Kids' comics are booming, and manga is booming, but there isn't much overlap: Most manga are rated for ages 13+ or older. There’s Pokemon, of course, and Yotsuba&! (which is actually made for adults, although it’s entirely kid-friendly), but what else? Actually, publishers have been putting out more manga for preteens, although there’s still plenty of room for more.
Here’s a look at some titles that are rated for younger readers, both new series and those that have been around for a while. One quick note: While publishers rate many of these titles “All Ages,” that’s really more about content than reading level. Most of these titles are best suited for ages 7 or 8 and up. Check previews and reviews if you’re not sure.
Many of the most kid-friendly manga are adapted from games (see: Pokemon). This one is a short (128 pages) collection of gag comics set in the world of Animal Crossing; the first volume also includes a guide to the game and tips for playing. The second volume just came out in March. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $9.99)
Baby Bear is an excellent baker, but he has much to learn about running a business, and this super-cute manga takes the reader through his adventures as he learns about customer service, keeping the books, and market research, among other things. Part 1 is due out in May. (Denpa; Ages 6-11; MSRP: $15.95)
This slice-of-life story about a cheery family and their pet cat, told from the cat's point of view, is formatted left-to-right and is in full color. Originally issued in a set of slim volumes, it has been collected into four chunky paperbacks, but the chapters are short so it’s not too challenging for young readers. The spinoff series Chi’s Sweet Adventures was adapted from the original animated show that ran on Amazon Prime. (Vertical, Ages 7-10; MSRP: $24.95)
These are too numerous to mention individually, but Tokyopop has a huge number, including original works such as Kilala Princess, adaptations such as Beauty and the Beast, and hybrids such as Magical Dance, in which Disney characters help a human girl train for a dance competition. Most of these were produced in Japan. Almost all are rated for All Ages, but it pays to double-check, as a handful, such as Stitch and the Samurai, are rated Teen.
This story, a spinoff of the video game, follows the adventures of a 10-year-old orphan, Dai, who has grown up as the only human on an island populated by (benign) monsters, discovers he has a secret power, and goes on a quest to defeat the demon king. Pretty typical Shonen Jump story, in other words, and it’s done in a very Shonen Jump style that absolutely does not scream “manga for little kids,” so this is a great choice for pre-teens who want something more sophisticated than the usual middle-grade fare. There are 37 volumes in the series, but as the first volume has 336 pages, it looks like Viz is publishing it as two-in-one omnibi. The anime is available on Crunchyroll. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $19.99)
This series, also a spinoff of the game, features a boy named Kleo who is summoned to a distant land not to fight monsters, but to recruit and train them. This series was first published in 2019 and is complete in 5 volumes. (Seven Seas, Ages 10+; MSRP: $12.99)
Many people suspect that cats are up to no good, and this manga confirms it, with a purple-caped general leading an evil society of cats in nefarious plots that eventually get tripped up by the fact that the cats are just so darn cute! The first volume of this full-color manga is due out in October. (Seven Seas, Ages 10+; MSRP $14.99)
There are some scary moments in this beautifully drawn manga about animal spirits, but there is also plenty of fun. Tanuki are raccoon-dogs who figure prominently in Japanese legends, usually as troublemakers. In this story, the gods punish a black fox who has used his powers for evil by assigning him to train a mischievous tanuki to be their assistant. Tokyopop has published five volumes so far, and the series is ongoing. (Tokyopop, Ages 8+; MSRP: $12.99)
These manga, based directly on the plot of the various games, have been around for quite a while; Viz repackaged them into five handsome two-in-one omnibi starting in 2016. These are not to be confused with Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, also by Akira Himekawa, which are somewhat darker and are rated Teen. (VIZ Media, All Ages; $17.99)
A human girl travels through a magical world with her demon friend in this slice-of-magical-life manga that is illustrated in a style reminiscent of classic European fairy tales. A good pick for fans of Luke Pearson’s Hilda graphic novels. The series is four volumes long. (Seven Seas, All Ages; MSRP: $12.99)
It was an interesting choice to make a black-and-white manga about a game that is based on covering the field with different colored inks, but somehow Hinodeya manages to pull it off. Of course, this is really a manga about teamwork, and while it’s not strictly speaking a Shonen Jump manga, it has lots of similar story elements: Friends, rivals, teamwork, and of course, the dorky misfit who saves the day. There are 14 volumes out so far. The spin-off Splatoon: Squid Kids Comedy Show is a gag manga based on the game and manga. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $9.99)
Nate has a special watch that allows him to see yokai, or Japanese spirits, in this series that is based on a multimedia franchise that also includes video games, toys, and anime. The concept is similar to Pokemon except that the goal is to befriend the critters rather than have them battle one another. Gotta meet ‘em all! There are currently 19 volumes out, and the series is still ongoing in Japan, but the earlier volumes are getting hard to find. (VIZ Media, All Ages; MSRP: $19.99)
This manga, by the creator of The Evil Secret Society of Cats, imagines what it would be like if cats had the same supernatural powers as yokai, such as being able to stretch their necks out long enough to steal food from the kitchen counter. As in the other book, expect more cuteness than malevolence from this full-color manga, which will debut in October. (Seven Seas, Ages 10+; MSRP: $14.99)
A boy befriends a zombie in this comedy series and enjoys having a friend with supernatural powers. This manga is quite funny, but it also includes a LOT of body humor, including poop and butt jokes, which will delight the target audience (this manga actually runs in a kids’ magazine in Japan) but may not thrill the grownups. The series is complete in 11 volumes. (Yen Press, Ages 10+; MSRP: $12.00)
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