“Where to start reading manga” may seem like a daunting task, but for the next two weeks, it just got very easy and affordable. Simply start here, with Humble’s Award-Winning (and Nominated) Kodansha bundle, which is jam-packed with several all-timer series and doubles as a sampler of what the medium has to offer.
Even within the $25 tier, it’s hard to know where to start, but if I had to pick one it would be Witch Hat Atelier — you can get all 11 volumes of the series currently available in English in this bundle (the 12th is out in May) and for me, it’s worth the price of admission alone.
The series follows Coco, a dressmaker’s daughter who is resigned to being a seamstress like her mother but dreams of being a magician — and sets out on a journey to become one when a magical accident turns her mother into stone. It’s a very simple coming of age story that’s elevated by creator Kamome Shirahama’s absolutely stunning artwork. Shirahama’s linework is loving in its attention to detail and emotive cartooning, helping flesh out a world where practicing magic is a clear analogue for making art.
As the story progresses, Coco becomes one of several students practicing under the male witch Qifrey, and the series takes on a vibe that’s kind of Harry Potter-esque, if Harry Potter took the “school” part of its wizard school premise a bit more seriously. It’s a story about growing alongside and learning from your peers, with a dark mystery lurking on the edges that pulls the reader through at a steady clip.
What’s great about starting with Witch Hat Atelier is that this bundle has a number of directions to go in based on what you respond to or don’t. Like the art school metaphor? Blue Period is a slice-of-life drama about a high schooler who felt aimless in life until he discovered art, and puts everything into going to art school.
Want something action-packed, but rich in character? Vinland Saga, which has a popular anime adaptation, hits just as hard in manga form. Love a story about competition in an esoteric field? You’ll want to dive right into Drops of God, a story about competitive wine tasting, among other things. And if you just respond to big feelings beautifully drawn, there’s not much better than A Silent Voice, one of the most wrenching high school dramas you can get into.
If you like just one of these series, the full $25 bundle will pay for itself. In the strange but entirely possible chance that you do not believe me, the one dollar, six-book tier includes the first volumes of Witch Hat Atelier, Blue Period, and A Silent Voice — still a mind-bogglingly good set of books that also includes the first volumes of the acclaimed romance Nina the Starry Bride, the competitive ice skating manga Medalist, and the RPG-inspired Shangri-La Frontier.
One of the great things about manga is that, in spite of the wealth of titles and their constant cadence, it really is quite accessible — you just pick a series that looks interesting, and read the first volume. Once you find one series you like, you start to learn what you appreciate, what you don’t, and gain the confidence to explore the scene on your own. Outside of a well-stocked local library (a treasure trove you may not even know is available to you), this bundle is one of the best, fastest ways to get your sea legs under you at an affordable price. Then, who knows — maybe you’ll be the one recommending manga to others.