Seinen manga covers a wide variety of genres. In fact, it’s a type of manga that isn’t restricted by genre boundaries at all. But that has nothing to do with quality. And so, irrespective of genre or age, quality is still quality, and the best seinen manga can be found across all genres of manga.
What this means, however, is that if you are of a fan of specific manga genre — romance, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, etc — then you may not like everything that this list offers up for you. This is a list of the best seinen manga; genre has nothing to do with it. Before we get to the best seinen manga, however, let’s quickly make sure we know what the term means.
What is seinen manga?
The word seinen (青年) translates to “youth” in English. The first kanji actually translates to “blue”, but when used as a prefix like with “seinen”, its meaning changes to “young” or “inexperienced” (very similar to how English uses “green” to also mean “inexperienced”.
What this means for seinen manga is that it is a type of manga targeted towards young men. Shounen manga, on the other hand, is suitable for young boys to read (although an enormous number of shounen manga readers are teenagers and adults. Shounen (少年) translates to “young boy”.
The difference between seinen manga and shounen manga can be found in their themes and what they depict. Seinen manga may viscerally depict violence and death, or cover heavy themes like suicide and depression.
Seinen manga might also go more heavily into political themes, telling jokes that would go over a young boy’s head, for example. It may also depict other adult themes such as sex, drug addiction, or crime.
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The Best Seinen Manga to Read Right Now
As I’ve already mentioned, seinen manga has no one genre. On this list you’ll find seinen manga that are entirely fantastical; others are grounded in reality; some have romantic or sexual elements. Seinen is more of an age rating or a guide to suitability when it comes to who should or shouldn’t be reading the manga.
Therefore, most of the seinen manga you’ll find here is likely to have darker themes or events. With all that said, let’s take a look at some of the best seinen manga ever written; the best seinen manga for you to read right now.
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Berserk by Kentaro Miura
If you know anything about seinen manga, you probably expected to see Berserk on this list of the best seinen manga, and that’s for one good reason: it’s the best one (at least where fantasy manga is concerned).
There is, and never will be, anything like Kentaro Miura’s Berserk. Blurring the lines between grimdark fantasy and horror, heavily eldritch, but often thematically uplifting, Berserk is a captivating and massively influential seinen manga.
Berserk tells the story of Guts, born of a hanged woman, raised by the leader of a mercenary group. Guts wields a sword that more closely resembles a slab of iron, and he is a near unstoppable swordsman.
The world that Guts inhabits is cruel, unfair, brutal, and terrifying. Magic and monsters infect every corner of the land, and Miura’s art brings to visceral life the eldritch horrors of his own brilliantly creative mind. There is so much to be said about Berserk. Too much than could be said here. But, ultimately, it is the best seinen manga, bar none. If you’re a fan of fantasy and horror, you owe it to yourself to read this absolute timeless seinen manga masterpiece.
Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura
Before Vinland Saga, mangaka Makoto Yukimura made a name for himself with the hard sci-fi seinen manga Planetes, which ran for five years, from 1999-2004. Almost immediately after, he shifted from astronauts to vikings.
The Vinland Saga manga begins with a mercenary named Askeladd, our protagonist. Then, in the blink of an eye, Askeladd is reframed as a villain and a younger Thorfinn is our protagonist: a boy living in a quiet, remote Icelandic village with his family.
From here until Chapter 16, we see life through the eyes of young Thorfinn, though he is still not really our protagonist. For these fourteen chapters, our hero is Thorfinn’s father, Thors. After Chapter 16, Thorfinn finally takes centre stage, but the prologue is still not over; not until Chapter 54.
Seeing the Viking world of Western Europe and Scandinavia through the eyes of heroes, villains, and boys gives the place weight and dimension. This is not a world of heroes and villains; it is a world of people. It is a cold and difficult world, but also one of opportunity.
This, as well as the bleak depictions of violence and murder, are what define this as one of the best seinen manga. The definitions of good and bad are complex in Vinland Saga. There is no clear divide, as is often the case with shounen manga.
The beautiful landscape of this seinen manga is also bleak and dangerous, with its characters reflecting that. It’s heavily political, full of tactics and subterfuge, but it never drags. Vinland Saga is smart and considerate and always breathtaking. For fans of fantasy, violence, and historical fiction, Vinland Saga is one of the best seinen manga ever written.
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead by Haro Aso & Kotaro Takata
Written by Haro Aso, creator of the legendary Alice in Borderland, with visceral and luscious art by Kotaro Takata and some vibrant and imagination translation work from Nova Skipper, Zom 100 is a seinen manga like no other. This is a manga with a delightfully simple premise: Akira Tendo, age 24, is an exhausted office drone who has been driven beyond the point of burnout, but a sudden zombie apocalypse gives him a new lease on life.
After struggling to stay awake, and even stay alive, at his corporate job for the past three years, Tendo wakes up one morning to find that Tokyo is burning, its streets and buildings flooded with hungry, blood-covered zombies.
After running from a handful of zombies and reaching the safety of his building’s rooftop, during which he utters a line about being late for work that’s ripped almost word-for-word from Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Akira breathes deep his newfound freedom.
From this moment, a permanent smile is painted across his face as Akira celebrates societal collapse. Not only does he never have to work again; he now finally has time to savour being alive. And so, he makes a bucket list of one hundred things to do before he turns into a zombie (something which, statistically, is sure to happen to him sooner or later).
At first, Akira revels in his freedom by getting drunk, stealing and riding a motorcycle, and cleaning his apartment. Then he decides to reach out and see which of his friends has made it this far, if any. Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is a wonderful horror comedy, a seinen manga that takes the concept of the Kafkaesque and flips it on its head, celebrating the hedonism that comes with the end of the world as we know it.
Tokyo Revengers by Ken Wakui
Since he was a teenager, Tokyo Revengers protagonist Takemichi Hanagaki has had a string of menial jobs that led him nowhere and made him miserable.
Hanagaki is like a reed in the wind, easily blown over and bowing apologies to everyone for everything. Until one day, when he switches on the news to find that a ruthless local gang has killed his former middle school girlfriend, Hina.
Shortly after he learns the news of Hina’s death, Hanagaki falls onto the tracks at Shinjuku Station. In the seconds before a train hits him, he is thrown back in time to the same day twelve years ago.
Now, in his middle school body, Hanagaki has the chance to see Hina again, and maybe somehow stop her death. To do so, he jumps headfirst into life amongst Tokyo’s most dangerous people: the Tokyo Manji Gang.
Hanagaki himself is the best thing about this seinen manga. He is damaged, nervous, vulnerable, and in over his head. You can see elements of these traits in seinen protagonists from Tokyo Ghoul to Blue Period. When he looks back on his more exciting years, it’s not the gang stuff (the violence, the power, the recklessness) that he remembers fondly. It’s his girlfriend, Hina.
Now, however, he has to look down the barrel of a gun in order to save Hina. He has to leap into the heart of Tokyo’s young gangster culture, when he has no head for that life. But he does it anyway, for Hina’s sake.
Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida
In her Dorohedoro manga, Q Hayashida has created a gnarly, nasty, raw, and radical piece of fiction. Dorohedoro is bloody, gruesome, shocking, dark, and surprisingly funny. With deep and original world-building, an art style reminiscent of Berserk (the very best seinen manga) and, and very black comedy style of humour, the Dorohedoro manga has a winning formula.
Set in a grimy post-apocalyptic future, the Dorohedoro manga shifts between two realms: a human city aptly named The Hole and a second world populated by sorcerers.
When Dorohedoro begins, we meet our main protagonist: a big human man with a lizard head known as Caiman. Caiman has amnesia and is invulnerable to the magic of sorcerers. He knows that he was experimented on by a sorcerer, but that’s all.
With no memory to rely on, Caiman is hunting down sorcerers in a desperate attempt to find the one who turned him into a big lizard man. He is aided in his hunt by Nikaido, a strong martial arts expert who also runs a restaurant.
What makes Dorohedoro stand out so much is its use of humour, and just how dark and bleak that humour can be. The world of this seinen manga is oppressively bleak and overbearing at times, and so Q Hayashida injects it with some much-needed comedy.
But the tone of that comedy fits perfectly with the world and its characters. These people are sadistic, bloodthirsty, damaged, and broken. They are fun and awful and bonkers; emblematic of the very best seinen manga.
Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa
In a 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 threatening army which frequently attacks 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 a strange and enticing concept for a seinen manga, perfectly complimented by Haruko Ichikawa’s elegant, borderline surreal, minimalist, and beautiful art style.
Ichikawa studied graphic design before turning her hand to manga, and that experience shows in how she constructs her panels, world, and 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 seinen manga to behold.
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 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 seinen manga, looking like nothing else and telling a minimalist but beautiful tale of purpose and belonging in a strange world.
Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
I have to confess that I did also include Tokyo Ghoul in my shounen manga list. I felt weird about doing this but I used to be a teacher, and every boy I ever chatted to about manga would always have Naruto (a shounen) and Tokyo Ghoul (a seinen) on his lips.
My point is that boys who should be reading shounen manga are often already reading seinen manga, just like how many of us watched films like Jaws long before we should have. Anyway, Tokyo Ghoul is a seinen manga. Its anime adaptation and its sequel series, Tokyo Ghoul: re, are also dizzyingly popular.
Tokyo Ghoul mixes action and horror, as well as a twisted version of the slice-of-life genre, to create a style that is all its own.
Tokyo Ghoul is a seinen manga set in an alternative present-day Tokyo, in which these vampire-like creatures called ghouls exist, are known about, and spend their nights hunting regular humans for their flesh.
Ghouls look like ordinary people, though their skin is tougher, they’re hard to kill, they’re super-strong, super-fast, and each ghoul has a specific power known as a kagune. Ghouls can only survive off human meat, and so they are dangerous.
An agency known as the Ghoul Investigators is tasked with hunting these hunters and putting them down. But when our protagonist falls into the world of the ghouls, he sees a very different side to them, and to Tokyo. Ken Kaneki is an introverted, bookish college student who falls into the sights of a hungry ghoul known as Rize.
On what Kaneki thinks is a date, Rize attempts to kill and eat him. When he is gravely injured and a moment from death, Rize is crushed to death and her organs are used by a doctor to save Kaneki’s life. Now, with the strength, powers, and curse of a ghoul, Kaneki lives on the edge of both worlds. In terms of sheer popularity, Tokyo Ghoul is one of the biggest and best seinen manga ever created.
Blue Period by Tsubasa Yamaguchi
At the time of writing, the Blue Period manga has consumed my entire life. This is, hands down, one of the best seinen manga I’ve ever read. Here’s why. Tsubasa Yamaguchi’s Blue Period begins with Yatora Yamaguchi, a very recognisable kind of character. Yatora is handsome, sociable, and popular. He drinks, smokes, and spends his nights at sports bars with his mates.
But Yatora is also studious. He’s a high-performing student with his eye focussed on a successful future. The reason Yatora spends his free time drinking with friends is also to guarantee him some success. Yatora has been led to believe that life is all about success: academically, professionally, and socially. And so he does all the things required to be successful in every possible avenue. This means, however, that Yatora doesn’t feel much.
Yatora does what is required of him, not what he wants or what he is drawn to. That is until he sees a painting by a student from the year above him; the first painting that every captures him and stirs something within him. Before he knows it, Yatora is compelled to follow the first passion he has ever experienced: art and painting. He funnels all his focus into studying, practicing, and understanding art in order to get into a competitive art college.
Soon enough, Yatora also befriends a peer he had previously butted heads with — a character with whom I have personally become enormously attached — Ryuji Ayukawa (or Yuka-chan).
Yuka-chan is a non-binary character; assigned male at birth, they present feminine, mix their wardrobe in unique ways, and demonstrate attraction to all genders. As a pansexual enby myself, I have become obsessed with Yuka-chan.
The relatable and human characters of Blue Period are what make it one of the best seinen manga ever written. Yamaguchi blends her own passion for art, and an eye for complex, relatable characters into one of the most perfect, beautiful seinen manga you’ll ever read.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki
Ah, JoJo. This is another seinen manga that is also sometimes read by younger readers, but remains firmly a seinen manga. One of the best seinen manga of all time, in fact. There isn’t much that I can say about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in such a small space, and not much that I can add to the conversation which hasn’t already been added. Except this.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is as popular in anime form these days as it ever has been as a seinen manga, and the anime does a decent job of capturing the tone and visuals of the manga from season to season. However, I implore any fan of the JoJo anime to start reading the manga from scratch if you haven’t already. Araki’s art is a sensation. He knows exactly how to lean into his strengths as a mangaka time and time again.
Like One Piece’s creator Eiichiro Oda, or Dragon Ball’s Akira Toriyama, Araki has carved out a niche in the world of manga with his unique eye for style that deserves to be read and celebrated. There’s nobody like Araki, and his style makes JoJo one of the best seinen manga in existence.
Fist of the North Star by Tetsuo Hara
Similar to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Tetsuo Hara’s Fist of the North Star is one of the best seinen manga of all time, and you only need to look at the manga’s legacy to see that. Set in a Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic wasteland, Fist of the North Star blends a lawless desert landscape with campy, larger-than-life characters to create a truly unique world.
The Mad Max comparison is unavoidable, honestly. This seinen manga really is remarkably similar to that camp action movie franchise. But what sets Fist of the North Star apart is its focus on martial arts. Our protagonist, Kenshiro, is a master of the Hokuto Shinken school of martial arts, which focuses on striking enemy vital points.
With nothing but his fists, the larger-than-life and stoic Kenshiro goes up against gangs and warlords in order to protect the innocent people of this post-nuclear war wasteland. Like many martial arts stories, and like Mad Max, Fist of the North Star is all about camp. It is truly a product of the ‘80s through and through.
Lavishly drawn with brawny men tearing each other apart, Fist of the North Star is stupid fun from start to end, and one of the best seinen manga to ever grace bookshelves.
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Attack on Titan is a seinen manga series, written and drawn by Hajime Isayama. It was the mangaka’s first series and, still in his early 20s, it made him a superstar almost overnight. In terms of sales and popularity, especially when you consider its excellent anime adaptation (which I actually prefer to the manga), Attack on Titan is easily one of the biggest and best seinen manga.
Both the Attack on Titan manga and anime series are set in a fantasy world that’s aesthetically inspired by Germanic design and architecture (this is also evident in most character names). The world is small, in the beginning: a city surrounded by high, thick walls, with districts also divided by more tall walls.
These walls are the city of Shiganshina’s only defence against strange, uncannily humanlike giant monsters known as titans. These house-sized titans seem to exist only to chase and devour humans. The story of Attack on Titan begins simply enough, with a lot of world building and questions about the state of the world, humanity, and the monstrous titans left to be answered.
As the story builds in complexity, the themes and politics of Attack on Titan, also build. This is a seinen manga filled with political allegories and explorations of Orwellian philosophy, propaganda, whitewashing, and so, so much more.
To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Ōima
Yoshitoki Ōima is one of my favourite mangaka of all time. Responsible for the equally beautiful, equally sombre, but vastly different A Silent Voice and To Your Eternity, Ōima sets herself apart through her expression of morality and choice. At their heart, morality and choice are the things that fuel her seinen manga, and that is deftly evident in To Your Eternity.
To Your Eternity begins with a god-like being sending a small orb down onto the surface of a planet. That orb has the ability to mimic whatever it touches, usually provided that thing has died. First, the orb becomes a rock, then some moss. Next, an injured wolf, lost in a blizzard, dies atop the orb and it becomes the wolf.
It learns to walk and makes its way to a snowy village, where it meets a lone boy who believes the orb to be his lost wolf — the same one that perished.
Chapter 1 of the To Your Eternity manga follows the orb, now in the form of the wolf Joaan, as it stays close to this lonely boy and learns from him how to eat and be a good companion. Yoshitoki Oima is so intimately in touch with human nature; her compassion and empathy is demonstrated time and again, but never with such rawness and precision as in this very first chapter of the To Your Eternity manga.
Soon after meeting, the boy makes the decision to leave his village — of which he is the only remaining member — to brave the ice and snow in search of the people who originally left. He hopes to find them and the warm, green paradise they went in search of.
To detail any other specifics of the plot would be to spoil things. It’s not every manga that can be spoiled so early and easily, but the emotional power and poignancy of the To Your Eternity manga can’t be overstated.
Beastars by Paru Itagaki
Brought to the top of the manga and anime community’s collective consciousness when its phenomenal anime adaptation dropped, Beastars is easily one of the best seinen manga of the past few years. Written and drawn by Paru Itagaki, Beastars is another politically complex seinen manga that explores themes of nature vs nurture, societal roles and expectations, and the unspoken rules that govern us.
Beastars is set in a fictionalised world populated by anthropomorphised animals. Their genus, size, and diet are all used to develop the world-building of the manga, and also as allegories for real-world social divides between race, class, gender, sexuality, and so on.
Our story begins at Cherryton Academy, a boarding school attended by a mix of herbivores and carnivores. Beastars has a large and diverse cast of characters, but the manga and anime’s main character is Legoshi, an enormous grey wolf.
Legoshi is a member of Cherryton Academy’s prestigious drama department, though at the start he is part of the crew, not the cast. Chapter One of Beastars opens with Legoshi’s friend and fellow drama club member, Tem the alpaca, being slaughtered in the drama studio.
Tem’s death sets in motion a murder mystery, as well as a political ripple effect that will echo through the school and the entire town, as divides between herbivores and carnivores widen. This opening should be reason enough to read Beastars. From here the world, politics, themes, characters, and relationships continue to develop and a steady pace, making for an enthralling seinen manga reading experience.