7 Graphic Novels to Read if You’re New to Manga

Want to read manga but not sure how to start? I recommend diving into graphic novels first! Read on to learn more.

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Book covers of 'The Prince and the Dressmaker,' 'Nimona,' and 'If You'll Have Me' against a dark purple background.

Manga is wonderful, but it can be hard to start reading it. The stories are sometimes different from what we’re used to in the West, and even reading them can be difficult since they’re read back to front, left to right. Easing into manga with graphic novels, which are similar to manga, might help. So, I compiled a short list of great graphic novels to start with.

Nimona by ND Stevenson

'Nimona' by ND Stevenson book cover showing Nimona, Lord Blackheart, and Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin

Nimona, a spontaneous young shapeshifter, has a knack for villainy, while Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with an agenda. They work together as sidekick and supervillain, respectively, to cause chaos and mayhem. But not without a cause — they want to show everyone that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t as good and heroic as everyone thinks. But when Nimona’s mischievous actions escalate to battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that her abilities are as unclear as her past — and that she may be too dangerous.

Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh

'Squire' by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh book cover showing a young girl with a flag sitting on a pillar.

Aiza has always wanted to be a Knight, which is the most prestigious military honor in the Bayt-Sajji Empire. She is part of the Ornu people, who have been subjugated by the empire, and becoming a Knight is the only way she can attain full citizenship. Because Bayt-Sajji has fallen to hard times, and with famine and increasing tensions, war is looming. Aiza can finally join the Squire training program. But now she has to figure out friendships and rivalries and survive rigorous training, all while hiding her heritage. She soon realizes that the empire’s “greater good” may not include her, and she and her fellow recruits are in more danger than she thought.

Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast

'Demon in the Wood' by Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast book cover showing the Darkling surrounded by shadows and branches.

This graphic novel is part of the Grishaverse, specifically Shadow and Bone, and tells the Darkling’s origin story. Before becoming the Darkling, Eryk had just been a lonely boy with enormous power. For he isn’t just a Grisha but is also the rarest and deadliest kind. Peek into his past and see why he had to hide and everyone feared him.

The Worst Ronin by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Faith Schaffer

Sixteen-year-old Chihiro Ito knows more than anyone that being a samurai isn’t easy. Her father is a renowned samurai, but all anyone knows Chihiro for is spending all her time on her phone obsessing over Tatsuo Nakano, her idol and first female samurai accepted into the prestigious Kesi Academy. When Chihiro’s father is conscripted, she gets a chance to work with Tatsuo and prove she deserves a spot at the Academy.

'The Worst Ronin' by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Faith Schaffer book cover showing two young women surrounded by fog with a disembodied hand reaching for them.

Together, they must kill the Yamauba demon haunting a village. But Tatsuo isn’t what she expected: foul-mouthed, short-tempered, and a drunk who turned away from the samurai way and now works for hire to escape grief. But they must put their differences aside for the mission and to face their own demons.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

'Heartstopper' by Alice Oseman book cover showing two young men standing next to each other.

The gentle and shy Charlie Spring sits next to Nick Nelson, a rugby player, one morning in class. They become great friends, and love blooms for Charlie, who is convinced that his feelings are unrequited. However, Nick struggles with his own feelings for Charlie, and as they go through high school together, they start to understand the unexpected and wonderful ways that love works.

If You’ll Have Me by Eunnie

'If You'll Have Me' by Eunnie book cover showing two young women standing back to back.

Momo Gardner is always willing to help someone. She is sensitive, an introvert, and a bit too trusting, wanting to believe the best in people. PG, however, is a loner despite being labeled a flirt and player. In reality, she’s someone who is quick to smile, and when she falls in love, she falls deep. The two are brought together, and their relationship is awkward yet sweet. But with their opposing personalities, Momo’s overprotective friend, and the way PG’s past is coming back to bite her, their love is put to the test.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

'The Prince and the Dressmaker' by Jen Wang book cover showing a young man and woman witha beautiful woman in the background.

While Prince Sebastian’s parents are looking for a wife for him, he is trying to conceal his secret life. Every night, he wears daring dresses and becomes the fabulous Lady Crystallia, the biggest fashion icon in the world! His secret weapon is his best friend, Frances, who makes his dresses and is the only other person who knows his secret. But as his secret weapon, she is also a secret, meaning her dreams of greatness are stifled. How long will she be able to endure this?

This is just a starting list for graphic novels, of course. There are so many great ones, just like there are so many wonderful manga. Happy reading!

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