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I first began reading manga in middle school when I discovered the InuYasha series at a Waldenbooks in the mall. (Oh, how I miss the days of Waldenbooks.) Ever since, the gorgeous art, lovable characters, and fantastical and heartfelt journeys in manga has drawn me in every time. As a longtime fan of anime, I love reading the manga that my favorite anime are adapted from, too.
When it comes to manga selection, I’ve found some helpful librarian resources, including Ashley Hawkins’s blog, Manga Librarian and Sara Smith’s blog, The Graphic Library. Sara Smith’s reviews include notes about intended audience and age appropriateness, which can be especially helpful when selecting titles for middle grade and younger readers. Amanda Pagan, a Children’s Librarian at the New York Public Library, gives a nuanced explanation of the thought and consideration that goes into selecting great manga titles for middle school readers. For those new to manga, we’ve got you covered with this Rioter’s handy beginner’s guide to manga.
I see middle school as a crucial age for reading. As school assignments become more advanced, it’s important for tweens to have outlets for maintaining their enjoyment in reading. Manga provides accessible, fun, relatable, and earnest stories that can help with this. Below, I’ve curated a list of 15 memorable manga titles for middle schoolers. See any favorites of yours?
15 Manga For Middle School Readers
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Vol. 1 by Naoko Takeuchi, Translated by William Flanagan
Of course, I had to start off my list with Sailor Moon. My love for Sailor Moon began in elementary school and stayed strong through middle school. And, let’s be honest, forever after. I still have so much fondness and nostalgia for the series today. When Usagi Tsukino meets a talking cat named Luna, she learns she’s Sailor Moon, a guardian of justice in the name of the Moon Princess. As she learns more about her new abilities and her mysterious past life, Usagi meets new friends destined to join her in the fight against evil as Sailor Senshi. This classic series has plenty of humor, heart, friendship, and love.
Haikyu!!, Vol. 1 by Haruichi Furudate, Translated by Adrienne Beck
This next shōnen manga makes for a great read for sports and volleyball fans, as well as anyone who enjoys an endearing cast of characters and found family feels (two of my favorite things!). Shoyo Hinata dreams of becoming the greatest volleyball player of all time, just like his hero, the legendary “Little Giant.” Shoyo’s determined not to let his height get in the way of his volleyball success as he trains to jump higher than anyone else on the court.
Voice Over!: Seiyu Academy, Vol. 1 by Maki Minami
Like Shoyo in Haikyu!!, Hime Kino also has a role model she aspires to be like one day. Hime hopes to become a voice actor just like her favorite anime star, Sakura Aoyama. When she gets accepted to a renowned academy’s voice actor department, Hime feels like her dreams are finally becoming a reality. Despite the teachers and students who scorn her rough voice, including the snarky Senri, Hime is ready to show everyone she’s got what it takes. This shōjo manga includes a cozy combination of romance, humor, coming-of-age, and slice of life.
Pokémon Adventures, Vol. 1 by Hidenori Kusaka, Illustrated by Mato
What would a list of manga for middle schoolers be without including Pokémon? This one brings me back to my school days trying to sneak my Pokémon cards into class to trade. This Pokémon adaptation includes the characters from the Pokémon video games. Red would rather befriend his Pokémon than train them. As you might expect, Red better watch out for Team Rocket because they’re definitely up to no good!
Digimon, Vol. 1 by Yuen Wong Yu, Akiyoshi Hongo, Lianne Sentar
Alright, it’s true, I’m a Digimon fan at heart. When asked what my favorite Pokémon is, I will absolutely answer with a Digimon instead. When I was in middle school, Digimon was everything to me. It was even the show I woke up early to watch on TV before catching the bus. This adaptation of the show makes for a great middle school manga read. Despite condensing the episodes of the show into just five manga volumes, this series offers some great interpretations of the beloved Digimon characters. With this first volume, we meet our seven digi-destined friends who get transported from summer camp to the digital world. There, they have some awesome digimon sidekicks waiting to meet them.
Magus of the Library, Vol. 1 by Mitsu Izumi, Translated by Stephen Kohler
This charming fantasy and coming-of-age manga is a must-read for middle school library lovers. Because of his pointed ears and impoverished life, Theo hasn’t been allowed to use his village’s library. Theo dreams of visiting Aftzaak, the City of Books, one day. When he has a chance encounter with an Aftzaak librarian, his life will never be the same.
Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 1 by Kamome Shirahama, Translated by Stephen Kohler
The beautiful illustrations of this manga give off a lovely Studio Ghibli vibe, and the sweet storyline makes for a perfect read for middle schoolers. Despite the fact that she wasn’t born with magic, Coco hopes to one day become a witch. Like Theo in Magus of the Library, Coco meets a mysterious stranger one day who will initiate her call to adventure and change her life forever.
Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll, Vol. 1 by Yumi Tsukirino
For those looking for a cozy manga, look no further than this heart-melting story by Yumi Tsukirino. This one appeals to middle grade readers, as well as readers of all ages. Cinnamoroll loves fluffy cinnamon rolls and uses his long ears to fly. He’s also got a crew of buddies with just about the cutest names, including Chiffon, Mocha, Espresso, Cappuccino, and little Milk. When little Milk goes missing (not little Milk!), Cinnamoroll sets out to save his friend and make it home in time for tea!
The Fox & Little Tanuki, Vol. 1 by Mi Tagawa
Speaking of animal characters in manga, this next manga by Mi Tagawa makes for another heartfelt middle school read. After Senzou the Fox Spirit gets imprisoned by the gods for abusing his strength, he gets released 300 years later. There’s one condition though, Senzou will only get his powers back if he helps a cute and mischievous little tanuki cub named Manpachi become an assistant to the gods. Despite how grouchy Senzou feels over his new role as a babysitter, he can’t help but start to grow a soft spot for that pesky cub!
Little Witch Academia, Vol. 1 by Yoh Yoshinari, Visual Art by Keisuke Sato
You may recognize this delightful manga from its show adaptation on Netflix. Atsuko Kagari is thrilled to start her journey towards becoming a witch after getting accepted to the esteemed Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy. Even though she’s the only student from a nonmagical family, Akko won’t let anything stop her from making friends, learning magic, and doing her best!
Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, Vol. 1 by Yuhki Kamatani, Translated by Jocelyne Allen
This queer manga by Yuhki Kamatani promises a poignant and emotional story that both middle schoolers and high schoolers will find impactful. Tasuku Kaname is the new kid at school, and he’s terrified he’s been outed as gay. Just as he begins having suicidal ideations, Tasuku meets a mysterious woman who introduces him to a queer cast of characters who are also dealing with relatable problems and finding their place in the world. This story is an incredibly important and ultimately hopeful read as Tasuku begins to discover his own sense of inner peace and belonging.
Kingdom Hearts, Vol. 1 by Shiro Amano
Where are my Kingdom Hearts fans at? This is another fandom that holds so much nostalgia for me, especially as a middle schooler. While this manga will definitely appeal to fans of the video game, the compelling storyline and characters will draw new admirers to the series as well. After a storm hits Destiny Island, 14-year-old Sora gets transported to a strange new world. While there, he meets Disney characters Donald and Goofy and joins them on a mission to save King Mickey. The interweaving of Disney with Final Fantasy is so magical in this fantastical manga series.
Flying Witch, Vol. 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka, Translated by Melissa Tanaka
This sweet and cozy manga combines a teen witch plot line with the relaxed feel of a slice of life comedy. Novice witch Makoto Kowata is ready to complete her training and become a full-fledged witch. With her black cat familiar in tow, she moves in with her cousins in rural Aomori. This feel-good story is a great read for middle schoolers, as well as Studio Ghibli fans.
Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, Translated by Emily Balistrieri
I can’t mention teen witches without a shoutout to this delightful manga series by Eiko Kadono. This is the manga that inspired the film Kiki’s Delivery Service, and its endearing 13-year-old protagonist and her coming of age journey create a perfect story for middle schoolers. Now that she’s turned 13, Kiki is ready to embark on the witch’s tradition of moving to a new town for one year. When she flies past the seaside village of Koriko, Kiki senses she’s found the perfect place to call her new home.
Cells at Work!, Vol. 1 by Akane Shimizu
This manga is a fun science read for middle schoolers. It’s also a handy resource for science teachers as it provides an entertaining way to learn more about biology. Red Blood Cell AE3803 makes deliveries throughout the human body, and thankfully she has a team of cells to help her out! By working together with the mysterious white blood cell, killer T cells, and cute platelets, they’ll make sure you stay healthy.
Before You Go…
I hope you and the middle school readers in your life fall in love with these delightful manga titles! If you’d like to browse more manga, check out this Rioter’s manga for kids list. For those interested in reading manga online, this Rioter also has some great manga reader sites and apps to recommend. Happy manga reading!