Classic Manga that Had a Huge Impact on the Industry

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Japanese anime. Source: Shutterstock

The Japanese anime and manga industry has had an immense boost in popularity recently. Anime like My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan have ensured that people have become enamored with anime. Not only that, but with Netflix producing some original anime, the industry has risen to the forefront of popular culture. 

And of course, manga is not far behind. For those who don’t know, manga is the Japanese word for comics. And no comic is more popular in 2023 than Eiichiro Oda’s action/adventure/comedy masterpiece, One Piece. In 2022, the tale of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew overtook Detective Comics #1, to become the second best-selling comic of all time (next to Action Comics #1, which features the first appearance of Superman). 

So, with the rise in prominence of the industry, we thought we would go over some manga that have had a major impact. In this article, we are going to review a few classics, whose influence still guides many manga creators today. 

Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji 

Kaiji Ito lives a depressing life. He is unemployed, barely educated, and unmotivated. He spends his days drowning his sorrow in liquor, snacks, and petty crimes. Until, that is, a man approaches him with a strange offer: Compete in a gambling tournament, and if you win all of your debts shall be paid. If you lose, your debt will be doubled. At first, Kaiji thinks the offer ridiculous. However, he of course takes a shot at it, and is embroiled into a world of hardcore gambling. 

Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji released in 1996, which was around the time that the online gambling industry made it big. Nowadays, of course, most people are aware of online gambling. From slots, to web poker, to live blackjack, would-be gamblers can play all of their favorite casino games from their own home. On top of that, many of these websites offer excellent casino rewards, which make playing the game a lot easier. 

The manga’s creator, Nobuyuki Fukumoto, was deeply interested and fascinated by gambling and gamblers. The manga examines the strategies and tactics that gamblers use, all the while creating fascinating challenges for Kaiji to overcome. The manga has resonated with a large audience, having over 21 million copies in circulation in 2019. To this day, it is one of the best-selling manga of all time, with a slew of anime, live-action, and even stage show adaptations. 

Astro Boy

When exploring the history of manga, one name will inevitably pop up. Osamu Tezuka, widely known as the father of manga, wrote a plethora of hugely influential, incredibly impactful, and to-this-day beloved manga. We could select any of his incredibly works, from Blackjack, to Dororo, or even Buddha and Metropolis. However, we’ve elected to focus on his most influential, important, and widely-known work, Astro Boy

Astro Boy, or Mighty Atom as the Japanese know it, is a story about an android boy, created by Doctor Tenma in order to protect the humans from renegade robots in a futuristic, science fiction world, hugely inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Robot series. The series is largely episodic, following Astro Boy’s adventures dealing with various threats, most famously the villainous Pluto. 

Astro Boy’s influence can be seen in popular manga such as Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Saint Seiya, and even more contemporary series like One Piece, Naruto, Demon Slayer, etc. In 2003, critically acclaimed and awarded manga author and artist, Naoki Urasawa penned a mature spin-off series of Astro Boy, titled Pluto. The manga has received critical and popular acclaim, and is set to receive an anime adaptation in 2023. 

Mazinger Z & Devilman 

If Osamu Tezuka is the father of manga, then Go Nagai is the cool uncle, who introduces it to punk, horror, and beer. Nagai Go’s works touch a plethora of genres, from fantasy, to horror, to mecha, and even magical girls. However, his two most influential works are the super robot series Mazinger Z, and the fantasy/horror tragedy, Devilman. 

One of the most influential “Super Robot” mecha, Mazinger Z is the tale of Kouji Kabuto, who pilots a giant robot (the titular Mazinger Z) in an attempt to thwart the evil machinations of Doctor Hell and his evil organization. Like Gundam, Mazinger Z has spawned a long-running franchise, with sequels, spin-offs, adaptations, and even a crossover with the Transformers. 

On the other side of the genre scale, we have Devilman, an incredibly influential entry for horror and fantasy. The story follows the adventures of Akira Fudo, whose body merges with that of the Devil, Amon. Akira’s goal becomes stopping Satan from bringing about the apocalypse. The tragic story, grim visuals, and incredible brutality that permeates the manga have certainly had a huge impact on some of the industry’s biggest titles, most notably Kentaro Miura’s Berserk. 

Pokemon Adventures

To many, Pokemon is primarily a video game franchise/anime series. However, in 1997, the Pokemon Company charged Hidenori Kusaka with creating a manga series, in order to promote the series. The Pokemon Adventures manga follows Red, the protagonist of the first game, on his journey to become a Pokemon master. 

However, it doesn’t just end there. After spending time in the Kanto region, the series moves on to Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, etc. And with each new region, we are introduced to new protagonists. Yellow, Gold, Ruby, and Sapphire are all main protagonists whose story we get to follow along the way. From that perspective, the manga is similar to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, whose parts are stand-alone stories, linked by characters and a grander narrative. 

The influence of Pokemon is immeasurable. The franchise has spawned a whole new genre of “fighting monsters.” We can see the influence in video games, manga, anime, and even American popular culture. Some of the most notable Pokémon-influenced products are the following:   

  • The Digimon franchise
  • The Monster Rancher franchise
  • The Bakugan franchise
  • The Zoids Franchise

Final Thoughts

The manga industry is quite vast and there is quite a lot more influential stories that we didn’t get to discuss. The four titles on this list have certainly had a huge impact on the industry. Their influence remains omnipresent in manga, anime, and Japanese culture in general.