robo, written and illustrated by Iou Kuroda: a nosy girl drags a hapless guy into her sometimes-perilous odd jobs snooping for a retired mobster, offering great variety of tones but consistently sharp observations about human nature.
  25. Uzumaki, written and illustrated by Junji Ito: because you always love your first Ito manga best, and this one is an excellent representation of his horrifying work. Of course, if Viz had published Tomie first…

What are your favorite Viz series? If you’d rather post a similar list at your own blog, I’d love to read it (and link to it). Otherwise, let loose in the comments.



  1. Fantastic list! I think I’ll borrow/steal your idea and post my own. I’ll let you know when its up and link to yours, if thats okay.

  2. Good thing Viz didn’t publish a whole lot of Osamu Tezuka or Fumi Yoshinaga or my list would be even harder to come up with! In no particular order, my list would include:

    Banana Fish, Maison Ikkoku, Hikaru no Go, Firefighter Daigo, Please Save My Earth, Phoenix, Ooku, Beet the Vandel Buster, Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, and Kekkaishi.

    I think I did some calculations and figured out that Viz is something like 47-48% of my manga collection. But what can I say, I’ll stop giving them money when they stop publishing nearly of the manga I want to buy 😛

  3. Reading this, I’m feeling unexpectedly *gratified*. It’s just nice, I guess, to see you make so many of the same choices I would.

    Also, I’m happy to see Hikaru no Go on the list, today of all days. :)

    • David Welsh says:

      Yumi Hotta also has a three-volume series about speed skating that was drawn by Kei Kawano and ran in in Jump. I care nothing about speed skating, but Hikaru has convinced me that I would read anything Hotta has to write on any subject.

      I’m glad you like the list! I confess that I felt like a savage hacking so many great shoujo titles off of the early drafts. Poor Ultra Maniac! Forlorn Kimi ni Todoke! Neglected Natsume’s Book of Friends!

  4. Vagabond! Otherwise I think you hit all my favorites. Phoenix, Nana, House of Five Leaves, Cross Game.

    Going really old school, I used to really like Grey and Horobi by Tagami. (Apparently not enough people did, since I don’t think any of his other work ever appeared again in translation.)

    • David Welsh says:

      Inoue makes it really tough to pick just one, but Real has just latched on to me since it debuted.

  5. I don’t know if I’ve been reading manga long enough to have a top 25 list from Viz…. Though 20th Century Boys is definitely on there. So are Maoh Juvenile Remix, Ouran High School Host Club, Saikano, Skip Beat, Story of Saiunkoku, Ooku The Inner Chambers, House of Five Leaves, Angel Sanctuary…. I’m not sure how many more I could list as “favorites.”

    They definitely make up most of my shelf space, but that doesn’t mean the titles I have are necessarily my favorite series. DMP probably makes up the next biggest chunk, thanks to Fumi Yoshinaga. Tokyopop and Dark Horse probably have about an equal presence, with Yen Press having the smallest (of main manga publishers). Sadly, I only have one Vertical Book.

    • David Welsh says:

      I haven’t really thought about who takes second place in terms of bookshelf space occupation. In terms of “highest percentage owned,” it’s definitely a tie between Fanfare/Ponent Mon and Viz, but they have smaller catalogs.

  6. badzphoto says:

    Great list. Here are some of mine that aren’t in list above: Aishiteruze Baby, Baby & Me, Beauty is the Beast, Dinosaur Hour, From Far Away, Here is Greenwood, Imadoki, Kekkaishi, Kimi ni Todoke, Natsume’s book of friends, Ouran High School Host Club, Skip Beat!, Story of Saiunkoku, Tokyo Boys and Girls, Whistle, Wild Ones.

    • David Welsh says:

      Many of the books you listed are locked in combat for 26th place. Imadoki! is possibly my favorite Watase manga ever.

  7. Ohhhhh! Lists!

    Here’s my 25 (in no order):
    1) Maison Ikkoku ; 2) Dance till Tomorrow ; 3) Heartbroken Angels ; 4) Banana Fish ; 5) PatLabor
    6) Kimi ni Todoke ; 7) NANA ; 8) One Piece ; 9) Slam Dunk ; 10) Hikaru no Go
    11) Rumic World ; 12) Crimson Hero ; 13) EAT-MAN ; 14) Oto-Men ; 15) Kekkaishi
    16) Midori Days; 17) Neon Genesis Evangelion ; 18) Sexy Voice & Robo ; 19) Video Girl AI ; 20) GinTama
    21) Ultimate Muscle ; 22) Yu Yu Hakusho ; 23) Nauscicaa of the Valley of the Wind ; 24) Honey & Clover ; 25) Sanctuary

    So much Shogakukan love! But more SJ than I thought. Huh…

  8. Suspenseful sci-fi wrapped around a police drama, with some of the best character development in the business. Oh man, manga in the US was way to young for you PatLabor! But your animated movies still hold up as some of the most beloved works in the anime medium.

  9. MsCongeniality says:

    I’d probably be hard pressed to come up with a list of 25 myself, but I did want to give some love to my favorite overlooked Viz title: Kaze Hikaru. Viz just has so many good series.

    • David Welsh says:

      I really need to revisit that one. I thought the first few chapters were kind of clunky, but, given the esteem in which it’s held, I should give it another go.

      • MsCongeniality says:

        I wasn’t sure about it during its first few issues in Shojo Beat, but by the end of its run there, I was hooked. It’s not the greatest manga out there, it’s not even the best historical out there, but Watanabe really knows her business, and it’s consistently engaging. Even when you know how the history turns out, you want to know what happens next and, to my mind, that’s the mark of good historical fiction in any medium.

  10. Love VIZ Media titles. They make up most of my shelf space.

    My 25 favorite titles alphabetically:

    1. 20th Century Boys
    2. Arata: The Legend
    3. Baby & Me
    5. BASARA
    6. Boys Over Flowers
    7. Cross Game
    8. Fullmetal Alchemist
    9. Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden
    10. Hikaru no Go
    11. Honey and Clover
    12. Honey Hunt
    13. Hot Gimmck
    14. Hunter x Hunter
    15. Kaze Hikaru
    16. Kimi ni Todoke
    17. Library Wars LOVE&WAR
    18. Monster
    19. NANA
    20. Natsume’s Book of Friends
    21. Ouran High School Host Club
    22. Red River
    23. Rurouni Kenshin
    24. Skip Beat!
    25. Story of Saiunkoku

  11. There you go again, David, coming up with a list idea I wish I’d thought of first. Now I know how I’m going to be spending part of my weekend — pulling my hair out while trying to identify 15-20 titles that weren’t on your list!

    • David Welsh says:

      Thanks, Kate! (I probably could have done 50 if I’d allowed myself to give individual creators more than one slot, but that way led to madness.)

  12. It’s a shame you got me interested in A, A^1 but unfortunately the price of this manga has real sky rocketed on the secondary market :( I’m a bit interested in doing my top 25 Viz titles…but I’m not sure if I’m up for the challenge! So many of my favorite series are from Viz! PLUS I have a lot of Viz series that I’ve purchased but haven’t read yet! Well I will say that I’m a big fan of most “Viz Signature” series.

  13. It’s list like these that make me realize just how much great manga I still haven’t read (not too surprising I suppose since I’ve only been at it for a little over a year). Almost every one of these is on my list of series I’m planning to read, so I’m sure the ones I hadn’t heard of (2,3,7,23) are titles that need to be added to that list.

    The only title I can be sure I would have on my list, having not read enough Viz to make a 25 item list, is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind — it’s easily one of my favorite manga I’ve read thus far. Other Viz favorites of mine are Solanin, Uzumaki, Kimi ni Todoke, and Red River.

    • David Welsh says:

      Unfortunately, 2, 3, 7, and 23 are all out of print, but if you find any of them at a library or for a reasonable price, pounce!

  14. Ahavah says:

    Great list! I’d probably go crazy if I had to round out my favorite Viz titles, but I want to mention some series here (in no particular order).

    1. Love*Com AKA Lovely Complex -A romcom that stays funny even after its main plot goes stale;
    2. Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden-A prequel that surpasses the original, IMHO, and the best of Watase’s manga
    3. Ranma 1/2-My introduction to wacky, gender-bending comedy!
    4. Kekkaishi-My favorite currently running shonen manga; I’m glad I’m in good company with this one!
    5. Adolf-Osamu Tezuka’s fictional account of a Jewish boy and his German-Japanese best friend during the Holocaust; desperately needs a re-print!
    6. Pluto-My favorite Urasawa manga; combines Tezuka’s Astro Boy with Urasawa’s suspense and modern sci-fi ideas.
    7. Fairy Cube-Short, pretty Kaoru Yuki title.
    8. InuBaka-a fun read with cute characters and cuter puppies
    9. Gin Tama-I’m sad that it’s going away, and I really did like Viz’s adaptation. Shonen satire that gets serious and action oriented when it wants to go ther! :)
    10. Naruto-Guilty pleasure! I like it, it has a great, creative fanbase all over the world, and who knows where Viz would be without it? 😛

    • David Welsh says:

      Aw, Naruto isn’t a guilty pleasure! Hot Gimmick, on the other hand…

  15. I’m so happy to see Moto Hagio’s A, A, prime. I always thought it was one of her best works, and it still gets me every time. It was very difficult when I was a teenager to find Moto Hagio’s work, and that was one of the few titles I could order in that was translated, Viz was a godsend back in those days. Moto Hagio is a paramount in the manga industry and still blows away many of her contemporaries for narrative, scope and emotional impact. One of the greats, up there with Tezuka and Nagai in my opinion.

    • David Welsh says:

      Definitely. I wish they’d publish more classic manga and try and sneak it into the Shojo Beat line.

  16. I’m actually going to be posting a top five favorite manga list. It’s mostly already written, otherwise I’d totally try one of these out. Question is if I can think of 25 titles. I am not quite as well read in manga that has already been licensed, since I spent a good amount of time reading scanlations, so a lot of the manga I like isn’t even out yet. But since I’ve been pulling away from that and limiting my manga reading to official publications, I’ll be paying more attention to which series is from which publisher. I can say this though, practically ALL the manga I own comes from Viz, either the shonen jump imprint, or one of their other imprints.

    Or I could just make this really easy and say my top 25 favorite viz titles are: 1-25 = One Piece. And that’s how much of a fanboy I am.

    • David Welsh says:

      Hah! If I went with individual volume of ongoing series, One Piece would definitely be a list hog.

  17. Ok, technical difficulties…

    Here’s my list, in no particular order. If I had to list them in order I think I’d explode!

    Blue Exorcist – New but a fantastic shonen book
    Eyeshield 21 – My fave sports manga
    Bakuman – A great insight into the crazy lives of mangaka
    Death Note – THE pentultimate supernatural crime thriller
    Ral Grad – I just love this guys art!
    20th Century Boys – Not many books can transport you to another country, in the past THEN to the future!
    Naruto, Bleach and One Piece – Purely for the impact they have had on the market. They have captured the eyes of tomorrows otaku.
    Pluto – Mind boggling. Tezuka would be proud.
    Kekkaishi – The best shonen series you’re not reading. Now in a 3in1!
    FMA – Great art and more heart than you’d realise.
    Dr Slump – Sadly some of the gags are lost in translation but its still a cracker.
    Children of the Sea – One of the most beautiful books I have ever read.
    Monster – More Urasawa goodness.
    House of Five Leaves – a funny book for big kids.
    Honey and Clover – Like a manga version of the TV show Friends minus that annoying Joey guy.
    Kingyo Used Books – So many great references to manga by great, believeable characters.
    Biomega – I don’t know what the hell its about… But its great.
    Genkaku Picasso – The same feel as Lychee Light Club but safe to read on trains.
    Vagabond – Samurai hack and slash thats sadly on hiatus.
    Hikaru no Go – Wins points just for making board games interesting.
    Nana – My rock and roll, shojo guilty pleasure.
    Inuyasha – Written by an angel, about a devil dog.
    Ranma 1/2 – My introduction to manga and it still holds a special place in my heart.

    Well, happy birthday Viz. You’re all growed up now. You’ve made some mistakes as you grew up but I want you to know that your mother and I are very proud of you. *sniff* I promised myself I wouldnt cry…

    • David Welsh says:

      Let it all out, Ryan. Sing “Sunrise, Sunset” if you feel you must.

  18. I actually own twenty-five Viz titles exactly, so I guess I’ll rank them all in order.

    1. NANA
    2. Death Note
    3. Ceres: Celestial Legend
    4. High School Debut
    5. Rasetsu
    6. Arata: The Legend
    7. Absolute Boyfriend
    8. Ultra Maniac
    9. Solanin
    10. Ristorante Paradiso
    11. Sugar Princess: Skating to Win
    12. Aishiteruze Baby
    13. Imadoki!
    14. Yurara
    15. All My Darling Daughters
    16. Flower in a Storm
    17. I O N
    18. Fushigi Yugi
    19. Alice 19th
    20. Socrates in Love
    21. Butterflies, Flowers
    22. Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden
    23. Full Moon wo Sagashite
    24. Be With You
    25. Fall In Love Like a Comic

    • David Welsh says:

      Lots of great titles in there, many of which I was sorely tempted to put on my own.

  19. Hey David,

    Finally reading thru my folder of blog reading, and came across your link. Seriously liking your idea of listing top 25, and will probably be also writing up a list and posting it. ^_^ Will link back.


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