Every manga genre is entertaining in its own way, but one genre that never fails to impress is the drama genre.
While there are many great and popular drama manga out there, this list includes some hidden gems and underrated titles that you should definitely check out.
Most of these titles are drama-heavy, psychological, and have amazing character development. Some titles are sure to make you shed a few tears, so be sure to keep the tissues nearby.
20. Sekine’s Love (Haruka Kawachi, 2009 – 2014)
Sekine’s Love is one of the best drama manga I’ve ever read. It may seem like a “slice of life” manga at first, but as you keep reading, you realize the life of Sekine Keiichiro is far from ordinary.
Sekine Keiichiro is passive yet is a man of many talents. He’s terrific looking and is a fast learner. Ever since high school, Sekine has been surrounded by girls. However, Sekine doesn’t know how to say “no,” which often causes people to take advantage of him.
Sekine is an introvert unable to understand his feelings, and he’s struggling to run from the memories that haunt him. Sekine’s life changes when he visits a knitting store and becomes closer to the storekeeper’s daughter.
Sekine’s Love is an easy-to-read manga. But it focuses on severe concepts of life such as sexual assault, depression, and loneliness. Sekine has “the curse of good looks,” as shown in multiple flashbacks throughout the manga. Reading this manga will teach you about significant societal issues you might not have thought of before.
Will Sekine recover from his past trauma and find love in his life again? Will the emptiness in his heart go away?
If you can read Japanese, volume 1 of the Japanese edition can be found on Amazon: 関根くんの恋 1 (Sekine’s Love Volume 1) Japanese Edition
19. Life (Keiko Suenobu, 2002 – 2009)
Life starts like an ordinary high school drama manga. However, it uses a high school theme to touch upon many serious topics such as rape, bullying, suicide, molestation, and more. The manga shows the real struggles many teenagers face.
Ayumu and Shii-chan are in middle school and plan to attend the same high school as they are best friends. When the results arrive, Ayumu passes the entrance exams, but Shii-chan fails. Shii-chan blames Ayumi for this, and their friendship ends on bad terms.
Ayumu begins to hate herself and resorts to self-harm to put herself in pain. However, she decides to move forward in her life in high school after she makes her first friend in high school, Manami.
Ayumu begins feeling happy again. But a pinky promise with Manami changes Ayumu’s life in ways she couldn’t have imagined.
Is Manami’s friendship a blessing in disguise for Ayumu or another beginning to her traumas?
Check out volume 1 of this series here on Amazon: Life 1
18. Paradise Kiss (Ai Yazawa, 1999 – 2003)
Yukari Hayasaka is an ordinary school girl trying her best to get good grades and live up to society’s standards.
One day, she meets three top fashion school students asking her to model for their brand, Paradise Kiss. Considering her demanding schedule, she instantly rejects it.
But when she meets George Koizumi, the brand’s designer with an eccentric yet attractive personality, Yukari begins rethinking her decision.
Many people will find that they can relate to Yukari. She’s doing what her parents tell her to do, is caged by society’s pressure, and cannot decide what she wants to do in life. Throughout the manga, George convinces Yukari to break free from this cage by making decisions based on what she wants rather than others.
Will Yukari let societal pressure prevent her from doing what she feels excited about?
Paradise Kiss is not your usual drama manga. It has romance and comedy, but it features fantastic character development.
This manga will keep you entertained with funky dresses, drama, and an exciting plot while teaching you an important life lesson.
Volume 1 of this manga can be found on Amazon here: Paradise Kiss Vol 1
What’s even better is there is now a 20th Anniversary Edition that combines the original 3 volume release in one edition. You can get this anniversary edition here: Paradise Kiss: 20th Anniversary Edition
17. Cat Street (Yoko Kamio, 2004 – 2007)
Keito Aoyama is a former child actress with no friends and living as a shut-in without a purpose. Her life drastically turns when she meets a stranger who introduces her to a free school called “El Liston.”
In this school, there are many students who, due to various reasons, can’t adjust to regular high school.
Cat Street is a manga full of drama. It shows the struggles of child actresses, especially when their parents pressure them to pursue this career. The best part about this manga is the adorable love story you find within these pages.
Keito struggles with socializing and has no family support. But when she meets people like her following unique passions, she finally begins to form friendships for the first time.
As the manga progresses, each character becomes a better version of themselves while learning important life lessons.
For all of your Japanese readers, you can find the Japanese edition of volume 1 on Amazon: キャットストリート 1 (Cat Street 1) – Japanese Edition
16. Bitter Virgin (Kei Kusunoki, 2005 – 2008)
It isn’t typical for manga to be based on teen pregnancy, but Bitter Virgin changes that. Daisuke Suwa is a typical playboy in high school. One day, he accidentally finds out that his shy classmate, Hinako Aikawa, was sexually abused by her father and gave birth to a baby boy last year, whom she had given up for adoption.
From then onwards, Daisuke tries to become closer to Hinako so he can understand her better and look after her. Will Hinako be able to trust another man after experiencing such trauma as a child?
Bitter Virgin is a manga that shows the struggles of Hinako dealing with her past trauma while also longing to hold her child for the first time. The manga shows her slowly overcoming her trauma while Daisuke begins to reach a maturity level where he’s no longer a playboy.
You’ll get to learn the background stories of the supporting characters, and the manga sheds light on mental health issues and life struggles.
Bitter Virgin focuses on dark topics but still manages to balance drama and romance within its story.
You can find the Japanese edition of volume 1 here on Amazon: Bitter Virgin 1 – Japanese Edition
15. Boy’s Abyss (Ryō Minenami, 2020 – Present)
Boy’s Abyss is an underrated manga that’s so good that I pulled an all-nighter reading it. The plot is so enjoyable it’s almost impossible to stop yourself from reading the next chapter.
Reiji Kurose is a high school student living in the countryside. He is unable to leave the town because of his many responsibilities. Reji’s only escape from his uninteresting life is listening to his favorite idol group, Acrylic. One day, he surprisingly meets Nagi Aoe, one of the members of the Acrylic.
Nagi takes Reiji’s virginity and turns his life upside down by attempting to do suicide with him, but his teacher stops them. From that moment onwards, Reiji can never return to being the innocent student he once was. With Reiji’s unstable mental condition and family circumstances, will he be able to live a normal, happy life?
Boy’s Abyss plot is very unusual. Even after 9 volumes, the story remains unpredictable.
The plot is very dark, and the story focuses on different characters, each of which are struggling emotionally. The art style is drawn in such a way that you can feel the emotions of the characters.
This manga is a great choice if you’re looking for a dark yet unique drama manga.
You can pre-order volume 1 of this series on Amazon here: Boy’s Abyss, Vol. 1
14. Blood on the Tracks (Shūzō Oshimi, 2017 – Present)
Seiichi Osabe is a just your run-of-the-mill middle schooler. Seiichi is often teased by his cousin, Shigeru, because of his overprotective mother. When Seiichi goes on a family trip with his extended family, Shigeru goes to a cliff edge and teases him into going too.
Suddenly, Seiichi’s mother appears. Shigeru loses his balance and is about to fall, but Seiichi’s mother saves him. Even though she saves him, she surprisingly pushes Shigeru off the cliff moments later. Amazingly, Shigeru survives. How long will it be until everyone finds out the truth?
Blood on the Tracks is one of the most disturbing psychological drama manga I have ever read. The characters’ expressions are drawn so well that it feels like they are looking into your eyes and pulling you into the story.
Many people assume parents are role models for their children. But this manga focuses on a taboo that isn’t often discussed; parents can also have mental health issues that can ruin their children’s lives.
Blood on the Tracks is a captivating manga that, by June 2021, had sold over 1.5 million (Japanese only) copies. Try not to read it at night, though, because it will keep you up all night.
You can find volume 1 of this thrilling manga on Amazon here: Blood on the Tracks 1
There is also a set with volumes 1-5 here: Blood on the Tracks Volumes 1-5
You can find other volumes of this manga series here: Blood on the Tracks manga series
13. Skip Beat! (Yoshiki Nakamura, 2002 – Present)
If you’re looking for a dramatic manga with a “90s vibe”, Skip Beat! is the one for you, thanks to its art style.
Kyōko Mogami is a teenager working hard to financially support her crush and best friend, Shōtarō, who’s a rising idol in Japan. But Kyōko’s heart is crushed when she finds Shōtarō is using her for his house chores, so she decides to become a top celebrity to take her revenge.
Kyōko has no talent or experience related to the entertainment industry, so how can she achieve her goal of becoming a big star?
Skip Beat! isn’t your typical dramatic shojo manga. The main character isn’t helpless; instead, she’s emotionally very strong and always finds a way to achieve her goals.
The humor is perfectly woven into the drama and plot, allowing a smooth transition between story arcs, and the author sometimes features chibi art.
Throughout the story, you’ll learn the character’s background story, which explains the reasons behind their personality. If you enjoy long manga series, this one is perfect for you (300+ chapters and still going).
Check out volume 1 on Amazon here: Skip Beat! Vol. 1
There is also a 3-in-1 edition (volumes 1, 2, & 3): Skip·Beat!, (3-in-1 Edition)
Other volumes of this awesome manga series can be found here: Skip Beat! manga series
12. Onani Master Kurosawa (Ise Katsura, 2007 – 2008)
Also known as Masturbation Master Kurosawa, this manga has one of the best character developments ever created. Kakekuru Kurosawa is an antisocial middle schooler who, every day in school, masturbates in the school’s girl’s washroom by imagining different girls from his class every day (yes, this manga is meant for mature audiences).
Kurosawa has difficulty understanding the difference between “reality and imagination.” In his mind, he develops a specific description of his classmates and commits crimes against them by considering them as justice.
No one knows about this lewd act until his introverted classmate, Kitahara, finds out and forces him to commit sexual harassment acts against her bullies. If he doesn’t, she’ll reveal his secret.
After traumatizing many of his classmates, Kurosawa realizes the “hard way” that people are many times different than we think of them. This is what separates his imagination from reality.
Don’t be misunderstood by the manga’s title. This is not an ecchi manga; there is much more to it than you’d think. The manga focuses on the struggles faced during adolescence, such as bullying and addiction to porn.
Onani Master Kurosawa is a drama and coming-of-age manga that is easy to read and has a unique plot with a decent amount of plot twists. The story is so engaging that you will feel connected to the characters after reading only a few chapters.
This can be a difficult manga to find. If you can read Japanese, you can find the Japanese edition of volume 1 (Kindle edition) on Amazon Japan here: オナニーマスター黒沢（1）
11. Beastars (Paru Itagaki, 2016 – 2020)
Beastars is one of the darkest drama manga on this list. It is set in a world of animals that act just like humans, where carnivores and herbivores live together. There is a lot of racism as herbivores consider carnivores as nothing but brutal predators.
The main character, Legoshi, has always been feared for being a large carnivore, a grey wolf. A sudden murder in his high school increases the divide between the herbivores and carnivores.
Legoshi needs to deal with his inner struggles and face society’s pressure, all while having his feelings grow for a herbivore, further complicating his life.
Beastars is a manga with drama, action, and a lot of character development. Each character faces their own struggles, and the carnivores fight to control their feral instincts of eating herbivores, as eating them is strictly forbidden.
The characters must find their place in a strict, racist, and unfair society. This manga has many plot twists and action, so you are always kept on edge and entertained.
Beastars is written by the daughter of the infamous manga series, Baki. The series became so popular that by October 2021, it had sold 7.5 million copies.
Volume 1 of this interesting series can be found here: BEASTARS, Vol. 1
A 5 volume set (volumes 1-5) can be found here: Beastars Manga Set, Vol. 1-5
Other volumes of this interesting manga can be found here: Beastars manga series
10. The Flowers of Evil (Shūzō Oshimi, 2009 – 2014)
The Flowers of Evil is a psychological drama and thriller manga that is so insane that I can’t forget it.
Takao Kasuga is an antisocial student and bookworm with a crush on the popular Nanako Saeki. One day, he steals her gym clothes, but Sawa Nakamura sees him. Nakamura makes him do all kinds of weird, perverted actions by blackmailing him from then onwards.
The manga sounds like a cliché school story at first. But it is far from a “cliché.” The main characters are not mentally fit and involve themselves in disturbing actions, including sexual harassment and vandalism.
The manga progresses to show the impact of their actions on the people around them and themselves. It also signifies that one mentally ill person can “spread” their mental illness to those around them.
This manga became so popular that its first 9 volumes sold over 2 million copies. It has only 11 volumes, but the pacing is perfect, and almost every chapter ends on a cliffhanger.
The Flowers of Evil is a masterpiece manga that gets wild at many points, yet it portrays the characters’ feelings so well you’ll find yourself relating to them more than once.
Check out volume 1 of this series on Amazon: Flowers of Evil, Volume 1
A “complete” edition that combines volumes 1-3 can be found here: The Flowers of Evil – Complete 1
You can get other volumes in this series here: The Flowers of Evil manga series
9. Elfen Lied (Lynn Okamoto, 2002 – 2005)
Elfen Lied is one of the most famous manga of the 2000s. It became so popular internationally that its animated version even influenced the parts of the Netflix series Stranger Things.
Lucy is a special breed called “Diclonius.” She looks similar to humans but is born with horns and has invisible telekinetic arms. Due to her dangerous physical features, she is kept caged in a government facility.
One day, Lucy escapes the facility by murdering the guards, but a shot to her head makes her develop a split personality.
Elfen Lied is a dramatic manga with an emotional story but has many violent and nude scenes, so it’s recommended for an 18+ audience.
While Lucy is first shown as a murderous, evil character, the manga progresses to show that she’s also very human and deserves to feel love and happiness.
The story gets very dark, but it emphasizes that no living being deserves to be isolated and treated unfairly. They, too, desire love and care.
The strong point of this manga isn’t the art style but it’s the characters, storyline, and complex themes. If you’re looking for a dramatic manga with action and scenes that will give you goosebumps, give this manga a shot.
You can find the Japanese edition of volume 1 on Amazon Japan here: エルフェンリート 1
Or the English omibus, 3-in-1 edition (volumes 1-3) can be found here on Amazon Japan: Elfen Lied Omnibus Volume 1
8. Uzumaki (Junji Ito, 1998 – 1999)
Also known as “Spiral,” this manga makes you scared whenever you see a spiral. Written by one of the best horror manga authors, Junji Ito, Uzumaki is a must-read for all fans of horror, supernatural, and drama. It’s a short series but is full of plot twists.
Uzumaki is set in Kuzouru-chi, a small town. Shūichi Saito and his girlfriend Kirie Goshima are the first to begin experiencing the horrors of the town haunted by “spirals.” One by one, the spirals haunt and kill each resident of the town.
Shūichi and Kirie are aware that they will be killed. They plan to escape these spirals, but can they be saved from this powerful and mysterious entity?
The plot alone is creepy, but Jinjo Ito’s detailed and unique images in the manga make it much creepier. Every episode is exciting, and the art style makes it feel so realistic that it will hook you from the start. Experience the artwork of Jinjo Ito by reading this short yet scary delight.
Volume 1 of this Uzumaki is on Amazon here: Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror, Vol. 1
Check out the deluxe, hardcover, 3-in-1 edition with volumes 1-3 here: Uzumaki (3-in-1 Deluxe Edition)
7. I Sold my Life for Ten Thousand Yen Per Year (Sugaru Miaki, 2016 – 2017)
Short, simple, and meaningful. These words perfectly describe this beautiful and dramatic manga.
Kusunoki is a lonely and broke 20-year-old who’s completely lost in life. One day, he sells the remaining years of his life for 300,000 yen.
He has only three months left to live, and when he goes back home with money, he finds that a girl named Miyagi will be there observing him for the next three months.
As Kusunoki spends the last months of his life with only Miyagi by his side, he realizes Miyagi is also lost, just like him. Kusunoki and Miyagi start becoming closer to each other, but with Kusunoki only living for three months more, what will happen in his life?
I Sold My Life For Ten Thousand Yen Per Year shows that if you can live happily even for three days, they are worth more than thirty years of meaningless living.
The manga also portrays that loneliness can be difficult, but even if you find the support of one genuine person, it can make your life much happier.
This manga will warm your heart and has a wonderful ending. It takes only around 1-2 hours to complete this manga as there are only 3 volumes, but trust me; these two hours will be worth it.
For Japanese readers, you can find the Japanese edition of volume 1 here on Amazon Japan: 寿命を買い取ってもらった。一年につき、一万円で。 1
You can find the English novel the manga was based on, called “Three Days of Happiness” here on Amazon: Three Days of Happiness Hardcover Novel
6. Our Happy Time (Mizu Sahara, Aka Sumomo Yumeka, 2008 – 2008)
Also known as Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan, this manga touched my heart and made me smile and cry at the same time.
Juri Mutō is a daughter of a famous pianist, but due to her traumatic past, she lives as a depressed and suicidal adult. One day, her aunt Monica, a nun, takes her to meet Yū, a death row inmate charged with three murders.
Surprisingly, Juri finds this criminal to be very similar to her. For the first time, they both find someone who understands them. But Yū can be put to death any day now. Will Juri lose the person who finally brought happiness to her life?
Our Happy Time is a short manga with beautiful dialogues that make you feel the characters’ emotions. There is so much character development in such a short time because the characters experience happiness they have never felt before.
I recommend this manga to everyone. Its artwork, plot, and characters make this manga a 10 out of 10.
You can find the Japanese edition of this manga on Amazon here: Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (Our Happy Time) – Japanese Edition
5. The Climber (Shin-ichi Sakamoto & Yoshirō Nabeda, 2007 – 2011)
The Climber is a seriously underrated manga. Part of it is based on the real-life Japanese solo mountain climber, Buntarō Katō.
Buntarō Mori is an introverted and lonely teenager who recently transferred to a new high school. After being bullied into climbing his school’s building, Buntarō finds his passion for climbing. He has one goal: to climb the world’s most dangerous mountain, K2…alone.
While reading the first few chapters, this manga seemed like a typical shonen. But after a few chapters, the story becomes a psychological drama, where the character constantly tries to follow his passion while fighting against the biggest antagonist, his inner self.
Buntarō always feels like a burden to others, discouraging him from climbing with others.
The manga shows the character’s journey, where he faces a lot of social, physical, and mental struggles.
What sets this manga apart from others? The artwork. The Climber’s artwork is so beautiful that it is comparable to manga like Berserk.
The artwork is very detailed and realistic. In many chapters, there are little to no dialogues but only scenes of mountain climbing. Nature is drawn so well that you will feel like you are there too.
If you can read Japanese, check out the Japanese edition of The Climber on Amazon: 孤高の人 1 (The Climber) – Japanese Edition
4. Blue Period (Tsubasa Yamaguchi, 2017 – Present)
Blue Period is an exceptional manga because of its beautifully written characters, plot, and many relatable situations and emotions, making you tear up.
Yatora Yaguchi is a popular high school student. He has good grades and many friends. However, he does not feel content with the praises he receives. One day, he unexpectedly discovers his passion for painting. While Yaguchi has limited finances, his only option is to go to the Tokyo University of Arts.
The artwork in this manga is beyond gorgeous, and the character’s dialogue is written through experience, as the author is a Tokyo University of Arts graduate.
This manga shows that even if an artist is talented, they need to put in a lot of effort to find success and have their work acknowledged.
Blue Period is a coming-of-age and drama manga showing Yaguchi’s journey as he breaks through social constraints to focus on his desire.
Even if you aren’t into art, this manga will keep you wanting more by showing the struggles of those who choose a different path.
Check out volume 1 here on Amazon: Blue Period 1
You can also get a 5 volume set (volumes 1-5) here: Blue Period Collection Set 1 (Vol 1-5)
Other volumes on this series can be found here: Blue Period manga series
3. Goodnight Punpun (Inio Asano, 2002 – 2013)
Also known as “Oyasumi Punpun,” this manga is about the life of Punpun Onodera, an 11-year-old boy from childhood to adulthood.
Sounds simple, right? Absolutely not.
Punpun Onodera’s life is far from normal. He is a hopeless romantic child in search of love and affection. But he lives in a toxic household where his father beats his mother, and his mother despises him.
Punpun can run as far as he wants, but he cannot run away from his inner thoughts. A “god” often visits him, telling him to “kill himself,” but in reality, those are his inner thoughts.
When a beautiful girl, Aiko, transfers to his class, Punpun immediately falls in love with her. It seems that these two are fated to be together. But with Punpun’s troubled past and messed up mind, can he ever live a normal life?
Oyasumi Punpun is a manga you shouldn’t read during times when you feel depressed. The plot is realistic and shows the evil side of humans. It takes a while to get used to the manga’s art style as the characters often look very scary, and the main character is mainly drawn as a bird, apart from a few scenes.
But if you’re in for a ride that will send chills down your spine and make your heart ache, give this manga a shot because it’s 100% worth reading. After all, the manga has over 3 million copies in circulation.
Find volume 1 of this masterpiece manga on Amazon here: Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1
There is also a 7 volume set here on Amazon: Goodnight Punpun Volume 1-7 Collection 7 Books Set
Check out other volumes of this series here: Goodnight Punpun manga series
2. Nana (Ai Yazawa, 2000- 2009 – On Hiatus)
Every drama manga fan has at least once heard of this masterpiece. Nana is a spectacular manga that, by 2019, had sold over 50 million copies (Japanese only).
Nana Komatsu is a teenager who only aims to get a boyfriend. Even after multiple failed love affairs, she still wants love and moves to Tokyo when she turns 20. Nana Osaki is a singer in a band who had fallen in with one of its members. After he leaves for Tokyo, she also goes to Tokyo to become a star.
The two girls are so different, yet when they start sharing the same apartment, they develop strong bonds and support each other in their life’s struggles.
In the first 2-3 chapters, Nana feels like a typical shojo manga. But as the story progresses, it develops into a real-life depiction of the struggles of people in their early 20s.
One of the common themes of Nana is following your dreams, but it takes a lot of patience and getting hurt to achieve them. When the character’s background story is told, you understand the reason behind their current behaviors and fears, making the manga very relatable.
Nana takes you on the life journey of these characters as they handle complex human relationships and make many mistakes. But the story shows that as long as you keep trying, good times are right around the corner.
Check out volume 1 of Nana on Amazon here: Nana, Volume 1
You can get other volumes of this series here: Nanga manga series
1. A Silent Voice (Yoshitoki Ōima, 2013 – 2014)
Also known as “Koe no Katachi,” this title is an award-winning drama and slice-of-life manga. The plot is so compelling and original that it gives its readers a different experience.
Shōya Ishida is a mischievous class clown. One day, Shōko Nishimiya, a very friendly but deaf girl, is transferred to his class. She immediately becomes Ishida’s target for bullying. After being severely bullied by him, she transfers to another school.
After that, the whole class starts hating Ishida, and for years he’s bullied, makes no friends, and becomes very lonely. Ishida is filled with guilt from his past actions and is prepared to commit suicide. But life takes a drastic turn when he unexpectedly meets Nishimiya after five years and decides to befriend her.
A Silent Voice is a story of redemption. In the starting chapters, Ishida is easy to hate. But growing up, Ishida realizes the impact of his actions and is willing to do anything to make Nishimiya forgive him.
Each of the characters in the manga has a unique personality.
A Silent Voice shines a light on people with disabilities, their struggles, and the aftermath of being bullied. In my opinion, it is one of the best manga I have ever read and is a must-read.
It delivers a well-written story in only 7 volumes, a perfect read that delivers a dramatic and impactful manga experience.
You can get volume 1 of this manga on Amazon here: A Silent Voice 1
A deluxe, hardcover collectors editions with over 700 pages of the manga (first half of this manga) plus over 50 pages of never-before-published in English content can be found here: A Silent Voice Complete Collector’s Edition 1
You can find other volumes of this wonderful manga here: A Silent Voice manga series