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Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine

Anime

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023

A new year means new manga, and the beginning of 2023 is completely stacked with fun titles to immerse yourselves in. 

For example, January alone saw the return of a few new (but still substantially followed) series including the epic clashes bound to Kaiju No. 8, the romance behind Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide, sci-fi treasures in Dan Da Dan, and a sweet heartfelt gem via I’m Kinda Chubby and I’m Your Hero (yes, you actually read that correctly and we stan), with many more widely readable manga releases you may want to consider adding to your collection.

After eagerly sorting through a widely eclectic group of manga and manhwa that’s merely the beginning of what 2023 has to offer, here are the select titles that made the cut for this month’s best reads! 

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Kaiju No. 8: VIZ Media

Kaiju No. 8

Volume 5

Publisher: VIZ Media

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 10, 2023

Premise: Kafka hopes to one day keep his pact with his childhood friend Mina to join the Japan Defense Force and fight by her side. But while she’s out neutralizing kaiju as Third Division captain, Kafka is stuck cleaning up the aftermath of her battles. When a sudden rule change makes Kafka eligible for the Defense Force, he decides to try out for the squad once more. There’s just one problem—he’s made the Defense Force’s neutralization list under the code name Kaiju No. 8.

Currently: The Defense Force has taken Kafka into custody and has plans to dispose of him. Kafka attempts to plead his case with Director General Shinomiya, wielder of the mighty Kaiju No. 2’s power and the person lauded as the strongest in Defense Force history. But when Kafka’s pleas fail to move the director general, he winds up facing him in combat! What’s more, he starts to lose control of his kaiju form! Can Kafka keep it together long enough to save his own skin?

Why It Works: Firstly, Kaiju No. 8 finally received its first visual teaser for the upcoming anime series, essentially meaning that it’s about to possibly become your new favorite shonen title. More importantly, five volumes of manga in, Kaiju No. 8 clocks each character into work with a proper sense of individuality, quirks, and technique to make them a worthy core unit to follow. Furthermore, as a high-stakes world riddled with danger, the manga series has the chore of introducing worthy obstacles to attain a dire level of pressure that comes with heavy action-based work like Attack on Titan, Yu Yu Hakusho, Bleach, and more. Volume five not only does just that but never quite strays too far from the addictively zany mood. 

At the beginning of the volume, we get to jump back into a decision-making fight that’s intended to set the tone for Kafka’s current arc about figuring out where he fits in as an ‘anomaly’ in this beguiling world – though, by the end, a conflict that masterfully introduces the next major obstacle which thankfully challenges our protagonist to (potentially) adapt in the face of danger once more. In terms of fresh faces or notable introductions, the opportunity to discover what the captain of the first division defense force is about (Gen Narumi) who brings everything from being oddly relatable to slick, changing designs, and effortlessly practical personality traits. Of course, Kafka is still the lovable lead… but Gen’s unforgettable time in the spotlight is a concrete example of why this particular volume goes full throttle. 

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
My Love Mix-Up: VIZ Media

My Love Mix-Up!

Volume 6

Publisher: VIZ Media

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 3, 2023

Premise: Aoki has a crush on Hashimoto, the girl in the seat next to him in class. But he despairs when he borrows her eraser and sees she’s written the name of another boy—Ida—on it. To make matters more confusing, Ida sees Aoki holding that very eraser and thinks Aoki has a crush on him!

Currently: Aoki is dating Ida, a boy in his class. In order to buy Ida a birthday present, Aoki started working part-time, but now it seems Ida doesn’t want Aoki to spend his hard-earned money on him. What’s a boyfriend to do?!

Why It Works: The fact that we can easily incorporate so many LGBTQ+ titles into this monthly list is not only a display of how far the depiction has come within the medium – but a promising sign about the future of expansive acceptance as a whole. Where at one point in time, it was a niche ‘genre,’ series like My Love Story Mix-Up! has discovered a way to stand out in a vast sea of inclusive romance titles with a genuine, heartfelt story to share with prospective readers. 

In the sixth volume, the interpersonal stories at its core have progressed to a third year for the high school students (and one year together as a couple) with enough chemistry to have readers optimistic about the rather tangible bond between Ida and Aoki. With that all-important evolution towards attaining real emotional growth together and individually, there’s also a need for unavoidable questions and conversations that arise for a new couple, still handled with enough delicacy and sincerity to make this an endearing, all-ages read. So all things considered, My Love Story Mix-Up is without a fraction of a doubt a contender for being known as one of the best romance-centric ongoing series in recent years. Bring on volume seven soon, please! 

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Helck: VIZ Media

Helck

Volume 1

Publisher: VIZ Media

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 10, 2023

Premise: Three months have passed since the Demon Lord was struck down, and the Demon Realm is holding a tournament to select his replacement. The leading contestant is Helck, a human hero who claims to hate his own kind. Some aren’t happy with the idea of a human becoming the next Demon Lord—especially Vermilio the Red. She wants nothing more than to protect demonkind and prove Helck to be their enemy, even if she has to rig the competition to do it!

Why It Works: Helck is a semi-carefree new series licensed by VIZ Media that facilitates a few different genre fans’ favorite things: action, a tournament of power, and a lot of laugh-out-loud potential with everything from situational circumstances to pre-planned in-universe events (like a card game elimination). In doing so, Helck feels very much in line with what a big portion of mainstream feel-good modern manga readers are looking for – but its balance of nostalgia-inspired action and mysteries surrounding a larger story leaves the door open for (a still-contained) opportunity for expansion. 

Set from the perspective of one of four demon lords (who’s often depicted in a wise-cracking, goofy, or even reactionary style) the rookie series lays its roots down in comedic tropes, surrounding herself with others on the brink of making a move for power. The introduction of stern character delivery and serious stylization choices are few and far between, yet towards the end of the first volume, (in both art and narrative) there’s a slight tonal shift that sets the series up for a hefty face-off that you might want to invest your time in checking out for yourself before volume two drops in the near future!

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
[Oshi No Ko]: Yen Press

[Oshi No Ko]

Volume 1

Publisher: Yen Press

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 17, 2023

Premise: Gorou is a gynecologist and idol fan who’s in shock after his favorite star, Ai, announces an impromptu hiatus. Little does Gorou realize that he’s about to forge a bond with her that defies all common sense! Lies are an idol’s greatest weapon in this outrageous manga from Aka Akasaka (Kaguya-sama: Love is War) and Mengo Yokoyari (Scum’s Wish).  

Why It Works: Aside from taking a slight glance at the synopsis, I was able to enter the new Yen Press title [Oshi No Ko] blindly – which looking back, makes this first volume escapade something that avid manga readers looking for a shake-up are unknowingly in need of. While the series initially disarms any serious plot prospects with readers (aside from the obvious complications of a fictional idol’s pregnancy), the rookie manga later raises its stakes and stealthily treads over every heavy scenario with an intentionally blasé (almost black comedy) perception of this eerie world. 

Where things take a darker, unpredictable turn is when the series delivers life and death intensity within one volume (repeatedly) and doesn’t feel like any character’s life regardless of age, gender, etc. is safe. There is a display of what might come next in the world of [Oshi No Ko] as far as what exists beyond death, and even with its overt comedic timing, it maintains an ominous composure that’s touched on every so often with major repercussions on the horizon. If you don’t mind a little fan-service-style humor along the way, be prepared for [Oshi No Ko] to pull the rug out from under you with evident influences from chilling tales such as Perfect Blue and Paranoia Agent as it continues to unfold!

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Dandadan: VIZ Media

Dandadan

Volume 2

Publisher: VIZ Media

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 10, 2023

Premise: Momo Ayase strikes up an unusual friendship with her school’s UFO fanatic, whom she nicknames “Okarun” because he has a name that is not to be said aloud. While Momo believes in spirits, she thinks aliens are nothing but nonsense. Her new friend, meanwhile, thinks the exact opposite. To settle matters, the two set out to prove each other wrong—Momo to a UFO hotspot and Okarun to a haunted tunnel! What unfolds next is a beautiful story of young love…and oddly horny aliens and spirits?

Currently: Okarun, a high school boy obsessed with supernatural phenomena, is cursed by Turbo Granny! To break the curse, Okarun and his classmate Momo Ayase challenge Turbo Granny to a high-stakes race. But Turbo Granny’s assassin, a bound spirit in the form of a giant crab, has other plans!

Why It Works: Jumping into this title, we knew that things were going to get weird, but the use of the word “weird” for the manga title Dandadan feels extremely tame after closing the second volume and taking a minute to process its real bizarre nature. So, if you’re intrigued by sci-fi, action, supernatural, lightheartedness, fan-servicey humor, and a dash of romance, this one’s likely going to feel like it’s designed for you! 

With the second volume giving us more on the bizarre Turbo Granny front, the story has fun expressing its outlandish fight panels, especially with the massive crab in the midst of the chaos – but later chapters take things back to the predictable high school setting with more traditional relationship turmoil between the expressive newly formed duo. However, with Dandadan, the sense of pseudo-normalcy is short-lived, before facing the ramifications of the assumed “conclusion” to a battle that involves a few… sensitive conversations regarding an unprecedented side-effect, only reinforcing the offbeat pacing of this unique narrative. 

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Honey Lemon Soda: Yen Press

Honey Lemon Soda

Volume 1

Publisher: Yen Press

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 17, 2023

Premise: Middle school left Uka Ishimori with nothing but scars—to the point where she’s forgotten how to laugh or cry or even say “hello.” But a chance reencounter with a boy with lemon-colored hair invigorates her, giving her hope that maybe, just maybe, life can be that much sweeter if she finally reaches out for help. 

Why It Works: Mental health is obviously a topic that affects everyone differently, but on a fundamental level, is also a subject that’s a very crucial topic requiring our undivided attention. Especially when taking youth into account, typically being perceived as years that can shape help shape our self-worth, the relationships we seek, and much, much more as adults. In the new manga series Honey Lemon Soda, our lead character Ishimori is riddled with several of those obstacles ranging from doubt to hormones, and even relatable coming-of-age struggles. However, the promising (re)introduction to her compassionate crush comes courtesy of a spritz of lemon soda, and reference to a pre-series interaction offers her a refreshing take on life – and setting the tone for several misadventures to come. 

From the eye-catching and adaptive wardrobe patterns to various facial expressions that help differentiate each character’s general energy, or even an odd-paced dialogue courtesy of Ishimori, there’s a lot to take in from Honey Lemon Soda’s standout first volume. And yes, for those wondering if the romance feels like it’s actually panning out for the best… our main girl is on her way to winning over everyone she crosses paths with after finally feeling comfortable enough to come out of her shell! 

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Happy of the End: KUMA and Ogeretsu Tanaka

Happy of the End

Volume 1

Publisher: KUMA

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 24, 2023

Premise: Dazed and confused, Chihiro awakes on a pile of garbage with memories of wedding still fresh in his mind. When out of the blue a young man named Keito appears before him. Instantly, he then recalls the night he spent with this person. The booze! The hotel! The punch to his face! Chihiro may not have a place to call home currently and Keito may not be a good person by any means, but maybe the two of them could be happy together.

Why It Works: First and foremost, this title definitely isn’t afraid to cover some heavy thematic subject matter – with explorations of trauma at every turn for those who don’t shy away from adult-oriented storylines. As another LGBTQ+ title, there are obvious relationship inclusions and physicality at play, however, when stripping away the surface-level depictions of maturity, there’s a raw story about conflicts that can come equipped to establishing one’s identity. 

Without wasting any precious time, the first daring chapter of the manga presents both Chihiro and Keito with enough essential information and uniqueness to attract readers to their odd (and still fresh) dynamic but noticeably pulls back when needed to satisfy an overarching narrative. As expected, these two men are vastly different from one another, both with skewed perceptions of intimacy and relationships, but when interacting, begin to think about or recognize their self-worth (or even a lack of it stemming back to their agonizing past). Still, for those of you who desire a glimmer of hope and normalcy, the end of the first volume sets up an even better follow-up collection, so this one is definitely a layered title worthy of your time courtesy of KUMA.

Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Best Manga and Manhwa Releases: January 2023 Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide: TOKYOPOP

Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide

Volume 3

Publisher: TOKYOPOP

Format: Manga

Release Date: January 17, 2023

Premise: Super serious Asahi Suzumura and laidback, easygoing Mitsuki Sayama might seem like an odd couple, but they made a deal; they’ll vacation around the world and when they get back to Japan, they’ll get married. As they travel from country to country, the different people, cultures, and cuisine they encounter begin to bring them closer together. After all, they’re not just learning about the world, but about themselves too.

Why It Works: Let’s be 100% honest. From the jump, the manga series’ Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide teases a premise that teases nothing but a dose of total feels and a wholesome pairing intending to explore the world side by side. Throughout the finite run of the popular manga, this optimistic and lively title successfully embarks on its hopeful journey with its readers for implementing equal parts exploration, new adventures, and a very grounded (healthy) form of love to spectate. Plus, there’s the distinct reminder that this duo is actually pretty solid to follow individually and together – so, even better!

During the third volume of the manga, both primary characters officially find themselves in London to start, reuniting with an old friend that sparks discussions about the comfort of familiarity and being open to finding a partner. There are obvious opportunities to use for real-life insecurities or jealousies, but the title wraps things up with a warmer tone before setting up cherished holiday (New Year’s Eve) memories that offer hope to everyone in this natural love story. If this is truly the end of the title for the foreseeable future though (by still promising a brilliant new chapter for their own relationship), at least it was a solid one. 

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