Seinen is an age demographic for people between the ages of 18-40. The western world separates Young Adult (around age 15-19) and Adult (around age 20 and up) demographics. If the age group seems too broad, that’s because the labels are more in place for parental guidance rather than finding a specific genre. For something more specific, look to genres such as sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or deeper subgenres such as space opera, isekai, shoujo ai, monogatari, or slice of life.
If you’re looking for the best seinen manga, here are 20 titles that you wished you read sooner.
20. Bamboo Blade (Masahiro Totsuka, 2004 – 2010)
This kendo manga uses the real names of famous kendo personalities. Toraji Ishida is a struggling high school kendo instructor who has to train his students to meet a challenge issued by his former senpai.
As a craft manga that delves into the real-life intricacies of its subject, Bamboo Blade discusses specifics of kendo practice, competition rules, the differences between unregulated combat and tournament combat, and high school girl life.
The beacon of the story is Tamaki Kawazoe, an exceptionally talented but shy kendo student who just needs the right opportunity for greatness.
You can check out the first volume of this manga on Amazon here: Bamboo Blade, Vol. 1
19. Tokyo Underground (Akinobu Uraku, 1997 – 2005)
A classic mutant/superpowers manga the follows in the footsteps of Flame of Recca. There’s a lot in the genre, and Tokyo Underground represents a solid blast to the format while branching out from basic elements.
There’s an underground world in the Tokyo Underground setting where Elemental Users live, keeping their powers and potential secret from the above-ground society. The main character, Asagi Rumina, and his big glasses-wearing best friend Isuzu Ginnosuke, encounter two girls escaping the underground. These girls bring them into a world of superpowers and corporate conspiracy.
This is one of those situations where the anime doesn’t do the manga justice. While the manga adds polish to an overdone superpower genre (at the time), the anime lacks a lot of depth. If you’ve already consumed Flame of Recca or Yuu Yuu Hakusho and need something without a massive tournament arc, Tokyo Underground is more superpower with less filler.
An English version is difficult to find, so if you can read Japanese, you can buy volume 1 on Amazon here: Tokyo Underground Vol. 1 (Tokyo Underground) (in Japanese)
Or you can buy a used set of 14 volumes of this manga (also in Japanese): Tokyo Underground 14 Volumes Used [マーケットプレイスセット]
18. Hyper Police (Minoru Tachikawa, 1993 – 2004)
Humanity is not the dominant species on earth anymore. Monsters, demons, nature spirits, and other supernatural beings have returned to the open world. The result is a world of hybrids where pure humans are a protected species–some of them have a chip on their shoulder, but many live in harmony.
Though it seems like a fun and fan service-y type of bounty hunter manga on the surface, Hyper Police is a political commentary that seems to have aged poorly at the start, but it goes deeper into police privatization, accountability, and carnage. You’ll even find department politics, race relations, sharing of information, and glory hogging. It’s all there, wrapped under the guise of a catgirl and a bricc human lady learning how to see eye-to-eye with guns.
Buy the first volume of this series here on Amazon: Hyper Police, Vol. 1
17. Tenchi Muyo! (No Need for Tenchi) – (Okuda Hitoshi, 1994 – 2000)
Based on the first and second Tenchi Muyo OVA, this is a non-canon spinoff with 12 volumes. No Need for Tenchi is notable because while it’s not part of the main storyline, it introduces the Ryoko clone Minagi. The timeline of the non-canon anime, Tenchi Universe (featuring Mihoshi’s partner, Kiyone Makibi), isn’t entirely based on No Need for Tenchi but borrows a lot from the manga and uses the no need for naming convention.
You can find book 1 of this series on Amazon here: No Need for Tenchi! (Book 1)
16. Bungo Stray Dogs (Kafka Asagiri , 2012 – Present)
Another great freelancer manga, Bungo Stray Dogs, follows the “Armed Detective Agency” as they solve crimes and defuse hostile situations in Yokohama, Japan.
As a solid problem-solver manga, the story is a mix of swift action, criminal psychology, and intricate games of cat and mouse. It’s not at the top of any criminal mastermind lists, but it’s a must for anyone who enjoys crime freelancer stories.
Also notable is that while the manga is more on the bishōnen side, there’s a bit of fanservice for everyone. That’s what keeps Bungo Stray Dogs in the general seinen category, although it’s a few points away from an Otome game (video games with stories geared for women).
You can take a look at volume 1 on Amazon: Bungo Stray Dogs, Vol. 1 (Bungo Stray Dogs, 1)
15. Rozen Maiden (Peach-Pit, 2002 – 2007)
Jun Sakurada discovers an intricate ball-jointed doll (BJD) and thrusts his life into the supernatural with the turn of a key. Rozen Maiden is about a group of dolls trapped within a test of sorts. The dolls were created to play through the Alice Game, a scenario made by their creator that seeks to find the true Alice–a doll representing many remarkable traits, but ultimately a secret desire known only to their creator.
Jun wants to resolve the Alice Game peacefully, but other masters and their dolls have other plans. This title is comparable to the Holy Grail War of TYPE-MOON’s Fate franchise, though with more emphasis on emotional and interpersonal conflict than outright warfare.
You can buy the first volume here on Amazon: Rozen Maiden, Vol. 1
14. Gunsmith Cats (Kenichi Sonoda, 1991 – 1997)
Rally Vincent and Minnie May are the owners of the Gunsmith Cats gun shop, but they’re also freelance bounty hunters and problem solvers who help out with crime in 1990s Chicago.
Gunsmith Cats is a fun and fast-paced urban adventure that puts a lot of work into firearms accuracy and vehicle detail, though a bit of manga exaggeration and cleavage shots to pay the bills- that all happens in just a few chapters.
The 1991-1997 manga inspired an anime adaptation and a continuation called Gunsmith Cats BURST from 2004-2008.
Check out the huge, first volume of the revised edition here on Amazon: Gunsmith Cats Revised Edition Volume 1
13. Uchōten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family) – (Morimi Tomihiko, 2013 – 2015)
If you’re into stories where the supernatural world blends in with modern humanity, Uchōten Kazoku can’t be missed. The story follows Yasaburō Shimogamo, a son of an influential tanuki family in modern Kyoko. They’re shapeshifters in both physical form and social power.
The manga covers Yasaburō’s place in society as he takes care of elder tengu, mingles with humans when he shapeshifts, and unravels the mysteries of his people. The manga turns darker as the Shimogamo family investigates the death of their father, the former head of the tanuki community who was murdered under extremely violent but mysterious circumstances…
If you can read Japanese, you buy a hardcover, Japanese language edition on Amazon: Uchōten kazoku (The Eccentric Family)
12. Blame! (Tsutomu Nihei, 1997 – 2003)
A relatively short series that takes place in a cyberpunk future where humanity struggles to stay alive in a world trying to purge them completely. The story follows Killy as he uses his advanced strength and a beam weapon called a Gravitational Beam Emitter to stay alive and find the key to keeping humanity alive.
The manga inspired a cult classic OVA (original video animation) by the same name.
You can fine the first volume of the Master Edition on Amazon: BLAME! 1 Master Edition
11. Battle Angel Alita (Yukito Kishiro, 1990 – 1995)
You may also know this from its Japanese title, Gunnm. This is one of the original cyberpunk manga that spawned a short OVA and a very contentious movie.
The manga is set in a post-apocalyptic United States-Missouri, Colorado, Texas, and California (as opposed to Panama in the movie). The remains of a cyborg are discovered in a dump, setting in motion a story about reclaiming an innocent life, being forced to fight after escaping a powerful conflict, and scratching out a better tomorrow.
The original manga has a few spinoffs and sequels, with the title Last Order and Mars Chronicle introducing a vastly different setting as the story progresses. Start with the original Alita series, Holy Night & Other Stories, Last Order, and Mars Chronicle for a standard read order.
You can check out book 1 of the deluxe edition on Amazon here: Battle Angel Alita Deluxe 1 (Contains Vol. 1-2)
Or you can get down with the whole series and buy the deluxe complete series box here: Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Complete Series Box Set
10. Demon Prince Enma (Nagai Go, 2006)
This spooky title is also known as Kikōshi Enma. Enma’s mission is to drag demons back to the underworld or destroy them if they don’t comply. This is another detective agency manga, but this time featuring royalty; Enma is the Demon Prince of the Underworld. His associates are Princess Yukihime and a powerful monster named Kapaeru.
Go Nagai is known for genre-defining series such as Devilman, Cutie Honey, and did a cameo in The Toxic Avenger 2 movie.
Getting a copy of this manga is difficult. In fact, even getting the Japanese version is a challenge. If you can read Japanese, you can check out the Japanese version on Amazon: Demon Prince Enma (Nagai Go, 2006) [Japanese Import]
9. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō (Hitoshi Ashinano, 1994 – 2006)
A post-apocalyptic society is shown in beautiful detail. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō looks into the daily life of androids and the remnants of humanity after some unknown disaster. But, amazingly, it’s not at all about the disaster itself. It also shows the art of living and the beauty of humanity painted against a canvas of technology.
For those with Japanese skills, Amazon offers the Japanese version of the first volume here: ヨコハマ買い出し紀行 1 [Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou 1]
8. 3×3 Eyes (Yuzo Takada, 1987 – 2002)
A young man encounters a woman in trouble, but she turns out to be immortal and relatively powerful.
3×3 Eyes follows Pai, an immortal three-eyed survivor of an ancient race called the Sanjiyan Unkara, meaning the three-eyed mandala. She’s looking for a way to end her long life of suffering by becoming mortal and living out her days in human peace.
She follows an artifact that can grant her mortality, which has found its way to Tokyo. While in Tokyo, a thief snatches her backpack and her mystical cane, but a young man named Yakumo tackles the thief. He retrieves the backpack, but the thief escapes with the cane.
This begins the adventure of trying to find a peaceful life while the supernatural world gives the pair everything but that. Yakumo is almost killed by Pai’s pet, and is granted immortality by being tethered to Pai as she resurrects him. The only way to set things right is for Pai to become human, but in her way are supernatural beings who want to siphon her power for their own needs or those who see something in Yakumo for their benefit.
Ancient mysticism rarely seen in the west and a mixture of Asian mythology are what sets 3×3 Eyes apart, and it’s a must for anyone into anthropology. Adventure manga like 3×3 Eyes are rare, and with two re-releases, there’s still a chance to get a physical copy if you’re into it.
Check out volume 1 of the series on Amazon: 3 x 3 Eyes, Vol. 1: House of Demons
7. Chobits (Clamp, 2000 – 2002)
Chobits is a slice-of-life manga that tackles artificial intelligence (AI) in a cute but still realistic way. The premise isn’t different from other AI stories; the protagonist finds a discarded robot of sorts, and the robot turns out to be more than meets the eye.
Most of the story centers around Hideki, the guy who finds the robot, and Chii, the robot in question. Chobits is a near-future series where artificial intelligence and living dolls have started to become normal in society. Although there are a few futuristic improvements, we’re not in the world of flying cars yet.
The key robots in the Chobits world are called persocoms, humanoid robots with varying levels of emotion and personality. The most advanced persocoms are called chobits, which are mostly indistinguishable from humans aside from their ears (nekomimi used as port access and peripheral storage).
You can buy volume 1 on Amazon here: Chobits, Volume 1
Or you can get the complete 8-volume set here: Chobits Complete Set (8 Volumes)
6. Black Lagoon (Rei Hiroe, 2002 – Present)
A modern mercenary story that brings global crime syndicates, freelancers, and corporate interests together on a Southeast Asian port city.
Black Lagoon follows the daily struggles of the Lagoon Company, a team of highly skilled specialists who take challenging jobs and try their hardest to get proper compensation after their regularly scheduled betrayal. There’s a healthy amount of backstabbing by their clients, but there is also camaraderie within the team, their better clients, other freelancers, and even enemies who just like the way they work.
The story begins with a hijacking and a hostage situation, as the team tries to squeeze better compensation from some stolen data. The main hostage is Rokurō Okajima, later known as Rock, a salaryman of Asahi Industries. Lagoon Company’s agent of chaos is Revy, a girl who is a dual-pistol hothead who thinks the team can get extra money by demanding a ransom from Rock’s company.
Dutch, the team’s level-headed leader-sets the tone for how complex and unforgiving the world of Black Lagoon can be, pointing out all of the logistics needed to get the money and get away with it. Especially with a company that might not care about their employee as long as their reputation is intact.
Pragmatism, cutting deals, and fragile trust are the core of Black Lagoon’s story. If you’re looking for action, strategy, and politics rolled into one brilliant package, Black Lagoon is an excellent read for brainiacs and simple violence lovers alike.
You can find this manga on Amazon. Check out volume 1 here: Black Lagoon, Vol. 1
5. Sanctuary (Sho Fumimura, 1990 – 1995)
Two young survivors of the Cambodian killing fields have one goal: to turn Japan into their sanctuary.
Akira Hojo and Chiaki Asami are childhood friends who played Janken (a Japanese form of rock, paper, scissors) to decide how to live their new lives. Hojo chose the path of the Yakuza, while Asami worked towards a political life in the Japanese Diet.
This is a must-read for people who want to enjoy political writing with all the nuance and intrigue it deserves. Both the Yakuza and Japanese Diet storylines and the way they interact offer Japanese political insight. You also get social insight into what it means to be Japanese and how many Southeast Asians wear their Japanese title without anyone being the wiser, including their children.
You can find this manga series on Amazon. Check out the first volume here: Sanctuary (Volume 1)
4. Outlaw Star (Takehiko Itō, 1996 – 1999)
Blending the lines between Space Opera and Space Western, Outlaw Star follows the adventures of Gene Starwind and his crew on an inherited ship, the Outlaw Star.
Outlaw Star is notable because it starts with a bang, the first few chapters being a tense pirate survival story that acts as a prequel to a coming of age story that becomes more relatable. As an adult, already working and struggling through life with odd jobs and freelancing, given a chance to taste high adventure and take life by their reigns seems very true to life.
Together with his mechanic best friend Jim Hawking, he builds a crew around figuring out the mysteries of the Outlaw Star. They also get to question their new companion Melfina (a bio-android) and face troubles with people who have every reason to be their enemy.
That’s what’s great about Outlaw Star. By the end, you have a better idea of where everyone stands, and while there are certainly a few betrayals, it all makes sense in a lawless age of early space settlement and a new age of exploration.
You can get the Japanese version of volume one on Amazon here: Outlaw Star Vol. 1 (in Japanese)
3. Elfen Lied (Lynn Okamoto, 2002 – 2005)
A psychological horror and sci-fi manga that explores the darker side of evolution, mutation, and scientific acceleration.
The intro of the manga is well-known for its violence, showcasing the destructive abilities of the mutants known as Diclonius. The beginning is full of chaos as innocent children are thrust into a world of murder with little control over what they do.
Lucy is the main Diclonious of the story. She’s a kind, gentle, and frightened soul, but due to a head injury, a cold and cruel split personality seeks to protect her kinder half-and all Diclonious by destroying anything in her way.
Lucy encounters Kouta and Yuka during her escape. These two college kids find themselves in the middle of hiding a lab experiment that a dangerous, splintered government wants to retrieve at all costs.
It’s not all blood and gore; Elfen Lied is a mental health and ethics story that unfolds as the players of this bloody game of chess fight for survival, peace, progress, or just power.
You can see the first volume of the omnibus version on Amazon: Elfen Lied Omnibus Volume 1
2. Mushishi (Yuki Urushibara, 1999 – 2008)
Mushishi illustrates the log of Ginko, a researcher who travels while cataloging natural and supernatural Japan. It has all of the scenic beauty and elegant detail of a 19th-century field scientist, but unlike botanists or park rangers, Ginko studies Mushi.
Mushi is a term used for small creatures, usually insects. In this world, Mushi refers to spiritual or otherwise supernatural creatures. Ginko both studies Mushi and helps people who suffer misfortune when the natural world is out of tune.
You can check out volume 1 of this amazing manga series on Amazon here: Mushi Shi Vol. 1
1. Slayers (Hajime Kanzaka, 1995 – 2009)
Based on a roleplaying campaign that was turned into a light novel series, an anime franchise, and even an influential part of fantasy at large, Slayers follows the adventures of Lina Inverse and her companions. The writer, Kanzaka, has fun with fantasy writing while still taking on the challenge of big battles, big magic, and big finishes.
The manga begins with Slayers Medieval Mayhem, a collection of one-shots with Lina Inverse and her swordsman partner Gourry Gabriev. For a more consistent story, look for Slayers: Super-Explosive Demon Story. It covers the first 8 novels of the original story and has a few points taken from the first two anime series (Slayers and Slayers NEXT).
Slayers Special covers Lina’s duo plotline, where she adventures with (and against) her rival, the necromancer Naga the Serpent. Naga is notable not just because of her massive breasts (which are not plot points) but her infectious laugh as one of the most celebrated ojо̄ (young lady) laughs in anime. With her hand against her cheek and her chest poked out, her scenes in the manga are pictures you can hear.
The final seven novels of the main Slayers novels are covered by Slayers: Knight of Aqualord. This is notable because Lina Inverse’s older sister is often introduced as a shadowy, frightening knight of immense power, who seems to unnerve both the powerful Lina and even some of the major enemies in the Slayers lore.
If you’ve ever been disappointed by big, bad personalities that rarely show up (Type-Moon fans, this means the semi-spoiler-heavy Aoko Aozaki), Knight of Aqualord delivers the kind of supplemental reading you need.
You can get the hardcover, Collector’s Edition of the first book (containing volumes 1 -3) on Amazon here: Slayers Volumes 1-3 Collector’s Edition (Slayers, 1)
From the atmosphere and wonder delivered by Mushishi to the space adventures of Outlaw Star, I hope you find something that makes you think while enjoying a bit of fun along the way.
Hidden gems are everywhere, and there are definitely more contenders for the best to dig up every day.