Manga protagonists are a varied breed. From strong action heroes with the power to bodyslam whole planets to girls trying to land the perfect date, there really is a protagonist for every taste. They don't even have to be human. In fact, there are loads of superb manga series with non-human heroes. Some franchises feature protagonists who get turned into animals, some feature anthropomorphized creatures and others star regular real-world animals.
Regardless of their form, these non-human protagonists can be just as compelling as any person. Here are five of the best ways to take a walk on the wild side.
Running in Weekly Shōnen Champion from 2016 to 2020, Paru Itagaki's Beastars quickly set the manga world on fire, leading to multiple awards and an anime adaptation. Beastars is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals. These animals have formed a society that's quite similar to our own. However, there's a strong cultural and social divide between the carnivores and the herbivores.
The series follows Legoshi, a grey wolf living at Cherryton Academy. However, one night an alpaca named Tem is brutally murdered, causing the tensions between the carnivores and herbivores to become more intense. And on top of this, Legoshi finds himself falling in love with Haru, a small white rabbit.
Beastars is a modern classic that should be on every manga fan's reading list, featuring a fascinating world, nuanced characters and a realistic approach to social dynamics and the complications of romance.
Dorohedoro is set in a post-apocalyptic future where there are two races: humans and sorcerers. The world has been split up into different areas, with human areas being heavily polluted due to the sorcerers' magic. On top of this, human areas are generally violent and lawless, and those suspected of being a sorcerer can expect to be attacked or murdered.
The story follows Caiman. Caiman was transformed by a sorcerer, so he now has a reptile head and no memory of his past. In an attempt to work out who he was, Caiman goes around the world eating sorcerers in the hope of finding the one who transformed him. However, this quest leads to old secrets coming out and old wounds reopening. Featuring one of the most intriguing settings ever put onto paper, Dorohedoro is a fascinating tale of revenge and the nature of the self.
Dragon Goes House-Hunting
Dragon Goes House-Hunting's anime adaptation has been making waves recently, thanks to its charming cast and relatable struggles, and the original manga is more than worth your time. Starting in Monthly Comic Garden in 2016, Dragon Goes House-Hunting follows Letty, a red dragon. Unlike many other dragons, Letty is very shy and timid, putting him at odds with his family, leading to them kicking him out.
Now without a home, Letty decides to seek out a perfect home, one where he can live without shame and judgment. Along the way, Letty will have to deal with other monsters and heroes who want nothing more than to slay him and turn him into a new set of armor. Thankfully, Letty also makes several friends, including Dearia, an elven demon lord who's also a skilled real estate agent. Thankfully, Dearia is more than happy to help Letty find a perfect home. Anyone who has struggled to find their place in the world will find themselves empathizing with Letty. Warm, charming and unique, Dragon Goes House-Hunting is this year's stand-out hit, making now the perfect time to dive into the manga.
Chi's Sweet Home
Chi's Sweet Home started in Weekly Morning magazine in 2004, and it was written and illustrated by Kanata Konami. It follows a small grey and white kitten who, during a daily walk, gets separated from its family. Thankfully, the kitten is found by a young boy called Youhei. Youhei and his mother decide that they're going to keep the kitten and look after it, and the comic follows the kitten as it adapts to its new home.
When trying to litter train the kitty, they find that it accidentally responds to Chi (like the shi from shikko, the Japanese word for urine,) and this becomes the cat's name. Along the way, Chi has many adventures, that while mundane, seem utterly fantastical from the perspective of a cat. This includes meeting other humans and animals, exploring its new home and trying new things that often end in comical disaster.
Chi's Sweet Home is a warm and charming series that makes for a perfect palette cleanser after heavier manga. It never fails to delight with its slice-of-life antics that perfectly capture the weirdness and wonder of new kittens.
Princess Tutu is a rather unique series for many reasons. While it started as an anime, the series was adapted into manga in 2003, later being collected into two volumes. While it is common to see series where humans get turned into animals, Princess Tutu reverses it by having the protagonist be an animal that gets turned into a human.
Drosselmeyer was a writer with the ability to make his stories come to life. However, his final tale, "The Prince and the Raven," is left uncompleted due to the writer's death, locking the characters in a never-ending struggle. When the raven and the prince escape into the real world, the prince shatters his own heart to seal away the raven. The ghost of Drosselmeyer, keen to put an end to the story, finds a little duck who has fallen in love with the shattered prince. He gifts this duck, Ahiru, a magical pendant that allows her to transform into a human and into the magical Princess Tutu. Now, Ahiru must work to end the tale. However, many people, including Raven's human daughter, are keen to make sure this doesn't happen.
An original take on the magical girl genre, Princess Tutu is a fantastic manga that truly captures the anime's story but accompanies it with beautiful artwork that really fits the storybook theme of the show.