You know that feeling when you are reading a story so compelling that you never want to stop reading? Your senses are heightened and you have no interest in anything happening around you. You forget to breathe, your heartbeat quickens and you scream out expletives when something unexpected happens. That is the fever of a thriller. Regular readers would know that I enjoy reading a good manga just as much as reading a novel. Manga graphic novels are just different forms of art that do an excellent job as story-telling device.
Monster by Naoki Urasawa
A brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Tenma is sick of being trampled upon by his controlling, unethical boss and decides to defy his direct orders. Instead of operating on the Mayor, Tenma operates on a little boy who came in earlier with a bullet in his brain. The boy survives thanks to Tenma’s skills but the mayor dies. Then everything falls apart around Tenma. His promotion is cancelled, his fiancee leaves him and the boss is all set to ruin his life. Still, he reaffirms that he did the right thing by saving the patient who came first. However, this is the action Tenma regrets the most and spends the next many years in attempts to find and kill that boy.
This series had me on the edge the whole time I read through. Almost every chapter ended in me looking up from the pages and saying ‘oh f***’ what just happened!? I liked the character development and especially felt fear whenever someone in the story mentioned Johan, the antagonist.
20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa
A bunch of kids dream up kiddish scenarios and predict what will happen in the future. Under the leadership of Kenji, they write and draw these scenes in the ‘Book of Prophecy’. Unsurprisingly for little kids, these are stories where a giant robot takes over the city and world destruction will be attained by biological weapons. They grow up and lead perfectly normal adult lives, completely forgetting those childhood days. However, one of the kids brings to Kenji news that someone has gotten hold of the book of prophecy and is proceeding to destroy the world in the specific steps they had written down. What follows is a mad rush these friends get into to find which of them has become the masked man named only as ‘friend’ and stop him from destroying the world.
The genius of Urasawa comes forth once again as he takes us through scenes of childhood and adulthood seamlessly. The antagonist ‘friend’ is amazing but Kenji and his childhood friends are super interesting as well. This series is longer than Monster but both are worth it.
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
A straight A’s student Light Yagami comes across a notebook in his school. It is titled “Death Note” and contains instructions on how a human can be killed just by writing his name in the notebook. You just need to know their full name and how they look. Giving in to curiosity, he tries it out and he witnesses the death on live television. Soon, the Shinigami (death god) in charge of the notebook comes along to watch the fun. The world-renowned detective only known as “L” asks the international police to help him capture this unseen murderer. Both L and Light are engaged in a constant battle of wits.
This manga (and the next) are very well known but that does not undermine the story in any way. Rather, their popularity is a true testament to their greatness. Be warned: something unexpected will happen about halfway through Death Note and you will want to stop reading. Trust me, you must read ahead because things are about to get way more interesting!
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromi Arakawa
Alchemists are humans who have learnt ways to manipulate nature to do their bidding. However, they must adhere to the central principle of alchemy- The Law of Equivalent Exchange. Man cannot obtain anything without first sacrificing something. In order to obtain something, something else of equal value must be sacrificed. Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric have committed a grave sin of breaking this law and have paid heavily for it. Edward the elder brother lost one arm and leg while the younger brother Alphonse lost his entire body. His soul remains, bound to a metal armour. All they want is a way to get their bodies back. However, they soon discover deeper secrets within the military that controls the country and are dragged into a world of powerful evil people. And beings that are not people.
Fullmetal Alchemist is different from the above manga because it contains some scenes of comedic relief as well. The overall theme of Fullmetal Alchemist is suitable to be read by teenagers as well, but Urasawa’s works and even Death Note will appeal more to a mature audience. The lead characters being teenagers, living among adults brings hilarity in their daily dealings. Nevertheless a compelling story that will leave you satisfied as it ends.
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