Man. Haven’t touched on manga on this blog in a while.
There are some STRANGE concepts for manga, absolutely. And honestly, I think I see more strange manga, than anime- maybe the big budget studios don’t want to risk putting their effort into something controversial? Regardless, some of these strange manga just go all in for being weird and absurd. From absurd concepts, such as that of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, or rather perverse and odd ones, such as Midori Days, these manga often thrive off of their strangeness.
However, some manga, do more than that. Using their strangeness, they manage to tell a legitimately compelling story, with good characterization, thematic elements, and an intriguing plot. With strange, surreal elements, a blatantly perverse plot, or a simply ridiculous premise that would not go well in Western countries, these manga manage to take strange concepts, and create seriously good narratives. So today, I’d like to take a look at some of the stranger manga I’ve read, that manage to also, somehow, create a great story.
Now: a bit of warning. As it is with the nature of such a topic, most of these manga contain rather adult scenes and concepts- 18+ only. We’re talking about stuff that, in the Western world, simply would not receive much mainstream attention- and, for the most part, as far as manga is concerned, that just happens to be lots of stories with blatant sexual themes. Trust me though: these manga are GOOD. That said, let’s get into the list!
1. Legend of The Strongest Man Kurosawa
Perhaps the most blatantly “weird” entry of the bunch, Legend of The Strongest Man Kurosawa is not about what you’d think, based on the title. When I think of such a title, I think something along the lines of a masculine macho man, or a stereotypical story about a weak guy who grows to becoming something truly great. Instead, you get…this.
Kurosawa is a relatively unassuming guy- he works a construction job, is single, and because of his awkward personality and thuggish face, remains a rather lonely person. The fact that he is 40, and is going through a huge midlife crisis, doesn’t hurt that either. Simply put, he wants something to change, and the manga is about how he fights social ostracization, fear, self-doubt, and more- all while experiencing the oddities that accompany every day life.
Reading that, you might think that Kurosawa is purely a unique coming-of-age story, which you’d be right in thinking. However, this manga is absolutely weird. Flipping between really, really strange humor, and some legitimately sad, emotional scenes, Strongest Man Kurosawa oftentimes doesn’t seem like it’ll be hugely profound or powerful at all. With childish jokes about piss, ridiculously explicit insults, and random references to other famous works like Howl’s Moving Castle, the manga certainly lives up to its strange art design. However, behind it all, lies a sincerely touching story about the strangeness of life, and one individual’s path to self-growth throughout it all.
2. Nana to Kaoru
All right. Have you ever heard of BDSM? I’m certain you have, it’s the freaking internet. Now, of course, obviously, undoubtedly, what we need in our lives is a manga that talks all about it, right?
Nana to Kaoru is a manga all about one extremely creepy dude, Kaoru, and exemplar student, Nana, who, through a rather odd series of events, find themselves entangled in a relationship as Sub and Dom. Kaoru naturally has an obsession with BDSM as a whole, while Nana, a newcomer to it all, finds herself drawn to it, as an escape, a “breather” from the world of strict perfectionism that her school persona keeps up. Submitting to the will of Kaoru for BDSM sessions, or “breathers,” both Nana and Kaoru learn that BDSM isn’t quite so simple- reflecting the desires of their heart, learning more about themselves, and realizing that their relationship, however strange, is not wrong.
This manga isn’t quite one that keeps up a continual story; rather, it is a very well-done character study, on the interests of people, and how it relates to their personality. It provides a unique look on far more grounded, idealistic aspects of BDSM, that is honestly just fascinating to read about. That being said, it is still BDSM, with all the strange, sexual, taboo feeling that that entails- but this BDSM-centric story delivers some legitimately great, likable characters, and a rather complex look at a topic that many people write off as a strange fetish. So, because of this, Nana to Kaoru was definitely a pleasure to read- perhaps not the best, but certainly an experience where I could root for the characters involved, relate to them at points, and explore their complexities as people.
3. Onani Master Kurosawa
Okay, I’m certain, that if you’re reading this, you’ve at least HEARD of Death Note. Imagine that then- but instead of Death Note-induced heart attacks, imagine a guy who faps on stuff, socially scarring his unfortunate victims. but instead of literal death by Death Note-induced heart attacks, picture social death by cum-covered personal belongings.
Oh yeah. We’re getting REAL weird here.
Onani Master Kurosawa is about a middle school student named Kakeru Kurosawa who, as his defining characteristic, masturbates in a girl’s restroom on the third floor that is rarely used. Yup. He’s a pervert all right. However, he has a heart- fellow student, Aya Kitahara, is bullied quite a bit, and as a sick form of vengeance, Kurosawa masturbates onto their clothes. This goes a bit south, when Kitahara figures this out, and blackmails Kurosawa into doing the same to other students she has a problem with, which, as one might predict, leads to a whole load of trouble.
As absurd as this initial concept sounds, it’s actually done VERY well. And by very well, I mean, pulled off with deadly seriousness, with facial expressions, art, and general quality akin to that of the actual Death Note series. It is actually kind of ridiculous if you sit back for a moment and think of it critically for just a moment, but as you read, no joking, Onani Master Kurosawa is very entertaining. The growth that Kurosawa and the other characters experience isn’t bad either. Portraying themes of unending cynicism with the world, as well as hopeless idealism, Onani Master Kurosawa, for all its weird, weird shenanigans, is pulled off in a way that is surprising, in just how well the manga portrays its themes.
Sundome, or, “Stopping The Moment Before,” is a manga that…well, it’s honestly hard to explain in a short time, but I’ll try my best.
Protagonist Hideo Aiba has a simple belief in life; that all people have their specific turns ons, and because of his very specific turn ons, has never met a girl he could fall in love with. This odd guy is part of the Roman Club- a club obsessed with UFO’s, ghosts, and other such paranormal activities. It isn’t a very popular club, as one might imagine, but the alumni that the club HAS had are very successful, and are willing to share that success with the members of the club, considering they follow just one rule- don’t lose your virginity. To challenge members of the club, they send assassins- people who specifically appeal to the fetishes of its members.
It is in this context where Aiba meets the exchange student, Kurumi Sahana, who, almost unbelievably, meets all his standards. Even more unbelievably, this girl is interested in the Roman Club, and at a meeting, asks Aiba a question that is simply too crazy to be true- “Show me how you jerk off.”
Now, I’m sure you can imagine what the title, Sundome might mean.
This strange, strange manga is complemented with an even stranger character design. It doesn’t shy away from relying heavily on fanservice, providing relatively ugly main characters, while still emphasizing the positive interactions between them. The relationship between Kurumi and Aiba in particular is simply intriguing to see unfold- just who is this girl? Why is she so insistent with Aiba? And how does Aiba respond? These questions are hit upon by Sundome, and confronted honestly, in a way that I don’t think other, more traditional methods could have done as well. Sundome, through its odd, rather unique storytelling, explores its characters in a way that, similarly to Nana to Kaoru, can’t be described very well in any traditional methods. Take my word for it though- it’s pretty great, despite its strange premise.
5. Oyasumi Punpun
I’ve talked about this manga at length on this blog once before, very early on, and if you’ve seen this post, then you’ll know that I adore this manga. It’s one of the greats, in my opinion, helped tremendously in my mind, by its completely odd mix between surrealism and realism.
The main character, Punpun, is drawn as a bird, as is his dysfunctional family. The story is simple, just following his life from childhood to adulthood. The dialogue included, can range from realistic and honest, to absurd and senseless. But, throughout it all, a single narrative shines through, tying together the simple, hard, complex lives of all those Punpun is close to. From a man named Pegasus who preaches about the end of the world, to the mysterious, untouchable girl named Aiko who stole Punpun’s heart even from childhood, Oyasumi Punpun is undoubtedly one of the most odd manga I have ever read; but also, one of the best.
I can’t speak enough about how much I love this manga, but for the sake of clarity and brevity, I’ll be short. Oyasumi Punpun is a story that is told in a way, that simply wouldn’t be marketable to western audiences. It’s completely strange, different from the way other coming-of-age stories are told, simply because honestly, it’s all over the place- thematically, plot-wise, character-wise, you have a whole plethora of events and happenings that are just…odd. Especially considering the main character is a straight up cartoon bird, relative to an environment that is perhaps the most detailed I’ve ever seen in a manga. However, this dysfunction leads back to some of the most consistently brilliant character interactions I’ve seen in any manga I’ve read to date. It’s…strange, but brilliant.
A manga where the main character never talks. Where the main character is arguably a huge piece of crap, or an admirable, hopeful individual. Where bad porn, the meaning of life, apocalyptic prophecies and more intersect, and combine to create a confusing, yet somehow cohesive manga that somehow works. It’s an original experience, one that, not only has a weird story to tell, makes people feel weird themselves. It’s disgusting, it’s fascinating, and provides a blunt, honest look at life that I haven’t seen elsewhere- and overall, it’s one of those weird manga that I absolutely recommend.