Terrific Manga Stories About Mental Health You Need To Read

Ranging from stories about a young man growing up to an adult man fighting demons, check out these manga about mental health.

Graphic Novels Recommendations
Three covers of manga's discussed in the article. From left to right: Goodnight Punpun, Welcome to the NHK, Monster.

Trigger Warning: The mention of depression, self-harm, and suicide in this article may be triggering to some readers. Please exercise personal care while reading.

Manga is known for its unique way of storytelling through images. Rather than telling us what a character is feeling, manga artists, or mangaka, will show us what the character is feeling. This type of storytelling is great with stories about mental health. Readers can feel connected to depictions of characters going through these struggles because they can relate to those feelings. Seeing a character suffer through an invisible problem and persevere can help readers feel that they aren’t alone in their suffering and can also push through.

Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano

This coming-of-age story follows a child named Onodera Punpun from elementary school to his early 20s. The story shows Punpun experiencing difficulties through his dysfunctional family, love life, friends, and life goals, focusing on the mental struggles it puts on Punpun and his friends and family. While Punpun is a sympathetic protagonist, the author intended for readers to accept Punpun for his immorality rather than seeing him as a role model.

Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano  book cover
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Punpun, along with members of his family, are depicted as crudely drawn birds. Although this started as a way for readers to insert themselves into Punpun’s shoes a little easier, it became a way for the author to show symbolism by comically changing Punpun’s features while keeping the rest of the manga in a serious tone and art style.

Welcome to the NHK by Tatsuhiko Takimoto

This manga started as a novel but was adapted, seeing success from sales in Japan and the translated version in English. The story follows a 22-year-old hikikomori named Satou, an asocial recluse who receives help from a strange girl who knows a lot about him and claims to have a cure for his hikikomori ways. Every evening, they meet, and she lectures him and discusses things to pull him out of his lifestyle.

Welcome to the NHK by Tatsuhiko Takimoto book cover
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While the plots within the novel, manga, and anime are all slightly different, the main themes of the story are psychology, depression, anxiety, and isolation. The characters in this manga feel authentic. Satou wants to make progress, but his mental state pulls him back. When he makes a big achievement, it feels huge, and you want to cheer him on, then you remember he cheats, lies, and avoids situations because of how he views himself. Not to forget, there are other well-written characters that bring this story to life and support its story of climbing out of the hole, which is a dark mental state.

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

What does it mean to be human? Are people born good and later corrupted to do bad things, or are people born evil? Are evil people beyond redemption? These are questions that Monster finds its story building itself upon. Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a young Japanese brain surgeon working in Germany, hates the political bias of his hospital. When a pair of young twins come into the hospital after surviving a bloody massacre, the hospital refuses to let Tenma work on them as the mayor is also on his way and needs surgery.

Monster by Naoki Urasawa book cover
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But Tenma ignores the hospital and works on the children first. This caused the mayor to die and Tenma to lose his social standing. Nine years later, this story continues. One of the children he saved has become a serial killer. Tenma takes it upon himself to end the atrocities committed by this monster because he feels responsible for what is happening.

Berserk by Kentaro Miura

While this story doesn’t appear to be a mental health story, and it kind of isn’t, there are plot points within this story that are pushed forward from mental health. The main character, Guts, portrays himself as a stoic. He is emotionless and settles his arguments with fighting. He’s not great with friendships and struggles to rely on others. But make no mistake, he doesn’t do this because he wants to be dark and mysterious; he does this because of the trauma he has gone through in his past.

Berserk by Kentaro Miura book cover
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Growing up in a mercenary band from a young age, the only thing Guts knew was the battlefield. His attempt at latching onto a father figure ended in betrayal and murder. He lived on his own as a teenager, wandering from battlefield to battlefield to make money and survive, before being recruited into another mercenary band, where he lowered his guard and made friends whom he considered family. And then it was all devoured by a living nightmare. But, Guts carries his past trauma on him and manages to push through despite everything holding him back.

Suicide Island by Kouji Mori

Japan has had an influx of suicide attempts, which spurred the government to take preventative measures, as taking care of non-successful suicidal patients requires a lot of money and resources. After a person fails their attempt and is brought into the hospital, they are immediately asked, “Do you really wish to die?” and if the person says yes, then they are shipped to an island with the only rule being they cannot escape.

Suicide Island by Kouji Mori book cover
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On this island are other suicidal people who were asked the same question. But, surprisingly, they find a desire to push through and survive. This lawless land with a lack of society breathes life into these people who had previously given up. It’s beautiful to see groups of people who lost their purpose in life find or create a new purpose that keeps them going.

If you choose to pick up one of these mangas you won’t regret it. The characters and the journeys they go down are beautifully written and gripping. They experience loss and suffer through their mental states, but they don’t give up. They push through and find new meaning in their lives and that’s the message people should take from these stories. People are flawed, and they go through hard times, but those hard times are not symbolic of the end.


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