Originally this was just going to be a Top 10 list but there are so many great titles that I ended up expanding this to 20. Sure, you could just keep expanding it until it’s a Top 100 but that’s a lot tougher to pull off although it would make for a fun article. In this list I’m really just thinking about series so you have to be at least 2 volumes long. One Shots don’t count although I doubt I would have any this far up either way.
I’ve read close to 500 different manga titles but of course hidden among those are a bunch of one shots. In terms of series I’m not sure how many I have read although I expect it should be around 300 or so. My favorite manga genre tends to be action, but I’ll enjoy a great sport or mystery title as well. There’s usually something to be enjoyed in most titles. Most being the key word of course because when you have a series called Go Go Monster that bores you to tears then you have a problem….
Before getting into the Top 20 titles I’m going to give out some honorary mentions.
Best Harem: Nisekoi They say there is a gem in every genre and I suppose that is true. The very concept of a Harem usually leads to disaster so I wouldn’t say there’s a great track record here but Nisekoi pulled it off. In part I would say this is due to the fact that the main character actually has a backbone and isn’t just playing the field the whole time. Ultimately he has to make a choice and does this without any fake outs or cop outs. The art is really solid and I would say almost every character got a satisfying resolution.
Start of the Road: Dragon Drive
This is here simply for being one of the very first manga titles I ever read. I would say it was the first long running title I read for a series I was unfamiliar with. In a lot of ways you could say this is the title that really got me into manga as a medium so it will always be a very fun manga title to read. It’s nowhere close to the top 20 to be honest but still worth putting some respect on its name.
Best Mystery: Detective Conan
Spiral is right up there though and if you count Death Note then that is technically above Conan but I consider it to be more of a thriller since we know who the villain is. Conan’s had a very impressive run over the years as it’s even longer than One Piece. While it would be nice if the plot could move forward a bit quicker, each mystery is always a blast so you can’t really fault it. This one couldn’t crack the top 20 but as King of its genre it’s definitely worth a mention.
Generally strong titles that missed out
Nura Rise of the Yokai Clan
These three don’t own their categories or anything but they were the 3 titles left over when I was constructing my Top 20. I guess that’s not to say they are necessarily numbers 21-24 but at least they were top of mind. Kuroko’s Basketball brought a new intensity to the sport genre that was only previously seen in Prince of Tennis. The story arcs were excellent and if anything it’s just a shame that it couldn’t be longer. From all of the sport titles it probably has the most complete cast on a team. Yes, that’s even including Prince of Tennis.
Beelzebub is one of those titles that had a very shaky beginning but only kept getting better and better as it went on. I could have done without some of the crude humor with the baby and that’s really what keeps it from being a little higher. Still, it was a tremendous action series that had a very impressive run. Nothing can ever take that away from it.
Then you have Medaka Box. It’s only issue is that the fanservice could be a bit excessive at times, otherwise this would be a lock for the Top 20. It had a very colorful cast of characters and strategies in the fights that could even match Hunter X Hunter. The power scaling of the series was also very unique with how it would go up and down with the gifted and the unlucky. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. It’s a shame that it never got a full anime version.
Nura was really impressive when reading it. The main character’s journey is similar to Yugi/Tsuna’s in many respects and he also has to deal with living in a demon gang. There’s a lot of great action here and all of the super forms are really done right. The fact that you have 3 generations of Nura fighting out here made for a great climax so this was a really high ranking action title.
Now these are honorary mentions for titles that are still going and could realistically make the Top 20. After all, as long as you live you have a shot right? That said, some are more realistic than others. Take Black Butler for example.
The only top ranking this horrific series has a chance of reaching is the title of worst manga of all time and Black Bird would have a lot to say on that. Birds of a feather flock together and all that right? Ah man, those titles are so bad….
sooooo…baaaaaadddddddd-Anyway lets go on to the ongoings that are quite solid and should have a bright future ahead of them.
Dragon Ball Super
The original Dragon Ball Z made it to the top 20 so there is already a precident for this. Ultimately since the manga would fall behind the show at times, Super hasn’t been as consistent as it could have been with arcs like the Tournament of Power being abridged. That said, the Moro arc was quite solid and the Granola arc is off to a great start. If this one can just keep going on a consistent level it’s certainly possible for it to achieve such a high status. I don’t see it ending anytime soon either so it will have a lot of opportunities.
I wouldn’t say Boruto’s chances are as good as Dragon Ball Super’s since it will need a little more time and has more ground to cover. That said, when we do have action scenes they have held up quite well. Bortuo is starting to get quite high tier with the power scaling so we definitely can’t count it out. What would really be nice is if Sasuke and Naruto could de age or something but even without that there is a lot that the series can do.
Twin Star Exorcist
I hesitated about putting this one in because the series seems to be in its final arc. If so, there is really no time to jump high enough to make it to the top 20. I would say what it has going for it is that it might be one of the very closest to make it to the top. The artwork is one of the best for any ongoing series right now and I continue to be impressed at those fight scenes. If it can survive for another arc it could really pull this off but unfortunately I do see the end goal in sight.
Jujutsu Kaisen is the next big Shounen Jump title. As this point it is quickly gaining ground on its seniors within the magazine and you could say as soon as one of the Big 3 end, (Black Clover, My Hero Academia, and One Piece) that it will automatically assume the vacant spot. It’s a lot newer than the others though so it’s really just a matter of time for this one to start climbing up the ranks. This series shouldn’t be anywhere near its end so there’s no rush.
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is certainly a big title and it’s just entered a critical arc. Right now the forest arc is still my favorite in the series but this one is hitting the right notes. I am certainly on board with Deku’s character arc as I would say he is easily at the best he has ever been. While there are theories that this could be the final arc of the series I’m going to bank on this being the end of “Part 1” as the next part follows Deku as the world’s number 1 Hero. There’s a lot of ways this can go though so we just have to watch out.
I know this one’s a long shot but the fact that One Piece is so long just means you really need to put it here. After all, I would say on average One Piece is a very good series that has had its moments of greatness. It was never able to be as consistent as Naruto or Bleach but it is still going which is a feat in itself. Additionally, if it’s true that we’ve barely just passed the halfway point of Wano then it doesn’t matter that the series may only have 1-2 arcs left because it’ll still be on going for years.
With the honorary mentions out of the way it’s finally time to stop and take a look at the Top 20. These are the cream of the crop. The ultimate titles that reign atop the food chain of the entire manga Kingdom. Out of the 20 on the list, 6 are still ongoing so who knows how much higher they can rise. Or of course they can do the unthinkable and crash but that’s fairly rare. Most series I would say end on a high note or at the very least even if it’s not the best arc, it’s one that is comparable to the rest. So lets dive in!
20. Saint Seiya
Saint Seiya is a manga as old as time and you can tell that to an extent. The art has an old look to it and the arcs tend to have the same story beats over and over like a classic superhero comic. (Check out the ole JL Archives and you’ll see how each story has them split up into 5 teams to beat their enemies and return) Saint Seiya doesn’t change things up a whole lot but it doesn’t really need to. The core premise is exceptional and the fights never hold back. Why change something if it isn’t broken right? That’s Saint Seiya’s methodology and it works.
19. Hunter X Hunter
It’s always crazy to think that without hiatuses Hunter X Hunter could be around One Piece’s length right now. Well, no time for What Ifs, when the manga exited we were in the middle of a great arc. The boat trip could even become the best arc in the series due to how almost literally every big character has found their way onto it. Hopefully this series returns someday because things were going really well.
Naruto is one of those series where I mostly remember Part 1 through the anime as I didn’t get serious on the manga until Part 2. It’s a very nostalgic series and one that really brought the hear ton the Big 3. (One Piece had the popularity, Bleach had the skill, and Naruto brought the emotional punch) It’s just a very solid all around series that makes for a great first recommendation to any manga fan.
17. Death Note
Now this series takes me back. Light was easily one of the most ambitious main characters of all time. A mass murderer psychopath as the main character? It was very interesting and made you ask a lot of tough questions. It was the first big battle of wits manga that I read and it holds up extremely well. Light’s battle against L had to be one of the most impactful moments across just about any series.
16. Rurouni Kenshin
Kenshin made for a fairly unique main character as he was already older when the series first starts. He doesn’t take a lot of joy in fighting the way that most characters do and really does it out of necessity. The art here was top notch and while I usually do not care for the past as a time setting, this series pulled it off.
15. Prince of Tennis
Okay so the image is from the sequel but it was too cool not to pick. Prince of Tennis is the definitive sports title across all of manga and has never relinquished the throne. Part of why I got into Tennis is likely due to this manga’s influence. It’s a shame that the sequel hasn’t gotten big in America yet but this is a title I could easily recommend to anyone.
14. Kaguya-Sama Love is War
Kaguya-Sama may look out of place next to the others here since it’s a psychological romantic comedy. It’s quite unique and I still recall thinking it was a series about vampires after seeing the iconic volume 1 cover. Still, it’s ended up being one of the ultimate manga titles out there and has continued to rise. It’s one of only 3 series that have ever caused me to binge into the wee hours of the night when I would usually be asleep. (Tower of God and RWBY the animated series are the only other two) What really makes this title stand apart is the fantastic writing and its unique look into the power dynamics of a romance.
Beet is in a similar boat to Hunter X Hunter where it would be even bigger if not for the hiatuses. The artwork was stunning and the series was preparing for a DBZ type adventure. I would still consider it an elite but due to how abruptly it stopped I can see why a lot of people would avoid it. Hopefully the continuation gets big soon so everyone can really relive the adventure.
12. Black Cat
Black Cat was at one point in my literal #1 position for all of manga. Of course I read it a long time ago before most of the other titles so it was natural that others would show up. Still, Black Cat is still notable for having one of the best romances in the entire medium as well as having a top tier main character. Train Heartnet has a lot of style and the manga did a good job of always ramping up the stakes.
11. Yu Yu Hakusho
This one was very close to making the top 10. It was a tough fight but it just barely loses out to the next one. Yu Yu Hakusho has a ton of amazing action and characters. It ended up getting an anime that was so amazing that even the manga couldn’t keep up. Hakusho will always be known as a top tier contender regardless though and if any series above it end up slipping this one will be right there to take their spot.
Gamaran was never formally licensed in America so it was unable to get as popular as it should. Think of it like Kenshin only with whole schools of swordsmen fighting each other. The fights are crazy and while the abilities are mainly grounded the manga isn’t afraid to give them superhuman feats all the time. It has a certain intensity that very few titles can match.
9. Black Clover
At this point it’s easy to see why a lot of people call it GOAT Clover. Black Clover is just amazing in that it burst out of the gate as an amazing series. A lot of titles need some time to pick up but this one was superb from Volume 1. A good amount of credit for that goes to Asta as he is such a likable guy. Part of what makes him shine is the fact that he never gave up on working out and training his body even though he didn’t get magic. He didn’t let the unfairness of the world drag him down and just kept on fighting until he became a member of the Black Bulls. Hopefully this title doesn’t end any time soon.
8. Liar Game
I had to debate with myself a while on if this should really be ahead of Black Clover. It’s close but I would give it the slight edge. Mainly what helps it win out is that I just love analytical series like this. Each game causes you to think a lot on what the right strategy is. The best part is that the series never cheats. You can really get the answers yourself but it is incredibly difficult. The writing here is phenomenal so you will be sucked in to each event.
Reborn probably has some of the best fight scenes in all of manga. That’s a good part of why the series is ranked so highly. It’s also versatile as the manga initially started out as a full comedy which was very humorous and then seamlessly turned into a battle manga. This showed that the author was able to handle each genre which is very impressive. This is a series you do not want to forget.
6. Dragon Ball Z
The original Shounen Jump legend! Dragon Ball Z is one of those huge franchises that everyone knows about and that’s because it is just so good. The series has no weaknesses and the art style is simple but extremely effective. The fights are easy to follow and the story is a lot of fun. It really came into its own during the Android Saga and never looked back. The series also has a ton of replay value since it’s so easy to read.
Bleach is one of the most intense action series I’ve ever read. While a lot of people didn’t like the final arc I was definitely on board with it. The series just kept escalating everything higher and higher until it just ended. Now I will say that parts of the ending are a little on the rushed side but there was definitely a lot to wrap up. All in all I would say it did a fantastic job and Ichigo is such an awesome main character. The experience wouldn’t be the same without him.
4. Yugioh Duelist
Out of all the Yugioh titles this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. The Battle City Arc is iconic because it brought in the best duelists in the world and made for a lot of great duels. Kaiba and Yami’s rivalry can hold its own with any other pairing out there. Both of them will never surrender or give up. Mix that in with the sheer enjoyment of Duel Monsters as well as the excellent art and you have a top contender.
3. Tower of God
Yeah technically this is a Manhua but that’s close enough. Besides which I haven’t read enough of those for it to be a different category. Now this was fun to marathon though as there are around 500 chapters in the series and each one is monthly sized. If it ever got a physical release I wonder how many volumes that would be. Seems to be like it would possibly even reach 100 already. Everything about this title is just absolutely top tier. The artwork is amazing and the cast of characters is next level. You’ll be sucked into the various story lines and the general lore that surrounds it. I just couldn’t put this down and just kept going from chapter to chapter. If you like action and adventure then this is an absolute must read.
2. One Punch Man
One Punch Man has hands down the greatest artwork of all time. It’s incredible how realistic everything looks and not in an overly detailed/gritty kind of vibe. I’m talking in a detailed approach where it still feels like DBZ but with a ton of extra elements. Each page you can pause and use as a background because of how HD it is. Every 2 weeks you really look forward to seeing what the next update will bring.
1. Megaman NT Warrior
Now we’re at the ultimate manga. The appearance of Bass EXE, the greatest character of all time. It’s no secret how incredible I’d say this guy is. The series has top tier art as well with all of the fights and the author had a clear understanding of what makes for a good action series. Each story arc kept on getting more and more interesting with all of the characters mixing things up and getting in on the action. If you think Megaman is for kids or isn’t a strong verse then you definitely need to check this one out.
And there you have it, that’s my Top 20 manga of all time! With so many ongoing series and tons of completed ones I have yet to read, I’m sure the list will remain rather dynamic. Some more than others of course as the Top 10 likely wouldn’t change much but titles beyond that would probably move a lot more. Nothing beats the feeling of discovering a new manga title that is top tier after all. We’ll see which is the next one to break out! Who knows, maybe it’ll be that Kaiju No. 8 everyone’s talking about.