The common logic is that children shouldn’t waste their time reading comic books, but it’s a little hard for parents to lay down that blanket rule when mom and dad used to be, or maybe still are, avid manga comic fans themselves. After all, how can you tell your kids they can’t read Bleach when you’ve got a trip to the bookstore penciled in on your schedule whenever a new volume of Attack on Titan gets released?
As more and more adults hang on to their love of comics, the question seems to have shifted from “Is it OK for your kids to read manga?” to “Which manga do you want your kids to read?” with a recent poll providing some interesting and informative answers.
Digital manga distributer eBookJapan asked 502 of its users which titles they hope their kids grow up enjoying. While nostalgia no doubt played a role in some choices, a few of the selections only got started recently, and half are still ongoing. Let’s take a look at the top finishers, starting with number 10.
The only pure girls’ manga on the list, Chihayafuru’s story is centered on a high school club for karuta. Karuta is a traditional Japanese game in which players compete to be the first to snatch cards with poems printed on them from the playing field as a reader intones their opening lines. While that may sound like an esoteric focus, Chihayafuru’s exciting competitions and the interactions between their players have drawn in not only women, but plenty of male readers and even overseas fans.
An action-packed ninja epic with a plucky protagonist who emphasizes the importance of believing in yourself? Sounds like a good series (and message) for young minds.
8. Slam Dunk
The first bona fide classic on the list is the high school sports saga Slam Dunk, which coincided and fed into the growing popularity of basketball in Japan in the mid ‘90s. Slam Dunk is also the first series on the list to have already wrapped up its narrative, with its last chapter published in 1996.
7. Space Brothers
When Space Brothers, known as Uchu Kyodai in Japanese, first got started in 2008, not everyone expected it to be such a huge hit. It proved doubters wrong, though, and now has its own anime and two live-action adaptations. There aren’t any giant robots or magical girls to be found here, just a scientifically-grounded story about two brothers trying to get to outer space by becoming astronauts. The manga teaches the value of perseverance and hard work, and as an added bonus, the main characters’ goal is to become something that, difficult as may be, is actually possible in real life, as opposed to, say, king of the ninja.
6. Barefoot Gen
Protagonist Gen Nakaoka may look like a rambunctious scamp in that cover artwork, but make no mistake, this is not some lighthearted Japanese equivalent to Tom Sawyer. Barefoot Gen is the semi-autobiographical tale of a boy living through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, and its inclusion on the list is not because of its ability to entertain or inspire, but its service as a grim reminder of the price of war.
Another work with lofty themes, the number five slot belongs to Phoenix, by God of Manga (and admirer of rodent beauty ) Osamu Tezuka. Largely considered the most avant-garde of the extensive library of Tezuka’s works, the artist drew the series, which touches on themes of resurrection, technology, and redemption, in spurts over more than two decades.
Sadly, Tezuka passed away before penning a definitive ending for the series, but its deeply philosophical undertones make it a journey worth starting, regardless. “By seeing the different perspective of all the people who come into contact with the Phoenix, I hope my children can develop their own way of thinking,” said one 40-year-old mother who made the manga her pick.
4. Dragon Ball
“I want my kid to be able to feel the same excitement from the adventures and fights that I did when I was his age,” explained one 30-something father. While there’s no denying Dragon Ball is exciting, Japan’s most celebrated action series also gives children a double dose of lessons about the importance of perseverance. Not only does the story show its hero, Goku, overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties again and again, it takes plenty of dedication on the reader’s part to finish off the incredibly long series.
3. Silver Spoon
Like Space Brothers, Silver Spoon’s premise of a wishy-washy kid enrolling in an agricultural high school doesn’t sound like the makings of a hit comic. Add in art and story by Fullmetal Alchemist creator Hiromu Arakawa, though, who drew from her own experiences growing up on a dairy farm in Hokkaido, and you’ve got the foundation for a solid story about finding your calling in life. It also makes a pretty good illustration of just how much hard work goes into producing the food we eat, leading one father in his 30s to recommend this manga because he wants his children to “appreciate all the things they see on the kitchen table every day.”
The most overtly kid-friendly title on the list, the robot cat from the future Doraemon has been entertaining kids since his debut in 1969, meaning that some fans who’ve been around since the beginning might even have kids who are too old for the series now.
One father who was inspired by the numerous gadgets Doraemon and his friends employ on their adventures said, “Reading this series makes you feel like the future is just around the corner, and I hope it boosts my kids’ imagination and creativity.”
1. One Piece
Time will tell if it holds onto its popularity as well as Dragon Ball has, but One Piece is without question Japan’s most popular manga for kids currently being serialized. Since its first chapter was published in 1997, its themes and art style are still relevant enough to resonate with today’s youth, and the series is also just old enough that some parents who grew up loving it have offspring who are just becoming old enough to read on their own.
That said, One Piece probably could have secured the top spot even without this extra push, thanks to its story, which one father describes as “overflowing with dreams, adventure, and friendship.”
Sounds like a good pick to us, especially for readers too young to enjoy Attack on Titan’s tale of violence, nudity, and potato-based in-jokes .
Source: Huffington Post Japan , eBookJapan
Top image: Natalie
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