You’re probably aware, that right now we are living in rare times. One-quarter of the world’s population is living some form of lockdown due to Covid-19. Additional anxiety is heaped on by economic pressures disrupting peoples lives and the fact that you can’t buy any toilet roll for love or money! With that in mind, Luke and I thought we would make some suggestions for a few manga series that are helping us take the edge off all this stress. Here are our relaxing manga reads.
First up is one of the most chilled manga series I’ve read, Flying Witch. The story follows young witch Makoto Kowata as she moves in with family in rural Aomori Prefecture to complete her training. While some stories have a mystical slant, quite a few are just about Makoto learning about life in the sticks.
Mangaka Chihiro Ishizuka weaves a perfect blend of comedy, a slice of life and mysticism. But, it’s not the stories that are the appeal, it’s the characters. The cast centres around Makato, her cousins, a handful of locals and a few others. Their interactions are a joy to read, and it’s great to see them slowly grow through the volumes.
Currently, seven of the eight volumes are available in English from Kodansha (both digitally and physically). If you’re anything like me, you’ll devour this series in no time. Flying Witch is the perfect Sunday morning read, which is why I’m already planning a reread.
One of my favourite things about manga is that I learn a lot about Japanese culture. But, who knew manga would teach me about the inner workings of a bookshop? Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is (was) an actual bookshop worker while creating this series in Japan. Here, Honda exposes us to all the realities and odd happenings of life in a book store. Chapters are diverse, from dealing with publishers sales reps, hardcore yaoi fans and customer service training.
Not only is the series educational, it’s often hilarious. Honda-san gets too all kinds of mischief and most of the time is a nervous wreck. This could be quite triggering in a time like this, but Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san walks the line well. Events are all amusing and never mean spirited. The relationships between co-workers are so wholesome, and you get attached to the reoccurring characters (all with unique identity hiding masks).
Currently, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san has three of its four volumes released in English, with the last coming out soon! You can grab the series both digitally and physically thanks to Yen Press.
If you’re looking for some good karma, what better place than a book featuring the master himself: Buddha, but I’m not talking Osamu Tezuka’s biopic. Instead, get your eyeballs onto Saint Young Men. The series follows the hilarious adventures of deities Jesus and Budhha in modern-day Japan. Never mean spirited and always rib ticklingly funny, you’ll be forgetting the woes of the world outside in no time! I can’t wait for more the series to be translated as I find it such a relaxing manga series.
Class is in session! First of all, let me make this clear: I’m not usually a big fan of “Harem” style Romance series. It all just airs a little too close to wish fulfilment for me to really enjoy, especially as the protagonist is usually little more than a blank canvas for the reader to paint themselves onto. With that said, I’m happy to report that We Never Learn has been one of my favourite series to keep up with, with it’s the perfect blend of cute romance and wacky slapstick, and it never fails to put a smile on my face on a consistent weekly basis!
We Never Learn, a romantic comedy starring humble high-school tutor and sympathetic everyman Nariyuki Yuiga. We Never Learn follows his hilarious misadventures with a duo of academic geniuses (and one athletic all-star!) as he attempts to guide them through their weakest school subjects. Yuiga has to help them pass their college exams, with his own academic future on the line if he fails! It’s a quality setup that offers plenty of potential on both the romance and comedic front, and author Taishi Tsutsui consistently delivers!
While there is plenty of fanservice stuffed in here, this series seems to be more concerned with cracking jokes (usually at poor Yuiga’s expense) and creating a surprising level of depth with heartfelt moments from its core cast. You may come for the cute girls, but you’ll stay for the feels, and in no time at all, you’ll be reaching for the tissues as you turn the pages!
The whole series is available through the Shonen Jump Vault, with new chapters dropping every Sunday. The first three chapters of the series are available for free for all and worth checking out! This one gets full marks from me! We Never Learn is also available as a tankōbon for all you collectors out there.
Chances are if you’re reading this article you’ve at least heard of the smash (no pun intended) hit My Hero Academia. Still, you might have missed the memo on its comedy focused spin-off, My Hero Academia: Smash!! If that’s the case, then it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the funniest manga on the shelves!
Even if you’re only passingly familiar with the Shonen Superhero series it’s based off, Smash!! is well worth a look. Smash!!’s four-panel structure is a perfect fit for this Gag Manga. Author Hirofumi Neda (a former assistant of main series author Kohei Horikoshi) adopts a simple yet effective chibi style in his art to ensure the reader knows this series has it’s tongue firmly in cheek.
Offering a loose retelling of the events of the main series, Neda isn’t afraid to go off-script when needed (or whenever he feels like it, really) to tell more jokes. While there are one or two misses amongst the hits, the sheer volume of wisecracks on display is bound to get at least a few chuckles out of you as you turn the pages. Horikoshi himself even jumps in with a couple of quirky what-if scenarios each volume. It’s quite clear that everyone working on this series is having as much fun making it as we are reading it! Truly a relaxing manga read.
Three volumes of My Hero Academia: Smash!! are available at time of writing, with a 4th on the way in May. All the currently published chapters are available through the Shonen Jump Vault. New batches of chapters are added in quick succession after a new volume is released. The first three chapters are available for free and will give you a good laugh if needed! Don’t forget you can grab a physical edition if that’s your preference!
I hope you’re now feeling suitably relaxed. Please let us know in the comments or on Twitter if you have any chilled manga recommendations.