10 Best Kodansha Manga of All Time, Ranked

Summary

  • Kodansha, a top manga publisher, offers diverse, high-quality series in various genres, making it a dream for mangaka to publish with them.
  • Blue Lock
    is a new sports manga sensation, dominating sales in 2022 and 2023, offering a refreshing take and captivating storytelling.
  • Attack on Titan
    , a gripping apocalyptic series, features intense plot twists, suspenseful storytelling, and heavy political themes that captivate readers.



As the second-biggest manga publisher in the world, Kodansha has produced some of the most iconic and trend-setting manga since its founding in 1909, many of which have received iconic anime adaptations. The publisher has a huge catalog of series that span many genres, and its vast portfolio increases in both quantity and quality every year.

Alongside Sheisha and Shogakukan, Kodansha holds a huge share of the manga industry, and it is a dream come true for any mangaka to have their work published in their magazines. The publisher continues to put out new manga that will usher in a new age of Japanese comics, and readers would be wise to add their titles to their read lists.

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10 Blue Period is One of Kodansha’s Most Peaceful Manga

Written and illustrated by Tsubasa Yamaguchi

full color Blue Period manga cover featuring the main character painting with a brush.

This heartwarming drama shows that no matter how late it may seem, it is never too late to pursue your passions. Blue Period is very relatable, as many people – especially artists – must grapple with following their dreams, or doing what society deems realistic. Besides the surreal art, this series packs a heavy emotional punch and also takes the liberty of teaching the reader about art as the main character slowly unravels the medium. It is as educational as it is amazing, and Blue Period is a relaxing read that deserves much more praise.


Yatora is a high-achieving student but feels empty as he has no passion or hobbies outside of studying. He becomes interested in art during one of the classes, and with some nudging from his lovely teacher, he gradually discovers how fun it is and how fulfilled he is. It is then he decides that he will get into one of the most prestigious art schools in the country.

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9 Akira is a Genre-Defining Masterpiece

Written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo

Shotaro Kaneda from Akira sitting on a dingy chair in a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Even among non-anime fans, Akira is an icon as it is one of the series that paved the way for anime to go global. Although this may be largely due to the wildly popular anime movie adaptation that rocked the world, the manga was a hit both in Japan and outside, and this was a time when manga was still in the shadow of Marvel and DC Comics. Inspiring hits like Ghost In The Shell and Cowboy Bebop, and influencing critically acclaimed directors such as Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron, very few series have a long-standing legacy such as that of Akira.


Set in futuristic Neo-Tokyo, this sci-fi legend is about gang leader Shotaro Kaneda, Kei, a trio of Espers, and Colonel Shikishima all trying to stop Tetsuo from activating his highly destructive and unstable telekinetic powers. Akira changed not only the landscape of the popular sci-fi genre but anime as a medium altogether.

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8 Ajin: Demi-Human is One of Kodansha’s Most Underrated Manga

Written and illustrated by Gamon Sakurai

This underrated series has art that is surprisingly clean and detailed, and features one of the coolest villains seen in manga. The manga did end up receiving a rather disappointing CGI anime adaptation, but it still cannot stain the legacy of excellence that the series has set. The action is immaculate, and the author’s creativity in this aspect is heightened by the absurd power system. From planes being crashed into buildings, impossible assassinations, and incredible gunfights, Ajin is peak violence.


The series is about high school boy Nagai Kei, who finds out after a deadly accident that he is an Ajin, an immortal human being who regenerates no matter what. He is forced into hiding as the government abducts Ajins for experimentation, and it is then that he encounters other Ajin who want to destroy society. He is then forced to fight on the human side, and there ensues a destructive war against an enemy that cannot die.

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7 Blue Lock Redefined What’s Possible in Sports Manga

Written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and illustrated by Yusuke Nomura


Blue Lock is one of Kodansha’s most successful series in years, and it took the world by storm in 2022 and 2023. Soaring through the ranks and becoming the best-selling manga of 2023, Blue Lock is this generation’s version of Slam Dunk. It is brutal, it is fast-paced, and it is a completely new spin on the sports genre that has been stagnant for a long time. Its consistency is one to behold, as every arc and every match is as invigorating as the last, and new characters are just as charming as the previous ones.

This EliminationxFootball series focuses on the titular Blue Lock project, an ambitious project by the Japanese Football Association to nurture young talent, so they can lead the country to a World Cup victory. Spearheaded by the sadistic and experienced Ego Jinpachi, 300 young strikers are put in one place, and only one can be the victor; everyone else will be banned from representing the country on the international stage.

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Blue Lock TV Series Poster

Blue Lock

Blue Lock is a sports-centric animated series based on the manga series of the same name. The show follows the Japan Football Association trying to recover from their poor showing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup by hiring a football genius, Ego Jinpachi. With his new intense training regimen, Jinpachi invites the best football players in Japan to compete to become the team’s new star player – and high school student Yoichi Isagi may be exactly who he’s looking for.

Cast
Ricco Fajardo , Drew Breedlove , Alex Horn , Mark Allen Jr.

Release Date
October 8, 2022

Seasons
2

Writers
Taku Kishimoto

Directors
Tetsuaki Watanabe , Shunsuke Ishikawa


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6 Land of the Lustrous is Uniquely Dark

Written and illustrated by Haruko Ichikawa

What is very interesting about Land of the Lustrous is how fast it can switch up: the dark moments get very depressing and sad, but it is balanced out with light-hearted humor and comedy. It touches on many themes such as growth, life, and suffering, which makes it hard to read sometimes. Pair that with the tragedies, Land of the Lustrous is not for the faint of heart, despite not being as violent or gory as Berserk or Chainsaw Man. Nonetheless, it is an incredible series with an interesting story, a great cast, and brilliant foreshadowing akin to that of Attack On Titan.


Set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have been wiped out, a new species called immortal jewels emerged. Phos, one of the weaker jewels, takes center stage and works with their colleague, Cinnabar, on a task. The jewels are at war with the Moon People, who want them for decorations. With sleek art, philosophical themes, and a splendid story, Land Of The Lustrous is a rewarding manga that will no doubt elevate the reader’s standards of a good manga.

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5 Great Teacher Onizuka is Goofy & Heartfelt in Equal Measure

Written and illustrated by Toru Fujisawa

Great Teacher Onizuka black and grey manga panel of the main character crossing his arms.


Although not nearly as action-packed or exciting as the other series in Kodansha’s huge catalog, Great Teacher Onizuka is one hell of a ride that will no doubt leave readers enchanted and pondering life itself. It is as hilarious as it is eye-opening and explores many themes that plague the everyday person. It is also a refreshing take on the typical school series by giving the focus to the teacher rather than the student, but make no mistake, the students are as integral to the experience as much as the perverted 22-year-old teacher.

A former delinquent, Onizuka moves to Tokyo and somehow manages to become a teacher even without qualifications. He is hired at a school not because of his technical experience, but because he can control the hoodlum-filled school that was too much for the ordinary teacher. His past sins help him connect with his students, and he helps them out and steer them clear of their terrible future, all while bettering himself as a person and growing to become a good teacher.

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4 Hajime No Ippo is One of the Most Influential Fighting Manga Ever

Written and illustrated by George Morikawa

Hajime No Ippo characters

As one of the best-selling and longest-running series ever, longer than even One Piece, Hajime No Ippo is one of the gold standards for sports manga and an icon across all genres. This incredible series has something for everyone, whether it is comedy, action, or inspiration, it can cater to a wide audience and deliver an impactful read that will ultimately be as thrilling as it is life-changing. The fact that it has been going on for more than 30 years and has 139 volumes can seem daunting, but readers will be greatly rewarded if they start as they get to witness one of the best journeys for a main character ever.


It is easy to sympathize with Ippo as he is a victim of bullying and a caring family man, and it is that much easier to love him when he decides to take up boxing and protect himself. A weak, timid boy to an ambitious soon-to-be professional boxer, Ippo’s journey is one of a kind and Hajime No Ippo offers way more than the typical sports series.

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3 Attack on Titan Inspired a Dark New Age of Shonen

Written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama

Characters from the Attack on Titan manga

No other series comes close to plot twists and suspense more than the apocalyptic Attack on Titan. It is a surreal experience that keeps fans on the edge of their seats, and no matter how much theorizing one does, they will not be able to know what happens next. The series does not compromise the plot in favor of the shock moments, however, but beautifully foreshadows major events with what seems like insignificant details.


This amazing manga went on to inspire one of the best anime of all time. With heavy political themes, incredible fight scenes, and masterful storytelling, the struggle to survive for Eren and his comrades leads them to uncover an unfathomable truth that changes their lives and the world forever.

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Attack On Titan

Based on the manga, Attack on Titan is a dark-action fantasy series set in a world where humanity has been corralled into walled cities from fear of monstrous human-eating Titans that exist outside of them. When protagonist Eren Yeager’s mother is killed in front of his eyes at a young age, his thirst for vengeance leads him to join an elite group of soldiers created to fight back against the Titan menace.

Cast
Matthew Mercer , Josh Grelle , Hiroshi Kamiya , Shiori Mikami , Jerry Jewell , Kishô Taniyama , Jessica Calvello , Masahiko Tanaka , Yui Ishikawa , Romi Park , Robert McCollum , Tomohisa Hashizume , Hiro Shimono , Trina Nishimura

Release Date
April 7, 2013

Seasons
4

Franchise
Attack on Titan

Production Company
Wit Studio, MAPPA


2 Vinland Saga is a Revolutionary Story About Rejecting Violence

Written and illustrated by Makoto Yukimura

Makoto Yukimura’s Nordic history manga has it all: fantastic worldbuilding, deep and complex themes, breathtaking art, and an incredible cast. The manga got the fame and praise it deserved with the successful anime, and more people have come to understand that Kodansha publishing this masterpiece was one of their best decisions ever. Going strong more than two decades later, the series is a seinen giant and one of the best series to be put to paper.


The story tells the tale of Thorfinn, the first European to land in North America, or Vinland. The journey isn’t easy though, as he goes through trauma, war, and self-acceptance. His journey to becoming a kind man is just as important as his voyage to Vinland, and his character development is the best in anime and manga.

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Vinland Saga Anime Poster

Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga is an adaptation of the historical-action manga series by Makoto Yukimura. Centering around young Thorfinn, the story sees the young man on a quest for revenge following the murder of his father by the mercenary Askeladd. To accomplish this feat, Thorfinn joins Askeladd’s company to bide his time and prepare to face him in the future. The story starts around 1002 AD and revolves around fictional accounts of the Danish invasion of London.

Cast
Zach Aguilar , Keith Silverstein , Ben Diskin , Ray Chase , Patrick Seitz , Allegra Clark (English) , SungWon Cho

Release Date
July 6, 2019

Seasons
2

Network
Netflix

1 Vagabond is Kodansha’s Best Manga

Written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue


Takehiko Inoue was so amazed and inspired by the story of the Japanese philosopher Miyamoto Musashi that he started Vagabond, and he did the series justice. Hailed as the manga with the best art ever released, the need for perfection overwhelmed Inoue so much that the series was put on indefinite hiatus. Throughout the 200+ plus chapters, it is the closest thing to perfection. With every panel and every page, the care taken to document one of the most influential philosophers ever is apparent.

Telling the dramatized life of Miyamoto Musashi as he goes from a violent and ambitious swordsman to an enlightened and wise man, this beautiful manga is an experience that everyone, whether they read manga or not, should experience once in their life. From the life-changing story to the emotional peaks, Vagabond has made a great case for the best manga of all time.

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