Naruto, Demon Slayer, My Hero Academia. These are all great manga that has helped popularize this Japanese art form. And indeed, they have earned their fame. But there are many unpopular manga out there that are just as good.
In this article, we will present the 13 best unpopular manga. We will cover different genres and story themes. However, they have one thing in common: they are very underrated. Still, they deserve just as much hype as the titles mentioned earlier.
So, get your Indiana Jones hats ready. You’re about to discover some hidden manga treasure.
Here are some of the best unpopular manga today!
Table of Contents
1.) Sousei no Taiga
Sousei no Taiga is an isekai, where the main characters get transported to a different world. The story begins with Taiga, the central character. He had been drifting through life after being dumped by his girlfriend.
He attended a cultural anthropology seminar with his friends one day. They walked into an area with an ancient painting, when all of a sudden, they were transported to the past. They were taken back to the time when mammoths roamed the earth.
Hence, this manga is a story of survival. The characters had to learn a caveman lifestyle, primitive language, and hunting skills. They had to in order to live during that period. They also had to figure out how to help the homo sapiens develop into a better humanity.
The best part? There’s a war between homo sapiens and Neanderthals, an epic worth a movie. Yet My Anime List tells us that this is a lesser-known manga, currently at rank 4,021.
2.) Iryu: Team Medical Dragon
As you can get from the title, Iryu is a medical manga series. It won the 50th Shogakukan Manga Award in 2005, yet it’s not quite popular as it’s ranked 1,497 in My Anime List.
It follows the tale of Ryutarou Asada, a surgeon, and Akira Kato, a medical professor. Kato needs Asada’s help to complete her thesis, as Asada is highly skilled. The problem? He’s also very stubborn. It is because of this trait that he was shunned from the medical community.
Now, the two work together to build a team of talented professionals to pull off Kato’s thesis. This while trying to change the corrupt medical system. These characters literally have their hands full.
Now, one thing to appreciate this manga is that the author held his work to a high standard. The medical terms and processes were correct. The details were properly executed. The overall art was inspired.
This is probably why it got a live Japanese drama. Still, the manga remains under-appreciated.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a story about insects. Instead, this is a manga about a young woman named Imomushi. Her name translates to Caterpillar. She is a top assassin who works for the Organization.
Imomushi is flexible and tenacious, hence the metaphor. The story itself is dark, action-packed, and still deep as it digs into the main character’s past. Think Black Widow except for Japanese and a bit darker.
To this end, the manga is quite unpopular at rank 4,906 on My Anime List.
The Bartender manga is exactly what the title says it will be about. The story follows the nightlife of Ryu Sasakura. People call him a bartending prodigy and is said to make the best cocktails ever.
Now here’s the clincher: no one can just walk into Ryu’s bar. They have to be invited in. And herein lies a revolving door of customers, who share their lives and struggles with Ryu. On his end, Ryu gives wise, often life-changing advice.
There are no mainstay characters here other than Ryu. However, it is impossible to pick up this manga and not feel gripped by the stories of tens of people.
The bartender was made into an anime and live-action, which may make you assert that the manga is not unpopular. But it is. It is currently ranked at 1,022 on My Anime List.
5.) Hoshin Engi
Hoshin Engi’s story is inspired by a Chinese literary classic. Though it is a manga and was released in Japanese, the story is set in ancient China. It traces the lives of the last members of the Yin Dynasty.
The main character is Taigong Wang, a chosen immortal in training. His task is to hunt down the 365 people who were named on the Hoshin scroll. The plot involves magic, politics, intricate fantasy, and strategy.
There are even plans to overthrow the emperor! Yet this wonderful, historical fantasy sits at rank 2,230 on My Anime List.
6.) Itoshi no Kana
Itoshi no Kana is about a man named Daikichi. His name means luck, but the manga tells us that he has been anything but. He lost his job and home and ended up staying in an old, abandoned building.
Yet it’s not as abandoned as one would think. It housed the ghost of a young lady named Kana. The two of them grow close and build a relationship.
Now, this genre may be off-putting for some. You may also want to note that it caters to an adult audience. Nevertheless, it’s the perfect mix of sweet and sad moments. That’s a feat even actual romance-centric mangas find difficult to pull off.
However, this manga currently sits at rank 3,306 on My Anime List.
7.) Sumire 16-Sai
Sumire is a sweet, 16-year-old high school student. And she’s a puppet manned by an old man wearing a full black outfit. It’s definitely a unique plot, to say the least. And some may be hesitant to read something like it, hence the 2,561 rank on My Anime List.
But let me tell you, the way the story was executed is magnificent. While it would be easy to box given the premise, Sumire is actually very kind and cheerful. And she changes people’s lives for the better.
It is a wonderful slice-of-life comedy. People just need to give it a chance.
8.) Top Secret
Top Secret is a term you would hear from police officers or investigatory agencies. Indeed, this manga is about investigations. And five decades into the future, forensics team are able to tap into the memories of dead people to solve cases.
The police are technically allowed to do so, but they weigh the ethical implications. Is it still considered invasion of privacy when the person is dead? Wouldn’t it be just like reading through a dead person’s journal or letter cabinet? Shouldn’t it be okay now that justice hangs in the balance?
This manga weighs all that, in the midst of new murder cases for every chapter. It’s definitely interesting and fresh, maybe even relevant. But it sits at rank 4,950. Now that’s criminal.
Rain tells the story of Rain, the gifted general of Sunkwoll. This manga tells the tale of war, history, and politics through the lens of fantasy. There is war against great countries. Yet even in the midst of everything, there is also time for love.
This story shows how Rain develops as a general. But it also unfurls his developing story with a young princess. It doesn’t necessarily present new ideas, but what it does, it does well.
Nonetheless, this manga sits at rank 1,347 on My Anime List.
10.) Detroit Metal City
The title sounds like it’s a mecha manga, but it’s not. This is actually a manga about a death metal rock band named Detroit Metal City. Uniqueness? Check.
Now, the public knows the lead singer, Krauser II, as a demon – literally. He emerged from the depths of hell so that he can rule over all mortal beings. Or at least, that’s what people think. The reality is far less glamorous.
Krauser II is actually just the alter ego of a quiet college student named Souichi Negishi. He prefers slow, calm music, dislikes chaos, and is overall rather ordinary. Think Hannah Montana, except more extreme.
The only reason does this is because he has to make ends meet. And now we follow his journey as he tries his best to juggle studies, band tours, and keeping his identity a secret. The entire manga is thoroughly entertaining.
It’s a bit more popular than others on this list at rank 988 on My Anime List, but it’s largely unheard of nonetheless.
Zetman started as a one-shot, but it was so good that it was eventually serialized. It ended up finishing at 20 volumes. This is why it’s rather surprising that it is ranked 1,674 of My Anime List.
Perhaps the lack of popularity comes with age, because this manga first came out in 2022. It’s certainly not for lack of story. This tale can rival the superhero plotlines that are produced by DC and Marvel.
The manga follows the life of Jin Kazaki. He seems like a regular human being but he actually has the power to transform into a superhuman. His alter ego is known as ZET.
He is put up against Kougi Amagi. Kougi may not have superpowers, but he uses technology to fight. He is called an Alpha.
Though they are on opposite ends of the power scale, they both have one goal: to save humankind. And this entails killing Players. These are abominations that have been ironically created by Kougi’s grandfather.
This story seems like the perfect blend of Japanese and Western sci-fi. It also includes elements of familial struggle and power dynamics. Hence, it’s surprising that it’s not as famous as its counterparts.
And really, you just need to take one look at the panels. Look at that art. That detail. This can rival any other superhero comic out there.
Have you ever watched the movie Purge? There, people are allowed to kill anyone they wanted in the span of one hour, every year. It’s an alternative that makes you wonder, would it really be effective for crime?
Freesia takes that concept and puts a spin on it. In the world of Freesia, people are allowed to retaliate for murder. An eye for an eye, they say. So, if someone murders your wife, you are legally allowed to kill the murderer.
Of course, you are also allowed to hire someone who will do the dirty work for you. That’s where Kano, our main character, comes in. He is a man who works for a firm that specializes in these assassinations.
Now, you would imagine him to be dark, calculated, criminal. Yet he’s not. If anything, he’s erratic. Perhaps delusional and even and lost. And he reflects the internal state of almost everyone living in that universe as well. There is chaos emotionally and mentally, not just physically.
The way the story is written is interesting. It pulls you in and immerses you. But at the same time, it leaves you in a surreal-like state. This is because of the way the psychological themes were masterfully utilized.
Yet all these interesting features were not enough to boost the popularity of this manga. It currently sits at rank 1,855 on My Anime List.
13.) Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Show Genroku Rakugo Shinju won numerous prestigious awards. It won the excellence award in the manga category during the 17th Japan Media Arts Festival. It won the best general manga award during the 38th Kodansha Awards. It was even nominated for the 17th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize.
This is why it’s surprising that it’s only rank 2,441 in popularity on My Anime List.
The story follows the life of Yotarou. At the beginning of the manga, he had just gotten out of prison after being unrightfully accused of a crime. And now, he has one sole goal: to become a master of rakugo.
Rakugo is a traditional form of Japanese comedic storytelling. And as it is with many traditions, the art was slowly dying out. Yet Yotarou was enraptured by the medium. He wanted to be an apprentice of Yakumo Yuurakutei, a master shunichi.
Almost immediately, Yakumo agreed to take him on. So, the plot follows Yotarou’s growth, character-wise and career-wise. It also shows the reinvigoration of a dying art form.
Perhaps it is because younger generations were not interested in older traditions. Hence, the manga did not become as popular as it ought to be. Luckily, we may find that Yotarou was blessed with a different fate.
Now, it’s time to hear from you:
Did I miss anything?
What is your favorite unpopular manga?
Whatever your answer is, let’s hear it in the comments below.