ICv2: Manga for Kids: Beyond ‘Pokemon’ and ‘Yotsuba&!’

Children’s comics are booming and manga is booming, but there’s not much overlap: Most manga are rated for ages 13 and up. There is pokemon, natural and Yotsuba&! (which is actually made for adults, although it’s perfectly child-friendly), but what else? In fact, publishers have released more manga aimed at teens, although there’s plenty of room for more.

Here’s a look at some titles that might suit younger readers, both new series and ones that have been around for a while. A quick note: while publishers rate many of these titles as “All Ages,” it’s really more about the content than the level of reading. Most of these titles are best suited for children aged 7 or 8+. Check out previews and reviews if you’re not sure.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, by Kokonasu Rumba
Many of the most kid-friendly manga are adapted from games (see: Pokemon). This is a short (128 pages) collection of gag comics set in the world of animal crossing; The first volume also contains a guide to the game and game tips. The second volume was only published in March. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $9.99)

baby bear bakery, by Kamen Totsu
Baby Bear is an excellent baker, but he still has a lot to learn about running a business, and this super cute manga takes the reader on his adventures as he learns about customer service, accounting, and market research, among other things. Part 1 will be out in May. (Denpa; Ages 6-11; MSRP: $15.95)

The Sweet Home of the Whole Chi, by Konami Kanata
This story of the life of a happy family and their pet cat, told from the cat’s point of view, is formatted left-to-right and in color. Originally published in a series of slim volumes, it was compiled into four chunky paperbacks, but the chapters are short so it doesn’t pose too much of a challenge for young readers. The spinoff series Chi’s sweet adventures was adapted from the original animated show that ran on Amazon Prime. (Vertical, Ages 7-10; MSRP: $24.95)

Disney manga

These are too numerous to mention individually, but Tokyopop has a vast number, including original works such as kila princess, adjustments such as Beauty and the Beast, and hybrids such as magic dance, in which Disney characters help a human girl train for a dance competition. Most of these were made in Japan. Almost all are rated for all ages, but it’s worth checking out a handful, such as stitch and the samurai, are classified as teenagers.

Dragon Quest: The Adventure Of Dai, by Riku Sanjo (Author) and Koji Inada (Artist)
This video game spin-off story follows the adventures of a 10-year-old orphan, Dai, who grew up as the only human on an island populated by (benign) monsters, discovers he has a secret power and sets out the quest to defeat the demon king. In other words, a pretty typical Shonen Jump story, and it’s done in a very Shonen Jump style that doesn’t scream “manga for little kids” at all, so this is a great choice for pre-teens looking for something more sophisticated than want the usual middle section -class fare. There are 37 volumes in the series, but since the first volume is 336 pages, it looks like Viz will release it as a two-in-one omnibi. The anime is available on Crunchyroll. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $19.99)

Dragon Quest Monster+, by Mine Yoshizaki
This series, also a spinoff of the game, follows a boy named Kleo who is summoned to a faraway land not to fight monsters but to recruit and train them. This series was first published in 2019 and is complete in 5 volumes. (Seven Seas, ages 10+; MSRP: $12.99)

evil secret society of cats, from Pandania
Many people suspect that cats are up to no good, and this manga confirms it, with a purple-robed general leading an evil company of cats in nefarious schemes that are eventually thwarted by the fact that the cats are just so darn cute , be brought down! The first volume of this full-color manga will be released in October. (Seven Seas, ages 10+; MSRP $14.99)

The fox and the little tanuki, by Mi Tagawa
There are some spooky moments in this beautifully drawn manga about animal spirits, but there is also a lot of fun. Tanuki are raccoon dogs that figure prominently in Japanese legends, usually as troublemakers. In this tale, the gods punish a black fox who has used his powers for evil by entrusting him with training a mischievous tanuki to be their assistant. Tokyopop has released five volumes so far, and the series is continuing. (Tokyopop, ages 8+; MSRP: $12.99)

Legend of Zelda: Legendary Edition, by Akira Himekawa
These manga, which are directly based on the plot of the various games, have been around for quite a while; As of 2016, Viz repackaged them into five lovely 2-in-1 omnibi. These are not to be confused legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, also by Akira Himekawa, who are slightly darker and classified as Teen. (VIZ Media, All Ages; $17.99)

Nicola travels around the world of demons, by Asaya Miyanaga
Illustrated in a style reminiscent of classic European fairy tales, a human girl journeys through a magical world with her demonic friend in this slice of magical life manga. A good choice for Luke Pearson fans Hilda graphic novels. The series consists of four volumes. (Seven Seas, All Ages; MSRP: $12.99)

splatoon, by Sankichi Hinodeya
Making a black and white manga about a game based on covering the field with different colored inks was an interesting decision, but somehow Hinodeya manages to pull it off. Of course, this really is a manga about teamwork, and while it’s not strictly a Shonen Jump manga, it shares a lot of similar story elements: friends, rivals, teamwork, and of course, the dumb misfit who saves the day. 14 volumes have been published so far. The split Splatoon: Squid Kids Comedy Show is a gag manga based on the game and the manga. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $9.99)

yo kai watch, by Noriyuki Konishi
Nate has a special watch that allows him to see Yokai or Japanese spirits in this series based on a multimedia franchise that also includes video games, toys and anime. The concept is similar to Pokemon, except the goal is to befriend the critters instead of having them fight each other. I have to meet them all! There are currently 19 volumes out and the series is still ongoing in Japan, but the earlier volumes are hard to find. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $19.99)

yokai cats, from Pandania
This manga, from the creator of evil secret society of cats, imagines what it would be like if cats had the same supernatural powers as yokai, such as being able to stretch out their necks long enough to steal food from the kitchen counter. Like the other book, expect more cuteness than malevolence from this full-color manga, due out in October. (Seven Seas, ages 10+; MSRP: $14.99)

zo zo zombie, by Yasunari Nagatoshi
In this comedy series, a boy befriends a zombie and enjoys having a friend with supernatural powers. This manga is quite funny but also contains LOTS of body humor including poop and butt jokes that will excite the target audience (this manga is actually running in a children’s magazine in Japan) but may not excite the adults. The series is completed in 11 volumes. (Yen Press, ages 10+; MSRP: $12.00)

Click here to read more ICv2 Kids Week articles on comics and graphic novels for children!

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