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Nowadays, just about every popular manga gets picked up, spun around, and put out as an anime. For the most part, that’s great! It can be wonderful to have multiple versions of your favorite stories, or to see a story you love reach a wider audience. But manga is an art in its own right, and some manga simply does not translate well to the screen, or has not been picked up yet. There are so many incredible stories people miss out on because they only watch the animated versions. If you’re interested in checking out manga that do not have an anime yet, or maybe ones that should not have an anime, I’m here to help!

Here’s my lineup of some outstanding manga-only stories to get you started!


  • Written and Illustrated by: Takehiko Inoue
  • Published by: Viz Media
  • Genre: Epic / Historical / Martial arts

I’d be bereft if I didn’t put the story originally pitched to me as ‘the perfect manga’ on this list. If you’re a fan of Berserk, historical fiction, or expertly done fight scenes, you’ll want to check this one out.

Based on Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel Musashi, Vagabond is a critically acclaimed classic centering around a fictionalized account of the life of Japanese swordsman Musashi Miyamoto as he works to become the best swordsman in all of Japan. It’s a philosophical and action-packed story that will have you on the edge of your seat. Do you think a lavishly illustrated tale of self-discovery, the indomitable human spirit, and copious amounts of blood would be up your alley? Look no further.

Manga Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue (Viz Media)

Although it has been on hiatus for several years, it is absolutely worth reading. It’s 37 volumes long, so you have plenty to read. It has no animated adaptation, and hopefully never will. Animation truly would not do the detailed illustration justice; it is one of the most beautifully drawn manga I’ve ever seen. A 10/10 manga!

Witch Hat Atelier

  • Written and Illustrated by: Kamome Shirahama
  • Published by: Kodansha USA
  • Genre: Fantasy

The first time I tried to convince someone to read Witch Hat Atelier, the only argument that came to mind was texting my friend “please” over and over again because I was too overwhelmed with good reasons to choose only one. And so, to you now, I reiterate my argument: please.

Witch Hat Atelier is the story of a young girl named Coco, who is in love with the idea of magic, but resigned to never becoming a witch. Only those born with magic can practice it, or so Coco thinks until she sees a witch named Qifrey drawing strange symbols and tries to draw magic of her own using supplies a strange man gave her in her youth. It works a little too well. Her mother turns to stone.

Manga Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama
Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama (Kodansha USA)

Qifrey decides to take Coco under his wing as one of his four apprentices so that she might one day learn to turn her mother back into a person. However, the fact that anyone can do magic with the right supplies and training is kept secret for a reason, and Coco’s magical education might be more nefarious than she originally thought. 

If you like stunning art, wonderful writing, and interesting magic systems, read this manga. I have frequently audibly gasped while reading due to the sheer complexity of the illustration, and it only gets better. Every character is compelling, the slow unfolding mystery is deeply satisfying, and it has some truly excellent world-building.

While we might get an animated adaptation at some point, I am unsure how they would do the art justice, so I highly recommend checking it out as is.

The Summer Hikaru Died

  • Written and illustrated by: Mokumokuren
  • Published by: Yen Press
  • Genre: Horror / Slice of life

Many people are familiar with the age-old question of the Ship of Theseus: if you replace a boat piece by piece until it looks the same but is entirely new, is it the same boat? The Summer Hikaru Died asks that question in the context of grief. If someone you loved died and was replaced with an exact replica of them, did you truly lose someone?

Yoshiki and his best friend Hikaru are two teenage boys living in a small town in rural Japan. They spend every day together, although lately, they’ve developed a bit of an issue. About a month ago, Hikaru took a trip to the mountains. Something that looks like Hikaru, talks like Hikaru, and has all the same memories and emotions as Hikaru returned.

Manga The Summer Hikaru Died by Mokumokuren
The Summer Hikaru Died by Mokumokuren (Yen Press)

Yoshiki is the only person who notices that his best friend has been replaced. Now, Yoshiki struggles between grieving his dead friend and not wanting to lose what he has, even if what he has is essentially a possessed corpse. However, with the danger of all the other monsters and monster hunters lurking around, he might lose even this.

Reading the manga felt like getting repeatedly, yet philosophically, punched in the face. I read the entire thing in one go, realized it was three in the morning, and then stared at the ceiling for a very long time until I felt settled enough to sleep. It’s a halfway mix between horror and slice of life, as Yoshiki attempts to live his day-to-day normalcy with a monster by his side. It is, to put it simply, really, really good. If you like sadness, feeling vaguely unsettled, and a fair amount of whimsy, check out The Summer Hikaru Died.

Fire Punch

  • Written and Illustrated by: Tatsuki Fujimoto
  • Published by: Viz Media
  • Genre:  Dystopian / Supernatural Thriller

By the same author as Chainsaw Man, Fire Punch is the story of a man who is, well… on fire.

Set in a dystopian world of ice and famine, Fire Punch is the story of Agni, a young man with regeneration powers. Agni gets by well enough in his village, feeding his neighbors by letting them eat his severed limbs. When a blessed named Doma burns down the entire village and everyone in it, Agni is stuck permanently on fire, forever regenerating. Now he’s on the hunt for revenge. It is just as weird as it sounds.

Manga Fire Punch
Fire Punch by Tatsuki Fujimoto (Viz Media)

If you’ve read or watched Chainsaw Man, you know what to expect from this author. This is a story about religion, nihilism, and the fight to find a will to live. Also, it’s about a guy who’s perpetually on fire, punching people. There’s plenty of dark humor, wacky characters, and emotional stress abound.

Fire Punch is a rewarding and deeply messed up read. If you liked Chainsaw Man, or think you might like it but haven’t checked it out yet, I’d highly recommend checking out Fire Punch. So far, this has no animated adaptation, but this is a manga I could see translating well to a screen! Maybe one day we’ll get an anime, but for now, we have a wild ride of a manga to enjoy.

Oyasumi Punpun

  • Written and Illustrated by: Inio Asano
  • Published by: Viz Media
  • Genre: Dark Coming-of-age 

Oyasumi Punpun is often referred to as “the greatest manga you can never recommend.” Yet here I am, recommending it anyway.

This manga is on just about every list of the best manga with no animated adaptation, and for a good reason. Oyasumi Punpun is a masterpiece that probably should not be animated due to its unique art style and dark subject matter. It’s critically acclaimed. It’s wonderfully illustrated. It is maybe the most depressing thing I have ever read, and it ruined my life for about a week. Should you read it? That’s up to you, but it certainly is a memorable experience.

Manga Oyasumi Punpun
Oyasumi Punpun by Inio Asano (Viz Media)

This is the story of Onodera Punpun’s life from elementary school to his early 20s, as he struggles with a dysfunctional family, love, depression, and just about every other issue under the sun. We watch him grow from a hopeful child with a unique mind to a jaded adult.

Through his imagination, we get the most interesting aspect of this manga, the art style. While all the other people are drawn normally, Punpun and his family are crudely drawn birds. The contrast between the cutesy style and the emotionally damaging events happening on the page is jarring, to say the least. It’s a very experimental and unique story!

Oyasumi Punpun is a very well-done manga that simply would not translate to animation. If you’re interested in a challenging piece of art, check it out!

Literally any manga by Junji Ito

  • Written and Illustrated by: Junji Ito
  • Genre: Horror

Ok, this is cheating a bit. Junji Ito’s works do have some animated adaptations. However, they will never match up to the sheer horror of any of his manga.

There’s a reason why many of the entries on this list are in the horror genre, or have horrific elements. If the horror of a piece of illustration relies on an intricate and disturbing art style, it’s often difficult to transfer that to an animated setting where the art needs to be much simpler. Junji Ito’s work is the epitome of this.

Tomie by Junji Ito
The story of Tomie by Junji Ito was also featured in Japanese Tales of the Macabre on Netflix (Viz Media)

He is the king of horror manga. He’s got Lovecraftian vibes out of the wazoo. His stories are haunting, complexly illustrated, and full of some of the most memorable visuals in manga that will stick in your brain whether you like it or not. No one, so far, has ever been able to do it justice in animation.

If you are a horror fan, please read absolutely anything Junji Ito has ever made. You will not regret it. He is a prolific author with plenty of long-form and short-form stories under his belt. For some of his most iconic work, I recommend checking out his long-form stories Uzumaki or Tomie. Uzumaki is about freaky spirals and Tomie is about a freaky woman, both are excellent. Good luck!

Mangas without animes deserve love too!

There’s a vast world of manga, but hopefully, this list gives you a place to get started. Are you interested in checking out anything from my list of best manga without an anime? Do you have a favorite not on this list? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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