The 30 Best Seinen Manga, RankedThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
While shounen is made for a younger audience, seinen is aimed at an older and more mature audience.
As such, it can include more violence (with all of its gory details) and a deeper dive into the human psyche. This can mean topics dealing with depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues in a heavier manner.
And for some manga readers, these are the stories they really wanna dive into.
So here’s our collection of the best seinen manga worth reading.
30. Ping Pong
If you haven’t guessed yet, the story here is about ping pong.
But it’s also about so much more.
The sport here is a mere tool for a coming-of-age story.
You don’t get a panel explaining all the rules, or a technical breakdown of what’s happening during the matches.
The focus here is on the characters.
Their feelings, their growth, theirs fears.
Now, the art might put you off at first since it’s very unique… but I promise, if you stick with it you’ll see why this is so worthwhile.
Here’s a manga with an unusual protagonist:
An elderly man at the end of his life.
But don’t think this story won’t take an exciting turn. Because alien tech, fights, and blood are all involved here.
However, I’ll argue that those points aren’t even what makes this manga so good.
The dilemma of what truly makes someone human, the search for an objective in life when everything seems meaningless, and the choice to do what’s right simply because you believe in it.
Those are the themes that make this manga worth your time.
28. All You Need Is Kill
“All You Need Is Kill” offers a sci-fi story that follows recruit Keijit participating in a global war against aliens.
He dies on his very first day on the battlefield, but surprisingly wakes up one day before.
Soon he understands he’s stuck in a time loop that resets every time he dies.
If you think you saw this somewhere before, you might be right. Because this manga became a movie known as “The Edge of Tomorrow” starring Tom Cruise.
If you like sci-fi and action, definitely give this a shot.
27. Franken Fran
Franken Fran is a very unique manga, with a lot of dark comedy and some horror to boot.
Here we accompany Fran, an artificial girl created by a mad genius, and her day-to-day life taking care of the mansion and assuming tasks in his name.
Sounds simple enough, but the author can create scenarios that will make sure to leave you disturbed (to put it lightly).
Be warned though, there’s plenty of explicit gore in this series.
Maybe not in the ways you expect, but it’s there.
Changing schools is never easy.
Not knowing where to go, meeting new people, your classmates have strange behaviors that may not be considered normal, people dying around you…
Okay, maybe some of those are not like the others.
The manga “Another” explores a mystery surrounding the protagonist’s new school, as well as the strange eye-patched girl who all his classmates make sure to ignore.
Mystery and horror mix into an entertaining tale that will get you turning pages non-stop.
25. Deadman Wonderland
Ganta Igarashi is a middle school student wrongly convicted of killing his entire classroom.
He’s sent to Deadman Wonderland, a prison that functions as a theme park, using its convicts as attractions to tourists.
I honestly think just that plot alone is interesting enough to make it worth reading.
However, if you need more then let’s add onto that:
You’ll also get amazing fight scenes, cool characters, twists that you’ll never see coming, and an author (Jinsei Kataoka) who’s not afraid to show you that anything can and will happen.
You have an irresistible story waiting for you.
Uzumaki is written by Junji Ito, perhaps one of the best (if not the best) horror manga authors.
And this manga is his most famous work.
For those that don’t know, Uzumaki means “spiral” in Japanese. And “surprisingly” enough, that’s exactly what this story is about:
A town being haunted by strange phenomena all involving spirals one way or another.
Body horror, disturbing imagery, a terror that goes beyond human comprehension… all of this is present here, and Junji Ito’s hauntingly beautiful art captures it all perfectly, turning this into a must-read for horror fans, and manga fans alike.
23. Grand Blue
Grand Blue offers a story about a diving club from Izu University, and also the best comedy seinen manga you could read.
The slapstick humor, the visuals, the silliness, and the camaraderie of the characters works for a goldmine comedy that will get you laughing out loud with each passing chapter.
Give this a try if you’re in the mood to chuckle.
22. Battle Royale
This is a manga known better for inspiring an entire gaming genre, and other famous works like Hunger Games… but I digress.
The plot here is very straightforward:
A classroom of students in Japan is randomly selected and placed on a closed island, where they must participate in an event called Battle Royale.
The rules of the “game” are simple, but they can be boiled down to one rule:
Last one standing lives.
So begins an anxiety-inducing story where you never know who’s going down next.
21. Kokou no Hito (The Climber)
Mountain climbing is one of those sports where there are no opponents to beat.
What you must surpass is yourself and your surroundings to reach the top.
And that’s what makes this manga so interesting – because soon enough it becomes more of a character study than anything else.
Being able to use the sport and its difficulties to explore life’s harshest truths.
As a plus, the visuals and use of imagery here are crazy good.
It’s hard to explain Dorohedoro.
It’s set in a post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk, magic, gritty, brutal world.
The story can be comedic and lighthearted, and also filled with death and horror.
The author presents ideas that are so weird, you’d never think of them… and then he does that again and again until your brain feels numb.
I can’t recommend it enough.
Here’s an unusual time travel tale that you’ve probably heard about already.
A group of friends is able to adapt a microwave to send messages to the past.
It’s hard to say much here without spoiling the plot.
But what I can tell you is that it’s short, sweet, and can make you cry your eyes out.
18. Record of Ragnarok
This one is all about fighting, but taking it in a bit of an extreme direction.
What if all the gods in mythology were real?
And let’s say they decreed that humanity must perish as a whole, unless we can find 13 humans from any time in history to defeat these 13 gods in a fight to the death.
An action-packed, intense, bloody, and truly great manga that’s worth checking out.
In the middle of the night, beings similar in appearance from an earthworm fall from the sky in tennis-ball-sized spores.
Once they hit the ground they invade human bodies to take over the mind of their hosts.
Our protagonist is Shinichi, one of the “lucky” people targeted. He’s able to stop the creature from taking over his brain, but not from taking over his arm…
So begins his life as a host to a parasite that’s only interested in its own well-being, and sees absolutely no value to human life.
Strangely enough, this manga is a retake of a story arc from the manga for children “Astro Boy”.
We even get its original author (Osamu Tezaku, also known as the Father of Manga or God of Manga) working in collaboration with Naoki Urasawa, considered a master of mystery and thriller – and also regarded as one of the artists that changed the history of manga.
Pluto uses the best of both of these incredible authors to bring an amazing sci-fi experience.
15. One-Punch Man
Here’s the premise:
A hero that defeats any enemy with a single punch.
On paper it sounds like something that would get old pretty quickly. And yet that could not be further from the truth.
This series is simply amazing.
Fast-paced action, lots of comedy, a cast of characters that you’ll want to know more about, and art so beautiful you’ll think some panels could be put into a museum.
If you think the hero genre is stagnant then OPM will change your mind, guaranteed.
Mushishis are specialists who research and study “mushi”, a curious lifeform who appears to have no purpose.
But behind their mundane existence, the answer to the meaning of life could be hiding.
The story develops in a sort of episodic style, with its chapters presenting new characters and how mushi are affecting their lives.
You’ll find happiness in these pages, but also sorrow.
Peace of mind, but also uneasiness.
Honestly, it’s a work of art.
13. Tokyo Ghoul
In the shadows of Tokyo, creatures called ghouls lurk in the night trying to get a taste of human flesh.
An organization is formed to combat these things, and an atmosphere of war finds its way into the city.
The characters are a strong point here, being well explored, and having reasons for their actions and motives.
We dive deep into a violent world with blurred lines between right and wrong, where the author Sui Ishida challenges the moral dilemmas of the place he created – and invites you to do the same.
Homunculus is one of those bizarre works of art that seems to work more like an experience than anything else.
Nakoshi is a middle-aged man who’s offered a sum of money to go through a procedure known as “trepanation” (the act of drilling a hole open in one’s skull).
After the operation, his perception of reality starts to crumble as he sees & understands more than he could ever ask for.
There are a lot of heavy (and weird) themes in here. It gets surprisingly dark and deep when you least expect it.
The art is also one of the trippiest I’ve seen in any manga, getting pretty crazy with imagery and metaphors, turning this into a one-of-a-kind piece.
11. 20th Century Boys
There’s a few things we get mixed together here:
A group of childhood friends, an evil cult, and the end of the world.
This is a psychological thriller by (once again) the master Naoki Urasawa.
The storytelling here is on another level, with the story being presented in three different timelines. Each shows new meaning to previous scenes, bringing new twists and explaining questions that arise over time.
The characters diverge from the usual, being realistic not only in their actions, but also in their appearance.
What I’m trying to say is that the art is not used to exaggerate, but only to present the medium.
This manga feels much more akin to a graphic novel in that sense.
10. The Ghost In The Shell
GitS is probably one of the most influential manga on this list, if not the most influential.
The story passes on the near future, where robots and cyber-implants are nothing unusual, as we accompany Major Mokoto trying to catch a hacker nicknamed The Puppeteer.
Now, why could this manga be called influential?
Because it directly inspired the Wachowski sisters in doing The Matrix trilogy movies, which are still relevant to this date.
James Cameron is even cited as describing Ghost in the Shell as “a stunning work of speculative fiction”.
Truth be told, its influence can be seen far and wide.
The themes and aesthetics here have inspired a lot of different stories, be it in movies, TV shows, or books or even video games.
Hands-down, this is one of the best sci-fi manga published to date.
And if you’d call this a seinen manga then it’s absolutely a must-read.
Here’s a quick rundown for Gantz’s plot:
A group of very different people die, and they’re taken and put in a sick game to kill different aliens across the city.
Gantz is an intense and gory ride.
Violence and brutality find their way into almost every chapter, hitting any character in its way.
If you think you know who’s going down and who will survive, think again. This author is not afraid to kill fan favorites in favor of the story.
We’re thrown into a dark futuristic world – where what’s left of humanity must hide from terrifying creatures in fear of facing extinction.
The storytelling here is truly what makes this manga shine.
There’s very little dialogue and no narration, with a few details tossed in to help the audience understand what’s happening.
In short, it’s up to the reader to interpret scenes, connect the dots, and better understand the world we’re presented.
Thanks to that, the art takes a front row seat, being simply superb.
Fights, buildings, technology, destruction, and anything else are shown in great detail – especially with full-page drawings that will leave you in awe.
It’s 2019 and World War III has already been fought.
During the war, Tokyo was destroyed. And a new city called Neo Tokyo was built upon its ashes.
In this city, gangs, cutting-edge technology, and government mysteries can be found.
Akira was one of the first manga to be completely translated to the occident, and was considered by many the greatest manga published when it came out.
And with its themes of power corruption, social collapse, and uprising against the system being relevant to this day, it’s not hard to see why that would be.
The art here is also a strong point.
The city and its skyscrapers have so much attention to detail you can easily visualize them in real life, action sequences come to life in front of your eyes, and the atmosphere of catastrophe with a hint of supernatural is almost intoxicating.
Akira was certainly ahead of its time – and it deserves all the praise that it gets.
Kingdom follows two children that are orphaned slaves, and their dream to become two of the world’s best generals.
Since the dream of the main character involves becoming a great general, war and battle are simply inevitable.
And it’s in this aspect that the manga shines, a lot.
The battles are a spectacle to behold, with the art being able to show in an understandable manner the grandiosity of what’s happening.
Unlike other works, strategy is a big deal in these fights – being the key difference between glorious victory and shameful loss.
If an epic tale of war and violence sounds like something you’d want to read, then give Kingdom a shot.
Monster is the third work of Naoki Urasawa to show up on this list – and this time it’s his most famous story.
Accompany neurosurgeon Kenzou Tenma along for a crazy ride.
A kid that he saved from death becomes a monster 9 years later, killing people and entangling our MC in a complicated chain of events.
The story here is what truly shines. It’s complex and rich, using the storytelling device that Naoki is well known for (flashbacks and time leaps), to satisfyingly answer questions and raise new ones.
Monster is a slow burn masterpiece in the psychological thriller genre – and it will leave you thinking about the story until all your questions are answered.
4. Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga offers a tale of revenge set during the Viking era.
The world here is built upon years of history, having intricate attention to detail, showing cities and villages in such a way that you feel as if you were alive centuries ago.
In this manga, history and fiction mix into an awesome cocktail of spectacular storytelling and brutality.
Character development is abundant throughout the cast, with everyone receiving the spotlight and having their time to shine.
Fair warning: as can be expected from Vikings, the manga can (and does) get pretty sick, showing the horrors that humans are capable of – and not making light of them.
3. Goodnight Punpun
Goodnight Punpun is mainly a story about growing up, about how our surroundings shape us into who we are.
It shows that the decisions that we make, no matter how small, can have a great impact on our future.
It’s a sad view of Punpun’s life, from his childhood to his adulthood.
There are still moments of bittersweetness, and some you could call “happy”. But the feelings of sadness and regret never seem to leave Punpun’s side.
For the manga itself, the artwork here is out of this world. And this artistic style comes with a twist that’s both amazing and strange:
You see, everything is drawn in a realistic style, except for Punpun and his family – who are drawn as very simplistic bird-looking things (that’s the best description I could think of, I swear).
Yet the emotions that such a simple-looking protagonist can invoke are nothing short of amazing.
Goodnight Punpun is a dark and powerful coming of age story that I believe can be considered one of the best ever put to paper.
But I will say this:
If you’re not in a good mental place, it’s better to read something else before diving into this. It’s a lot to take in.
Vagabond is a fictitious revision of real-life history figure Miyamoto Musashi, a Japanese swordsman, writer, philosopher, strategist, and rōnin.
He’s also known for his undefeated record of 61 duels.
The real story of a man such as Miyamoto is already something incredible to read. And when you add a poetic license to it, it becomes something even more amazing to witness.
The story still stays completely grounded, being regarded as historical fiction, and painting a scene of the Samurai era that is hard to replicate.
The violence and battles here are drawn with painful accuracy, making it hard to read for those of a weak stomach. However, it’s not all blood and guts – because plenty of philosophical and spiritual moments appear in the series too, helping the main character grow and come to terms with his life.
The research, talent, and passion that went into these pages are undeniable.
Vagabond is a must-read for anyone who enjoys seinen.
Berserk is the epitome of dark fantasy, there’s no other way to put it.
Guts is a mercenary, filled with the rage and strength of an army, on a quest to kill the man who reaped his humanity out of him.
On his quest, no one will stand in his way.
And those who do will be sure to regret it.
The beginning of the story and the art is nothing to write home about. In the early parts of the manga, the monster designs are the most stand-out feature.
Still, after the first 3 volumes, this manga starts to improve and head straight up – and it never bothers coming back down again.
The artwork becomes some of the best in any fantasy I’ve seen.
The lore and worldbuilding leave you in awe waiting for more.
And the story that once looked like a simple revenge plot evolves into an epic saga.
As a fan of fantasy, manga, and darker themes, my opinion might be taken with a grain of salt.
But since I know I’m not the only one, I think it’s safe to say: Berserk is the best, period.