Maybe you have your summer reading list all figured out by now—or maybe you don’t, and you’re not sure what kind of books to add. Whichever side you fall on, might I suggest adding a few manga (Japanese comics and graphic novels) to your list? If you already have, great! If not, know that there are thousands of fine stories told in manga form to choose from, and I’m about to touch upon just a few that are great for the summer.
If you want to unwind during a summer vacation with some laughs, there’s no better manga than Grand Blue Dreaming. The main character, Iori Kitahara, starts college with the expectation of meeting new (normal) friends and beautiful girls, only to get roped into a diving club filled with drunk, naked men. You could say it’s a coming-of-age story told in the most comedic way possible. Just don’t expect a tight narrative—it’s a slice-of-life manga, meaning it focuses mainly on characters’ everyday lives.
Another slice-of-life manga, this one is much calmer and gentler if that’s your idea of chilling on hot days. It’s about a 15-year-old boy named Takashi Natsume who can see youkai, a type of spirit in Japanese folklore. This ability hasn’t made life easy for him, especially when youkai keep pushing him to break the contracts that his deceased grandmother, Reiko, bound them to for her “Book of Friends.” But he also befriends some of them, building a community for himself one spirit (and occasional human) at a time. Sometimes there’s tension as Natsume struggles to keep the worlds of youkai and humans from colliding, and sometimes there’s sadness. In general, though, Natsume’s Book of Friends is a warm, healing story of a boy finding and accepting his place in the world.
Have you read Stephen King’s horror novels? If you can’t stomach those, you might want to sit this one out. If you can, then you should be just fine. Higurashi takes place in the summer of 1983 in a small town called Hinamizawa, where one person dies and another disappears around the same time every year: the Cotton Drifting Festival. City boy Keiichi Maebara moves to Hinamizawa and befriends a group of girls there, but their behavior following the newest incidents gives him reason to suspect they might be involved. There are plenty of fun and festivities befitting the summer, alongside quite a bit of nightmare fuel—truly a manga that will keep you guessing to the end.
Hot tip: The manga is actually based on a visual novel! If you want more after reading the manga and don’t mind a more video game-like format, consider reading the visual novel, which is the most complete version of the story.
I’m of the opinion that sports stories in general go well with the summer season, and Haikyu!! Is no exception. It’s a manga of pure energy and enthusiasm for volleyball, much like the main protagonist himself, Shoyo Hinata. At 170 cm (5’7”), Hinata is faced with a height barrier in the sport that seems almost impossible to overcome. But he forms a volleyball team in middle school anyway and enters a volleyball tournament, only to get creamed by the team of Tobio Kageyama, the infamous “King of the Court.”
Hinata enrolls in Karasuno High School, home of his volleyball hero the “Little Giant,” with the resolve to take Kageyama down in another official match—except Kageyama chose the same team. You can guess where their rivalry goes from there. There are so many other characters to follow as well, and their journeys to overcome their shortcomings are no less inspirational. Haikyu!! brings the heat with a plethora of loveable characters and matches that will keep you energized, no matter the temperature. (Also, there’s a beach volleyball arc. Just throwing that out there.)
Status: Ongoing (but almost done!)
So maybe Kaguya-sama isn’t quite what you’d call a summer romance (even if it has an amazing fireworks arc). But, you might want to seek out your own summer romance after you read it, because it’s one of the best romantic comedies you’ll ever read, period. The main pairing in question: two high school geniuses named Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya, student council president and vice president respectively. They fall in love with each other after spending some time together, but would sooner make the other confess than put aside their pride. And so, a battle of minds begins.
To be honest, though, the manga is a lot more than that. Explaining too much would land us in spoiler territory, but just know that the characters are more than they seem, and there is a real message here. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War’s commentary on love, society, and life will surprise you, with plenty of laughs along the way.
We hope this list gave you some inspiration for your summer reading list. Friendly reminder: Just as many novels have TV shows, manga gets plenty of adaptations as well, and all five that we’ve listed have anime series for your viewing pleasure. Just keep in mind that the original source material is the more complete story 9 times out of 10, and you’ll be well-prepared for the summer.
New to manga and interested in exploring the medium? Here’s a quick guide to get you started.