For every major series that came to an end in 2022 like UQ Holder!, Fire Force, Kaguya-sama – Love is War, Dr. Stone and Tokyo Revengers, it seems like several new series rose up to take their places.
Of course, quantity means nothing without quality, and thankfully, a number of these new offerings stood out above the rest.
With the state of Western comic books, I’d like to invite anyone looking for quality storytelling to get in on the ground floor of the following ten series, all of which are easily accessible thanks to making their debut in 2022.
[Side note: Continuations did not qualify for this list, as its purpose is to highlight series that have no requirement for entry.]
10. The Game Devil
‘Sword Art Online meets Digimon‘ would be the best way to describe Kakunoshin Futsuzawa’s new series where pixels become real, The Game Devil.
A young and somewhat timid man, Sugosugi found the strength to perservere through the hardships of his life by holding out hope that he would one day see his childhood friend Roku accomplish his dream and publish his original manga within the pages of Shonen Jump.
But when as days crept on and that day never came to pass, Sugosugi eventually decided to take matters into his own hands and bring Roku’s creations to life.
Taking on the identity of the titular Game Devil, Sugosugi proceeds to merge reality with a popular MMO-esque video game and populate this new plane of existence by forcefully digitizing a number of humans.
The only one who has the ability to save the world? None other than aspiring manga artist Roku, who prior to the digital merge played the popular game as the wielded his sword of darkness as the Black Knight – an identity inspired by the hero of his manga.
That can only be accomplished when the Level 99,999 master of the game world the Game Devil has been defeated.
However, in one holdover from their original lives, the ‘players’ within The Game Devil’s world have only one life to live.
Once their HP hits zero, as in Sword Art Online, they’re permanently dead.
Despite this limitation, with Roku and the Black Knight leading the charge against their friend, the remaining players set out to level up, obtain equipment, forge alliances, and ultimately fight to reclaim their lives.
Written by Yuki Suenaga and illustrated by Takamasa Moue, Weekly Shonen Jump’s latest hits Akane-banashi dives into the world of Rakugo – the ultimate form of Japanese storytelling.
Otherwise known as the ‘art of depicting a conversation’, the act of Rakugo involves an individual, the Rakugoka, bringing a story to life by acting out every character and humorously interacting with the audience.
As a given Rakugoka has to present everything from the narration, to every character’s dialogue, to the story itself, these performers pride themselves on their ability to utilize facial expressions, gestures, and switching vocal mannerisms to captivate their listeners.
In translating this unique artform into manga, artist Moue depicts the stories themselves unfolding in a classical Japanese art style behind the performer, whilst they themselves stand in the foreground and are drawn in a more modern manga art style.
As for the series’ plot, Akane-bananshi begins six years after Rakugoka Master Issho Arakawa mysteriously chose to expel all of the examinees of that year’s Shin’uchi Promotion Test from his school, including a man named Shinta Osaki.
After spending that time taking lessons from her father’s former master, Shiguma Arakawa, seventeen-year old Akane is now ready to take on the world of Rakugo and prove how great Shinta’s craft was – especially to the man who expelled him.
An action packed rom-com written by Joumyaku and illustrated by Mizuki Yoda, Marriagetoxin pairs up the unlikely duo of an assassin and a notorious marriage swindler in a quest for holy matrimony.
In the world of professional assassins, those who continually work to master their methods of killing are known as ‘Specialists’. The products of prestigious bloodlines, the Specialists’ methods are perfect, unparalleled and of course lethal.
One such familiy of Specialists is the Poison Clan, whose current successor, Hikaru Gero, is so dedicated to his work that he has little interest in anything outside of it, including women.
Fearing that Hikaru’s indifference to marriage could spell the end for their bloodline, the Poison Clan has presented him with the greatest crisis of his life: Find a wife with which to continue their lineage or else take a page from the Hapsburg Dynasty and procreate with his own sister.
Though he reluctantly agrees to these terms, Hikaru makes it clear that he will not find love through such traditional means as dating parties or app, but rather by charming his potential partner with his heroism while undertaking a job.
However, given his complete lack of experience in the field of dating, Hikaru enlists the help of notorious marriage swindler Mei Kinosaki, who proceeds to make Gero the subject of her newfound ‘Project Prince’.
On the surface coming across as a typical rom com, underneath the surface of Hikaru and Mei’s quest for love brews a genetic war between the various Specialist houses.
At present, this clash of lineages is placing the Poison Clan’s Hikaru against the blood obsessed Beast Clan’s Toshiro Dogo, the latter of whom has taken his desire for superiority to horrific new levels.
7. Tokyo Revengers: Letter from Keisuke Baji
With Ken Wakui bringing the core series to an end, the second season of the anime gearing up to premiere, and the live-action film series putting the final touches on a new entry, how could Natsukawaguchi Yukinori’s official Tokyo Revengers spin-off Letter from Keisuke Baji not make the list?
Letter from Keisuke Baji initially starts one month after Baji’s tragic death at the Bloody Halloween when his mother, Ryoko, discovers a letter dated the day before his death and intended for Tokyo Manji Gang First Division Vice Captain Chifuyu Matsuoni.
Upon receiving the letter from Ryoko, Tokyo Revengers: Letter from Keisuke Baji transitions to tell the untold story of Chiruyu and Baji’s friendship, starting from their first meeting in middle school and following through their joining of the Tokyo Manji Gang and their sad, eventual separation.
As a special aside, by far the best character in this spinoff is the current Tokyo Manj Gang First Division Vice Captain Sato Ryusei.
Ryusei may come off as an adorable carefree complacent playboy prankster prince, but when rival gangs come around, he’s always ready to fight for his brothers.
6. #Zombie Sagashitemasu
Following in the footsteps of The Walking Dead and Resident Evil, Katsuwo’s #Zombie Sagashitemas stands a real chance at being the next big name in post-apocalyptic zombie outbreaks.
Thirteen years ago, the world suffered an event known as Red Day, wherein 90% of the human population suddenly became infected with a mysterious disease and began attacking each other.
In the years since, a new generation of humans, unaware of what life was like before the outbreak, have begun to slowly take back their world from their zombie neighbors.
Among this generation are the series’ protagonists, the adventurous trio of Aki, Haru, and the girly Natsuki.
After her father fails to return home from a supply expedition one day, Aki and her friends set out to find him – and, if necessary, help her fulfill her promise to kill him if he ever turned.
Recently, the team took shelter within a fully-stocked but abandoned home center.
With racks and racks of items available to craft into zombie-killing tools and hordes of zombies constantly clawing at their door, Aki and crew are set to ring in 2023 with weapons blazing.
If #Zombie Sagashitemasu can draw comparisons to The Walking Dead, then Gachakuta is Mad Max.
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The first series from Fire Force mangaka Atsushi Ohkubo’s chosen successor Urana Kei, Gachiakuta takes place on a post-apocalyptic steam punk Earth polluted by trash and negative human emotion.
Above the surface live the prosperous Sky People, while on those on the ground in The Abyss – many of whom were banished from above for committing a serious crime – the storm of the aforementioned pollution has begun to give birth to monstrous, destructive demons known as the Abberrant Beasts.
One such outcast is Rudo, who was tossed from his place among the Sky People after being framed for murdering his adopted father, Legto.
As he falls into the dark unknown, Rudo vows vengeance on both Legto’s murderer, and The Sky People in general.
Upon landing in the filth below, Rudo soon discovers that he has the innate potential to become a ‘Giver’, one of the few people who can unlock the mysterious ‘Jinki’ weapons that seem to be the only thing that wound the Abberrant Beasts.
Rudo is soon given membership to a group known as the Janitors, whose goal is to exterminate the dangerous giants that roam the land.
Though reluctant to divert his attention in the slightest from his goals, Rudo agrees to offer his power to the Janitors in the hopes that, by doing so, he can find more information on the man responsible for his troubles.
4. Ghostbuster Osamu
If you have an issue with a vengeful shipper, a dissatisfied gacha gamer, or the most dedicated of straight-up otaku, the title protagonist of Ghostbuster Osamu is the girl for the job.
The ‘Princess of Gag Manga’ (Me & Roboco remains the unchallenged queen), Ghostbuster Osamu follows the geek ghostbuster Osamu Inui as she uses her own extensive knowledge of manga and anime to quell vengeful geek spirits.
However, don’t get her started on her favorite series, the fictional Menko Player Ban, as Osamu will drop everything (and even team up with other ghosts) to spread the series gospel to anyone who will listen – such as her fellow exorcist Mishin, who falls into the grips of obsession just a few hours after agreeing to give the series a try.
But far from portraying Osamu as the perfect fan, the series isn’t afraid to poke fun at the more annoying sides of manga fandom.
For example, in one chapter, the self-proclaimed master of geek-dom Osamu attempts to enlighten Mishin on the different iterations of Jump publications, such as Weekly Shonen Jump and V Jump.
Unfortunately for her, midway through her explanation, she realizes that, much to her dismay, her knowledge is just a small drop in the ocean that is geek hobbies – a commentary on mainstream shonen fans who proclaim to be the end-all-be-all of manga historians.
At the end of the day, Ghostbuster Osamu is just an extremely relatable and hilarious read.
3. The Dark Doctor Ikuru
The best way I can describe Hechi’s The Dark Doctor Ikuru is to invite you to imagine a post apocalyptic version of the medical drama House M.D. mixed with Cells at Work Black and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
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There is no sickness nor infectious disease that Ikuru cannot cure. Whatever the infection, he recovers immediately and can never again be infected by the same virus.
This is due to a mutation in his antibodies which, when Ikuru gets infected, allows them to trigger the apoptosis of infected cells. In short, his blood is a “magic bullet” against diseases.
In light of this discovery, Ikuru takes to finding new ways to use his blood to cure others, albeit by infecting and torturing himself with life-threatening diseases.
Deriving an almost perverse excitement from the excruciating pain and challenge each new disease presents his body, the thanatophile’s methods have earned him the reputation of the titular ‘Dark Doctor’ and ostracization by his peers.
Aside from diseases we may see in the real-world, Ikuru’s world also finds itself threatened by the byproducts of the Sick Star, a deranged-looking shooting star that evokes the moon from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and infects Earth with a number of new diseases, all of which look like something straight out of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Eventually, Ikuru finds himself opposing the Sick Star Assembly, a radical religious cult who worships the eponymous star as a god and seeks to carry out what they believe is ‘God’s Will’ by wiping out mankind with an artificial pandemic.
And not only are the Sick Star Assembly posing a threat to the entire world, but the fact that Ikuru proves the perfect weapon against them also serves to impede his own personal goal: finding a way to die and escaping his biological curse.
2. Chieri’s Love is 8 Meters
If you ever wanted to see what Marvel’s tortuous She-Hulk: Attorney at Law series would look like if it was actually well-done, look no further than Mitogawa Wataru’s giant of a slice-of-life romcom, Chieri’s Love is 8 Meters.
Chieri’s Love is 8 Meters follows the lives of new transfer student Omine Chieri, an adorable 11th grader whose size provides the series’ titular height measurement, and her childhood friend Kotaki “Yume” Yumeji.
Despite her size, Chieri spends everyday trying to do nothing more than live a normal life – a feat she accomplishes thanks to some accommodating aid from the government.
However, as they can’t exactly cover all her needs, they assign Yume to help Chieri out on a personal level.
From seeing Chieri making Yume a bento, to watching the fallout of the two sharing an indirect kiss, to following Chieri’s morning routine of saving people on her way to school, each chapter released thus far has been nothing but pure cuteness.
Interestingly, the series’ featured a billboard for Disney+ and its Marvel offerings in its eighth chapter.
And while this may be me reading a bit too much into it, one wonders if this is Wataru foreshadowing a future take-down of the Jade Giantess’ tortuous series by way of comparing the superior Chieri to the eye-rolling heroines the M-She-U has to offer.
1. Tokyo Underworld
Comikey has the action packed Battle in Five Seconds After Meeting, Kodansha has the psychological thriller Tomodachi Game, and now Shueisha has entered the death game arena with a series that can best be described as a beautifully disturbing combination of the aforementioned two stories, Tokyo Underworld.
In mangaka Kenji Sakaki’s new horror tale, the actual Tokyo Underworld itself is more than just an urban legend. Rather, it’s a supernatural copy of Tokyo where murder victims can send their killers to be judged and punished appropriately for their crimes by President Tower and his legion of supernatural ‘Executioners’.
Enter our protagonists, Yami and Yomi Kanda, who set out to escape from the Tokyo Underworld after their homeroom teacher has the entire class labeled as murderers by committing suicide and blaming them for driving him to do it.
Similar to Battle in Five Seconds After Meeting and Tomodachi Game, Sakaki has plenty of bigger mysteries hidden in the pits of Tokyo Underworld’s story – of particular note is the connection between Yami and Yomi’s parents and Enra Mizoregi, history’s second most vicious criminal.
Oh yeah, and what exactly did Yomi do to earn the top spot in that category?!
Of note in Tokyo Underground is the fact that each of President Tower’s aforementioned Executioners feature Sakaki’s disturbing takes on different historical figures.
Thus far, Class 2-A has faced twisted versions of the Japanese warrior monk Saito Benkei, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, and the light-headed Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, with more such interpretations undoubtedly lying in wait in future chapters.