The Seinen Alphabet: M

“M” is for…

Well, it’s for lots of stuff, so I won’t even try and be comprehensive. I’ll just hit the highlights.

Technically, this could fall under “N,” as Viz insists on putting “Naoki Urasawa” in front of all of that creator’s titles, but I’ll just stick with plain-old Monster in this case. It’s about a brilliant surgeon who unknowingly saves the life of a deranged killer. Oops!

On a much lighter front, we have Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku (Viz). It follows the start-and-stop romance of a somewhat aimless young man and his widowed landlady. They also have crazy neighbors who are pretty funny.

On an arguably much more horrible front, we have the often fervently disliked Maria Holic (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Minari Endou and originally serialized in Media Factory’s Monthly Comic Alive. It’s not all wrongly accused neurosurgeons and romantic comedy, kids.

On an interesting but commercially shaky front, we have Me and the Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson (Del Rey), written and illustrated by Akira Hiramoto, who added some supernatural elements to the life of the legendary blues musician.

Sticking with Del Rey, we have Yuki Urushibara’s excellent Mushishi, which was the topic of a Manga Moveable Feast.

Also from Del Rey and also focused on the microscopic is Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture, written and illustrated by Masayuki Ishikawa, which is in limbo since the Kodansha shake-up.

Viz just launched March Story, written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, and originally published in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX magazine.

One could theoretically do the Tezuka Alphabet, you know? In the seinen category, one of my favorites of his works is the deeply crazy MW (Vertical).

On the creator front, we’d certainly have to start with Taiyo Matsumoto, known best here for his brilliant Tekkonkinkreet and GoGo Monster and perhaps less so for his out-of-print Blue Spring and No. 5, all from Viz.

Viz has also published Motoro Mase’s Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit.

Lots of people have loved the work of Kaoru Mori, including Emma and Shirley from DC’s lamented CMX imprint. But we can look forward to her Otoyomegatari from Yen Press.

Minetaro Mochizuki’s Dragon Head (Tokyopop) enjoyed critical if not commercial success when it was published here.

Few creators are capable of the kind of tightly-controlled crazy delivered regularly by the brilliant Junko Mizuno, most recently of Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Last Gasp) fame.

Some of my favorite comics have come from Kodansha’s Morning magazines.

And way back in the day, Tokyopop published a little magazine known originally as MixxZine, which featured seinen titles like Parasyte and Ice Blade.

I wouldn’t even know where to begin with the unlicensed seinen titles that start with “M,” so please feel free to contribute your suggestions in the comments. And of course, I’m curious as to anything that starts with “M” in your seinen alphabet!


I don’t know how I forgot MPD Psycho (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Sho-u Tajima. It could be that the series is a little gross for my taste and I prefer Otsuka’s Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which he creates with Housui Yamazaki, who created Mail, also from Dark Horse. I like Mail a lot, but I left it off this list because I thought it was originally published in a shônen magazine (Kadokawa’s Shônen Ace). Can I have a ruling?

28 Responses to The Seinen Alphabet: M

  1. Rij says:

    Mail, by Housui Yamazaki. It’s not a favourite as such, since I much prefer Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, but it does start with M and worth mentioning. Also, it has a connection via its creator to a more worthwhile series, MPD Psycho.

    • davidpwelsh says:

      I thought Mail ran in a shounen magazine? (Thanks for the MPD Psycho reminder!)

      • Yeah, Mail ran in Shonen Ace and Ace Tokunon, a brief spinoff of the former.

        I think Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and MPD Psycho also started in Shonen Ace, but have since moved to Young Ace, which I would say qualifies them for seinen status. 🙂

      • Rij says:

        I went and checked, you’re right about Mail, it is a shounen.

      • davidpwelsh says:

        I do like it a lot, though! It’s one of my favorite “comeuppance theater” supernatural series. And everyone says the magazine really straddles the shounen/seinen divide.

  2. Aaron says:

    Maria Holic does get slammed by a lot f people but honestlly it’s all the negtive crticism that makes me want to read it. Of course that can sometimes be ill adviesd like the time I read Black Bird (it really is bad) or deeplly rewarding like when I read Fruits Basket. Who knows I’ll try anything once.

    • davidpwelsh says:

      I do sometimes give in to morbid curiosity with a book like Maria Holic, but I’ve seen really strenuous, well-argued cases against it. I think Ed Sizemore even called it “odious.” So I’ll resist in this instance.

      • Aaron says:

        I found Ed Sizemore’s review here’s a qoute that I thiunk you where refering too.

        “Maria Holic is odious. I had to force myself to finish the last quarter of the book. Turning each page seemed to become more of a chore the closer I got to the end. Avoid this book and its condescension. Comedy shouldn’t make the reader feel tainted and disgusted. Comedy is meant to uplift us.” (November 13, 2009 by Ed Sizemore)

  3. badzphoto says:

    “My Girl” by SAHARA Mizu. Slice of life about a 20 something year old man raising a girl. The art is lovely.

  4. […] Welsh is up to the letter M in his seinen alphabet at The Manga […]

  5. judi(togainunochi) says:

    I’m glad you led off with Monster. This is simply an amazing piece of work. Every time I read a volume, I am “gobsmacked” by the complexity and over all detailed development of plot and characters. Johan gives me the creeps so bad, it takes me a day or two to get over it.
    For once, the anime is well done, too.

  6. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    Monster is one of those titles I wish I had started collecting as it was coming out, because now the cost of getting the complete collection is kinda daunting to me (maybe I’ll add it to my list once I’ve finally bought all of the last CMX title I hope to finish before their titles become impossible to find, the wonderfully over the top Moon Child–*tangent* I’m a bit shocked that nobody has picked up MC’s manga-ka Reiko Shimizu’s Himitsu – Top Secret which is much more North American commercial, and one of Moto Hagio’s current fave mangas, to boot).

    Mushishi *is* excellent, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Tezuka’s MW. (A straight friend of mine lamented at some length about how homophobic he found it, his one problem with it–funny, that aspect never even bothered, or even occured to, me).

    • davidpwelsh says:

      MW is so interesting to me for the simple fact that it can read as being homophobic in spite of the fact that I thought Tezuka seemed to be trying to strike a blow for equality. The message that I took away was that societal oppression drove the protagonists to horrible behavior and that if the culture was more open and fairer, people wouldn’t be driven to be evil and crazy. Does that negate the evil, crazy behavior? I think that varies a lot from reader to reader. And I think the awesome lesbian journalist is a much better representation of Tezuka’s underlying intent than… well… the vast bulk of the story’s events, but still…

    • Here’s my Monster story:

      I read volume one and *loved* it. Volume two came and I loved it, too, but realized… this would be even more awesome if I saved these and read them all when volume 18 comes out. That’s what I did and, lo, it was awesome.

      • Eric Henwood-Greer says:

        Yeah, I could easily see that being my experience too, which is why I’m loathe to start collecting it yet…

        David, I agree with your view of MW completely–I admit when I read a lot of older manga, particularly Tezuka’s, I do keep firmly in mind what his intentions were. (Plus, maybe a part of me kinda likes that this crazy, over the top story has gay elements, even if many would see them as negative).

      • davidpwelsh says:

        Have you read Swallowing the Earth? It takes awkwardly progressive intentions to a whole new level, but I think it’s one of the first overtly socially conscious manga Tezuka ever drew. Still… wow.

  7. Nhu says:

    Adore mushishi and kurosaki corpse delivery service. I like Moon Child but I adore himitsu. Probably licensors are a little nervous by how it is clearly shojo but it’s subject material and plot leans so much closer to seinen. But I think you’d really dig the mish-mash and unusualness of it, David. I mean, COME ON. An endorsement from Moto Hagio?

    • Eric Henwood-Greer says:

      [anal]It’s technically josei isn’t it?[/anal] I know it’s been up for some major awards, had a successful anime version, and is often one of the top selling titles, but I think you’re right about their fears. Still, reading what I can and seeing some of the anime, it’s not all that different from titles like ES (shoujo author does seinen–I shonen?–psychological thriller), although I suppose that was no big seller here… But I could see even Viz SIG doing ok with it if marketed well.

      Reiko Shimizu kinda fascinates me–she seems quite beloved in Japan–first because of all her huge hit shoujo titles like Moon Child and Kaguyahime and all those robot titles–some of the most cutterly bizarre shoujo fantasy and sci fi work I’ve read (yet very appealing–maybe partly for that reason), and now more mature work like Himitsu.

      • davidpwelsh says:

        Himitsu sounds exactly like something I’d license-request. Thanks!

      • I also really wish Himitsu would get licensed!

        And, yes, it is josei. (And yes, ES: Eternal Sabbath is seinen.) It runs in Melody, the same manga as Ooku. I believe some of the titles in Melody are shoujo and some are josei, and the difference can be determined by what imprint the collected volumes are published under. The josei works are in the Jets Comics imprint, which is also used for seinen titles like Berserk, and that’s where you’ll find Ooku and Himitsu.

        Maybe it being a Hagio fave will convince Fantagraphics to go for it.

      • Eric Henwood-Greer says:

        Sounds like it could be a perfect companion at Viz SIG (which doesn’t have nearly enough josei/shoujo if you ask me) to Ooku…

  8. Jade Harris says:

    I really dislike the art in MPD Psycho. From Kurosagi and Mail one can tell that Otsuka stylishly weaves between creep and tongue-in-cheek. Tajima’s art fetishises and glamorizes the sex and violence to the point that Otsuka’s feats of irony and topical observations are almost completely muffled or clumsily over-stated. Once exposed to Otsuka’s better team-ups and learning to read between the art lines in MPD Psycho, it’s a really complex and interesting story though.

    • davidpwelsh says:

      That’s an excellent explanation of why MPD Psycho falls flat for me. There’s no irony or wit in the explicit style of illustration. It’s so blunt, and it seems more suited to something as un-layered and exploitative as Gantz rather than the tone that I usually associate with Otsuka’s writing.

      • Jade Harris says:

        Right, exactly. I think the worst aspect is how much the visuals glorify the killers and lunatics who are as much, if not more, the butt of the story’s joke as anyone else. To draw from your post on March Story, the story, I think, is more along the lines of your favourite comeuppance, but the art reduces it all to a world of static, senseless violence and depravity.

  9. Aaron says:

    Just thought of another M title Moon Phase although it could go under t because of the Tsukuyomi in its title

  10. […] this week’s installment of the seinen alphabet, someone mentioned Reiko Shimizu’s Moon Child (CMX), which… isn’t seinen, but hey, I never […]

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