I’m sure you’re wondering why talk about manga on a tea blog?
Simple, in my experience, it only takes an hour to read a single volume of manga, which is more than enough time to unwind with a cup of tea (make that a pot, or two), and of course, MatchaAlternatives.com has the best recommended pairings.
Here’s your formal invitation (100% spoiler free!) to give yourself a break, relax into tea and manga with:
- Comics vs Manga vs Graphic Novel vs Anime, what’s the difference?
- Best Shounen action + a green powerhouse tea
- Best sports manga + a bright blend for a sunny series
- Best Shoujo romance + a cuppa steamy romance tea
- Best slice-of-life + a real caffeine kick
- Best classic manga + a magical tea to match (you’ll get why magical later!)
Before we get into the recommendations of the best manga to read, here’s a little background about manga and me.
I’m an English major, so of course I love reading pretty much everything! While big, classic novels like Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations feed my soul, sometimes my brain can’t keep up.
I even wrote a recent blog about tea history in classic literature:
This became a legitimate problem in high school as I started diving into denser and more mature texts in those sweet, sweet AP level english classes. School work fried my brain to the point that I couldn’t muster the energy to read for enjoyment anymore. I’m sure a lot of current and former students can relate...
Luckily, that’s when I found manga! Comics & graphic novels originating from Japan.
As a kid, I loved Saturday morning anime like Pokemon and Sailor Moon. I figured that if I wanted to reignite my love of reading, I had to go back to the sort of things I would have loved to read as a kid if I had just known where to look. Manga fit the bill perfectly.
And it worked! Six years, several hundred volumes, and eight nerd conventions later, I still make sure to pick up a new manga to give my brain a break between larger academic texts.
So now I can pick some of my favorite mangas for you too. It’s helped me sustain my love of reading and introduced me to such a cool, new community, and I hope it can do the same for you!
Comics vs Manga vs Graphic Novel vs Anime
As a seasoned nerd, one question I often get from new manga readers is what’s the difference between comics, manga, and graphic novels? The short answer is that these categories really describe the production and marketing process, not the actual books themselves.
The cartoonist Will Eisner famously defined comics as “sequential art”. The average reader can consider “comics” a big umbrella under which you’ll find everything from superhero comics to political cartoons you find in the newspaper to manga. So what is manga Manga is a slightly smaller umbrella word which in the USA covers all Japanese comics.
To give you a gist of the distribution differences between manga and American comics, manga is usually published weekly in short chapters that are later collected into volumes. Another difference is that you usually read manga right to left given the Japanese origins.
American comics on the other hand are published on a monthly basis in longer chapters, often called trade copies, that are also collected into volumes at the end of an arc. You usually read them left to right like any other English text.
This is all to say that manga and American comics have more similarities than differences.
You may have also heard the term “graphic novel” used to describe comics--Will Eisner originally popularized the term. These are usually published altogether and may be marketed towards older audiences.
That being said, only sad, boring people look down on adults for enjoying manga and comic books. Grrrr!
Shounen vs Shoujo
There are a lot of subcategories within manga, just like any other genre. I reference just two in this article: shounen and shoujo.
Shounen is simply Japanese for “young boy”. It refers to manga that is targeted towards teen boys. It usually features a young male protagonist and more than enough fantasy and action to keep him busy.
Shoujo, on the other hand, means “young girl”. It refers to manga that is targeted towards teen girls. Shoujo manga tends to be filled with glitter tears, romance, and high school teens who never do any homework.
Along these same lines there are seinen (young man), josei (young woman), and kodomomuke (young children). I personally stick to shounen and shoujo – it doesn’t mean people of all ages can’t enjoy them. If you have any recommendations outside these two subgenres, feel free to comment below.
Finally, is manga different from anime?
To finish up with this common question – anime is simply the video animation version of manga. Whether on TV, Netflix or DVD, anime usually of course comes after the manga.
However, that is just in the context of manga because really anime simply means an animation from Japan, digitally or hand drawn. So there is lots of anime designed for the screen from the start with no manga, as original works. Studio Gihibli is one of the most famous Japanese production houses if you want to give it a google and explore the topic of anime further.
So let’s get to it. My favorite manga series in English:
1. Best Shounen Action: My Hero Academia
Remember when I said manga and American comics have more similarities than differences? Well, My Hero Academia is a perfect example. This series is HEAVILY inspired by Marvel and DC superhero comics, so it’s a great introduction to manga for Americans.
My Hero Academia takes place in a world where 80% of the population is born with mutations called Quirks. Some Quirks grant wielders fantastic powers straight out of a comic, others… not so much.
In this world, Hero is a profession regulated by the government, somewhere between public servant and sports star. Our hero--or hero in training--is a boy named Midoriya, who’s obsessed with Japan’s #1 hero All Might (based on Captain America!).
Just one problem: Midoriya doesn’t have a Quirk.
However, a chance encounter with All Might leads to Midoriya inheriting All Might’s powers and enrolling in UA, a high school for superheroes!
As I write this, the anime is in its fifth season, and all thirty volumes of the manga are widely available in English. I’d recommend this series to anyone who’s favorite part of a superhero movie is the origin story.
Shounen Action Tea Pairing: Superior Organic Moringa Tea Powder
Midoriya is a green hero: he’s new at the whole superhero gig and he’s literally green, like his hair looks like a stalk of broccoli. Like Midoriya, moringa tea is a mean, green fighting machine.
This tea is packed with iron and antioxidants making it the perfect superfood for anyone looking to train like a superhero.
To learn more about moringa and why it’s called the Miracle Tree (and one of our bestsellers), Moringa: The Energizing, Caffeine-Free Matcha Alternative
2. Best Sports Manga: Haikyuu!!
If you’ve ever been to a nerd convention and seen a group of teenagers walking around conspicuously in matching sports jerseys, you probably already know about this manga.
Haikyuu!! is a fun and breezy sports manga all about friendship and following your dreams. It has an adorable roster of characters with fun designs and interesting relationships. This series has a perfect balance of intense, volleyball action sequences and fun asides with various characters.
Yes, this series is about volleyball, but you do not need any knowledge of the sport to enjoy it. I, for one, went into Haikyuu!! knowing nothing whatsoever about volleyball, and I had such a good time reading it that I learned how to play. And I am NOT an athletic person!
The series follows a short, feisty freshman named Hinata Shouyou who joins his high school’s volleyball team determined to become a spiker, despite the fact that in volleyball height is a huge advantage.
As he trains, he butts heads with his talented but aloof former rival, the “king of the court” Kaegyama Tobia. Will the two boys work out their differences to win the championship? I said no spoilers, didn’t I?!
Sports Manga Tea Pairing: Zing & Zest Pure Thai Lemongrass + Candied Pineapple Ginger Green Rooibos = THE PERFECT BLEND
Hinata is like a drop of sunshine on the volleyball court. No wonder his name translates to “sunny place”!
Zing & Zest Pure Thai Lemongrass, like our protagonist, is quite the team player. Add this to when brewing your tea to bring a little sunshine (and a whole lot of minerals and electrolytes) to your favorite blend. I recommend adding a spoonful of Lemongrass to another favorite, the rare Candied Pineapple Ginger Green Rooibos for a bright, sweet, and spicy blend.
Seriously, it tastes like grown-up candy! And lots of people have yet to try green rooibos, that’s another reason to try.
3. Best Shoujo Romance: Fruits Basket
Fruits Basket is probably the most shoujo manga to ever shoujo. It’s got everything: dead moms, floral backgrounds, intense blushing, and over-dramatic love triangles. If you love crazy, cheesy, tropey romance, no shame! This series was made for you!
How gloriously tropey does it get? Just check this synopsis.
When the mother of a normal high school girl named Tohru dies suddenly in a car accident, she is left to her own devices until her popular classmate Yuki Soma decides to let her stay in his house with his two cousins Shigure and Kyo.
The kind and reserved Yuki and the hot-blooded Kyo couldn’t be more different. When Tohru tries to break up a fight between the two boys, she accidentally discovers the Soma family curse: the 12 members of the Soma clan are possessed by the spirits of the Chinese zodiac and turn into their zodiac animal when they are weak, under stress, embarrassed... or...when hugged by someone of the opposite gender!
I wasn’t kidding when I said this series has everything!
Anyway, as Tohru learns more about the Soma family, she falls in love, but which boy will she choose?!
Shoujo Tea Pairing: Buttery Delight Sowmee White Tea
This series is anything but traditional. That being said, it has a lot of fun with the folklore surrounding the Chinese Zodiac. That’s why this series pairs best with a traditional Chinese tea like Buttery Delight Sowmee White Tea.
Sowmee is an uncommon Chinese white tea, harvested in the summer and barely processed at all, giving it a richer body that makes it takes almost like an oolong.
Plus I can guarantee this tea is 100% curse-free!
If you’re interested in learning more: White Tea: An In-Depth Introduction to this Elegant Tea or maybe jump straight into trying our various white teas
4. Best Slice-of-life: Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun
Have you ever read Writing on Writing? Me neither, but I do appreciate any art about the process of creating art.
Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun is a slice-of-life shoujo romance about a team of teenaged manga artists. This clever and hilarious series has something to offer both new readers and seasoned manga nerds. Longtime fans will appreciate the way this series deconstructs classic shoujo tropes while newer readers will love the fun quips and colorful cast of characters.
This series starts on an unusual note. When an artistic high school student named Chiyo--who is obsessed with romance manga--confesses to her crush Umetarou Nozaki, instead of outright rejecting her, Nozaki offers her an autograph.
Chiyo quickly finds out that 1) the ever-awkward Nozaki is actually the author of her favorite romance manga and 2) he’s more looking for an assistant than a girlfriend. Hilarity ensues when Chiyo takes the job to try and the pair go looking for romantic inspiration around their high school.
Manga on manga - pretty meta stuff!
While Netflix recently released season one of the anime, season two is yet to be confirmed making this a great time to binge all 12 volumes of this series. I would recommend Nozaki-kun to any aspiring artists.
Slice-of-Life Tea Pairing: ‘The Purist’ Green Yerba Mate
Unlike some of the other manga comics on this list, Nozaki-kun doesn’t exactly have a “Big Bad” the characters need to fight. Instead, the biggest villains in the series are bad editors and strict deadlines. In this way it’s quite original.
So what tea goes best? One that ‘The Purist’ Green Yerba Mate has about as much caffeine as coffee, but unlike a cup of joe, it won’t make you anxious and jittery. The answer is in its antioxidants. It’s the perfect companion for any struggling artist trying to hit those midnight deadlines!
You can enjoy our fantastic Yerba Mate latte recipe, loads of antioxidants and a great coffee replacement!
5. Can’t Miss Classic: FullMetal Alchemist
I’ve recently been informed that there are still people who have not read FullMetal Alchemist; !!$%)(!$)?/!?)/%/#!! That is a crime against comics! One of the best manga of all time.
Sure this manga has 27 volumes and not one but two anime adaptations, but I couldn’t just NOT include it on this list! It was my first big manga series, and to this day, nothing comes close to this series’s intricate worldbuilding and elegant storytelling.
FMA takes place in the fictional country of Amestris where the government employs state alchemists as high-ranking military officials. These alchemists can create almost anything as long as they sacrifice something of equal value; this is known as the Law of Equivalent Exchange.
As children, two brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric attempted to use alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead, and in the process, Edward lost his arm and leg while Alphonse lost his whole body. The latter was transformed into a disembodied soul possessing a hollow suit of armor.
FMA follows the two brothers as they try to learn the secrets of alchemy to restore their bodies. Along the way, they uncover terrible secrets about their country’s past.
This series is heavily influenced by classic science fiction and fantasy stories like Frankenstein and Doctor Faustus. I’d recommend it to anyone who prefers their fantasy steeped (lol) in politics and philosophy.
Classic Manga Tea Pairing: Blue Sapphire Pure Thai Butterfly Pea Flower
Butterfly pea tea isn’t quite alchemy exactly, but it’s as close as tea can get! It does look pretty magical: this bright blue tea turns a stunning purple when you add citrus to it.
Cool right?! The bright color of Blue Sapphire Pure Thai Butterfly Pea Flower is perfect for making some crazy, eye-popping lattes and cocktails. Just look at it!!!
We just made a butterfly pea coconut granita! Check our this recent recipe here
A Note From Lauren Hirth
First of all, thank you so much for reading this piece. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope that showed in my recommendations.
Secondly, if you were kind enough to read this far, I have a request: UMass Amherst’s Student Government Association recently decided to close down the college’s science fiction, fantasy, manga, and gaming library run by the school’s sci fi and fantasy club. Right now, students are petitioning to keep their library.
I’m a student at Mount Holyoke, and I’ve been involved with our science fiction and fantasy club Bellatrix since freshman year. These clubs are so important for building communities, and Bellatrix is doing everything in our power to help out our nerdy neighbors.
If you want to help, you can go to Help Save a Historic Student Library on Change.org to add your name to the petition. Every signature really helps. Thank you!!
Mix a spoonful of this delightful blending ingredient to your green rooibos and CITRUS YUM WHEE!
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Add two spoonfuls of this zingy rooibos with your pure lemongrass, and ZING ZAP OHHH YUM...
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All of the information regarding the herbs, botanicals, minerals, vitamins, etc., is information drawn from traditional use data or academic research and should be regarded as such. If you, the reader, has a health or medical concern, please consult your healthcare professional. The information found here is not meant to diagnose, treat, prescribe or cure and has not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only.
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