I had a hard time figuring Noelani out. She was a seemingly confident young woman who was pretty vocal about not liking to write. I think her actual words were: “I hate it.”
In my class, we use our independent reading books as mentors to help us become better writers, so I needed a bridge, someway to help Lani want to write. For most of my students, the books they choose create that bridge. I wasn’t so sure about the books Lani chose week after week after week.
I used to hate the idea of students reading manga. But throughout the school year, Lani kept returning to this genre. When we chatted about the books she was reading, Lani showed a lot more interest and a lot more enthusiasm when she talked about this genre than when she talked about any other. And she was able to discuss not just pretty complicated plot moves, but the rhetorical moves of the authors she loved, confidently proving my bias toward manga wrong.
For part of our midterm exam, students wrote top ten lists based on some of their favorite books. Here’s Lani’s:
Top 10 Mangas with Interesting Plots by Noelani Cevis
Deadman Wonderland Vol.2 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou
In the first volume, the mangaka tells the reader about the earthquake that destroyed half of Tokyo and introduced the main character, Ganta, who is a middle school student and also survivor of the earthquake that took place 10 years earlier. One seemingly normal day, a man in crimson, grinning madly, called the ‘Red Man’ slaughters Ganta’s classmates and imbeds a red shard in his chest instead of killing him. A bit later Ganta is sentenced to death and is sent to a private prison called Deadman Wonderland. Personally, to me the plot is interesting and hooked me right away so I would like to continue reading this series.
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game Vol.3 by Quin Rose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru
Continuing Alice Liddell’s story after getting out of the Country of Hearts, we find Alice stuck in the Country of Joker now! In this Country there’s something a bit weird going on, and Alice has to get to the bottom of it. In the first volume, she met up with old friends and was told about a festival that is happening soon in the country. In the second volume, she meets the Jokers and the point of view switches to tell you a bit of what’s happening on their side of the story. It’s a fun, easy to read, adventure manga that unlike Deadman Wonderland, has a happier feel to it but also is mysterious enough to keep the reader intrigued.
No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! (A.K.A. WataMote) by Nico Tanigawa
Tomoko Kuroki is a fifteen-year-old girl who thought she would get popular once she entered high school because she played a lot of otome-games. Little did she know that in reality she would be a unsociable loner: the exact opposite of what she thought she would be. The manga follows her through high school as she works on her social skills and tries to become popular. Honestly, I have a connection to this girl because I feel like we’re similar to each other. I wanted to see how high school goes for her compared to how it is going for me.
Sumomomo Momomo: The Strongest Bride on Earth Vol.2 by Shinobu Ohtaka
Koshi Inuzuka, a high school student and son of the Dog clan, and Momoko Kuzuryu, daughter of the Dragon clan and high school student, have been betrothed by Momoko’s father to produce a strong child. However, Koshi doesn’t like Momoko like she likes him. In fact, they just met! But instead of giving up after being turned down by Koshi, she continues to pursue him while protecting him from assassins coming to kill him to keep him from marrying Momoko. It’s a hilarious martial arts love story that I have only just gotten into but will definitely continue reading.
Noragami by Adachitoka
Yato is supposedly the God of War and Calamity, however he is dirt poor and not very popular at all and will do any odd job from babysitting to evil slaying for just 5 yen. His goal for the future is to become very popular and rich and in the process of trying to reach that goal meets a girl named Hiyori Iki who just so happens to be the only human that can see him. To reach his goal of being rich and famous he goes on adventures and gets caught up in trouble with his new friend Hiyori. Lately, gifs of this anime have been all over Tumblr and they highlight this manga in funny and interesting ways.
Blood Lad Vol.5 by Yuuki Kodama
Staz is a vampire who refuses to attack humans like those before him and instead stays inside watching anime and reading manga. One day a girl named Fuyumi accidentally ends up in the Demon World and meets Staz, but their meeting is soon cut short by a demon fight happening close by. To save his allies, Staz jumps into the fight, but while he isn’t paying attention, Fuyumi is eaten by a carnivorous plant and turned into a ghost. Afterwards Staz pledges to find a way to bring her back to life. I began watching the anime of this before I read the manga but I soon stopped watching the manga and instead started the manga it was really good and funny and interesting so I would like to continue reading this series.
Horimiya Vol.8 By HERO and Daisuke Hagiwara
Horimya follows the lives of a boy named Miyamura and a girl named Hori and their experiences during high school. It’s a cute story filled with romance, laughs, tears, and everything in between. I read a lot of dark type mangas so having a few cute, easy going ones like this are refreshing and fun to read.
Oresama Teacher Vol.11 by Izumi Tsubaki
Mafuyu, a former gang leader, is a high school girl determined to live a normal life after being caught by the police and transferred to a new school. However, it turns out that the reason she became a delinquent is also a student at this new school and the new school is full of delinquents! Will Mafuyu be able to live a life as a normal high school girl like she wanted? I still don’t know the answer, even though I’m reading this right now, because the manga is so crazy it’s hard to really tell what’s going on sometimes. It’s a fun manga to read though and is full of laughs.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Vol.19 by Shinobu Ohtaka
Magi is told through the eyes of a magi named Aladdin who was secluded his whole life and originally didn’t even know what he was. When he finally is let out to see the world he meets a boy named Alibaba, and they meet a girl named Morgiana. The manga follows each of them through their adventures together and apart. It’s a very action packed manga with not a lot of romance, but that’s alright because there are lots of cute or funny moments in it still, which is a nice change of pace from what I usually read.
Inuyasha Vol.31 by Rumiko Takahashi
Inuyasha is about a half-demon named Inuyasha who was trapped by his dying lover during the Sengoku period and a 15-year-old girl named Kagome who is pulled into an enshrined well, which happens to lead back to the Sengoku period from the present time. It follows their adventures through the Sengoku period trying to find the woman who trapped Inuyasha and all the pieces of the shattered Shikon Jewel. This manga has the perfect mix of action and romance that will have you excited one moment and angry the next. It’s very interesting and fun and addictive.
Lani left me a better reader and writer than she was when she entered my class. She read many other genres besides manga, and even admitted “Those were pretty good books.” She is now a senior, eager to graduate in a short nine weeks.
About her reading life, Lani says, “Although I don’t read much these days, I love reading. It’s a fun hobby, and it’s a good way to get away from things when I need a break from everyday life.” Outside of school she is interested in anime, video games, Japanese and Korean language/culture, music, interior design, travel, and skin care. At school she is involved with AVID and orchestra. Lani describes herself as anxious, insecure, and soft.
I see her as a young woman ready to conquer her goals and attack adventures, similar to the heroes in these books she’s read.
What are your thoughts about manga? Do you include these books in your classroom library? Please leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments.
Amy Rasmussen lives in north Texas and teaches AP English Language and English 3. She leads professional development on advancing readers and writers through a workshop pedagogy anywhere the call takes her. Amy adheres to the words of Emerson: “We aim above the mark to hit the mark,” and Jesus: “Love one another.” Imagine a world if we all love higher. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyrass