Top 10 Manga Released in 2021 That You May Have Missed

It is 2022, and the past year has been filled with fantastic manga series spanning from romance to sports and even comedy. Of course, Noisy Pixel has been there every step of the way, reviewing some of the best manga volumes to release for US audiences. However, there are ten series we want to highlight (spoiler-free) that you may or may not have run into last year, so hopefully, you’ll find interest in one below!

Call of the Night

Call of the Night Vol. 1 2

Vampires and romance not of the Twilight kind, Call of Night takes what can feel like a modern-day cliche and remixes it to feel almost brand new. The story follows Kou Yamori, a teenage boy with insomnia from not using up enough energy during the day. He has no friends no hobbies but puts on an act of the average middle school student.

Until the day he decided to quit. Now, with an abundance of energy from not doing anything during the day, he develops insomnia, so he decides to wander around the city every night to pass the time. Then, on a fateful night, he meets Nazuna Nanakusa, a Vampire who diagnoses the true cause of his insomnia to be him holding back from experiencing true freedom, but not without going for a nice drink of his blood!

Call of Night starts here but dives into a mix of love, jealousy, and a supernatural slice of life moments that warm the heart and fill the belly with laughter while having somber moments that call out mental and social issues within Japanese society relatable to even those overseas. The story progresses from a seemingly simple dating manga with supernatural elements to a world filled with memorable characters, both human and vampire alike.

An anime released for Call of Night was announced last year and will be airing in July 2022, so if you want to get a jump on one of the most anticipated anime of the year, go ahead and pick up Call of Night!

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Bungou Stray Dogs: Beast

Bungou Stray Dogs Beast

Next up, we have an alternate universe spin-off for a popular manga of a similar same name; “Bungou Stray Dogs: Beasts.” If you have not heard of Bungou Stray Dogs, it is a supernatural light novel turned manga and anime that take popular Japanese novelists and base characters on their lives & their works.

The main character is Atsushi, a young man who haphazardly becomes intertwined in a Supernatural Detective Agency & his main rival, a  mafia member Akutagawa. However, for Bungou Stray Dogs: Beast, these two roles are reversed, making for a fascinating story depicting how these two characters would be in each other’s shoes.

For a seeming cliche and somewhat uninteresting trope, Bungou Stray Dogs Beasts does a fantastic job of staying true to the characters we know from the original while adding a new layer to them by changing the things that influence their decisions in their present lives, entirely switching how world events occur in this alternate universe.

This spin-off is a must-read for fans of the original series. Still, it also is an amazing way to be introduced to the universe of Bungou Stray Dogs without ruining a future experience with the source material adaptations for those new to the franchise.

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Can’t Stop Cursing You

Cant Stop Cursing You Vol. 1 3

Yami High School was just like every other high school, until the murder of a student after they answered their ringing cell phone. This mysterious death leads to hiring the mysterious Saeyama, a Curse Breaker. However, Mikiya, a student at Yami High, hides his secret from this Curse Breaker; he is a Contractor who is being forced to kill people with a “Curse” or face a fate even worse than death!!

But what is a “Curse”? In this supernatural-psychological thriller, you will be thrust into sadistic characters, emotionally distressed characters with the secrets of the unknown being at the center of the mind game between Contractors and Saeyama. It gives off a vibe similar to Death Note, but on a smaller scale. Saeyama must use his wits, oddly creepy charm, and everything he knows about human psychology to make the killer reveal himself.

Can’t Stop Cursing You starts at Yami High but focuses on Saeyama and his career as a Curse Breaker. It’s a refreshing experience for more mature audiences by leaving out unnecessary gore and applying it where it matters to exaggerate the brutality of the murders and the sadistic mentalities that begin to form after a Contractor begins to kill.

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My Dearest Self Malice with Afterthought

My Dearest Self Malice with Afterthought

Could you grow up being the son of the most notorious serial killer in modern times? My Dearest Self Malice with Afterthought is not only a mouthful title but a mental whirlwind keeping you on your toes for every page, not slowing down for a single chapter.

The story revolves around Eijin, a young man in college who suddenly wakes up one day with a gorgeous woman in his bed with no memories of the day prior! The last thing he remembers is going out with friends, but nothing else after, thinking he just got drunk enough to find the courage to lose his virginity. But, then, the dirty secrets of his past begin to open up, one by one, and he has no choice but to face them head-on.

Suppose you enjoy a suspenseful murder mystery with psychological aspects that focus on real-life mental health issues such as Split Personality Disorder, Disassociation, and pure Narcissism. This story is not for the light-hearted, so make sure you are ready to see gruesome scenes, follow characters with extremely shady actions, and expect what might be unexpected!

What truly stands out with My Dearest Self Malice with Afterthought is the suspense surrounding  Eijin and his relationship with his father. What is the truth, what are the lies, and how they all affect the present becomes the core value of the series keeping your brain and emotions on their edge!

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The Witch and The Beast

The Witch and The Beast

There are Fairy Tales that spread from culture to culture, depicting very similar stories with minor changes to match the environment it is being told in. All of them focus on the power of love, courage, and finding your true self. The Witch and The Beast takes these Fairy Tale staples, shoves them into a seinen category, and never ceases to amaze.

The Witch and The Beast takes place in a fictional world, where (obviously) magic and supernatural things are the norms. There are, of course, regular people who do not possess any special traits. Still, the story heavily focuses on the supernatural characters and their different factions and cultures. However, the core of this story focuses on Guideau and Ashaf, partners to capture the Witch Angela.

This is just the surface level of the story because the reason for Guideau’s hunt is to break the curse put on them by Angela, which put Guideau’s soul inside a girl’s body. Like many magic series, The Witch and The Beast takes the approach of discerning what makes magic good or bad, but it’s the lore that makes this series stand out. Each chapter brings pieces together or opens up a new puzzle without coming off complex.

The magic is very well explained; the powers make for fun pages and panels to read and showcase the talent of the Author, Kousuke Satake. The art is beyond impressive and gives off the perfect mix of noir and modern styles. Give it a chance if you’re looking for your next magic series addiction.

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Days on Fes

Days on Fes Vol.1 4

Music lovers can rejoice at another music-based manga being translated overseas; Days on Fes is a personal reminder of why I love music so much, especially festivals and concerts. That’s the gist of Days on Fes’ story, revolving around a group of friends attending festivals together, with two characters in the group being completely new to the festival life.

Slice of Life is at its best when reading this series because of the sheer realism written into every chapter, giving detail into everything about festivals letting the reader learn with the cast. For me, it was a nostalgic feeling, seeing these characters experience their first festival, taking me back to my high school and college days of planning weekend trips with friends to see our favorite artists.

A series based on music may be off-putting to read, but that just means the author has to hook the reader in with the characters to make their moments of enjoying the music be an entertaining experience for the reader who cannot hear what the author might have had in mind for the music in a scene. Days on Fes hits the nail on the head, handling the balance of showing the impact of music while still keeping its core values as a manga intact.

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Drifting Dragons

Drifting Dragons

In most stories, dragons are the predators, hunting and killing whatever they see fit to be eaten or destroyed. However, culturally, dragons are treated as high-powered beings who can breathe fire or conjure “magic” to protect their worshippers. Still, these elusive beings are hunted for food and sport in Drifting Dragons!

I never wondered what a dragon would taste like until I started reading Drifting Dragons and established a craving for dragon meat. Seeing these air pirates flying through the air, hunting for dragons to kill and eat, is such a refreshing experience, mainly because the dragon designs are so unique you wouldn’t recognize them as dragons. Some of you may have heard about this series due to the Netflix anime adaption. However, the manga is much farther ahead, and 2021 was a fantastic year for its story elements.

There is a lot more to the story of Drifting Dragons, but it all unfolds in such a way that even slightly explaining the deeper intricacies will spoil the suspense created from learning more about the world! Check out the anime adaption on Netflix, then head over to Kodansha and pick up a copy of the most recent volumes!

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Magus of the Library

Magus of the Library

The magic of reading is something we hear metaphorically to describe the power books have on people. Magus of the Library takes that magic and makes it literal, changing the lives of the main character – Theo.

In his home village, Theo is treated as an outcast by everyone due to his pointy ears and being poor, so he is not allowed to use the village library even though he loves reading books. Every day he deals with the prejudices of the villagers with only his dreams to comfort him, and his biggest dream is to escape the village to Aftzaak, the City of Books.

Of course, one day, he gets a chance to achieve his dreams when the Librarian Kafna comes to the village from the City of Aftzaak. So finally, Theo’s dreams become a part of his reality, and the incredible and magical adventures surrounding books and their stories become a new adventure.

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Quality Assurance in Another World

Quality Assurance in Another World

I love isekai stories, especially those that don’t rely on the Zero to Hero trope that seems to have become a self-aware joke within a lot of the recent series within the genre. Still, Quality Assurance in Another World makes you think you’re reading another fantasy manga with a simple story until the truth is revealed that the world we are introduced to is actually a video game!

This story revolves around a game tester Haga, who is supposed to find and fix the bugs within the game. These people are called “Seekers,” and the people within the game do not know who they are but see them as an elite group that fixes the issues plaguing their world. This manga stands out not only the concept of bug testing within a virtual reality, but Haga and the other Seekers cannot log out of the game, causing some to abuse their powers as testers and take over societies within the game.

Haga is the only Seeker still genuinely testing the game while combating his fellow Seekers who have decided to stray off their professional path. Nikola, a native of the game, is his only assistant, and she is determined to help him complete his goal of protecting the world. This is a definite must-read for fans of video games, especially those who are also fans of isekai stories.

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Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End

Frieren Beyond Journeys End

The Demon King is defeated, and the Hero’s party has saved the world from being engulfed in darkness. Decades later, at the Hero’s funeral, everyone mourns his loss, including his old party members. However, one of the party members has not aged for decades; Frieren the Elf Mage.

Obviously, the story revolves around Frieren and her journey after her time with the Hero’s party. As an Elf, Frieren barely ages but has been around for over a hundred years, but now with her most significant journey over, she has no goals. So, with nowhere to go, the seemingly immortal Elf goes on a new journey to fulfill the final wishes of her comrades whose lives she has missed out on these past decades.

What makes Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End a phenomenal read lies in the weight placed on the value of life and what one can do when having an abundance of it, realizing why those who don’t cherish it so much. What happens after the greatest evil in all the land is conquered? What do the people who fought live for now, and how will society change when peace is seemingly throughout the world? I hope you give this one a read, even if it isn’t your typical magical series.

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Jalil Shareef

Name is Jalil but everyone calls me Danchou! I am a major JRPG & Animanga nerd who loves breaking down the analytical aspects to stories as well as the writers behind them! My favorite animanga of all time is Hunter x Hunter & I hope to make a fantasy story of my own some day!