For every manga series we see in our local bookstores, there are dozens more lining Japanese shelves that either get poorly translated, low-res JPEG scans online or never see the light of day overseas. It makes it tough for manga fans and collectors, doubly so for those wanting to support creators and the industry. Just knowing there are hundreds of series we don’t even know about that might turn out to be our all-time favourite manga can be frustrating! So while I have dozens of manga I’ve been introduced to through scanlation, or through adaptations that have piqued my interest, here are five manga that desperately needs an official overseas release.
Freesia by Jiro Matsumoto
Freesia takes place in a Japan that has been torn between war and recession. With public spending being diverted into the military sector, many prisons are simply closed down. In place of incarceration, it’s now legal to seek revenge on convicted criminals who have hurt you or your loved ones. With revenge in high demand, many Vengeance Proxy Enforcer firms are created, which allows one to make use of an assassin to enact their revenge.
You’re might know Freesia from either its popularity among scanlation sites or from it’s 2007 live-action film adaptation, which starred Tetsuji Tamayama (Daisuke Jigen in the 2014 live action Lupin III, Nana live action, Ajin live action). This is another psychological action thriller teeming with the right amount of gratuitous violence that always strikes the right chords with Western readers.
It’s been a year shy of a decade since Freesia’s original run came to a close so even an omnibus release would work wonders. Admittedly, I read this series from start to finish online. There’s no way I couldn’t. The first chapter hits you from the get-go, and it’s a proven smash hit. The manga-ka has a well-established fanbase, with Freesia being their most well-known series around the globe. There’s just no shortage of violence, suspense, and overall badassery in sight. The manga was released in its entirety in France through Kazé, Italian through RW Edizioni, and Spanish by Editorial Ivrea, so if you happen to speak those languages, I urge you to pick it up. For us English speakers, Freesia would make a perfect addition to Viz Signature or Dark Horse’s line up of dark and gritty manga.
Seikatsu by Shigeyuki Fukumitsu
I’ve yet to find a scanlation of this anywhere online, so my reference point for wanting Seikatsu released in English is based solely on watching its live-action movie adaptation. Thank God for Air Canada having absolutely nothing on their in-flight entertainment that led me to find this film.
Seikatsu was a one-volume manga that ended up ran in Seirinkogeisha’s AX manga magazine from 2005 until 2007 until it was put on an indefinite hiatus. It eventually was picked back up as a web manga in 2009 by Kodansha. With only one compiled volume (and eventually a complete edition with additional 20-odd pages), it’s pretty clear why it flew under the radar. However, it spawned a live-action film adaptation back in 2016 and was even released in English as Maniac Hero.
The story follows a recently laid off office worker called Nakatsu, who soon finds himself a part-time temp at a convenience store. Disgusted by the rampant crime in his neighbourhood, Nakatsu forms a team of vigilantes ranging from folks with psychic abilities to proficiencies with wielding hammers. The vigilantes gain some positive attraction on social media, but no good deed goes unnoticed, and sometimes, those who notice end up being the ones you have to fight against.
The movie itself was this really great mix of action, comedy, and that generally weird-in-a-good-way vibe you tend to only find from Japanese media. I’m not sure if much of the movie’s charm relies on more the cast or the film making and less the source material, but even if that was the case, the source material should prove to be a fun one-volume read for manga fans alike.
Shinjuku Swan by Ken Wakui
You might be familiar with Shinjuku Swan through Sion Sono’s (Jisatsu Circle, Minna Esper Dayo!) live-action film adaptation. If you’ve seen the movies, you already know why we need the entire 38-volume run of Wakui’s yankee gang drama released in English.
Shinjuku Swan follows Shiratori Tatsuhiko, a bum without a yen to his name wandering Tokyo, who finds himself caught up with an adult talent agency called Burst. With his newfound work as a scout (put bluntly, a scout for women to work as hookers or strippers), he becomes acquainted with the more depraved, seedy underbelly of Shinjuku. However, he finds it difficult to wade between his work and keeping his personal morals in check, and as he goes deeper down the rabbit hole, he finds that doing so isn’t always easy.
I don’t quite know how much of the manga is adapted in the movies (or if the story deviates), but it’s clear it barely scratches the surface. There’s a larger story to be told. I can only hope that 2019 will be the yankee. The world could always use more manga of delinquents beating the shit out of each other, no matter the reason.
Dias Police by Richard Woo and Sugimura Shinichi
Dias Police is another series I’ve only been acquainted with through adaptation. There is a drama series and a movie starring Shota Matsuda that you really need to check out.
Dias Police touches on an often overlooked aspect in the manga and even anime: illegal immigration. Where public services such as hospitals or banks might be dangerous to the well-being of illegal immigrants, the underground Metropolitan Government strives to keep them safe. Kubozuka Saki – whose nationality nobody can put their finger on – is Metropolitan Government’s sole police officer, appointed to upholding the peace between the illegal immigrants. It takes a stark and gritty look at the Japanese viewpoint on illegal immigration while tackling tough-to-swallow subjects such as trafficking and exploitation. Above all, it shows that no matter where you’re from, as long as you have a good heart, you’ll always have a home.
Given the current political climate, it’s no doubt that this 15-volume series would probably do well overseas. It has the perfect blend of action and drama that are synonymous with a good seinen series.
Ping Pong by Taiyo Matsumoto
Remember 2014’s anime of the year? Yeah, the one directed by the man Masaaki Yuasa himself. It was adapted from a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto (Sunny, Tekkonkinkreet), and while much of Matsumoto’s work has been released in English by Viz, Ping Pong is one of his series that seemed to fly under the radar. Making it a bit more strange, Viz even released the 2002 live-action movie staring Arata and Yosuke Kubozuka.
I feel like Ping Pong needs no introduction. Just to play it safe, Ping Pong follows childhood friends Smile and Peco, high school ping pong greats who navigate the world of school life, friendship and professional table tennis. As their ping pong careers flourish, their friendship and personal lives are run through many challenges.
It’s tough to pinpoint a single aspect of Ping Pong that makes it Matsumoto’s best work (though perhaps second to Tekkonkinkreet). It really just hits all the sweet spots. It’s the perfect blend of unique and engaging art, and quite possibly the best coming of age story I’ve ever read. I’d love to line my shelf with this series (and I’m sure you would too!), so I bet if we all tweet at Viz to license it, maybe they’ll consider it.
What about you folks? Anything you’d like to see released overseas? Sound off below – maybe we can all raise our voices and make it happen!