We begin with one cut down before its prime. Suddenly canceled at the three-volume mark, and never given a proper ending, DOuble Arts nonetheless makes the list for being so damn awesome.
What's great about it? Well, the art, for one. It strikes the perfect point between 'pretty', 'expressive', 'cute', and 'mobile'. The line work is clean, the designs well-balanced. It looks spectacular.
And the characters. Meet Elraine Figarette, member of an order of Sisters who are the world's only defense against the highly infectious and highly mysterious disease Troi. Like all Sisters, she herself has the disease, but is unusually resistant to it. That resistance allows her to absorb the toxins it produces, holding off the disease's progression; it means, though, that like all Troi patients, she can never touch anyone without spreading the disease. And eventually, it will take her too.
Oh, and there's an organization of assassins who spend their time hunting and killing Sisters. Nobody's sure why.
Also meet Kiri Luchile, the dorky, artistically talented son of two dressmakers in a small town. He was born, for unspecified reasons, with a highly unusual talent: while he's in contact with other people, each of them are as strong as all of them. So, if he holds hands with someone, they each become as strong and vital as two people. If he grabs onto a chain of ten people, each of them are ten men strong. And so on.
When the final stages of Elraine's disease kick in as she's walking down the street, Kiri dives to catch her...and they discover that not only is Kiri immune to Troi on account of his power, as long as he's touching Ellie, the effects of the disease are removed. As soon as he lets go, though, it picks up right where it left off, with her having about thirty seconds to live.
Obviously big news. They need to get Kiri across the country to the Sister headquarters, where they hope to be able to create a cure for Troi by studying his powers. But that's easier said than done, with a small army of assassins on their trail, and them unable to break contact for even a moment.
And that's just the main pair. Meet also Sui, Kiri's childhood friend, who is absolutely wild and loves a good brawl. She joins them in hopes that they'll provide her with strong guys to fight. Meet Fallan Denzell, a world-famous martial artist they try to recruit as a bodyguard, but is unable to perform such a role because he swore an oath to never use his talents to defend other people (bit of a turnabout from the usual Sacred Vows).
Sadly, Shonen Jump, in the latest in a long history of boneheaded maneuvers, cut it extremely short, so it is unlikely that we will ever know the truth behind any of the number of plot hooks the author left hanging. But even with that lack of resolution, it's still a very worthwhile read. You will d'aww. Repeatedly.
I doubt any of these next four will be as large as the Double Arts one, since there is less to explain. Most people have at least heard of these others.
Ah, FMA. It may have The Worst Fandom (tm), but the manga itself is absolutely superb. While it could at times be dark, it managed to do so without ever being depressing - that's a hard line to walk, but it means that the end result can be taken seriously while still being uplifting.
There's a thought pattern that is wrong, but that is very easy to fall into, and that is equating cynicism with realism. You see people express this sentiment all the time, whenever they deride happy endings simply for being happy. As if only the grim, gritty, and depressing can be well-written. FMA is a clear counter example: you can be be well-written while making people feel good.
From its broad cast of interesting characters, to its satisfying conclusion, to the truly badass fight scenes, FMA is a treat in every respect.
Ah, the classics. Everyone remembers Dragonball Z's absurdly long fight scenes, the endless power ups, the often execrable filler, the hilarious censorship. And yes, all of that was pretty bad. But what's harder to remember is that before it was an anime, it was a fighting manga.
It never had a particularly strong story; just fun characters, good comedy, and enjoyable fight scenes. Even when it got serious, the strength of the characters and Toriyama's art held it up. Even the very end, when he was clearly trying to manually make everyone hate it so that he could quit, Toriyama was too good for himself; no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't make it bad.
It's really impossible to underestimate just how much we owe to this series. It had a huge impact on virtually every shonen series that came after it. To this day, lazy writers (*coughcoughTiteKubo*) are cribbing from Toriyama's work. It is a giant, and deservedly so, even if Goku did inadvertently turn into a jackass at some point.
It's about a British gentleman, who suspects his adoptive brother may be slowly poisoning their father in order to steal the family fortune. When he turns out to be right, said adoptive brother turns into a vampire and our hero has to take him down.
And then it's about that gentleman's grandson, fighting super-vampires and cyborg Nazis. And then with cyborg Nazis.
And then it's about the grandson and his grandson, on a journey to find and destroy the aforementioned vampiric adoptive brother, who is back and getting ready to unleash more havoc.
And then it's about an effort to track a super-powered serial killer with a hand fetish down in a small town in the Japanese country side.
And then it's about a bunch of superpowered Italian gangsters, trying to take control of their superpowered mafia to make it less completely heinous.
And then it's about the daughter of the aforementioned grandson's grandson trying to bust out of prison, while trying to recover her father's soul from the super-powered priest who stole it.
And then it jumps back to the 1800s, and is about a horse race across America. Oh, and Jesus Christ's body parts are hidden somewhere along the race's path.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure has been many things over the years. It changes focus and story when the old one is complete, and thus keeps itself fresh. It's practically a shonen institution, and deservedly so.
Sure, it may be largely fight scenes. But they are unique, original and well-illustrated fight scenes, with a very unique flavor of their own. And every fight serves a character development purpose. Almost nothing is wasted.
There are so many fantastic characters, stretched across so many great stories, illustrated in a unique art style, that passing this one up is almost inexcusable.
OH YEAH WOW I'M SURE YOU'RE ALL REALLY SHOCKED.
I've said my piece on how awesome this series is time and time again, and I'm tired, so I won't go into too much detail. But this is an almost perfect shonen experience, to me. Fun and fast fights, hilarious comedy, and a plot that is much more tightly-written than it may at first appear. Huge casts of characters, and all of them entertaining, if not actually likeable.
Every time Naruto, Bleach or other fails me again, there is almost always an example of how One Piece did almost the exact same thing, but a million times better. Almost always. It's just that good.
You'll laugh. You'll cry. It moved me, Bob.
Answers are in no particular order. If you want to contribute idea for my countdown, drop them in comments here or on my previous post.