Welcome to the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot gaze upon our respective manga collections to pick a favorite title from each letter of the alphabet. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve.
“H” is for…
Here Is Greenwood | Yukie Nasu | Viz Media – Again, I could pick any number of ‘H’ titles – Hayate the Combat Butler, High School Girls, Higurashi – but I have a soft spot in my heart for Greenwood, which was first seen in North America in the mid-1990s as an anime. Viz brought over the 9 volume manga in 2004, and to be honest it did not sell well. This is a shame, as it’s part of that classic genre of shôjo manga – BL tease. There are many people (including myself) who may read Greenwood for Hasukawa, and seeing him struggle with his temper and with the hijinks that surround him at the Greenwood dorms. Seeing him eventually win the heart of the girl he’s trying to win is a highlight of the entire run. But if I were honest, I’d admit that 98% of all Greenwood fans read it to see Mitsuru and Shinobu not be lovers at each other. The two best friends complement each other perfectly, and even the Japanese audience demanded, at the end, that Nasu show the two of them kissing. (She did not comply.) This may not have sold well here, but those female fans who had the anime be one of their gateways into BL fandom should try the manga – it’s better, and gives them even more ammo. – Sean Gaffney
High School Debut | Kazune Kawahara | VIZ Media – On the surface, this is just another shôjo high school romance. There’s the earnest heroine, Haruna, who’s got a tremendous heart and athletic ability, and the more stoic boy, Yoh, whom she taps to be her dating coach. What’s different is that they fall in love within the first few volumes and spend the rest of the time working out what it means to be a couple. I love that Yoh admires Haruna for all of her terrific qualities, and I love that Haruna trusts Yoh and truly wants what’s best for him. Although the story itself may not be new, I adore the characters so much that when the final volume came around, I was tempted to write a review consisting entirely of hearts and sniffles. I’ve loaned this series out a couple of times already and know that I will be rereading it often. – Michelle Smith
Hikaru no Go | By Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata | Viz Media – Oh, what to say about Hikaru no Go that I haven’t already said? Hikaru no Go was my first exposure to manga, and managed in one two-day whirlwind read to win me over to a medium (comics) I had previously sworn I could never, ever love. In a very real way, Manga Bookshelf exists because of Hikaru no Go. It is an epic, deeply compelling, emotionally resonant sort-of-sports manga, with some of my favorite artwork in in the medium overall. And though I later realized that the sense of non-ironic optimism that (in part) drew me to the series originally is a trait common to the genre, there is something unique about this quality as it inhabits Hikaru no Go. It is elegant in its innocence, and in its sadness too. And though I’ve read many more moving and complex manga since, nothing can ever replace Hikago in my heart. It is that special. – Melinda Beasi
Hotel Harbour View | By Jiro Taniguchi | Viz Media – This slim volume explores terrain familiar to anyone who’s watched Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, or Stray Dog: it’s a world of gangsters, molls, and taciturn killers. Though the stories unfold in present-day Shanghai and Paris (or what was the present day when Taniguchi wrote it), the mood is decidedly retro: the characters speak in a highly self-conscious, stylized language borrowed from the silver screen; they wear hats, waist-cinching dresses, and formidable shoulder pads; and they die dramatic deaths. If the prevailing sensibility is mid-century noir, the artwork owes a debt to John Woo and the Hong Kong action films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with balletic gun fights and artfully composed kill shots. Much as I love titles like Zoo in Winter and A Distant Neighborhood, Hotel Harbour View may be my favorite Taniguchi title. – Katherine Dacey
House of Five Leaves | By Natsume Ono | Viz Media – It frankly seems wrong that we’ve gone this far in The Favorites Alphabet without me having a chance to mention Ono’s work, but it’s nice that I can start with what I think is her very best licensed series. This tale of an out-of-work samurai who falls in with a motley gang of generally benevolent kidnappers falls right in my tonal sweet spot – casual, character driven, but packed with surprising and potent emotional highlights that seem to creep up on the reader. The look of the series is essential to its success, and it’s easily Ono’s most stylish, gorgeous work. There’s a wonderfully concise quality to her illustrations here. She manages to convey a great deal with the tiniest modulations in facial expression, framed as they are by her languid, graceful staging. House of Five Leaves represents everything I like about Ono’s work, and it features those qualities at their very best. – David Welsh
What starts with “H” in your favorites alphabet?