The seinen demographic differs significantly from the shonen genre, which is usually filled with similar tropes and never-ending questionable plot points. Conversely, the seinen genre is perfect for anime/manga fans who seek stories with a tinge of more realistic, adult-based themes & bloody battles. Amongst the shonen manga genre, the titles "One Piece, "Naruto," and "Bleach" has unquestionably cemented their positions as the leading stories in the shonen world.
On the other hand, although there is no official declaration for the most iconic seinen manga, there are stories within this genre that are well-deserving of praise. These manga series impact the seinen world, visibly following their breathtaking art style, solid plots, and unique protagonists. Based on this description, which seinen manga titles can fans wholeheartedly call "The Big 3?"
Berserk – The Ultimate Fantasy Story
Kentaro Miura's Berserk is a masterpiece rivaled by few in the seinen world. Although the series has an anime adaptation, it comes nowhere close to the work of art drawn by the mangaka. The manga has 41 volumes, first published in 1989. Consequently, it precedes even the Shonen Big Three in terms of origin date. The manga series has been successful so far, but with a major shortcoming: Kentaro Miura's death. Regardless, there is still hope, as reports suggest that the manga will be making a return soon enough.
Berserk is set in a mythology-inspired European-like world, filled with fantasy beasts, horrific occurrences, and heart-racing developments. However, despite the countless mysteries that line the series, one major running theme is the clash between Guts & Griffith. While these characters had a great start as friends, or rather Guts acting as Griffith's subordinate, everything changes after Guts leaves the Band of the Falcon – the mercenary group led by Griffith. The already dark story then becomes darker, drawing readers into the world of the supernatural and the illogical.
Berserk manga’s art style furnishes the story’s horrific themes, allowing readers to feel the characters’ pain, anger, despair, and resolve. Guts, the main protagonist, is caught in a saga orchestrated by the God Hand – a group of powerful beings that defy reality and can change one's fate with a flick of their hands. What originally started as a mercenary who aspires to find what distinguishes himself from his friend, Griffith changes significantly into a story of pain and suffering. Berserk is a manga with powerful themes that solely revolves around Guts' determination to conquer anything that stands in his way – even the supernatural.
Vagabond – A Fictional Representation Of The Japanese Cultural History
Vagabond is a seinen manga series illustrated by Takehiko Inoue, following the fictional novel Musashi written by Eiji Yoshikawa. Although Eiji Yoshikawa is the brain behind the story's plot, Takehiko Inoue's talents as a mangaka transformed the story into an appealing monochromatic series filled with intense fights and developments. On several occasions, Vagabond's art style has been compared to Berserk's due to its breathtaking nature. Presently, Vagabond has 37 volumes, first released in 1998. The epic seinen series has attracted several awards and praises from the manga industry.
Vagabond is set in the Japanese Sengoku era – a period predating the famous Edo period. The story revolves around Shinmen Takezo, shunned by his own parents and the village he resided in as a child. At the age of 13, Takezo was already capable of besting full-grown men with decent sword skills. The desire to become stronger and more powerful pushed him to a battle with the Tokugawa clan as a member of the Toyotomi army. However, Toyotomi lost the war, and after a string of events, Takezo finds himself as a wanted criminal, trying to escape death while crushing adversaries in his path.
This development goes on until he goes through a life-resetting experience that allows him to change his name to "Miyamoto Musashi." Feeling reborn from his dark past, Musashi now ventures through the country seeking powerful opponents to aid his growth as a swordsman. Summarily, the seinen manga shows readers the journeys of "Miyamoto Musashi," who lives the life of a vagabond – an outcast with just one desire: to be invincible under the sun. Vagabond is among the manga series that deserve an anime adaptation. Although the anime adaption is not a feasible development, the manga series is enough to serve fans perfection.
Vinland Saga – A Tale Of Revenge & Adventure
A few years later, after Vagabond made its appearance, Vinland Saga debuted in the seinen manga industry in 2005. Putting a new spin on the historical manga concept, Vinland Saga first starts as a tale of revenge and grows into something bigger. Yukimura Makoto's Vinland Saga presently has 22 volumes and a sterling anime adaptation. Regardless, the manga is the best option to capture the story's rich themes as the Vinland Saga's mangaka creates an adventure-oriented world using wholesome manga panels.
The setting of Vinland Saga is England 1013 AD – the year of King Sweyn's supremacy in the European continent. The historical fiction brings the protagonist, Thorfinn, into the picture, using the murder of his father by Askeladd. Driven by revenge, Thorfinn joined Askeladd's crew, waiting for the right moment to kill Askeladd. This development forces Thorfinn to grow from a child to a man in a stunted manner. Unfortunately, Askeladd did die but not at the hands of Thorfinn. This development changes Thorfinn into a hollow character who found very little meaning in his life as a slave.
Another key development in the Vinland Saga series is the rise of Canute, the son of King Sweyn. Canute’s meeting with Thorfinn triggered a mental shift in the character, allowing him to blossom into a confident king – sporting one of the best character growths in the series. Vinland Saga is an interesting replay of real-world history, and this theme gives the story the right to be added to the ranks of masterpieces like Berserk and Vagabond.
The Unrivaled Seinen Big Three
These three series: Berserk, Vagabond & Vinland Saga, embody the true potential of the seinen genre. Their art styles, blood-lined battles, and exceptional characters make them the ideal reads for seinen fans. Although there are other series like Claymore, One Punch Man & Btooom! that approach the seinen demographic from different perspectives, “The Big 3” remains unchallenged due to their iconic plot and world setting.