Tension, anxiety, and relief are the most common feelings when letting ourselves slip into another world filled with thrills and mysteries.
Away from the action and adventure, the thriller genre keeps us guessing as we invest further and further into a story that becomes almost life-like to us readers; below, we’re counting down our favorite heart-pumping thriller manga!
15. Liar Game (Shinobu Kaitani, 2005 – 2015)
Honest to the bone, Nao Kanzaki goes against her better judgment and opens a package containing one hundred million yen, inadvertently accepting an invitation to the “Liar Game.”
The game is based on betrayal and deceit, foreign to Nao but not to the recent prisoner and professional con artist Shinichi Akiyama. Hesitant at first, Shinichi eventually accepts the offer to help Nao, using his background in psychology and career in fraudulent crime.
The duo learns that the game goes beyond money and debt; the people they face and their hardships reveal that money rules all people like Shinichi, who will do anything to win.
A great entry into thriller manga from the perspective of an innocent, honest student, Liar Game keeps us on the edge of our seats as we con our way through the game of life.
Unfortunately, you can only find the Japanese version of Liar Game on Amazon. So if you can read Japanese, you can pick up this set here: LIAR GAME コミック 1-19巻セット (ヤングジャンプコミックス)
14. Homunculus (Hideo Yamamoto, 2003 – 2011)
Homeless and living out of his car, Susumu Nakoshi is approached by a mysterious man with a lucrative proposition.
Claiming that Susumu is the perfect candidate for trepanation, the procedure of drilling a hole into your skull. Initially declining, the decision is quickly made for him when Susumu’s car is towed. He accepts 700,000 yen for allowing student Manabu Ito to operate on him.
The thrill of this manga comes from the slow burn. Initially showing no side effects or abnormality, Susumu’s life is abruptly turned upside down as he starts seeing disturbing “homunculus,” images of distorted humans. It tests the limits of his mind, having to discern what is real.
Never judging a book by its cover, Homunculus teaches the power of the mind and how good intentions might not always lead to a happy ending.
You can find the Japanese version of volume 1 here on Amazon: Homunculus Volume 1 Japanese Edition
13. Tomodachi Game (Mikoto Yamaguchi & Yūki Sato, 2013 – Present)
A manga looking at friendship and the struggles that go along with it, but in a Saw-like setting, as friends test the limit of their relationships.
Yūichi Katagiri always struggled financially. However, he stays positive with the help of his close friends’ support. To keep a promise, Yūichi raises some money to join his friends on a school trip until the money goes missing.
With no one to blame, two friends take responsibility, thinking that would resolve the issue…that is until they each receive a letter asking them to meet up. Falling for the ruse, the friends end up locked in a room and told to play “friendship games” to flush out the traitor, test friendships, learn betrayals and find the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It is as exciting as it sounds, but you’ll have to experience it for yourself!
The Japanese version of volume 1 is on Amazon here: Tomodachi Game [Friend Game] – Vol.1 (Shonen Magazine Comics) – Manga
12. Dragon Head (Minetarō Mochizuki, 1994 – 1999)
Waking up after a disaster, three teenagers realize they’re the sole survivors of a horrific train crash that left their teachers and classmates dead.
Huddling together to prepare for survival; hungry, lonely, and scared, the three must process the loss of their friends and protectors, feeling a sudden sensation that they may not be alone anymore.
Lurking in the shadows, the trio knows evil is watching them, waiting for them to give in to the madness and trauma brought on by the crash, patiently waiting for the despair to kick in as they turn on each other.
This thriller is a tale of trauma and hardship between three friends with nothing left. It keeps you guessing what will happen next and makes you wonder what exactly is keeping a watchful eye over them?
Find volume 1 of Dragon Head here on Amazon: Dragon Head Volume 1 (Dragon Head (Graphic Novels))
11. Monster (Naoki Urasawa, 1994 – 2001)
Kenzo Tenma, a world-renowned Japanese neurosurgeon working in Germany after the war, is faced with the most difficult decision of his career; operating on Johan, an orphaned boy minutes away from death, or the mayor of Düsseldorf.
Putting his reputation on the line, Kenzo chooses Johan, essentially sentencing the mayor to death. After saving the young boy, Kenzo is reprimanded for his choice, stripped of his position, and his life is left to ruins.
Nine years later, he’s climbing the professional ladder again when a string of brutal murders leads him back to that faithful day, coming face to face with Johan. Johan is an incredibly intelligent and cold killer, and now no one can stop him.
Kenzo’s fate is tied together with the monster plaguing Germany. With a sense of responsibility, he knows he must do something, but will this decision mean a death sentence for himself?
You can buy volume 1 of this amazing series on Amazon here: Monster: The Perfect Edition, Vol. 1
10. Manhole (Tetsuya Tsutsui, 2004 – 2006)
The perfect mix of detective thriller, crime, and a pinch of psychological horror, Manhole sets up a pattern of brutal murders that Ken Mizoguchi and Nao Inoue are investigating.
What starts as murder quickly gets out of hand, with the investigation leading to biological weapons and a bloodthirsty infection slowly creeping its way around the world.
As Ken and Nao follow lead after lead, we learn more about the cause of these infections and the real-world effects of biological warfare. Can Ken and Nao find out how mosquitos from Botswana are killing people in Japan?
For Japanese readers, you can find the Japanese version of volume 1 here on Amazon: Manhole 1
9. Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji (Nobuyuki Fukumoto, 1996 – 1999)
Low-life Kaiji Itō spends his time causing problems, stealing car badges, and taking the rest of his boredom out on innocent car tires, loving every aspect of his daily routine.
Until a mysterious man calling himself “Endō” appears to collect a 30,000 yen debt from Kaiji that he signed alongside an old work friend. With no money to pay up, and interest taking the loan to a staggering 3,850,000 yen, Endō offers Kanji the position on a gambling boat to earn back enough to cover his loan.
In a frighteningly real scenario, Kanji’s debt pressure leads him to accept the offer, gambling with more borrowed money until his debts are gone, or he drowns under the mountain of money.
Can Kaiji clear his debt before the house finally catches up with him?
Check out volume 1 of this series on Amazon: Gambling Apocalypse: KAIJI, Volume 1
8. 20th Century Boys (Naoki Urasawa, 1999 – 2006)
A throwback to the time of Y2K, we’re taken to the turn of the century, the year 1999. Anxiety, fear, and excitement fill the hearts of people worldwide as we approach the impending midnight that could change the world, all except for Kenji Endō.
Kenji, a convenience store manager, is coasting through life’s mundane tasks one day at a time until the news of a childhood friend’s suicide plunges him into the unknown.
To learn the truth behind this tragedy, Kenji reunites with his childhood gang to figure out the plot of a mysterious cult, led by an unknown figure named “Friend,” and what part they have to play in the end of the world.
Will Kenji learn the truth and connect the dots between “Friend” and worldwide disaster before time runs out?
Get volume 1 of these series here on Amazon: 20th Century Boys: The Perfect Edition, Vol. 1
7. Tenkū Shinpan AKA, High-Rise Invasion (Tsuina Miura, 2013 – 2019)
Heavily relying on horror and violence, 16-year old Yuri Honjō witnesses the horrific act of a masked, ax-wielding man murdering a stranger.
Fleeing from the scene, Yuri quickly realizes that every door, window, and escape in the building is locked, making her way to the rooftop and discovering a haunting revelation; the world around her has no signs of life.
Learning her brother is also lost within this doomed high-rise, she vows to find him and escape, avoiding the rampaging masked murderers on the lookout for victims to carry out their sickest desires. Will she find her brother before it’s too late? More importantly, will they ever escape this terrifying tower?
Get a paperback version with volumes 1-2 on Amazon here: High-Rise Invasion Vol. 1-2
6. Zashiki Onna (Minetaro Mochizuki, 1993 – 1993)
Crafted with aspects of the perfect thriller, Zashiki Onna is short, terrifying, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
College student Hiroshi Mori has a fateful meeting with a strange, almost creepy-looking woman visiting his neighbor but thinks nothing of it. As time passes, he starts to see this woman everywhere he goes as she shifts her attention entirely onto Hiroshi.
Set in a culture new to the world of “stalking,” this manga sheds light on the real-life horrors of being a victim of a stalker, shrouded in mystery and questions like, “what does she want? What will make her leave? Does she want to hurt me?”
This thriller was a standout bestseller, terrifying generations of manga readers, and is simply a must-read for every manga fan.
You can find a Japanese edition of volume 1 here on Amazon: Parlor woman (1993) [Japanese Import]
5. Parasyte (Hitoshi Iwaaki, 1989 – 1995)
Two worlds collide when a mysterious alien invasion begins happening right under humanity’s nose. These other-worldly beings must invade the mind of their human hosts to survive. However, Shinichi Izumi manages to halt his transformation, trapping the organism in his right hand.
Even with the parasite, Shinichi manages to keep his right mind, calling himself Migi, also gaining consciousness, beginning a relationship of mutual survival and self-preservation.
Sat on both sides of the human-alien fence, the pair must face off against other bloodthirsty parasites and their hosts as they try to find a way for both to survive in a world that neither truly belongs in anymore.
Get volume 1 on Amazon here: Parasyte 1
4. Death Note (Tsugumi Ohba, 2003 – 2006)
Finding its place on our 30 Best Manga of All Time list, Death Note is a must-read for all thriller-crime manga readers.
Light Yagami stumbles upon a mysterious book named the “Death Note,” left in the human world by a sadistic god of death named Ryuk, in the name of random chaos. Upon inspection, Light learns that the book holds the power to kill those whose names are written inside, soon testing it on people he decides don’t deserve to live.
Becoming inseparable from the book, Light becomes a self-righteous vigilante by the name of “Kira” and vows to rid the world of evil. His actions soon draw attention to the police, who believe there must be someone behind these new murders, enlisting a mastermind detective known simply as “L.”
Thus begins an intellectual battle of minds, a game of cat and mouse where the roles keep reversing.
Will Light be able to complete his life’s work before L connects the dots, or is time finally up for Kira?
You can get volume 1 of this iconic series on Amazon here: Death Note, Vol. 1
You can also get the complete box set with volumes 1-13 here: Death Note Complete Box Set: Volumes 1-13 with Premium
3. Uzumaki (Junji Ito, 1998 – 1999)
A wild tale taking twists and turns into the unknown that keeps you guessing and questioning the reality of the characters, Uzumaki tells the story of a girl named Kirie Goshima and her family.
While accompanying her boyfriend to the train station, Kirie spots her father acting strangely. Upon inspection, she discovers he’s transfixed looking at a snail shell. She tells her boyfriend of the unusual behavior but doesn’t think too much of it…that is until he also says his father is acting strange.
This sets off a winding chain of events fuelled by obsession and fear through death and the unexplainable. Their small town of Kurouzu-cho will never be the same after the spiral takes over.
You can get a 3-in-1 deluxe edition of this series here on Amazon: Uzumaki (3-in-1 Deluxe Edition) (Junji Ito)
2. The Promised Neverland (Kaiu Shirai, 2016 – 2020)
Life at Grace Field House was everything an orphan could dream of. Though they have no parents, they’re surrounded by their new brothers and sisters, under the comforting watchful eye of “Mama.”
Their strict school schedule pays off as each child is adopted into a loving family at the age of 12, as long as they follow the number one rule: never leave the orphanage.
Acting in good faith, Emma and Norman break the rules and discover something far more sinister than either could ever imagine, a truth that rattles their entire existence. Relying on their quick wit, they must figure out a way to change their future and discover what truly lies beyond the gates of Grace Field House.
I don’t want to give too much away here, but believe me…it’s worth finding out!
Find volume 1 of this series here on Amazon: The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1
You can also get a 5-volume set here: Promised Neverland Set – Including Vol. 1 – 5
Or you can get a 10-volume set on Amazon here: The Promised Neverland Vol (1-10): 10 Books Collection Set
1. Erased (Kei Sanbe, 2012 – 2016)
Part-time pizza delivery man, and full-time struggle mangaka, Satoru Fujinuma possesses a unique gift he calls “Revival .” Like deja vu, the gift occurs moments after a life-threatening event and allows Satoru a small window of time to change the past to better the future and save lives.
His life as a 29-year-old is put on hold as Satoru learns of the murder of a loved one and the “Revival” thrusts him back 18 years to intervene in a chain of events that have haunted him since childhood.
Satoru must risk everything to save his classmate, Kayo Hinazuki, from the unknown killer, uncover the truth behind the crime and figure out the connection to his present-day life, all as an 11-year-old child.
Check out volume 1 on this amazing series here on Amazon: Erased, Vol. 1
Missed a thrill?
You’ve seen our nail-biting list of thriller manga, but what about yours? Let us know below in the comments if we’ve missed one of your favorites!