Fantasy is one of the most exciting genres of fiction, whether that be across manga, prose, film, or TV. That said, fantasy manga (like all fantasy fiction) can fall into a formula if we’re not careful; a formula where certain specific tropes are expected to be found.
This attitude towards fantasy manga isn’t particularly exciting, so the series’ you’ll find here all have their own unique takes and spins on the fantasy formula.
The Best Fantasy Manga of All Time
These fantasy manga range from big hitters to cult darlings, from the grimmest and darkest fantasy to the more hopeful and playful kind. Some of these fantasy manga are shonen; others are seinen; some are neither! A few definitely fit the “adult manga” criteria. Regardless of their designation, all of these are inventive, smart, and exciting fantasy manga that you should be reading right now!
Read More: The Best Fantasy Books of All Time
Berserk by Kentaro Miura
To start with any other fantasy manga would feel like some kind of betrayal to Kentaro Miura’s legacy. There is no greater fantasy or seinen manga than Berserk. This is not up for debate. If you’re looking to read more fantasy manga and you don’t start with Berserk, you’re making a big mistake.
Berserk is a long-running seinen dark fantasy manga by the late, great Kentaro Miura. It follows the troubled life of Guts, the man who typified the big-massive-oversized-sword trope in Japanese manga, anime, and video games. We begin the story of Berserk in medias res, with Guts killing monsters, haunted by demons, and doing a terrible job of making friends. He is cold, distant, and ruthless. The perfect antihero.
If you stick with the series, you’ll soon be transported all the way back to the Black Swordsman’s birth and youth, and his time with the Band of the Hawk. The world-building, character writing, and general aesthetics of Berserk are iconic, having inspired countless other tales since its inception (the most famous of which probably being the Dark Souls series of video games.
Much like how fantasy author Joe Abercrombie has come to define grimdark fantasy fiction, Kentaro Miura defined dark fantasy manga with Berserk. Nothing else even comes close.
Ragna Crimson by Daiki Kobayashi
Ragna Crimson is epic in every sense of the word. It’s a fantasy manga that puts dragons centre-stage and makes them a fearful force to be reckoned with. In the world of Ragna Crimson, dragons are our natural predators. Most are wild and dangerous animals, but some have human intelligence and even resemble us.
Our protagonist is the titular Ragna, a weak-bodied but strong-willed boy who works as sidekick to the powerful dragon hunter Leo: a cute twelve-year-old girl. Leo saved the orphan Leo from a gang and now he does what he can to help and learn from her. When a string of devastating dragon attacks start levelling human cities, Ragna is visited in a dream by his future self: a scarred and powerful man who has lost everything on the road to power.
Ragna’s future self explains that he will lose Leo, gain more comrades, and lose them too. Eventually he will become the strongest there is, but with nobody left to protect. And so he offers the young Ragna his strength, so that he can better protect and fight back decades before he should be able to.
Ragna Crimson is a boldly drawn, explosive, and grand-in-scope fantasy manga full of melodrama and anguish. Big swords clash with big dragons on an epic journey fuelled by fury and revenge. Fun!
Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama
This right here is one of the most visually unique, imaginative, brilliant fantasy manga you’ll ever read. In terms of aesthetics and design, this is Studio Ghibli level imagination.
Witch Hat Atelier also has real Diana Wynne Jones energy (which again brings up Ghibli), with one character who feels reminiscent of Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle and a setting reminiscent of that seen in A Charmed Life. This magical manga series begins with a young girl named Coco, who lives rurally with her dressmaker mother.
One day, a wizard named Qifrey comes along and helps Coco out of a jam. Coco observes his magic and attempts to copy it. This attempt backfires and leads to Coco’s mother being petrified. Qifrey promises Coco that there may be a way to restore her mother, but she will need to become an apprentice at his atelier in order to find it.
So begins a fantastical journey filled with unique magic systems, charming and eclectic characters, beautiful landscapes, and exciting events.
Witch Hat Atelier is stunning and fiercely imaginative in its world-building. It has dark academia energy as well as a heavy Diana Wynne Jones influence, and Shirahama’s stunning, textured art does wonders to enhance the story and events of Witch Hat Atelier.
Read More: Essential Historical Manga
Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui
Delicious in Dungeon (Dungeon Meshi) is one of the most charmingly original fantasy manga you’ll ever read! Especially if you’re a nerd for lore and creature design. This manga opens with a simple premise: in a small village, a catacomb caves in and out crawls a withered old man who claims to be the former king of a golden kingdom that fell to a curse. The old man then fades to dust.
Following this, parties of budding adventurers have been entering the dungeon beneath these catacombs for years, desperately searching for this mythical golden kingdom. We begin with our band of adventurers (the swordsman Laios, magic user Marcille, and picklock Chilchuck) doing battle with a red-scaled dragon.
When the dragon chows down on Laois’ sister, the rest narrowly escape and make a plan to return and save her before she’s digested. Laois’ plan involves learning to cook and eat the dungeon’s monsters. As they play around with what they can eat and how, a dwarf named Senshi comes along to offer his culinary expertise, and the four venture off together.
Delicious in Dungeon relishes in its monster design. If that’s something you love in fantasy stories, you’ll adore every chapter of this fantasy manga. Ryoko Kui is having so much fun designing the anatomies and ecosystems of the dungeon’s creatures, and you’ll have fun watching his party attempt to catch, kill, and cook them.
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
Frieren is an elf who has lived for so long that she sees time differently; a human life begins and ends before she has hardly noticed. Frieren was also a member of a party of four heroes who saved the world. Himmel the hero, Eisen the warrior, Heiter the priesr, and Frieren the mage.
Together, they journeyed for ten years and finally defeated the Demon King, bringing about an age of peace and prosperity. But what now?
This fantasy manga follows Frieren as she continues to wander, watch the world change around her, say goodbye to friends, gain an apprentice, watch her grow up, and learn about life ever so slowly. After Himmel the hero grows old and dies, Frieren realises that she knew so little about him. For her, ten years was not enough time to learn anything about a friend.
She begins to develop regrets, and she wants to live differently, and gradually she finds a new quest; a new purpose for her life moving forward. After the journey, the fight, the victory, what happens next? Frieren is a cosy fantasy manga that answers this question beautifully.
The Girl from the Other Side by Nagabe
In the realm of fantasy manga, The Girl from the Other Side is a unique and beautiful medieval-style fairy tale. This bittersweet manga by Nagabe tells the story of a girl and a monster who live alone together in a cottage. The monster is an Outsider, and the girl an Insider.
The story goes that the Outsiders share the curse of the God of Darkness, and are able to spread their curse with a single touch (and so the monster never touches little Shiva). The Insiders remain safe behind high walls, and Shiva remains on the Outsider, waiting for her aunt to return and collect her.
However, we soon learn the truth: that Shiva was abandoned, and is now alone in the care of this kindly monster whom she calls Teacher. This is “a tranquil fairy tale about those human and inhuman”, but what human really means is what The Girl from the Other Side asks and explores.
Gorgeously drawn, with beautiful environmental storytelling and a setting that perfectly blends with its fairy tale themes and narrative tropes, this is a magical and quiet fantasy manga.
Read More: Essential Modern Fantasy Novels
Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa
In a fantastical world that has been ravaged by several asteroid impacts, leading to the emergence of six moons and a single planetary shoreline, Land of the Lustrous follows the lives of twenty-eight crystal-like humanoid creatures. The moons are home to the enigmatic and threatening lunarians, a strange army that launches frequent assaults against the planet, and the titular lustrous are the only line of defence against them.
The lustrous were created when the last remnants of old organic lifeforms sank to the bottom of the ocean and were repurposed into gem-like beings which live on the shoreline and fight back against the lunarians. It’s an odd and alluring concept for a fantasy manga, perfectly enhanced by Haruko Ichikawa’s elegant, borderline surreal, minimalist, and frankly beautiful art style.
Ichikawa studied graphic design before turning her talents to writing and drawing manga, and that experience shows in how she constructs her panels, fantastical world, and strange characters. Deep blacks, expansive white spaces, a lack of straight lines, fluid motion, and a beautiful use of symmetry make Land of the Lustrous a truly beautiful fantasy manga.
The story begins with one lustrous, Phos, being dismayed at her own uselessness. All the gems serve a purpose, but their sensei is at a loss as to what to do with Phos. Eventually, Phos is tasked with cataloguing the natural history of their world, but Phos isn’t entirely sure what this means.
Across the first few chapters of Land of the Lustrous, we follows Phos and are introduced to other lustrous, including the lone wolf Cinnabar, the sorrowful Diamond, and the excessively powerful Bort. Each lustrous is distinct in their appearance, behaviour, and powers. Cinnabar, for example, is the only lustrous who can go out at night, but is cursed to bring death to all they touch.
Though they all appear waifish and feminine, all lustrous are genderless beings, and so translators Alethea and Athena Nibley smartly use they/them pronouns for all lustrous within the text. Land of the Lustrous is a one-of-a-kind fantasy manga, looking like nothing else and telling a minimalist but beautiful tale of purpose and belonging in a strange world.
Claymore by Norihiro Yagi
Claymore is a fun dark fantasy manga that takes heavy cues from, or perhaps also inspired, other fantasy tales. Its protagonist, Clare, is a Claymore, and her group has the same name (though they were given this name by the public due to the massive claymores they all wield).
All Claymores are women, and they are tasked with hunting down and killing monsters called yoma, which disguise themselves in human form and feast on the humans around them. Reminiscent of The Witcher, Clare and the other Claymores were genetically engineered to fight yoma by being infused with yoma blood, in order to match their speed and aggression.
And reminiscent of Berserk, Clare’s sword is an enormous metal hunk, larger than life, which she is able to wield with one hand. She’s also stoic and cold, much like Guts and Geralt. Claymore is an engaging and simple fantasy manga; a classic of the genre full of frantic action and great dialogue (the translation is really on point).
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
As with a few things on this list, here’s where disagreements may crop up with regards to genre. Some hardcore fantasy fans will argue that something isn’t fantasy if it strays too close to the modern. It’s swords, sorcery, armour, and castles or it’s not fantasy. I disagree.
Fantasy is anything set in a made-up world, filled with impossibly things like ghosts, monsters, magic, and… alchemy! Enter Fullmetal Alchemist. One of the biggest and most beloved fantasy manga and anime to ever exist, Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist was an absolute game-changer. With this one series, she changed the landscape of manga and anime.
Fullmetal Alchemist tells the story of two brothers: Edward and Alphonse Elric. They live in a world reminiscent of early 20th Century Germany, and they are alchemists with a shared traumatic past. After their father leaves and their mother dies, the brothers attempt to use their alchemical knowledge to bring her back to life. The process instead destroys Edward’s leg and Alphonse’s entire body.
To save his brother, Edward sacrifices his arm and Alphonse’s soul becomes trapped in a huge suit of armour. From this incident, Edward — the Fullmetal Alchemist — is born. The driving point of the plot is the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, which the Elrics are after to right the tragedies of their past. Along the way, the encounter issues big and small that need their help.
The politics, lore, design, and most of all character writing in Fullmetal Alchemist is unmatched. A true fantasy manga masterpiece.
Read More: Essential Sci-fi Manga
Noragami by Adachitoka
While Noragami is set in moder-day Japan, it falls under the label of urban fantasy, much like the books of Neil Gaiman or the Tokyo Ghoul manga (without the horror element). This shonen manga follows the life of down-and-out god Yato, who is without a shrine or a following. Yato has decided to perform odd jobs for people as a way to build his following.
As a god, Yato exists between the realms of the living and the dead (the near and far shores), and so he can see and fight against monsters that exist here, cannot be seen, but do have an effect on ordinary people. Early in the manga, Yato meets Iki, a girl who can see him, and attempts to save him from being hit by a bus. After being the one who gets hit, Iki can now separate her spirit from her body.
This newfound power bonds Iki to Yato, and the two of them grow and adventure together as unique characters who exist between worlds.
Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi
For many of us, Hunter x Hunter is the gold standard when it comes to shonen manga and anime. It’s a series that celebrates the shonen formula and its characters, while also smartly subverting many of its tropes. But it’s also a fun fantasy manga.
What’s fun about the fantasy aspect of Hunter x Hunter is how it is set in a world so similar to our own. It’s a modern place with cars and cities and video games, but it’s not actually our world.
And, because of that, the world of Hunter x Hunter gets to play by its own rules. The titular hunters being the most obvious example of that. In true fantasy fashion, if a concept or thing needs to be invented in order to service the plot, it can be, because this is fantasy.
Given just how close the world of Hunter x Hunter is to our modern one, calling it fantasy is up for debate. It’s a lot like Dragon Ball or Pokemon in that respect. But the characters, events, power systems, and world design are fantastical enough for it to make this list in my opinion.
To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Ōima
Mangaka Yoshitoki Oima is perhaps best known for her short series A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi), which was adapted into a beloved anime movie. But she also created this wholly unique and original fantasy manga. To Your Eternity is an incredibly smart, heavy, and impactful fantasy manga that asks and explores big questions about mortality, change, and community.
This fantasy manga tells the story of an orb! This orb was created by a mysterious god-like figure that sends it to the human world to learn and develop. The orb takes the form of things it touches. In the beginning, it becomes a rock; soon, an injured wolf dies beside it and the orb takes the form of the wolf. It walks through the snow until it finds a boy (the “real” wolf’s previous owner).
From here we journey along with the boy as he attempts to reunite with his community, who left him alone in search of a better place to live. When he dies, the orb takes his form and from here our journey really begins.
From its first chapter, the To Your Eternity manga hits very hard. It’s a tearjerker that isn’t afraid to put its characters through the ringer and even kill them to advance the plot. Our protagonist must learn and grow; that is its purpose after all. Growing means being hurt and losing things.
While not always an easy-breezy fantasy manga to enjoy, To Your Eternity is a very rewarding read and a small masterpiece.
One Piece by Eiichiro Odo
One Piece needs to introduction. It’s the biggest, best-selling manga in the history of the medium. It is the undisputed king of shonen manga, and rightly so. It’s also very long and, no, I haven’t read all of it. But One Piece also follows — while simultaneously breaking — all the rules of fantasy manga, and it’s quite impressive to see how that was done.
One Piece is set in a world of pirates and seafaring folk. The pirate captains, crews, and ships are all carefully designed, wonderfull eccentric, cartoonish, and detailed characters.
The world plays with magical powers, political plots, daring adventures, sweeping sagas, and so much more. The sheer scope of this entirely invented world and all the colourful characters in it is a celebration of imagination and the very concept of fantasy.
But given the piratical setting and cast, One Piece is far from your traditional fantasy manga. But then, it’s far from your traditional anything. It’s a wholly original beast, and one so dearly beloved.
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
The anime adaptation of Attack on Titan is arguably the biggest thing to ever happen to anime. And considering how it’s essentially a mecha series disguised as a fantasy series that toes the line between shonen and seinen, and is therefore kind of messy, that is quite a feat!
While I do prefer the anime to the original manga (and I’ve talked about why here), Attack on Titan remains a thrill-ride from start to end. Attack on Titan is set in an enormous, walled-off city. Beyond those walls roam creepy humanoid titans that gobble people up.
The architecture of the city gives off Germanic vibes but the technology adds a steampunk twist to the place, and its politics are incredibly well thought-out. At first, Attack on Titan comes across as a very simple affair, with a strong emphasis on action and combat. But the politics of it all goes places that you would never have expected in the early chapters.
This is a broad and deep fantasy manga series, with political layers to rival those of A Song of Ice and Fire. If you like your fantasy fiction to be heavily thematic, complex, and politically dense, you need to read (or watch) Attack on Titan.
Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima
Hiro Mashima is one of those mangaka whose aesthetic designs have become instantly recognisable, like those of Dragon Ball‘s Akira Toriyama or One Piece‘s Eiichiro Oda. That’s not to say Fairy Tail is on the same level as those manga (that’s for you to decide), but it certainly has unique and recognisable character designs that work in its favour.
Fairy Tail is set in the brilliantly named Earth-land. In this world are numerous guilds led by magic-wielding wizards. One of these guilds is the titular Fairy Tail, and its wizard is protagonist Natsu Dragneel. As Natsu ventures out across the Kingdom of Fiore on the hunt for the man who raised him and then disappeared, he builds a party of unique characters (wizards, knights, and dragon slayers) along the way.
Fairy Tail does what guilds do as it moves along its journey: taking on jobs and missions for money. In true shonen fashion, this is a story with a wider narrative that pushes us forward, and smaller arcs to keep us invested in the characters and their growth (exactly like One Piece and Hunter x Hunter).
The emphasis on swords and sorcery make this shonen series an awesome fantasy manga for younger readers.
The Seven Deadly Sins by Nakaba Suzuki
The Seven Deadly Sins is a modern shonen manga with a slightly more classic aesthetic feel to it. The setting and band of protagonists give off campy JRPG vibes, which will be a very welcome draw for anyone raised on the Japanese games of the PS1 and PS2 eras.
The titular Seven Deadly Sins were a group of knights who disbanded ten years before the story begins. They did this after being framed for a coup against the Liones Kingdom. Now, the Holy Knights are in control and it’s up to Princess Liones to reunite the Seven Deadly Sins and take down the Holy Knights in order to restore the kingdom.
Everything about this manga would have worked perfectly in the hands of early-2000s Square Enix. From the character designs to the biblical influences and the janky plot. All that said, this is a fun shonen fantasy manga that offers readers a very fun time.
Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo
Soul Eater offers another wonderful twist on the fantasy manga formula. While certainly fantastical due to its bonkers world, eccentric characters, and whacky magic system, it’s a far cry from the usual medieval fantasy setting. Soul Eater (and its anime adaptation) had the world in its grip during the mid-2000s, with its comical and playful dark fantasy setting and aesthetics reminiscent of the designs of Tim Burton (also huge at that time).
The setting of Soul Eater is the Death Weapon Meister Academy, a place for young people to train as powerful warriors. What sets this place apart from other YA fantasy worlds is its pairing system, where some kids are the weapon wielders and others are the weapons themselves.
The school’s headmaster is the shinigami — Death himself (whose son is one of our student protagonists), and the city the school can be found in is the aptly named Death City. So, there is plenty of grim and cadaverous imagery here, but it’s all presented in a fairly bright and comic-book aesthetic.
There’s an emphasis on the camp and the wild in Soul Eater, which juxtaposes wonderfully against the bleakness of its death obsession.
Made in Abyss by Akihito Tsukushi
Made in Abyss really took off and captured the attention of fans when its anime adaptation dropped, but Akihito Tsukushi’s original fantasy manga is also absolutely worth reading. This richly detailed and imaginatively realised manga begins in a town at the edge of an enormous gaping hole that leads down into the centre of the world.
Many residents of this town are adventurers who explore the depths of this abyss, and our young protagonist Riko is one of them. Riko lost her mother, an accomplished explorer, to the abyss, and now she wishes to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Early on, Riko meets a robot boy who must surely have come from the abyss itself, and it’s Reg’s unique abilities that help Riko conquer the abyss at such a young age. The design of the abyss itself is incredible, and the real star of this fantasy manga.
Reminiscent of the writing of Jules Verne, this is a story that explores and relishes in the unknown. The mangaka takes great pleasure in carving out a lusciously realised world of incredible flora and fauna. The mysteries in the deepest depths of the abyss keep you glued to the page, as does the safety of these young adventurers. Their relationship and the things they see latch you to this story and refuse to let you go.
Black Clover by Yūki Tabata
Black Clover is fascinating. On paper it should be one of the big shonen manga, talked about alongside One Piece and Naruto, but its detractors are vocal and its fans are often quiet, in spite of there being so many of them. If you’ve heard one thing about this fantasy manga, it’s probably a recurring joke about how, in its anime adaptation, the protagonist just screams a lot. For that reason, read the manga.
Asta is a young boy born into a world of magic. Magic is ordinary and commonplace, and yet Asta himself has been born without any magical powers (fans of Encanto, prick up your ears). With Asta unable to wield mana, he instead focusses on honing his physical strength. But in the orphanage in which he grew up, he also had a best friend named Yuno who wields exceptional magical power.
Yuno and Asta are in a race to become the next Wizard King of the Clover Kingdom (where the manga gets its name), and they aim to get there through different means. Black Clover is a perfect example of shonen manga and fantasy manga coalescing. It is weighed down by the tropes of shonen but the fantasy world and magic system keep it delightfully fresh.
Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura
Ok, I do feel a bit cheeky putting a piece of historical manga like Vinland Saga on this list, but I did so for good reason! If you’re anything like me, you enjoy fantasy manga for its rugged worlds, clashing swords, and ethically ambiguous characters. Vinland Saga delivers on all of that!
Vinland Saga is a Viking story set across Northern Europe, but predominantly Britain, and it follows the hungry-for-vengeance protagonist Thorfinn. Before we meet Thorfinn, however, we spend a few opening chapters with a military captain called Askeladd, who is attempting a raid on a Frankish stronghold.
Askeladd’s ace-in-the-hole is a furious boy wielding two knives: the aforementioned Thorfinn. Once these chapters end, we move back to Thorfinn’s innocent youth with his family in Iceland. There, we meet his father: the once-famed Viking warrior Thors, who has chosen a life of peaceful seclusion.
From here the we watch Thorfinn change from wide-eyed boy to fierce, aggressive young man in a series of brutal chapters. Vinland Saga is massive. It is a true historical epic that lives up to the Viking legacy. It has a distinctly fantastic edge to its worldbuilding but is also very much grounded in real-world history. While technically not a fantasy manga, fantasy fans will love it all the same.
Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida
Genre-wise, the punk and nasty Dorohedoro falls under a few umbrellas: action, dystopian, cyberpunk, seinen, and fantasy manga to name a few. This is a tough manga to wrap your head, and your eyes, around but it is worth the investment.
Dorohedoro is set in a gross and gnarly post-apocalyptic future world, kind of reminiscent of Fist of the North Star, where everyone is terrible and the world itself is out to get you. There are two realms in this manga: a big city called The Hole, and a second magical realm populated by magic-using sorcerers.
These sorcerers have recently been visiting The Hole through magic doors and experimenting on its citizens. Our protagonist, Caiman, is one of them. Caiman as a big lizard head and amnesia. But the experimentation has also left him with an invulnerability to sorcerer magic, which makes it easier for him to go on a blood-soaked hunt for revenge.
Accompanying him is the delightfully funny and charming Nikaido, a brutal and hilarious woman who helps Caiman on his quest.
The art of Dorohedoro is filthy in the best way, helping to communicate the world’s grimy and hopeless tone. But to alleviate all of that is a wonderfully bleak sense of humour, expressed through amazing translation by Matt Alt and his team. Dorohedoro is a fun and frantic seinen fantasy manga that is a must-read for fans of blood and gore.