The manga industry is one that has grown exponentially in the past decade following the more mainstream acceptance of otaku culture in the west. While, every year, readers are treated to an impossible number of new manga that will bewitch and inspire the imaginations of those with any taste imaginable, many titles have found themselves confined to their Japanese homeland and will remain there until lost to the annuls of time.
This week on our trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, we’ll be discussing three manga that we feel deserve an official localisation, be that due to their content, fantastic story or mind-blowing art style – these manga deserve the love of a whole new audience! As a slight warning, many of the titles on this list do contain content of a sensitive nature (gore, sexual imagery, etc. etc.), so should you decide to look into some of these series, some discretion is advised. Now, without further ado, let’s jump right into it!
3. Drakengard (Drag-on Dragoon) – Utahime Five/ Shii Ni Itari Aka
OK, let’s start with a totally biased pick that just so happens to be a two-for-one. One of our favourite game series here at the Otaku Rabbit Hole is the Drakengard series and, by extension, its spin-off series, Nier.For those unaware, after the release of Drakengard 3, two Spin-off manga, Utahime Five and Shii Ni Itari Aka were released in Japan to help flesh out the world of Drakengard and bridge the gap between the events of Drakengard 3 and the original game. Sadly, while both titles have received fan translations, they are near impossible to find online, particularly Utahime Five, which is a real shame.
Utahime Five takes the Intoners, the antagonists of Drakengard 3, and sets them on their own adventure as children, balancing a sense of humour with Drakengard‘s unique brand of nihilistic dread to make something truly unique.If you’ve been keeping up with us at the Otaku Rabbit Hole for a while, you’ll already know our love for all things magical girl, and as the Intoners’ designs were originally based on the phenomenal characters of Madoka Magica, it’s unsurprising why we desperately want to read this story!
Shii Ni Itari Aka is far more readily available online but is a far less accessible title to a wide audience due to the nature of its story. This manga follows “One” after the events of Drakengard 3‘s ending A, bridging the gap between both the first game and the third. Key characters from the first Drakengard game, such as Kaim, appear throughout as “One” seeks to eradicate those afflicted with the terrifying red-eye disease. For those unfamiliar with Drakengard, the red-eye disease is a nightmarish affliction with no known cure – one that dulls the infected’s sense of pain and annihilates any semblance of their humanity, leaving only a bloodthirsty, instinct-driven monster in its place.
Drakengard has always been pretty dark, but these manga in particular are not for the faint of heart – they’re violent, gory and incredibly twisted. However, as massive fans of the Drakengard series, we can’t help but wish for them to get an official translation, even if they are a little on the dark and edgy side for most people’s tastes.
2. Dolly Kill Kill
A recent trend in manga, where the world is pushed to the point of extinction by seemingly unthreatening things, is one that we can take or leave. The unnecessarily violent gorefest that is Magical Girl Apocalypse and the genuinely unsettling Shibuya Goldfish are two that immediately spring to mind that showcase just what factors this genre tends to use in order to best impact their readership.
The excessive shock and senseless violence already make them pretty niche titles, but when executed well can be used to phenomenal effect. Such insurmountable odds help ingrain a sense of anxiety and unease, while also allowing the reader a sense of desperate hope that the protagonist can eventually overcome these hardships. However, due to the violent imagery that permeates such titles, this type of manga is hard to recommend to a wider audience.
Enter Dolly Kill Kill, a manga with, let’s face it, a less than imaginative name. Dolly Kill Kill is set following the near annihilation of humanity at the hand of sentient dollies. Protagonist Ikaruga Iruma has to watch his best friend die and is forced to abandon the one he loves in order to survive. A broken shell of his former self and wracked with survivor’s guilt, his only goal is to destroy the dollies and repent for his inability to avenge his friends when they needed him most.
While it does lean on many of the tropes that plague other manga in the genre, such as incredible violence and its particular brand of cutie killers, it also borrows heavily from many shonen manga of old, where the protagonist is able to unlock his latent potential following the deaths of those he loved.
This manga takes a few chapters to hit its stride, but once you get there, it’s a real treat that you won’t want to put down. Characters are introduced with interesting backstories and motivations, easily letting readers grow attached to them.
A personal favourite of mine so far is the hero wannabe Namekata Kyujin. This sort of character feels as though he would die quickly in other manga of this genre, but here it works fantastically.
Honestly, it’s a strange one to want to recommend, but this manga could appeal to any fan of dark and violent manga, especially those with a love of shonen – and that’s exactly why we awarded it our number two, as there is definitely a potential readership in the West for Dolly Kill Kill that, as yet, remains untapped.
1. Record of Ragnarok
This manga is honestly the reason why we’re making this list, because if this manga doesn’t get an official translation, there’s something very wrong!
Record of Ragnarok begins in the land of the gods, where said gods have decided to vote on whether humanity will live or die. Due to the actions of humanity across many millennia, it is unanimously decided that humanity will perish – that is until the Valkyries step in.
After a heated debate, it is decided that 13 gods will face off against 13 humans from throughout history to decide humanity’s fate in a one-on-one battle royale. The stakes are high, and victory will only be decided when there is one man (or god) left standing. To up the ante further, the losing party not only dies but is removed from the cycle of rebirth entirely, meaning that to lose means to experience absolute death. There’s a lot to lose, and the odds are definitely not in humanity’s favour, but the Valkyries have a few tricks up their sleeves to help even the odds!
It’s been a very long time since there was a shonen manga that captures that sense of raw power and intensity in the same way as Record of Ragnarok. Fights develop over many chapters and build to dizzying heights of sheer awesomeness.
The further you dive into this manga, the harder it is to look away. Character designs warp and contort into monstrous caricatures that are truly captivating to behold. While it gets bloody at times, you’re placed into the middle of a desperate wrestling match where both sides are desperately fighting for survival. Its intoxicating, action-packed experience is one that any shonen fan HAS to check out!
The art style is phenomenal – think traditional shonen beefcake but with the muscles dialled up to 100. The dynamic movement in every panel combined with the incredibly emotive characters make for something truly unique that just drives you further down the Record of Ragnarok rabbit hole.
Honestly, we can’t describe just how incredible this manga is. The art style couples so well with the action-heavy story to make for something that’s as visually stunning as it is appealing. Record of Ragnarok is still ongoing, and we can only hope that it receives an official English release one day soon, but until then, it easily earns our number one spot on this list!
With all that being said, thanks again for joining us on this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, and we hope you’ve enjoyed your time here. If you did, that’s amazing, and please consider sharing. If you didn’t, then please get in touch and let us know why. We would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you all once again and, until next time, keep it weeby everyone!